Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Marcia Wallace, Russi Taylor
Talk about lucky! Season 13 of The Simpsons arrives on Blu-Ray and DVD with 22 hilarious episodes and tons of fun-filled extras, including audio commentaries, animation showcases, and featurettes. So grab a donut and pull up a couch to see Lisa becoming a Buddhist, Bart living in a plastic bubble, Homer doing community service (which lands him in the electric chair), and the Simpsons offending the entire nation of Brazil, plus your favorite couch gags and a slew of celebrity guest voices.
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Runtime: 491 min.
Release Date: 8/24/2010
• Audio Commentary for All Seven Episodes
• “A Token From Matt Groening” Introduction
• Deleted Scenes for Five Episodes
• Animation Showcase for “Treehouse of Horror XI”
• “Ralphisms” Featurette
• “Animation Showcase” for “The Parent Rap”
• Special Language Feature
• “Comic Book Guy: Best. Moments. Ever.” Featurette
• “A Bit from the Animators” Featurette
• Audio Commentary for All Eight Episodes
• “The People Ball” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes for Six Episodes
• Animation Showcase for “Sweets and Sour Marge”
• “The 13th Crewman” Featurette
• “Blame It on the Monkeys” Featurette
• Audio Commentary for All Six Episodes
• Deleted Scenes for Four Episodes
• Animation Showcase for “Day of the Jackanapes”
• Audio Commentary for All Seven Episodes
• Deleted Scenes for Four Episodes
• Deleted Scenes Compilation with Optional Commentary
• “The Games” Featurette
• “The Sweet Life of Ralph” Featurette
• Sketch Gallery
PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [Blu-Ray] (2001)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 2, 2010)
After a string of chronological releases that started in 2001, The Simpsons detoured. After Season 12 hit in August 2009, Season 20 arrived in early 2010. Why the leapfrogging? Because the series celebrated its 20th anniversary and the S20 release took advantage of that.
We get back on track with this release of Season 13. Aired across 2001-2002, I’ll look at the 22 shows in their original broadcast order, which is how they show up in the set. I’ll examine them each on their own to document the specifics. The plot capsules come straight from the package’s booklet.
Treehouse of Horror XII (aired November 6, 2001): “Homer incurs the anger of a gypsy and brings horrifying fates to all he loves, a computer installed to run the Simpson household falls in love with Marge, and the Springfield schoolchildren enter an academy of wizardry.”
Like many episodes from 21st century seasons, “XII” doesn’t present many significant flaws, but it also doesn’t ever really shine. Some good moments pop up here, mostly due to vocal performances. Pierce Brosnan offers a surprisingly nice guest turn, and Dan Castellaneta’s work as the leprechaun in the first segment is a hyperkinetic wonder. Nonetheless, the overall tone seems a bit lame, and the Harry Potter parody ends the show on a drab note. “XII” isn’t bad Simpsons, but it’s mediocre.
The Parent Rap (aired November 11, 2001): “When Bart is arrested for joyriding, a no-nonsense judge orders Homer to be shackled to his son 24/7.”
If nothing else, “Rap” starts with a clever – if absurd – concept. Unfortunately, it does little to churn good comedy out of its theme. The gags feel stretched and the social commentary is forced in this disappointing program.
Homer the Moe (aired November 18, 2001): “When Moe returns to bartending school, Homer is put in charge of the bar. When Moe returns and attempts to ‘hippen up’ his bar, a disgruntled Homer leads the barflies to his own makeshift watering hole.”
”Moe” reminds me too much of Season Three’s “Flaming Moe’s”, as both featured a change of fortune for our favorite surly bartender. Still, despite the derivative elements, it works reasonably well. Unlike “Mansion”, this one grounds itself in reality and has fun with that side of things. Of course, it stretches matters, but it offers lots of good bits and stands as one of the year’s best episodes.
A Hunka Hunka Burns In Love (aired December 2, 2001): “Homer becomes a fortune cookie author and writes a fortune that inspires Burns to go out and find love. But the love Burns finds is a woman who turns out to be the girlfriend of the violent criminal Snake.”
While not quite as good as “Moe”, “Hunka” offers a reasonably solid episode. I like the parts related to the fortune cookies, and Burns’ attempts to woo a much younger woman fare pretty well. I can’t cite scores of great laughs, but enough smiles and snickers emerge to make this an enjoyable show.
The Blunder Years (aired December 9, 2001): “Undergoing hypnosis, Homer recalls a dead body he saw years ago. Trying to resolve the mystery leads him on a trail back to Mr. Burns. Meanwhile, Marge gets a crush on the handsome man on a paper towel wrapper.”
