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The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season(TV) (2008-2009)
No synopsis for The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season.
For more about The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season and the The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season Blu-ray release, see the The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on January 13, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer
Directors: Mark Kirkland, Steven Dean Moore, Jim Reardon, David Silverman
» See full cast & crew
The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season Blu-ray Review
A withering giant emerges from its cave for a breath of fresh air...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, January 13, 2010
Ah, the forbidden fruit of my childhood. If you, like me, were one of the sheltered adolescents raised in a tightly wound conservative home in the early '90s, you're all too familiar with the siren song of The Simpsons. Banned by many a parent, the hit television series cut a swath through Red State America, offending the easily offended and upsetting organizations who labeled its satirical shenanigans crass and amoral. Alas, I'm sure you're also all too familiar with the steady decline in quality the series has experienced since its inception. Its once shocking gut-busters have been replaced with mild, grin-inducing humor. Its long forgotten bad boy image has been quashed by more brazen, boundary-pushing animated shows, Family Guy chief among them. Its celebrity appearances and smart pop culture references have become predictable and formulaic. As much affection as I still have for the show, it's impossible to deny The Simpsons has lost its luster. Be that as it may, the series' twentieth season has proven itself to be a more satisfying return to form. While it still lacks that special sauce acolytes have been craving for nearly a decade, I found myself laughing out loud during many an episode, more so than I have in years.
Despite having more than four-hundred episodes tucked under its burgeoning belt, The Simpsons continues to challenge its dysfunctional family of five with countless misadventures. In its record setting twentieth season, Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) takes a job as a bounty hunter, loses his insurance coverage, takes Grampa Simpson (Castellaneta as well) to Ireland, is forced to sell his house after spending a ridiculous amount of money on Mardi Gras, discovers that his marriage may not be legitimate, and realizes his crooked high school principle altered the course of his life forever. Marge (Julie Kavner), as always, has to deal with her husband's antics, becomes addicted to relaxing in a sauna, goes blind after disregarding instructions for viewing an eclipse, and moves her children to a different school. Bart (Nancy Cartwright) attracts as much trouble as ever, nabbing a job at a country club, befriending a boy his father believes is a terrorist, miraculously acing a standardized test, and trying his parents' patience ad nauseum. Lisa (Yeardley Smith) remains the most rational member of the family, but still loses touch with reality on occasion, develops an unhealthy obsession with crossword puzzles, goes insane after reading about the inevitable demise of Springfield, and poses as a teenage pop singer. Maggie doesn't escape the madness either. Left on a doorstep, stranded on an island with her father, and caught up in an international conspiracy are just a handful of the obstacles the toddling tot must overcome.
Watching The Simpsons is oftentimes akin to listening to Barney belt out a drunken rendition of "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here." Fan favorites return -- everyone from Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Moe, Krusty, Mayor Quimby, Apu, and Chief Wiggum to Professor Frink, Reverend Lovejoy, Groundskeeper Willie, Principal Skinner, Itchy and Scratchy, Otto and many, many more (most of whom are voiced by Castellaneta, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer) -- and self-deprecating guest stars pop up everywhere. Behold as Denis Leary, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Emily Blunt, Colm Meaney, Ed Begley Jr, Anne Hathaway, Ellen Paige, Jodie Foster, Joe Montana, Mark Cuban, and Marv Albert (again, among many others) willingly accept anything fired their way, all in selfless service of the series' at-times wry wit. Yes, more than a few appearances fall terribly flat, and yes, some of the third and fourth tier celebrities that show up don't deserve the attention they receive, but series regulars will shrug off such shortcomings as par for yet another overcrowded course. Likewise, hit-or-miss punchlines hobble out of the gate throughout the season, but most jokes hit their mark, at least well enough to earn a smile from anyone who hasn't become a disgruntled Simpsons cynic in recent years. If anything, the writers tend to cling to dated routines, sacrificing surprise for the warmth and safety of creator Matt Groening's established cadence and tone.
