The longest running animated television series of all times continues it's amazing run of 'complete season' DVD releases with The Simpsons – The Complete Sixth Season, a killer new four disc set from those fine people over at Fox. While the earlier seasons were having some problems finding their stride, it was around the time that these episodes originally aired that series creator Matt Groening and company really started to come into their own and the show went from simply 'very funny' to 'damn near brilliant.' By this point in the run, we knew the characters and the supporting characters well enough to understand and appreciate their quirks and oddball behavior and the writing staff started to figure out what worked and what didn't within the context of those definitions.
Ripe with satire and pop culture references, the episodes on this set benefit from some great replayability what with their many layers of subtle and not so subtle humor and playful, clever jabs and plain old off the wall wackiness. Add to that a fantastic cast of guest voice actors used throughout the twenty five episodes in the sixth season and you've got yourself a roster of comedy gold that plays as well now as it did when it first aired.
Here's a play by play of what episodes appear on each of the four discs contained in this set:
Bart Of Darkness: When a heat wave hits Springfield right in the middle of summer, Bart and Lisa talk Homer into installing an above ground pool in the backyard. This makes them the most popular kids in town but soon Bart breaks his arm after a failed high dive results in a crash land and he spends the rest of the summer in the house while Lisa enjoys all the newfound popularity. To help pass the time, Bart starts spying on people through a telescope in his room and he witnesses what he believes to be a murder at the Flanders' house.
Lisa's Rival: Lisa's used to being the smartest kid in school and the best saxophone player in the school band until Allison comes along and Lisa has to deal with being second best. Lisa results to trying to sabotage Allison's schoolwork as she's having trouble coming to terms with being number two. Meanwhile, Homer comes across a truck full of sugar that's overturned on a back road. He decides to get rich quick using the spilt sweetener, which he figures he can sell at a discount. This episode features Winona Ryder as Allison's voice and makes some brilliant Scarface parodies.
Another Simpsons Clip Show: The title of this one says it all! The focus this time out is on romance and through various clips from past episodes we witness love in bloom in the town of Springfield throughout a few different past episodes.
Itchy And Scratchy Land: When Bart and Lisa finally convince Homer and Marge to take them to Itchy And Scratchy Land for a day full of fun, it doesn't take long before it all comes crashing down on them when Bart inadvertently brings the animatronic characters to life and the Simpsons have to fight their way out to make it home alive.
Sideshow Bob Roberts: A rightwing radio talk show host convinces Sideshow Bob (once again voiced by Kelsey Grammer) to run against Mayor Quimby in the upcoming Springfield election. Dirty politics ensue, and Bob is able to secure the senior vote by rushing construction on the Matlock Expressway, which threatens to demolish the Simpson's home.
Treehouse Of Horror V: The fifth wacky trilogy of terror starts with The Shinning in which the Simpson's have to look after Mr. Burns' mansion during the cold, hostile winter months resulting in a clever satire of the famous Stephen King novel. The second story finds Homer traveling through time by way of the family's broken toaster with hilarious results ensuing once he alters the time-space continuum by squashing a bug. The third storyline finds Principal Skinner taking care of the overcrowding problem that plagues the school by making short work of the students who attend there.
Bart's Girlfriend: Meryl Streep does the voice work for Jessica, Reverend Lovejoy's daughter. Bart meets her and soon falls head over heels in love with her but soon finds out that she's not the good girl that she pretends to be despite the fact that her father is a man of the cloth.
Lisa On Ice: Lisa's not so hot when it comes to physical education at school, but after watching Bart play hockey one day she decides she should give it a shot. She tries out and makes it and ends up playing goalie, but tensions rise between brother and sister when Bart decides he doesn't want his sister on his team anymore.
Homer Badman: Homer and Marge leave the kids with a babysitter and head off to the Springfield Candy Convention where Homer steals the Gummy Venus. When he takes the babysitter home after work, he notices that the prized gummy is stuck to her rump and when he decides to peel it off of her, she assumes that he's sexually harassing her and a media frenzy ensues.
