Release Date: December 4, 2012 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
Color / 2003 - 2004
Packaging: Folding Cardboard Case
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 484 minutes
Running Time of Features: approx. 45 minutes (plus commentaries)
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Spanish, and French
Subtitles and Captioning: English and Spanish Subtitles; Closed-Captioned
Special Features: Commentaries (every episode); Animation Showcase; All Aboard with Matt; The Unusual Ones; Living in the Moment; Sketch Gallery; Deleted Scenes; Special Language Feature; Commercials
The Simpsons moves ahead on DVD (and Blu-ray) once again with The Simpsons - The Fifteenth Season! For the first time ever, all 22 episodes of the 2003-2004 season (almost ten years ago!) of the animated series that is nearly as old as the network that airs it comes to home media. By now, everybody knows what the series is about, but if you've forgotten the fifteenth season, this is where we got to see Homer's mother (again), Lisa run for class president, Krusty have his bar mitzvah, Milhouse move away, Bart going to juvenile hall, Skinner and Edna set a wedding date, and the family even ends up in an internment camp! You can see all of this and more on this latest four disc set!
Our review is based upon the DVD release, which is what we received for our review. Although we did not receive the Blu-ray Disc release, we assume that it is similar for the most part, but with different packaging and menus.
The fifteenth season kicks off with the "unofficial" season premiere episode "Treehouse of Horror XIV," where Homer becomes Death (clearly, the show was stealing ideas from Family Guy by now!), Professor Frink's father goes Zombie on the Nobel Prize ceremony, and Bart and Milhouse stop time! Homer's mother returns in "My Mother the Carjacker." In "The President Wore Pearls," Lisa runs for Class President, and discovers evil once she wins. The Simpsons go to England in "The Regina Monologues," where they manage to meet Tony Blair and J.K. Rowling (guest voiced by their real-life counterparts). It's Homer versus a bear in "The Fat and the Furriest."
In "Today I Am a Clown," Krusty finally gets to have his bar mitzvah... with a little help from his father and Mr. T (guest voiced by, well, Mr. T). Another Simpsons Christmas arrives in "'Tis the Fifteenth Season." In "Marge Versus Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays," a riot at a children's concert may affect the entire city. Homer will do anything to win Bart's love in "I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot." In "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife," Homer becomes an ambulance driver and Marge writes a novel... where Flanders is the hero. The Olsen twins guest star. We get an anthology of history stories in "Margical History Tour."
Bart is devastated when Milhouse moves away in "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore." William Daniels and Isabel Sanford guest star. Simon Cowell guest stars in "Smart & Smarter," where Lisa discovers that she isn't the smartest one in the family. It turns out that Artie Ziff is living in the attic in "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner." In "Co-Dependents' Day," Bart and Lisa's disappointment about a movie leads to a family trip to wine country. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jane Kaczmarek guest star in "The Wandering Juvie," where Bart is sentenced to juvenile hall. The day has come for Skinner and Edna's wedding in "My Big Fat Geek Wedding," or maybe not.
In "Catch 'Em If You Can," Homer and Marge decide to take a break from Bart and Lisa, but Bart and Lisa are determined to not let that happen. Homer gets a new alter ego in "Simple Simpson." We get to take a look back at Homer and Marge's first kiss (or perhaps the lack thereof) in "The Way We Weren't." The family ends up at an internment camp after Bart moons the flag in "Bart-Mangled Banner." The season ends with "Fraudcast News," where Burns attempts to control all Springfield media...except there is one publication that he can't quite get his hands on.
