English - Hearing Impaired, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Finnish
Audio commentary - per episode
Outtakes - unaired version of Some enchanted Evening
Original screenplay - disc one: Bart the Genius, Bart the General. disc two: Moaning Lisa.
The Simpsons - Complete Season 1
20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox .
R4 . COLOR . 300 mins .
G . PAL
Who would have thought that this day would ever come? The day when the Simpsons went digital and arrived on DVD? That day has arrived for this reviewer, and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has seen fit to follow in its own footsteps and have released the entire first season in a charming box set as it has done with its previous efforts of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The X-Files.
The episodes as they appear on each disc are as follows:
Main menu screen for disc 1
Season 1 - Disc 1
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire Summary: It's Christmastime and the Simpsons head down to the mall for some shopping, where Bart decides to get himself a tattoo. Catching him in the middle of the procedure, Marge takes him to a plastic surgeon to have it removed, and must use all the Christmas money on the radical laser assisted procedure. Homer's Christmas bonus doesn't come through, so he takes a part time job as a Santa Claus where he can only muster $13. He loses all this money at the dog track, but brings home the losing dog as the family's new pet, Santa's Little Helper.
Classic Line:"Oh please, there's only one fat guy who brings us presents at Christmas and his name is not Santa" - El Barto
Bart the Genius Summary: When Bart's class is given an aptitude test to complete, Bart switches his with that of Martin Prince. A bit of graffiti lands Bart in the principal's office once more, and when his parents are called in, again, it is revealed that Bart is in fact a genius and is soon sent to a school for geniuses. When things don't work out, Bart crafts a way to get back into 'normal' school.
Classic Line:"KWYJIBO - A big, dumb, balding, North American ape, with no chin" - Bart.
Homer's Odyssey Summary: Homer loses his job when Bart and his class visit the power plant. When his life just can't get any better, Homer tries to commit suicide. As his family run to stop him, they are almost hit by a speeding car and Homer has an idea to put a stop sign in the intersection where the incident occurred. From here, his odyssey leads him to challenge the safety of the power plant and in turn regain his job.
Classic Line:"Damn it, I'm no supervising technician, I'm a technical supervisor." - Homer.
There's No Disgrace Like Home Summary: Mr Burns is having his annual picnic at Burns Manor. With Monty paying close attention to which employees have a strong family unity, Homer realises that his reckless kids and drunk wife are not exactly what he would call 'ideal'. Dr Marvin Monroe is offering family counselling for $250 or double your money back, so Homer decides to sell the family television to pay for the therapy, but even the last resort of shock tactics fails.
Classic Line:"I want to be alone with my thought." - Homer
Bart the General Summary: When Lisa makes cupcakes for her teacher's birthday, a school bully decides to spoil the party. When Bart stands up for his sister, he soon realises he's messed with the wrong bully, Nelson Muntz. Bart consults various family members for ways to deal with the problem and soon recruits a whole neighbourhood of kids to declare war on Nelson and his posse.
Classic Line:"And there's nothing wrong with hitting someone when his back is turned." - Homer
Season 1 - Disc 2
Moaning Lisa Summary: Lisa seems to be having the blues and there don't appear to be any positives in sight. Her 'brainiac' title seems to be getting to her until she meets 'Bleeding Gums' Murphy and learns how to express her emotions through the blues. Meanwhile, Bart and Homer are having an ongoing tussle with video game boxing where Bart remains undefeated.
Classic Line:"Just take mine. A simple cupcake will bring me no pleasure." - Lisa.
Call of the Simpsons Summary: Homer has his ego challenged when Flanders gets a mobile home for his family. Homer decides to go one better, but ends up with the lowest possible form of motor home. The Simpson family ends up stranded in the woods and as Homer and Bart head off to find civilisation again, Homer gets mistaken for Bigfoot.
Classic Line:"Avenge me son, avenge my death. ZZZZZzzzzzz!! - Homer
The Telltale Head Summary: When Bart becomes a member of the local bully gang, he tries his hardest to fit in. A by-the-by wishful thinking sees Bart decapitate the head of the statue of Jebediah Springfield. The town's folk are shocked and are out for blood.
