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Fox Home Entertainment presents
The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season (1993-1994)

Mr. Burns: I think you better leave!
Homer Simpson: What are you going to do? Release the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs with bees in their mouth so when they bark they shoot bees at you?

- Harry Shearer, Dan Castellaneta

Review By: Rich Rosell  
Published: December 27, 2004

Stars: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer
Other Stars: Pamela Hayden, Russi Taylor, Tress MacNeille, Maggie Roswell, Phil Hartman, George Harrison, Kelsey Grammar, Michelle Pfeiffer, David Crosby, Johnny Ramone, Joey Ramone, Marky Ramone, C.J. Ramone, George Fenneman, James Brown, Albert Brooks, Ernest Borgnine, Werner Klemperer, Gerry Cooney, Robert Goulet, Sam Neill, Conan O'Brien, James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Buzz Aldrin, James Taylor
Director: Mark Kirkland, Rich Moore, Jim Reardon, Wesley Archer, David Silverman, Bob Anderson, Jeffrey Lynch, Carlos Baeza, Susie Dietter

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (nothing objectionable)
Run Time: 08h:25m:00s
Release Date: December 21, 2004
UPC: 024543130529
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
A A+A-A- A-

DVD Review

With a frustrating level of general pokiness, Fox has finally cut loose with The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season, and though this will certainly be received well by fans, the timetable for subsequent season sets seems nothing if not interminable.

But let's not drag down the joy of the good with the weight of the bad, because with the fifth season out now there is plenty to rejoice about. Simpsons purists will likely argue just which era represents the show's pinnacle, and, to many, Season Four, with the highlight of Marge vs. the Monorail (regarded by many as one of the best episodes in the entire series), really put the show into high gear as creator Matt Groening and the writers hit their stride creatively.

I'm going to pretend we all know who the Simpsons are, and on the off chance you have just wandered out of a cave, there would be no better way to get introduced to the series than by this collection. And for good reason. For example, even though I'm a big of a fan of the show I've always had a problem knowing what year a particular episode came from, and sitting through the 22 episodes of the fifth season I was pleasantly surprised that it plays out almost like a "greatest hits" compilation.

There are so many classics moments in this set that it is easy to see why a lot of the hardcore Simpson buffs discount later seasons as hit or miss, because there is nary a dead spot to be found here. From the flashback story of Homer's Beatles-like recording career (Homer's Barbershop Quartet) to Bart becoming the adopted son of Mr. Burns (Burns' Heir) to the absolute brilliance of the Cape Fear parody featuring a murderous Sideshow Bob stalking Bart (appropriately titled Cape Feare), the show's writing is about as on the mark as it has ever been.

For one thing, there is more of a reliance on broadening the use of supporting characters, as favorites like Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Apu, and Principal Skinner are all showcased more regularly during this season. While Homer and Bart do carry the majority of the storylines, there are enough alternate characters available that Groening seems eager to expand the fringes of his universe a bit, and not having to rely on the principle characters all the time. Flanders, who gets off a quotable line like "Godspeed, little doodle" in the nearly fatal rafting adventure of Boy Scoutz N the Hood, or Smithers donning a teddy bear costume in an attempt to lure Mr. Burns out of his doldrums in Rosebud show that these secondary characters have been given a life enough of their own to carry key plots or subplots.

The other key factor that makes Season Five so endearing is the high quality of the scripts, which is consistently strong across every episode, almost exhaustively so. Elements like the spot-on film parodies (of such classics as Cape Fear, Citizen Kane, Bram Stoker's Dracula) have a polished appearance to them, with the layers of gags not merely simple gimmicks—as would happen in later seasons—but developed in ways so that they actually fit properly into the flow of the plot. That may be overanalyzing the expectations for what many consider to be "just" a cartoon, but over the years, The Simpsons has proven itself to have the ability to poke and satirize with a pointed skill that few shows of any genre have ever possessed.

