The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season review by Mike Long

"Why would you buy a DVD set of a show that's on at least twice a day?" That's the kind of question my mother would ask concerning The Simpsons box sets. The answer is very simple for fans of the show. These sets are the best way to have a collection of the episodes, displayed in the way that they were meant to be shown, that is, without the editing which occurs in syndication. The Complete Third Season of The Simpsons has just hit DVD, and it's another must-have for devotees of this long-running show.

Just in case you've been living in a cave for the past 14 years, here's a quick overview of the show. The Simpsons are a classic dysfunctional family. Father, Homer Simpson (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) is a lazy, dim-witted alcoholic, who is constantly making mistakes, but deep-down, loves his family. His wife, Marge (voiced by Julie Kavner), combats Homer's slovenly behavior by being neurotically over-protective and obsessively clean. Bart (voiced by Nancy Cartwright), the oldest child, is a smart-mouthed hellion who favors pranks over schoolwork. In contrast, middle-child Lisa (voiced by Yeardley Smith), is a genius, and lives for academic pursuits. The youngest child, Maggie, never speaks, and always has her trademark pacifier. This crazy family is always involved in some sort of adventure, usually stemming something dumb that Homer has done, or from one of Bart's stunts.

The Complete Third Season DVD set of The Simpsons contains all 24 episodes from Season 3. After two successful seasons, the show really began to gel with this season. The characters were all well-established and the writers were able to include more peripheral characters and make the storylines even wilder than before. Due to a backlash against Bart (many felt that his outlandish behavior would be a bad influence for children), the show began to focus more in Homer in Season 3, a trend which continues to this day. (And for some, the show has never been the better for this move.)

Despite these changes, Season 3 is a very solid and consistently entertaining collection, containing some of the best episodes of the show. "Stark Raving Dad" features guest voice "John Jay Smith", which is actually Michael Jackson (this is confirmed on the audio commentary which accompanies this episode.) In "Bart the Murderer", Bart gets a job with the local mob boss, Fat Tony (voiced by Joe Mantegna). "Flaming Moes" contains a great parody of the theme song from "Cheers" and offers an appearance by Aerosmith. Homer becomes the manager of a country-western singer (voiced by Beverly D'Angelo) in "Colonel Homer". And in my favorite episode, "Homer at the Bat", Homer loses his spot on the company softball team when Major League players are brought in as ringers. This episode is a great example of how The Simpsons can blend real-life and incredibly odd storylines.

The Complete Third Season of The Simpsons comes packaged in a four-disc DVD set. The shows are presented in their original full-frame aspect ratio. The images here are very sharp and clear, showing no grain or video noise. The colors look outstanding (something which has suffered on the earlier releases), as each shade pops out of the screen. The only drawback here is that the digital transfer has revealed some defects in the source material. Occasionally, dirt from the original art cel can be seen, and there are time when incomplete lines are visible. But, these are minor complaints. The shows have been treated with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio tracks, which offer clear dialogue and sound effects. However, there's not much in the way of traditional surround sound action. There are some occasional musical cues and sound effects from the rear speakers, but these are very discreet and there is little in the way of bass response.

This set is graced with many interesting extras. The greatest asset here is that every episode contains an audio commentary. Series creator Matt Groening appears on every chat and he is typically joined by executive producer James L. Brooks. The other participants include writers, directors, and cast members. Each commentary offers a wealth of information about the show and its production and most of the talks are very funny. There are Matt Groening storyboards for many of the shows, and some episodes offer a feature where the viewer can see original sketches for specific scenes for an episode. Disc 1 contains five Butterfinger commercials featuring The Simpsons. Disc 2 offers a 90-second segment featuring the Bart Simpson balloon from the 1991 Macy's Thanksgiving Parade. There is a jukebox features on Disc 4, in which the viewer can see 13 separate song segments from the Season 3 shows.

Purchasing this set will be a no-brainer for fans of The Simpsons. But, it's always a wise choice for casual fans of the show, or for those who feel that cartoons are "just for kids". This collection offers a look at a program that was entering its prime and is thoroughly entertaining.

10 out of 10 Jackasses

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