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MOVIE INFO

Director:
Various
Cast:
Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Marcia Wallace, Russi Taylor
Writing Credits:
Various

Synopsis: In the fall of 2000, The Simpsons returned to Fox for its 12th season, packing some serious celebrity heat (Edward Norton, Justin Timberlake, Stephen King, and Roger Daltry each make an appearance) and offering up a brand new boatload of quotable lines. Beginning with the annual "Treehouse of Horror" episode, the year went on to include some of the series' best-ever entries, including "HOMR" (doctors find a crayon in Homer's brain), "Worst Episode Ever" (Bart and Milhouse take over the Android's Dungeon), and "New Kids on the Blecch" (Bart, Nelson, Millhouse, and Ralph join a boy band). This collection includes all 21 episodes from Season 12, as well as extensive, insightful commentaries from the writers, producers, and cast members.

MPAA:
Rated NR

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Fullscreen 1.33:1
Audio:
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Stereo 2.0
French Stereo 2.0
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
None

Runtime: 473 min.
Price: $49.98
Release Date: 8/18/2009

Bonus:
Disc One
• Audio Commentary for All Five Episodes
• Introduction from Matt Groening
• Deleted Scenes for Four Episodes
• Animation Showcase for “Treehouse of Horror XI”
• “A Bit from the Animators” Featurette
• Special Language Feature
Disc Two
• Audio Commentary for All Six Episodes
• Deleted Scenes for All Six Episodes
• “Comic Book Guy: Best. Moments. Ever.” Featurette
• “A Bit from the Animators” Featurette
Disc Three
• Audio Commentary for All Six Episodes
• Deleted Scenes for Four Episodes
• Animation Showcase for “Day of the Jackanapes”
Disc Four
• Audio Commentary for All Four Episodes
• Deleted Scenes for Four Episodes
• “A Bit from the Animators” Featurette
• “The Global Fanfest” Featurette
• “The Commercials”
• Original Sketches


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EQUIPMENT
Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season (2000)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (September 2, 2009)

Common wisdom says that by Season 12, The Simpsons had hit the doldrums. I must admit that I stopped watching new episodes by sometime early in the 21st century, though I was still with it across the 2000-01 season. Was Season 12 the year that prompted me to give up on The Simpsons?

Maybe. I was curious to check out this package to see if it seemed like the year that’d alienate a longtime viewer. As always, I’ll look at the 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 DVD’s booklet.

DVD ONE:

Treehouse of Horror XI (aired 11/1/00): “In this annual three-part horror-themed trilogy, a dead Homer attempts to enter heaven by doing one good deed. Intelligent dolphins wage war on mankind. And Bart and Lisa becomes a Hansel and Gretel, avoiding a terrible fate with the aid of a book of fairy tales.”

Even in the weakest Simpsons seasons, you can count on the Halloween episodes to deliver good amusement. Or at least pretty decent comedy, as evidenced by the up and down “Treehouse XI”. None of the segments excel, but none of them flop either, so they keep us entertained. It’s really hard to fault a mainstream network TV series that references glory holes, so “Treehouse XI” gets a positive appraisal despite a few missteps.

A Tale of Two Springfields (aired 11/5/00): “In the 250th episode of The Simpsons, a new area code for half of Springfield leads to great divisions in the town. A wall goes up and only the music of the Who can bring it down.”

Maybe it’s the low expectations that accompany 21st century Simpsons episodes, but “Tale” works for me. It takes a simple premise and turns in a good number of strong comedic bits. Hey, and a mention of “golden showers” keeps the Season 12 perverted sexual practices streak going!

Sole complaint: couldn’t they have drawn the Who to look like they did in 2000? Daltrey looked about right, but Townshend and Entwistle boasted haircuts from 1978. That’s particularly odd in the case of Pete, as he’d gone awfully bald and gray by 2000.

Insane Clown Poppy (aired 11/12/00): “Krusty the Clown discovers he has a daughter he never knew about. To win her love, he must get back a violin from mobster Fat Tony.”

After two pretty good shows, Season 12 encounters mediocrity with “Poppy”. At no point does the program become poor, but it just lacks many real laughs. Outside of some amusing book fair cameos, this one fails to deliver much zing, and it tends to drag.

Lisa the Tree Hugger (aired 11/19/00): “Lisa develops a crush on an older boy who is an environmental activist. To prevent a redwood from being cut down, she starts to live in it. But through a series of misunderstandings, the forest is nearly turned into an amusement park.”

