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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Children > TV > The Simpsons - Season Five

The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season


Picture: B     Sound: B-     Extras: A     Episodes: A+



Now we’re talking, folks.  Now we’re talking!  You see, when The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season debuted on June 15, 2004, fans both rejoiced and lamented.  Lamented, you might ask?  Yes, because given Fox’s track record, it was a good bet that it would be close to a year before the fifth season would see the light of day.  But then FOX did something that no one expected: a little more than six months later, The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season was released on DVD.  What turnaround!  What a change!  What a treat!  But can this keep up?  Is this just a tease or will this be a more recurring factor?  Considering that the sixth season is slated for sometime mid-2005, maybe FOX is finally hunkering down and getting these season sets out to the fans faster than ever before.  But let’s hope they can keep this up and don’t burn out.  After all, they still have a top-notch series they’re working on, and with the movie in the works, they have their plates full.  And let’s also hope that they keep the quality of these sets up, because they’ve been nothing but stellar.  These DVDs are chock full of extras, and I hope they don’t decide to swap these for episode-only sets in order to keep the season sets coming at a pace the fans find satisfactory.


The fifth season continues the greatness that really broke through in the fourth season, with such wonderful (and now considered classic) episodes as “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” “Rosebud,” “Bart’s Inner Child,” “$pringfield,” and “Burns’ Heir.”  Oh, let’s just face it; all the episodes are timeless classics!  And now fans can relive all 22 episodes on this four-disc set.  And let’s not forget the multitude of guest stars, one of the trademark signatures of the show.  Included in these episodes comes the voice-over work of George Harrison, Robert Goulet, Sam Neill, The Ramones, Ernest Borgnine, James Brown, Conan O'Brien, Buzz Aldrin, Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathleen Turner, just to name a few.  And don’t forget the frequent venerable work of Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob and Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz/Troy McClure.  And this set sees the landmark 100th episode that ensured the show would make it to syndication and have a long healthy life.  All the episodes are true gems, without a single episode to bring down the quality of the set.


This four-disc box set comes in a five-panel foldout Digipak.  This set is the nicest looking of the five yet, coming in a beautiful metallic-red color with a curtain design.  As well, there is a delightful 10-page booklet containing episode information and details, including guest stars and specific details concerning corresponding extras.  The menus for these season sets continue to improve, as well.  The major criticism with the first three seasons was that the menu design was the same for all three.  Season four saw a change in the design, and season five finds itself with a new design, yet again.  Bravo to FOX for committing to variety now that more seasons are rolling out.  The sub-menus are also wonderfully designed and episode specific.  Each episode has the option to view it by chapter breaks, including a convenient break right after the opening credits.  As well, the extras pertaining to their corresponding episode are included in these sub-menus.  Of course, the main menus contain a “Play All” option.


The video for the episodes is presented in the original broadcast television ratio of 1.33:1, or full frame.  This is fine, as it is the only aspect ratio we have available for the show.  I must again congratulate the people at FOX for doing such a fine job at cleaning up the image for this set, but even though it looks pretty good, the occasional grain and dirt shows up from time to time.  There are no hints of edge enhancement and it looks like any problems that previous season sets had with interlacing errors are gone from this set.  The colors aren’t as bright as they could be and do look a bit washed out, but this isn’t a result of a bad transfer; it’s just a result of a time before the show was colored by computer and they had restrictions in production.  But the quality of the image here is far superior to the quality for the individual episodes that FOX releases in their compilation discs.


The audio is presented in a multitude of varieties, including English 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround and French and Spanish 2.0 Dolby Digital Stereo Surround.  Also available are subtitles for English, French, and Spanish.  The 5.1 mixes for these sets continue to improve.  While the audio remains to be focused on the center channel for dialogue, the front and rear speakers do a nice job for sound effects and directional audio.  The 5.1 mix could be a bit better in terms of the rear speakers, particularly for musical numbers and music in general.  However, the clarity and crispness of these audio tracks is superb and far better than the general stereo that is available on television.


Extras!  Overload, pleasure overload!  Hoo baby!  First up is the signature extra that truly makes these season sets worth the buy: the audio commentaries!  All 22 episodes come with audio commentaries from Matt Groening (he’s absent for only two of them), the show’s producers, directors, writers, and even voice actors Dan Castellaneta, Yeardly Smith, and Hank Azaria drop by.  And lets not forget Conan O’Brien.  These commentaries are a blast to listen to.  They’re so insightful and full of great stories surrounding the episodes.  Filled with anecdotes, inside stories, and notes on visual gags you may have missed, these commentaries are a must for any fan to listen to.  The only problem that I have with these commentaries is the same one I continue to have over and over again: while all these commentaries are great and fun and listen to, at times it gets a little confusing as to who’s talking since so many people participate in them.


Also included are loads of deleted scenes.  There are 40 deleted scenes spread over 14 episodes.  This is a vast improvement on past sets that included only a small amount of them.  All deleted scenes are wonderful to watch, as it’s interesting to see what was cut out for time purposes.  There’s also an option to insert a small icon (yellow scissors) into the episode that show where the deleted scene would have gone.  You can then switch to the deleted scene if you want, and then go right back into the episode and pick up where you left off.  The only set back to them is that even though they are part of the later stages of production, they still lack some sound effects and dialogue clean up.


New to this set is a feature called “Illustrated Commentaries.”  For the first act of “Treehouse of Horror IV” and “$pringfield” and for the last act of “Bart Gets an Elephant,” each act is presented in animatic form which allows various layout artists to draw on the animatic as the episode progresses.  It’s an interesting concept and one I found quite enjoyable as they explain the reasoning behind why certain things were done and how the entire staff is organized.


Also available is an “Animation Showcase” which gives the viewer a multi-angle option for the episodes “Treehouse of Horror IV,” “$pringfield,” “Bart Gets an Elephant,” and “ Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song.”  Using the “Angle” button on your DVD remote control, you can alternate between the final product, the animatic, and the storyboard for these episodes in a picture-in-picture format.  This is great for die-hard fans to see the development of the episode, but at times, it can get distracting as you try to view three different things happening all at once.


Matt Groening again provides a special introduction to the fifth season with his voice played over a short montage of season five clips.  As well, James L. Brooks, one the show’s executive producers, appears in a special featurette where he discusses the creation of the show, the craze that occurred when the show really took off, and his thoughts on the first 100 episodes.  “ Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” is also part of a special language feature, where you can listen to the entire episode in one of four languages, including Polish, Italian, Hungarian, or Czechoslovakian.  Rounding out the set are some funny commercials featuring The Simpsons and original sketches for “Treehouse of Horror IV.”  Phew!  That’s a lot of stuff!  But all of it is so very good!


Keep up the good work, FOX.  That’s all I have to say.  It’s amazing the amount of quality time and effort that is put into these sets and the fans all thank you.  This set is a must buy for any fan of the show.  And now that you’ve set the bar high, we know you can keep astounding us with upcoming season sets.



-   Antonio Lopez – The Simpsons Geek


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