The Twelfth Season
- Buy the DVD
Reviewed by Will Harris
riting a review for the latest “Simpsons” DVD release – in this case, “The Twelfth Season” – is one of those assignments where you’re chomping at the bit to get the gig right up until you sit down and actually begin composing the piece, at which point you ask yourself, “What the hell can I possibly say about this season of ‘The Simpsons’ that hasn’t already been said in all of the previous ‘Simpsons’ reviews?’” And that, my friends, is exactly why David Medsker abolished his earlier decree that all “Simpsons” sets go automatically to him.
He’s a wise man, that Medsker.
Still, just because there isn’t necessarily anything original to say about “The Simpsons: The Twelfth Season” doesn’t mean that we can’t follow the same tried and true format and reel off the things that the casual fans who don’t have every frame of the series memorized will want to know. First and foremost, you’ve got the guest voices, and – no surprise here – Season 12 is filled to the brim with them.
From the world of music, “A Tale of Two Springfields” brings The Who – including the late John Entwistle – into an episode where the city is torn in two by the advent of a new area code, leading them to be conned by Homer into performing in New Springfield. (Fortunately, the wall between the two Springfields is demolished courtesy of Pete Townshend’s solo from “Won’t Get Fooled Again.”) “New Kids on the Blecch,” meanwhile, has a title which is in no small way inspired by Mad Magazine, but it actually features Bart, Nelson, Milhouse, and Ralph teaming up with Pro Tools to form a boy band, leading to a mentoring session from *NSYNC. The literary world takes the spotlight in “Insane Clown Poppy,” an episode which is predominantly about Krusty the Clown discovering that he has an illegitimate daughter (voiced by Drew Barrymore), but he learns of her existence while at a book fair, which provides an excuse to bring on Amy Tan, Stephen King, and John Updike. It also gives Jay Mohr the opportunity to trot out his Christopher Walken impression as he frightens little children while reading them stories. (“Please, children, scooch closer. Don't make me tell you again about the scooching.”) The season’s obligatory sports-star appearances occur in “Tennis the Menace,” which offers Andre Agassi, Pete Sampras, and Venus and Serena Williams. Other guest-voice highlights during the season include Joshua Jackson as a tree-hugging environmentalist who captures Lisa’s heart, Shawn Colvin as a Christian singer who captures Flanders’ heart, and Michael Keaton as a convict / artist who Marge wants to help rehabilitate.
There are a couple of by-the-geeks, for-the-geeks episodes during Season 12, the most obvious of which is “Worst Episode Ever,” in which Comic Book Guy has a heart attack, leaving Bart and Milhouse to run the Android Dungeon (into the ground) during his convalescence. (It’s no coincidence that the special edition box for Season 12 comes in Comic Book Guy’s head.) But for pure cult fun, one must absorb “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes,” which offers up a mind-blowing tribute to “The Prisoner.” I don’t know if this ranks as one of the least popular episode in the history of the series, but it’s definitely playing to a small audience, that’s for sure. "Day of the Jackanapes,” however, was a crowd-pleaser across the board, as it brought back Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob.
Season 12 is also home to a few episodes which remind longtime fans that the show’s days of complete comedic perfection are behind them. “Simpson Safari” is one of those episodes which goes to ridiculous lengths to find the Simpsons visiting another country, while “Homer vs. Dignity” is a classic example of Homer being absolutely too stupid to live. Ironically, though, it’s Homer’s stupidity which results in one of the best episodes, “HOMR,” an homage to “Charly” which posits that the retardation of his intelligence is the result of a crayon having been stuck in his brain. When the crayon is removed, Homer is suddenly up to genius-level smarts, but in the end, he has the crayon put back, though not before he acknowledges in a note to Lisa that he now understands and respects her intelligence far more than he ever did before.
In short, “The Simpsons: The Twelfth Season” falls slightly more in the “woo-hoo!” camp than in the land of “D’oh!” It’s no longer hitting the same heights that it once did, but it’s still full of plenty of laughs.
Special Features: Season 12 is just as packed with bonus material as its predecessors. In addition to the ubiquitous introduction from creator Matt Groening, you get audio commentaries for all 21 episodes, deleted scenes with optional commentary, and two featurettes (“Comic Book Guy: Best. Moments. Ever.” and “The Global Fanfest”). Also included are a sketch gallery, animation showcases, illustrated commentaries, commercials, and the usual special language feature.