Fox // 1997 // 570 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ryan Keefer (Retired) // January 22nd, 2007
"Sorry son, I didn't know you, Jay Leno, and a monkey were bathing a clown."
The general consensus seems to be that creatively, at least, The Simpsons star began to fade a little bit as it approached double digit seasons. With all that's been written and praised about the show, it managed to hit a landmark with its 200th episode. Live action shows rarely get that mark, and prime time animated shows that hit it are one in a million. In its ninth year of life, how do the 25 episodes of this version of The Simpsons stack up?
I'll dispense with the prattle and let you know what episodes are on here:
* "The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson"
Only in the world of The Simpsons would a night of drunken behavior and a good faith gesture made to Barney goes so far awry. Barney takes Homer's car to New York City, where Homer has to go to recover it, while the family goes sightseeing. See the World Trade Center towers in their animated glory! Taste the crab juice!
* "The Principal and the Pauper"
The citizens of Springfield are shocked to discover that Principal Seymour Skinner isn't who they think he is. Rather, he is an imposter who took Skinner's identity when he was in the Vietnam War. The real Skinner (voiced by Martin Sheen, The West Wing, Apocalypse Now) comes home to claim his roots, while the fake Skinner, now known as Armin Tamzarian lives in shame in Capital City.
* "Lisa's Sax"
Bart destroys Lisa's prized saxophone, which results in Homer and the family recalling how she first got it, after a couple of funny restarts. However, it's nothing that hasn't been seen once or twice before. You know, where Homer doesn't care about his daughter.
* "Treehouse of Horror VIII"
Normally I'd jump for joy at these, but Homer surviving a nuclear holocaust a la Night of the Comet was a little bit bland, and Marge becoming a witch with Patty and Selma was the same. The saving grace was Homer and Bart's loving tribute to The Fly, which is the only reason to watch this one.
* "The Cartridge Family"
I don't remember at what point The Simpsons started to come off as a little bit preachy, but this may have been it. After a riot at a soccer game, Homer decides he wants to get a gun for protecting the family. However Marge won't hear it, and leaves with the kids to prove that point. Sure, it does a decent job at poking fun at both sides of the gun control argument, but less yappy more happy!
* "Bart Star"
Bart joins a football team, which leads to Homer's seemingly endless prodding of coach Ned Flanders. Homer finally replaces Flanders as coach and there's a smelly case of favoritism when Bart becomes quarterback. Sure, this sounds like other times when Homer has become a goofy extremely well-intentioned father, but this one has Mike Judge (King of the Hill) and Joe Namath, who didn't want to kiss Homer.
* "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons"
Episodes that focus squarely on supporting characters are really hit or miss. And despite voices by Andrea Martin (SCTV) as Apu's mother and Jan Hooks (Saturday Night Live) as his wife by arrangement named Manjula, this one misses the mark for me.
* "Lisa the Skeptic"
As part of an archaeological dig, Lisa discovers a skeleton that many people believe to be an angel. As part of an ideological debate between faith and science, the skeleton turns out to be, well, let's just call it a sign. It hits funnier notes than "The Cartridge Family" does, and tackles a broader argument to boot.
* "Reality Bites"
Marge decides she wants to be a Real Estate Agent and gets her license, where we reunite with Lionel Hutz (the late Phil Hartman, Saturday Night Live) and we meet Cookie from the West Side, and hey, there's Gil again. But in an episode that I thought would kind of go along the lines of Glengarry Glen Ross turns out to be something else, and it's a lesser known episode of solid quality.
* "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace"
Bart ruins Christmas and the family has to deal with it. Not too much new ground to be mined here.
* "All Singing, All Dancing"
Sure, seeing Western incarnations of Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin singing, dancing and fighting is kind of funny, but this is a clip show featuring highlights of the show's musical moments. Pass.
