The Simpsons: The Complete Eighteenth 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. For SD-DVD, the visuals looked fine.
Sharpness was usually pretty good. Some shots could seem a bit soft or blocky, especially in wider elements. However, those weren’t a notable concern, so the programs were usually reasonably concise.
Occasional instances of jaggies and shimmering appeared, but they remained modest. Edge haloes were absent, and I noticed no source flaws.
While not the most dynamic palette, the simple hues of The Simpsons came through well. The DVD replicated the based colors with reasonable clarity and vivacity.
Blacks were fairly dark and tight, and shadows showed positive delineation. The episodes looked pleasing enough.
I also felt fairly happy with the series’ Dolby Digital 5.1. As in the past, the soundfields lacked a whole lot of breadth, but they came to life well enough when necessary.
Though the shows usually stayed with general ambience at most, they could open up during more action-oriented sequences. Those used the five channels well and delivered engaging material.
As always, audio quality seemed satisfying. Speech was natural and concise, while music appeared peppy and bright.
Effects showed nice clarity and accuracy, with decent low-end when necessary. Nothing dazzled, but the mixes worked for the series.
Season 18’s extras echo those of past sets, though we get fewer supplements than usual. As always, all 22 episodes provide audio commentaries, and these tracks present an ever-changing roster of participants.
Producer/show runner Al Jean pops up for all 22 commentaries, while co-executive producer Matt Selman comes along for all but episodes 4, 10, 16 and 19.
We find writers Joel H. Cohen (1, 11, 17), J. Stewart Burns (4, 9, 16, 17), Carolyn Omine (7, 13), Chuck Sheetz (7, 13), Ian Maxtone-Graham (21), Billy Kimball (21), and Jeff Westbrook (9, 17), producers Tom Gammill (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22), Max Pross (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 20, 21, 22), and David Silverman (2, 4, 7, 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 16, 19, 20, 21), co-executive producers Michael Price (2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 13, 14, 16, 18, 21), Kevin Curran (10, 19), Tim Long (10, 15, 19, 22) and Bill Odenkirk (10, 19), and John Frink (12, 20), supervising producer Matt Warburton (13), directors Raymond S. Persi (2, 12, 20, 21), Mike B. Anderson (3, 15, 18, 22), Steven Dean Moore (2, 21), Mark Kirkland (5, 6), and Lance Kramer (10), co-director Ralph Sosa (3), assistant director Rob Oliver (3), animator Michael Polcino (1, 11), animation director Mike Marcantel (1, 11), 24 co-executive producer Chip Johannessen, and actors Joe Mantegna (1, 11), Yeardley Smith (4, 9, 16, 17), Hank Azaria (15, 22), Dan Castellaneta (10, 19), and Nancy Cartwright (12, 20).
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. Live with it!
As usual, the commentaries tend to focus on story/character choices along with some production issues and connections to other cultural areas. The Simpsons discussions have never been great, but S18’s seem weaker than usual, as these seem lackluster and spotty overall.
Every season, I pick out one commentary that flies highest, but I can’t do that here. The different tracks seem consistently bland – though I will admit “Little Big Girl” gets a charge because it abounds with profanity.
“Bleeped” profanity, though – an interesting choice given the uncensored “F-bombs” Al Jean occasionally drops during the S17 commentaries. When deleted swear words become the primary draw to commentaries, I know we’ve gotten a mediocre batch of discussions.
Sketch Galleries show up on Discs One and Four. Disc One’s collection runs one minute, 18 seconds, while Disc Four’s goes for two minutes, 23 seconds. Both let us see various character designs, and they’re nice glimpses of the art.
Since every other Simpsons DVD set includes an intro, this one doesn’t dare to be different Welcome Back, Loyal Fans runs one minute, 28 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.
DVD One gives us an Animation Showcase for “The Mook, The Chef, The Wife And Her Homer”. This allows us to use the “angle” feature to check out some scenes at different levels of completion, as we can flip between storyboards and animatics.
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.
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 “The Mook…” in German, Czech, Hungarian 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.)
Whereas other Simpsons packages included deleted scenes alongside their specific episodes, S18 only presents them as a 12-minute, 11-second compilation. We get 22 snippets across 12 programs, and many of them work pretty well. This turns into a fun batch of sequences.
We can view the scenes with or without commentary from Al Jean. He tends to make fairly banal remarks, so he doesn’t add much of interest. Feel free to skip the commentary – you won’t miss anything.
DVD Four delivers a bonus episode called “22 for 30”. From March 2017, it offers a spoof of ESPN’s 30 for 30 series and it becomes a nice addition, especially since we won’t get S28 on DVD for years – if ever.
Finally, A Conversation With Fat Tony runs seven minutes, 50 seconds and offers a chat between Al Jean and actor Joe Mantegna. He gives us some thoughts about his work on the show and related topics. Some of this repeats from his commentary appearances, but it still turns into a decent look at Mantegna’s experiences.
As with all the prior sets, this one comes with a booklet. It features an intro from Groening along with details about all 22 episodes. It’s a good addition to the package.
The Simpsons Movie siphoned off much of the series’ talent and that seemed to impact Season 18 of The Simpsons. While the year comes with some good shows, it demonstrates a lackluster quality overall and gives us a step down from the more effective Season 17. The DVDs offer generally positive picture and audio with decent supplements. Season 18 will be a must-have for serious Simpsons fans but it’s not a great package of programs.