Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Tress MacNeille, Pamela Hayden, Marcia Wallace, Russi Taylor
Season 15 of the hit long-running Fox animated comedy.
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
English Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Stereo 2.0
French Stereo 2.0
Runtime: 484 min.
Release Date: 12/4/2012
• Audio Commentary for All Episodes
• Introduction from Matt Groening
• Deleted Scenes
• Sketch Gallery
• Audio Commentary for All Episodes
• Deleted Scenes
• “The Unusual Ones” Featurette
• “Living in the Moment” Featurette
• Audio Commentary for All Episodes
• Deleted Scenes
• Animation Showcase for “The Wandering Juvie”
• Special Language Feature for
• Audio Commentary for All Four Episodes
• Deleted Scenes
• Sketch Gallery
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Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.
The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth Season (2003)
Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 13, 2012)
Another year, another batch of Simpsons episodes on DVD! At this rate, they’ll catch up… never, since apparently The Simpsons will remain on the air forever.
2012 brings us the series’ fifteenth season. As always, I’ll look at the shows in their original broadcast order, which is how they show up in the set. I’ll examine them each on their own to document the specifics. The plot capsules come straight from the DVD’s booklet.
Treehouse of Horror XIV (aired 11/2/03): “In the fearsome fourteenth installment of this annual anthology, Homer becomes death – and is ordered to kill Marge. Professor Frink’s father goes zombie on the Nobel Prize ceremony, and in ‘Stop the World, I Want to Goof Off’, Bart and Milhouse discover what it’s like to stop everything in the universe – except themselves.”
I admit that I go into “later years” Simpsons with trepidation, as once they hit double-digits in terms of seasons, the shows became awfully spotty. I don’t know if it’s a sign of things to come, but “Horror XIV” launches S15 on a terrific note. All three of its segments fare quite well – so well that I can’t pick a favorite. It’s a delight to finally hear Jerry Lewis interact with Dr. Frink, his spiritual offspring, and all three pieces provide fine comedy.
My Mother The Carjacker (aired 11/9/03): “Homer’s mother returns, and he finally achieves his dream of having her live in his house once more – only to lose her yet again.”
Does “Carjacker” continue to high launched with “Horror XIV”? No, but that doesn’t make it a bad show. It’s more emotional than most but not sappy. Throw in a few good laughs and it becomes a reasonably satisfying program.
The President Wore Pearls (aired 11/16/03): “In this musical, ever-so-slightly based on the life of Evita Peron, Lisa runs for class president, and is elected – but when she discovers Skinner’s plans to reduce the budget, she lads a student strike and is banished to a school for the gifted and troublesome.”
Lisa-based episodes tend to be among the series’ weakest, and the involvement of musical numbers doesn’t inspire confidence. Nonetheless, “Pearls” delivers a generally solid show. It moves at a good clip and integrates its songs in a fun, clever manner. This becomes another pretty positive program.
The Regina Monologues (aired 11/23/03): “Mr. Burns loses a thousand-dollar bill, and Bart earns enough charging people to see it that he can afford to take the Simpsons to England. While there, like all visitors, they encounter JK Rowling, Sir Ian McKellen, and Prime Minister Tony Blair – and then Homer smashes into the Queen’s coach and is imprisoned in the Tower of London.”
After a good string to open the season, “Regina” brings the run to a halt. While it’s not a bad show, it’s never better than lackluster. Simpsons travel episodes tend to get hung up on gimmicks, and that’s the case here, so don’t expect much from “Regina”.
The Fat and the Furriest (aired 11/30/03): “Homer creates an enormous, disgusting ball of candy, and Marge orders him to take it to the dump. While there he is attacked by a bear and builds a suit designed to enable him to get revenge on the beast and conquer his fears.”
“Furriest” comes with a pretty dopey concept, as its portrait of Homer as a coward because he’s afraid of a grizzly doesn’t make much sense; the show should play this more for irony than it does. We don’t get much to exploit the odd theme, so “Furriest” continues the slump that started with “Regina”.
