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The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season(TV) (2003-2004)
This three-disc set contains all 22 episodes from The Simpsons' fifteenth season.
For more about The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season and The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray release, see The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray Review
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer
» See full cast & crew
The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray Review
Pie Man! Ms. Krabappel dating Comic Book Guy! Bart mooning the flag!
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, December 17, 2012
There's a common consensus among Simpsons fans that seasons nine through twelve, presided over by showrunner Mike Scully, were the series' lean years, marked by a decline in quality and a shift in tone towards the more cartoonish and absurd. When writer Al Jean came back to lead the show in season thirteen, he began to reverse that downward spiral, and although the series would never re-reach the highs of its golden years, it's remained fairly consistently funny. It's not quite as culturally relevant as it once was—no one really talks about The Simpsons anymore—but it's still an insightful chronicler of our times, jabbing its satirical finger into the tender side of American life.
The show's fifteenth season, which ran from November 2003 to May 2004, is a strong batch of 22 episodes, with no real clunkers in the bunch. Some are funnier than others, of course, but even the dullest entries—I'm thinking Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore—have at least a few good laughs. If you're a hardcore fan, you'll definitely want to pick up the 3-disc Blu-ray set—no questions asked—but for more casual followers, I've included a brief synopsis of the series to jog your memory. It's hard to believe these aired nearly 10 years ago.
1. Treehouse of Horror XIV: The season starts with of the more so-so Treehouse of Horror episodes, but there are some decent riffs here. Homer kills Death and is forced to become Death, nerdy Professor Frink plays Frankenstein with the frozen body of his dead father, and Bart and Milhouse pull pranks galore when they find a watch that can stop time. Highlight? Bart giving the Pope a wedgie.
2. My Mother the Carjacker: Glenn Close returns as the voice of Homer's mother, a political radical and fugitive who mysteriously reappears in the Simpsons' lives, dragging the family into significant trouble with the law. Highlight? Learning that Homer doesn't just write letters to movie stars, he writes to movies: "Dear Diehard, you rock."
3. The President Wore Pearls: A parody of Evita, complete with a spoof cover of "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," with Lisa— running for student body president—singing "Don't cry for me kids of Springfield, unless you want an effective leader." The musical numbers are well done, actually. Highlight? Michael Moore showing up to take the side of the striking students.
4. The Regina Monologues: Quite possibly my favorite episode of the season. When Bart makes a killing opening a museum in his treehouse—to showcase a $1000 bill he found on the ground, belonging to Mr. Burns—he pays to take the family to London, where they're basically the most obnoxious American tourists ever. Highlight? Some terrific guest bits, including J.K. Rowling, Tony Blair with a jet pack, and Ian McKellen getting struck by lightening.
5. The Fat and the Furriest: Homer creates a giant, gross-out ball of deep-fried candy using his newly purchased "Kitchen Carnival," but when he takes it to the dump on Marge's orders, he's attacked by a bear. Facing up to his fears, he dons some make-shift armor and goes a'hunting for the beast. Highlight? Homer becoming best pals with his furry quarry.
6. Today I Am A Clown: Krusty the Clown is denied a star on Springfield's "Jewish Walk of Fame" because he was never bar mitzvah'd. In an effort to become more Jewish, he stops doing shows on the Sabbath and has Homer take over his time slot with a talk show featuring Lenny, Moe, and Carl. Highlight? Mr. T shows up as the "Super-Star of David."
7. 'Tis the Fifteenth Season: In a Christmas Carol-style turn of events, Homer endeavors to be the "nicest guy in town," outdoing Flanders in the good-deeds department. Highlight? A special holiday appearance by "The California Prunes" that prompts Lisa to say, "This is offensive to Christians and prunes."