* "Bart Carny"
Homer and Bart enjoy some fun at the carnival, until Bart "accidentally" wrecks the car used by Hitler in the War, and the two have to work off their debt as carnies. Naturally, the plot provides some comedic moments where the tables turn themselves onto the other side of the shoe, and as one of the carnies is Ernest himself, Jim Varney.
* "The Joy of Sect"
Now why isn't this one in the syndicated rerun loop more often? Homer is brainwashed into joining a cult that worships the great yet elusive "Leader." Marge and the kids try to bring him back with no luck, but if Homer's lips reunite with the nectar of the Gods, he might think a little bit differently. A side plot involving Mr. Burns and his desire to start a cult religion for tax purposes is just as funny I think, and this is one of the better episodes of the season.
* "Das Bus"
While on their way to a class field trip, Otto manages to lose control of the bus and it lands in a nondescript body of water, where the children wash up on an island and try to figure out how to survive. Their "Model United Nations" experiences turns into Lord of the Flies while back home, Homer starts a nondescript internet business that runs into competition from Lord Bill of Gates himself. As for guest voices, let's say one is ohhhh, James Earl Jones (Field of Dreams).
* "The Last Temptation of Krust"
During a comedy festival, Krusty discovers his material isn't funny anymore, and hardly politically correct. So Bart helps him rebuild his path to comedy fame, with the help of fellow comics Jay Leno, Bobcat Goldthwait, Janeane Garofalo and Steven Wright. Make sure to stick around for the end, when Hank Williams Jr. does the song for the grossly large Canyonero SUV. All in all, it's much better than the usual "Bart helps Krusty" fare.
* "Dumbbell Indemnity"
Moe falls in love with a girl, go figure that! But he's willing to do anything to be with her, including committing a crime and letting Homer pay for it. Former Hank Azaria companion Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets) plays the girl in question.
* "Lisa the Simpson"
Another episode where Lisa is scared to see what the future holds, this one is after she finds out startling news that there is a "Simpson gene" that makes the Simpsons dumber from their tenth year onwards.
* "This Little Wiggy"
Bart has a new playdate companion in lowly Ralph Wiggum. However Bart compromises his new friendship to stay cool with Jimbo, Nelson and the other bullies, and it results in consequences far greater than they could have imagined. Ralph is funny in short bursts, not for a 23 minute episode.
* "Simpson Tide"
Well, you can tell by this title just what is going to be spoofed, and you'd be right too. The Village People's "In the Navy" gets its couple of minutes of glory as well, and in a surprising bit of casting, Rod Steiger (yes, from In the Heat of the Night) pitches in a voice as the admiral of a nuclear submarine that Homer is on as a member of the Naval Reserve. And listen for Bob Denver (Gilligan's Island) as himself.
* "The Trouble with Trillions"
In Homer's mad rush to get his taxes filed before the deadline, he accidentally subjects himself to a "severe audit." However, the IRS proposes a deal where Homer is discharged to help them try and catch Mr. Burns in possession of a trillion dollar bill that was stolen from the Truman administration. A little bit tiresome, but still somewhat entertaining.
* "Girly Edition"
The title for this one is a slight stretch yet marginally pertinent to the story, as Lisa decides to start a news program for kids, but is quickly eclipsed by the success of Bart's less than hard hitting (yet emotionally insightful) stories. The "B" storyline is actually better on this one, as Homer gets a helper monkey to combat laziness, not a handicap, and so he corrupts the monkey and leaves it abandoned on a doorstep. And you know me, I loves my monkeys.
* "Trash of the Titans"
In episode 200 of the series, Homer decides to run for sanitation commissioner, even though the trash problem is relatively pretty good. So when he gets to office, he screws up the process so severely that the town is forced into the dreaded Plan B. I dunno if this is foretelling of what came afterwards or not, but keep an ear out for Steve Martin (The Jerk) as the sanitation commissioner Homer beats, and U2 appear as themselves.