The episodes all appear to be unedited, with runtimes as follows:
1. "Treehouse of Horror XIV" (22:00)
2. "My Mother the Carjacker" (21:58)
3. "The President Wore Pearls" (21:59)
4. "The Regina Monologues" (21:59)
5. "The Fat and the Furriest" (20:55)
6. "Today I Am a Clown" (21:31)
7. "'Tis the Fifteenth Season" (21:59)
8. "Marge Versus Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays" (21:49)
9. "I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot" (21:59)
10. "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife" (22:00)
11. "Margical History Tour" (21:57)
12. "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore" (22:01)
13. "Smart & Smarter" (21:51)
14. "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner" (21:49)
15. "Co-Dependents' Day" (22:18)
16. "The Wandering Juvie" (21:55)
17. "My Big Fat Geek Wedding" (21:57)
18. "Catch 'Em If You Can" (22:01)
19. "Simple Simpson" (21:58)
20. "The Way We Weren't" (21:59)
21. "Bart-Mangled Banner" (21:58)
22. "Fraudcast News" (21:59)
The packaging for the set follows in line with the previous releases (at least those since season 11). The cover art has a green/yellow metallic background, with a photo of Otto on the cover. On that back, you'll find the Simpson family waiting at a bus stop where Otto has already wrecked the bus. Like the previous releases, the box has flaps on both sides (I'm not sure why it is necessary to do that on both sides) which you can open to remove the case inside. And, as usual, the case inside is one of those annoying "accordion-style" cases like they've been using since season 11. This has to do with the producer's insistence upon creating a completely plastic free package. The artwork on the case is nice, though, with one side depicting the case (and other residents of Springfield) riding a bus, with Otto as the driver. On the other side, there is a photo of everybody in Springfield seeing a movie at an outdoor cinema. The disc artwork is very creative this time, with each disc containing a photo of a "road hazard" sign, with each having a silhouette of a member of the Simpson family. Once again, the set includes a very nice episode booklet, this time called "Springfield Visitor's Guide," with a page for each episode... but be warned, it seems that Fox only likes to include these on initial pressings of these sets.
For those collecting the special edition "head" packaging (the packages that come with the plastic head attached to it), this season features the head of Otto. Unless you've been collecting all of these, they really aren't all that special, and in some cases, you may save a lot of money just skipping it and going with the standard packaging.
Menu Design and Navigation:
As always, the menus on the set are themed similar to the box art, and on the main menu of each disc, we have animation on top of the screen of different people riding Otto's bus (usually having something to do with the episodes on each disc). The menus are designed the same way that they have been for almost the past ten releases, with this animation at the top of the screen and a listing of episodes at the bottom of the screen. The main menu also has a speedometer that has the word "Extras" on it, which will allow you to access special features. Next to each episode, there is a play button that will play the episode immediately, and a plus button, which takes you to the episode menu. When you go to the episode menu, you'll get a menu that gives options of Play Episode, Commentary On/Off, Deleted Scenes On/Off (where applicable), Language Selection, and Scene Selection. Also, video from the episode plays on the episode menu. If there are any special features, a speedometer with the word "Extras" will appear on the episode menu. Chapters are placed throughout each episode.
Video and Audio Quality:
The video and audio quality on this set is just fine, without any real problems of note. Of course, considering that it was only about four years ago that the series actually moved to high-definition, these episodes are still presented in their original full-screen mode. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 English, and alternate tracks are available in both Spanish and French. Additionally, subtitles are available in English and Spanish, and each episode is closed-captioned.
Yes, this set continues the on-going tradition of commentaries for each and every episode! And amazingly, they are all still interesting to listen to. Episodes and commentators are as follows:
1. "Treehouse of Horror XIV" Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Michael Price, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Matt Warburton, Steven Dean Moore, Mike B. Anderson, David Silverman
2. "My Mother the Carjacker" Al Jean, Michael Price, Matt Selman, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Marc Willmore, Dan Castellaneta
3. "The President Wore Pearls" Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, Kevin Curran, Tom Gammill, Yeardley Smith, Michael Moore, Mike B. Anderson
4. "The Regina Monologues" Al Jean, Matt Selman, Tim Long, Don Payne, Kevin Curran, Michael Price, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Mark Kirkland, David Silverman
5. "The Fat and the Furriest" Al Jean, Joel H. Cohen, Matt Selman, Tim Long, Tom Gammill, Mike B. Anderson, Valentina Garza
6. "Today I am a Clown" Al Jean, Joel H. Cohen, Matt Selman, Carolyn Omine, Tim Long, Don Payne, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Dan Castellaneta, Nancy Kruse, Steven Dean Moore
7. "'Tis the Fifteenth Season" Al Jean, Michael Price, Matt Selman, John Frink, Don Payne, Dana Gould, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Steven Dean Moore
