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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Homer Simpson: Marge, it takes two to lie: one to lie and one to listen.
DVD ReviewThe Simpsons started its successful run as a primetime cartoon in 1989. Looking back now, season one seems to have been a trial. Certainly Matt Groening and company could hold their own as a part of The Tracy Ullmann Show, but could they provide a sold half-hour of entertainment every week without anybody else? After 13 episodes, The Simpsons wrapped its first season with a tremendous response from critics and audiences alike. Season two only continued this success, making further advancements in animation, pacing, and acting. But could the third season advance the series even further?
In short: yes. Season three not only features the guest appearances by Michael Jackson and Aerosmith, but it also highlights the series' development of the family's interactions. Homer works desperately to win Lisa's love in Lisa's Pony, Bart saves Lisa from a life of misfortune in Separate Vocations, and the evolution of Homer and Marge's relationship is the subject of I Married Marge. The third season also witnesses an advancement in the extended movie parodies that would soon become a staple of the show. So sit back, grab some popcorn, as you enter into The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season.
Stark Raving Dad
Michael Jackson: "Hi, I'm Michael Jackson, from The Jacksons."
Homer Simpson: "I'm Homer Simpson, from the Simpsons."
Long before Michael Jackson became an odd curiosity he was a superstar. Under the pseudonym John Jay Smith, Michael voices a big, white man in an insane asylum that thinks he's the real Michael Jackson. Homer, after failing a sanity test for work, is thrown into a room with the man. Unfortunately Homer doesn't know anything about the real popstar Michael Jackson and incorrectly informs his family that he'll be bringing Michael Jackson home. There are many funny gags in this episode, especially in the first act when Homer gets a tour of the hospital. Some clever references are made to One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, but the second half of the episode is not especially funny. The jokes seem forced and there is too much of an effort to sentimentalize the relationship between Bart and Lisa, causing the show to lose its narrative drive.
Two and a half plain donuts out of five:
Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington
"Oh, Marge, cartoons don't have any deep meaning. They're just stupid drawings that give you a cheap laugh."-Homer Simpson
Lisa enters into an essay contest for Reading Digest magazine in which she is to write a patriotic essay. After slaughtering her competition, Lisa and family head to Washington, D.C. where she will compete in the national contest. While parading around the many national memorials, Lisa stumbles upon her congressman in a crooked development deal. Lisa loses her faith in democracy, but there are forces at work that will try to restore it. This is one of the best episodes featuring Lisa, complete with poignant observations about politics. The appearance by Barbara Bush (no, it isn't her voice for the part) is a gem.
Four and a half glazed donuts:
When Flanders Failed
Akira: "We learn karate, so that we need never use it."
Bart Simpson: "Um, excuse me, sir. I already know how not to hit a guy. Can we break out the nunchucks?"
At a barbecue, Homer's rival and neighbor, Ned Flanders, announces that he'll be starting his own store, "The Leftorium." Homer's jealousy causes him to wish that Ned's business would fail. As time passes, Ned's risky venture falls into the toilet and Homer fears that his wish has come true. Meanwhile, Bart has given up on his karate classes but still pretends to know certain moves that force Lisa to live in fear. Perhaps this episode is not profound in its examination of jealousy causing people to behave irrationally, but it handles the topic in a serious manner while not compromising the show's humor. The side story with Bart stems from the era of the series when Bart was the big star, but it still has some funny bits.
Three and a half donuts with sprinkles:
Bart the Murderer
"Fat Tony is a cancer on this fair city. He is the cancer and I am the...uh...what cures cancer?"-Chief Wiggum
The best episode in the entire third season of The Simpsons is a marvelous send-up of Martin Scorsese's GoodFellas. Bart is having the worst day of his life, but it takes a surprising turn for the better when he stumbles into Fat Tony's club. Bart bonds with the mobster Fat Tony (voiced by Joe Mantegna) and becomes the club's errand boy. Unfortunately, Principal Skinner goes missing after an argument with Bart and the police suspect Bart is involved. There are many priceless moments here, especially Homer's meeting with Fat Tony's gang. The zeal of John Schwartzwelder's script is noticeable and makes for a great time.
