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The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season



DVD Release Date: December 21, 2004 (Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment)
MSRP: $49.98
Number of Discs: 4
Number of Episodes: 22
Running Time: 506 minutes
Total Run Time of Special Features: approx. 40 minutes
Languages, Subtitles, Closed Captioning: English,
Spanish, and French
Audio; English and Spanish Subtitles; Closed Captioned
Special Features: A Word From Matt Groening, Audio Commentaries (on every episode), Deleted Scenes (on most episodes), Animatic Showcase, A Look Back with James L. Brooks, Audio Outtake ("Deep Space Homer" episode), Special Language Feature ("Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" episode), Featurette ("Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" episode)

My Thoughts:

Bart, Lisa, Homer, Marge, and the rest of the residents of Springfield (don't ask which state) is back, for a fifth season on DVD! And once again, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment has put together a set that no fan can resist, complete with deleted scenes, outtakes, audio commentaries (for all 22 episodes!), and more!

There is no need to introduce the show. After all, everybody (well, at least everybody that cares) knows everything that they need to know about The Simpsons. However, just like every fan was saying when the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th seasons were being released, it can be said yet again that the 5th season is the greatest season to be released, at least until the 6th season is released. Some of the great episodes featured in the fifth season include "Homer's Barbershop Quartet," "Homer Goes to College," "Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood," "Springfield" (this is the episode with Marge's gambling problem), "Deep Space Homer," and "Lady Bouvier's Lover." Of course, there are many great episodes in this set, but those are just some of my favorites. The guest voice list for the fifth season isn't quite as large as it is for other seasons, but some of the guests include George Harrison, The Ramones, James Brown, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert Goulet, Buzz Aldrin, and James Taylor.

Fox has yet again placed this set in packaging similar to the past releases. And really, that is a good thing. For those that are in the process collecting every season of The Simpsons that is released, it will be nice to have a complete set someday that is in similar packaging. The Simpsons sets always have a box with a digipak with five separate panels that hold the discs and episode booklet. The only thing that changes each season is the color of the box, and for the fifth season, the color of the box is red. As always, one of the panels of the digipak has a special note from Matt Groening talking about the season in general.

The episodes are spanned across four discs for the fifth season. Discs One and Four contain five episodes each and Discs Two and Three contain six episodes each. Disc One. All episode specific special features such as commentaries and animatics) are found on the disc that the specific episode is located. All other special features are found on Discs One and Four; more details are provided a bit later in this review. Just like the other seasons, a very highly detailed episode booklet is included, complete with synopses, writers, directors, guest stars, and numbers for chapter stops, original airdates, run time, and special features available for the particular episode. Even the names of the people doing the audio commentaries for each individual episode are included.

In general, the menus seem to get a little better with each season that is released, but then again, every time that one thing is improved, something else gets a little bit worse. For this season, there are scenes that show up on the main menu screen (a different one on each disc), but what happens in the scene is completely random. You never know what will happen, and it changes every time you play the disc. This is an improvement from the time-consuming animated transitions that were included on the fourth season, and these are actually more interesting to watch. The main menu has all of the episodes, an option to Play All episodes (with or without commentary), and an option to go to the Extras menu. There is one problem with the episode selection, however. Each episode has two dots next to it to choose from once you have figured out which episode you want to watch. But how are you supposed to know which dot to select? There are no headings for the dots! If you select the first dot, it plays the episode. If you select the second dot, it takes you to the special features menu for that particular episode, where you can choose languages, whether or not you want to watch with commentaries, go to a scene selection menu, or go to the other special features available for the episode. Surely, you get used to it once you figure it out, but would it have really hurt to explain what the different dots are for?

The video quality and audio quality are basically fine. If you can find a legitimate gripe here, then perhaps you have a little too much time on your hands. Obviously, nothing is ever perfect, and there will always be a few quirks here and there (like jumping in the animation), but for the sake of this set, it can be said that everything is pretty good. The audio is presented, just as in the past releases, in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, and is very loud and clear. I honestly can not find any flaws in the audio this time. Each episode runs an average of about 23 minutes, but before you start panicking, this is about normal for a show from the mid-90s.

