Appellate Judge Jennifer Malkowski noticed that in its 13th year The Simpsons started getting pimples and taking really long showers...
Our reviews of Christmas With The Simpsons (published October 30th, 2003), The Simpsons: The Complete First Season (published September 19th, 2001), The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season (published December 15th, 2003), The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season (published July 12th, 2004), The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season (published February 23rd, 2005), The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season (published August 29th, 2005), The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season (published January 16th, 2006), The Simpsons: The Complete Eighth Season (published August 21st, 2006), The Simpsons: The Complete Ninth Season (published January 22nd, 2007), The Simpsons: The Complete Tenth Season (published August 29th, 2007), The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season (Blu-ray) (published December 19th, 2011), The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (published December 24th, 2012), The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season (Blu-Ray) (published January 21st, 2010), The Simpsons: Bart Wars (published June 30th, 2005), The Simpsons Christmas 2 (published December 24th, 2004), The Simpsons Gone Wild (published December 8th, 2004), The Simpsons: Kiss And Tell (published March 29th, 2006), The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season (published September 9th, 2009), The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season (published December 22nd, 2011), and The Simpsons' Treehouse Of Horror (published November 20th, 2003) are also available.
"They'll never stop The Simpsons! Have no fears, we've got
stories for years."
The above promise holds true today, as the "stories for years" are still rolling on into Season Twenty-Two. But the catch is that as the show ages, those stories trend in a couple of less-than-desirable directions: those that are totally outlandish, and those that rehash the stories of previous seasons. For me, then, the key to appreciating the show beyond its seventh or eighth season is to watch for the jokes and just go along for the ride on its wackier plotlines.
For good jokes, this season has as many as…as Groundskeeper Willie has cold, lonely nights? As Apu has bullet wounds? As Moe has restraining orders? ("See, when you don't use Milhouse it's hard!").
Facts of the Case
The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season (Blu-Ray) includes all 22 episodes, spread over 3 discs. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that anyone reading a review of the thirteenth season doesn't need a rundown of what the show is about, so let's get straight to the episodes:
• "Treehouse of Horror XII"
• "The Parent Rap"
• "Homer the Moe"
• "A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love"
• "The Blunder Years"
• "She of Little Faith"
• "Brawl in the Family"
Extras, disc one: A Token from Matt Groening, Animation Showcase, Ralphisms, Special Language Feature
• "Sweets and Sour Marge"
• "Jaws Wired Shut"
• "Half-Decent Proposal"
• "The Bart Wants What It Wants"
• "The Lastest Gun in the West"
• "The Old Man and the Key"
• "Tales from the Public Domain"
• "Blame It on Lisa"
Extras, disc two: Animation Showcase, The People Ball, The 13th Crewman, Blame it on the Monkeys
• "Weekend at Burnsie's"
• "Gump Roast"
• "I Am Furious (Yellow)"
• "The Sweetest Apu"
• "Little Girl in the Big Ten"
• "The Frying Game"
• "Poppa's Got a Brand New Badge"
Extras, disc three: Commercials, The Games, The Sweet Life of Ralph, Sketch Gallery, Deleted Scenes
As you can see from my grades for these episodes, Season Thirteen offers up a lot of pretty good installments, though it rarely soars or dives to the comic extremes of other years. All the same, these episodes will certainly lift your spirits, if you're having the worst Flag Day ever.
The two strongest, from my perspective, are this year's chapter of "Treehouse of Horror" and "Weekend at Burnsie's." "Treehouse" succeeds because of wall-to-wall laughs: Homer announces he's committed "the perfect crime" and then mentions he'll be in court next Tuesday, Kodos is embarrassed that he "always secrete[s] ocular fluid at weddings," Homer gives a killer robot unfortunately timely advice on how someone could steal his wife, Bart yells at witch Lisa "You think you're so great just because you have godlike powers!" and Skinner makes liberal use of his magic amnesia dust at a school assembly. And I'm not sure I could be friends with someone who didn't at least chuckle at the horrible vomiting frog "prince" that Bart enchants. "Weekend" has lots of great gags, too, but also benefits from a fairly simple premise that's just brimming with potential: showing what Homer would be like high. Even the obligatory super-random introductory story that transports us into that main plot is particularly good here: Homer becomes the leader of a flock of ominous crows—excuse me, a murder of crows.
Though there are fewer of the nicely gooey family moments in this season than in the golden years of the series, the writers do make an effort to sprinkle these in. We see wacky scenarios force Homer to bond with his family, to a rather heartwarming effect, in episodes such as "The Parent Rap" and "Jaws Wired Shut." Marge and Homer also share some tender moments in "Half-Decent Proposal" and "The Frying Game."
