DVDs in Review #51: The Simpsons: The Complete Eleventh Series

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As I settle into my new pattern of work and reviewing over this year I'm going to be putting out the DVD review on Wednesdays, leaving Friday for Damages, Sunday for the Wire and Monday plus whenever else for other stuff. The Week That Was will also make a return on Fridays, but it's likely to be lighter in content for a while because I'm honestly not watching that many shows right now. TV is a little... sparse.

This week I'm going to review the latest Simpsons DVD set. I'm unlikely to go back and review the previous seasons because there's little difference between each season. Only the packaging and menus really change, everything else is as formulaic as it ever is.

Created by Matt Groening

Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson
Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson
Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson
Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson
Harry Shearer as Mr Burns & Various
Hank Azaria as Moe & Various

(Seriously these guys do so many characters each I can't be bothered to list them all, follow the links instead you lazy so and so. Stop expecting me to do all the work!)

The Show:

I'm not really sure I need to go into much detail about The Simpsons, everyone who's watched TV will most like have watched an episode or two of this and the show doesn't seem likely to stop running until Dan Castellaneta passes away or a terrible tradgedy wipes out the entire cast. We already know the drill, Homer's stupid, Marge is repressed, Lisa is a genius, Bart is a troublemaker and Maggie is cute.

The Eleventh season contains some major events for the show, including a new family for one character and the loss of a loved one for another. The Simpsons lives in this strange state of twilight where people don't age but children can be conceived and born. You've almost certainly seen many of these episodes which were originally aired between September 1999 and May 2000, this is also the season where David X. Cohen and Matt Groening left to focus on (...the greatly superior as far as I'm concerned...) Futurama. But the show is still in it's best period during this season, it doesn't begin to lose it's lustre for a few years yet.

Heck, if you want to know what happens in this season, here's the wikipedia episode list. I'm not sure I have much more to say about The Simpsons which hasn't been said before. But I'm not writing this to talk about the show, onto the DVD set!

The Other Stuff:

The Packaging:
Here's the reason I decided to write about this set. Now the DVD releases of The Simpsons have always included some seriously dubious decisions over the years, the "special edition" utterly useless head shaped DVD sets are one of the more ludicrous ideas that have been used (and are still used to this day). I'm not going to comment heavily on them except to say I always avoid purchasing the special edition version because it's a seriously awful idea. You could offer me one at half the price and I'd still take the non-special version. They don't fit on any kind of DVD shelf at all, they don't stack, they break easily. Ugh, they're utterly useless.

But even the normal editions haven't avoided some of the clearly drug induced decisions that have occurred over the packaging. Every single season includes this thin, flimsy back cover sheet that is sort of hooked over the back of the box. Now it wouldn't be so much of an issue if this was some disposable advert or a duplicate of the back cover on the box. But it isn't, it's actually the full details of the box contents, episode list, special features, details. All of it is on this easily lost and torn piece of paper. On what planet is that actually a good idea? Needless to say the eleventh season continues this particularly wretched piece of clown-****ery and I'm sure the rest of them will as well. I expect it's some big joke on the part of the Simpson DVD department.

But, if that wasn't enough the Eleventh season has even managed to take another cunning step into the world of ass-hatted packaging production. All previous seasons have used a combination of plastic and cardboard to create attractive looking fold out sheets which protect the discs well. Obviously someone looked at this and asked "Can we do this smaller, with less costs and cut out the packaging", then after months of meetings someone else brought in an envelop with a DVD in it and said "How about this?" Lo the season eleven box DVD holder was born.

It's a cardboard strip with admittedly attractive and fun scenes depicting a carnival. There's lots to look at and quite a few jokes. But it's not the appearance that's the problem. It's the system used to store the DVDs, it's based from those cheap newspaper cardboard envelopes. Now this does mean that season eleven takes up half the space any other season does on the shelf. Some props there, but when you're trying to actually take the DVDs out of their snug little cardboard holders all hell breaks loose. It's like a little puzzle designed to make you not want to watch the show.

Worst. Packaging. Ever.

The Menus and Start Up:
In contrast to the terrible packaging the start up and menu options for this set are very trouble free. Even Fox's usual strategy of jamming anti-piracy propaganda down the throats of people who've bought legitimate copies seems to be toned down here.

The menus for each disc are likewise attractive, for many sets the menu creators struggled to get the right set up for The Simpsons. The first season was boring and useless, the second season was gimmicky and irritating, but the third and fourth seasons were nice looking and funny. The eleventh season menus are great, they're filled with gags. There's a set which run once when you open the menu and then a well designed loop of short gags which is completely seamless. As such you could leave the menu on for a fair while and not figure out exactly where it loops.

The Extras:
There are a lot of extras on the discs for you to watch, every episode has commentary (which is often mocked by the Futurama commentary for good reason) and there's more besides.

The full list is as follows:
Special Introduction from Matt Groening
Commentaries on every episode
A Star on Hollywood Boulevard Featurette
The Many Faces of Krusty Featurette
Deleted Scenes with Commentary
Multi-Angle Animation Showcase
Original Sketches
Special Language Feature

There's an extended disc by disc breakdown over here.

The Details:
Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Runtime: 469 mins
Region 2
Rating: 12
Sound: 5.1
Subtitles: Danish, Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian, Swedish, English HoH.

The Price:
Sendit have it for £29.89 right now, that's 6.4ppm. Not brilliant, not awful. If you're willing (or want) the special edition version you can have it for a pound less.

The Final Word:

A must have for fans of The Simpsons or people who purchase the DVD sets so they don't end up watching it on the TV whenever it's on (like myself). The Eleventh Season is a great season wrapped in a really poor package. It's like getting an intelligent and beautiful woman inside a dog crap cake.


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