The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [Blu-Ray]

The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [Blu-Ray]
Complaining about The Simpsons' decline from the most consistently brilliant show on television to a pale shadow of itself has become such a national pastime that it borders on cliché, but the experience of watching the episodes assembled on The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season is still just a little heartbreaking. Look at "She of Little Faith," a dreadful episode in which Reverend Lovejoy's church, in desperate need of funds, agrees to Mr. Burns's proposal to commercialize mass. The church is outfitted with stadium-style ads, a jumbotron, commercial breaks and a neon, lasso-wielding Jesus sign. Materialism is already a pretty easy target, but this episode is too heavy-handed and exaggerated to draw blood. Compare it to a classic episode like "Itchy & Scratchy Land," which digs at the most appalling aspects of Disney culture (the patronizing "It's a Small World" ride, Disney's alleged Nazi sympathies, gift shop upon gift shop) instead of making up new ones. None of the other episodes in season 13 are quite so terrible, but none feel essential either. Do we need another episode about Mr. Burns falling in love, since we know he'll just turn into a miserable old bastard by the end of the episode anyway? Or another gimmicky clip show or Simpsons abroad episode (in this case, Brazil)? The show's increasing over-reliance on throwaway gags and gratuitous celebrity cameos leads to some inspired bits ― Stan Lee's delusional, egomaniacal version of himself in "I Am Furious (Yellow)" ― but just as many misses (hang on, why does Richard Gere attend Springfield's Buddhist Temple?). Even at its worst there is a certain basic level of competence The Simpsons is unlikely to dip below; Homer remains one of the most transcendent characters in the history of television and each episode tosses out so many jokes that some are bound to stick. But want to know something sad? "She of Little Faith" is out there taking syndication time away from "Marge vs. the Monorail." D'oh! It must be said that The Simpsons looks fi-diddly-ine on Blu-Ray ― the bold, primary colour palette has never looked so bright. Extras include the usual jovial commentary tracks on every episode, though Matt Groening's largely absent (he contributes a short, worthless introduction). It's fun to hear them talk about how the nation of Brazil threatened a defamation lawsuit over "Blame It on Lisa." A Ralph Wiggum highlight reel includes such chestnuts as "When I grow up, I want to be a principal, or a caterpillar," but the best nostalgic fodder for the fan of a certain age? A clip montage of Simpsons videogames. Oh, Virtual Bart, how deeply you sucked. (Fox)