Today I Am a Clown (aired 12/7/03): “Krusty reveals that he has never been bar mitzvahed, and he agrees to do so as part of a network TV special, with the help of his father and Mr. T. Meanwhile, Homer replaces Krusty on the Sabbath with a talk show featuring him and his friends.”
Jackie Mason always annoyed me, but even with him in tow, I liked Season Three’s “Like Father, Like Clown”. Unfortunately, “Today” – Mason’s first reappearance as Krusty’s dad in 12 years – doesn’t fare as well, though it’s not Mason’s fault. It’s just a flat episode; a few laughs appear, but not enough to make this an above-average show.
’Tis the Fifteenth Season (aired 12/14/03): “Homer spends all the family Christmas money on an astrolabe, then – inspired by Mr. McGrew’s version of A Christmas Carol - he resolves to become the nicest man in town, to the irritation of the current nicest man, Ned Flanders.”
Prior Christmas episodes tended to be hit or miss, and “Fifteenth” continues that trend. It forces Flanders to act too out of character, and it uses too many easy references to other holiday shows. Like “Today”, it’s not a bad show, but it’s fairly uninspired.
Marge Versus Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Tens and Gays (aired 1/4/04): “A children’s concert that Marge takes Maggie to erupts in an Altamont-style riot. The town’s reaction leads childless townspeople to protest how much of their taxes go to families, resulting in a climactic ballot measure to decide the direction of Springfield.”
“Gays” opens well, as I like the pain caused by Marge and Maggie’s love of Roofi. After that, however, it stumbles. Lindsay Naegle-based shows tend to be lackluster, and that’s what we see here. It just doesn’t exploit its possibilities as well as it should.
I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot (aired 1/11/04): “In an effort to win his son’s love, Homer disguises himself as a robot to enter a violent battle-bot contest, and pays a huge physical price. Meanwhile, Lisa encounters a series of cats that have far less than nine lives.”
Like other episodes from this season, this one starts pretty well but droops before too long. The robot theme is too silly, and the cat sequences are too morbid. Some of the battle bots bits amuse, but they’re not enough to overcome the episode’s general flaws.
Diatribe of a Mad Housewife (aired 1/25/04): “Homer becomes an ambulance driver, while Marge writes a successful novel in which Homer is the thinly-disguised villain, and Flanders is the hero.”
I knew I was in trouble when “Diatribe” offered a decent Moby-Dick joke – and they underlined it to make sure we got it. We did – we didn’t need the reinforcement. “Diatribe” takes two lackluster premises to combine into a forgettable show.
Margical History Tour (aired 2/8/04): “In this anthology of historical stories, Homer, as Henry VIII, cannot find a wife that will bear him a son. Lisa, as Sacagawea, is the brains behind Lenny Lewis and Carl Clark, and Bart is an Amadeus-inspired boorishly-behaving Mozart.”
While the “Treehouse” shows usually work well, other anthologies tend to be less consistent. Happily, “Tour” bucks this trend and becomes one of the better episodes we’ve seen this season. All three segments entertain, though the Amadeus one acts as the weakest link. Still, it has its moments, and the episode remains enjoyable overall.
Milhouse Doesn’t Live Here Anymore (aired 2/15/04): “Milhouse moves, and Bart is devastated. Meanwhile, Homer earns a small fortune as a beggar.”
After the pretty good “Tour”, S15 continues the positive rebound with “Milhouse”. Actually, it doesn’t exploit “Cap City Milhouse” as well as I might expect, but it runs two amusing subplots and balances them well. Expect an above-average episode here.
Smart and Smarter (aired 2/22/04): “Lisa is stunned to discover that Maggie is the smartest one in the family. She runs away to live in the museum and her family must go through a giant human body to reason with her.”
The series has touched on Lisa’s intellectual insecurities in the past, most prominently during Season Six’s “Lisa’s Rival”. “Smarter” doesn’t live up to that one, but it’s still a fairly positive program. It becomes a rare solid Lisa-based episode that works from start to finish.
