Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Final Perfect Season (So Far) For The Simpsons - The Complete Season Seven!

The Good: Consistently funny episodes, Great bonus features on DVDs, Excellent satires/social commentaries
The Bad: The cracks are showing in the foundation with "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular"
The Basics: With twenty-five great and classic episodes, this boxed set represents the last perfect season of The Simpsons and a great investment for any buyer.

The Simpsons has a powerful run as the longest running series in quite some time for a primetime television show. As is natural, the series has an ebb and flow and with hitting perfection in the fifth season and maintaining it in the sixth, it was something of a miracle that it managed to pull off a seventh flawless, consistently great season. This is not to say that The Simpsons does not have other seasons that wowed the audience or presented a show rich in satire that was truly great, but this is - to date - the last perfect season where the comedy was right on, episode to episode throughout the season.

Beginning where the prior season ended with the mystery of "Who Shot Mr. Burns? - Part Two," The Simpsons resolves the murder mystery and once again becomes an episodic series where the episodes do not usually impact one another and the characters do not so much grow as they experience new adventures. In this season, the foibles of the Simpson family include Bart trying out for the role of Fallout Boy in the new Radioactive Man movie, Lisa becoming a vegetarian, Homer becoming morbidly obese to get on disability, and Marge disappears largely to a supportive role, most notably being ashamed of Bart's shoplifting attempt around Christmastime. This season includes one of the last memorable "Treehouse of Horror" installments with the segment "Homer^3" (cubed), which used CGI to create three-dimensional Homer and Bart. As well, there is the annual assassination attempt by Sideshow Bob (this time he opts for blowing up Springfield to rid the world of television).

This is a solid and funny season with episodes ranging from the introspective and self-referential ("The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" is an odd retrospective episode and "Two Bad Neighbors" revisits the Bush-Simpson controversy by having former president Bush move in opposite the Simpsons) to the politically and socially satirical ("Much Apu About Nothing" tackles the anti-immigrant movement and "Lisa The Iconoclast" takes on historical revisionism). This season also has an abnormally high number of episodes that are obsessed with the place of celebrities and the entertainment industry, with seven episodes dealing with celebrities in the world of The Simpsons and/or consequences of celebrities living the way they do. Bart inadvertently shuts down Krustylu Studios when he fights for the rights of the original creator of "Itchy and Scratchy" ("The Day The Violence Died") and in "Bart The Fink," Krusty's tax evasion is exposed, ruining him. Regardless of this quirk, this is a truly great and enduring season that embodies the best of what a comedy series can be when it is episodic.

As with most of the prior seasons, Homer dominates the episodes, with seven a-plots being distinctly Homer's and three b-plots, with Bart a close second with seven a-plots and two supporting plots. Lisa is better represented with a strong a-plot in three episodes with a strong supporting role in an additional three. Marge has a strong supporting role in many of the episodes, but none of the episodes genuinely focus on her this season. Even Troy McClure and Selma and Grampa and Mr. Burns have episodes they dominate. Fans of Marge will find little to crow about, which is ironic considering the packaging for this DVD set is a Marge Simpson head!

Because of the episodic nature of the episodes, the series is not so much about character growth as it is about what happens to the various characters. Here is how the The Simpsons - The Complete Seventh Season" on DVD finds the primary characters:

Homer Simpson - Starting with Homer on the run under suspicion of shooting Mr. Burns, he soon looses the children due to the appearance of the house when social workers visit, loses Moe's when Moe makes the tavern into a family restaurant, and he gets giant to try to get on disability and work out of the home. Like other seasons, Homer finds new - though not lasting - employment at and outside the Nuclear Power Plant. This season, he takes over for Smithers, becomes a freak at Lollapalooza, and brings Lisa to work. He also discovers his mother is alive and a fugitive for her actions in the late 60s. As well, he finds himself learning an important lesson about the place of immigrants in the United States,

Marge Simpson - Works to rescue Homer from the police and get the children back when she takes a day off from her chores and they are taken away. As well, she becomes disappointed with Bart when he attempts shoplifting and becomes a socialite by joining the local country club,

Lisa Simpson - Tries out a new personality while on vacation, spends time with Homer at the nuclear plant, discovers town founder Jebediah Springfield was actually a pirate. She also resists becoming a Flanders and successfully gives up meat,

Grampa Simpson - Fights Mr. Burns for a lost treasure of Nazi artwork and deals with the trauma of his ex-wife's return,

and Bart Simpson - Goes on a road trip with his friends and a fake i.d., bankrupts the company that makes "Itchy and Scratchy" cartoons and Krusty the Klown, and gets caught shoplifting the newest video game. As well, he sells his soul and competes with Millhouse for the role of Fallout Boy in the Radioactive Man movie.

This set has some wonderful bonus features with commentary on all of the episodes as well as deleted scenes for 15 of the 25 episodes, some of which are hilarious! As well, there are two featurettes and the very cool packaging shaped like Marge Simpson (there's also the other packaging which fits the standard shape of the DVD collection).

As with the prior seasons, this season features various celebrity voices for some guest characters. This season, Glen Close, Henry Morgan, Lawrence Tierney, Donald Sutherland, Jeff Goldblum, Christina Ricci and Kirk Douglas guest star. As well, musicians Cyprus Hill, Peter Frampton, The Smashing Pumpkins, Sonic Youth, and Paul McCarthy and celebrities Linda McCarthy and Mickey Rooney appear as themselves.

The "Homerpalooza" episode is a classic for fans of the mid-90s music scene and a wonderful commentary on that (the commentary track is insightful as well!). It's a nice (almost) end to a perfect season and it's one of the most easily identifiable perfect episodes of the entire series.

The Simpsons - The Complete Seventh Season on DVD is an essential boxed set for any fan of the series and a great place for anyone to pick up the best of what this show has to offer

For other seasons of The Simpsons, please check out my reviews of:
Season 1
Season 2
Season 3
Season 4
Season 5
Season 6


For other television reviews, please check out my Television Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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