The Simpsons

The Simpsons – The Complete Twentieth Season

by Johnny Bray

The Simpsons should have quit while they were ahead.

In its prime, the show was one of the funniest, most well-written in the history of television. An entire generation of kids was raised watching – and quoting – the show.

And then it just kept going.

The ninth season was arguably the last of the greats, while ten and eleven did their best. After the downhill slide by the end of season twelve, the creators should have respectfully stepped down.

Yet for some reason, 20 years after it first aired, new episodes are still being produced. No one in his right mind could possibly feel it was still worthy of continuing. Is there any reason, other than the obvious monetary benefits, that the creators are still going on with the show? Or is it strictly the obvious monetary benefits? Will we ever know for sure?

Anyway, after that severe lambasting, we’ll continue with the review of the latest season in the show’s far-too-lengthy run. Season 20 was noteworthy for two reasons: to celebrate the 20th anniversary, the show was honored with a new opening sequence, which complemented its upgrade into high definition. While both are welcome changes, it doesn’t alter the fact that the show isn’t nearly funny enough these days.

Having said that, season 20 starts out on an optimistic note. The first episode, “Sex, Pies and Idiot Scrapes” has some genuinely funny moments, and seems to focus more on timeless jokes than timely ones (just like the old days). But it seems to lose steam by the conclusion, and ends on a very unsatisfying note. In fact, the theme of the season seems to be decent ideas that the writers have no idea how to end properly (“Mypods and Boomsticks” is a perfect example). The humor gives us hope, but so many of the episodes just seem to end without really wrapping anything up. It’s a valiant effort, but not enough to convince old fans to keep coming back.

I’ll always cherish the many years I watched and loved The Simpsons. It deserved to be one of the most revered shows of all time and will probably be imitated for as long as T.V. exists. Season 20 is a small step in the right direction, but too little too late.

As they say, all good things must come to an end, and I think it’s time we all let the show die while it still has some dignity left.

In terms of the Blu-ray, it’s more of a novelty to have an entire Simpsons season in your Blu-ray collection than it is actually an impressive presentation. One problem is that you can gussy up mediocre animation with all the bells and whistles in the world and it’s still mediocre animation. On the other hand, colors are impressive and it all looks a lot smoother than it ever did on TV or DVD.

About halfway through the season they jumped to hi-def, which helps - and it's nice to have the series in widescreen (1.78:1) finally. The comparison between the first and second halves of the season is quite noticeable. The colors of the hi-def shows are more vibrant than the standard-def episodes, and while the picture is still nowhere near perfect, it's a big improvement. If only there was a way they could make the older seasons look this good!

The whole season is presented in 5.1 dts-HD, but never really makes use of it. The show never really needed a standard 5.1 Dolby Digital track on the DVD releases, but we commend them for trying to make things as modern as possible. Still, the sound track is mostly from the front channels, though there's some good subwoofer use at times.

In terms of extras, the two-disc Blu-ray set comes with only a sneak peek at the 20th Anniversary Special with Morgan Spurlock. It’s called a “sneak peek” for a reason, and just makes us wish they’d included the whole thing (especially since there are no other extras to be seen).

For Simpsons completists, this is an easy recommend. For those still hoping the show will someday be as funny as it used to: keep hoping.

The Simpsons – The Complete 20th Season, from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
456 minutes, 1.33:1 full screen (9 episodes) and 1.78:1 widescreen (12 episodes)
Starring Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer

Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.

Buy the eBook
Ransom for the stars
of Jim Bray's
fantastic Sci-Fi Adventure