Tuesday, December 24, 2013

The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Hold onto your donuts! Season 16 of the The Simpsons - the longest-running scripted show in television history — includes all 21 hilarious episodes, tons of meticulously slapped together special features, plus a veritable who’s who (woo-hoo!) of celebrity guest voices, including Fantasia Barrino, Jason Bateman, Gary Busey, James Caan, Stephen Hawking, Eric Idle, Jane Kaczmarek, Lucy Liu, Liam Neeson, Amy Poehler, Ray Romano and plenty more!
Show (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

I think even people who haven’t seen the show knows the basics of the show. Homer Simpson is a fat bald, power plant worker who makes his home in Springfield. Homer is married to the blue haired Marge. Together they have three children Bart, Lisa and Maggie. The Simpsons have not aged during the show’s impressive run and baby Maggie still sucks on her pacifier. Bart’s the trouble maker, and Lisa is the nerdy good girl. 

Over the years recurring characters like Apu the Quick E Mart owner, Comic Book Guy, co-worker Lenny, and Moe the bartender have become a part of the extended Simpson family. Bart’s teacher Edna Krabappel was one of the mainstays of the show, and unfortunately the actress who voiced Edna (Marcia Wallace) recently passed away. I could go on and name Mr. Burns, Smithers, Ned Flanders and his boys, Nelson, Millhouse…and so on.

The fact that all the supporting characters are such big personalities has definitely assisted with the show’s longevity.  During the show's epic run, The Simpsons has also brought in some huge guest stars. The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season is no exception with guests including Steven Hawking, Tom Brady, 50 Cent, Gary Busey, Lucy Liu, Ribert Wagner, Amy Poehler, Jason Bateman, and Liam Neeson. 

For those of you that remember The Simpsons beginning way back on The Tracy Ullman Show you’ll agree it’s amazing that they’ve hung around this long. Sixteen seasons into it, much of what the Simpsons has to offer may not be as fresh as it was when it began, but it is still entertaining. This is a rare case when more of the same is a good thing. If you’re impressed with the idea of sixteen seasons on the air you should realize that The Simpsons' sixteenth season actually aired during 2004-2005. The show itself is well into its twenties but the season sets just haven't caught up yet.The show looks great on Blu-ray and is consistently funny and entertaining.

The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season Blu-ray contains the following episodes on three discs:
  1. Treehouse of Horror XV –Ned Flanders takes a hit to the head and is able to see the future deaths of the Springfield locals, the Simpson’s take a trip inside Mr. Burns and a murderer is on the loose in Victorian London.
  2. All's Fair in Oven War: The Simpsons remodel their kitchen, Marge cheats in a bake off and Bart and Millhouse discover Playdude magazine.
  3. Sleeping With the Enemy: Lisa is teased about her weight and Bart’s bully Nelson bonds with Marge who invites him to live with the Simpsons.
  4. She Used to be My Girl: Guest Star Kim Catrall is an old friend of Marge’s who has become quite famous. 
  5. Fat Man and Little Boy: Bart is growing up and is less than pleased about the whole thing. 
  6. Midnight Rx: Mr. Burns cuts benefits to his employees leading to disgruntled workers and drug smuggling.
  7. Mommie Beerest: Moe’s is shutdown and reopened as Marge becomes his business partner.
  8. Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass: Ned Flanders creates biblical movies while Homer becomes a halftime dance choreographer.
  9. Pranksta Rap: Bart fakes his own kidnapping after being prohibited from attending a rap concert.
  10. There's Something About Marrying: This turns out to be one of the more forward thinking episodes of this season, a nicely done piece on tolerance and gay marriage. Marge gets a shock when an unexpected (to her, anyway) character comes out of the closet. And to top everything off, Homer gets an internet ordination so that he can rake in the bucks marrying gays right and left. 
  11. On a Clear Day I Can't See My Sister: Lisa files a restraining order against her brother forcing him to live in the backyard. Homer gets a job at Sprawlmart as a greeter. 
  12. Goo Goo Gai Pan: Marge’s sister Selma learns that when adopting a baby she must name a husband. With no other option she names Homer as her husband.
  13. Mobile Homer: While Marge takes the children for a drive Homer is left to clean the garage, resulting in numerous injuries. After Bart and Lisa save Homer’s life Marge insists on life insurance but Homer is deemed uninsurable. Marge saves money which Homer takes and uses to buy an RV. 
  14. The Seven Beer Snitch: Springfield’s new concert hall is bankrupt and turned into a jail. It’s not long before Homer lands a spot in jail – and likes it. 
  15. Future-Drama: Professor Frink shows Bart and Lisa their future and it’s no surprise that Lisa’s bright future is derailed by Bart.
  16. Don't Fear the Roofer: Guest star Ray Romano is Homer’s new friend. Homer isn’t sure if he is hallucinating his new bff and ends up enduring shock treatments before Steven Hawking explains the mix up.
  17. The Heartbroke Kid: Surprise, surprise – the Simpsons have an addictive personality. For Homer it’s drinking, for Bart it’s eating and he ends up in an expensive “fat farm”.
  18. A Star is Torn: Homer coaches Lisa, becomes a “stage dad” and then turns on his daughter as she competes in an American Idol-like competition.
  19. Thank God, It's Doomsday: Homer becomes a prophet, inaccurately predicting the end of the world.
  20. Home Away from Homer: When Ned Flanders rents a room to young women running a porn site Homer tells all.
  21. Father, Son and Holy Guest Star: The season finale includes guest Star Liam Neeson as a Catholic priest trying to convert the Simpsons.
Video (3 1/2 out of 5 stars) 