8. Marge Versus Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays: Maggie gets hooked on a children's entertainer named Roofi, but his concert in Springfield turns from a baby hippy Woodstock to a riotous Altamont-style disaster. The town's childless adults form an anti-kid alliance in response, but Marge stands up to the social pressure with her own family-friendly initiative. Highlight? Either Steve Irwin getting torn apart by a crocodile—R.I.P.—or the Teletubbies "making their first live appearance since Tinky-Winky was acquitted of manslaughter."
9. I, (Annoyed Grunt)-Bot: The sweetest, saddest episode of the season. When Homer realizes that his mechanical ineptitude keeps Bart from looking up to him, he pretends to build a robot—actually, he's inside the robot—and enters a Robot Rumble contest, risking severe bodily harm. Meanwhile, the family cat—Snowball II—is hit by a car, prompting Lisa to adopt a series of replacements, two of which also die in increasingly bizarre circumstances. Highlight? Learning that the music of John Coltrane provokes feline suicide.
10. Diatribe of a Mad Housewife: Another personal favorite from season 15, this episode finds Marge writing a romance novel—set in "whaling times"—that too obviously reveals her and Homer's marriage troubles. Hint: The book stars a muscle-bound Flanders with Fabio hair and his ruffled shirt unbuttoned to mid-sternum. Highlight? Reclusive writer Thomas Pynchon makes a guest appearance, wearing a paper bag over his head.
11. Margical History Tour: In the grand Simpsons tradition of anthology-style episodes, Margical History Tour features Marge telling the kids three historical stories at the library. Homer plays Henry VIII, Lisa is Sacajawea on the Oregon Trail, and Bart rocking Vienna as Mozart. Highlight? Bart-as-Mozart's dying words: "Eat my pantaloons."
12. Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore: Another weirdly sweet episode. When Milhouse moves away with his mom, Bart and Lisa become best pals and share some brother/sister bonding, culminating in a hug. "That's what sit-coms call a 'schmaltzy ending,'" says Isabel Sanford, former star of All in the Family and The Jeffersons. Highlight? Sanford's appearance, obviously.
13. Smart & Smarter: A jealous Lisa loses her title of "the smart one" when it's discovered that Maggie—tested at a competitive pre- preschool—is actually a baby genius with an IQ of 167. In response, Lisa tries on several new identities—my favorite is the goth "Ravencrow Neversmiles"—and leaves the family to live in Springfield's Natural History Museum. Highlight? American Idol's Simon Cowell as the school's uber-critical admissions officer.
14. The Ziff Who Came to Dinner:: When Marge's annoying former prom date, Artie Ziff (Jon Lovitz), is found living in the Simpsons' attic, he pawns off control of his scandal-ridden company to Homer, who lands in trouble with the SEC. Highlight? In the opening sequence, Homer takes the Flanders boys to go see "The Redeadening," a horror movie that borrows that score from Rosemary's Baby.
15. Co-Dependents' Day: George Lucas apologists beware. Here, Bart and Lisa are so disappointed in the new installment of "Cosmic Wars" that they travel to Californian wine country to confront the director, "Randall Curtiss." Meanwhile, Homer and Marge become serious winos. Highlight? The numerous jabs at the Star Wars prequels, especially Jar-Jar Binks, who's referred to as "Jim-Jam."
16. The Wandering Juvie: Bart pulls of an impressive prank—registering for gifts at a department store and pulling off a fake wedding —but winds up in juvenile hall, where he has a love/hate relationship with a female inmate, voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar. Highlight? Bart trying to buy his way out of trouble with his ill-obtained presents and Chief Wiggum pointing to his badge, which reads "Cash Bribes Only."
17. My Big Fat Geek Wedding: I love everything about this episode. Principal Skinner sets a date to marry his fiancé, Edna, but when he backs out at the last minute, she rebounds with Comic Book Guy at Sci-Fi-Con, where they have a Klingon ceremony. Highlight by far? Skinner dressed up as Catwoman. Runner up? A cameo by Matt Groening himself.
18. Catch 'Em if You Can: Homer and Marge go on an impromptu second honeymoon, but they're trailed Catch Me If You Can-style by Bart and Lisa, who are mad at being left at home with Grandpa. Highlight? Sexytimes in a bouncy castle...that goes over Niagara Falls.
