Essentially, everything stops for me in the early evening hours; aside from sitting down for dinner, the local Fox channel runs not one, but two reruns of "The Simpsons" (and another one later at night). I guess I could be considered among the legions of die-hard fans of the show - I've easily seen every episode of the series, but don't quite reach that peak of owning any of the wealth of licensed products of the series.
This first season DVD set is sort of a dream come true. Aside from the fact that there's no commercials to sit through (and, honestly, most of the commericals today are horrid) and there's also a wealth of supplemental material. If anything though, I must say that the first season doesn't hold many of my favorite episodes. The series was just learning where to take the characters and I really didn't care for some of the plots - the show did occasionally focus rather heavily on the Simpsons' money woes early on, which drained a bit of the humor out of the proceedings. That, and a few episodes went rather heavy on the drama at times.
Still, the first season does hold some classics. "The Call Of The Simpsons" still remains one of my favorite episodes of all time. One of the few heavily joke-driven episodes of the first season, this has the Simpsons going camping and having their plans fall apart on them. A scene where Homer and Bart attempt to catch a rabbit and have the trap misfire still gets a laugh the hundredth time I've seen it. "Bart The Genius" also leads off with another of the first season's finest moments as the family sits down to play Scrabble.
The 13 episodes of the first season are presented across three discs: the first two discs contain the majority of the episodes, while disc three contains one episode and the majority of the supplements.
Disc One: "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," "Bart the Genius," "Homer's Odyssey," "There's No Disgrace Like Home," "Bart the General," "Moaning Lisa".
Disc Two: "Call of the Simpsons," "The Telltale Head," "Life in the Fast Lane," "Homer's Night Out," "The Crepes of Wrath," "Krusty Gets Busted".
Disc Three: "Some Enchanted Evening".
VIDEO: All of the shows are presented in their original full_frame aspect ratios, as they were originally broadcast on TV. The show was in its very early stages at this point and the animation was really very basic. Considering the look of the show and how they've looked when viewed on broadcast TV in the past, they really do look a bit stronger here than anywhere previous. Sharpness and detail are generally good, although there are a few moments here and there that have a touch of softness. Things seem to be more consisent as the season goes on (and definitely have improved in seasons since).
There's a few minor problems here and there, but they really didn't take away from my enjoyment of watching the episodes. I did notice a couple of slight traces of pixelation and a few infrequent moments where edge enhancement was spotted. But, there's no wear apparent on any of the episodes or any other problems.
Colors generally look quite bold and vibrant for most of these episodes, although the use of color for certain details does vary a bit in comparison from a couple of the first shows to the rest of the season. You can tell that the animators were definitely trying to work out the look and feel of the show as they were going along for these early efforts. A few minor concerns aside, I really enjoyed how these episodes looked and am thrilled to have them available on DVD instead of catching them with commercials and inconsistent reception on TV.
SOUND: All of these first season episodes have been remastered from their original stereo sound into Dolby Digital 5.1. As you might expect, the upgrade does not exactly change things to a great degree. The surrounds do handle the music and occasional slight ambience, but their use is generally subtle. They add a nice level of envelopment, but really don't provide anything very distinct or noticable (Homer's "D'Oh!'s" don't go from speaker to speaker, or anything). Audio quality was generally good; although some of the early sound effects are rather basic, the music and dialogue at least did sound largely crisp and clear.
MENUS:: The menus are rather oddly basic. Although I was generally quite pleased with the rest of the box set and the menus don't make a huge deal of difference, I was suprised that the menus weren't animated. I would've thought that some DVD-related jokes could be worked in (maybe Bart could have been writing "I will not provide audio commentary during class" on the chalkboard). Anyways, I just found it rather suprising that the main and sub-menus were very basic and not animated. They did have the show's music in the background, which is a nice touch, though.
Commentaries: Every episode contains a commentary with a small group of folks. The possible participants are writers Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky, Jon Vitti and George Meyer, directors David Silverman, Wesley Archer, Rich Moore and Brad Bird as well as creator Matt Groening and producer James L. Brooks. The commentaries are a nice mixture of insight and humor. The group does occasionally joke about the plot-points that don't really make sense or the early state of the animation. The other point of interest is that the group points out all of the sight gags and other jokes, some of which I'd missed. They also discuss some technical and behind-the-scenes details about how the first season progressed and the show's popularity increased. Great tracks and well worth a listen.
Outtakes: There's a few minutes worth of rough outtakes from "Some Enchanted Evening", with optional commentary from Groenig, Brooks, writer Al Jean and director David Silverman. The outtakes themselves are rough and were rightly taken out; the commentary by the four is quite hilarious and they seem to be rather horrified at the look of these deleted sequences.
Animatic: The animatic is available for "Bart the General", with commentary by Groenig and director David Silverman.
Making of the Simpsons: This is a short 6 minute promotional featurette that doesn't really provide the viewer with that much insight into the show's process. I'd hope that a documentary could be produced for future box sets that gives the viewer a tour of the animation process and interviews from more of those involved in the "Simpsons" process.
Scripts: The original scripts for "Bart the General", "Bart The Genius", "Some Enchanted Evening" and "Moaning Lisa". I'm usually not too interested in the inclusion of scripts, but these have doodles, drawings, scribbled notes and other entertaining aspects, so it was fun looking through them.
Also: Foreign language clips, slideshow art gallery, "Good Night Simpsons" short, Albert Brooks audio outtakes from "Life in the Fast Lane" and a couple of other hidden Easter Eggs, one of which is a mildly funny newscast about Bart shirts being banned from schools.
Final Thoughts: I am simply thrilled to have these episodes readily available for viewing any time I want. Although not all of them are the finest moments of the series, there's a few real gems out of these 13 episodes. Fox has also done a very good job with audio/video quality and bringing together a great amount of supplements. The fact that the 3-DVD set is available for $39.99 or less is a terrific price, as well. Highly recommended!.