THE SIPMSONS: THE FIFTEENTH SEASON
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
DVD EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
BY KEVIN CARR
What can I say? It’s “The Simpsons.” The show has been on the air for more than two decades. Not only is it the longest running prime-time cartoon ever made, it’s also the longest-running sit-com and the longest-running scripted program on American television. There have been so many seasons of this series that Fox started to release DVD sets when the format was ready, and they are only on Season Fifteen now.
Part of what makes these “Simpsons” DVD releases fun is they are a snapshot of our television past. The shows produced in Season Fifteen were originally aired in 2003 and 2004. That doesn’t seem too long ago for an old fart like myself, but things have changed over the past eight or nine years. And it shows in the episodes.
The family is still watching a standard definition television. They still use landlines occasionally. And there is even one particular sight gag in one of the episodes that takes a dig at the VHS format with DVDs being the new, cool thing. Of course, this season is also available on Blu-ray if you want the current new, cool thing.
So meta…. without even meaning to be.
Season Fifteen picks up with “Treehouse of Horror XIV,” which has become a Halloween staple in my home, and it doesn’t take long to get to the Christmas episode not too far along. The show hadn’t gotten big enough to warrant it’s own movie yet (that, you’ll remember, took place in 2007, which is three years in this season’s future). So the cinematic episodes, including Marge’s turn as a romance author and a history lesson with the Simpsons family, still have a television-sized scope.
The wraparound packaging pays homage to Otto the bus driver, and the case itself features the somewhat problematic folded cardboard layout with Otto’s bus as the theme. If you manage to get the discs out gracefully, you can also enjoy the booklet “Springfield Visitor’s Guide,” which gives plenty of detail about each episode, one of my favorite things about these “Simpsons” DVD releases.
The content of the episodes is standard. Like previous seasons, they hit on some topical items, like when Marge takes on non-breeders who are tired of paying for social services for her children (a thinly-veiled look at what would eventually become Tea Party politics). There’s also plenty of pop culture and geek references, including a trip to Comic-Con with Comic Book Guy (featuring a Matt Groening cameo) as well as a couple digs at “Star Wars” (because, as you might recall, “Episode III” hadn’t been released when these episodes were made).
In short, it’s what you’d expect form a season of “The Simpsons.” It’s edgy enough to not be boring, but it’s not so in-your-face obnoxious that you can still enjoy in on early prime-time television.
And then there’s the special features. I’ve always been impressed with the ability of “The Simpsons” to crank out plenty of special features for all of their DVD releases, even while many television shows burn out of content by season three or four. Like previous seasons, this is pretty packed.
There’s audio commentary on all episodes, plus plenty of deleted scenes. Features we have come to expect on the discs include sketch galleries, a feature on the various languages used, an animation showcase and commercials. Featurettes include Greoning’s introduction “All Aboard with Matt,” “The Unusual Ones,” “Living in the Moment,” plus a couple cool Easter eggs (remember those?) buried in the various menus.