- 3 50GB Blu-ray Discs
- 1080p/AVC MPEG-4
- English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Surround Sound
- French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
- Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
- English, Spanish
- Audio commentaries on every episode featuring executive producers, writers, directors, cast and notable guest stars on select episodes including Stan Lee, Joe Mantegna, Delroy Lindo, Robert Pinsky and others
- Sketch Galleries
- Special Language Feature
- Easter eggs
- Deleted scenes
- A Token from Matt Groening
- The People Ball
- The 13th Crewman
- Blame It On The Monkeys
- The Games
- The Sweet Life of Ralph
- Animation Showcases for episodes "The Parent Rap" and "Sweet & Sour Marge"
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The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox / 2001 / 484 Minutes / Unrated
Street Date: August 24, 2010
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Reviewed by Aaron Peck
Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Iconic is one word that often springs to mind to describe 'The Simpsons.' The show is about to begin its 22nd season this Fall. The very thought of that is staggering! Twenty-two seasons! It's hard to fathom a show running that long. And I thought the six seasons of 'LOST' were long for a TV show.
'The Simpsons' has stood the test of time, and has become a cornerstone of American culture. It's one thing we can point to and say, "That's completely American," like baseball or apple pie.
Now, I'm no 'Simpsons' guru. I really couldn't list off copious amounts of 'Simpsons' trivia, but I do know that season 13 (2001 - 2002), to me, is downright funny. Everyone has their favorite episodes and seasons of 'The Simpsons.' I'm not saying season 13 is my absolute favorite, but the number of classic episodes contained in this season is overwhelming.
Some of my personal favorites: Moe changes his bar into a hipster hang out in "Homer the Moe," Homer becomes addicted to medical marijuana in "Weekend at Burnsies," Bart creates an internet animation sensation when he draws the cartoon Angry Dad based of Homer in "I Am Furious." This season even contains one of my all-time favorite Treehouse of Horror episodes. It's the twelfth Treehouse of Horror, which has the Simpsons turning over control of their house to a Hal-esque robot voiced by Pierce Brosnon, Homer gets cursed by a gypsy, and quite possibly one of the best and most clever spoofs of 'Harry Potter.'
I could go on and on about the things I love about this season, but it's impossible to encapsulate all 22 episodes, and how much I like them. Yes, even in the 13th season they were already leaning on Homer and Marge splitting up a little too much. This is something that's bugged me throughout the run of 'The Simpsons.' Homer is always doing something that jeopardizes his marriage to Marge. When Homer's "Vegas Wife" shows up unexpectedly in this season the same thing happens. This is a storyline that has worn out its welcome, but it still continues. I swear the 20th season contained more Marge and Homer break-up plots than not.
Truthfully I don't think I could nail down a favorite 'Simpsons' season. Thirteen has so many good and clever episodes it's right up there with the rest of them.
Season 13 is an easy-breezy watch, and it's even fun to see that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was giving the Simpson family trouble before the movie came out years later.
I'll always be a fan of 'The Simpsons,' even if they do rehash old plot lines every once and a while. It's the only show on TV that I don't ever want to end. It seems like 'The Simpsons' should continue on forever. As long as Americans watch TV we should indeed have the Simpsons to keep us company. Basking in their warm yellow glow has always been some of the funniest and most clever entertainment television has had to offer. The 13th season, to me, is some of their best work. Here's hoping to a long life for America's favorite yellow family.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'The Simpsons' 13th season comes packed in a very nice, and simple keepcase with three 50GB Blu-ray discs housed inside. The first two discs are packed neatly back-to-back in a swinging disc hub, while the third disc is located in the back of the case in its own hub.
This season seems to be much more put together from the people at Fox. The 20th season Blu-ray seemed rushed, and never had that "for the fans" feel to it. The 13th season rectifies that somewhat, giving us a great 24-page booklet that covers anything and everything you would want to know about what's included in this set. The booklet lists each episode on its own page. Each episode page contains the title, who wrote it, who directed it, a synopsis, the special features you can expect. It tells you each name of the commentary providers, and if there's deleted scenes that can be played within the episode. It also lets you know if there were any guest star voices that were included in the episode. Finally it notifies you of the scene selection and the names of the chapters.
The booklet is a welcome treat and will guide you through each and every detail about the 13th season.
