English, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish, Commentary - English
22 Audio commentary
6 TV spot
1 Trivia track
The Simpsons - Season Three
20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment .
R4 . COLOR . 530 mins .
PG . PAL
By 1991, its third year as a series, The Simpsons had well and truly established itself as a pop culture phenomenon. The first successful prime time animated series since The Flintstones back in the less demanding ‘60s, you could scarcely turn your head anywhere without glimpsing little yellow people with dramatic overbites and ping-pong ball eyes. One of many self-referential digs in this season’s Halloween episode, a billboard with Bart declaring “Get a mammogram, man!”, wasn’t exactly that far removed from reality.
Sure they were cute-looking and all – skilfully designed characters which adhered to the classic Warner Bros rule of being recognisable even in silhouette – however the chief reason for its success lay in the show’s multi-layered storylines. Not just another cheaply made, poorly scripted throwaway Saturday morning kiddie marketing-fest – although the marketing machine did get set to stun rather quickly, as bookcases full of merchandise in a certain gullible and infinitely poorer because of it reviewer’s living room will attest to - The Simpsons took situations everyday families faced and added their own certain magical spin of humour and heart. Money concerns, job worries, parent/child relationships and things schoolkids deal with everyday, people could connect with the issues Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie faced – and have a giggle at the same time, often aided by sharp references to the veritable mine for the plundering that is the world of popular culture. This, of course, was before the influx of increasingly absurd storylines which came in ensuing years, as writers who didn’t quite get it came into the fold and took an “out with the heart, in with the cheap and dumb” approach to their trade.
But everybody knows all that stuff by now, as here in 2003 the show finds itself in the midst of an unprecedented 15th season. For anybody who hasn’t seen every episode of the third series at least a dozen times – one of the show’s most consistently brilliant seasons – here’s a quick guide to who does what now…
Stark Raving Dad Summary: Deemed ‘emotionally interesting’ after wearing a pink shirt to work, Homer’s locked up with a big white dude who thinks he’s Michael Jackson… Guest voice: John Jay Smith (a.k.a. Michael Jackson). Classic line: "Careful men, he wets his pants..." - Smithers (on Homer – erm, well not literally.)
Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington Summary: Lisa’s ‘Patriots of Tomorrow’ essay wins the Simpsons’ a trip to Washington, however once there she loses her faith in democracy… Classic line: "Cartoons don’t have any meaning, they’re just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh" - Homer.
When Flanders Failed Summary: Homer wishes Flanders’ foray into the world of retail with the Leftorium – stacked to the raft-diddly-rafters with left handed stuff – will fail. Until it does… Classic line: "Right as rain - or as we say around here, left as rain!" - Ned Flanders. MMMmmm... barbecue.
Bart the Murderer Summary: After a skateboarding mishap, Bart becomes a junior mob member. When Skinner goes missing, all fingers point at the Simpson lad… Guest voices: Joe Mantegna, Neil Patrick Harris. Classic line: "What’s a truck?!" - Fat Tony.
Homer Defined Summary: Homer inadvertently saves Springfield from a meltdown and becomes a hero, while Bart isn’t invited to Milhouse’s birthday… Guest voices: Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn, Jon Lovitz. Classic line: "Sir, there may never be another time to tell you. I love you sir." - Smithers. "Oh hot dog. Thankyou for making my last few moments on Earth socially awkward." - Monty Burns. MMMmmm... purple.
Like Father, Like Clown Summary: Krusty finally comes for dinner, where the Simpsons learn he hasn’t seen his father for 25 years. Bart and Lisa decide to help reunite them… Guest voice: Jackie Mason. Classic line: "A man who envies our family is a man who needs help." - Lisa.
Treehouse of Horror II Summary: A magic monkey’s hand grants wishes, Bart rules the world and Homer gets a head… Classic line: "Soon they’ll make a board with a nail so big it will destroy them all!" - Kang. MMMmmm... spaghetti. MMMmmm... sprinkles.
Lisa’s Pony Summary: After letting Lisa down yet again, Homer tries to win back her affections by buying a pony. It works, but proves rather expensive… Classic line: "He slept, he stole, he was rude to the customers. Still, there goes the best damned employee a convenience store ever had." - Apu. MMMmmm... beer. MMMmmm... salty.
Saturdays of Thunder Summary: After failing a fatherhood test, Homer teams up with Bart for the soapbox derby, but ‘L’il Lightning’ just doesn’t cut it… Classic line: "Thankyou Bill Cosby, you saved the Simpsons!" - Homer.
Flaming Moe’s Summary: Business is bad for Moe, until he steals the Flaming Homer. It’s a huge hit – but then the secret ingredient is discovered… Guest voices: Aerosmith, Catherine O’Hara. Classic line: "Whoa, Homer! It’s like there’s a party in my mouth and everyone’s invited!" - Moe.
Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk Summary: Burns sells the power plant to some Germans and Homer gets fired. But Monty misses the fear that power instils… Classic line: "Ich bin ein Springfielder!" - Mayor Quimby. MMMmmm... the Land of Chocolate.
I Married Marge Summary: Marge may be pregnant again, so we flashback to the birth of Bart… Classic line: "You’re a machine Homer!" - Bart.
Radio Bart Summary: Bart gets a Superstar Celebrity Microphone for his birthday, which proves very handy to prank Springfield that a little boy is stuck down a well… Guest voice: Sting. Classic line: "The circumference of the well is 34 inches, so unfortunately not one of our city’s police force is slender enough to rescue the boy" - Kent Brockman.
Lisa the Greek Summary: Homer and Lisa’s relationship improves markedly – but is it only because of her skill at football tipping? Classic line: "When the doctor said I didn’t have worms anymore, that was the happiest day of my life" - Ralph Wiggum. MMMmmm... crumbled up cookie things.
Homer Alone Summary: Overworked and underappreciated, Marge loses it one day and subsequently heads off to Rancho Relaxo for some pampering – alone. Classic line: "Hey sweetheart, what’s the matter? Not getting enough of the good stuff at home?... D’oh!" - Homer.
MMMmmm... strained peas.
Bart the Lover Summary: Mrs Krabappel takes out a personal ad, Bart finds out and invents a suitor for her… Classic line: "Damn Flanders!" - Reverend Lovejoy.
Homer at the Bat Summary: With much thanks to Homer’s lucky bat, the SNPP softball team are doing well. To protect a million dollar bet, Burns peppers the team with major league ringers… Guest voices: Jon Lovitz, Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr., Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Ozzie Smith, Darryl Strawberry, Terry Cashman. Classic line: " I don't want you to see me sitting on my worthless butt!" - Homer. "We’ve seen it Dad." - Bart. MMMmmm... donuts. MMMmmm... potato chips.
You've got yourself a narc!
Separate Vocations Summary: Career aptitude tests determine that Lisa will be a homemaker, deflated she turns bad. Meanwhile, Bart becomes a hall monitor… Guest voice: Steve Allen. Classic line: "Sure we have order, but at what price?" - Milhouse.
Dog of Death Summary: Santa’s Little Helper needs a life saving operation, upon getting better he runs off, becoming Burns’ latest attack dog… Classic line: "I’ve figured out an alternative to my giving up beer. Basically, we become a family of travelling acrobats." - Homer. MMMmmm... snouts. MMMmmm... fattening.
Colonel Homer Summary: After a marital tiff, Homer keeps on drivin’ until he discovers a country and western bar, where he meets Lurleen and falls in love - with her singing… Guest voice: Beverly D’Angelo. Classic line: "I haven’t felt this way since ‘Funky Town’." - Homer.
Black Widower Summary: Selma is set to marry her prison pen pal, who just so happens to be Sideshow Bob. Bart doesn’t buy it… Guest voice: Kelsey Grammar. Classic line: "We’re a package. Love me, love MacGyver" - Selma.
The Otto Show Summary: Bart gets the guitar bug after a Spinal Tap show, while Otto loses his bus driving gig – a little something about having no license – so the Simpsons take him in… Guest voices: Spinal Tap. Classic line: "If you need proof of my identity, I wrote my name on my underwear… oh wait, these aren’t mine." – Otto.
Bart’s Friend Falls in Love Summary: Bart is mucho jealous when Milhouse gets a girlfriend and all they do is play kissy-face. Guest voice: Kimmy Robertson. Classic line: "We started out like Romeo and Juliet, but it ended up in tragedy" - Milhouse.
Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes? Summary: Homer’s richer after winning a dubious award at work, so invests in his brother Herb’s new invention… Guest voices: Danny DeVito, Joe Frazier. Classic line: "I have soiled myself... how embarrassing." - Maggie, via Herb’s baby translator.
While the second season DVD release saw a marked visual improvement over the often dodgy first instalment, the advances made here are minimal, if any. While the overall look of the show design-wise continued to improve, what we see on screen is still plagued by the limitations of often down-to-the-wire produced traditional animation. With none of that Frinky computer gear utilised, The Simpsons was strictly a handmade affair (it’s only the 15th season that has seen them move on to digital production) – hand inked backgrounds, painted cels and painstaking shot-by-shot filming. As such the many limitations of the process are on show for all to see. We still get slight colour fluctuations, a surprising amount of small wobbles throughout most every episode of the series and the odd fleck of crud showing from time to time which was obviously there to begin with. As for age effects, all that’s really worthy of note is the occasional minor fleck, although these are not nearly as prevalent as in earlier releases. Some minor examples of aliasing still occur, and generally all is not as clear as you would hope – a quick comparison with the admittedly computer-made Futurama indicates an absolute world of difference in most every respect involving quality.