Regardless, much of what has made The Simpsons the endearing, long-lasting phenomenon that it is remains intact. Groening's critique of American sensibilities, behaviors, and trends is arguably more resonant in today's socioeconomic climate than it's ever been, tackling everything from the presidential election to inane summer blockbusters, from the plummeting stock market to the rash of stilted, self-important dramas that have begun cropping up on television. While the series' observations aren't always timely, they cut to the heart of things, distilling complex issues and dizzying crises into astute sight gags and lofty one-liners. Perhaps one of the reasons The Simpsons seems so stale at times is that Family Guy, South Park, and the Adult Swim block have taken so many cues from the twenty-year-old series, refining its rhythms and learning from its mistakes. It doesn't help that primetime animation and late-night cartoons have become synonymous with biting social commentary, transforming what was once an unrivaled exotic attraction into a rather commonplace comedy. But without a complete overhaul -- one so drastic that it would risk undermining Springfield's rich history -- I doubt it will ever be any different. The Complete Twentieth Season, flaws and all, will be a boon for fans haunted by The Simpsons' shaky past. While it certainly isn't the sharpest or funniest outing the storied series has delivered, it is a solid entry worthy of the show's moniker. Even those who fled Springfield long ago should consider returning for a visit.
The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Simpsons Movie notwithstanding, The Complete Twentieth Season marks the television series' first foray into high definition. But because the changeover didn't officially occur until the season's midway point, the 2-disc Blu-ray edition offers two decidedly different visual experiences. Both feature a 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer, both are presumably faithful to their separate sources, and both feature bold, vibrant colors. However, the first nine episodes (presented in their original aspect ratio of 1.33:1) suffer from mediocre clarity, inconsistent contrast, image instability, frequent aliasing and noticeable banding, none of which bodes well for high definition releases of earlier seasons. Thankfully, the remaining episodes (presented in 1.78:1 widescreen) look substantially better. The series' lineart is much cleaner (although the characters occasionally appear disconnected from the backgrounds), its picture more steady and reliable, and its detailing far more revealing. Aliasing and banding are still prevalent, but few other issues hinder the proceedings. As it stands, viewers should brace themselves for a truly schizophrenic season, the first half of which looks strikingly similar to the set's standard DVD counterpart, the second half of which delivers a more worthwhile presentation.
The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Fox's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track is more reliable, but has difficulty overcoming the limitations of the series' oft-times two-dimensional sound design. That's not to say the mix doesn't pack any punch, just that it doesn't have the opportunity to land many blows. First the good. Dialogue is crisp and clear from episode to episode, voices remain perfectly prioritized regardless of what madness Springfield tosses at our beloved townsfolk, and towering robots and collapsing buildings receive reasonable support from the LFE channel. Regardless, the entire season is a front-heavy affair. Even when the rear speakers dive headlong into the fray, they come up short, awkwardly mingling with the rest of the soundfield. Directionality is unremarkable and front-to-back pans are a tad stocky, especially when compared to the smooth side-to-side pans that allow hurtling ships and hurried school children to dart convincingly across the screen. Is there room for improvement? In the mixing studio perhaps. Ultimately, anyone familiar with the show will be pleased with Fox's lossless offering. It isn't going to garner much praise, but it does a fine job handling what little it's given.
The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
For whatever reason, The Complete Twentieth Season only has one special feature: a teaser for Morgan Spurlock's 20th Anniversary Simpsons special (Disc 1, HD, 4 minutes). Not the hour-long documentary itself, mind you, merely a preview of said special. That's right... the discs don't trot out any audio commentaries, 20th Anniversary retrospectives, or production featurettes. It essentially includes nothing of note. Suffice to say, fans of the series will be terribly disappointed.
The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
More a long-running institution than must-see-TV, The Simpsons hasn't aged as gracefully as other venerable television shows. Its wit and charm have waxed and waned over the years, and its once-scathing satire has lost much of its edge. That being said, the series' landmark twentieth season is still sharper than many of its weaker outings and deserves some attention. Sadly, Fox's 2-disc Blu-ray release will put the most ardent fans in a foul mood. Its scattershot video transfer hobbles along for nine low-quality episodes (before dramatically improving), its DTS-HD Master Audio track is a bit underwhelming, and its supplemental package is a barren wasteland of missed opportunities. It's a decent release, sure, but it doesn't offer the kind of 20th Anniversary bounty most diehards have been hoping for. Crack your wallets accordingly.
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