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EXCLUSIVE DVD/BLU-RAY REVIEW: The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season

Ever since The Simpsons: The Complete First Season came out in 2001, the people who put together The Simpsons DVDs, and now Blu-rays, have shown that they knew exactly what fans of that show — heck, every show — would want from a seasonal set. And, thankfully, they clearly didn’t lose sight of that when constructing the newest, The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season.

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Available on DVD and Blu-ray from Fox Home Video, The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season has all twenty-one episodes as uncut as they were when they first aired in 2004 and 2005. And while some might debate the merits of this season, fans of the show know it included a number of great episodes, including the one where Springfield legalized gay marriage (“There’s Something About Marrying”), the one that had Homer being a prison snitch (“The Seven-Beer Snitch”), and the one in which Lisa gets a restraining order against Bart (“On A Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister”).

But the real reason to get this collection isn’t just to see the episodes as you’ll never see them again on TV, but for all the cool extras.

As with the previous seasonal sets, The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season has commentaries on every episode that are as funny as they are informative. In fact, the only bummer about them is that they don’t always get the cast members or guest stars to join the crew, since those often end up being the funniest. Which is the case here with the episodes “The Father, The Son, And The Holy Guest Star” and “Mommie Beerest,” both of which have stars Hank Azaria and Tess MacNeille joining in.

Though it is completely unacceptable that they didn’t get Thomas Pynchon for the commentary on his episode. For shame, Simpsons. For shame.

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Like other Simpsons seasonal DVDs and Blu-rays, this one also has sketch galleries with early concept drawings; the option to watch a scene in Italian, Portuguese, Czech, and Hungarian; animation showcases where you can watch scenes in storyboard form or as anamatics; and a welcome message from creator Matt Groening. All of which, while not worth watching more than once, are rather interesting the first time around.

Though this also, for the first time, has audio from a table read for the episode “Thank God It’s Doomsday” in which the actors not only read the script aloud, but do so in the character’s voices. They even run the script on the screen as the actors read it, which is great because the script includes a cast list that shows who voices each character, something they oddly don’t include in the show’s credits.

While The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season could be used as a template for how other TV show DVDs and Blu-rays are assembled, even it has some areas that could be improved. The biggest of which is how deleted scenes are presented. On one hand, it’s cool how you can watch them in context, in the spot of the episode where they would’ve appeared. But what’s never made any sense to me is that you can’t chose to have them just appear automatically. Instead, you have to hit the ENTER button on your remote whenever silver pair of scissors pops on screen. Are there people who would want to watch one deleted scene in an episode and not another?

This collection also lets you watch a montage of all the season’s deleted scenes with an optional commentary. Which is great, most shows wouldn’t bother commenting on the cut stuff. But it would make more sense if you could watch the deleted scenes from an episode on their own, and with the commentary, while in the section for that episode. Especially for people, like me, who only watch a couple episodes a day, as opposed to marathoning the whole season.

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It also doesn’t help that — again, for no discernable reason — there are still other deleted scenes hidden in the menus as Easter eggs. Though “hidden” might be too strong a word.

It’s also missing the menu option to watch an episode with both the commentary track and the deleted scenes for some reason, which was a staple of earlier collections. Though it’s easy enough to pick the version with the deleted scenes and then switch to the commentary by hitting the AUDIO button.

Along with this season’s episodes, The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season also includes three others — “Lisa’s Wedding” from season 6, season 11’s “Bart To The Future,” and “Holidays Of Future Passed” from season 23 — that are relevant to this season’s finale, “Future-Drama.” Though it’s odd that “Lisa’s Wedding” is found on the first disc and “Bart To The Future” is on the second when “Future-Drama” is on disc 3.

Purists might also scoff that there’s some promotion bits for the short film “The Longest Daycare” and the game The Simpsons Tapped Out (including a hilarious commercial for the latter), even both came out in 2012 and thus should instead be included on The Simpsons: The Twenty-Third Season or The Twenty-Fourth Season whenever those discs are released.

That said, those same purists will be happy that this presents the episodes in the original 4:3 aspect ratio, as opposed to stretching them out to fill the whole wide screen. Of course, since these episodes weren’t originally made in high-definition, the ones on the Blu-ray don’t look as good as, say, the one that aired this past Sunday. But by not stretching them to fit widescreen TVs, this does have them looking better than they have since they originally aired.

These complaints, however, are mere nitpicking. The annoying whining of someone who always wants things his way like he lives at Burger King. In the end, The Simpsons: The Sixteenth Season once again shows how TV shows should be presented on DVD and Blu-ray: with the attention to detail and loving care only a bunch of obsessive fanboys would think to give it.

SCORE: 9.0


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