THE SIMPSONS: THE SIXTEENTH SEASON
MOVIE: **** (out of 5)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5)
Dan Castellaneta as HOMER SIMPSON
Julie Kavner as MARGE SIMPSON
Nancy Cartwright as BART SIMPSON
Yeardley Smith as LISA SIMPSON
Hank Azaria as VARIOUS
Harry Shearer as VARIOUS
Created by: Matt Groening
BY KEVIN CARR
“The Simpsons” have had so many seasons of television that as Fox has released the DVDs (and now Blu-rays), they’re catching up to the seasons that were airing when I first started reviewing them years ago. In other words, the latest release is the 16th season, which aired in 2004 and 2005. That might not seem like all that long ago to an old fart like myself, but it is still an eight or nine year lag from what is airing right now.
In its sixteenth season, “The Simpson” was a full institution, and we see evidence of that with plenty of in-jokes throughout the series. In one episode, Bart refers to “doing the Bartman” as well as rattling off his catch phrases like “Cowabunga” and “Don’t have a cow” in order to identify itself. The charm to “The Simpsons” is that it is able to deliver meta jokes like this without sounding overly pompous or introspective.
This works because the show also manages to continually tell fun stories each week. The sixteenth season is still four years away from its high definition debut (though there is a bonus episode from that era stuck on the third disc), and it’s clear to see how far the animation has advanced over the years. Even when comparing the standard definition cells to the earlier ones that are used for the famous opening title sequence, it’s a look into the history of the show itself.
Like most of the seasons, this set starts off with “Treehouse of Horror,” clocking in at number 15. These are my favorite of all Simpsons episodes, and this is a pretty good one, featuring some real out-of-the-box thinking that includes bizarre fates to the characters (including Homer consuming himself in a grotesque-yet-still-broadcast-approved way).
This season deals with the horrors of home remodeling, distant high school exes, bankruptcy and financial strife, religious zealots, Chinese adoption, prison sentences, crazy stage moms and renting out spare rooms. Proving that the series is ahead of its time, not just in animation and development, but also from a topical standpoint, the sixteenth season also tackles the more political topics of skyrocketing prescription drug costs and gay marriage.
As previously stated, by this point, the writers had an idea of where they fell in popular culture. They play with this a bit in one of the anchor episodes, which features Bart and Lisa looking into their future (which is, of course, now when you do the math). The show has an awareness of itself and still works. Unlike some previous seasons, the storylines are a little more streamlined and are less likely to feature meandering plot points that made the first act look entirely different from the final act.
I’ve enjoyed “The Simpsons” for years, and having them available in large chunks on DVD and Blu-ray make it an easy watch, whether you’re doing it for the first time or enjoying things again and again.
Like other seasons of “The Simpsons,” the sixteenth season features some great special features, which is a monumental feat for a show in its fourth or fifth season, let alone one that exists in double digits. The Blu-ray set comes with a glossy book that breaks down each episode on the discs. There are commentaries for every episode, which is rare to find for any series, no matter what year it’s in.
Special features also include a greeting from Matt Groening, sketch galleries, bonus episodes, deleted scenes and the featurettes “Living in the Moment,” “Special Language Feature,” “Animation Showcase” and a live recording of a table read.
If you’re a “Simpsons” fan, there is no question about this release. It’s just time to add it to your collection.