Five double-sized raised donuts out of five:
"Well, you know boys, a nuclear reactor is a lot like a woman. You just have to read the manual and press the right button."-Homer Simpson
The Springfield Nuclear Power Plant nearly suffers a meltdown, but thanks to Homer playing a game of "Eenie meenie miney mo" the plant is saved when he luckily presses the right button. Homer becomes a hero to his family, friends, and co-workers, but his conscience eats away at him. The script makes a lot of good points about the public making heroes in a rash, hysterical manner (this point is made with an amusing cameo by Earvin "Magic" Johnson). The Homer story is enjoyable, but there is a side story featuring Bart and his best friend Milhouse that is actually more interesting. Milhouse's mom won't allow him to play with Bart because she thinks Bart is a bad influence. It's rare for the show to allow Bart to feel genuine emotion, but there is plenty of it in this episode that makes for a nice character oriented story.
Four chocolate donuts:
Like Father, Like Clown
"A man who envies our family is a man who needs help."-Lisa Simpson
Bart's hero Krusty the Clown comes over to the Simpsons' house for dinner. While eating dinner, Krusty breaks down into tears and reveals that his Rabbi father renounced him because he chose to become a clown. Bart and Lisa take this as a sign that they need to reunite Krusty with his father (voiced by comic Jackie Mason). The episode is a parody of The Jazz Singer, with many humorous jokes that fans of the movie will catch. There are enough jokes for people who have not seen the original movie that make for good entertainment, particularly the montage of Bart debating with Rabbi Krustofski. Any fan of the show should see this episode because it gives a lot of substance to Krusty's character.
Four and a half donuts dipped in strawberry sauce:
Treehouse of Horror II
"Behold the greatest breakthrough in labor relations since the cat o' nine tails!"-Mr. Burns
The Simpsons returns with its annual celebration of Halloween, featuring three nightmares by Lisa, Bart, and Homer. In Lisa's nightmare Homer buys an enchanted monkey paw that will grant a wish for every finger. Despite warnings from the local Moroccan sales merchant, Homer takes it home and uses the paw, resulting in nothing but disaster. Bart's nightmare is a spoof of The Twilight Zone, featuring Bart as a monster that forces the rest of Springfield to be happy. One day, Homer loses his temper and tries to kill Bart, but Bart stops him and makes an example out of Homer. The finale of the episode is Homer's nightmare, which finds Mr. Burns using Homer's brain in a science experiment involving a robot. As enjoyable as these vignettes are they pale in comparison to the Halloween specials that followed. There isn't the joyous indulgence in gore and horror movie clichés, but rather it's a throw back to the different science-fiction TV serials of the 1950s and '60s. There is some charm in these stories, particularly Lisa's nightmare, but when watching them, you can't help but wish you were watching The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits.
Three old fashioned donuts:
Marge Simpson: "We can't afford to buy a pony."
Homer Simpson: "Marge, with today's gasoline process, we can't afford not to buy a pony."
After Homer ruins Lisa's talent show he attempts to win back her love by buying her a pony. The plan is a success, but in order to pay for the pony Homer takes a second job at the Kwik-E-Mart. As a consequence, Homer nearly works himself into an early grave. The relationship between Homer and Lisa is the heart of the episode, showing Homer to be more than just a brute. There are two great homages to The Godfather and 2001: A Space Odyssey that film buffs will find uproarious.
