The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth SeasonOverview -
Storyline: Our Reviewer's Take
There are bigger, and more rabid 'Simpsons' fans than I. Many of them are able to pinpoint the exact moment in 'Simpsons' history where the show started to decline. Reverting to safe jokes and situations instead of being remembered for its edgy satire and skewering of everything pop culture. For me, 'The Simpsons' for as long as I can remember, has always been a hilarious way to pass the time. Yes, they tend to tread over the same old situations over and over, but after 23 seasons who can blame them?
Season 14 is no different. The show has numerous moments that make you laugh. It may not be as funny as it was in its prime, which I would think most consider that to be between seasons four and eight (or something like that, like I said I'm not a self-proclaimed 'Simpsons' expert).
Let's all just be glad that Fox is finally trying to bring all these seasons to Blu-ray, although at their current pace we won't see all of them until approximately 2032. They brought out season 20 but haven't bothered to release the subsequent seasons. For fans of the show it may be maddening that they started releasing the past seasons of the show on Blu-ray with the 13th season. With studios playing roulette with past TV seasons on Blu-ray, you never have any idea what number will come up or if they'll continue playing at all.
Enough about the pitfalls of buying into television on Blu-ray. If you're picking this season up you're most likely a fan of 'The Simpsons' and you are dying for Fox to bring out every season on Blu-ray.
Season 14 is a fun way to pass the time. It's got its fair share of hilarious episodes mixed in with the usual ho-hum episodes that seem more like filler than anything. This was the season that 'The Simpsons' hit their monumental 300th episode, which is cleverly referred to more than once during the season.
One of my favorites here is "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation," which acts like it's going to play on the very overused storyline of Homer becoming hated by the family, which always nearly ends in divorce, until everyone reconciles. Here Homer is filmed by a hidden camera in a taxi cab for Springfield's version of 'Taxi Cab Confessions' where he makes his bitterness about his family known for the whole world to hear. Instead of an entire episode filled with Marge saying how mad she is to be his wife, the entire family inexplicably agrees with Homer and sends him off to Rock 'n Roll Camp for a week just because. In total 'Simpsons' fashion we get a ton of guest stars from Mick Jagger to Elvis Costello. It's simply a fun episode where Homer runs amok and we learn that no one likes to play bass. No one. Well, except maybe Peter Klaven.
Other memorable episodes include "Bart vs. Lisa The Third Grade" where Bart is forced to repeat the third grade while Lisa is bumped up to the third grade, which ultimately works out to Bart's advantage. "Large Marge" which deals with the increasing rise in plastic surgery where Marge gets an accidental boob job. And "Pray Anything" an episode that seems to harken back to the edgier side of 'The Simpsons.' Homer takes over the church as his personal residence and sacrilege ensues.
There are some duds though, but there always are. The fact is that season 14 is fun and it's 'The Simpsons' for crying out loud. It's just nice to have them on Blu-ray, now let's see if we can get Fox to release more than one season per year or we'll be waiting forever for a complete set.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Every new season takes on a theme, which is repeated over and over in the animated menus for each of the discs. The animated menus are a ton of fun to sit and watch if you have the time. This season's theme focuses on the "Treehouse of Horror" episodes, as each menu is set in a ghoulish haunted house and one of the aliens is featured on the cover art.
This release is a 3-disc set with each disc being a BD-50. Each disc has its own hub. There's a swinging arm inside the case, which houses two discs back-to-back. The case is a standard size keepcase with a slipcover (The Blu-ray releases are much better when it comes to packaging than the DVDs, that's for sure). The slipcover actually features slightly different artwork. The Alien's eye is a reflective gold color. Included in this release is a nice 30-page booklet which outlines each episode synopsis, the special features, chapter selections, and an introduction from Matt Groening. It's labeled as being a Region A release.