I'm not one of the naysayers that spits on the quality of the later years in the series' run, because it still always makes me laugh. I will readily admit, however, that there have been some less-than-perfect eps of late, with funny scenes but less memorable storylines. Season Five captures the show at a real creative highwater mark, delivering 22 stellar episodes, all presented without the pesky cuts made to add more commercial time for syndication.

The fact that this is all ridiculously funny only makes it that much more satisfying.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A+


Image Transfer

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

Image Transfer Review: All 22 episodes are presented in their original full-frame image, and one of the things that really makes this set stand out is the vibrancy and brilliance of the colors, especially considering it is over 10 years old. Certain episodes look noticeably worse than others (often revealing slightly fuzzy edges), but the overall absence of any major blemishes, in conjunction with the rich colors, showcase The Simpsons in a far better light than they have been seen since these eps aired originally.

Image Transfer Grade: A-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: Once again Fox has enhanced a Simpsons collection, as was done with the fourth season, by providing remastered 5.1 Dolby Digital surround audio, replacing the original stereo tracks. The change is a marked improvement, far from being a pointless throwaway. and the new audio noticeable rejuvenates the entire presentation, though it remains a largely front-centric mix. Voices and sound effects have a fuller and richer timbre, and the spatial depth and directionality is dramatically enhanced.

French and Spanish 2.0 tracks are also available.

Audio Transfer Grade: A-


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 132 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French, Spanish with remote access
8 Deleted Scenes
Production Notes
2 Featurette(s)
22 Feature/Episode commentaries by Matt Groening, Al Jean, Hank Azaria, Jeff Martin, Mark Kirkland, Jon Vitti, David Mirkin, James L. Brooks, Conan O'Brien, Jim Reardon, David Silverman, Wes Archer, Greg Daniels, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, George Me
Packaging: Tri-Fold Amaray with slipcase
Picture Disc
4 Discs
4-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: It's another fine job by Fox on this set, from an entertaining menu system to the fan-friendly depth of the extras. All 22 episodes have a commentary, each featuring Matt Groening and a rotating group of cast members, directors, and writers including Al Jean, Hank Azaria, Jeff Martin, Mark Kirkland, Jon Vitti, David Mirkin, James L. Brooks, Conan O'Brien, Jim Reardon, David Silverman, Wes Archer, Greg Daniels, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, George Meyer, Bob Anderson, Susie Dietter, and David Richardson. These tracks are a mix of in-jokes, impressions, story origins and, most importantly, random bits of Simpsons trivia that hold easy appeal to fans. At 22 minutes a pop, these are nice, bite-size morsels.

Each disc also features a special Art & Animation section, highlighting a scene from a specific episode (Treehouse of Horror, Springfield, Bart Gets an Elephant, Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song) and breaks it down into storyboards and animatics. Each segment runs about 8 to 10 minutes, and also features an optional commentary track, or in the case of Treehouse of Horror, an "illustrated commentary", where David Silverman and Wes Archer doodle drawings of Bart over the rough animation.

There is a set of Deleted Scenes (21m:21s) on Disc 4, which show the cut footage in color inserted into an otherwise black-and-white clip; these deleted scenes are available with an optional writer/director commentary track. None of the cut bits are roll-on-the-floor funny, and most were cut simply for time, but their presence here is appreciated. These deleted scenes are also available during the individual episodes they were originally cut from.

A Special Language Feature showcases scenes dubbed in Italian, Czech, Polish, or Hungarian, and a set of commercials (Butterfinger, TGI Fridays, Ramada Inn, THX) highlight the external marketing force of The Simpsons. A Look Back with James L. Brooks (03m:51s) is an astonishingly short recap of the series and its place as a phenomenon, and as a curiosity it features some of the comparatively crude animation footage from the Tracey Ullman days.

Each 23-minute episode is cut into six chapters, with optional subtitles in English, French or Spanish.

Extras Grade: A-


Final Comments

One of the best television shows of all time, represented by what just may be its finest season.

Highly recommended.


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