Grandpa Versus Sexual Inadequacy: When Homer and Marge have marital troubles, Grandpa comes to the rescue with his special tonic. Finding the results to be pretty amazing stuff, Grandpa and Homer hit the road together to sell their wares out of Homer's care but a fight erupts between father and son after they visit the old Simpson farm house where Homer was raised. Meanwhile, the kids of Springfield can't for the life of them figure out why their parents are going to the bedroom so often these days and chalk it up to some sort of alien conspiracy/reverse vampirism.
Fear Of Flying: Homer gets kicked out of Moe's Tavern and starts wandering the streets of Springfield to find a new watering hole. Eventually he winds up at the airport bar where he's taken for a pilot and ends up getting some free flights for the family out of the deal. The only problem standing in the way of Homer and his free flights is Marge's deep-rooted fear of flying.
Homer The Great: One of the greatest episodes in the history of the show finds Homer trying to gain entrance into the secret club known as The Stonecutters. When it turns out that Grandpa is a member, Homer makes it in and for a brief time enjoys all of the benefits but when he wipes his mouth with the sacred parchment, they strip him off his clothes, kick him out of the club and make him drag a rock. It's then that they notice he has the secret mark of the chosen one on him and they take him as their sworn leader. Patrick Stewert provides the voice of the leader of the Stonecutters.
And Maggie Makes Three: This flashback episode takes a look at the origins of Maggie Simpson and the dilemmas that faced not only Homer and Marge with her birth, but also those facing Lisa and Bart.
Bart's Comet: When Bart makes fun of Skinner by sending off a weather balloon shaped like his buttocks, Skinner makes him take notes for his astronomy and star gazing as punishment. Sadly for Skinner, Bart discovers a comet – unfortunately for everyone, that comet is on a crash course for Earth and it looks like it's going to land right on top of Springfield. Luckily, Flanders has built a bomb shelter in his backyard, but is it big enough for everyone or will the group have to choose who gets left outside for the impact?
Homie The Clown: Another classic episode finds a broke Krusty the Klown cashing in on his name by opening a clown school. Homer enrolls but soon the mafia, lead by Joe Montagna as Fat Tony, mistakes Homer for the real Krusty who happens to owe them a substantial amount of money.
Bart Versus Australia: When Bart makes a collect call to Australia that ends up a massive phone bill he's taken to Australian soil and forced to apologize. The family gets in some sight seeing but then it turns out that the Australians want to kick Bart in the ass with a giant boot as part of his punishment and the American embassy is going to go along with it. Meanwhile, Marge has trouble ordering coffee.
Homer Versus Patty And Selma: When Homer forgets to sell his pumpkin stock right before Halloween he ends up losing his shirt and has to borrow money from his wife's two dreaded sisters who use and abuse Homer and blackmail him into doing whatever they want, otherwise they'll squeal to Marge about Homer's new debt. While all this is going on, Bart becomes learned in the art of ballet. Mel Brooks appears as himself in this episode.
A Star Is Burns: Jon Lovitz guest stars as Jay Sherman (from The Critic) when he shows up to judge the Springfield film festival. Marge insists that Sherman stay with the Simpsons, meanwhile Mr. Burns hires Senior Spielbergo to make him the ultimate prize winning film. Burns is up against some serious competition though, as Hans Moleman has entered with his masterpiece, 'Man Gets Hit In Groin With Football.'
Lisa's Wedding: Lisa, by chance, visits a fortune teller booth and gets a glimpse into the future – specifically, her romantic life. We find out that when she's older she'll date a snooty Englishman named Hugh, who she becomes engaged to. When she brings him back to Springfield, she's understandably nervous about introducing him to her family and when he flat out refuses to honor a Simpson's tradition at their upcoming wedding, Lisa has to rethink her entire stance on her relationship with him.
