While it had already achieved hit status by the time the fourth season rolled around, this collection of episodes showed the creators going to high gear to create some of the most beloved episodes of the show's history.
The first disc of this four disc set includes some of the show's finest half-hours, including Bart and Lisa's horrific journey to the run-down "Kamp Krusty" and "Homer The Heretic", where Homer decides to create his own religion after enjoying a Sunday away from church. "Lisa the Beauty Queen" has Lisa being elected in a corrupt beauty pagent only after the winner holds up her scepter a little too high during a thunderstorm (one of the show's funniest moments).
On disc 2, Homer starts up a snowplow service that momentarily sweeps aside his friendship with Barney in "Mr. Plow", while "Treehouse of Horror III" is one of the finer early horror episodes, complete with a talking Krusty doll that doesn't exactly take well to Homer (Bart: "I'd say the pressure has finally gotten to dad, but what pressure?")
Disc 3 has a few real gems, including Homer's heart ailment in "Homer's Triple Bypass", which one of the most laugh-packed episodes of the season (shocked back to life by paddles, Homer's simple request: "More.") "Brother From Another Planet" has Bart fleeing to a "big brother" after his irritation with Homer reaches a peak when he forgets to pick Bart up after soccer. The third disc also includes the famed "Marge Vs. The Monorail", which includes - according to the DVD set's insert - one of creator Matt Groening's favorite lines from Homer in the series (It also includes one of my favorites: Homer to Bart: "Do you want to change your name to Homer, Jr.? The kids could call you "Hoju.")
Finally, disc 4 includes the classics "Last Exit to Springfield" (where Homer becomes a union leader in order to get Lisa braces), "Krusty gets Kancelled" (Bart and Lisa help Krusty put together a celeb-filled comeback special to boost his career) and "Whacking Day", where the snakes of Springfield flee in terror from the town's tradition.
60. Kamp Krusty
61. A Streetcar Named Marge
62. Homer the Heretic
63. Lisa the Beauty Queen
64. Tree House of Horror III: The Simpson's Halloween Special III
65. Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie
66. Marge Gets a Job
67. New Kid on the Block
68. Mr. Plow
69. Lisa's First Word
70. Homer's Triple Bypass
71. Marge vs. the Monorail
72. Selma's Choice
73. Brother From the Same Planet
74. I Love Lisa
76. Last Exit to Springfield
77. So It Has Come to This: The Simpsons Clip Show
78. The Front
79. Whacking Day
80. Marge in Chains
81. Krusty Gets Kancelled
VIDEO: The fourth season episodes of "The Simpsons" are presented again in the show's original 1.33:1 full-frame aspect ratio. Image quality is noticably improved this time around from the prior efforts, as these episodes appear to have less instances of dirt, grain and other issues/wear. Sharpness and detail also seem a bit better. Compression artifacts, thankfully, are nowhere to be seen, nor is edge enhancement. Colors appear a tad bolder and more vibrant here than they do on broadcast, as well. Overall, these episodes looked terrific.
SOUND: The fourth season of "The Simpsons" is once again presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. While these repurposed soundtracks are not terribly aggressive or dynamic, they do open up the audio of the show a bit, with a nice spread largely across the front speakers. Dialogue remains crisp and clear through the center channel.
EXTRAS: Audio commentary from creator Matt Groening and members of the show's writing/directing/animation staff are offered with every episode. This time around, a couple of the commentaries also include some special guests - actors Hank Azaria and Jon Lovitz join Groenig for "A Streetcar Named Marge", while Conan O'Brien provides commentary for two of the episodes.
While the commentaries with the "Simpsons" crew are hilarious, the appearance of Lovitz really livens up the track he participates in, with some very funny riffs, including joke "promos" for what he's starring in. O'Brien is also quite amusing, talking about his experiences working with the show and occasionally, chatting about working on "Late Night With Conan O'Brien". The other commentaries have Groening and crew providing some great tidbits about the production of each episode, recalling early concepts, problems that occured and stories about the writing and animation process.
The first disc includes an "Art & Animation" section for "Streetcar Named Marge", offering a "multi-angle" feature allowing for viewing of the animatic/storyboard and final animation for a sequence from the show. We also get an animatic for "Streetcar Named Marge", with commentary. It's interesting to see the very primitive animatic for the show, as the technology has greatly advanced. Discs 2,3 and 4 also include similar "Animation Showcases" for "Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie", "Homer's Triple Bypass" and "It's Come To This: A Clip Show".
A featurette called "The Cajun Controversy" also looks into "Streetcar Named Marge", talking about the irritation New Orleans voiced with the song about the city in the episode. "Simpsons Vs. Bush" looks into the criticism Barbara Bush leveled at the show. "Marge Simpson" wrote Barbara, who replied - yet the fight was not over.
Rounding out the first disc's supplemental section is a 14-minute "making of" documentary. 4 commericals for the show are included on the second DVD. The third disc includes deleted scenes from "Homer's Triple Bypass" (you can view the deleted scenes separately or watch them within the episode - just hit a icon when it appears to be taken to the extended footage.) On disc 4, "The Front" also includes deleted scenes, which can be played within the episode or viewed on their own.
Finally, a booklet is included that talks about the set's supplemental features. Creator Matt Groening also offers an introduction on the first disc.
My only minor complaint with the set are the menus. While the animations starring the characters are fun, clever and entertaining, they go on too long and are on pretty much every menu - whenever you make a selection, you have to wait for what seems like a rather long moment.
Final Thoughts: "Simpsons: Season 4" is another outstanding DVD presentation from Fox and the show's creators. The DVD set's audio/video quality is improved over prior seasons and the supplements include some terrific commentaries and other fun features. Most importantly, this season includes some of the show's best moments. Highly recommended.