“Years” nods firmly in the direction of Stand By Me, and it provides a reasonably amusing spoof. I like Marge’s lust for Burly, and Homer’s rampaging fear amuses. Nothing here dazzles, but it adds up to a good episode.
She of Little Faith (aired December 16, 2001): “When Homer and Bart take up model rocketry, they destroy the church. To raise money, Reverend Lovejoy turns his finances over to Mr. Burns, who offends Lisa so much she becomes a Buddhist.”
“Faith” comes across as little more than a retread of earlier programs. Mix the one where Lisa went vegetarian with the show where Lisa got a pony and toss in a little of “Grift of the Magi” and you have a pretty unoriginal piece of work. It fails to deliver more than a chuckle or two.
Brawl in the Family (aired January 6, 2002): “When the Simpsons are confined to their home, they begin to brawl violently and a social worker is called in. To make matters worse, the cocktail waitress Homer married in Vegas shows up at the door.”
Anyone else think that “Brawl” sort of remakes Season One’s “There’s No Disgrace Like Home”? No, it’s not a literal reworking, but it sure reminds me of that one. It also seems like two story fragments combined into one; it’s like the writers couldn’t flesh out either tale for an entire 22 minutes so they just stuck two half-programs together. Still, it manages some laughs; I do love the Monopoly knock-off “Edna Krabappoly”.
Sweets and Sour Marge (aired January 20, 2002): “Springfield enters the Duff Book of World Records as the world’s fattest town, leading Marge to attempt to place a ban on sugar.”
What would Marge do on the show if she didn’t stage campaigns to tell others what to do? Despite the risk of redundancy, “Sweets” actually works quite well. I like the exploration of the records book, and Marge’s crusade delivers a mix of amusing bits. Add to that a good guest spot from Ben Stiller and “Sweets” turns into one of Season 13’s stronger programs.
Jaws Wired Shut (aired January 27, 2002): “Homer’s jaw is broken when he runs into a statue. Unable to speak, he becomes a better man, which surprisingly leads Marge to miss the old him.”
While Season 13 doesn’t threaten to approach the high standards of the series’ strongest years, episodes like “Shut” help make it better than expected. Sure, it follows fairly predictable patterns, but it develops them in a satisfying comedic manner. Although the ending falters, the show’s still entertaining.
Half-Decent Proposal (aired February 10, 2002): “Marge’s old beau, Artie Ziff, now a high-tech billionaire, offers Homer a million dollars if he will let Artie spend a weekend with his wife to try to convince her he made a mistake.”
It’s nice to hear Jon Lovitz back as Artie; since the character’s original appearance, I think they’ve used other actors for his occasional appearances. Too bad Lovitz returned for a pretty mediocre episode. It’s far from the season’s worst show, but it just doesn’t have a lot of zing.
The Bart Wants What It Wants (aired February 17, 2002): “Bart starts dating Rainier Wolfcastle’s daughter, which Homer loves but Bart is not all that thrilled about. When he dumps her, and she starts dating Milhouse, he travels to Toronto to try to win her back.”
Although I recently said that S13’s working pretty well, the one-two punch of “Proposal” and “Wants” forces me to rethink that opinion. Like “Proposal”, “Wants” isn’t a bad program, but it feels stale and rehashed. That’s probably because parts of it are rehashed, such as the joke about poor gas mileage; an earlier show offered an identical gag. This is mediocre Simpsons at best.
The Lastest Gun in the West (aired February 24, 2002): “Fleeing a dog that hates him for no reason, Bart meets a faded Western star. With Marge’s help, Bart tries to get him off booze and start him on a better life.”
“Gun” rebounds a bit with a pretty entertaining show. It’s good to get a rare glimpse of Krusty’s show, and the Western theme offers good laughs. Don’t expect anything brilliant, but the show delivers an enjoyable experience.
The Old Man and the Key (aired March 10, 2002): “To impress a woman at the senior home he fancies, Grampa borrows Homer’s car, which he wrecks. He flees with Bart to Branson, MO, where the Simpsons encounter forgotten stars of yesteryear.”
Grampa is a character who can get tiresome if used too much, but he works great in small doses. Sure, he’s essentially a one-joke personality, but those gags tend to be pretty fun. I especially like the “Old Man Yells at Cloud” bit; it’s one of the better moments in this likable program.
