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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season (2002)

Lisa: I'm studying for the math fair. If I win, I'll bring home a brand new protractor.
Homer: Too bad we don't live on a farm.

- Yeardley Smith, Dan Castellanta

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: August 05, 2002

Stars: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardly Smith, Hank Azaria
Other Stars: Marcia Wallace, Russi Taylor, Pamela Hayden
Director: David Silverman, Rich Moore, Wes Archer, Mark Kirkland, Jim Reardon

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (mild mature humor)
Run Time: approx. 550 minutes
Release Date: August 06, 2002
UPC: 024543037156
Genre: comedy

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

What is there to say about The Simpsons that hasn't already been said? It is easily one of the most consistently funny half-hours on television ever, animated or not, and in the annals of the great television comedies, Matt Groening's yellow-skinned creations have to certainly be near the top of the heap. It's safe to say I'm a rabid fan, and much like pizza, it's hard to find an unlikeable episode of Homer and family. This four-disc, 22-episode Season Two set from Fox has proven to have been well worth the wait.

When the second season of The Simpsons kicked off on October 10, 1990, Fox had daringly moved the show from Sundays to Thursdays, where it had to go up against ratings juggernaut The Cosby Show. The humor between these two shows could not have been anymore diametrically opposed, and for me the satiric writing and endearing qualities of The Simpsons was a simple choice. Thankfully, much of the rough-edged animation of the first season was smoothed out by the end of the 1990/1991 season, with most of the secondary characters settling into their voices and looks, as well.

Spread across four discs, here's how the comedy shake out pn Season Two:

Disc 1

Bart Gets an F

"Is this a book report or a witch hunt?" - Bart

The kickoff episode for the 1990 season finds Bart facing the fact that he may have to repeat the 4th grade, and he coerces nerdy Martin Prince to be his tutor. Bart's hipness and badboy attitude rubs off on Martin, who quickly takes to sporting a Hawaiian shirt and calling teacher Mrs. Krabappel "Mrs. K." While some of the secondary characters and animation were still being refined in this episode, it does feature Martin's hilarious Ernest Hemingway impression during his Old Man and the Sea book report, and there is also a nifty How The Grinch Stole Christmas parody near the end.

Four tasty donuts out of five:

Simpson and Delilah

"Dear God, give a bald guy a break. Amen." - Homer

Homer gets a hankering for a full head of hair after witnessing an infomerical for the miracle of Dimoxinil. He ends up not only with a noggin full of flowing locks, but he's also promoted to an executive role at the power plant. The highpoint of this installment is Homer's gravelly-voiced secretary Carl (voiced by Harvey Fierstein), a man who takes very special care of his boss. The scenes between Homer and Carl are classic, with a heavy amount of not-so-subtle homosexual undertones, which would later be more fleshed out in the innuendo between Burns and Smithers. As a bonus for trivia freaks, Mr. Burns fesses up to being 81.

This episode ranks a full five perfect donuts:

Treehouse Of Horror

"Listen you stupid space creatures, nobody, but nobody, eats the Simpsons!" - Homer

Here's the debut of what would become a highly anticipated recurring theme every October, the Treehouse of Horror Halloween episode. This one is split into three separate stories: Bad Dream House, Hungry are the Damned, and The Raven. The first one is an Amityville Horror/The Shining/Poltergeist homage, with a few good laughs, and features the whole Simpson clan stalking each other with knives and axes. The Twilight Zone-inspired Hungry are the Damned introduces the drooling aliens Kang and Kodos, who abduct the Simpsons, and intend to take them back to their home planet. There is a great exchange between Lisa and the aliens when she discovers what may or may not be a cookbook, ala the To Serve Man episode of The Twilight Zone. The third chapter has one of the hippest doses of classic American literature ever tossed out during primetime, when Homer finds himself inside Poe's The Raven, complete with an eerie Bart-headed raven. Narrated by James Earl Jones, Poe's words are punctuated by a few Homer-isms, but mostly it's played straight.

Another classic, this one rates a tasty five out of five:

Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish

"Keep the mutants comin', Homer!" - Bart

Politics conspire to split the Simpson household in two when Homer and Marge differ on who to vote for in the upcoming governor's race. Marge wants honest Mary Bailey, but Homer is obligated to vote for Mr. Burns, who decides to run after the power plant is threatened with a shutdown. As Homer so eloquently puts it: "Mary Bailey won't fire me if I don't vote for her." The consistency of the voice of Mr. Burns is still in its working stages here, as is the overall look of the character. Most notably, this episode marks the debut of Blinky, the three-eyed fish.