Classic Line:"A boy without mischief is like a bowling ball without a liquid centre" - Homer
Life on the Fast Lane Summary: It's Marge's birthday, and Homer, ever forgetful, rushes off to the mall to buy her a present, coming home with a beauty of a bowling ball. It's a pity Marge has never bowled in her life, but she is determined to prove that she can. While at the bowling alley, Marge meets Jacques who teaches her about the game and is soon seducing her. All the while Homer is at home not knowing what to do, whilst Bart and Lisa go through the various stages of the parent breakup syndrome.
Classic Line:"Tell him I'm going to the back seat of my car, with the woman I love, and I won't be back for ten minutes." - Homer.
Homer's Night Out Summary: When one of the guys at work announces he is getting married, his colleagues organise a bucks night for him, so Homer has the night away from his family. Marge takes the kids out to a restaurant, coincidently at the same location as the bucks night. Bart, with his new spy camera, stumbles across the stag event and snaps a shot of Homer dancing with Princess Kashmir. Soon the photo is all over Springfield, much to Marge's disgust.
Classic Line:"Homer Simpson sir, a low-level employee in sector 7G" - Smithers.
Season 1 - Disc 3
The Crepes of Wrath Summary: When Bart uses a cherry bomb in the boys toilets at school, he finds himself part of a foreign exchange program and is sent off to France in exchange for an Albanian boy who is actually a spy, who uses Homer to infiltrate the nuclear power plant and sends back secret documents to his homeland.
Classic Line:"Please, please kids, stop fighting. Maybe Lisa's right about America being the land of opportunity, and maybe Adil's got a point about the machinery of capitalism being oiled with the blood of the workers." - Homer.
Krusty Gets Busted Summary: On a trip to the Kwik-E-Mart, Homer is in the presence of an armed robbery by one Krusty the Clown. With Krusty behind bars, Sideshow Bob has taken over but Bart and Lisa suspect foul play. A bit of investigative work reveals the real crook.
Classic Line:"You can emerge now from my chips. The opportunity to prove yourself a hero is long gone." - Apu Nahasapeemapetilon.
Some Enchanted Evening Summary: When Homer hears Marge complain to a radio psychiatrist about him not loving her any more, he decides to make amends by taking her out on an evening she'll not soon forget. Marge hires a babysitter for the evening, but the kids soon find out she's the Baby Sitter Bandit.
Classic Line:"The way I see it, you raised three children who could knock out and hog-tie a perfect stranger, you must be doing something right." - Marge.
Many have argued that the first few seasons gave real substance and life to the characters with subsequent seasons concentrating more on the antics of Homer and his dumbing down. As a Homer fan, I object, but these early episodes do bring back some great memories with many classic Simpsons moments. Uh-oh, KWYJIBO on the loose...
D'oh! That's the only term that can sum up the expectations not being met with this must-have title, but more on that later. The Season One box comes to us in the original full frame television presentation, sans commercials, giving us five 22 minute episodes on discs 1 and 2, and three 22 minute episodes on disc 3. Whilst the original season had its share of teething problems in getting the look right, the DVD presentation is more than adequate for archival purposes, but diehard fans are going to want blood if they are expecting a transfer as sparkling as that seen on Lion King 2.
The image here is fairly soft and suffers from some analogue edge enhancement. Without understanding what source material was used to create these DVDs, we can only hazard a guess that the final video edited masters were the culprits here. Colours are rich and vibrant throughout, with the darker scenes appearing almost too dark. Once again this is due to the low quality the original series provides.
One interesting observation is that all three DVDs are dual layered, but only really use a single layer's worth of capacity with the bit rate hovering around the 5.5 mark. Five episodes by 22 minutes on a dual layered disc should look excellent compression-wise, yet this transfer is marred by some MPEG artefacting which is most noticeable along the black outlines of the animation.
On a somewhat positive note, this looks better than any VHS copy you're ever likely to come across and things can only get better from here.
ADDENDUM: Speculation has arisen that would explain the 'analogue' look of the image. It was noted that the Simpsons Season One was coming to laserdisc at the time DVD was just begining to emerge and was thus held up due to the popularity of Laserdisc declining rapidly. It could be the source material used was the transfer done for laserdisc, hence the overuse of edge-enhancement and the somewhat short and cruddy looking extras.
