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Reviewed September 29th, 2001 by Dan Jones


Being that I am a 20-year-old college person, I can say that I am a fan of the Simpsons; I practically grew up on the show. I remember going into elementary school and talking with everyone about last night’s Simpsons’ episode. It seems little has changed over time. Currently, we see the show three times a day here in college, from 5:00-6:00pm and then again, at 6:30pm, we then see it on Sunday (if it is airing) and possibly a couple other times during the week if Fox is nice to us. I would have to wager a guess that I have seen at least 95% of the episodes, probably four to ten times over.

Now finally, Fox is starting to release the show by season, on the DVD-format. Finally will be able to say definitively (in about 10 years or however long it takes to release all the seasons... assuming the Simpsons are not around in 10 years... ) that they have in fact seen all the episodes, and even seen a little behind the scenes on the way.

Enter Season 1...

This is where it all began, starting with the originally aired in 1989, Christmas special. Here we get the template on which this unbelievably popular show begins. The thirteen episodes in this first season are: “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bart the Genius,” “Homer’s Odyssey,” “There’s No Disgrace Like Home,” “Bart the General,” “Moaning Lisa,” “The Telltale Head,” “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” “Call of the Simpsons,” “Homer’s Night Out,” “Life in the Fast Lane,” “Krusty Gets Busted,” and “The Crepes of Wrath.” This season was a bit shorter then the seasons that followed, as it started much later then seasons to follow. The rest of the seasons contained anywhere from 21-25 shows on average.

This three-disc DVD set is quite nice. The packaging is nice and compact, very similar to the Fox X-Files box sets, with fewer discs of course. Inside we get a small episode guide booklet, outlining, you guessed it, the episodes, giving you access to track selection, writer and director info, and a short summary. The booklet is very bare bone basic, but does the job. The sleeve is kind of clever, basically allowing for you to put the DVD box back into the sleeve in any orientation without looking incorrect; small detail, but kind of clever.

Over all three discs we get the original thirteen Simpsons episodes (six episodes on disc one and two, one on disc three), complete with commentary, a few with original scripts, and a good deal of extras and behind the scenes glimpses into the show on disc three.

Upon popping the DVDs in your player you will get the standard “copy and go to jail” warnings, you will then be presented with the menus for the episodes/extras. I hate to say it, but the menus are painfully bland, offering up essentially static backdrops for the track selections along with the Simpsons theme song looping endlessly in the background. Perhaps Fox can think up something more creative for the next boxes?

The DVD is presented in standard full screen of course, although I cannot help but think about how cool a widescreen episode could look... The video quality is quite good; the colors will be much more vibrant then most fans of the series will be used to, as they have been more toned down as the series goes on (beyond the first season). As the episodes go on the video quality becomes better and better.

5.1 Dolby Digital? Who would have guessed it but yes, we get an updated fully 5.1 audio track. This track is done quite well for a animated series originally broadcasted in dual channel stereo. Although the sound is not completely surrounding, it does, at least on occasion, make use of your rears, along with keeping your subwoofer relatively content throughout. Overall, I was very impressed with the sound here. I never expected the 5.1 track to be there, let alone be done well. For those who wish to view the Simpsons in French, you will have to be content with Dolby Surround 2.0.

In the ways of Extras, the box set does a good job. We get original scripts for “Bart the Genius,” “Bart the General,” “Moaning Lisa,” and “Some Enchanted.” We get commentary for all of the thirteen episodes; which can get very funny in itself, one in which Jim Brooks completely walks out of the audio commentary.

We also get foreign language clips, for all those dying to know what the Simpsons sound like in other languages; some of these are quite amusing, puts a new light on Marge and Homer for sure. I just wish they would have used different scenes to do this, instead of the same one with different languages; still cool nonetheless.

Moreover on the Extras side, we get “Animatic: Bart the General w/Commentary,” Outtakes (revolving around “Some Enchanted”), America's First Family BBC Special, Bart T-shirt Controversy ABC News, Tracy Ulman: Good Night Simpsons, Early Sketches, and 12 stills and magazine covers. Some of these are pretty nice, although a lot of them are quite short; some in the vicinity of thirty-seconds... but beggars cannot be choosers. They are all welcome additions, but I cannot help but think they are holding some things back for future releases, and I guess I cannot blame them for that.

Overall, what we have here is an excellent piece of possibly the greatest TV show of all time. The first season was without a doubt not the best season of the Simpsons, but it laid the groundwork, brought in the characters we have grown to know and love, and introduced us to a show that would become incessantly popular, and insanely well done.

So what is the one drawback of this opening season? Well... people who buy this set might have a dumbfounded look on their face when they see the price of the next set, expecting all the seasons to cost the same as the first... As I said at the start, season one can essentially be seen as a “half season,” if this one took three DVDs, don’t be surprised to see season two on five or six DVDs... thus doubling the price of the set. Also... with syndication rights here in the U.S., don’t anticipate these sets coming out too fast... it’s going to take QUITE a while (many a years). Nevertheless, in the end, isn’t it worth it? One word: YES.

Perhaps Matt Groening says it best in the last paragraph of the intro inside the box: “Enjoy. We’ve got more Simpsons episodes to make, then broadcast, then re-run, then chop up for syndication, then sell to you on DVD. But you know something? We wouldn’t have it any other way!”

Overall, this is a must-have for all Simpsons’ fans!


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