The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season is presented on Blu-ray with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer. The show is not yet in HD but looks pretty good in standard definition. The colors seem especially bright and vibrant but it’s certainly not a high definition experience. Line detail is less than perfect but overall 20th Century Fox has produced a good product.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season's audio quality fairs slightly better than the video. It is presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, with clear and consistent dialogue throughout. Sound effects and the score are fun and inviting, although overly reliant on front channels. 
Extras (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season has an impressive list of special features including commentary for every single episode and three bonus episodes.  In a classy move, there's audio commentaries for every episode on this set. Much to my surprise they were all worth listening to and were entertaining. Definitely watch the episodes without commentary first or you’ll miss some of what’s going on.

Disc One Extras:
  • Greetings, Junior Scienteers! Matt Groening provides a brief introduction to the season, listing the plot lines and numerous guest stars in seasons sixteen.
  • Sketch Gallery I
  • Lisa's Wedding – A Bonus Episode (in full) from season six.
Disc Two Extras:
  • Special Language Feature - Pranksta Rap is available in Portuguese, Italian, Czech, or Hungarian.
  • Sketch Gallery II
  • Living in the Moment – A three and a half minute look, primarily at Tapped Out.
  • Bart to the Future – An additional bonus episode from season eleven.

Disc Three Extras:
  • Deleted Scenes -with available commentary lasting over eleven minutes.
  • Animation Showcase Future-Drama - Storyboards and Animatics.
  • Live! It's The Simpsons! -A table read with the script on screen.
  • Holidays of Future Passed -A Season twenty three bonus episode
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)

The Simpsons has continued to entertain me for another season. Just hearing Ralph sing the opening da da da da over the 20th Century Fox logo makes me smile every time I hear it.  Normally saying this is more of the same would be a bad thing. The fact that The Simpsons has not become boring or repetitive is impressive. When my five year old gets a little older I look forward to starting back at season one. Right now, I’m afraid he’ll be walking around elementary school saying “doh” or “eat my shorts.”  The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season on Blu-ray looks and sounds good and it has a lengthy list of special features that are all great and it even contains three bonus episodes from other seasons. It always amazes me how many big stars want to be a guest voice on The Simpsons and this season contains a bunch of them. While it would be very hard to pick a favorite episode from this season I do recommend adding this to your Blu-ray collection.

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