After the lackluster “Poppy”, Season 12 rebounds with arguably its best show. The first act fares best, as I love Marge’s tune about saving, and “Menu Boy” offers a clever spoof of martial arts-based action flicks. “Hugger” hits a minor lull when Lisa becomes environmentally active, but it bounces back pretty quickly, and the scenes with the runaway log delight. “Hugger” provides a winner.

Homer Vs. Dignity (aired 11/26/00): “To make money, Homer lets Mr. Burns hire him to perform increasingly degrading acts. Finally, Homer is forced to choose between wealth and self-respect when Burns orders him to spoil a holiday parade.”

Bad sign number one: when a series plagiarizes itself. That occurs here when Mr. Burns states “There’s a new Mexico?”, a line that was a lot funnier back in Season Five. Bad sign number two: a scene in which Homer gets raped by a panda. A couple of the pranks provide minor amusement, but overall, this is a weak episode.

DVD TWO:

The Computer Wore Menace Shoes (aired 12/3/00): “Homer becomes an Internet blogger who anonymously tells the truth about the powerful and famous. It lands him on a scret island from which he must escape, in a satire of the cult ‘60s series The Prisoner.”

With its spoof of Internet idiocy, “Shoes” scores points. Some parts of it feel dated, but the web features even more ill-informed opinions today than it did nine years ago, so much of it remains timeless and on target. Unfortunately, the episode skids when it parodies The Prisoner. The side of the show feels like it was intended to amuse a few fans and it doesn’t show a lot of real cleverness or wit. This remains a decent episode, but it’s inconsistent.

The Great Money Caper (aired 12/10/00): “After attending a magic show, Bart and Homer start conning Springfield residents out of their money. To teach them a lesson, Marge decides to grift the grifters.”

As the series progressed, Simpsons episodes became more and more outlandish. The writers simply ran out of ideas and had to throw out absurd ones to do something new. Granted, “ridiculous” doesn’t necessarily mean “bad” – the astronaut show was great – but usually the series fares best when it stays somewhat close to the realm of reality.

That makes “Caper” a pretty good program. Granted, grifting isn’t exactly an everyday activity, but at least the show builds its story in a natural fashion and doesn’t rely on too many gimmicks. It also features Bart in a prominent part, something we’ve not seen much of this year; so far, Season 12 remains surprisingly light on Bart material. Overall, the episode does well for itself.

Skinner’s Sense of Snow (aired 12/17/00): “A freak blizzard traps the students of Springfield Elementary inside their school. Their lives at stake, they are at the mercy of the rescue efforts of a woozy Homer and his neighbor Ned Flanders.”

“Snow” provides a mediocre show. It enjoys a cool premise that it only modestly exploits. Some of the bits inside the school when the kids turn on Skinner manage to produce mirth. Otherwise, this comes across as a fairly average program.

HomR (aired 1/7/01): “In this Emmy-winning episode, Homer undergoes a medical treatment to make himself smarter. The new, more intelligent Homer becomes a better friend to Lisa but the rest of his life worsens and he decides to return to his normal, dimwitted self – but leaves behind a message of hope for Lisa.”

I won’t call “HomR” an unoriginal episode, but brainy Homer sure does remind me a lot of loquacious Homer from Season Three’s “Bart's Friend Falls in Love”. The show has a moderately rehashed feel, so don’t expect a lot of thrills from it. I do like the reveal that a 105 IQ makes one a genius in Springfield.

Pokey Mom (aired 1/14/01): “Marge befriends a convict who is an incredible artist. She invites him to live at the house at the same time that Homer starts a chiropractic business and earns the enmity of others in the profession.”

Other than a nice guest turn from Michael Keaton, “Mom” doesn’t do much to stand out from the crowd. Oh, like much of Season 12, it keeps us interested, but that’s not exactly a strong endorsement. “Mom” provides a watchable show but nothing more.

Worst Episode Ever (aired 2/4/01): “After Comic Book Guy has a heart attack, he turns the store over to Bart and Milhouse. They discover Comic Book Guy’s collection of secretly recorded videotapes, while CBG begins a torrid romance with Principal Skinner’s mother.”

I’m not sure it’s a good idea to base an episode around a tertiary character like CBG – and I get the feeling the show’s producers felt the same, as he doesn’t exactly dominate the episode. “Ever” spends at least as much time with Bart and Milhouse as it does with CBG and Agnes. A few good moments emerge, but the program seems pretty meh overall.

DVD THREE:

Tennis the Menace (aired 2/11/01): “Homer installs a tennis court with the money he was going to use to pay Grampa’s funeral expenses. Bart and Marge become a successful doubles tennis team, which leads Homer to grow jealous of his son.”

