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The Simpsons - The Complete Ninth Season


TITLE: THE SIMPSONS - THE COMPLETE NINTH SEASON


Info:

DVD Release Date: December 19, 2006 (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment)
Color/1997-1998
MSRP: $49.98
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 25
Running Time: 550 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: Closed-captioned; English, Spanish, and French audio; English and Spanish subtitles
Special Features: “A Riff From Matt Groening,” commentaries on all episodes, deleted scenes, cast commercials, original sketches, animation showcases, illustrated commentaries, and “A Moment With U2”


Introduction:

The Simpsons are back for yet another season on DVD (get used to that phrase, because we're not even halfway through the series yet). The Complete Ninth Season contains all 25 episodes from the 1997-1998 season of the show that (along with Married... With Children) helped to build the FOX network and also brought animation back into primetime after a long hiatus.

This particular season of The Simpsons could be considered by some fans as the beginning of a "new era" for the show. This is the season where Mike Scully takes over as the show runner (replacing Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein). As a result, the way that the episodes changes a bit from the previous seasons (though change isn't necessarily a bad thing). Although this change isn't as obvious as the change from when Al Jean replaced Scully a few seasons after the ninth season, it is still obvious that things aren't quite the same in this season. Homer's stupidity begins to flourish more in this season than ever before, we see development of characters that were just minor characters in the past (such as Apu getting married), and some of the storylines begin to just get absurd. But hey, if it wasn't for these developments, The Simpsons just wouldn't be the same.


Memorable Episodes / Notable Guest Stars:

The ninth season begins with the episode that is always rumored to have been banned from syndication (but actually never was...), “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson,” where the Simpsons have to take a vacation to New York City to get Homer's car back. As a note about this episode, even though it was never actually banned in syndication, I have heard of some syndicated airings not including certain scenes relating to the World Trade Center, but as far as I can tell, they are all intact on the DVD. Martin Sheen guest voices in “The Principal and the Pauper,” where Seymour Skinner returns to Springfield--apparently the one already there is an impostor! Lisa's saxophone gets destroyed in “Lisa's Sax.” No season would be complete without a Halloween episode, and this one fills that with “Treehouse of Horror VIII,” where Marge is a witch, Bart is a fly, and Homer survives an apocalypse. Homer gets a gun but quickly abuses his rights as a gun owner in “The Cartridge Family.” Joe Namath guest voices in “Bart Star,” where Bart joins a junior-league football team--look for another FOX Sunday night family at one of the games!

Jan Hooks makes her first guest appearance as Manjula, the woman that was arranged to be his wife in “The Two Nahasapeemaptilons,” but can a faux marriage between Apu and Marge stop him from having to go through with his arranged marriage? Lisa finds a skeleton that appears to be an angel in “Lisa the Skeptic,” but the only person in Springfield that doubts it is an angel is Lisa. Marge gets a job as a real estate agent in “Realty Bites,” but honesty is keeping her from making any sells. How will she be able to keep her job? Alex Trebek guest voices in “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace,” where Bart destroys the Christmas tree (and refuses to admit he did it). George Harrison guest voices on “All Singing, All Dancing,” a very annoying clip show episode where the family remembers musical moments from the show. Homer allows a carnival roadie (played by Jim Varney) to stay with the family after Homer refuses to bribe a police officer and gets his home taken away in “Bart Carny,” but was that a good idea? Homer decides that the family is going to join a cult in “The Joy of Sect;” is this how the family will live from now on?

The kids are going on a field trip when the school bus crashes and they end up on a deserted island in “Das Bus.” How will they survive? Jay Leno, Janeane Garofalo, and Bobcat Goldthwait all guest voice on “The Last Temptation of Krust,” where Krusty decides to become an adult comedian for a change. Is that a good idea? Helen Hunt (who, at the time, was married to Hank Azaria) guests voices as a beautiful woman that actually loves Moe, and there isn't a catch either, in “Dumbbell Indemnity.” But, when Moe wants to spend more money on her and comes up with the perfect scheme to earn money (which lands Homer in jail), will she be so pleased with Moe? Lisa is worried that when she gets older, she'll be stupid like her fellow family members in “Lisa the Simpson.” Bart has a new friend (well, actually a new friend that Marge is just forcing him to play with against his will) in Ralph in “This Little Wiggy.” In “Simpson Tide,” Homer joins the Navy and Bart gets an earring. Can both of these work together in preventing an international crisis? Homer has to get a stolen trillion dollar bill from Mr. Burns after Homer submits a really poorly prepared tax return in “The Trouble With Trillions,” but it won't be an easy task.