19. Simple Simpson: A strong contestant for most memorable episode of the season, Simple Simple follows Homer as he becomes a Superhero—Pie Man—and eventually has to weigh his morals against the anonymity of his pie-throwing alter-ego. Expect lots of small references to the first Sam Raimi Spiderman. Highlight? A country singer at a state fair crooning, "If you don't buy my record, / al-Qaeda wins."
20. The Way We Weren't: A flashback episode to Marge and Homer's first kiss, at Camp-See-A-Tree, a summer camp for underprivileged kids. It'd be a cute story, but Homer doesn't remember that the girl was actually Marge. Highlight? Either Homer trying to escape from a nearby fat camp, or giving his name over the phone—in a desperate attempt to sound cool—as "Elvis Jagger Abdul-Jabbar."
21. Bart-Mangled Banner: It seems there's always one episode each season that courts controversy, and here it's Bart-Mangled Banner, which spoofs the American obsession with over-the-top patriotism. When Bart accidentally moons the U.S flag during a school assembly, the Simpsons become local outcasts and are sent to the "Ronald Reagan Reeducation Center," a facility that also detains The Dixie Chicks, Elmo, Bill Clinton, and Michael Moore. Highlight? Springfield changing its traffic lights from red, yellow, and green to red, white, and blue.
22. Fraudcast News: The season closes out with Burns deciding to buy up every media outlet in Springfield so that he can control his public image. The one hold-out, however, is Lisa's underdog Red Dress Press. The highlight? The intro "couch gag" portrays members of the Simpson family as anime characters, including Homer as Ultraman and Bart as Astro-Boy.
The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
If you have seasons thirteen or fourteen on Blu-ray, the picture quality for this year's set will be instantly familiar, so I'll basically reiterate what I've said before.. Yes, the episodes are upconverted from standard definition—The Simpsons didn't make the jump to a complete HD workflow until the second half of season twenty—but I find that they definitely look better on Blu-ray than they do on DVD, even up-rezzed DVD. The 1.33:1-framed episodes aren't as crisp as the newer, natively-in-HD widescreen ones—outlines are admittedly fuzzier—but they look much better than you might expect. Color also benefits; the bright cartoon tones are dense and saturated, with only rare instances of banding, blotching, or fluctuations. Every now and then you will spot some aliasing and slight halo-like artifacts around certain hard outlines—perhaps the aftereffect of edge enhancement—but nothing overly distracting. Unless you've got some hang-up about collecting the DVD sets and having uniform packaging, there's no good reason not to buy the Blu-ray edition.
The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The differences may be negligible to all but the most discriminating audiophiles, but another benefit to having the show on Blu-ray is that each episode is presented in lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, instead of lossy Dolby Digital. As you'd expect from a sit-com, the sound design is rather spartan, but the show does occasionally use the rear channels for directional effects and quiet ambience. Music gets spread throughout the soundfield as well, and in general, everything sounds as clear and full as it needs to be. Dialogue, of course, is the focus, and it's always clean, unmuffled, and easy to understand. The discs include optional English SDH and Spanish subtitles, along with French and Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs.
The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The fifteenth season of The Simpsons is all-around solid, with 22 American-family-life-skewering episodes and not a truly bad one among them. I love having these Simpsons sets on-hand if I need a quick laugh, and this season delivers plenty of them. The 3-disc collection also includes a whopping 22 audio commentaries—yes, one for each episode—and a bounty of additional special features. Yes, the episodes are upscaled— The Simpsons wouldn't begin producing natively high definition episodes until the middle of season twenty—but the Blu-ray picture and sound quality handily bests the DVDs. Recommended!
The Simpsons: Other Seasons
The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray - September 11, 2012
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment has officially announced that it will release on Blu-ray The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season. The release will be available for purchase online and in stores across the United States on December 4th.
The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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