The special features are always great on every set of The Simpsons! There is one problem though--the same types of special features are being repeated for each and every set. It would be foolish for me to say that I have a better suggestion for future sets, but it would be nice to see some different special features once in a while. But regardless, the special features were still pretty good.

To start off, every single episode has audio commentaries. The audio commentaries include a wide range of people, and it would not be practical to list each and every single one here, but these people include producers, directors, and writers of the show. Matt Groening, by the way, can be heard on almost all of these commentaries. Once again, the voice actors are almost invisible in the commentaries, although Dan Castellaneta and Yeardley Smith are included in two of the commentaries. They seem to almost be running out of things to say by the fifth season, but it is still great to have these commentaries on each episode. One thing to note is that unlike seasons 3 and 4, this set does not, at least as far as I can tell, have any Easter egg "bonus commentary" tracks for episodes. That is okay though, usually the bonus commentaries were about the same as the regular commentaries.

However, there is one great (though it can not be described as "new," it can be described as "enhanced") thing on this set, and that is the deleted scenes! More than half of the episodes in this set (a total of fourteen!) include scenes that were deleted from the show, scenes which never aired in the history of the show. It looks as if an effort to include as many as possible was made this time. Some of the scenes have no audio and others have audio that was dubbed in by voices other than the actual voice actors, specifically for the DVD set. The scenes have to be turned on from the options menu for specific episodes, or you can watch all of the deleted scenes together on Disc Four in a 22 minute reel of just deleted scenes! Also, if you use the audio button on the deleted scenes reel on Disc Four, you can even find an audio commentary by Al Jean discussing the deleted scenes, and why each one was deleted.

More animation showcases and animatics are provided for select episodes on this set. Basically, these are just "behind the animation" showcases for individual episodes that show the processes that were used to make certain episodes. They are somewhat interesting to watch the first time around, but you pretty much get the idea after one time, and they are not quite as exciting after that. Or maybe it is just me; you can be the judge of that. However, there are illustrated commentaries on two of the animatics, which are very interesting to watch. These include commentary teams (similar to those found on the actual episodes) giving commentaries for the animatics, as well as drawing pictures on the screen to point out specific interesting things. There is also a slightly less interesting special feature of original sketches on two of the episodes. Basically, these are just sketches of various scenes drawn by the animators.

The "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" episode (the 100th episode of the series) contains an option where you can watch the episode in several different languages. This is always interesting to watch, because even though a languages feature has been offered in every season set so far, the languages change in each and every season. Besides the obvious Spanish and French, you can watch this episode in Italian, Polish, Czechoslovakian, or Hungarian.

There are commercials on this set (about 2 minutes worth), just as there have always been on other sets. There are two Butterfingers commercials, one T.G.I. Friday's commercial, a Ramada Inn commercial, and a THX trailer. These are always worth looking at, if for nothing else, due to the fact that they are old commercials. After all, doesn't everybody like watching commercials from the past?

Disc One contains a two minute introduction by Matt Groening, that is very similar to the introduction that he gives on the panel of the digipak. Also, Disc Four contains a special "A Look Back with James L. Brooks" featurette that runs about four minutes, where James L. Brooks discusses the fifth season as well as the show in general.

Now for the special features that I couldn't find! The episode booklet says that there is a featurette on the "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" episode... but I could not find a featurette! Also, there is supposed to be an audio outtake on the "Deep Space Homer" episode. I spent a half hour looking, hoping that I would find them, punching in random numbers on my remote control, and never found any featurete! Maybe these are hidden Easter eggs? Or maybe they were right there in front of my face on the menu screen and I somehow overlooked them? I don't know I'll leave it up to you to find them.

So, simply put, this is a great set for each and every fan of The Simpsons, even a casual fan of The Simpsons. There is no need for me to hype it up; I think the set speaks for itself. Hopefully, the remainder of the series will be released at a reasonable pace, and will include the special features included in all of the sets that have been released so far as well as some new and more creative special features. So, why bother with a fancy closing? Buy this set: I can assure you that you won't regret it!

Final Numbers (out of 5 stars):

Video Quality: 4.5/5
Audio Quality: 5/5
Special Features: 4.8/5
Menu Navigation/Design: 4/5
Overall: 4.5/5

-- Reviewed by skees53 on 12/18/2004.

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