The Simpsons have been on for over twenty years now. It’s a part of the cultural landscape in a way that you can say “Everything is coming up Millhouse” or “Embiggen” and most people know what you’re talking about. The Simpsons are made up of father Homer (Dan Castellaneta), mother Marge (Julie Kavner), son Bart (Nancy Cartwright), daughter Lisa (Yeardley Smith) and the baby Maggie. There’s also the ride swatch of supporting players from Ned Flanders, Montgomery Burns, Waylon Smithers, and Lenny (Harry Shearer) to Chief Wiggum, Apu, Moe Slezstak and the criminal Snake (Hank Azaria). There’s a wide world of Simpsons and Season 20 is just another dip in that pool. My review of the Blu-ray of The Simpsons Season 20 after the jump.
There is one continuing narrative, which has marked all seasons of The Simpsons, and it is this: Homer does something stupid and redeems himself. In one episode “Homer and Lisa Exchange Cross Words” Homer bets against Lisa when she admits she often has trouble crossing the finish line. It ends sweetly, but feels very familiar. As do most of the episodes contained herein, one in which Homer and Marge almost lose their marriage when they find out that when they were younger they went to a party and nearly cheated on each other in “Dangerous Curves.”
There’s topical parodies, including a shot at The Da Vinci Code, with “Gone Maggie Gone” where Maggie is part of an ancient secret puzzle that only Lisa can figure out. And there’s guest stars like Anne Hathaway in “The Good, The Sad and The Drugly” when Bart attempts to be a good person because he likes a hot girl. There’s also an episode where the kids try and get into a better school when Homer takes up a fake residence (with his residence officer being a parody of Javier Bardem’s character Anton Chigurh), which leads to some bachelor hi-jinks. I was fond of the episode where the crew go to Ireland (on Derry Air) and there’s a Once parody for no good reason other than it’s kind of awesome.
I don’t want to say that The Simpsons is coasting on its laurels at this point, but it’s pretty much stuck with its orbital characters, who tend to get an episode to shine (like Moe in an episode where he dates a midget), and the show is never not funny. The Simpsons is continually amusing, and worth watching in that sense, and the makers tend to have good enough taste to make reference to things like Heavenly Creatures. But the sense of discovery is long gone. And the sense of structure is so ingrained into the show that little has much bite. It’s good that they do a Charlie Brown parody in the year’s “Treehouse of Horrors” episode, but there’s a great sense of familiarity to the show, and even when it goes for the happy ending, it feels expected, even if it’s a left turn. It’s a pleasant ride, but they’ve found a successful rhythm that’s quality, but feels slightly assembly line.
Twentieth Century Fox’s Blu Ray presents the 20th Season on two Blu-ray discs with the first disc presented in full frame (1.33:1) and in DTS 5.1 HD, with the second disc offering episodes in widescreen (1.78:1) and in DTS 5.1 HD. The only extra is a trailer for the special on The Simpsons directed by Morgan Spurlock (4 min.), which purports to cover much of the shows influence, and all that. This is the first Simpsons set released after the showing, so it contains none of the great extras associated with the show. Shame.