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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Comedy > Children > TV > The Simpsons (20 Years) – The Complete Twentieth Season (2008 – 2009/Fox Blu-ray)

The Simpsons (20 Years) – The Complete Twentieth Season (2008 – 2009/Fox Blu-ray)


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



In a recent interview creators of The Simpsons commented on recent bloggers’ criticisms who state “the show isn’t as good as it was ten years ago;” with “I stopped reading bloggers’ posts because they were so much funnier ten years ago.”  Say what you want about The Simpsons, but not many series (especially animated ones) have lasted over 20 years.  For the most part I must agree that I enjoyed The Simpsons ten plus years ago much better; but upon watching and re-watching the episodes of Season 20 I must say that the series remains fresh and amazingly has new ideas after 20 years.


I don’t have much to say about specific episodes of the season as all episodes of The Simpsons have blended together into one giant ‘melted crayon’ mess in my mind; but I can comment on this specific box set/Blu-ray release.  What the heck were they thinking?  After releasing the first 12 seasons over the past 10 years; the creators decided to jump to Season 20 for the first Blu-ray release.  Now I understand it is the 20th anniversary and there are a countless number of marketing tie-ins, but this release is a big yellow finger to the fans.  What should have happened is to continue the releases in order, with Season 13 being released concurrently on DVD and Blu-ray.  I also understand that starting from Season One with the Blu-ray format would anger those who already purchased the seasons on DVD (on top of the fact that there is no need to release that horrible quality animation on Blu-ray), but starting at The Twentieth Season was just an easy way to cash in and not true to the fans.


I should note that it does make a little sense to start the Blu-ray sets at Season 20; as the Season 20 episode “Take My Life, Please” is the first (strangely enough) to broadcast the series in HD.  It was a transition that took way too long and after the quality that The Simpsons Movie delivered, you would think it would have happened sooner.  This is a justification that will only hold true if they only release seasons beyond 20 on Blu-ray.


I would say that over half the episodes this particular season are winners, but at the same time some are so mind numbingly dreadful I ask where did my childhood Simpsons go.  I have a theory that the older Simpsons episodes have become so engrained in our subconscious that we can do nothing but look favorably upon them.  I think The Simpsons has better animation than ever, an intelligent/witty writing staff and a strive to please the fans that is just as strong as ever. The problem is that while 20 years ago The Simpsons were saying and doing things that were so edgy you couldn’t do them anywhere else but in an animated format; today society has become so jaded that we have become dismissive of their series witty, yet controversial humor. 


It is funny to note that in the original first couple seasons releases that the creators actually included a letter on the DVD box that essentially proclaimed “Thanks for buying our set, but by the time you get close to owning every season a new format will be out; forcing you to start over again.”  Oh how sad and true the world is.


Whereas I expected a stellar visual and audio performance from The Simpsons 20th Season release; all in all I have to call it half lackluster and half stunning.  The picture is presented initially in 1.33 X 1, then at episode nine switches to 1.78 X 1 (as that is when the HD conversion occurred).  Though some may worry that the 21 episodes squeezed on 2 Blu-ray discs may have caused some compression issues, none are to be found.  All in all I must say the transition to HD is stunning, only attesting to the fact that older seasons may not need a Blu-ray release.  The 1.78 X 1 episodes ‘POP’ as the jump from the screen with bright colors and a wonderful crispness.  Whereas the earlier episodes are nice, the ones after nine are where it is at in terms of image quality.  The DTS HD Master Audio never truly utilizes the full speaker range and leaves fans wanting more.  The front speakers are heavily used, whereas I rarely heard the rears.


The extras are almost absent as only a Sneak Peek of an already aired special is on the disc.  Whereas previous seasons offered a bounty of extras, this season was OBVIOUSLY rushed and leaves fans asking what? Why? How? And DOH!



-   Michael P. Dougherty II


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