The Ziff Who Came to Dinner (aired 3/14/04): “After taking the Flanders boys to an inappropriately scary movie, Homer finds Marge’s old flame Artie Ziff living in his attic. Artie tries to get Homer to take the fall for his failing high-tech company, but after a dalliance with Selma, he decides to do the right thing.”
While not a great show, “Dinner” delivers a fairly enjoyable episode. It’s nice to hear from Jon Lovitz again, especially since he does multiple cameos here. Nothing soars, but the program delivers a consistently likable piece.
Co-Dependents’ Day (aired 3/21/04): “Bart and Lisa are so disappointed by the latest Cosmic Wars movie that they travel to wine country to complain to the filmmaker. During a winery tour, Marge and Homer discover they share a love of drinking, which initially bonds them, but then becomes an alcoholic nightmare for both.”
Picking on George Lucas and the Star Wars prequels feels like shooting fish in a barrel, so those moments lack much inspiration – and the “George Lucas is short” barbs seem unusually petty for The Simpsons. The Homer/Marge moments have a bit more to them, but they’re not especially winning either. This is a decent but unspectacular show.
The Wandering Juvie (aired 3/28/04): “Bart is sentenced to juvenile hall, where he is shackled to a very tough girl who despises – and has a crush on – him.”
Like many “later years” episodes, “Juvie” echoes earlier programs, so expect to see hints of earlier “Bart’s girlfriend” shows. That said, “Juvie” develops a fair amount of decent comedy, and it moves at a good rate. It becomes one of the better S15 efforts.
My Big Fat Geek Wedding (aired 4/18/04): “Skinner finally agrees to marry Edna… but gets cold feet and blows the deal. She rebounds with Comic Book Guy, leading to a climactic battle at Comic-Con.”
I never felt particularly interested in the Skinner/Edna relationship, so “Wedding” starts off in the red. It never quite rebounds from that deficit, as it fails to find much inspiration. A few laughs crop up along the way, but not enough to redeem it.
Catch ‘Em If You Can (aired 4/25/04): “Homer and Marge decide they could really use a break from Bart and Lisa, leading the infuriated kids to follow them on an epic, cross-country chase.”
Expect a fairly okay show here. The hijinks related to the chase can be fun, but otherwise, there’s not a lot of punch here. At least Grampa gets a few good moments when he attempts to woo elderly ladies on the beach.
Simple Simpson (aired 5/2/04): “When Lisa is humiliated by a judge at a county fair, Homer gets revenge by anonymously pie-ing the villain. He becomes a superhero, until his identity is discovered and his powers abused by Mr. Burns.”
Superhero spoofs aren’t exactly fresh, but “Simple” has decent fun with the subject. Pie Man creates an amusing new character, and we get some enjoyable allusions here. While I won’t call this a great show, it’s pretty good.
The Way We Weren’t (aired 5/9/04): “We discover that Marge was not the first girl Homer kissed – or was she?”
Though I don’t expect stellar continuity from The Simpsons, the way it blatantly disregards established history can become obnoxious; “Weren’t” dances all over all sorts of previously determined concepts, and that makes it less enjoyable. Maybe I shouldn’t get hung up on the inconsistencies – especially given the series’ willful disregard for them – but I don’t think it’s too much to ask for the show to keep some details consistent. This becomes a sporadically amusing show but not better than that.
Bart-Mangled Banner (aired 5/16/04): “When Bart inadvertently moons the flag, he becomes a national focus of rage and the Simpsons are exiled to a post-9/11 secret internment camp.”
Ooh - The Simpsons goes political! This show probably had more of an impact eight years ago in the midst of the Bush administration. Now it seems heavy-handed and shrill, as it criticizes the days of “Freedom Fries”. Actually, it starts well, but as soon as it embraces its overstated social commentary, it droops.
Fraudcast News (aired 5/23/04): “Mr. Burns attempts to control all the media in Springfield, but cannot get his hands on Lisa’s little newspaper.”