I’d love to report that “Menace” disrupts the string of mediocre episodes, but I can’t. Like its predecessors, it offers a moderately enjoyable experience, but that’s the best it can do. Expect a few chuckles and little else.

Day of the Jackanapes (aired 2/18/01): “Sideshow Bob returns and attempts to use Bart as a living bomb to kill Krusty the Clown. But when Krusty pays an emotional tribute to Bob on his show, Bob relents and must stop his boy-bomb.”

To date, I’ve never seen a bad Sideshow Bob episode, and “Jackanapes” keeps this streak intact – pretty much. To be sure, it doesn’t compare with the best Bob shows, but it still looks good, at least by Season 12 standards. I do enjoy the cracks on network executives, as you can tell the series likes biting the proverbial hand. Though not a classic, it fares pretty well.

New Kids on the Blecch (aired 2/25/01): “Bart becomes a member of a boy band which grows incredibly popular. Then the boys are stunned to learn they are being used as pawns of the US Navy.”

When it parodies boy bands, “Blecch” has its moments. Granted, it’s tough to really mock boy bands, as they always bordered on self-parody; the Party Posse tunes sound a lot like the real thing. Still, the show works pretty well until it gets to the Navy side of things. Then it just becomes dopey and lacks the moderate bite of the earlier scenes. The show also becomes unintentionally eerie when it features an attack on New York City.

Hungry Hungry Homer (aired 3/4/01): “After spending a day at an amusement park for children called Blockoland, Homer learns the local minor league baseball team is secretly planning to move to Albuquerque. To stop them, Homer stages a hunger strike.”

Though it has something of a rehashed feel – an impression that we’ve seen this episode before – “Hungry” still manages to be fairly effective. Chock full of laughs? No, but the show has its moments. Or maybe I just like it because it’s the origin of the word “hungy”, which I used for many years. I forgot I stole it from this episode!

Bye, Bye, Nerdie (aired 3/11/01): “Tired of being beaten by a bully, Lisa tries to understand the hidden causes of bullyism. She is stunned to learn that a scent given off by nerds is the root of all her woes. Meanwhile, Homer sets up a childproofing business.”

While this isn’t saying much, “Nerdie” provides one of Season 12’s better shows. Both plots work well, though I prefer the childproofing side of things; it peters out at the end, but it has some good bits. The episode keeps us interested and entertained.

Simpson Safari (aired 4/1/01): “The Simpsons journey to Africa after winning a contest on the back of an animal crackers box. They meet up with a monkey researcher who turns out to be secretly exploiting the monkeys to mine diamonds.”

After two good episodes, the house of cards collapses with the lousy “Safari”. The program engages in a lot of easy, obvious gags and never threatens to become inspired or amusing. I found a couple of small chuckles but nothing else in this disappointing show.

DVD FOUR:

Trilogy of Error (aired 4/29/01): “In this multilayered episode that cuts back and forth in time, Homer cuts off his thumb and must get it reattached. Lisa builds a grammar robot, and Bart and Milhouse get involved with illegal fireworks.”

Ala the “Treehouse of Horror” episodes, it seems like shows with three distinct plots work well. Perhaps the fact that they don’t have time to meander benefits the program; with so little time for each tale, the writers have to keep things simple. And effective, at least in the case of “Error”. It’s a clever program that consistently entertains.

I’m Goin’ to Praiseland (aired 5/6/01): “Marge and Homer attempt to get widower Ned Flanders past the death of Maude. After setting up an amusement park inspired by visions of his late wife, Ned realizes he is not yet ready to date but does befriend a Christian country singer.”

Given its theme, “Praiseland” comes with a large risk of turning sappy. And it does! From its thin plot to its uninspired gags, the show never manages to get any legs under it. This is forgettable Simpsons.

Children of a Lesser Clod (aired 5/13/01): “After injuring his leg playing YMCA basketball, Homer sets up a day care center. He earns the love of the town – but not his own son and daughter.”

When Bart and Lisa team up to pursue a goal, the result usually succeeds. And that’s true for “Clod” – at least to a moderate degree. Like most Season 12 episodes, the program doesn’t become truly delightful, but it does more right than wrong, so it ends up as a decent success.

Simpsons Tall Tales (aired 5/20/01): “In this three-part episode based on legends of Americana, Homer becomes Paul Bunyan, Lisa tries to save the world as Connie Appleseed, and Bart and Nelson becomes Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn – the rumor of whose deaths is not greatly exaggerated.”

