When we were 17 it was a very good year -- a year for Homer's new dad, MacGyver gets mad, Sideshow Bob's not so bad... Another comical compilation of “The Simpsons” — the longest-running scripted show in television history — has arrived. Season 17 contains all 22 outrageous episodes, a vast repertoire of Springfieldian special features, plus a mind-blowing list of celebrity guest voices, including Alec Baldwin, Larry Hagman, William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Rob Reiner, Susan Sarandon and Lily Tomlin, just to name a few, with additional guest voices also providing commentary including Richard Dean Anderson, Ricky Gervais, Michael York and Kelsey Grammer. Phew!
Perhaps I'm in the minority, but when it comes to 'The Simpsons', I rather enjoy the later years. Sure, the heyday of 'The Simpsons' being edgy and politically incorrect has given way to even edgier and more irreverent animated series. Yes, the later years focus far too much on the formula of Homer pissing Marge off, Marge leaving him, and then Homer doing something adorably stupid to win her back. Still, I find myself chuckling all the way through most of the episodes. The seventeenth season is no exception. Whether it's Homer's "Jiggling for Justice" to get the stamp museum their building next door to move, or Bart accidentally being pushed off a cliff by a Millhouse who can't see, the seventeenth year has some great moments.
The real question is why is it taking so long for Fox to release these Blu-rays? I lament about this every time a new 'Simpsons' season hits the format. At the rate we're going there will be at least two new format wars before the entire series finds its way to high-def. What's worse is that Fox isn't automatically releasing the latest seasons after they air. If you're a 'Simpsons' fan you're sort of playing Blu-ray whack-a-mole hoping that your favorite seasons hit Blu-ray sometime soon. All you can do is wait, and hope yours is next.
The very first episode of the season happens to be one of its worst though. In "The Bonfire of the Manatees" Homer (surprise, surprise) gets in hot water after throwing away his money gambling. Not only that, it wasn't his money, it was Fat Tony's. In order to pay a debt, he lets the mob shoot a porn film in his house. Yes, Lenny's and Carl's reactions to the idea is hilarious, but the rest of the episode is that same formula that's become so stale over the years. It's something that doesn't subside, and even becomes more pronounced when the 'Simpsons' his the 20th season mark.
There are, however, some great episodes here. The second episode, "The Girl Who Slept Too Little," easily does away with the blandness of its predecessor. There are some great 'Simpsons' moments in this episode where a stamp museum is being constructed next door to the Simpsons' home on Evergreen Terrace. Homer takes to protesting to get the stamp museum moved, wins his protest, and instead gets a creepy unsettling cemetery constructed in its place, complete with newly squeaky gate, freshly battered tombstones, and squawking ravens.
As far as 'The Simpsons' are concerned I've given up on expecting the glory days of the early seasons. I think, at times, we forget how it paved the way for even more adult-oriented cartoons to come along. Now it seems positively tame compared to 'South Park,' and 'Family Guy.' That's OK though. It still provides a lot of laughs considering how long it's been going.
Looking over the seventeenth season episodes, taking the good with the weak, I try not to become the dreaded Comic Book Guy. If you're still watching 'The Simpsons' after all these years then obviously you still find it entertaining on some level. Hate-watching a show for that long seems rather sad. I don't think anyone out there is doing that, are they?
Anyway, the seventeenth season of 'The Simpsons' is just fine as I'm concerned. Of course, I wish that so many of the episodes didn't revolve around Homer and Marge fighting, nearly breaking up, and then getting back together. It's all the in between stuff that really matters though. The silly sight gags, the ridiculous pop culture references, and the cavalcade of guest star voices which are usually used ironically. Those are the things I expect from 'The Simpsons' and it always delivers.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 3-Disc set. Each disc is a 50GB Blu-ray. There are 22 episodes in the season. Disc 1 and 3 contain seven episodes while disc 2 has eight. All three discs have their own hub to be stored in. A very nice 24-page booklet is provided, which details each episode, credits, synopses, special features, and scene selections. In the front of the booklet there is an introduction to the season from Matt Groening. A collectible slipcover is provided featuring Sideshow Bob.
Maintaining the 1.33:1 aspect ratio, Fox has provided a faithful rendering of 'Simpson' visuals. In line with the solid visual presentations of the fifteenth and sixteenth seasons, the seventeenth season looks really good in HD. It's 1080p transfer is much less hazy and blurry as its 2004-2005 telecasts were.
The colors are what really stand out. I remember, even these later seasons that aired in the early 2000s were blurry, and washed out during original broadcasts. At least on my TV they were. Here they look brand new. These colors are bright, and lush. The yellows pop off the screen. Purples, reds, pinks, blues, they all look like they were animated yesterday. Line art is strong. Edges are firm. Black areas are deep.
I didn't notice much in the way of artifacting. There are a few instances of jaggies popping up in some of the lines, and perhaps some banding here and there, but nothing that will trouble you too much. These are certainly on par or better than the current HD broadcasts of the show's reruns.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track is mirrors those of previous seasons. It's a robust audio mix providing ample room for dialogue, music, and even ambient sound. For the most part the mix is surprisingly enveloping, providing some decent surround sound efforts that were a delightful surprise.
The dialogue is extremely clear and delivered beautifully through the front channels. The rear channels aren't always busy, but that's to be expected. However, in certain episodes were the action ramps up and a lot of things are happening, the rear channels pipe up with clear commotion.
There are some good solid moments of LFE usage here too. When Mo is shooting attacking couches with a shotgun during one of the more insane Couch Gags, the shotgun blasts resonate. There's a lot to like here from this mix.
Is 'The Simpsons' past its prime? Probably. Does it still make me laugh? Absolutely. That's why I'll keep enjoying every new season release whether it be an earlier or later season. 'The Simpsons' provides some of the best Blu-ray binge-watching out there. It's so easy to stick in a disc and rattle off seven episodes without thinking about it. With solid audio and video and a wide variety of special features, the seventeenth season comes recommended.