Five cream-filled donuts:
Saturdays of Thunder
"Thank you, Bill Cosby, you saved the Simpsons!"-Homer Simpson
After Homer flunks a fatherhood test, he decides to take an interest in Bart's hobby of racing soapbox cars. The two work together at making a car, but the car is a dud. Nelson, the school's primary bully, angers Bart and Martin Prince, another boy who injures himself in the preliminary race. Bart agrees to drive Martin's car in order to prevent Nelson from winning, but Homer is devastated. Like many of the episodes from the third season, the emphasis here is on Homer's parenting. Contrary to popular opinion, Homer is actually a good father who tries to do good by his children. The racing sequences feature good animation and direction, but the highlight is a clip from the movie McBain that Homer sees in the video store.
Four blueberry donuts out of five:
"He may have come up with the recipe, but I came up with the idea of charging $6.95 for it."-Moe Szyslak
One night when business is slow at Moe's Tavern, Homer introduces Moe to a drink of his own invention. The drink is a Flaming Homer, but Moe steals the idea to this delicious drink and makes a fortune off of the Flaming Moe. Eventually Homer becomes consumed by his friend's betrayal, causing a bitter rivalry. This is another great chapter in the history of The Simpsons, with tons of laughs throughout. Aerosmith has a funny cameo and the show has a superb parody of the opening title to Cheers.
Five jelly donuts:
Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk
"What good is money if you can't inspire terror in your fellow man?"-Mr. Burns
Mr. Burns sells his power plant to German investors after its stock goes soaring. Under new management, Homer is fired because of his gross incompetence. The family falls into economic turmoil, will Homer be able to provide for his family? Watching current episodes of The Simpsons a viewer will not get the impression that the Simpsons are a lower-middle class family. Thankfully, there are some fine episodes from the earlier seasons that do a good job of entertaining the audience while making economics a major factor in the plot. The portrayal of Mr. Burns in this episode is the most three-dimensional of any episode in the entire series, making for a rewarding experience. There's also a great tour of the plant provided in this episode, filled with many humorous bloopers.
Four and a half donuts:
I Married Marge
"It all happened at the beginning of that turbulent decade known as the '80s. Those were idealistic days: the candidacy of John Anderson, the rise of Supertramp. It was an exciting time to be young."-Homer Simpson
Marge believes she might be pregnant and while she is at the doctor, Homer explains to the kids the story of their wedding and Marge's pregnancy with Bart. As it turns out, Homer impregnated Marge while working at a mini-golf course and the two married at Shotgun Pete's wedding chapel. The script, by Jeff Martin, juxtaposes between the current day and the story of Homer and Marge. Some of the funniest moments feature Marge's sisters, Patty and Selma, barraging Homer with insults. The episode's climax is a great moment for Homer and fans of the show.
Five delicious donuts:
Homer Simpson: "That Timmy is a real hero."
Lisa Simpson: "How do you mean, dad?"
Homer Simpson: "Well, he fell down a well, and...he can't get out."
Lisa Simpson: "How does that make him a hero?"
Homer Simpson: "Well, that's more than you did!"
Bart celebrates his birthday, but strangely his age still remains at 10 years old. An even greater concern for the young man is the disappointing presents he receives, but after Bart realizes that Homer's radio transmitter present can be used for mischief, he pulls a gigantic stunt on the town. He impersonates a young boy and pretends that the boy, Timmy O'Toole, has fallen down a well. This episode is unbalanced, with some clever dialogue and a fantastic climax (featuring Sting), but the overall pacing of the plot leaves too many lulls for this to be a standout episode.
Three frosted donuts:
Lisa the Greek
Lisa Simpson: "Look, dad, I'll tell you who's going to win the Super Bowl if you want me to, but it'll just validate my theory that you cared more about winning money than you did about me."
Homer Simpson: "Okay."
Is there anything better than watching the NFL? Yes, watching the NFL with 20 bucks riding on the Niners. Lisa has a gift for picking winners, which helps Homer turn his gambling problem into a recipe for success. The two bond together as the football season swings into the Super Bowl, but will Homer still spend his Sunday afternoons with Lisa after the season is over? Any football fan will love this episode, but the reason why it is so good is the relationship between Homer and Lisa. The two truly are a father and daughter to one another, causing both laughter and touching emotion in the audience. By the way, fans of Apocalypse Now should look for a very quick reference to Kilgore's famous Napalm speech.