Not the strongest of the batch, but still deserving of four sugar-coated treats:

Dancin' Homer

"It all started at Springfield Power Plant Employee, Spouses and No More Than Three Children Night down at Springfield Stadium." - Homer

Homer accidently becomes the dugout rooftop dancing mascot for the Springfield Isotopes, strutting to Baby Elephant Walk, and rapidly becomes a sensation. Things, however, become decidedly more intense and pressure-packed when he gets called up to the big leagues to work in snooty Capital City. Damn if you don't end up feeling really sorry for Homer in this one. Guest voice Tony Bennett croons the New York, New York-ish Capital City song, and Tom Poston is the voice of the furry Capital City Goofball mascot.

One of the best of Season Two, it easily gobbles up five chocolate-iced donuts:

Dead Puttin' Society

Lisa: I'm studying for the math fair. If I win, I'll bring home a brand new protractor.
Homer: Too bad we don't live on a farm.

The picture-perfect Flanders family finally gets under Homer's skin, and he enters Bart in a head-to-head miniature golf competition against Todd Flanders. There's some nice bickering between Ned and Homer, but this one never generates the usual amount of belly laughs the show generally elicits.

A slightly stale three and one-half donuts for this one:

Disc 2

Bart vs. Thanksgiving

"We have lots of names for these people. Bums. Deadbeats. Losers. Scum of the Earth. We'd like to sweep these people into the gutter, or if they're already in the gutter, to some other out of the way place." - Kent Brockman

Bart wrecks Lisa's elaborate Thanksgiving centerpiece, refuses to apologize and eventually runs away. After aimless wandering, he finds himself on the bad side of town, at a welfare mission, where he learns a valuable life lesson. Not the most traditional television Thanksgiving story ever told (this is The Simpsons, after all) but even with the mild preachiness there is still room for some worthy humor, most of it courtesy of dense windbag Kent Brockman.

A little uneven in spot, this one rates three and one-half coconut-glazed:

Bart The Daredevil

Principal Skinner: Tonight, Sherbert, er Schubert's Unfinished Symphony.
Homer: Oooh good! Unfinished! This shouldn't take long.

Another Bart-driven episode, with this one centering on his reckless skateboard antics, including a dangerous leap over Springfield Gorge. Bart gets the itch to become a daredevil after a near-fatal family visit to a monster truck rally. Lisa's concert recital is on the same night as the truck rally, and that gives Homer the chance to get comically antsy during the performance, including a great watch bit that had me on the floor.

Some great slapstick during Homer's accidental gorge leap earn this one four and one-half donuts:

Itchy & Scratchy & Marge

Lisa: But Mom, if you take our cartoons, we'll grow up without a sense of humor and be robots.
Bart: Really? What kind of robots?

Disgusted by the over-the-top violence on the popular "Itchy & Scratchy" cartoon, Marge initiates a protest. Aside from plenty of the always hysterical cat and mouse violence, Marge's effort result in a lemonade-sipping, politically correct Itchy & Scratchy cartoon that is hilarious. The writing in this one is exceptionally sharp, and the attacks on censorship are very well-written. This episode also features a flawless Psycho sendup, as little Maggie attacks Homer with a hammer.

Hmmmmmmmmm. Perfect:

Bart Gets Hit By A Car

Lionel Hutz: I'm Lionel Hutz, attorney at law. Here's my card. It turns into a sponge when you put it in water.
Homer: Ooooh, classy!

Bart gets winged by Mr. Burns' car, and requires hospitalization. Everyone involved has different recollections of the incident, which are portrayed with the expected far-fetched comical overtones (the best being Mr. Burns remembrance of the accident). Even though the episode caps with a spiffy Wizard of Oz reference, it's just not one of the better episodes in this set. Sure, we get plenty of Lionel Hutz, but it just ain't enough.