Although I just praised the three-story structure, it doesn’t really fly here. As was also the case with the similar “Simpsons Bible Stories” in Season 10, “Tall Tales” feels a little heavy on cutesy and low on comedic inspiration. As usual, a few laughs result, but the overall impact remains lackluster.


The DVD Grades: Picture C+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these single-sided, double-layered DVDs; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I thought the shows were always perfectly watchable, though picture quality was a little less consistent than expected.

Sharpness was decent. Wider shots tended to be a bit off, though not badly so. For the most part, the shows looked reasonably concise, but they lacked great delineation. Only mild instances of shimmering and jaggies materialized, and I noticed no edge enhancement. Source flaws were more of a distraction than usual, as I noticed sporadic examples of specks. These weren’t overwhelming, but they showed up more often than I expected.

Given the simple tones of the series, colors didn’t have to work too hard. Within the bright, cartoony palette, the hues looked fine. They occasionally looked a but runny, but they usually seemed full and clear. Blacks showed good darkness, and shadows were smooth and clear. The shows had too many problems for a grade above a “C+”, but they seemed acceptable.

While the visuals showed a minor decline from the past few years, I thought the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio of The Simpsons marked a mild improvement. Granted, the audio remained pretty low-key for the most part, as general environmental information dominated. Music offered the usual good stereo delineation, and various effects popped up from logical spots. Panning was decent, and different components provided nice localization. Surrounds weren’t a huge factor, but they seemed a little more active than usual.

Across the board, audio quality was fine. A little edginess occasionally interfered with speech, but the lines normally sounded concise and natural. Music showed good bounce and liveliness, and effects were clean and tight. Some pretty nice bass response added oomph to the tracks when appropriate. The audio wasn’t quite strong enough to jump above a “B”, but I liked the tracks.

Season 12’s extras stay true to those found on past sets. As always, all 21 episodes provide audio commentaries. These tracks present an ever-changing roster of participants. Though he used to pop up for all the tracks, series creator Matt Groening appears on just sox commentaries here: we only get him for “Treehouse of Horror XI”, “A Tale of Two Springfields”, “Homer Vs. Dignity”, “Skinner’s Sense of Snow”, “New Kids on the Blecch”, and “Trilogy of Error”. Executive producer/show runner Mike Scully and writer/producer Matt Selman pop up for all 21 commentaries.

As for the other personnel, the tracks feature writer/co-executive producer Ian Maxtone-Graham (2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21), producers Joel Cohen (3, 6, 10), George Meyer (2), David Silverman (2), Tim Long (4, 8, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18), and David Mirkin (8, 18), Everybody Loves Raymond writer Phil Rosenthal (12, 15), Rosenthal’s son Ben (15), consulting producer Tom Gammill (4, 6, 7, 9, 11, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21), writer/producer Al Jean (7, 9, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20), director/animation director Chuck Sheetz (7, 19),writers Rob LaZebnik (1, 5, 18), John Frink (1, 2, 3, 6, 10, 12, 15, 21), Don Payne (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 10, 12, 15, 16, 19, 21), Carolyn Omine (1, 5, 7, 19), Max Pross (5, 6, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 15, 18, 20, 21), Tom Martin (3, 10) and Larry Doyle (11), directors Shaun Cashman (2), Bob Anderson (3, 10), Steven Dean Moore (4, 14, 16), Mark Kirkland (6, 17), Lance Kramer (8), Mike B. Anderson (9, 18, 20, 21), Michael Marcantel (13, 17), Lauren MacMullan (16), and Michael Polcino (20, 21), and actors Roger Daltrey (2), Dan Castellaneta (2, 3, 10), Joe Mantegna (3, 10), Hank Azaria (11, 14), Chris Kirkpatrick (11, 14) and Yeardley Smith (4, 13, 16, 17). 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. What’re ya gonna do?

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.

The tracks are always listenable, but they’re never inspired. That’s always been true of Simpsons commentaries, as they mix good content and jokes with a lot of praise and spots of dead air. At their worst, the pieces remain enjoyable, but they’re too inconsistent to be better than average.

With past packages, I would pick out my favorite commentary of the bunch. Unfortunately, I can’t identify one track that deserves particular attention. I was pleasantly surprised to find Daltrey for the “Tale of Two Springfields” track, but in reality, he doesn’t add much; he doesn’t sit with the others, so he only pops up for a few minutes mid-show. Otherwise, I can’t say that any single track clearly outdoes the others. Virtually all of them are sporadically interesting but not great.

