Written by Caballero Oscuro
There’s no point discussing the merits of any series that actually reaches its 11th season; by the time it gets there, it has long since reached mass cultural awareness and either made fans or foes out of the viewing audience. What’s remarkable to consider is that in the case of The Simpsons, the 11th season marked only the show’s mid-life (or less?) rather than its swan song. Like most shows of an advanced age, the series struggled with hit-or-miss episodes, but thankfully they still hit most of the time.
Notably, this season contained a few game-changing events: the death of Maude Flanders ("Alone Again, Natura-Diddily"), the sobering-up of Barney ("Days of Wine and D'Oh'ses"), and the birth of Apu's octuplets ("Eight Misbehavin'"). Among its best episodes were "Pygmoelian" where Moe had plastic surgery and became a temporary star; "Bart to the Future", where a mystic showed Bart's future as a washed-up rock star while Lisa was President of the U.S.; and "E-I-E-I-(Annoyed Grunt)", where the family visited Homer's childhood farm and raised a potent tobacco/tomato hybrid crop called "tomacco". This season's installment of Treehouse of Horror also had a classic segment featuring Lucy Lawless reprising her Xena character as she escaped the clutches of Comic Book Guy.
Since your purchasing decision ultimately won’t be swayed much by the show itself, let’s take a look at the extras included in the new DVD box set:
– Intro from Matt Groening
– Audio commentaries on every episode with Executive Producer Mike Scully as well as writers/actors/directors (but only two appearances by Groening)
– A Star on Hollywood Blvd featurette
– The Many Faces of Krusty featurette
– Deleted scenes with commentary, multi-angle animation showcase, and original sketches
Unfortunately, all of those extras are housed on DVDs stored in inexcusably cheap cardboard holders. As Comic Book Guy might say, "Worst. Packaging. Ever." An unfortunate departure from the previous releases that had easily accessible plastic spindles, the new packaging forces users to slide each DVD out of its incredibly tight cardboard sleeve, subjecting the discs to considerable potential scratches and
fingerprints unless users are exceptionally careful. Even with the lightest touch, you may still find that the discs were scratched going into the holder pockets at the factory or shifted during transit, and while some light surface scratches probably won’t affect their play, it’s still disappointing that Fox proceeded with this extremely poor design choice. I thought we’d seen the worst with the infamous Homer-head clamshell packaging many seasons back, but I was sorely mistaken. At least Fox came around and partially corrected the Homer debacle with vouchers for replacement exterior packaging back then, so we can only hope they receive enough heat to do something similar this time.
The box set is initially available in two configurations: a standard box and a limited edition box with raised Krusty face packaging. The contents are the same, although the limited set comes with a voucher to go to the front of the line on The Simpsons ride at Universal Studios. Of course that puffy-head packaging makes it impossible to stack with your other DVDs or match with your other Simpsons seasons, so it’s definitely not the ideal choice for all fans. The head reportedly peels off easily enough if you’re so inclined and doesn’t leave any sticky residue behind, but you’re still stuck with a plastic outer sleeve that won’t conform to your head-less box.