As “The Simpsons” enter its 16th season, questions about its relevance and the quality have kept fans buzzing all over the internet. Essentially the first TV series that inspired online fanboys to post their favorite show quotes and clips, “The Simpsons” has been replaced by edgier cartoons such as “The Family Guy” and “South Park.” While most followers agree that the show has been in the midst of a downslide and are predicting an ugly demise, the exact season when “The Simpsons” began its downturn remains a hotly debated question. The recently released four-disc DVD set of season six helps defenders argue that, at the time, the show was still at its peak.

TV/New Media Reviews
“The two greatest words in the English language – De-fault.” (Courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

The season features some of the more memorable “Simpsons” episodes including “Homer the Great,” in which Homer discovers and joins a secret society called the Stone Cutters only to be recognized as “the chosen one.” Other standouts on the DVD include an homage to “Rear Window” (“Bart of Darkness”) and the season’s famous cliffhanger finale “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” Although original writers on the show were branching out to other projects during this season, the series’ scribes were able to creatively skewer the tabloid journalism of shows like “Hard Copy” and the overwhelming media coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. Of course, the show’s parent network Fox wasn’t immune from such barbs.

The tongue-in-cheek jokes toward Fox’s lack of tasteful programming actually spilled over into network politics when the network forced the writers to the always reviled cross promotion. The inclusion of Jay Sherman from Fox’s then new and unfunny cartoon, “The Critic,” led creator Matt Groening to remove his name from the credits and eventually the episode’s DVD commentary.

Jon Lovitz’s appearance as Sherman isn’t the only guest appearance. In typical “Simpsons” fashion, a wide array of stars shed their typical role for their time in Springfield. The stars’ characters and performances range from the hilarious (Patrick Stewart as the head of the Stone Cutters, Springfield division) to the bland and unnecessary (Larry King as the mayoral debate mediator).

Each episode features commentary from Matt Groening (except on the aforementioned crossover) and a plethora of writers and voices from the show. Always informal, the commentaries lack any real humor or the usual anecdotes about the contributor’s experiences on the show. Instead, many of the more technical aspects of the series, including methods of animation, as well as the director’s reasons for certain shots are thoroughly explained, providing a lengthy alternative to those tired of the episodes shown thousands of times in syndication.

Other alternatives to watching the actual episode include original storyboards and crude animations from which the final episode is drawn. Also featured are deleted scenes which can be played as part of the episode, making their viewing much easier.

Both the picture and sound are translated excellently from television. Certain scenes that feature quieter background noises are noticeably more audible on the DVD, revealing smaller jokes viewers might have missed before. The bright colors of the Simpsons’s universe stays consistent and sharp between scenes, and the episodes don’t show their age.

Except for a flimsy, plastic case that has left fans with broken covers and caused an uproar, “The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season’s” collection of timeless episodes and in-depth special features makes it stand out as a must-have for “Simpsons” fans and one of the best DVDs in recent memory.

 

Show: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Picture/Sound: 4 out of 5 stars

Features: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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