'Simpsons' 10th season hums along


Published September 9, 2007

Every season of "The Simpsons" released on DVD since season six has been declared "the last great Simpsons season ever" by someone.

The 10th season of "The Simpsons" was released last month; it is not the last great "Simpsons" season ever.

The last great season was the eighth. The last really good season was the ninth. But the tenth is just pretty good, nothing more, nothing less.

And by the time the show settled on "pretty good," "The Simpsons" had already surpassed 200 episodes - far more than basically everything on television - and cemented itself as the greatest animated show of all time. Ninety percent of all the transcendent episodes had already been made by this time, but the show still resided in the upper echelon of TV comedy.

While there are no episodes at the level of "Rosebud" or "Marge vs. the Monorail" here, season 10 does boast some worthy additions to the show's catalogue. "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo" has the Simpsons taking a family vacation to Japan and is one of the better travel episodes. "Homer Simpson in: 'Kidney Trouble' " is another keeper, where Homer is responsible for blowing out his father's kidneys and has to find him a transplant.

"Bart the Mother" is also notable, as it features Phil Hartman's ("Saturday Night Live") last appearance on the show. Hartman, who voiced two of the show's greatest recurring peripheral characters, Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz, was killed prior to the tenth season premier. Neither McClure or Hutz have been given speaking roles since, although they do make their way into background shots occasionally.

In hindsight, the 10th season can now be seen as a tipping point of sorts for a number of the show's less attractive plot devices. Homer's get-rich-quick schemes start to become all too prevalent, and there are an inordinate amount of unnecessary celebrity cameos. In "When You Dish Upon a Star," Homer finds himself working as an assistant for Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin, and it's one of the season's worst episodes.
The special features on the four-disk set don't vary much from the previous nine seasons, which isn't an altogether bad thing.

The meat of the bonus features is the commentaries, which cover every episode in the season. Outside of those are the standard deleted scenes, storyboards and animatics; a featurette on how the animators create the DVD menus; a Bart and Moe prank phone call; and some old ads. An animatic of a deleted scene in last July's "Simpsons Movie" has also been thrown onto the disk and is more of a tease for the film's upcoming DVD than anything else.

Although diehards will surely rush to pick up this most recent "Simpsons" DVD collection, less enthusiastic fans are better off checking out one of the earlier sets. Season 10 is pretty good, but in the world of "The Simpsons," that's not quite good enough.

Rating: 3 out of 5