Five Super Sunday donuts:
"This is Coma-WKOMA. Restful, easy listening. Coming up next, a super set of songs about clouds."-Radio DJ
Marge suffers a nervous breakdown from the constant pressure of keeping her family on the straight-and-narrow. In order to preserve he sanity, Marge heads to a resort for some R&R, leaving Homer to take care of Maggie and her sisters to take care of Bart and Lisa. The episode serves only to demonstrate what is already obvious: that Marge holds the family together. It's entertaining to see Homer struggle with the most basic of parenting skills, but this happens at the expense of all the other episodes this season that show him to be a good father (albeit flawed). Still, it's nice to see Marge get her own show.
Three freshly baked donuts out of five:
Bart the Lover
"Thank goodness I still live in a world of telephones, car batteries, handguns, and many things made of zinc!"-Jimmy
Certainly Bart has done many low things to his teacher, Mrs. Krabappel, but he sinks to a new low by answering her personal ad under the guise of a handsome man (comprised of Gordie Howe's picture and Woodrow Wilson's namesake). When the heat gets turned up, somebody is going to burn. Will it be Mrs. Krabappel, Woodrow, or Bart? In addition to Bart's love triangle, Homer has a side story featuring his efforts to cease swearing. The intertwining of the two plots works very well, creating a fast paced story. Bart's alias, Woodrow, is a delight to hear in voice-overs and Homer's antics produce many laughs.
Five vanilla frosted donuts:
Homer at the Bat
"I've decided to bring in a few ringers. Professional baseballers. We'll give them token jobs at the plant and have them play on our softball team! Honus Wagner, Cap Anson, Mordecai 'Three Finger' Brown!"-Mr. Burns
The Springfield Power Plant's softball team has a secret weapon in Homer's bat. His bat, named Wonderbat (after Roy Hobbs' bat, Wonderboy, in The Natural), is unstoppable against the other softballers. However, Mr. Burns is desperate to defeat his rival power plant and hires nine major league all-stars (Jose Canseco, Don Mattingly, Ken Griffey, Jr., Ozzie Smith, Steve Sax, Darryl Strawberry, Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, and Mike Scioscia). The script makes great use of the baseball superstars, giving each of them a strong personality and plenty of pep (the highlight has to be Mattingly's clash with Mr. Burns). Fans of The Natural will find many parallels between the movie and this episode, most of which are extremely funny (especially Homer's story about the bat's creation).
Four and a half donuts out of five:
"I saw some awful thins in 'Nam, but you really have to wonder at the mentality that would desecrate a helpless puma. I never thought I'd say this, but the no-goodniks rule this school!"-Principal Skinner
After taking a career aptitude test, Bart discovers that he is supposed to be a police officer while Lisa learns that she is supposed to be a homemaker. The test results cause a tremendous curve upward in Bart's behavior and grades, but an equally drastic curve downward for Lisa. Egged on by her new, bad girl friends, Lisa steals the teacher edition textbooks, which prompts Bart and Principal Skinner to find the thief. The script's departure from the traditional roles assigned to Bart and Lisa makes for a fresh experience with many laughs. Bart's ride in the police squad car stands out as the show's highlight.
Four and a half coconut-covered donuts:
Dog of Death
"The cat? What's the point?"-Homer Simpson
Santa's Little Helper, the Simpsons' family dog, is fatally ill. In order to save his life the family pulls together to pay for the bills, but eventually come to resent him for their sacrifice. Thus Santa's Little Helper runs away and becomes an attack dog for Mr. Burns. All dog lovers should see this episode, if only for Mr. Burns' attack dog training program (a brilliant reference to A Clockwork Orange). The episode as a whole will not satisfy devout fans, and the family's relationship to the dog won't register to casual viewers. Still, there are enough laughs (especially in the animal hospital) to keep the audience entertained.