S15 ends on a fairly good note here. Yeah, it echoes “Banner” with its own form of commentary, but it’s not as over the top and it generates more laughs. It becomes a good capper for a spotty but often enjoyable season.
The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B-
The Simpsons: The Complete Fifteenth 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; the specks and marks of earlier seasons seemed gone by this point.
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. They occasionally seemed a bit messy, but not often. Blacks were fairly dark and tight, and shadows showed positive delineation. The episodes looked fine.
I also felt fairly pleased 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 15’s extras stay true to those found on past sets. As always, all 22 episodes provide audio commentaries. These tracks present an ever-changing roster of participants. Though he used to pop up for all the tracks, series creator Matt Groening appears on just five commentaries here: “The President Wore Pearls”, “I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot”, “Co-Dependent’s Day”, “My Big Fat Geek Wedding” and “Catch ‘Em If You Can”. Producer/show runner Al Jean and producer Tom Gammill pop up for all 22 commentaries, while co-executive producer Matt Selman comes along for all but episode 3.
As for the other personnel, the tracks feature executive producer James L. Brooks (3), co-executive producers Ian Maxtone-Graham (1, 10, 11, 14, 16, 17, 18, 20, 22) and Michael Price (1, 4, 9, 10, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22), producer Max Pross (1, 2, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22), writers Matt Warburton (1, 9, 10, 14, 15), Don Payne (4, 6, 7, 8, 16, 19, 21, 22), Joel H. Cohen (5, 6, 12), Carolyn Omine (6, 13), John Frink (7, 21), Dana Gould (7, 21), J. Stewart Burns (8, 11), Allen Glazier (9, 15), Brian Kelley (11, 20), Julie Chambers (12), David Chambers (12), Deb Lacusta (14), directors Steven Dean Moore (1, 6, 7, 10), Mike B. Anderson (1, 3, 5, 10, 11, 12, 20), Mark Kirkland (4), Nancy Kruse (6), and Lauren MacMullan (9), supervising director David Silverman (1, 4, 10), supervising producer Marc Wilmore (2, 14), co-executive producers Kevin Curran (3, 4, 17, 18) and Tim Long (4, 5, 6, 11, 12, 13, 19, 20), staff writer Valentina Garza (5, 12), TV critic Alan Sepinwall (9, 15), producer Mike Reiss (17, 18), Catch Me If You Can writer Jeff Nathanson (18) and actors Dan Castellaneta (2, 6, 14), Yeardley Smith (3), Michael Moore (3), Nancy Cartwright (9), and Maurice LaMarche (14).
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!
If you’ve gone through earlier commentaries, you’ll find familiar territory here. We get thoughts about the various stories and their origins/development, cast, characters and performances, guests, various references, some animation notes, and a mix of other connected topics.
In the past, I’ve found Simpsons commentaries to be mediocre, but these seemed better than usual. Prior tracks tended to come with too much dead air, laughs and praise. Those issues continue to arise, but not to the same degree. We tend to learn more along the way and find ourselves subjected to less banality.
I like to pick out a “best of the year”, and for once, I can find multiple possibilities. I chose “The President Wore Pearls”, though, as it appears to be the most detailed. Michael Moore and Yeardley Smith do a lot to help prompt the others to cover series specifics, so we get quite a bit of good info here. This whole season works better than usual in terms of commentaries.
A mix of other supplements spread across all four DVDs. 10 of this release’s episodes include Deleted Scenes. We fail to find bonus sequences for “The Fat and the Furriest”, “Today I Am a Clown”, “’Tis the Fifteenth Season”, “I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot”, “Margical History Tour”, “Milhouse Doesn’t Live Here Any More”, “Smart and Smarter”, “The Ziff Who Came to Dinner”, “Co-Dependents’ Day”, “Catch ‘Em If You Can”, “The Way We Weren’t”, and “Fraudcast News”. That’s a big drop from usual, as we find many fewer deleted scenes than in the past.