Still tasty, but not deserving of more than:

One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish

"Here's three little sentences that will get you through life: #1. Cover for me. #2. Oh, good idea, boss. #3. It was like that when I got here." - Homer

A visit to a local sushi joint finds Homer ingesting some deadly blowfish, and his diagnosis is that he has just 24 hours to live. The core of this episode has Homer facing his own death, as well as struggling to make amends with his family. It's an oddly touching episode, Simpsons-style, that also features Bart and Lisa singing the theme for Shaft in a karaoke bar. Sab Shimono and George Takei guest voice as the sushi chefs, while Larry King chimes in as the narrator for Homer's Bible on tape.

A sweet, and of course funny look at Homer's blowfish-shortened life ranks this one:

The Way We Was

"Oh, how I miss TV. Dear God, give me one channel!" - Homer

It's flashback time, to 1974, after the Simpson's television goes on the fritz. Marge and Homer regale Lisa (and a bored Bart) about how they met in high school. Generally, I'm not a big fan of flashback episodes, but this one has a few nice moments as detention bound Homer first woos bra-burning Marge. Jon Lovitz guests as recurring high school romantic nemesis Artie Ziff.

Another bittersweet look at Homer's life, dished up with a wonderfully awkward prom sequence gives this one:

Disc 3

Homer Vs. Lisa & The 8th Commandment

"Cable! It's more wonderful than I dared hope." - Homer

Homer gets "free" cable after illegally paying off the cable guy, and the Simpson house is turned upside down by the endless array of channels; meanwhile, Lisa wrestles with the "Thou Shalt Not Steal" commandment. This episode fires with both barrels at religion and cable television, and it is refreshing to see a "cartoon" (though I would never consider The Simpsons simply a cartoon) tackle such weighty issues. Listen for a quick snippet of the homogenized "Itchy & Scratchy" cartoon from the Itchy & Scratchy & Marge episode as Homer is flipping through the channels.

Poking fun at cable and religion makes this episode the proud owner of:

Principal Charming

Marge: Homer, do you remember our last family vacation when you made us go to the Bowling Hall of Fame in St. Louis, Missouri so you could see that car shaped like a bowling pin?
Homer:Remember? Who could forget?

Marge's sister Selma gets the itch to be hitched, and Homer decides to act as matchmaker. On one of his frequent visits to see Principal Skinner, Homer decides the principal would be an ideal match for Selma. Problems arise when Skinner falls for the celibate Patty instead. This episode is loaded with movie references, including Terminator, Gone With the Wind and a lengthy Vertigo sequence.

Ooooh! Five more tasty donuts:

Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Grandpa:Homer, that heart attack made me realize I'm going to die someday.
Homer: Oh, Dad. You and your imagination.

While watching the latest McBain movie with Jasper, Grandpa Simpson suffers a mild heart attack, which causes him to come clean about his checkered past; namely that Homer has a half-brother named Herb. Homer and family trek to Detroit, only to find that Herb is immensely wealthy as the head of Powell Motors car company. Herb enlists long-lost "everyman" Homer to help design a car "for the average man," which of course causes the company to go bankrupt. Danny DeVito guests as the voice of Herb Powell.

Funny stuff, plus Danny DeVito cause this episode to get:

Bart's Dog Gets an F

Marge: I thought we agreed to consult each other before any major purchases.
Homer: Well, you bought all of those smoke alarms, and we haven't had a single fire!

There's lots going on in this one, like Lisa's mumps, Homer buying an expensive pair of Assassin running shoes and Bart enrolling Santa's Little Helper in obedience school. The Simpson pooch faces a death sentence unless he shapes up, and it's up to Bart to make it happen. Other highlights include a cute E.T. reference between and Marge and Lisa, and Tracey Ullman guest voicing as the role of the obedience school instructor.

The underused Santa's Little Helper comes through for:

Old Money

"Grandpa smells like a regular old man, which is more like a hallway in a hospital." - Homer

Grandpa has a short-lived romance with another resident of the retirement home, and he inherits $106,000 after her untimely death. Most of this episodes concerns what Grandpa will do with the money, and all of the assorted characters get their chance to plead their case. Not as many big laughs in this one as some of the others, but the Discount Lion Safari Jurassic Park-inspired sequence is pretty funny.

Another thorny issue, this time how we treat our senior citizens, lets this episode munch on:

Brush With Greatness

"Oh, why did I have to start my diet on pork chop night?" - Homer

Homer is convinced to go on a diet after getting stuck in a tube at the Mt. Splashmore water park, and Marge rekindles her desire to paint after Lisa discovers some her mother's old portraits of Ringo Starr in the attic. Marge then is commissioned to paint a portrait of Mr. Burns, and her final product is a doozy. Jon Lovitz guests as painting instructor Lombardo, while Ringo Starr supplies the voice for Ringo, who is portrayed as still personally answering his Beatles fan mail all these years later. D'oh!

