Judge Jennifer Malkowski has been watching The Simpsons since it first premiered when she was six. Here is her 1989 crayon-scrawled review: "The sympsons r kool. But not as kool as ninja turtels."
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 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 Thirteenth Season (Blu-Ray) (published September 6th, 2010), 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.
Marge to Lisa: "I think you're a little young to be investigating an
attempted murder. Why don't you try to solve the mystery of who put that mud in
Hi-dilly-ho, fan-a-ri-nos! Welcome to the seventh season of America's favorite TV comedy…or at least the part of America with good taste. The Simpsons was still riding its peak creativity streak at this point, so all the jokes are good and the plots are still vaguely plausible.
Let's start with a breakdown of this season's 25 episodes:
• "Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part Two)"
• "Radioactive Man"
• "Home Sweet Homediddly-dum-doodily"
• "Bart Sells His Soul"
• "Lisa the Vegetarian"
• "Treehouse of Horror VI"
• "King-Size Homer"
• "Mother Simpson"
• "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming"
• "The Simpsons' 138th Episode Spectacular"
• "Marge Be Not Proud"
• "Team Homer"
• "Two Bad Neighbors"
• "Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield"
• "Bart the Fink"
• "Lisa the Iconoclast"
• "Homer the Smithers"
• "The Day the Violence Died"
• "A Fish Called Selma"
• "Bart on the Road"
• "22 Short Films About Springfield"
• "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The
Curse of the Flying Hellfish'"
• "Much Apu About Nothing"
• "Summer of 4 ft. 2"
This is a really solid season that contains quite a few classic episodes and hardly any duds (except for Milhouse, as Homer labels him in the finale). I enjoyed seeing a return in this season to the winning formula of killer jokes balanced out by semi-gooey character moments. For every instance of Grandpa's pants falling down, Homer faking his own death, or Patty and Selma sucking dead crustaceans out of seashells, there is an instance of Bart making amends for shoplifting, Homer's mother hugging him goodbye, or Lisa finding her first real friend. Laughs are plentiful in The Simpsons, but some of these episodes made me tear up a little, too…and then laugh again hard enough to squirt milk out of my nose. In particular, this season boasts three of the all-time best Lisa episodes. "Lisa the Vegetarian," "Lisa the Iconoclast," and "Summer of 4 ft. 2" all demonstrate the great, often unrealized, potential of this hard-to-write-for character.
The only gripe I can really make with the content of the seventh season concerns the one blemish on its otherwise glorious visage: "Homerpalooza." I'm not sure how other fans feel about this one, but for me it painfully foreshadows the parade of "humor-killing celebrity guest stars" that marred later seasons. Unless one is a fan of these particular bands, it is neither funny nor entertaining to simply watch them perform on the show and then flatly recite poorly scripted lines. Compare the role of The Smashing Pumpkins in this episode to Mickey Rooney in "Radioactive Man," for example. The former is painfully dull, while the latter is great. What's the difference? Rooney's appearance is brief, well-integrated, and playfully self-mocking in a way that actually makes me laugh. "Homerpalooza" also suffers from a plethora of of-the-moment music and culture references that don't age well, which the commentators admit have "expired."
The presentation of this set is top-notch. Gone is the sixth-season's cumbersome, plastic Homer-head packaging that elicited many a "D'oh!" from fans (though the companion Marge-head packaging is available for those couple of souls who liked the Homer-head…and for those thousands of obsessive collectors like me who may grudgingly buy it anyway). Fox returns to the standard fold-out case that slips into the exterior box, but with a pleasant twist: instead of many awkward panels, the interior of the fold-out contains four clear plastic DVD-holders that are bound together like pages of a book. All the artwork on the packaging and the disc menus—with its red carpet movie-premiere theme—is fantastic, too. New animations of the acne-teen working a concession stand in the "Extras" menus or Mr. Burns sitting in a director's chair in the foreground of the "Scene Selection" menus actually contain a few short jokes that made me chuckle—which is way more than I expect from my menu screens. From a technical standpoint, the discs succeed, as well, with bright colors, smooth motions, and a nice audio presentation. My only technical complaint is that I found a strange shading glitch on the far right side of the English subtitles that remained there in every episode. But nit-picking about that puts me at risk for Comic-Book-Guy level geekdom—a Simpsons characterization that probably hits too close to home for many of us.
The extras, as in previous sets, are plentiful and entertaining. As always, there is a commentary track on every single episode, which never ceases to impress me. The commentaries are done by a nice mix of writers, directors, producers, animators, cast members, and even guest stars. Plus, Groening himself is present for most of the commentaries, too. Previous commentaries have sometimes lapsed into the participants simply laughing at the jokes and marveling at how long ago these episodes aired, but this time the comments offer a nice mix of behind-the-scenes info and inside jokes explained. This show is filled with so many references that no one person could possibly get them all…except for me. I understood every one of them. Not really, but listening to the commentary tracks was a great way to figure out those allusions and jokes that I didn't get the first time around. The tone of the commentaries is jovial and everyone is having fun. I wonder whether that will change once the releases get into the worse seasons or if it will just get…awkward. The extras also provide the run of deleted scenes from this season, either as links from the spots they would have occupied in the episodes, or all together as a special feature. Many of them are really quite funny. My favorite is from "Lisa the Vegetarian": when Lisa runs away, Bart exclaims, "She's gone?!? Dibs on Lisa's…umm…ah, she doesn't have anything good." Some of the most interesting extras are the "A Bit from the Animators" features. In these, a few of the directors and Groening comment specifically on the directorial and animation guidelines for creating the visual world of The Simpsons. The format is nice, using a single act of an episode as the subject and giving the commentators special tools to draw lines on the screen as they talk…you know, like those football announcer guys. These bits are both informative and surprisingly funny (one of the participants mocks the project by circling
Bart's eyes and announcing, with a tone of self-importance, "this is called 'open eyes'").
I've been a fan of The Simpsons since the very first episode, which I discovered at the ripe old age of six. But I don't think I'm being particularly biased when I say that these are classic episodes chock-full of hilarious jokes and surprisingly tender moments. And with its improved packaging and generous special features, this set is a must-buy.
Despite the failure of their lawyer, Lionel Hutz, to appear in court (or deliver on his "your case won in thirty minutes or your pizza is free" promise), The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season is cleared of all charges.
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