Throughout its life there's always been confusion as to whether The Simpsons is a show for kids or adults, but with allusions in these first 13 episodes to Kubrick, Diane Arbus, Citizen Kane and (in a very satisfyingly anti-French episode) Manon des Sources, it should already have been clear that this was a programme for all ages and all IQs from 0 to 200. Dysfunctional they may have been, but the Simpsons stuck together, and audiences stuck with them into the 21st century. --David Stubbs
On the DVD: The packaging is good but the 13 episodes are spread very thinly here, with just five each on discs one and two . The commentary track is intermittently interesting though a tad repetitive, as creator David Groening is joined by various other members of the team. The third disc has some neat extra stuff, including outtakes, the original Tracey Ullman Show shorts and a five-minute BBC documentary, but is again fairly brief. The menu interfaces are pretty clunky, annoyingly forcing you to watch endless copyright warnings after each episode and with no facility to "play all". The content is wonderful, of course, but three discs looks like overkill. --Mark Walker
All 13 episodes
Dolby 5.1 Surround
Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
Bart the Genius
There's No Disgrace Like Home
Bart the General
Bonus Features: Original scripts featuring notes by Matt Groening for "Bart the Genius", "Bart the General" and "Moaning Lisa". All episodes are accompanied by commentary.
Call of the Simpsons
The Telltale Head
Life on the Fast Lane
Homer's Night Out
The Crepes of Wrath
Krusty Gets Busted
Bonus Features: All episodes are accompanied by commentary
Some Enchanted Evening Bonus Features: Original script notes by Matt Groening
Outtakes from un-aired version of an episode
Animatic of an episode with commentary by Matt Groening and David Silverman
The Making of The Simpsons "America's First Family"
Easter Egg ABC News Special on a reported controversy
"Tracey Ullman Show" First ever Simpsons to air on Tracey Ullman Show
Five Foreign Language Clips
Early Sketches Stills Gallery
The good news is that we get an entire series spread over three discs with substantial extras. The bad news is that - even though it's still good- Series One of The Simpsons fares pretty badly against the subsequent series of The Simpsons. The animation is not brilliant, the voices have not been honed and some of the episodes are just plain weak- true all these factors do start to be ironed out, but because of the ordering of the episodes some of the later episodes are actually the weaker ones.
All this is excuseable of course- it is The Simpsons we're talking about, not some BBC One sitcom starring Dennis Waterman as a retired Fireman (it's probably in the pipeline). Some of the episodes are genius- Bart The General, Life on the Fast Lane, Crepes of Wrath to name three in particular. We start to see the beginnings of what made The Simpsons the best television programme ever- the quirky characters, the richness and comedy value of the 'backup' cast.
Of course you cant make an omelette without breaking eggs so we have to see some 'alternative' colours for characters hair/skin and hear some mildly irritating voices coming out of the mouths of charcters whose voices will develop (this is particularly in Homer and his 'Walter Matthau' voice).
As stated earlier the extras are substantial. We get scripts, deleted scenes, a short from The Tracy Ullman Show and commentaries on all episodes. A couple of quibbles here- the commentaries: the box boasts Matt Groening commentary on every episode- if he's there on some of them he's really, really quiet. Also some of the comentaries are repetitive- it's claimed at least twice that "this is the first appearance of Apu isn't it?" when to be honest the first time he appears it goes unmentioned. But there is enough there to make the comentaries worthwhile. Again the sennse that as The Simpsons became more complex as a programme with time the commentaries on later series will have more to offer. Final quibble- the documentary is just a painfully short segment (six minutes)of one broadcast on BBC2 last year, a little more could surely have been offered.
So - buy it buy it now. It's not fantastic but it's good enough. Besides, from here on in every series is an essential purchase- and your shelf will look as though there's something missing without the first series wont it? So, don't think-just get it.
As for bonus features, my favorite feature is the commentary, because it reveals a lot of interesting details. Did you know that the original plan for Herman (the one-armed military shop-owner) was for him to have a different story about how he lost his arm each time he appeared? Additionally, I may be in the minority here, but I got a hoot out of simply listening and watching the writers laughing at their own show. On disc 3 there are outtakes from "Some Enchanted Evening." These outtakes are hilarious enough by themselves. Watch them with the commentary and you'll hear nothing but self-pity and expletives. Disc one has scripts from three episodes and disc three also has a short Simpsons documetary and an animatic (also with commentary) from "Bart the General." Of course, assuming subsequent box sets are three-disc sets, we probably won't get as many special features, since subsequent seasons were nearly twice as long as season one. More episodes = less room for special features.
If this box set is any indication, I think we're going to have more 5-star Simpsons box sets to come over the next few years.
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