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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Simpsons The Fourteenth Season now on Blu-ray

     Now out on Blu-ray is The Fourteenth Season of FOX's The Simpsons. Since it's been a few years since these episodes ran on television, although this Blu-ray is a new release, it's worth noting a number of things about season fourteen. These episodes broadcast from November 2002 through May 2003. Five episodes were actually left over from the previous season. This season won the Outstanding Animated Program Emmy for "Gays of the Condo," as well as a handful of other awards, including one for voice actor Hank Azaria's work in "Moe's Baby Blues" and the show's first Golden Globe nomination for Best Musical or Comedy Series.

     Year fourteen got off to a late start, with "Treehouse of Horror XIII" serving as the season premiere. It is a memorable one, featuring clones of Homer (Dan Castellaneta), the ghost of Billy the Kid taking over defenseless Springfield, and Dr. Hibbert's (Harry Shearer) freaky island. The season continued with a number of great installments. Among them, "How I Spent My Summer Vacation," where Homer rubs elbows with rock stars, "Bart vs. Lisa vs. the Third Grade," where the siblings end up in the same class, and "Large Marge," wherein Marge (Julie Kavner) gets breast implants. The Simpsons also live in a 1895-esque settlement, Marge takes steroids, Homer finds religion, Ned (Shearer) dates an actress, Krusty (Castellaneta) is elected to Congress, Santa's Little Helper's original owner tries to reclaim him, and a suicidal Moe (Azaria) finds meaning in his life because of Maggie (Nancy Cartwright). In this year, Skinner (Shearer) even proposes to Edna (Marcia Wallace), though we all know that didn't work out!

      There is also controversy surrounding season fourteen, in the argument over what the 300th episode of The Simpsons actually is. "Barting Over" was promoted heavily as that landmark, but actually ended up being the 302nd broadcast. There is a joke in the episode that references this, showing how timely the series can be. But it caused quite a stir among fans and suits alike at the time.

     If you're looking for guest stars, Season Fourteen certainly has them. I could list them all, but it would be an extensive list, and readers' eyes will begin to glaze over, so there seems to be little point. Rest assured, they are present, and in droves.

     Best of all, The Fourteenth Season is packed with extras! There are more bonus features than one would inspect, but a great many of them are actually very good. Audio commentary is provided for all twenty-two episodes, giving the die-hard fans hours of audio content to pour over. Many, many people stop by these commentaries, so there is no change of boredom or monotony. Even better, deleted scenes are included with commentary, too, so it's easy to find out why they were cut, something that isn't often included. They can also be added back into the episode, with a small icon indicating the cut material.

     Included are various featurettes. Of course, one looks at the 300th episode. Another interviews the rock stars from "How I Spent My Summer Vacation." There is an introduction by creator Matt Groenig. The multi-angle animation showcase is fantastic for anyone curious about the animation process, taking fans through the various stages of design. There are also sketches on each disc. Really cool is the booklet that comes with the set, which features a full page of information from each and every episode, and a humorous letter from Groenig.

     Season six and seven's "Treehouse of Horror" episodes are included in this Blu-ray set. As these have not been on Blu-ray before, that's kind of nice, though one does wonder why these particular entries are chosen. Continuing with the Halloween theme, "Foolish Earthlings," "The Halloween Classics," and "In the Beginning" present clips from various scary specials, the latter putting together the openings over the years, though don't add that much to the discussion.

     At last, in season fourteen, The Simpsons joins the world of digital coloring. That is not a slam on The Simpsons; it's not like it was behind the curve. But it's great to see such crystal clear pictures, sharp images, and color deviations, even on an animated series. The show is not in widescreen, nor was it ever at this point. As a basic television show, audio does not benefit substantially from surround side. But the dialogue and music is mixed nicely, and everything sounds as good as one might expect. Certainly no problems.

     Buy The Simpsons The Fourteenth Season on Blu-ray today.

     Watch The Simpsons Sundays at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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