A mix of other supplements spread across all four DVDs. 18 of this release’s episodes include Deleted Scenes. Only “Homer Vs. Dignity”, “Tennis the Menace”, and “Simpson Safari” fail to provide cut sequences. You can check these out via two methods. You can watch them as parts of the appropriate shows or in a separate compilation on DVD Four.

The DVD Four compilation puts all 49 scenes - which last a total of 24 minutes and 12 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. The only significant piece comes from a weird alternate ending to “Praiseland”. Most snippets act as quick extensions to existing pieces. That doesn’t make them less enjoyable, though. Given the lackluster nature of so many Season 12 episodes, I feared that the deleted scenes would stink, but most are actually quite good. I especially like an alternate take of a Roger Daltrey line that would’ve made the episode “R”-rated.

If you check out the deleted scenes via the big package on DVD Four, you also can listen to optional commentary from Mike Scully; he provides a short intro as well. Scully skips a few of the segments and doesn’t tell us a whole lot about the others. He throws out a few minor notes but fails to provide a whole lot of substance. In general, he tells us the clips were cut for time and not much more.

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 “Treehouse of Horror XI” and “Day of the Jackanapes”. 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.

Under “Art and Animation”, we get A Bit From the Animators. This shows scenes from “Lisa the Tree Hugger” (13:15), “HOMR” (11:35) and “I’m Goin’ to Praiseland” (11:25) with telestrator commentary from Steven Dean Moore, Mike B. Anderson and Chuck Sheetz. They tell us about the animation and use the telestrator to provide extra details about the characters and art. I’ve enjoyed this feature on earlier sets, and it continues to be a cool and entertaining addition.

Since every other DVD set includes an intro, this one doesn’t dare to be different A Comic Moment with Matt Groening runs one minute, 21 seconds as the series’ creator gives us an overview of what we’ll see. Prior intros have been pretty useless, and this one continues that trend. Well, at least it’s shorter than usual.

Within the Special Language Feature on DVD One, we get the same kind of multi-language clip we’ve found on prior sets. We can watch all of “Homer Vs. Dignity” in Hungarian, Ukrainian, Portuguese or Italian. It’s a cute option but not terribly useful. (You can also access the various languages while you watch the episode proper; just cycle through the audio options.)

Over on DVD Two, we find Comic Book Guy: Best. Moments. Ever. During this nine-minute and 37-second featurette, we see a montage of CBG segments. It’s a fun collection, especially as we hear the evolution of Hank Azaria’s take on the voice; he showed more of a Mike Tyson vibe in earlier days.

DVD Four offers a Sketch Gallery. This 47-second running piece includes 18 drawings. The most interesting show the models for the Who designs.

Also on DVD Four, we get a collection of Commercials. It presents two Butterfinger ads as well as clips for Burger King and Red Rooster. These are fun to see, especially since the last two ran outside the US.

The Global Fanfest finishes DVD Four with a seven-minute, 27-second featurette. It gives us a glimpse at a big Simpsons event that took place on the Fox lot in October 2000. We see some show clips accompanied by a live orchestral, series trivia answered – often incorrectly – by writers, a Q&A, and some behind the scenes footage. Some interesting moments emerge.

As with all the prior sets, this one comes with a booklet. It features an intro from Groening along with details about all 21 episodes. These present credits as well as info about each show’s special features. Since Season 12’s case highlights Comic Book Guy, the booklet goes with a superhero theme, and that makes it a lot of fun.

As usual, we get a few Easter Eggs. These provide more deleted scenes and can be accessed the same way: go to the menu for each episode listed below, click “up” until you highlight an object in the cartoon image, and hit “enter”. These bonus scenes come along with “Treehouse of Horror XI” (0:23) and “Skinner’s Sense of Snow” (0:11). “A Tale of Two Springfields” shows us a print ad that touts the Who’s participation, while “HOMR” offers a Variety ad meant to solicit an Emmy nomination. For “Hungry, Hungry Homer”, we see a newspaper article about the Albuquerque Isotopes.

Maybe The Simpsons will eventually provide a truly bad set of episodes, but Season 12 doesn’t demonstrate anything that I would say really besmirches the series’ legacy. That said, the shows do little to add to the Simpsons legend; we get a few above-average episodes, but the majority seem awfully ordinary. The DVDs provide erratic but acceptable visuals along with pretty good audio and the standard collection of generally interesting supplements. While my recommendation for Season 12 is pretty lukewarm, I still think the year includes enough enjoyment for it to merit the attention of Simpsons fans – at least the ones who already own Seasons Two through 11, all of which are superior.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.25 Stars Number of Votes: 8
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main