Tales from the Public Domain (aired March 17, 2002): “In this retelling of classic tales from world history, Homer goes on the original odyssey, Lisa meets a fiery fate as Joan of Arc, and Bart becomes the procrastinating prince of Denmark, Hamlet.”
These anthology shows tend to be pretty spotty. The series usually pulls of the Halloween ones relatively well, but the others are much more hit or miss. “Hamlet” probably comes across the best, but it’s still pretty mediocre.
Blame It On Lisa (aired March 31, 2002): “A huge phone bill leads the Simpsons to discover that Lisa has been sponsoring an orphan in Brazil. Traveling to Rio, they encounter multicolored rats and rampaging monkeys in the show that offended a nation.”
That last part is true: the Brazilians got bent out of shape even before the episode aired, and they protested that it would cost them big bucks in lost tourist dollars. Please – if every country mocked by the series suffered that fate, then the travel industry would’ve died a decade ago.
The whining is unwarranted anyway, as the show only pokes minor fun at Brazil; other nations have gotten much uglier treatment. And funnier treatment as well. “Blame” musters the occasional laugh, and like much of S13, it’s not a bad show, but it’s not a memorable one either. The controversy means it gets a little more attention than it’d otherwise merit, but it’s only an average show.
Weekend at Burnsie’s (aired April 7, 2002): “After being attacked by crows, Homer becomes addicted to medicinal marijuana prescribed by Dr. Hibbert. When Homer and his fellow stoners fail to vote in a referendum, the drug is recriminalized and Homer must go cold turkey.”
“Weekend” falls into the abyss as a distinctly ordinary episode. Like many other S13 shows, this one feels recycled, as it lacks much to make it stand out as creative or memorable. It’s decidedly mediocre.
Gump Roast (aired April 21, 2002): “A Springfield Friar’s Club roast of Homer, featuring clips from earlier episodes, is unexpectedly broken up by Kang and Kodos. Featuring the popular and highly prophetic song ‘They’ll Never Stop the Simpsons’”.
Is there any form of life lower than the clip show? Nope, though that doesn’t mean “Roast” lacks any amusement. Indeed, it provokes more laughs than many of the other S13 episodes since it quotes better programs from the past. Nonetheless, it’s still a cheap excuse for a new episode.
I Am Furious (Yellow) (aired April 28, 2002): “Inspired by a highly successful cartoonist who visits his school, Bart creates an embarrassing Internet cartoon, ‘Angry Dad’, based on Homer. Meanwhile, Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee visits Comic Book Guy’s store – and won’t leave.”
After a disappointing show, S13 snaps back with a very good one. Of course, the series has milked Homer’s rage for years, but it does so in creative and satisfying ways here. Add to that a fun Stan Lee cameo and the program gives us one of the season’s best.
The Sweetest Apu (aired May 5, 2002): “Apu has an affair with a woman who delivers Squishees to his store. The Simpsons try to help him reconcile with his wife.”
I don’t recall ever being particularly excited by other Manjula episodes, and “Sweetest” does nothing to alter that perception. Homer’s reaction to the sight of an unfaithful Apu amuses, but much of the remaining gags tend to be lackluster. This ends up as a pretty flat, forgettable show.
Little Girl in the Big Ten (aired May 12, 2002): “Lisa is befriended by college gymnasts who think she is one of them. Meanwhile, Bart is forced to live in a plastic bubble, isolated from the rest of the world.”
Lisa-based shows definitely fall into the hit or miss category, and “Ten” stays within those confines. Homer gets some good moments – such as his drunken versions of pop songs – but not much else connects. Though we find the occasional laugh, the overall impact remains lackluster.
The Frying Game (aired May 19, 2002): “While Homer attacks a Screamapillar living in his backyard, he is ordered to do community service, where he befriends a needy elderly woman. When she is killed, Homer is blamed for her murder and sentenced to death.”
After two lackluster episodes, S13 bounces back with a pretty good one. I like the obnoxious Screamapillar, and the way the Simpsons become seen as murderers also amuses. This allows S13 to move toward a satisfying conclusion.
Papa’s Got a Brand New Badge (aired May 22, 2002): “Homer becomes head of a private security company that forces Chief Wiggum out of a job. When mobster Fat Tony comes to kill Homer, he is rescued by a most unlikely savior.”
Like many S13 episodes, “Badge” feels more than a little derivative. Combine “Home the Vigilante” and “Mr. Plow” and that’s essentially what you get here. That doesn’t mean the show lacks amusement, but it’s too rehashed to end the year with a real winner.
The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B
The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these Blu-ray Discs. The shows looked fine given their origins but rarely seemed more attractive than that.