Two Dozen And One Greyhounds: Santa's Little Helper goes on a tear and ends up getting another greyhound pregnant. She gives birth to a ton of cute little puppies and eventually, despite their best intentions, the Simpsons have to find homes for them. Mr. Burns ends up taking all of the puppies himself so that he can have them made into a fur coat (after performing the fantastic musical number, 'See My Vest'!) and Bart and Lisa have to stop him before it's too late.
The PTA Disbands: Springfield Elementary is falling apart and Bart convinces the teachers to turn against Principal Skinner and to go on strike. Bart's loving it initially, as he doesn't have to go to school, but Lisa starts getting the shakes and going through withdrawal. Finally, with no other choice, the concerned parents of Springfield decide to bring in some substitute teachers, and Marge volunteers to help out as one of them much to Bart's dismay.
Round Springfield: Bart's chowing down on his cereal one morning and inadvertently eats a jagged-metal-Krusty-oh. He has to go to the hospital for surgery and the courts force Krusty to pay him $500.00. Lisa, on the other hand, finds Bleeding Gums Murphy is staying down the hall from her brother, but that he's not long for this world. Lisa desperately wants to buy his rare album to get it played on the local radio station as a tribute to her late hero, but will need to come up with $500.00 to afford it.
The Springfield Connection: When Snake tries to mug Marge, she takes the law into her own hands and smacks him outside the head with a garbage can lid. This inspires her to think about joining the Springfield Police Department and after a weekend of basic training, she gets the job. Marge loves making a difference in the community but soon finds that her newfound authority has come at a serious cost to her social life. Meanwhile, Homer is feeling a little inadequate with his wife working the beat, but that doesn't stop him from having some friends over for a night of Cuban cigars and illegal gambling.
Lemon Of Troy: Bart just cannot resist wet cement and soon Marge busts him writing his name into a freshly laid sidewalk. This inspires Marge to lecture Bart on being proud of his roots and his hometown, which in turn inspires Bart to wage war with the kids of neighboring Shelbyville. When the kids from the next town over steal the lemon tree off of Springfield's turf, it's all out war as Bart, Millhouse, Todd, Martin, Data and Nelson head into enemy territory to get it back. Luckily Ned has just bought a brand new motorhome that Homer and the rest of the concerned Dad's commandeer in order to get their kids back.
Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 1: The season finale this time out is one of the most famous episodes in the show's history. When Springfield Elementary's hamster bites the dust they decide to bury him in the back area of the playground where Skinner strikes oil. This prompts Mr. Burns to move in and drill into their reserves and drain it dry so that he can make all of the money that there is to be had from the find. Burns' oil riches make everyone else in town resent him for various reasons and at the end of the episode, where it's announced that Mr. Burns plans to block out the sun so that he can up the town's power usage, he ends up getting himself shot. Who shot Mr. Burns? You'll have to buy Season Seven to find out if you don't already know because this episode ends on a cliffhanger.
Well, seeing as each and every one of the episodes in this set (and in fact the entire series) was broadcast in 1.33.1 fullframe, it shouldn't come as any surprise to see them presented in that very same aspect ratio on this set. As has been the norm with the Simpson's complete sets so far from Fox, the video presentation is top notch. The colors look nice and bright, the image is strong, vibrant and clean, and almost all traces of dirt, debris and print damage has been eliminated from the picture.
There aren't any problems at all with mpeg compression throughout the set during playback, though there is some mild line shimmering and light edge enhancement detectable in a few spots that, while not distracting or overbearing, is definitely there. Overall though, this is a very nice presentation in terms of video quality and each and every one of the episodes in this set look better on these DVDS than they do in reruns on TV, especially in terms of color reproduction. Everything looks brighter and more vibrant which adds to the fun of the series' unique look and style.