Three tasty donuts:
"Oh, shut up, Homer! No one wants to hear what you think!"-Marge Simpson
After Marge humiliates him at a movie theater, Homer drives all night only to stop at a far away bar. While drinking a beer, Homer encounters Lurleen Lumpkin (Beverly D'Angelo), a singing waitress. Her songs stir Homer's emotions, which send him into a career as her manager. Meanwhile, Marge is jealous about Lurleen and realizes that she is trying to seduce Homer. This is another great episode that chronicles the love between Homer and Marge, showing the ups and downs of their stormy marriage. Country music fans might take offense at Matt Groening's script, which hams up every stereotype imaginable. Lurleen's songs are filled with clever observations, but it is Homer's befuddlement that makes this a classic episode.
Five country-baked donuts:
"You can't keep the Democrats out of the White House forever. And when they're back, I'm out on the street with all of my criminal buddies!"-Sideshow Bob
Sideshow Bob (Kelsey Grammer), the evil archnemesis of Bart, returns to civilian life after serving a prison sentence. Bart is horrified to learn that Bob is going to marry his aunt Selma, but he is the only one who still believes Sideshow Bob to be a criminal. Is Bart right, or has the Springfield prison system rehabilitated Bob? It is always a joy to see those precious few episodes that feature Sideshow Bob, but this is not a strong entry to the series. Some of the jokes work (such as the climax), but the love story between Bob and Selma never seems to play as well as it should.
Three jail cell donuts:
The Otto Show
"If something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing."-Homer Simpson
After seeing Spinal Tap (that's right, the guys from the movie) perform a concert, Bart wants to be a guitarist. When he finds out that it will take hard work and practice to play the guitar well, Bart gives up. Otto, Bart's bus driver, sees the guitar and plays it but the disturbance that follows causes him to lose his job and so Bart invites Otto to live in the Simpsons' household. Up until this episode Otto was a very minor character, but here he gets to be a "Fonz" for the 1990s. The writing is at full throttle here, cramming tons of jokes into the episode's 20-minute runtime with stunning success.
Five donuts out of five:
Bart's Friend Falls in Love
"How could this happen? We started out like Romeo and Juliet but it ended up in tragedy."-Milhouse Van Houten
Milhouse Van Houten falls in love with Springfield Elementary's newest student, Samantha Stanky. As Samantha and Milhouse grow closer, Bart becomes the third wheel and resents his friend's love interest. There are many funny moments here, especially the sex ed video hosted by Troy McClure. It's tough to view Milhouse in a romantic relationship, especially since the most recent seasons have made a point of hinting at Milhouse being gay. Still, the love triangle makes for some interesting drama and the script's observations about childhood infatuations are right on point.
Four and a half highly caloric donuts:
Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?
"Marge, there's an empty spot I've always had inside me. I tried to fill it with family, religion, community service. But those were all dead ends. I think this chair is the answer."-Homer Simpson
It has been a year since Homer ruined his half brother's successful motor company, but brother Herb (Danny De Vito) is bound for a comeback. In order for Herb to make his fortune, he needs the 2,000 dollars Homer just received from Mr. Burns (as a result of the Power Plant making Homer impotent). Danny De Vito's Herb is a perfect sibling for Castellaneta's Homer, with the two characters having a harmonious give-and-take comedic style. Indeed there isn't a great deal of substance in John Schwartzwelder's script, but it is a great deal of fun with plenty of laughs to more than make up for this flaw. There is also a humorous cameo by Joe Frazier that puts a nice accent on the show.
The final five donuts in the box:
The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season is a great transition between the early, rugged episodes of The Simpsons into the far more sophisticated, nuanced episodes that would follow in the fourth season. Fans of the show will appreciate being able to see the episodes as they originally aired and those who are not particularly fond of the series will have an opportunity to establish a friendship with Springfield's favorite family.