It must be mentioned that the menus on this set are great. The menus for each disc feature characters from episodes during the season playing at the arcade. The first disc features a dance-off with Ralph taking on other characters in Rev-Rev Dancolution, the second disc contains a Guitar Hero spoof, and the third has the season's characters lined up to take on a first-person shooter game. The menus are like watching a 'Simpsons' short film. They're a lot of fun, and something that makes them even better is if you leave them running the sound mutes itself until you come back to take control.
The 13th episode of 'The Simpsons' is presented in 1080p with a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. There have been some rumblings about if this season is real HD, or if it was just upconverted from standard definition. I couldn't tell you either way for sure, though. They are only rumors. On the other hand, let me say this, if we did find out this was just an upconverted transfer I wouldn't be the least bit surprised.
Season 13 of 'The Simpsons' isn't without its problems. Source noise is a consistent distraction, with flecks popping up on a routine basis. Color flickering is another annoyance. During the episode "Little Girl in the Big Ten,' Principal Skinner has a ceremony where he receives a plaque on the outside of the school wall. All the kids are there. During the ceremony the entire picture flickers back and forth between slightly different color shades. Even though the flickering happens frequently throughout the season, this instance is indeed the worst. It's almost a strobe light effect.
After some research I found out that the 13th season is the last full season for which they used cel animation techniques. This may be the cause of the shadow discrepancies that plague the entire picture. Many of the people and objects are surrounded by a light gray halo that looks like a cheap Photoshop drop shadow is placed on them. Take a look at Rainier Wolfcastle in "The Bart Wants What It Wants," or Milhouse as he's hanging on the rope at the beginning of "Little Girl in the Big Ten." These are extreme examples of the gray halo at its worst. It persists throughout the season, at times the shadow appears and disappears in the same shots. It pulsates and throbs. Compared to the 20th season, this type of shadow is nowhere to be found. That makes me think that it is a byproduct of cel animation and is somehow being enhanced by 1080p. Whatever is causing it, it's annoying. Really annoying. There are also the occasional jaggies that intrude during playback. Jaggies happen specifically if a character or object is moving fast across the screen.
Fortunately the HD gives 'The Simpsons' a much brighter and vibrant color field. The colors simply burst off the screen. I've watched some of these episodes numerous times during the reruns on Fox and I never remembered them looking this colorful. Overall the picture looks much cleaner and clearer than its TV broadcast. Lines and edges are solid, color is energetic, but the few problems bring it down a peg or two.
Season 13 of 'The Simpsons' benefits from its 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio treatment.
All of the dialogue is clear and concise, but the real treat is in the surround sound. As Homer runs screaming from one side of the screen to the other, the directionality perfectly places his vocals as they pass through the front of the soundfield. When large groups of Springfield residents gather, you can hear them clamoring behind you in the rear speakers. Large-scale sound effects, like when all of Springfield's residents are rolled up into a gigantic people ball (which provides some great rumbling LFE), are given a full-bodied arena of sound. The soundtrack isn't completely engulfing, as the rear speakers are somewhat subdued a lot of the time, but when they kick in, they rock. This season features some rock songs from bands like R.E.M. and Phish, and they sound as good as any concert Blu-ray.
Overall, this season sounds fantastic. The sound far outdoes its video counterpart.
- Audio Commentaries –
Season 20 on Blu-ray didn't have a single commentary. Fox has rectified that mistake with a fresh bunch of commentaries attached to every episode this season. I'm not going to tell you what each and every commentary has to offer, because that's something you should find out on your own, and it's much more than I'm able to write about here. The names of people involved in the commentaries is seemingly endless: Creator Matt Groening, writer Al Jean, writer/producer Mike Scully, writer Ian Maxtone-Graham, writer/producer Matt Selman, writer/producer Carolyn Omine, writer John Frink, writer/producer Don Payne, writer/producer Joel Cohen, writer George Meyer, writer Tim Long, show host James Lipton, Homer's voice Dan Castellaneta. The list just goes on and on. Each episode commentary has at least five or six people sitting around offering input on the episode. Since the episodes are so short and there are so many people talking, it's fairly easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle. It gets pretty confusing telling who is who. Even with that many people the tracks still have dead spots, and times where the group just laughs along with the episode. However, great insight – especially from Groening – is offered during the commentary tracks. He talks about how after the Janet Jackson scandal it was hard to get a cartoon butt on screen. After you see Mr. Burns get dragged naked, out of a bathtub by Smithers Groening says that something like that would never go over now.