The English language track on this DVD is presented in a very nicely handled Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound mix. While it's lamentable that Fox didn't include the original 2.0 stereo mixes for the purists out there, the 5.1 mixes in this set are great. They don't go completely overboard with background or ambient noise and instead use the rears to enhance what's already there in the first place with gives the soundstage a more lifelike feel. While there are instances where sound effects will come at your unexpectedly, in terms of channel separation and speaker use, there's nothing funky going on here, it all works and it all sounds pretty natural. Dialogue is crisp, clean and clear and there are no problems with hiss or distortion. The opening theme song sounds incredibly lively as it plays before each episode and the background music used throughout the shows is strong but not overpowering or domineering.
Alternate language dubs are provided in French and Spanish (both in nice, robust Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Sound mixes), subtitles are available in English, French and Spanish, and an English closed captioning option is available as well.
The first thing you'll notice is that, like the rest of the releases in the series so far, each and every one of the episodes in this set has a commentary track from those involved in making the show. While this may sound like overkill, most of these tracks are not only very interesting, but also quite funny. The crew members involved in making the show obviously have a lot of fun with their work and enjoy the working relationships that they have together as it shows in each one of these track. They prove to be not only interesting in terms of the animation and background information on the show, but also in terms of trivia and little references and anecdotes littered throughout the series that you might not necessarily pick up on just watching the show regularly.
I'm going to break the extra features for this release down by what's included relating to which episode on which disc. Ready? Good. Here we go…
Bart Of Darkness: Four deleted scenes are included for this episode: Dr. Hibbert talking to Bart and Homer about getting a waterproof cast so Bart can go swimming; an extended version of the scene where the kid's are trying to get Lisa's attention while she's in the pool; Homer playing with a chlorine bottle; and Bart drawing a picture of the murder he thinks that he saw out of his window. This episode also features a commentary track from David Mirkin, Greg Daniels, Jim Reardon, David Silverman, David S. Cohen, and Matt Groening.
Lisa's Rival: This episode features a commentary track from Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Mike Scully, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, and Mark Kirkland.
Another Simpson's Clip Show: Features a commentary track from Matt Groening, David Mirkin, and David Silverman.
Itchy And Scratchy Land: Four deleted scenes are included for this episode: Homer fighting with a little kid in order to steal his popsicle; Bart antagonizing Itchy by stepping on his foot; an unused clip of Homer and Bart in jail discussing why they were locked up; Lisa fighting the robots while Homer has an episode. The commentary for this episode is supplied by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Wes Archer.
Sideshow Bob Roberts: There is one deleted scene in this episode in which Bob yells out in the courtroom (telling you anymore would spoil the joke). In addition, there's a commentary track from Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Josh Weinstein, and Bill Oakley.
Treehouse Of Horror V: There are four deleted scenes for this episode: Bart skateboarding down a hallway where something just isn't right; Homer wondering where his house is being taken away to; Kane and Kodo cracking up and laughing at Homer when he decides he wants to go back in time and fix everything; Principal Skinner and Lunchlady Doris have a discussion about soup. Also for this episode you'll find an animatic with optional illustrated commentary from Matt Groening, Jim Reardon and David Silverman. Clocking in at just under ten minutes, this is an interesting look behind the scenes at the genesis of an episode from the animator's standpoint..
Bart's Girlfriend: This episode contains a commentary track from Matt Groening, David Mirkin, David Silverman, Jonathan Collier, Susie Dietter, Julie Kavner.
Also included on this first disc in the set is A Confession From Matt Groening, which in a nutshell is an introduction to season six and the various episodes contained therein from the series' creator. This short feature runs just over a minute and features Groening waxing nostalgic about the show and this season specifically.
Lisa On Ice: This episode contains a commentary track from Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Mike Scully, Bob Anderson.
Homer Badman: There deleted scenes are included for this episode: the chocolate people and the peanut butter people square off at the candy convention; Homer yells at the protestors gathered on his lawn out of his upstairs window; Homer meets the Sasquatch when he appears on 'Rock Bottom.'