Still, the colouring is nicely vivid and there are no layer changes to contend with. It may not be as perfect as the show’s many fans who style themselves on Comic Book Guy crave, but it’s better than it looks on TV, and probably as good as we’re ever going to see it.
He was so cru-el!
Again with the remixing and the five channels and the bass channel made from the original two channels and the surrounding channels and all that and channels and n’hey! And again with hardly any great point to it. The subwoofwoof remains essentially dormant and there’s little overt use of rear channels, however the trip to Dolby Digital 5.1 does find dialogue becoming more central while other bits and bobs stroll about the left and right channels. Again, expectations have to be realistic; things sound clear at all times and the regular use of music scrubs up a treat – we can’t rightfully ask for much more.
After some adventurousness with the menus on previous releases, things have gone a bit more perfunctory this time around, with a 16:9 take on the couch gag dealie being the identical menu we’re given on each of the four discs in the set. Upon selecting an option one of what seems to be at least ten – well, that’s all that were found in extensive fiddling about – segues are presented, from the family roasting on a spit to going all puppet-like to one that’s kind of Matrix-like. As for the menus that lie beyond, save for the amusing language selection screen (viva la Bumblebee Man!) they’re all black with simple text on them, and look kinda lame and rushed and really crappy to be honest.
Still, there are quite a few bonus goodies to be found, although not as many as the last release…
Audio commentaries: Continuing an established tradition, each and every episode gets an official commentary, all with Matt Groening’s presence as a constant and a cavalcade of writers, directors and producers showing up at various times. As with previous Simpsons commentaries, they do vary in quality – some are full of fabulous behind the scenes information and the like, some have big gaps, whilst others are just a bunch of middle age creative types piss-farting around thinking they’re really funny (and admittedly they generally are). Some of these do feature members of the main voice cast for the first time, however, which is an improvement – although with sometimes ten people trying to get a word in it can all be a bit of a shemozzle. What becomes really annoying here is the frequent references to cut scenes that were fully animated. If you’re going to refer to them, put them on the bloody discs for us all to see. Sheesh!
Featurette – Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, 1991 (1:28): Yi yi yi! It’s a giant Bart on a skateboard assailing the streets of New York! Worth a quick peek for the hokey voiceover before resigning it to the “fneh” file forevermore.
TV spots – Butterfinger commercials (1:55 total): Five specially animated advertisements are on offer this time around (from between January and May 1992), for what we must reiterate is the most supremely icky chocolate bar ever ingested by any member of the DVDnet team. Give us deep fried Mars Bars any day! MMMmmm… heart attacky….
Featured Songs Jukebox: An easy way to jump to any of 13 specific songs from the entire season. Whatever.
Foreign language clips: Again with this old filler chestnut, as a scene from Treehouse of Horror II can be viewed with soundtracks in Spanish, Quebecois French, Czech or Polish.
Promo with Unseen Footage: Just a 30 second Fox ad plugging Colonel Homer.
Storyboards: Four episodes have been given this wonderful, eye-bleed inducing, treatment - Homer Defined, Treehouse of Horror II, Radio Bart and Black Widower. Pages and pages of comic strip styled layouts (ranging from 170 pages to 241), these have all been hit with the red pen by one Matt Groening… a lot.
Scene Specific Sketches: Ten episodes have this option, which is kinda dumb. Rather than present an easy accessible gallery of sketches, they have been included in the relevant episodes via branching – just silent stills popping up every so often to kill the mood.
Pop-up Simpsons: One of those very natty trivia tracks, unfortunately only for one episode, Colonel Homer. This does, however, contain a couple of hints as to the whereabouts of what’s mentioned just below this little subparagraph type thingy for the more numerically alert…
Easter eggs: Geez Louise! Make it tough why don’t you?! Thus far we’ve unearthed four bonus commentaries, a page featuring audio outtakes and a number of production sketches. Our rich creamery butter – oops, wrong cholesterolly thing – eggs section will give the skinny to those who haven’t got days to spend stabbing wildly at their remote in search of this kind of stuff.
While there’s been no marked quality increase as far as presentation goes – in fact menu-wise we’ve seen a decided back-step save for a bit more functionality – the quality of the 24 episodes on offer here simply cannot be questioned, for there’s not a dud amongst them. Even better is that they include many bits which were shaved off upon airing here by a certain Australian television network we could name. The continued painfully slow crawl at which these are being released must again be brought into question, however; one set per annum just doesn’t cut it – especially when the next one due, season four, is easily the greatest series of The Simpsons produced. We want it now… now, now, now, now, now!
Oh yes, the packaging colour is purple this time around. MMMmmm… purple.
Jack & Sarah "Proving that simplicity is no obstruction to brilliance, this is an ultimately sweet (but not sickeningly so) tale that gives all those bigger English films out there a more than respectable run for their money... "