As we would hope, the picture on the Blu-ray releases is noticeably better than the DVDs. The biggest upgrade is in vibrancy and color. Colors take on a brighter, richer feel with the Blu-rays. Also, season 14 seems to have a marked improvement on visuals compared to season 13. There isn't nearly as much, if any, noise that pops up on screen. Much of the video is crystal clear and free of any source noise. Color flickering is also something that has been left behind. The 13th season seemed to suffer greatly from this from episode to episode, but here I didn’t notice it once. The most telling improvement in visual quality though is the deal with the shadows that seemed to plague the 13th season. Here those shadows, which seem like Photoshop drop shadows, are still present but nowhere near as obtrusive.
Overall, it's difficult for the picture quality of the 14th season to reach the true heights of Blu-ray power, but they do look better than the 13th season and the DVDs.
The Blu-ray releases of 'The Simpsons' have a very noticeable upgrade in the audio department though. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mixes provided to each episode is truly a worthwhile advancement.
Like season 13 this season has clean and clear dialogue, which is the focal point of the show. There doesn't seem to be any crackling or hissing either. These soundtracks have been properly restored. Rear channels are lively with ambient noise from many of the Springfield residents during assemblies, rallies, and sporting events. Clear, rumbling LFE is present during many of the show's more action-packed Homer adventures. Directionality works well as you can hear a door opening off screen in the proper speaker, or characters talking slightly out of frame.
- Audio Commentaries – There is a new commentary for each of the season's episodes. Full disclosure: I didn't listen to them in their entirety, but, suffice it to say, what I did listen to do indeed provides a wealth of information for 'Simpsons' aficionados. I will say this about the commentaries though; they feel a little too crowded. Some of them have up to a dozen voices clamoring over each other trying to get their two cents in during a 20-minute episode. It's almost impossible to keep track of who is who when there are so many people. I also thought that many of the commentaries tend to ramble and go off topic, which when there's that many people trying to talk in that short amount of time, it almost becomes too much to handle. These commentaries would've been better had they featured three to four people each instead of upwards of 10 or 12.
- A Haunting Invite from Matt Groening (HD, 2 min.) – Groening gives an introduction to the season and talks about why he likes it so much.
- In the Beginning (SD, 12 min.) – A quick look at the openings for each "Treehouse of Horror" episode up to season 14.
- It's Only Rock 'n' Roll (SD, 9 min.) – A behind the scenes look at the star-studded line of Rock 'n Roll guest stars that lent their voices to "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation."
- Sketch Gallery I (HD, 2 min.) – Sketches and artwork for "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation."
- The 300th Episode – "Barting Over" (Sd, 2 min.) – A short special about the 300th episode with interviews from guest stars like Tony Hawk.
- Sketch Gallery II (HD, 2 min.) – More sketches to peruse.
- The Halloween Classics (SD, 8 min.) – A random collection of memorable scenes from the series' Halloween specials.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 11 min.) – You can view the deleted scenes by themselves here, or there is an option to insert the deleted scenes as you watch the episode included on the following episodes: "Treehouse of Horror XIII," "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation," "Large Marge," "Helter Shelter," "The Great Louse Detective," "Special Edna," "The Strong Arms of the Ma," "Pray Anything," "Barting Over," "A Star is Born-Again," "Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington," "'Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky," "Dude Where's My Ranch?," and "The Bart of War."
- Animation Showcase: "Moe Baby Blues" (HD) – With this special feature you can toggle back and forth to storyboards and other animation sequences using your remote.
- Foolish Earthlings (SD, 4 min.) – A montage of memorable Kang and Kodos appearances.
Fox continues its ever-so-sluggish pace of bringing 'The Simpsons' to Blu-ray. It's hard to get excited about the whole series finally making it just because they're taking so long to release them. Fans will no doubt pick up these sets as they come out, but casual fans who don't want to get stuck with an incomplete set may settle with renting them. I still recommend them, but be warned, the speed with which Fox is releasing these seasons doesn't bode well for the entire series coming to Blu-ray any time soon.
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