Grandpa Versus Sexual Inadequacy: There are three deleted scenes for this episode: Homer stuffs a cork in each of his ears so that he doesn't have to listen to Grandpa Simpson yammer on; an extended version of Homer and Grandpa Simpson fighting in Homer's car; Ralph giving the rest of the kids his take on what he saw and what he thinks is happening to the adults in the city. There's also a commentary track on this episode from David Mirkin, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Wes Archer.
Fear Of Flying: There are six deleted scenes included for this episode: Moe kicks Homer out of the bar and when he's in the street he runs into a kitty; Lisa asks Marge a question which she ignores and answers with something that doesn't make any sense at all; the pilot goes insane and commits suicide by jumping off the roof; Marge starts to hyperventilate while on the plane and Homer makes fun of her; Homer does the vacuming but the vacume cleaner isn't plugged in; Marge dreams of Homer eating a branch only to wake up and find it wasn't a dream after all.
Homer The Great: Five deleted scenes have been included for this episode: Homer gets bumped into outside of the Stonecutter's Lodge by someone's car; Mr. Burns gives Homer a raise; Lenny receives some help from Homer at the candy machine at work; Apu reads from a children's book to some of the local kids when the Stonecutter's build a children's playground in Springfield; Moe decides to start a new club. There's also a commentary track from Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith.
And Maggie Makes Three: There are two deleted scenes here: Homer plays bongos on Mr. Burns' head; Lisa and Bart discuss life after Maggie's birth and how it will affect them. A commentary track is supplied with participation from Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Swinton O. Scott, David Silverman.
Bart's Comet: There are four deleted scenes for this episode: an extended version of the Springfield town meeting; an alternate version of the scene where Kent Brockman discusses how the rocket missed the comet on the nightly news; Bart heads to the shelter for a run in with Ned; an extended version of the scene with the senior citizens. There's also a commentary track with Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Bob Anderson.
Homie The Clown:There are three deleted scenes: one where Homer threatens a man while in clown make up; one of Homer running a marathon in make up; an extended take at the restaurant; . This time out, Matt Groening, Mark Kirkland, David Mirkin, and David Silverman are on the commentary.
Bart Versus Australia:For this episode, there are three deleted scenes: one where Marge and Lisa take some pictures; one where Homer and Bart play rugby; an alternate take on the apology scene. The commentary track for this episode includes David Mirkin, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, and Wes Archer.
Homer Versus Patty And Selma:Here we get three deleted scenes: one alternate take with Homer talking with Patty and Selma then kicking them out; an alternate take of Homer hiding under the breakfast table; an extended version of the scene with Homer and Mel Brooks; . David Silverman, David Mirkin, Mark Kirkland and Matt Groening team up for even more commentary action.
A Star Is Burns:This time there are three deleted scenes: one of Bart's home video of Homer trying to get his pants on; one where the seniors shoot a dirty movie; an alternate take of Burns holding auditions; an alternate take where Jay reads at the festival and Bart and Lisa laugh. Al Jean, James L. Brooks, Mike Reiss, Jon Lovitz, Dan Castellaneta, Susie Dietter, and Ken Keeler leave Matt Groening alone this time as he's absent on this commentary.
Lisa's Wedding:Once again, two deleted scenes: a cut scene where Lisa is hanging with her fiancé; a cut scene with Kent Brockman reading on the air. David Mirkin, James L. Brooks, and Greg Daniels are onboard to give their thoughts on this episode's commentary. Also included for this episode is an animatic/storyboard feature that runs just over seven minutes and features some neat storyboard artwork. You can switch back and forth on this feature by hitting the 'angle' button on your remote to compare the animated sequences with the storyboards..
Two Dozen And One Greyhounds:Two deleted scenes: an alternate take of Bart and Lisa rescuing the dogs; a scene where Lisa confronts Burns on his dastardly deeds. Matt Groening joins David Mirkin, Mike Scully, and Bob Anderson for the commentary this time out.
The PTA Disbands:Here we get two deleted scenes: Bart goes into the crawlspace causing Marge to get irate; the teachers are striking in front of the school. Rounding out the third disc, Matt Groening, David Silverman, Swinton Scott, and David Mirkin are onboard for the commentary track.