Bart and Lisa land a job on a children's version of the news in “Girly Edition,” and sibling rivalry is sure to ensue. In “Trash of the Titans,” Homer is the perfect person for the new job of sanitation commissioner in Springfield, because he is going to have the garbageman do everything for everybody. And that works out fine until he spends an entire year's budget in one month. Steve Martin and the band U2 guest star. Brendan Fraser guest voices in “King of the Hill,” where Homer gets in shape and is recruited to climb Springfield's highest mountain. Can he do it? Finally, the ninth season ends with “Lost Our Lisa,” where Homer lets Lisa take a bus (all by herself) to a new museum exhibit in Springfield.


Packaging:

As has been the case for the past few seasons, there are two versions of the packaging available: standard packaging and collectible head packaging. This time, the head packaging is in the shape of Lisa's head. For this review, I only received a copy of the standard packaging, so I can't really say what the head packaging is like.

Regardless, the standard packaging is very nice. The outer box is in a dark pink color and has Lisa holding a ticket to some kind of award ceremony, with the rest of the family in the background. Inside, you'll find a digibook holding the discs along with a nice booklet. The disc art is very nice this time; to go along with the music theme of this set, each disc is designed to look like a musical record, with each one coming from a different record label, including Cowabunga Records, d'Oh, Atomic Records, and S-Town. The booklet is designed to look like a magazine, and in fact, like the magazine Rolling Stone, except the magazine is called Rocking Stone. There is a page in the booklet for each episode on the set, with each page including an episode description, original airdate, episode special features, scene selection locations, and guest stars. The disc breakdown is relatively simple, with episodes 1-6 on Disc 1, 7-13 on Disc 2, 14-20 on Disc 3, and 21-25 on Disc 4.

There is also something else that was included with the set that was somewhat nice... a set of 6 postcards relating to the show. Actually, these are nothing more than advertisements for some really expensive artwork, but they are still nice pictures.

Which version of the packaging is best for you? It all depends upon your personal preferences. I prefer the standard packaging myself because it fits in better with all of the other sets. However, the head packaging is a nice novelty item for any Simpsons fan to have and collect. Plus, much to my surprise, these “limited edition” head packages truly are just that—limited edition. Take a quick look on Amazon.com for the seventh and eighth season sets, and you'll find that these are now out-of-print and fetching big bucks. For example, the seventh season packaging with Marge's head is starting at $60 now. But then again, if you are a true fan of the show, you aren't going to buy the set just to make money off of the packaging. With Bart being the last Simpson to need a “head package,” I am curious as to how packaging will be handled beginning with the season 11 packaging.


Menu Design and Navigation:

The menus were inconsistent throughout the first few seasons, but ever since the fifth season, they've gotten this whole menu thing perfected it seems. The menus have all been great (and pretty much the same) every season since then, with some kind of different theme for each season. Basically, the main menu has characters from episodes on the disc waiting outside of what seems to be a musical award ceremony or concert (with Lisa playing her saxophone in the background) with the episodes listed on the bottom of the screen. You can either select Play or Episode Options for each episode. Additionally, at the bottom of the episode list, there is a Play All option (where you select if you want to play all with or without commentary) and there is an Extra Features option on the side of the screen. From the Episode Options menu, you can select options such as language, scene selection (there is a chapter placed at six positions in each episode).


Video and Audio Quality:

It is a typical Simpsons set, so you really can't go wrong with it. There are some minor issues with the sharpness of the video, but they are all relatively minor. The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound (for the English audio track) and in stereo sound for the Spanish and French audio tracks. Additionally, the set is closed-captioned, and there are also subtitles in English and Spanish. I had stated in previous reviews that I couldn't figure out how to turn these on (since, for some reason, the manufacturers prevent you from using the subtitle button on the remote to turn them on), but if you use the languages option on the main menu, you can turn the subtitles on there.

Each episode appears to be unedited, although I can not say that with 100% certainty. There is consistency with the episode runtimes, with each episode running at around 22:47, give or take a few seconds.


Special Features:

By now, you should be used to the fact that every episode is going to have commentaries—that is just a tradition with these sets. The episodes and commentators are as follows (this list is courtesy of The Simpsons Archive, which can be found at http://www.snpp.com):
● The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson with Commentary by: Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Jim Reardon
● The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson Second Commentary by: Ian Maxtone-Graham, Dan Castellaneta
● The Principal and the Pauper with Commentary by: Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Ken Keeler, Steven Dean Moore
● Lisa's Sax with Commentary by: Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Dominic Polcino
● Treehouse of Horror VIII with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, David S. Cohen, George Meyer, Matt Selman, Mark Kirkland
● The Cartridge Family with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, John Schwartzwelder, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Ron Hauge, George Meyer, Donick Cary, Yeardley Smith, Pete Michels
● Bart Star with Commentary by: Mike Scully, George Meyer, Donick Cary, Nancy Cartwright, Dan Castellaneta, Dominic Polcino
● The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons with Commentary by: Mike Scully, Richard Appel, Steven Dean Moore
● Lisa The Skeptic with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, David S. Cohen, George Meyer, Yeardley Smith, Pete Michels
● Realty Bites with Commentary by: Mike Scully, Dan Greaney, Richard Appel, Swinton O. Scott III
● Miracle on Evergreen Terrace with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Ron Hauge, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Bob Anderson
● All Singing, All Dancing with Commentary by: Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Steve O'Donnell, Hank Azaria, Yeardley Smith, Steven Dean Moore
● Bart Carny with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Mark Kirkland,
● The Joy of Sect Commentary by: Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Steve O'Donnell, Yeardley Smith, Steven Dean Moore
● Das Bus with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, David S. Cohen, Pete Michels
● The Last Temptation of Krust with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Ron Hauge, Donick Cary, Yeardley Smith, Mike B. Anderson, Jay Leno
● Dumbbell Indemnity with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Ron Hauge, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Dominic Polcino
● Lisa The Simpson with Commentary by: Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Ned Goldreyer, Susie Dietter
● This Little Wiggy with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Dan Greaney
● Simpson Tide with Commentary by: Al Jean, Mike Reiss
● The Trouble With Trillions with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Swinton O. Scott III, Matt Selman
● Girly Edition with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Yeardley Smith, Mark Kirkland
● Trash of the Titans with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Ron Hauge, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Yeardley Smith
● King of the Hill with Commentary by: Mike Scully, Richard Appel, Steven Dean Moore
● Lost Our Lisa with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, David S. Cohen, Yeardley Smith, Pete Michels
● Natural Born Kissers with Commentary by: Matt Groening, Mike Scully, George Meyer, Matt Selman, Dan Castellaneta, Mark Kirkland

It is nice that commentaries are being included for every episode, and I'd like to see that tradition continue, but I do have one complaint. These commentaries are starting to become boring and repetitive! They aren't that bad, but it has gotten to a point where I don't even bother to listen to some of these now. They need to liven these up by including other people involved with the show that aren't in the commentaries all the time. It would be a nice change.

On Disc 1, there is the special feature “A Riff From Matt Groening” (2:53), where he basically just talks about highlights of the season. It isn't really a necessary special feature, but it is a nice and formal way to begin the set.

There are other special features, of course. About 2/3 of the episodes on the set have deleted scenes. You can either watch these deleted scenes by “reinserting” them into the episode (it isn't exactly reinserting though because you have to hit enter on the remote when a pair of scissors pops up on the screen and it just plays it approximately where the scene would be) or you can watch them all together on Disc 4 (16:02).

If you are a fan of commercials featuring the cast, there are a couple of these on Disc 4, for Butterfinger and an Australian potato chip company (2:52). My biggest complaint is that, although I'm not 100% sure, I'm pretty sure I've seen the Butterfinger commercials on a previous DVD set... apparently the folks at Nestle just updated the commercials with an updated Butterfinger logo in the 1997-1998 season and they have just passed these along as “new” commercials for this set. The potato chip commercials are definitely new for the DVDs, however.

There is a featurette about U2 on Disc 4 as well (1:50), where we get to see what it was like when U2 came to the studio for the “Trash of the Titans” episode. It isn't terribly exciting, but we do get some commentary from Dan Castellaneta and Yeardley Smith on this featurette. I'm not sure why they were the ones chosen to give the commentary on here, but they were.

If you enjoy the special languages feature (which, I'm not going to lie, I think it is a fun feature), the episode “Trash of the Titans” has four languages in addition to the standard English, Spanish and French. You can watch this episode in Polish, Portuguese, German, and Japanese.

Finally, there are a bunch of animation showcases and animatics on the set. I used to like these, but they have gotten REALLY old as far as I'm concerned. They have cut down on the number of these this time, however. These basically just give you an idea of the “behind-the-scenes” stuff on what the sketches from the episodes were like. The animation showcases can be found on “The Principal and the Pauper” (7:11) and “Lisa the Simpson” (5:48). There are original sketches for the episode “The Last Temptation of Krust.” You can find illustrated commentary, which is where the animators comment on the animation on the episodes (these actually are interesting) on “All Singing, All Dancing” (8:37) and “Lost Our Lisa” (12:02).


Final Comments:

Another great set, but I would really like to see some different special features on these sets! Commentaries on every episode should continue, but they need to make these better by doing something such as putting new commentators on some of the episodes besides just the show runners. But, the reality is that we are talking about The Simpsons here, and the episodes themselves are really good enough to make the set more than worth purchasing. And the special features that are there are nice, just repetitive. A nice feature to include would be original promos from FOX for each episode... certainly those couldn't be too hard to find, it was less than 10 years ago. So just get out and get this set... it is definitely an awesome set, man.


Final Numbers (out of 5 stars - How our point system works)

Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 4/5
Menu Design/Navigation: 4.5/5
Overall: 5/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 12/21/06

To purchase the DVD, click below and help support SitcomsOnline.com:

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B000JLQPTK/ref=nosim/happydaysonline4-20

Questions or comments about this set? Post on our message board:

http://www.sitcomsonline.com/boards/showthread.php?t=190269


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