The commentaries are a fantastic addition, and a much needed feature for fans who are always dying to know more about their favorite show. While the commentaries can seem crowded at times, the writers, directors, and actors all provide great anecdotes that make listening to each of them well worth it.
- A Token From Matt Groening (Disc 1, SD, 2 min.) – Matt Groening welcomes us all to the 13th season with an introduction to the set. Yes, he does only say "Welcome to 'The Simpsons' season thirteen on DVD…"
- Deleted Scenes (HD) – The menu gives you the choice to play certain episodes with deleted scenes. Since over half of the episodes contain deleted scenes I'm not going to list each one here. Again, the booklet is a perfect reference for which episodes have deleted scenes. This can be seen by checking the booklet and seeing which episodes have the scissors icon next to them. This indicates that deleted scenes are available if you'd like to watch them.
- Animation Showcase (Disc 1 & 2, HD) – This feature allows you to watch "The Parent Rap," and "Sweets and Sour Marge" in different ways. You can either watch them with storyboards or animatics. The "Animation Showcase" plays out with drawings of the episode while the real episode plays in a picture-in-picture down in the right-hand corner.
- Ralphisms (Disc 1, SD, 3 min.) – We all love Ralph. Here we get to see clips of him jabbering about the most wacky things out there. But that's what we've come to love from Ralph.
- Special Language Feature (Disc 1) – The "Treehouse of Horror" episode is offered in a few special language dubs. The languages included are German, Czech, Japanese, and Portuguese.
- The People Ball (Disc 2, SD, 1 min.) – This very short featurette describes what it took to create the giant Springfield ball 'o people that rolls into downtown.
- The 13th Crewman (Disc 2, SD, 2 min.) – Much like "The People Ball" featurette, this one covers the creation of a gigantic sail plastered with Bart's image.
- Blame it on The Monkeys (Disc 2, SD, 2 min.) – During the audio commentary for "Weekend at Burnsie's" the guys talk about how they thought that the marijuana episode was going to create the most controversy, but they were wrong. They had no idea that their depiction of Brazil, and the crazy monkeys that live there would be the source of the most controversy that season.
- The Games (Disc 3, SD, 8 min.) – This is just a compilation of clips from different 'Simpsons' video games that have been produced over the years. I guess it's fitting since the overall theme of this season (besides Ralph on the front cover) is 'Simpsons' video games. The booklet has been produced to look like a pixilated arcade game.
- The Sweet Life of Ralph (Disc 3, SD, 6 min.) – We already had "Ralphisms" before, but this is more of a biography of Ralph, but with the same kind of clips that make him the loveable Ralph.
- Commercials (Disc 3, SD, 2 min.) – Exactly how it sounds. Commercials. Yippee.
- Sketch Gallery (Disc 3, SD, 6 min.) – On the DVD the "Sketch Gallery" is split into two on two different discs, here it's contained as one feature. It's exactly what the name suggests it is. You get to see sketches of the characters and animation.
There are no HD exclusives.
- The Village Voice Cover (Disc 1) – In the Menu press the right directional button on your remote after you get to Extras and a tiny white circle will appear. Select it and you are taken to a cover of The Village Voice featuring Homer.
- TV Guide Article (Disc 2) – Do the same thing as disc one, select the tiny white circle and it will take you to a TV Guide article talking about the greatest shows of all time.
- Special Thanks (Disc 3) – Do the same thing you have done on both discs and the tiny white circle will appear next to extras again. When selected this will take you to a special thanks page that gives out special thanks to some people and companies.
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I know a lot of people think 'The Simpsons' started going downhill a bit when the 13th season rolled around, but personally, I still love it. There are a great number of hilarious episodes in this season. It's true they were starting to recycle some of the older storylines, but the humor is always there. I really enjoyed revisiting the 13th season. However, the video leaves much to be desired. The colors look great, but there are enough buggy issues to make you think twice about buying it. The sound on the other hand is great, especially for a dialogue-driven animated show. Fortunately, there's a huge variety of extras contained on this set, the best being the informative, but crowded, audio commentaries. This set comes recommended, not only to fans, but anyone who casually likes 'The Simpsons.'
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