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TV on DVD: “The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season”

simpsons-season-15-dvd-cover-94With so many years under its belt, one has to wonder whether there is any interest in another season’s worth of Simpson’s episodes being released on DVD and Blu-ray. However, Fox has produced an excellent collector’s set for the longtime fans, and a great way for those of us who stopped watching 10 or 15 years ago to catch up with television’s longest running family and the cast of characters that makes up the small town of Springfield.

Season 15 of The Simpsons is consistently funny, even if it’s not as drop dead funny as I recall from earlier seasons. However, The writers throw so many jokes at the audience that even though some of them miss the mark another one is due to come seconds later. Plots from this season include the return of Homer’s fugitive mother (voiced by Glenn Close), the Simpsons family visiting England, Krusty the Clown’s bar mitzvah, Artie Ziff (Jon Lovitz) making another appearance, Bart going to juvie, and the Simpsons getting exiled to an internment camp after Bart moons the American flag. And of course, there is the traditional “Treehouse of Horror” that kicks off the season.

As with every season since its inception, the fifteenth season has many celebrity guest stars, a badge of honor. Guest stars include Jennifer Garner, Michael Moore, Ian McKellen, Jane Leeves, Jackie Mason, Mr. T, William Daniels, Simon Cowell, Sarah Michelle Geller, Tom Clancy, some guy named Matt Groening, and ever the reclusive author, Thomas Pynchon. These actors pop up to add to the mayhem, but it’s still the stars of The Simpsons who continue to make the show a hit: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention Pamela Hayden, Tress MacNeille and Karl Wiedergott, three long time supporting actors who provide many of the show’s most memorable characters.

The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season is a gem, one of those TV on DVD releases you wish all companies would look at when putting together box sets for fans and collectors. Every single episode included here has commentary from the writers and producers, with occasional contributions from Groening and the cast members. These commentaries add so much to the viewing experience and can often be as entertaining as the actual episodes. You may find yourself rewatching episodes two or three times after listening to the background of a particular episode. Additionally, there are hours of bonus features to peruse through- deleted scenes, animatics, featurettes and commercials- that make this such a fun collection. The capper is the design of the DVD box. It unfolds into two long pieces of artwork, with one side looking like the inside of Otto the bus driver’s school bus and many of the characters sitting in seats. This theme is carried over to the DVD menus, which feature animation of this scene. Otto, by the way, is the character featured on this season’s box art. Once you have a chance to hold and watch The Simpsons: The Fifteenth Season, I’m sure you’ll agree that this is one DVD set that was not hurried through production.

With the holidays upon us, this is one fine gift for comedy, animation and most of all, Simpsons fans. Here is a link to its Amazon page.