In truth, the visuals didn’t do a lot to top the episodes found on prior DVDs. The Blu-ray added a little sparkle to the proceedings, especially in terms of colors. While the series always stays with a pretty basic palette, the hues looked notably livelier and more dynamic here than on previous DVDs.
The Blu-ray also featured better definition for the 1.33:1 episodes, but these programs didn’t look radically tighter. In particular, wide shots still could be a bit soft and rough, with minor examples of jaggies. Except for the occasional stray pencil mark, source flaws were absent, and blacks looked pretty dark and tight. Shadows also demonstrated nice clarity. The episodes were a bit more attractive than their DVD predecessors, but not tremendously so.
Similar thoughts greeted the DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. While the soundtracks didn’t dazzle, they were pretty good and showed a little more pizzazz than their Dolby Digital predecessors on the earlier DVD sets. Soundfields remained fairly comparable, though I thought the tracks opened things up a bit more than in the past. Most of the material remained basic and environmental, but occasionally action beats boasted good movement and involvement. The surrounds didn’t have a lot to do, but they added some oomph, and they featured unique material from time to time, usually during dream sequences or other fantasy elements. A reasonable amount of directional dialogue showed up as well.
Audio quality showed a decent boost above the old DD tracks. Speech remained about the same; lines were clear and concise. Music and effects showed a little more punch, though. Both seemed lively and full throughout the shows, and no signs of edginess or distortion appeared. I still didn’t think the audio deserved a grade above a “B”, but the lossless tracks were a bit more impressive than their predecessors.
Fans of the series will know what to expect from its extras, as those compare closely to the goodies on prior DVD packages. As always, all 22 episodes provide audio commentaries. These tracks present an ever-changing roster of participants. We hear from series creator Matt Groening (episodes 2, 9, 16, 17, 18, 21), executive producer/show runner Mike Scully (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), writer/co-executive producer Ian Maxtone-Graham (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 19, 20), producers Joel Cohen (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 11, 12, 14, 15) and Dana Gould (2, 3, 9, 22), supervising producers Carolyn Omine (1, 5, 8, 9, 13, 22), Matt Selman (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22), John Frink (1, 5, 11, 14, 15, 17, 21), David Silverman (7, 12, 15, 16, 18), Jon Vitti (16) and Mike Reiss (16, 18), show runner Al Jean (1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22), writers George Meyer (2, 3), Max Pross (4, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21), Tom Gammill (4, 6, 8, 11, 13, 17, 18, 20, 21), Don Payne (5, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 21), Bill Freiberger (6, 11), Matt Warburton (7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 19), Tim Long (10, 11, 14, 15, 19), and Deb Lacusta (17, 21), directors Lance Kramer (4), Mark Kirkland (8), Lauren McMullen (10), Mike Polcino (11, 21), Chuck Sheetz (18) and Mike Anderson (14, 15), animation directors Pete Michaels (9, 22) and Steven Dean Moore (5, 6, 11, 15), and actors Pamela Hayden (6, 11), Delroy Lindo (7), Joe Mantegna (9, 22), James Lipton (10, 19), Dan Castellaneta (10, 19), Stan Lee (18) and Robert Pinsky (20).
Note that some of the participants serve multiple roles on the series, so they make perform different jobs for specific episodes; it’s just easier to list them in only one manner. Also, some of them chat about episodes on which they didn’t work, which made the job titles tougher. And yet life continues.
If you’ve gone through earlier commentaries, you’ll find familiar territory here. We get thoughts about the various stories and their origins/development, cast, characters and performances, guests, various references, some animation notes, and a mix of other connected topics.
Like prior seasons, S13’s commentaries tend to be erratic. Too many offer little more than praise for the show and declarations of what parts the participants find amusing. Those tracks drag and often lack a lot of substantial information.
On the other hand, I think we find more good commentaries than usual. The best tend to feature guest stars. “Brawl in the Family” benefits from the presence of Delroy Lindo, mostly because he quizzes the show’s staff about different production elements. “Gump Roast” has more substance than normal because there aren’t many episode-specific bits; it’s a clip show, so the participants focus more on general series facts. Also, the track with Stan Lee is fun because a) he’s amusing, and b) the others pepper him with comic book-related queries. Those three remain my favorite commentaries, but others fare well, too. It’s just something of a crap shoot, so you never know if you’ll get a winner or a relative dud.