Round Springfield:Deleted scenes: an alternate opening after Bart east the Krusty-Oh; an alternate take where Lisa sees the radio station hit by lightning; a cut scene with certain people listening to Bleeding Gums Murphy on the radio where Flanders prays for Howard Stern to be kicked off the airwaves. This episode has got a commentary track featuring Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Joshua Sternin, Jeffrey Ventimilia, and Steven Moore.
The Springfield Connection:Three deleted scenes: before Marge becomes a cop Lisa talks to her and she cuts some celery; Marge confronts Skinner when she's called in to settle a domestic dispute between him and his mother; Marge comes home to bed tired to Homer. Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, David Mirkin, John Collier, Matt Groening, and Mark Kirkland are onboard for the commentary track on this one.
Lemon Of Troy:This time out, we get Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Greg Daniels, Jim Reardon, David Silverman, and David S. Cohen on the commentary track.
Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 1:One deleted scene: Homer swears so loud that the Church organ can barely cover it up. Next up is a commentary track from David Mirkin, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein and Jeffrey Lynch. James L. Brooks also provides a very quick one-minute audio introduction to this episode, stressing its importance at the time it originally aired. Also on this episode are four alternate language tracks, so aside from the English, French and Spanish audio options, you can also watch the episode in Parisian French, Castillion Spanish, Russian and Czech if you so desire. Next up for this episode is the twenty one minute special, Springfield's Most Wanted that Fox aired way back when to generate hype for this episode. Done in the familiar style of America's Most Wanted this is a fun spotlight on the show that is hosted by John Walsh who does a fine job of pretending to be very serious as the tabloid style news show tries to figure out just who it was that shot Mr. Burns that fateful day in Springfield.
Now, in addition to being able to view the deleted scenes in the episodes in which they were originally designed to be in, on the fourth disc there's a Deleted Scenes Reel that allows you to check out all of the scenes with optional commentary from David Mirkin who explains the reasoning behind the decisions to axe all of this material from the broadcast versions of the episodes in this set. Combined, this segment runs for twenty eight minutes and it's an interesting way of getting a look behind the scenes as far as the editing of the show is concerned.
Rounding out the extras on the fourth disc are two Church's Chicken commercials featuring Simpsons characters, a 1-800-Collect commercial, and a two minute new segment on a Simpsons plane that was made by Western Pacific Airlines who designed it to look like it belonged in the show. Oddly enough, Matt Groening and David Mirkin provide an optional commentary for this segment as well.
The copy of the set that Fox sent for review did not contain a booklet inside, though there was a spot where one could be housed and I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that retail versions of the set will in fact include a booklet inside the packaging alongside the discs themselves.
On a semi-related note, I have mixed emotions about the packaging that Fox has chosen for this release. The good news is that the four discs in the set come inside a keen plastic replica of Homer's giant yellow head. The bad news is that this head doesn't really line up properly on the shelf next to the first five seasons packaging, and it doesn't even remotely resemble it either. While from a creative aspect this set looks great, from a practical aspect and for those of us anal enough to complain about such things, the sets now look kind of odd beside each other. Add to that the fact that storing a rounded head shaped set is trickier than storing a rectangular box and there's the potential that the packaging could become damaged fairly easily as the plastic used to house the discs (which are each inside a sort of four sided keep case binder inside Homer – they're not lose) isn't the sturdiest I've ever seen. The packaging is an interesting experiment, though I'm not entirely sure that it was a completely successful one. The good news is that Fox is allowing fans to send in for a mail in replacement case that fits the format of the earlier season releases, proving that every once in a while you can have your cake and eat it too.
One of the strongest seasons in the history of the long running fan favorite series gets a superb release from Fox. While the packaging has it's pros and cons, the episodes look and sound very good and the supplements are not only plentiful, but also a lot of fun. The Simpsons – The Complete Sixth Season deserves the DVD Talk Collector's Series stamp of approval!