The Simpsons - The Complete Ninth Season (1997)

 

created by Matt Groening
USA 1997

 

There’s little more to be said about the longest-running animated television series that hasn’t been said already. “The Simpsons” is a comedic marvel that possesses far more substance than its somewhat primitive appearance would suggest. Matt Groening and numerous talented writers are responsible for injecting the series with cultural significance via scathing critiques of modern society that explore the subtleties of familial dynamics lurking under the surface of kitchen tables, television sets, and parental breeding grounds. With that said, the insight that was so plentiful in the first six or so seasons began a steady decline once the focus shifted from the Simpson family to their neighbors, friends, and co-workers. The development of supporting characters can be a rewarding direction, but only in moderation. The decline was inevitable as it is with all television series. Characters can only be developed so much and situations can only be manipulated in so many ways before repetition becomes the norm. Whether the folks at Fox are planning to use the upcoming release of “The Simpsons’ Movie” to inject some much needed enthusiasm into the series is a legitimate question; the answer, I’m sure, is anxiously awaited by numerous fans.

If seasons seven and eight initiated the aforementioned decline, season nine affirmed this notion when the writers clearly began to lose their grip on the identity of the Simpson family. Season nine marked more than a transition in the portrayal of a middle-class American family; it signaled the onset of a senseless exaggeration. This is not to say that humor was absent from every episode, but consistency was no longer a concern. At this point, it became clear that the writers and producers had lost sight of the show’s original intentions to satire issues faced by middle-class Americans. Perhaps the best example of said problems is evident in the episode “The Principal and the Pauper.” In said episode, Principal Skinner is revealed as an impostor, and when the real Seymour Skinner arrives in Springfield, the principal’s actual name is exposed as Armin Tanzarian. Armin admits that he stole the name Seymour Skinner after the war when the genuine Skinner did not return home. Aside from the contrivances and absurdity of the episode, which does offer several entertaining moments (as do most episodes), it’s a fine example of how the writer’s have decided to go off on random tangents with supporting characters. Emphasis eventually returns to a member of the Simpson family, namely Marge, when she and others campaign to reinstate Armin as principal.

Such complaints are largely inconsequential as the “Simpsons” fan base was not reduced by any changes I and many others have noticed. Ratings continued to be notably strong, and the series reached its 200th episode, “Trash of the Titans,” without any signs of stopping. If anything, the target audience may have shifted slightly, alienating those who watched the show for its biting humor and insight rather than slapstick and cheap jokes. Regardless, several of season nine’s episodes still capture the spirit of older seasons, particularly “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” and “Das Bus.” The former focuses on Homer’s various missteps while visiting New York and the latter presents a cunning adaptation of the novel “Lord of the Flies.” I think many fans will be grateful to have the episode “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson” on DVD as I was never able to see it air on television after the events of September 11th, 2001; surely, this was because the twin towers are featured prominently.

While this review may appear somewhat negative, it simply reflects my disappointment in how the series has progressed into what is now the eighteenth season. I must clarify that the tone of the review is no indication of what I think of the series as a whole. “The Simpsons” is a culturally significant landmark that drastically altered how family and American culture are portrayed on television. For better or worse, it paved the way for shows like “South Park,” “Family Guy,” and “King of the Hill.” Ideally, “The Simpsons” will be equally remembered for its ability to entertain as it will for its ability to challenge audiences to evaluate their cultural awareness. Let’s just hope the series doesn’t sink any lower than it has.

Kurtis Beard

Poster

Television Premiere: December 17th, 1989

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DVD Review: 20th Century Fox (Collector's Edition) - Region 1 - NTSC

Big thanks to Kurtis Beard for the Review!

DVD Box Cover

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Distribution

20th Century Fox

Region 1 - NTSC

Runtime 570 min
Video

1:33:1 Original Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 5.22 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate

Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 (English), Dolby Stereo (French), Dolby Stereo (Spanish)
Subtitles English, Spanish
Features Release Information:
Studio: 20th Century Fox

Aspect Ratio:
Fullscreen - 1:33:1

Edition Details:
• A Special Introduction from Matt Groening
• Audio Commentary on Every Episode
• Deleted Scenes with Commentary
• Illustrated Commentaries
• Multi-Angle Animation Showcases
• A Moment with U2 Featurette
• Original Sketches
• Commercials
• The Simpsons Movie Sneak Peek

 

Disc 1:
"The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson"
"The Principal and the Pauper"
"Lisa's Sax"
"Treehouse of Horror VIII"
"The Cartridge Family"
"Bart Star"
The Simpsons Movie Exclusive Sneak Peek
Disc 2:
"The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons"
"Lisa The Skeptic"
"Realty Bites"
"Miracle on Evergreen Terrace"
"All Singing, All Dancing"
"Bart Carny"
"The Joy of Sect"
Disc 3:
"Das Bus"
"The Last Temptation of Krust"
"Dumbbell Indemnity"
"Lisa The Simpson"
"This Little Wiggy"
"Simpson Tide"
"The Trouble With Trillions"
Disc 4:
"Girly Edition"
"Trash of the Titans"
"King of the Hill"
"Lost Our Lisa"
"Natural Born Kissers"
Deleted Scenes
Storyboard / Episode Comparisons
Illustrated Commentaries
Sketch Gallery


DVD Release Date: Dec. 19, 2006
Fold Out Cardboard Digipak

Chapters 6x2

 

 

Comments:

Video:

The episodes in the season nine set are presented in the form of a 1:33:1 aspect ratio just as each of them were broadcast on television. These transfers look considerably better than they do on television with just about every aspect of their visual presentation having been improved. Colors are more vivid and defined, contrast is sharper, and brightness is suitable. One weakness is the lacking definition in the edges of objects and characters. Otherwise, damage is almost non-existent with traces of dirt having been eliminated from the original picture. With each passing season, I’ve found that the quality of animation has also improved marginally; this season is no exception.

Audio:

The English audio is presented in a fitting and well-expressed Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is more than one would really need for such a series. The audio is not overbearing, but very suitable in conveying the background noise, sound effects, and musical tracks simultaneously. As I expected, dialogue is crisp and clear. As far as I’m concerned, the technical presentation of this set is exemplary.

Packaging and Inserts:

Season nine can be purchased in the packaging shaped in the form of Lisa’s head or the classic foldout, custom cardboard box. In maintaining the “Lisa” theme, the collectable booklet is inspired by “Rolling Stone” magazine with its “Rocking Stone” title. Six postcards, cleverly designed to spoof various famous album covers, are also included.

Extras:

The quality and abundance of extras offered with each season of “The Simpsons” has always given fans all the more reason to religiously purchase every set. One of the most appealing facets of season nine, as with other seasons, is the optional commentary provided on all the episodes. Given the number of participants on each commentary track, there are rarely instances of silence or a lack of interesting insight. As for myself, I’m always curious to hear what sort of inspiration the writers and animators had for any given scene. Next, for animation students and fans alike, there are various sketches and showcases to illustrate how sequences are formed. An abundance of deleted scenes are included with optional commentary. Several of these scenes are definitely worth looking into if you’re a serious fan of the series. Various advertisements are included as well as a very brief interview with The Edge from U2. He discusses his appearance on the show.

 

 - Kurtis Beard

 



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DVD Box Cover

CLICK to order from:

Distribution

20th Century Fox

Region 1 - NTSC




 

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