Fox sure is taking their sweet time releasing 'The Simpsons' on Blu-ray. One would think that as the newer seasons finish they'd at least be able to put those out. Sadly, all we have are seasons 13, 14, 20, and the movie. They've finally added season 15 to the mix with their newest release, but one has to wonder if we'll ever get the other seasons in a timely fashions. As it is, who knows when Fox will finally catch up.
After around the 10th season or so, 'The Simpsons' became a little less edgy and a lot goofier. The show found a home focusing on Homer and his wacky antics. They had running jokes about the family visiting far off places and Homer routinely causing a national incident. An all too familiar plotline surfaced – Homer threatening his marriage to Marge with various acts of buffoonery – and the show settled into what it is today. It's iconic in that it's 'The Simpsons,' but its cutting wit and sharp observational humor lost its luster in the later years.
That isn't to say it's not funny anymore. On the contrary, 'The Simpsons' is one of only a handful of shows that I know I'm guaranteed to laugh out loud at least once an episode (usually more). Even though the cutting wit of the first decade lost its edge a bit, I still find 'The Simpsons' an extremely enjoyable way to spend my time. There aren't many things that are better than sitting down with a new season of 'The Simpsons' on Blu-ray and watching every episode back to back as fast as I possibly can. While the episodes sort of blend together, the humor is still there, and I still end up having quite a few genuine laughs.
Consistent with later seasons, season 15 focuses on many of the show's ancillary characters. There are plenty of "Homer Did What?" episodes in between, but quite a few of the show's side characters get their chance to shine in season 15, like when Krusty finds out that he never had a bar mitzvah.
There are plenty of episodes in season 15 to enjoy. I've always enjoyed when Homer becomes Death in "Treehouse of Horror XIV." The episode where the family travels to England is also one of my favorites because it's so ridiculously outlandish and features some fantastic Homer tomfoolery.
Season 15 isn't without its guest stars either. Like many seasons of 'The Simpsons' season 15 hosts a wide variety of famous voices. J.K. Rowling, Michael Moore, Tony Blair, Tom Clancy, the Olsen twins, and Simon Cowell lend their voice talents to the show. Jon Lovitz even reprises his role of Artie Ziff in episode 14. It's always fun to see who will pop up next.
I've always been a fan of 'The Simpsons'. Ever since the first episode aired and my parents told me that I couldn't watch it. Now that it's still going on, well past a monumental 20th season, we have to ask if Fox is really serious about bringing the rest of the show to Blu-ray. The problem here is that it doesn't feel like they have a plan of action for the rest of the series. Like they're just releasing seasons willy-nilly hoping to keep fans from complaining too much.
This certainly factors into the review since purchasing a season in the middle of a series run is usually contingent on faith that the rest of the series will come out on the format at some point. While us fans are no doubt pleased that Fox has finally put out the 15th season, we do have to wonder exactly what Fox has planned. Are we willing to spend money on the "OK" seasons in hopes that the show's legendary first ten (or so) seasons will eventually be released?
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Fox's release of the 15th season of 'The Simpsons' uses three 50GB Blu-ray Discs. They're housed in a regular-sized keepcase with each disc having its own hub. Contained inside is a small booklet that lists synopses of each episode, runtimes, special features, guest voices, writing and directing credits, episode scene selections, and a funny introduction from Matt Groening. It's a handy little guide to the season. There are 22 episodes, each of them running 21 – 22 minutes. The set comes with an outer slipcover that features the same front artwork as the case, but does have different art and details on the rear. Like the other seasons, this one comes with the fun live menus. Half the fun is leaving it on the menus to see what each of the characters do and how they interact with each other. Finally, it's coded for Region A usage.
The picture quality on the 15th season has become noticeably stronger and more consistent than the earlier two seasons. The show, at this point, is still presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio. The color vibrancy and absence of color-fill flickering is obvious from the outset. Those are two areas that season 13 (and to a lesser extent 14) suffered with. Here those problems seem to have been largely fixed as the entire season looks clear and free from odd discrepancies.
Colors are very strong this time around. The yellows, blues, and reds are always very solid. Each episode looks much better than its broadcast counterpart. They are markedly better than the DVD presentations too. Detail in the line work is also something that will stick out to people looking for video quality in this release.
The audio mix, which happens to be DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, is comparable to those that have come before. There isn't much in the way of action that really garners tremendous displays of sound. However, there are times where the mix does shine.
Many of the episodes have quite quiet rear channels. There isn't many times where much (if any) ambient sound is needed. When it is needed, though, the rear channels do kick in with some nice help. The "Treehouse" segment where Bart and Millhouse order a time-stopping stop watch has some great ambient crowd noise as an angry mob chases after the two of them. Dialogue is always clear and delivered through the center speaker. Low-end sonics are called upon frequently to assist with explosions, car accidents, and general Homer mayhem. Like the mixes that have gone before, this one isn't going to blow any socks off, but you'll be hard-pressed to find much to complain about either.
I'm happy with any 'Simpsons' season released on Blu-ray I only wish they were coming faster and with more regularity. Hopefully, sometime soon, Fox will be able to piece together a release schedule that will give us more seasons in a timely manner. Season 15 is fun enough with some very funny episodes scattered throughout. The video is the best it's been, with these earlier seasons, so there's some slight improvement there. This season comes recommended, especially for fans, but that's assuming that Fox has some sort of plan to get the whole series on Blu-ray at some point.