Simpsons: The Twelfth Season Review

The Simpsons was funny once. The earliest two seasons were more of a continuation of the characters as established on the Tracey Ullman show and so may not have been funny per se, but they were at least socially relevant then and remain so today. With season three The Simpsons started to score the kind of laughs that would make it the beloved comedy series that hooked fans across the globe. The seasons got funnier and funnier and by the ninth it had hit a stride that put all its peers to shame. Season 12 represents the tail end of the show’s genuinely funny years and may be the last season of The Simpsons worth buying on DVD – or at least half of it.

After a dozen seasons most shows have had more than a few change-ups in their cast, but The Simpsons has no such detriment. The voice actors who propelled the show to its heights remained all the way through. Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Hank Azaria and Pamela Hayden have elevated The Simpsons to such a level of voice acting that when big name stars make cameos they rarely make a splash. Even when Kelsey Grammer makes an appearance as Sideshow Bob, you can’t help but marvel at Hank Azaria’s dependable performances as many of the show’s side characters. The Simpsons is a beacon of voice acting splendor.

Speaking of Sideshow Bob, any season with a Sideshow Bob appearance is a treat and for the record, “The Day of the Jacknapes” of season 12 was the first Sideshow Bob episode in four years. Okay, so it’s not the best Sideshow Bob episode (as any of the six that came before it were easily better) but any chance to see the series’ best guest character is worthwhile. Equally noticeable is the absence of Phil Hartman, a staple voice of the series until season 10. His loss was felt then, and remains so today. Who doesn’t miss Troy McClure? Who you may remember from the hit instructional video…

It was wise to reintroduce Sideshow Bob, but beyond that the season’s guests weren’t too memorable. Having The Who is novel, but that’s the kind of appearance where they popped in for a brief recording session just to remind people they still exist. Joshua Jackson? Stacy Keach? The truly great contributors like Albert Brooks and Jon Lovitz are sorely missed in this season – but when you consider the second half of the season, you won't be surprised it was so lacking in quality guest stars.

In fact, you can actually watch the quality of humor degrade in one season. The Who may have been a second-rate cameo gig, but they were at least keeping in theme with the show’s sticking to classic personalities as guest stars. Yet only 12 episodes later on in the season *Nsync stars in the boy band episode that stands as a testament to the new direction the show’s writing took. Sacrificing brilliantly written comedy, the season takes a sudden turn towards pop references. Pop references that aren’t nearly as well targeted as the writers must have thought.

Episodes:

Treehouse of Horror XI, A Tale of Two Springfields, Insane Clown Poppy, Lisa the Tree Hugger, Homer vs. Dignity, The Computer Wore Menace Shoes, The Great Money Caper, Skinner’s Sense of Snow, HOM’R, Pokey Mom, Worst Episode Ever, Tennis the Menace, Day of the Jacknapes, New Kids on the Blecch, Hungry Hungry Homer, Bye, Bye, Nerdie, Simpson Safari, Trilogy of Error, I’m Goin’ to Praiseland, Children of a Lesser Clod, Simpsons Tall Tales

DVD Bonus Features

The show may have gone to shit midway through the season, but the extras for the season give the collection a lot of help. Like all the other seasons, Matt Groening offers a special introduction to the season. Also, in the traditional vein of Simpsons season offerings, each episode has its own commentary, deleted scenes, some animation pieces. Where the season 12 box set sets itself apart is the “Comic Book Guy: Best. Moments. Ever.” featurette which follows in the set’s Comic Book Guy theme. Filling out the Comic Book Guy theme for the set is a piece on the Simpsons Fanfest and an awesome “comic-con” themed fold out case for the discs. There are a few commercials from the season’s original airing on FOX, but they’re nothing special.

You’re getting about 12 solid episodes of The Simpsons in this set – but the other 9 are representative of the laziness that currently plagues the series. Is that enough for you to buy the set?

NOTE: As a fan of Frank Welker, I have to note he makes an excellent cameo as a badger.

"Simpsons: The Twelfth Season" is on sale August 18, 2009 and is rated NR. Animation, Comedy, Television. Directed by Mark Kirkland, Steven Dean Moore, Jim Reardon, Bob Anderson. Written by James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon, John Swartzwelder, Dan Greaney, David X. Cohen. Starring Frank Welker, Hank Azaria, Kelsey Grammer, Maurice LaMarche, Nancy Cartwright, Tress MacNeille, Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Yeardley Smith, Harry Shearer, Pamela Hayden.

Aug
22
2009
Lex Walker • Editor

He's a TV junkie with a penchant for watching the same movie six times in one sitting. If you really want to understand him you need to have grown up on Sgt. Bilko, Alien, Jurassic Park and Five Easy Pieces playing in an infinite loop. Recommend something to him - he'll watch it.

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