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The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season(TV) (2002-2003)
The Simpsons' Emmy Award-winning fourteenth season features guest stars galore and arrives on Blu-ray with a ton of special features, including audio commentaries for each episode.
For more about The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season and the The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray release, see the The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on December 13, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Directors: Mark Kirkland, Steven Dean Moore, Jim Reardon, David Silverman (I)
Writers: James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon, John Swartzwelder, Dan Greaney, David X. Cohen
Starring: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer
» See full cast & crew
The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray Review
The year the show regained its stride.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, December 13, 2011
For—count 'em—twenty three seasons now, the creators of The Simpsons have been parodying and defining pop culture, skewering both the religious right and the liberal left, chopping our idols down to size, and taking the piss out of every social institution under the sun, all with wit and surprising warmth. When the anthropologists of the future try to characterize American life as it was in the years surrounding the turn of the twenty first century, they could do far worse than to start by watching the lovably dysfunctional adventures of Homer and Marge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie.
Of course, like the society that it satirizes, The Simpsons has had its share of ups and downs. After several consistently brilliant and irreverent seasons, the show began to falter during the late 1990s and early '00s. Fans targeted Mike Scully—who took over as showrunner during season nine— and bitterly complained about the decline of the once-great series, but you can't really blame The Simpsons for having a mid-life crisis, especially when it faced such stiff competition from new animated comedies like Family Guy and South Park. What's important is that the show did pick back up again, starting in season thirteen and gradually improving with season fourteen, which aired between November 2002 and May 2003.
After rewatching all of it for the first time since this batch of episodes originally aired, I have to say—season fourteen has a pretty good laugh-per- minute ratio. There's not much here that ventures too far outside the normal Simpsons formula, but you can tell that showrunner Al Jean and his team of writers and animators were committed to righting a capsized ship, so to speak. The season starts with the obligatory "Treehouse of Horror" episode, and this is a good one, featuring the ghost of Maude Flanders, homages to Dr. Strangelove and Apocalypse Now, a zombie Kaiser Wilhelm, and the chuckling Dr. Hibbert as a Dr. Moreau-style mad scientist who runs an island where Springfield's citizens are turned into half-human/half-animal hybrids. Yes, Marge becomes a sexy cat, Homer is morphed into an enormous walrus, and Ned Flanders is altered into a bovine-man, uttering one most memorable—and grossest—lines of the season: "All I'm asking is for you to yank my teats and harvest my milk."
Oddly enough, transformation proves to be a common theme this season, with several episodes that feature characters trying on new identities. In "Large Marge," Homer's wife accidentally gets a massive pair of breast implants, turning her into a va-va-voom-worthy sex symbol—"Hey baby, you're an object!"—and in "The Strong Arms of the Ma," she goes on a steroid-assisted workout binge, bulking up, running to the theme from Rocky, and violently beating muggers. Homer likes this new change at first—"It's like I'm married to Shaft!"—but it gets uncomfortably awkward when Marge develops a temper and an insatiable sexual appetite. It's even implied that Marge rapes Homer, which is…well… unsettling and also—if I'm honest—funny in that I really shouldn't be laughing at this way. The altered identities don't end there. Krusty becomes a congressman in "Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington," Homer takes over the Springfield Nuclear Plant in "C.E.D'oh," and Moe the Bartender shows his soft side when he becomes Maggie's babysitter in "Moe Baby Blues."
Two of the season's stand-out episodes do what The Simpsons has always done well, satirizing some of the more laughable aspects of contemporary western religion—Christianity, specifically—while supporting a more reasonable approach to faith. (Or, if not outright supporting, at least saying hey, we might not all believe the same things, but let's be civil and rational and able to make fun of ourselves.) When uber- Prostestant Ned Flanders tells Homer in "Pray Anything" that the secret to success is "hard work, clean livin', and a little prayer," Homer starts asking for divine intervention in everything, and mistakes coincidence for a heavenly hand when he inadvertently obtains the deed to the Springfield Church. Later, in "A Star Is Born Again," the show has some fun at the expense of the widowed Flander's chaste convictions about sex outside of marriage. Marisa Tomei provides guest vocals as a Hollywood star who takes an unexpected shine to Flanders and—wink, wink—wants his man-milk without buying the cow.