You can check these out via two methods. You can watch them as parts of the appropriate shows or in a separate compilation on DVD Four. That compilation puts all 14 scenes - which last a total of nine minutes and 53 seconds - in one place. In a nice touch, we get the portion of the show that precedes the cut scene right before it to remind us where the snippet would have appeared. Those bits are black and white while the new material appears in color; that helps us tell which parts were deleted.
Of course, with so many scenes in so little space, none of the sequences last very long. It’d be hard to identify any that qualify as substantial; the vast majority just offer little additions to existing sequences. They’re fun but not anything special.
If you check out the deleted scenes via the big package on DVD Four, you also can listen to optional commentary from Al Jean; he provides a very short intro as well. Jean tells us very little here, so don’t expect to learn anything more than the absolute minimum. Jean also says virtually nothing for some of the scenes. You can safely skip his commentary and not miss anything.
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 All Aboard with Matt runs one minute, 48 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. We already bought the set, Matt – you don’t need to sell it to us!
DVD Two comes with two featurettes. The Unusual Ones goes for 17 minutes, 11 seconds and offers comments from David Silverman, Mike Anderson, Mark Kirkland, and Steve Moore. They discuss “unusual animations” seen in the series’ first 15 seasons. We see these visuals inspired by alternate sources and get info about them. I’m glad to view “Worker and Parasite” from “Krusty Gets Canceled” – one of the funniest things the series ever did – and like the overview found here.
Also on DVD Two, Living in the Moment lasts two minutes and shows a virtual scrapbookl it displays elements related to the February 2012 celebration of the series’ 500th episode. It also offers some advertising for related pieces like a video game. Why is this here and not saved for the boxed set that will include Episode 500 itself? Why do we see multiple photos per screen – which renders them tough to see – instead of one at a time? Good questions – bad execution for a potentially fun extra.
DVD Three gives us an Animation Showcase for “The Wandering Juvie”. 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 Three, we get the same kind of multi-language clip we’ve found on prior sets. We can watch all of “My Big Fat Geek Wedding” in German, Ukrainian, Portuguese 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.)
DVD Four delivers two commercials. We get ads for Ritz Bits and Mastercard. Both are 30-second spots that feature unique Simpsons animation. That makes them a fun addition to the set.
As usual, we get Easter Eggs. These provide more deleted scenes and can be accessed the same way: go to the menu for each episode listed below, click “up” until you highlight an object in the cartoon image, and hit “enter”. These bonus scenes come along with “My Mother The Carjacker” (2 scenes, 1:17), “The Regina Monologues” (one scene, 0:35), “The Fat and the Furriest” (2 scenes, 2:34), “Today I Am a Clown” (0:28), “’Tis the Fifteenth Season” (0:26), “Marge Versus Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays” (1:01), “Margical History Tour” (0:30), “Milhouse Doesn’t Live Here Anymore” (0:39), “Co-Dependents’ Day” (0:19), “My Big Fat Geek Wedding” (0:44), “Catch ‘Em If You Can” (0:46), “The Way We Weren’t” (0:33), “Bart-Mangled Banner” (0:22) and “Fraudcast News” (0:50).
Why don’t these show up as standard deleted scenes? I don’t know. On prior DVD sets, we only got a handful of these eggs, but S15 goes nuts with them. They’re fun to see but I’d prefer that the DVD eschew that “hidden bonus” format and just place the deleted scenes in that area.
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. These present credits as well as info about each show’s special features. Since Season 15’s case highlights Otto, the booklet goes with a bus-related theme. It goes for tourism, though, which doesn’t connect to the school bus driver, does it? Still, it’s a nice little booklet.
Should viewers expect greatness from Season 15 of The Simpsons? No, as the year comes with some mediocre shows. Still, it delivers a reasonable number of good episodes and seems worthwhile overall. The DVDs display pretty good picture and audio along with the standard set of generally enjoyable supplements. S15 won’t win over new fans, but it’s usually fun.
Viewer Film Ratings: 1.5 Stars|| Number of Votes: 4|