The Simpsons: The Complete Sixteenth Season appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on these Blu-ray Discs. While not stunning, the episodes consistently looked pretty good.
The only minor concerns connected to sharpness, as wide shots could be a little on the soft side. However, those instances weren’t a big deal, so the majority of the material appeared concise and distinctive. I noticed no issues with shimmering or jagged edges, and the shows lacked any source flaws.
Colors looked positive. They never become brilliant, but they seemed fairly dynamic and rich. Blacks were dark and tight, and shadows showed nice clarity. All in all, the season demonstrated mostly high-quality visuals.
No surprises came with the decent DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio. As usual, the soundscapes tended toward general atmosphere. On occasion, they opened up more, as various episodes’ “action elements” could bring some pizzazz. However, those remained in the minority, so expect information that fleshed out the speakers in a low-key but satisfying manner.
I felt the audio quality was good. Speech appeared natural and concise, with no obvious edginess. Music was peppy and dynamic, while effects seemed accurate and robust. The tracks suited the shows.
Fans will know what to expect in terms of extras, and all 21 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 six commentaries here: “All’s Fair in Over War”, “Fat Man and Little Boy”, “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass”, “On a Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister”, “The Seven-Beer Snitch” and “Thank God It’s Doomsday”. Producer/show runner Al Jean and co-executive producer Matt Selman pop up for all 21 commentaries.
As for the other personnel, the tracks feature supervising producer Bill Odenkirk (1, 13, 14), co-executive producers Tim Long (1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 13, 18, 19, 20, 21), Michael Price (2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 10, 11, 12, 14, 17, 19, 21), J. Stewart Burns (6, 10), Dana Gould (9, 12, 16, 17), Kevin Curran (16), Ian Maxtone-Graham (2, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 12, 14, 16, 17, 19), Carolyn Omine (17, 20), and Tom Gammill (1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15, 16, 19, 21), producers Max Pross (1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 21). Mike Reiss (3), and Mike Scully (2, 5), co-producer Matt Warburton (21), supervising director David Silverman (1, 6, 9, 11, 12, 16, 17, 19), directors Raymond S. Persi (1, 13), Mike B. Anderson (2, 3, 9, 15, 16), Lauren MacMullan (3, 15), Nancy Kruse (6), Michael Marcentel (11, 19), Lance Kramer (12, 17), Steven Dean Moore (12, 14, 17), Mark Kirkland (16), and Michael Polcino (21), writers Joel H. Cohen (2, 5, 6, 10, 18, 20), Jon Vitti (3, 15), and Jeff Westbrook (6, 10, 11, 19), and actors Kim Cattrall (4), Hank Azaria (7, 21), Tress MacNeille (7, 21), Dan Castellaneta (8, 14), Nancy Cartwright (9, 16) John DiMaggio (15) and Yeardley Smith (18),
As usual, some of the participants wear multiple hats on the series, and sometimes, they even discuss episodes on which they didn’t work. I picked one job description per person and left at that so I wouldn’t go (more) insane.
16 seasons in, you should know what kind of content to expect here. Across the tracks, we learn about topics such as cast and performances, story inspirations and narrative elements, cultural references, animation, and a mix of connected topics.
Just like you should know what sort of content these tracks will cover, you should also anticipate the quality of the commentaries, as they’ve changed little over the years. At their best, these pieces can be informative, and they’re usually pretty engaging. Occasionally we get stuck with little more than the sound of the participants as they laugh at the episodes’ gags, but they usually manage more than that; even when they don’t give us a lot of hard facts, they tend to keep us entertained.
I like to try to pick a single best commentary from the bunch but couldn’t do so for S16. If pressed, I’d probably go with the “Treehouse” track, if just because it moves the fastest; with three sub-stories to discuss, it goes at a fast pace and comes packed with more info than usual.
Some of the discussions with voice actors in attendance also work nicely. I especially like Nancy Cartwright’s remarks during “Pranksta Rap”, as she includes some interesting notes about her inspirations and performances; I especially like her comments about the differences between Rod Flanders and Ralph Wiggum. Only a couple of tracks seem like relative duds; most of them prove to be pretty worthwhile.