Rating for Style: B+
Rating for Substance: A-
Image Transfer Review: The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 in a nonanamorphic transfer. The image is a considerable improvement over the syndicated re-runs seen on TV, but there are flaws. Treehouse of Horror II has an ever so slightly soft picture that separates it from the rest of the episodes. Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes? has a brief shimmer in the image, as well. Print defects and compression artifacts trickle throughout the four disc set, but are minimal. The colors are strong and accurately reflect the trademark yellow skin of the show's characters. Mosquito noise and edge enhancement are nonexistent. The consistency between each episode's video is evidence of a conscientious and good transfer.
Image Transfer Grade: B+
Audio Transfer Review: For this DVD release, each episode is treated to a new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix in English, as well as French and Spanish Dolby Stereo 2.0 tracks. The Dolby Digital mix is not robust, which creates a less than involving experience. The front soundstage gets some exercise, especially with Saturdays of Thunder. Danny Elfman's main theme sounds nice as it permeates from all of the speakers. The surround speakers are not used often, but they offer nice ambience in Homer at the Bat and Bart the Murderer. It isn't as robust as one would like, but it has its moments.
Audio Transfer Grade: B
Disc ExtrasFull Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 144 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
6 TV Spots/Teasers
24 Feature/Episode commentaries by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, Al Jean, Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Rich Moore, David Silverman, Mike Reiss, Wes Archer, Jon Vitti, Jim Reardon, Nancy Cartwright, Howard Gewirtz, Mark Kirkland, Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky, Brad Bird, Jeff Mart
Apart from the commentaries, there is also an enhanced viewing option that allows you to access Scene Specific Sketches of different scenes in Like Father, Like Clown, Treehouse of Horror II, Flaming Moe's, Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk, I Married Marge, Radio Bart, Homer Alone, Dog of Death, Colonel Homer, and Black Widower. A pencil icon appears in the lower right hand of the screen and when selected you are taken to rough drawings of the character's in that scene. The drawings don't offer much insight into the designs of each character and no commentary accompanies the images, so the feature is not worth much.
There is also an ability to see Matt Groening's original storyboards and notes for Homer Defined, Treehouse of Horror II; Radio Bart, and Black Widow. The storyboards can be played either with the episode's audio or as a gallery. Watching them with the audio gives an interesting look at how cartoons progress from their initial conception to the finished product. Most people will find this feature pointless, but anybody interested in animation will learn a lot.
Also on this boxed set are six commercials from that aired during the season's run in 1991-92. There are five commercials for Butterfinger that create a certain sense of nostalgia for the days when Bart was such a controversial figure. The other commercial is a promo for Colonel Homer, which serves to show how much television advertising has advanced over the past decade. In addition to the commercials, there is a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade clip from 1991 that features the Bart Simpson float. Why this boring and elongated extra is included is a bit of a mystery. There is also a multi-language feature on Treehouse of Horror II that provides Czech and Polish audio in addition to the usual English, French, and Spanish triumvirate.
The final two features are a pop-up trivia track on Colonel Homer and a jukebox of 13 songs performed on the show. The jukebox contains the video performance of "Happy Birthday Lisa," "Walk This Way," "Talkin' Softball," and others. Since there are scene selections available for every episode, this feature is superfluous. The pop-up trivia for Colonel Homer sounds like a promising idea, but it isn't successful. For the most part it just gives the names of country songs that the track's creators find interesting. It's worth putting on when you watch the episode, but it isn't anything special.
The extras are plenty, but there isn't a great deal of substance to any of them. The commentaries are the highlight of this set, but the other extras are not as promising as they would seem. There is plenty of opportunity for Fox to organize an in depth documentary about the animation process, but they still have several seasons to deliver a knock-out collection of extras for The Simpsons.
Extras Grade: B
Final CommentsFox has delivered another fine season of The Simpsons to DVD. The image and sound are better than they've ever been before and are accompanied by a healthy dose of extras. Every fan of the show should buy this set.
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