Woohoo! So the audio does not suffer from its age. In fact, we are given a 5.1 Surround mix for each and every episode culminating in being able to hear The Simpsons like never before. Most noticeable is the opening title sequence, which seems to have had a remix that gives a fresh and dynamic approach to the theme song. No it doesn't sound different, just, Mmmmmm, sweet.
The Simpsons has been broadcast in Dolby Surround for years now, but don't expect a full blown 5.1 remastered experience for each episode. It seems more likely that any remixing done was more for subtlety and ambience rather than neck-snapping surrounds. Bass has been extended in some key scenes throughout the season with panning across the front soundstage ever more present. As always, dialogue is clear throughout and every nuance of effects used in the various comic situations are as clear as day.
Mmmmmm, extras. As customary with all Fox box sets, there is a smattering of extras available, but this time around the quantity and quality varies from "D'oh" to "I mean, Woohoo?". The DVD is dual-coded for regions 2 and 4 so most likely these extras will be the same as the region 2 release.
Animated chapter selections.
Each and every episode on the DVD has a running Audio Commentary by the likes of Matt Groening, David Silverman, James L. Brooks and the various directors and writers involved. Whilst commenting on each and every commentary would be an exercise in RSI on this reviewer's behalf (and boredom on the reader's behalf), a quick summary reveals that each commentary is more like a flashback for those involved as they reminisce about their ideas and work from over a decade ago. Groening comments on the various mirrorings of his own life and how he based the family around his own family. Being the first season, there is a lot of talk about how the characters changed over the course of the season, how some were refined, some dropped, some introduced, some changed colour and so on. These are interesting commentaries, even if there are gaps in the short 22-minute spans that they inhabit.
There are various Original Scripts spread over the DVDs. Disc 1 features Bart the Genius and Bart the General, disc 2 features Moaning Lisa and disc 3 features Some Enchanted Evening. Whilst these scripts are available online in some form or another, it's fun to see the originals, complete with doodles on various pages.
Outtakes (5:03) from an un-aired version of Some Enchanted Evening show the before and after cuts of the opening scene. The video here is of VERY ordinary quality, as if it was recorded by pointing a camera at a TV. An Animatic from Bart the General with commentary from Matt Groening and David Silverman (1:51) is a short look at how an episode is developed. Two minutes is certainly not enough time to explore this aspect of the series.
A very quick (4:50) Making of "America's First Family" showcases interviews with the various people involved, as well as the man who thought up the idea himself, Matt Groening. Once again, five minutes is too short a time to spend trying to explain how the world's most famous family came about, although the commentaries do a great job of expanding on their roots and, as mentioned, the beginning of what was to come.
A nice addition is the Foreign Language clips that present a short one minute clip of The Simpsons as presented in French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese and Portugese. The original Tracey Ullman Show short Good Night Simpsons (1:58) shows us The Simpsons as some of you may never have seen before, drawn by the hand of Matt Groening himself and looking a little worse for wear. The rest of the Tracey Ullman shorts would have been a welcome addition.
Albert Brooks was the voice of Jacques in Life on the Fast Lane, and here we have a video montage of the various Albert Brooks outtakes (3:45). Rounding out the 'accesible' extras is the Art of The Simpsons, which features "Life in Hell" and "Early Sketches & Drawings" still galleries. These pages show how the characters changed over time during the first season to become the characters we know them to be in Season 2.
Finally, two Easter Eggs showcase an ABC News special on a reported controversy about The Simpsons t-shirts being sold, and a stills gallery of covers from printed media. You can learn how to find these easter eggs in our easter eggs section.
Bart, still the undefeated champion.
Whilst there are a healthy number of extras here, the quality is short and not so sweet. Fans of the series will be crying out for more once they spend an hour or so getting through this bunch.
It's hard to get really excited about this release, but this is The Simpsons and you have to have it right? D'oh! I mean Woohoo! It's the beginning and things will hopefully improve from here. More extras are needed, better use of the dual layered formatting is required and easter eggs that are interesting would be great too, like a hilarious collection of outtakes much like those during the credits of the twoToy Story films and A Bug's Life. Whilst we don't expect the region 1 NTSC version to differ in terms of content and quality (don't quote us on that), those of you who are diehard fans will scoop this title up in the mad October rush, others may wish to sit and wait to see if the future seasons show any improvement that would require the purchase of this release to complete their collections thus far.