Then there are the clunkers. "Homer the Moe," for example, seems to be a tepid remix of previous Simpsons plots: Moe remodels the bar, Moe's becomes too cool for Homer and his buddies, and Homer has to find somewhere other than Moe's to drink. To fly my nerd flag a bit higher, let's just say "all of this has happened before, all of this will happen again." "The Lastest Gun in the West" is a different kind of bad, seeming to take a lazy premise—let's do something with Westerns; wouldn't the Springfield kids look cute in cowboy outfits?—and build a frightfully thin episode around it. "Gump Roast" gets the official Comic Book Guy "Worst Episode Ever" award for this season. In addition to being an automatically-underwhelming clip show, it's also a clip show with a lackluster frame story that doesn't really make sense—and I mean that last part in a bad way! Why the extended Forrest Gump bit at the beginning? Why is a roll-call of the show's humor-killing celebrity guest stars a clip selected for a roast of Homer?
But before I get lumped in with all the aspiring Comic Book Guys who complain bitterly about how terrible The Simpsons got, I do think Season Thirteen of this show is still considerably better than 95 percent of scripted comedies on TV. Even fairly cruddy episode "The Lastest Gun in the West" has a priceless moment: when Homer tries to become Bart's hero by giving him a poster of himself as Farrah Fawcett.
Also working in this set's favor is its top-notch Blu-ray release. Picture and sound quality are excellent. Let's face it: if there's one piece of media that cries out for a high definition presentation, it's this crudely drawn cartoon. But seriously, the animation here is great; one can really see how much it has stabilized over the years in the clip show when old and new footage plays back to back. Plus, the garish colors the series is famous for have never looked more garish than in this painfully vibrant transfer. The DTS-HD track is surprisingly impressive, too, especially in its active use of directional effects. The one problem is those darned skin tones. Everyone looks freakishly yellow…whoops, nevermind.
As usual, Fox jam-packs its Simpsons release with delicious special features. Mmmmmm, animatics…Leading the charge are 22 commentary tracks—one for each episode—with producers, writers, directors, cast members, and even celebrity guest voices. Some of the last category are really fun additions (the amusingly cocky Stan Lee, unabashed ham James Lipton) while others are strangely awkward (Delroy Lindo, who doesn't seem to get the format, tries to duck out before it's over, and then comes back to ask for some free DVDs). The regular commentators do a super job, hardly ever allowing for dead air despite doing literally hundreds of these tracks over the years. They share behind-the-scenes tidbits of course (raunchy jokes that the censors axed, how certain animation effects were achieved), but the best part is that getting a bunch of comedy writers in the same room talking is naturally pretty funny, so the commentary adds new jokes to the episodes, in a way. Also, I really enjoy hearing which lines the writers themselves crack up over ("Monster put in wallet" got the most attention this season). The episodes also come with a couple dozen deleted scenes, which can be accessed from within the episodes themselves or all together as a separate feature (with optional commentary from Al Jean). Most were rightly deleted, but there are some gems (the Sea Captain's origin story, "Little Homer needs some attention," and the book Bart and Milhouse read titled Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Strange New Feelings).
We get a lot of other extras, too, including the customary short intro from creator Matt Groening, and two Animation Showcase features that present portions of an episode as storyboards or animatics. A Sketch Gallery adds to the Animation Showcase with initial sketches of the new characters/costumes/etc. from the season (including a Smithers outfit that didn't fully make it into "Weekend at Burnsie's"). Ralph is the featured character on the box and menus this season, so there are also two little compilations of Ralph moments (Why two? They even overlap in places). An 8-minute extra takes us on a tour through all the franchise's video games, starting back in 1991 with Gameboy and Nintendo titles (some of which I remember playing back then!). This is a fun extra that shows us a bit of gameplay from each, and plays us the grating and horrible "music" of the early '90s ones. There's one minute on how the animators made "the people ball" from "Sweets and Sour Marge," which is technically interesting, but unfortunately about an unpleasantly silly moment from the show. A few other extras give us a sense of the international mania for The Simpsons: commercials the family appear in from around the world; an episode that can be viewed in German, Czech, Japanese, and Portuguese; a racing boat that flies a giant Bart sail; and a tidbit about how Rio de Janeiro tried to sue the show for the insults they perceived in "Blame it on Lisa." I guess that last one isn't quite an example of the "international mania" for the show, though. Even the basics here are fantastic, like an accompanying booklet that's a bonafide episode guide and disc menus that include funny new material (watch for the Obama parody poster of Squeaky Voiced Teen). There are a few Easter Eggs you may stumble upon, too.
Long story short…is a phrase whose origins are complicated and rambling. But to make this long story short, The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season (Blu-Ray) is worth your time and money.
We'll let The Simpsons off the hook this time. As Springfield crowds are known to yell, "We are mollified!"
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