Homer's diet woes deliver this:

Disc 4

Lisa's Substitute

"But Mrs. Krabappel, how would I know where the principal's office is?" - Bart

Lisa develops a crush on her new substitute teacher, Mr. Bergstrom, a hip, free-thinking teacher. Lisa-themed episodes don't have the outright comedic punch of the typical Homer buffoonery, and tend to be a bit more substantive. Dustin Hoffman guests as the voice of Mr. Bergstrom, as well as taking part in a quickie reference to The Graduate.

Mildly tasty, and earns:

The War of the Simpsons

"If you want him to live through the night, I suggest you roll him onto his stomach." - Dr. Hibbert

Homer imbibes a bit too hard, ogles Maude Flander's breasts, yells at a guy he doesn't know, and ends up passing out at his own party. Marge drags him off to a marriage counseling weekend, but trouble ensues because the retreat is on a lake that is home to the legendary giant catfish General Sherman. This is another great one from Season Two.

A comedic standout results in a plateful of:

Three Men and a Comic Book

Homer: What's the problem, boy?
Bart: I've been busting my hump all week for that withered old clam and all I got was fifty cents.
Homer: Hey, when I was your age, fifty cents was a lot of money.
Bart: Really?
Homer: No.

Here's one of the finer Bart-dominated episodes, and one of the most consistently funny. Bart, Milhouse and Martin pool their cash to buy a rare and expensive "Radioactive Man #1" from the Comic Book Guy. There are some good jabs at comic book conventions here, and any appearance by the Comic Book Guy is always appreciated by me. Bart works like a slave for fussy old Mrs. Glick to earn his portion, and she rewards him with two shiny quarters. There are some terrific Treasure Of Sierra Madre moments during the treehouse scenes as Bart, Milhouse and Martin fight over the comic. Cloris Leachman supplies the voice of old Mrs. Glick, and Daniel Stern does a takeoff on The Wonder Years as Bart's narrative voice.

Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. Forbidden five donuts:

Blood Feud

"Congratulations, boy. You've got a date with the needle." - Homer

When Mr. Burns desperately needs blood, only Bart has the right blood type to save his life. Homer thinks the family will be flooded with riches for saving the old miser, but all they get is a simple thank you card. This convinces Homer to write a hate letter to Burns, telling him that he "smells like a mummy" and has "bony, girl arms" among other insults. There is a great scene where Homer tries to retrieve the letter from the post office that never ceases to make me laugh out loud.

Woo-hoo! Five more!

There are plenty of great moments on this latest set from Fox, and it is far less uneven comedically and artistically than the comparatively experimental Season One collection. As a rule, I don't understand the need to own television series boxsets, because I think little of what's made for the boob tube even merits a second glance, let alone owning on DVD. The exceptions (X-Files, Twin Peaks) are few and far between, and The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season is one of those rarities.

If you're a fan, you need this.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: All of the 22 episodes here are presented in 1.33:1 full frame, as they were originally broadcast on Fox. Far cleaner and sharper than Season One set, the colors here are noticebly more brighter and dramatically more consistent. There are some small source print flaws (a bit of dirt here and there), and a few minor compression artifacts do little to mar what otherwise is a solid transfer from Fox.

As Mr. Burns would say, "Excellent!"

Image Transfer Grade: B+


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0English, Frenchyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Season Two sports brand new, beefed up 5.1 surround tracks for all of the episodes, and they are definite improvements over the series' original, noticeably flatter stereo mixes. Rear channels are fairly dormant, but the new mixes have a deeper, fuller sound to them across the fronts. While this stuff isn't going to give your system an audio workout, the presentation is effective and suits the material perfectly.

Also included are 2.0 surround mixes in English and French.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 132 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
Production Notes
2 Featurette(s)
22 Feature/Episode commentaries by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, David Issacs, Al Jean, Jay Kogen, Ken Levine, Jeff Martin, George Meyer, Rich Moore, Steve Pepoon, Jim Reardon, Mike Reiss, Brian K. Roberts, Nell Scovell, David Silverman, Jon Vitti, and Wallace Wolodarsky
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. Do The Bartman music video
  2. Deep, Deep Trouble music video
  3. Butterfinger commercials
Extras Review: Well, I honestly don't know what else Fox could have done to make the extras any more appealing. While some of the bonus clips are a little weak, the real meat and potatoes are the 22 commentaries (one for each episode) that should really whet your Simpsons whistle.

