Fourth time is a charm for ‘The Simpsons’
Molly Griffin | Monday, September 6, 2004
All television shows manage to eke out a few good episodes, and some even manage a few great ones in their run, but the mark of a television classic is when you have an entire season of memorable shows. “The Simpsons” Season 4 is about as close as you can get to a perfect season of television. The fourth season established the show as a solid classic, and not just the fad it was thought to be when it first aired. There is not a bad episode to be found, and fortunately for fans, the DVD package is worthy of such a flawless example of television programming. Classic episodes from the season deal with often seemingly tangential subjects, but they all tie up nicely at the end. “Marge vs. the Monorail” is a classic written by Conan O’Brien that mocks “The Music Man” and mass transit. “Last Exit to Springfield,” ranked as the best episode ever by Entertainment Weekly, finds Homer accidentally becoming a Union leader because Lisa needs braces and the nuclear power plant workers are ready to trade their dental plan for a keg. “I Love Lisa” establishes Ralph Wiggum as a character with the memorable “I Choo-choo-choose you!” valentine. “A Streetcar Named Marge” pokes fun at “A Streetcar Named Desire” with a musical version entitled “O, Streetcar!” and also manages to take shots at “The Great Escape” and Ayn Rand. “Krusty gets Kancelled” ends the season with celebrity guests including Hugh Hefner, Bette Midler, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Luke Perry and Elizabeth Taylor joining forces to save Krusty the Klown from cancellation. The DVDs are packed in a foldout container, and a helpful booklet that describes each episode as well as the special features that are included. Aside from the standard commentary tracks, the DVD set also includes some unusual extras. A segment entitled “A Cajun Controversy,” detailing the brief debate that arose over a song in the episode “A Streetcar Named Marge,” is included as well as another called “Bush vs. The Simpsons,” which follows the back-and-forth criticism that the show had with the then-current president. “Promotional Stuff” features “Simpsons” creator Matt Groening discussing the show in general. Deleted scenes can be found for the episodes entitled “Homer’s Triple Bypass” and “The Front,” and they can be viewed separately or inserted back into the episode while it is watched. Other features include animation featurettes, commercials that feature “The Simpsons,” storyboards and a promotional syndication reel. One of the major benefits of watching the DVD versus syndicated episodes is the quality of the color and picture. The images are clear, the colors vivid and the sound quality is wonderful. About the only thing that isn’t almost perfect in the set is the episode-selection menu. Each disc has a different character on the menu, and when you select an episode, a short animation clip runs. This is fairly amusing at first, but upon subsequent viewings, it becomes somewhat tedious. “The Simpsons” Season 4 DVD set is a fitting package for the season that proved that the show was not just a cartoon, but a show that mixed the bite of social commentary deftly with comedy.