8. "Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays" Al Jean, Jon Vitti, Matt Selman, Don Payne, J. Stewart Burns, Tom Gammill, Max Pross
9. "I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot" Matt Groening, Al Jean, Allen Glazier, Matt Selman, Michael Price, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Matt Warburton, Nancy Cartwright, Lauren MacMullen, Alan Sepinwall
10. "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife" Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Michael Price, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Matt Warburton, David Silverman, Mike B. Anderson, Steven Dean Moore
11. "Margical History Tour" Al Jean, Brian Kelley, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Tim Long, J. Stewart Burns, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Mike B. Anderson
12. "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore" Al Jean, Julie Chambers, David Chambers, Matt Selman, Tim Long, Tom Gammill, Joel H. Cohen, Mike B. Anderson, Valentina Garza
13. "Smart and Smarter" Al Jean, Carolyn Omine, Matt Selman, Tim Long, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Joel H. Cohen, Steven Dean Moore
14. "The Ziff Who Came to Dinner" Al Jean, Deb Lacusta, Dan Castellaneta, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Michael Price, Marc Willmore, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Matt Warburton, Maurice LaMarche
15. "Co-Dependents Day" Matt Groening, Al Jean, Matt Warburton, Matt Selman, Michael Price, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Allen Glazier, Alan Sepinwall
16. "The Wandering Juvie" Al Jean, Don Payne, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Michael Price, Tom Gammill, Max Pross
17. "My Big Fat Geek Wedding" Matt Groening, Al Jean, Kevin Curran, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Mike Reiss, Mark Kirkland
18. "Catch 'em if you Can" Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Kevin Curran, Tom Gammill, Mike Reiss, Jeff Nathanson
19. "Simple Simpson" Al Jean, Jon Vitti, Matt Selman, Tim Long, Don Payne, J. Stewart Burns, Tom Gammill, Max Pross
20. "The Way We Weren't" Al Jean, J. Stewart Burns, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Tim Long, Brian Kelley, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Mike B. Anderson
21. "Bart-Mangled Banner" A; Jean, John Frink, Matt Selman, Don Payne, Dana Gould, Michael price, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Steven Dean Moore
22. "Fraudcast News" Al Jean, Don Payne, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Michael Price, Tom Gammill, Max Pross
The set contains deleted scenes, but unlike in the past, you won't find them for every episode. Instead, about half of the episodes on this set include deleted scenes. You can still watch these "reinserted" in the episodes (where you hit enter when the pair of scissors that you can optionally turn on pop up on the screen), but you can also view all of the deleted scenes on the disc from the Extras menu on Disc 4 (9:53). Optionally, you can even turn on an introduction and commentary from Al Jean.
The set contains two commercials. First is one for Ritz Bits (0:31), which advertises S'more Ritz Bits (which actually had faces of Simpsons characters on the crackers). The second is for MasterCard (0:31), which was part of their "Priceless" campaign that they were running at the time.
For those who like to see the "behind-the-scenes" animatics, they've really cut back on these for this season. In fact, the entire set contains only one, on the episode "The Wandering Juvie" (7:21).
There are two sketch galleries on the set. "Sketch Gallery I" (1:18) is on Disc 1, and features artwork from the episode "Treehouse of Horror XIV." "Sketch Gallery II" (2:22) can be found on Disc 4, and features sketches from "The Way We Weren't."
As usual, there is an episode on the set that contains multiple additional languages. The episode this time is "My Big Fat Geek Wedding," which you can watch in German, Portuguese, Ukrainian, or Italian.
On Disc 2, you'll find two unique special features, "The Unusual Ones" (17:11) and "Living in the Moment" (1:59). "The Unusual Ones" we have David Silverman, Mike Anderson, Mark Kirkland, and Steve Moore talking about some of the unusual animation used in the series, often inspired by other artists. "Living in the Moment" is a photo album retrospective of the 500th episode.
Of course, as always, the set begins with an introduction to the set from Matt Groening, with "All Aboard with Matt" (1:47).
Except for that lackluster season 20 release that came out a few years ago, I really can never find much to complain about with these sets. We keep getting great episodes on a well-designed set, with plenty of special features (although I do feel like they have somewhat declined a bit in this season). My real disappointment comes in the fact that they are so slow to releases these sets. It has been more than a decade since the first season was released, and we're only up to the fifteenth season. Considering the rate that these releases are being cranked out, the fact that the series keeps going on, and the fact that our technology may be evolving away from physical home media in the near future, one can only wonder if we'll ever see the entire series on DVD. In any event, no fan is going to want to miss out on this set. I'd forgotten how good this particular season was, perhaps because the series gets very little syndication airplay where I live (it tends to air for a few months with the most recent season or two of episodes, then disappear for years at a time here). But even if the series does continue to air frequently in syndication for you, the series is always much more enjoyable to watch on DVD, especially these "older" (yes, 2003 and 2004 is nearly ten years ago!) episodes.