With the exception of the commentaries, all of the additional supplements are found on Disc 4.

Matt Groening is present for all 22 commentaries, along with a revolving cadre of assorted episode producers, writers and directors including James L. Brooks, David Issacs, Al Jean, Jay Kogen, Ken Levine, Jeff Martin, George Meyer, Rich Moore, Steve Pepoon, Jim Reardon, Mike Reiss, Brian K. Roberts, Nell Scovell, David Silverman, Jon Vitti, and Wallace Wolodarsky. Each episode generally has three to four commentators, and while the content isn't always earth-shattering, it is interesting, especially if you're a big fan of the series. Groening and crew elaborate on some of the hidden "freeze-frame" gags, and also point little gems like the ever-present caw of the crow whenever the power plant is shown. There is a fair amount of shop talk, concerning production issues and the like, and the tone is always extremely casual.

American Music Awards (02m:19s)
This embarrassing clip from the January 1991 American Music Awards finds a live-action Bart (actually Nancy Cartwright inside, too) badly overacting in an amazingly unfunny segment. The real payoff comes during the available optional commentary track, in which Groening and crew mock it mercilessly.

Deep, Deep Trouble music video
Culled from The Simpsons Sing The Blues collection, this nightmarish video follows Bart as he gets in progressively more and more trouble, including a weird trial sequence with a hundred Homers. I find this track less annoying than the whole Bartman craze, though it's obvious Fox was pushing Bart as the marquee name back in 1990. This is also available with an optional commentary track from Matt Groening and Greg Vanzo, and the tone here is surprisingly informational and straightforward.

Do The Bartman music video
The best thing about this annoying Michael Jackson-ish video is the optional commentary, an insightful one at that, from Brad Bird and Matt Groening. Bird stresses how difficult this piece was to do, and discusses its creation in Hungary. Groening takes a backseat here, and Bird addresses a lot of relevant issues, including the participation of one Michael Jackson.

Butterfinger TV Commercials
The trio of 1990-1991 TV spots for the tasty candybar don't really offer much in the way of entertainment, despite featuring The Simpsons. This seems just like filler.

David Silverman On "The Creation of an Episode" (06m:14s)
Senior Director Silverman takes us on a slightly dry but informative six-minute route from script to finished product (which takes about 5-7 months). Using "The Raven" segment from Treehouse of Horror as an example, Silverman shows how it moves from storyboard to animatic to the ink work and animation done in Korea.

Emmy Awards Presentation (02m:58s)
The Simpsons appeared in animated form during the September 1990 Emmy Awards, and this clip is awkward, but does elicit a few laughs (courtesy of Homer, of course). The segment drags on a bit, and it is slightly surreal to hear Marge announce Ted Danson's name as the winner.

Interview With Matt Groening and James L. Brooks (10m:15s)
No real new revelations here, especially if you are already a Simpsons-aholic. Brooks get shortchanged, timewise, and his comments center on developing the series from it's Tracey Ullman roots. Groening discusses the origins of the characters (his family), doodles a quick Bart, and speaks in general terms about animation and what The Simpsons really mean. The segment is intercut with clips from various season two episodes.

The Art of The Simpsons
If you like clicking through storyboards, rough sketches and magazine covers, this segment will appease you. Broken down into four distinct areas, Fox has included a treasure trove of Simpsons original production drawings, if that's your bag. The sections are:
Bart Gets An F Storyboards
Bart vs. Thanksgiving Storyboards
Early Sketches And Drawings
Magazine Covers

Foreign Language Clips
The opening 01m:15s from the Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish episode is shown in French, German, Hungarian, Portuguese and Spanish. It was mildly entertaining to hear German Homer, but overall these type of extras lose their curious appeal after a few seconds.

Each episode is split into 6 chapters, and includes subtitles in English and Spanish.

Extras Grade: A


Final Comments

It's The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season, layered across four discs, in 5.1, with commentaries on EVERY episode. Fox has done a nice job on this set, and if you're a fan you KNOW you're going to buy this. What are you waiting for?

Highly recommended.


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