The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season DVD/Blu-ray (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment) | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season DVD/Blu-ray

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Sep 30, 2010 Matt Groening Bookmark and Share


Most longtime fans of The Simpsons believe the show is past its prime after being on the air for 22 seasons. Haziness comes when the topic of “when” the decline started comes up. All things considered, season 13 is a tipping point that can’t be ignored. Some fans consider it to be among the best of The Simpsons’ post-decline years, but the lazy writing and Family Guy-itis of the current seasons starts to solidify on season 13’s 22 episodes, now released on DVD and Blu-ray for the first time. It’s a glaring portent of the silliness of later years. American television’s longest-running primetime entertainment series now takes the easy route of slapstick and gags over character-propelled satire and wit. Season 13 manages to stay fairly consistent though.

Funny send-ups of Seinfeld, The Graduate, Stand by Me, Midnight Cowboy, and The Sopranos are sometimes sullied by dumb antics or random guests stars. The R.E.M. plotline in the Thanksgiving episode, “Homer the Moe,” is one of the worst offenders. They feel very tacked on and superfluous. Welcome Simpsons trademarks remain when it comes to the main characters, and careful thought is still detectable on any given episode. The pressures of weekly deadlines may have hurt the overall product, but the heart of the show is still beating. It was a miracle The Simpsons has stayed this relevant 13 seasons in.

Fans will enjoy Ben Stiller as a mean CEO, and Marvel Comics creator Stan Lee as a zany version of himself. Plus, Julia Louis Dreyfus’ semi-recurring character Gloria dates Mr. Burns. So, there’s laughter to be found, it’s just not as easy to stumble across. Some of the best episodes are due to the efforts of writer John Swartzwelder. He truly shined during season 13’s 2001-2002 run. The Simpson famiy’s trips to Brazil, Branson, Missouri, and Toronto liven up the stale formula too.

DVD extras sometimes make up for lame episodes and this season isn’t an exception. The hilarious and informative commentaries for every episode return after fans became indignant about their absence on the cobbled-together Twentieth Season release this past January. The creators discuss (among other things), 9/11’s long shadow on the show, fans’ complaints on blogs, and the pros and cons of switching to digital after so many years of painted cells.

Definitely check out the little featurettes on the DVD’s cover star, the loveable, glue-huffing Ralph Wiggum. Disc one’s “Ralphisms” compiles Ralph’s memorable oneliners and moments from over the first 13 years and disc four’s “The Sweet Life of Ralph” chronologically compiles longer Ralph-centric segments. The deleted scenes and Easter eggs are neat and the menus are intuitive, colorful, and fun. And of course, the DVD’s packaging art is very handsome as well. (Glad Fox ditched the old Digipaks originally used.)

Despite its failings, the Matt Groening-created animated sitcom is still one of the best shows on the ol’ boob tube. When it wrapped its 21st season last spring, the wrinkles were long, deep, and noticeable. Those lines start here, but the face of the show is still recognizable. What fans love about The Simpsons is its overflowing cast of sympathetic and zany Springfieldians. Its a double-edged sword at times, but proves to be this DVD’s saving grace. Hey, pristine digital transfers aren’t as important as good character-driven storytelling. When Homer doesn’t hog the spotlight, we get a little bit of that ol’ vim and vigor we know and love. (www.thesimpsons.com)

Author rating: 6/10

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