* "King of the Hill"
My personal favorite for best episode of the season, as Homer decides to get in shape, and using the help of a apple-flavored bar called "Powersauce," he attempts to climb the largest mountain in Springfield as a testament to their flavor and power, which is comprised of no less than six different kinds of apples. As the greasy marketing reps are Brendan Fraser (The Mummy) and an almost unrecognizable Steven Weber (Wings).
* "Lost our Lisa"
Lisa decides to play one parent against the other, and Homer lets her take the bus to the museum to view the last day of an exhibit, while Marge forbids her to go while she's taking Bart to have some joke prosthetics removed from his face, which he had crazy glued. If nothing else, this is worth catching for some new and unusual Homer antics, but past that, you're not missing too much.
* "Natural Born Kissers"
In the last episode of the season, Homer and Marge attempt to celebrate their 11th wedding anniversary in the most intimate of ways, but are constantly distracted by a myriad of things, in and out of the Simpson household. Episodes that focus squarely on the Homer and Marge relationship without devoting too much time to the kids usually work, and this one does.
On a whole, Season Nine of The Simpsons was one of those where it hit the ground running. However, for the most part, the quality of the writing in the season seemed to be on cruise control. Compared to other seasons, there's maybe one or two standout episodes from the season, and the 200th really isn't worth writing home about. Many of the episodes are in the "good but nothing special" category, and it's clear that more and more, the episode stories appear to be recycled without too much inspiration brought to the table.
On the creative side, it was almost as if Matt Groening, James Brooks and Sam Simon were trying out a few different writers, hoping to find someone that could stick. Folks like Greg Daniels and Conan O'Brien had long since gone, to be replaced by people like Ian Maxtone-Graham (he who co-produced The Hot Chick) and Larry Doyle (he who wrote and co-produced Duplex). Some of the longtime writers were still contributing like John Swartzwelder and Mike Scully, but overall the smart satire just wasn't coming across like it used to.
And that's just the creative stuff. When watching Season Nine it just didn't look as sharp as other seasons have been. The video looks a little more rough and jagged than other seasons and the color looked a lot less uniform than previous seasons. If there's a saving grace, it's that the boys at Fox have perpetually loaded up these seasons with a ton of material. This time, commentaries on all episodes (including a quick spot from Leno about his guest appearance), deleted scenes, storyboard comparisons, and the usual interactive features that are designed to make any Simpsons fans jump for joy.
OK, so back when Season Six came out, I (and many other people) vilified the decision to release an aesthetically clunky head of Homer that housed all the discs. So all praises should be returned to Fox for giving the consumer the choice in subsequent seasons of which one they wanted. However, not to sound like a sweaty-palmed mouth-breathing fanboy for a second, but the catalog lists "The Cartridge Family" and "Bart Star" as being on Disc Two when they're not. Maybe I worked in a QA lab in a previous life, but there you go.
Overall the quality of the show does clearly slip from Season Six, but it's still is good form for the better part of the season. The extras appear to be a little more robust as well, and despite an apparent slight dip in video quality, it's another solid addition to your Simpsons video library.
On the whole, the cast and creative team of The Simpsons are found not guilty. As for science vs. religion, I am issuing a restraining order. Religion must stay 500 yards from science at all times.
Review content copyright © 2007 Ryan Keefer; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Running Time: 570 Minutes
Release Year: 1997
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* A Special Introduction from Matt Groening
* Audio Commentaries on Every Episode with Creator Matt Groening and Executive Producers Mike Scully, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, David Mirkin, Al Jean and Mike Reiss, Joined by Writers, Actors and Directors
* A Moment with U2
* Deleted Scenes with Commentary
* Illustrated Commentaries
* Multi-Angle Animation Showcases
* Original Sketches
* Special Language Feature
* Collector Cards
* The Simpsons Movie Sneak Peek
* Official Site
* The Simpsons Archive
* Season 1 Review
* Season 3 Review
* Season 4 Review
* Season 5 Review
* Season 6 Review
* Season 7 Review
* Season 8 Review