As usual, along with the show's stable of regular voice actors—Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer—there are guest cameos galore in season fourteen, including David Byrne, Steve Buscemi, "Weird Al" Yankovic, Joe Mantegna, Helen Fielding, George Plimpton, Ken Burns, Kelsey Grammer, Burt Ward, and Adam West. The most star-studded affair is "How I Spent My Strummer Vacation," in which Homer lives out his wildest dreams by going to a rock 'n' roll fantasy camp operated by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, with lyric- writing lessons from Tom Petty and Lenny Kravitz giving a frank talk on the ethics of crotch-stuffing. Also, Elvis Costello runs the instrument rental shack, and he's seriously upset that no one wants to play bass.
Another highlight is "Barting Over," which was billed as the show's 300th episode, even though it was technically #302. (Marge actually makes a note of this to Lisa.) Here, Bart learns that he was once a child star in a series of "Baby Stink-Breath" commercials, but when he discovers that Homer wasted all of the money made from the ads, he sues to become legally emancipated from his parents and starts living in the same industrial loft as Tony Hawk. The best episode of the season, though, might be the Emmy Award-winning "Three Gays of the Condo," which has an upset Homer renting a room from a gay couple after he discovers that Marge has lingering resentments about their marriage. Like the season thirteen episode "Jaws Wired Shut," it's a return to old-school Simpsons storytelling, hilarious and edgy and weirdly touching in equal measure.
Let's face it: After the series' lean years—seasons nine through twelve—The Simpsons has never been quite as relevant or reliably inspired as it once was, and it's certainly no longer the singular king of animated family comedy. But that doesn't mean it's not funny anymore. Even at its worst, The Simpsons is still better than most of the sit-com schlock that clogs up network TV. (And season fourteen is hardly The Simpsons at its worst.) The show has staying power as a proven comic commodity; fire up any random episode and you're almost guaranteed to at least crack a smile.
The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray, Video Quality
The Simpsons didn't make the jump to a complete high definition workflow until the second half of season 20, so its unavoidable that the Blu- ray transfers for every previous season—including 14—will be upconverted from standard definition. This has led some people to wonder: Why bother with the Blu-ray releases if the DVDs are essentially the same quality? There are several answers to that question—better packaging, HD menus, scratch-resistant discs, and fewer discs to keep track of—but the best reply is that the episodes have been optimized for Blu-ray, and do, in fact, look better than the DVDs, even when the DVDs are upscaled by a Blu-ray player. They're cleaner and more vibrant, with fewer compression artifacts. Sure, these 1.33:1-framed episodes aren't as crisp as the newer widescreen ones—outlines are a little fuzzy here at times—but they look much better than you might expect. (Those who already own the season 13 set know what I'm talking about.) Color also benefits; the bright cartoon tones are dense and saturated, with only rare instances of banding, blotching, or fluctuations. Every now and then I did notice some aliasing and slight halo-like artifacts around certain hard outlines—perhaps the aftereffect of edge enhancement—but nothing that I'd describe as overly distracting. As far as I'm concerned, the choice between the Blu-ray release and the DVD set is a no-brainer, especially since the cost difference really isn't that great.
The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Naturally, another reason to choose the Blu-ray release over the DVDs is the inclusion of lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround tracks for each episode. Granted, I think we can all admit that The Simpsons' spartan sit-com sound design isn't exactly the stuff of audiophile legend, but here you can at least rest assured that you're getting the best possible version of each episode's mix. Dialogue is the core concern, of course, and the characters' voices are always clear and full, with no muffling, crackling, or hollowness. I also got the feeling that the rear channels were used much more often this season—compared to season 13—for ambience and directional effects. Incidental music is often given room to breath in the rear speakers as well, and—as you'd hope—the main theme sounds big and dynamic. I have no complaints whatsoever.
The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Simpsons stumbled a bit between seasons nine and thirteen, but season fourteen is when the series finally began to regain its stride. This is a solid collection of episodes, with a few bonafide classics in the mix, and—naysayers be silenced—they look wonderful upconverted to 1080p. Like most Simpsons' releases, the real allure here—besides the episodes themselves—is the generous array of special features, including twenty- two audio commentary tracks. Recommended!
The Simpsons: Other Seasons
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The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray, News and Updates
• The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season Blu-ray (Updated) - September 30, 2011
This December, Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment will bring The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season to Blu-ray. Season Fourteen features guest appearances from the likes of Mick Jagger and Lenny Kravitz and won two Emmy awards - Outstanding Animated Program ...
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