A mix of other supplements spread across all three discs. 16 of this release’s 21 episodes include Deleted Scenes. We fail to find bonus sequences for “She Used to Be My Girl”, “There’s Something About Marrying”, “Goo Goo Gai Pan”, “Mobile Homer”, and “The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star”. That’s a higher percentage than usual.
You can check these out via two methods. You can watch them as parts of the appropriate shows or in a separate compilation on Disc Three. That compilation puts all 21 scenes - which last a total of 11 minutes and 45 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.
In the past, the deleted scenes tended to be short additions to existing scenes. That remains the circumstance here, as we find no truly unique material; we just get little snippets trimmed from shots that did make the final cut. That’s fine, as they’re still fun to see.
If you check out the deleted scenes via the big package on Disc Three, you also can listen to optional commentary from Al Jean; he provides a very short intro as well as a tribute to the late Don Payne. Jean’s prior deleted scenes tracks didn’t tell us much, and that remains the case here. Actually, he covers a little more territory than usual, but he still tends to simply identify the shows in question; he rarely relates why the shots got the boot. The commentary’s painless but not especially informative.
Sketch Galleries show up on Discs One and Two. Disc One’s collection runs two minutes, 14 seconds, while Disc Two’s goes for two minutes, 35 seconds. Both let us see various character designs, and they’re nice glimpses of the art.
Taken from Season Six, we get a bonus episode of The Simpsons. It’s not one of the series’ better shows, but it’s a painless addition to this set.
Every other Simpsons set includes an intro, so this one follows suit. Greetings, Junior Scienteers! runs two minutes, 35 seconds as the series’ creator gives us an overview of what we’ll see. Prior entries were useless, and that continues to be the case here.
Within the Special Language Feature on Disc Two, we get the same kind of multi-language clip we’ve found on prior sets. We can watch all of “Pranksta Rap” in Czech, Hungarian, Portuguese or Italian. It’s a cute option but not terribly useful.
On Disc Two, Living in the Moment provides two components. “The Longest Daycare” goes for 50 seconds and refers to an animated short that originally ran in front of 2012’s Ice Age: Continental Drift. This promo simply tells us how to vote for what Maggie will wear to the Oscars. “Tapped Out” provides ads for the “freemium” game of the same name.
Disc Two finishes with another bonus episode. Here we find Season 11’s “Bart to the Future”. It’s a decent but unexceptional program.
Disc Three gives us an Animation Showcase for “Future-Drama”. 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 final product appears in a small box down in the lower right corner. This remains a fun way to inspect the different stages of animation.
Live! It’s The Simpsons goes for 36 minutes and provides a table read for “Thank God It’s Doomsday”. We don’t see video of the event, though; instead, we hear the audio as we view script pages and related material. This would’ve been more fun if we watched the cast at work, but it’s still a cool addition to the set.
Another bonus episode shows up on Disc Three. This time we get “Holidays of Future Passed” from S23. Since that season has yet to appear on home video, it’s a more valuable addition than the other two “bonus episodes”.
As usual, we get Easter Eggs, though they differ from what we found on prior sets. In the past, some episodes would throw in additional deleted scenes, but that’s not the case for S16. Instead, some bonus material pops up in the main menus – just click to the side and you’ll find these easily.
On Disc One, we find a written invitation sent to Groening to entice him to attend the commentary sessions; since he only went to a few of those, apparently it didn’t work. Disc One also shows a few episode-related ads and memorabilia related to S16. Finally, Disc Three gives us a four-minute. 56-second compilation of unused animation created for the menus.
As with all the prior sets, this one comes with a booklet. It features an intro from Groening along with details about all 21 episodes. These present credits as well as info about each show’s special features. This one spotlights Professor Frink and offers design elements that reflect that character.
As The Simpsons progresses, it becomes more and more erratic, so don’t expect consistency from Season 16. Still, it offers reasonable entertainment and occasionally reminds us why we came to love the series in the first place. The Blu-rays presents pretty good visuals, audio and bonus materials. I wouldn’t buy Season 16 if I didn’t already own the series’ strongest years, but active fans should feel happy with the set.