A mix of other supplements spread across all three discs. 15 of this release’s episodes include Deleted Scenes. You can watch them as parts of the appropriate shows or in a separate compilation on Disc Three. It puts all 24 scenes - which last a total of 14 minutes and 13 seconds - in one place. In a nice touch, we get the portion of the show that precedes the cut scene right before it to remind us where the snippet would have appeared. Those bits are black and white while the new material appears in color; that helps us tell which parts were deleted.
Of course, with so many scenes in so little space, none of the sequences last very long. Most snippets act as quick extensions to existing pieces. Quite a few of them are pretty entertaining. I love the extension to the torture sequence from “Angry Dad”, and I like the weird gag about “Little Homer”. A lot of these would’ve helped their respective episodes.
If you check out the deleted scenes via the big package on Disc Three, you also can listen to optional commentary from Al Jean; he provides a short intro as well. Jean skips a few of the segments and doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the others. The level of information remains pretty insubstantial, so I don’t think you’ll miss much if you skip Jean’s commentary.
For two episodes, we get Animation Showcases. This allows us to use the “angle” feature to check out some scenes at different levels of completion. We can flip between storyboards and animatics/rough animation for “The Parent Rap” and “Sweets and Sour Marge”. The other option appears in a small box down in the lower right corner. This remains a fun way to inspect the different stages of animation.
Disc One’s Ralphisms offers a two-minute, 40-second compilation. This gives us a rapid succession of Ralph Wiggum’s idiotic statements and actions. It’s a fun package of clips.
As always, Disc One provides an intro. Titled A Token from Matt Groening, the piece lasts one minute, 52 seconds. Groening tells us the names of some guest actors and lets us know we’ll get lots of fun extras. These pieces are always kinda pointless since we already bought the set, but “Token” is harmless.
Within the Special Language Feature on Disc One, we get the same kind of multi-language clip we’ve found on prior sets. We can watch all of “Treehouse of Horror XII” in German, Czech, Japanese, and Portuguese. It’s a cute option but not terribly useful.
People Ball appears on Disc Two and offers a short look at one scene from “Sweets and Sour Marge”. Animation director Mark Kirkland narrates the one-minute, 14-second clip that tells us how the animators executed the challenging shot from the “Sweets” episode. We get a quick but useful hands-on glimpse behind the scenes.
Also on Disc Two, The 13th Crewman lasts one minute, 40 seconds. It shows the creation of a Bart-adorned a racing yacht. It has nothing to do with the series itself and is only marginally interesting.
Disc Two concludes with Blame It on the Monkeys. It goes for one minute, 39 seconds and simply plops a little commentary from “Blame It on Lisa” on top of some news articles related to the Brazil controversy. I think it’s good that the series addressed that area, but this is a lazy featurette that tells us nothing we don’t get from the episode’s commentary.
Moving to Disc Four, we locate a collection of Commercials. We encounter four Burger King ads and one for Sabritas. Only two of the four BK promos are interesting; the first and fourth ones don’t include new animation, so they’re less compelling. “Sabritas” lets us hear the Simpsons dubbed into Spanish for its unique animation.
The Games runs eight minutes, one second and provides glimpses of 21 Simpsons videogames from the last 20 years. It’s too bad the featurette doesn’t include any details about the games; we just see snippets from them. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to learn how many of these games have come out over the years, and it’s fun to watch the evolution of gaming technology since 1990.
Next we find a six-minute, 10-second featurette called The Sweet Life of Ralph. Essentially this offers a longer version of “Ralphisms” from Disc One. It’s another compilation of Ralph scenes, except it uses a less frenetic editing pace. Like “Ralphisms”, it’s enjoyable, but it’s not exactly crucial. Note that it stops at the end of Season 13, so you won’t find any Ralph snippets from years not on DVD.
Disc Three offers a Sketch Gallery. This six-minute, 13-second running piece includes 74 drawings. That makes it much more interesting than the substantially shorter art collections from other years. We see lots of cool sketches, and I really like the fact we can check out notes on the sheets as well.
As with all the prior sets, this one comes with a booklet. It features an intro from Groening along with details about all 22 episodes. These present credits as well as info about each show’s special features. The booklet goes with a videogame theme, and that makes it a lot of fun.
I suspect many Simpsons fans don’t think much of Season 13, and I can understand some of that antipathy. Nonetheless, I think S13 offers more pleasures than its foes will admit; though inconsistent and occasionally weak, the year still contributes some very good programs along with the less engaging ones. The Blu-ray delivers pretty good picture, audio and supplements. While this isn’t excellent Simpsons, it still manages to entertain much of the time.
Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars|| Number of Votes: 6|