The fourth season of "The Simpsons" is largely regarded as one of the most successful seasons of the wildly popular series, so the fifth season had quite an act to follow. As discussed on the commentaries, a lot of the writing staff also went on after the fourth season, leaving the show's creators to rebuild the staff. While the fifth season has some uneven moments, there's definitely quite a few classics that "Simpsons" fans will be thrilled to have on DVD.
The first notable episode is "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", which has the family recalling Homer's brief musical career, as he joined a popular barbershop quartet with Skinner, Barney and Apu. The episode doesn't have a consistent amount of laughs, but it's a good story and it involves the main characters in an effective and enjoyable way. "Homer Goes To College" is a funny episode on the first disc, although one that seems like it's been played a lot in syndication. In this episode, Homer is classified incompetent at his job at the power plant (he causes a meltdown in a test truck with no dangerous material inside) and has to go back to college, complete with nerdy roommates. This season's Halloween episode isn't one of the best, as the finest segment has Homer getting tempted with a doughnut by the devil. The other segments are just fair.
The second disc offers "The Last Temptation of Homer", where Bart's medical conditions result in him turning into a nerd, while Homer falls for an attractive co-worker. It's an amusing episode, although I think I've just seen it one too many times to have it be quite as funny as it used to be. "Bart's Inner Child" is one of the highlights of the second disc, as the episode has Bart gaining a following after a motivational speaker praises Bart's ability to say whatever he pleases. Meanwhile, Homer also takes the trampoline that Krusty is giving away - it results in more than one injury when Homer starts to charge for time on it. "Homer the Vigilante" has Homer trying to solve the mystery of a local cat burglar (voiced by Pierce Brosnan). While the episode seems to be a fan favorite, I think there's only a handful of funny bits scattered throughout the episode. "Springfield" is another bright spot - it's the episode where, in order to get much-needed funding, the town allows Mr. Burns to build a casino on the Springfield waterfront. This episode delivers the laughs at a pretty consistent rate.
The third disc starts to crank up the laughs with some of the season's finest moments. "Deep Space Homer" is a classic episode that has Homer going into the space program after being irritated by losing the "Worker of the Week" award to a carbon rod. People are bored by the broadcasts of space launches, so NASA's angle is to let an everyman on-board. The training scenes are priceless, and the episode remains highly rewatchable. "Homer and Apu" has Homer joining Apu on a journey to Quik-E-Mart headquarters after Apu sells Homer spoiled meat. Although Homer becomes a little too dumb sometimes, there's some classic Homer bits to be found here, a hilarious Lisa moment (after eating spicy food served by Apu she says, "I can see through time.") and a great song ("Who Needs the Quick-E-Mart?") The third disc also includes a couple of Bart-heavy episodes: "Bart Gets Famous" (Bart's "I didn't do it" turns into a popular catchphrase) and "Bart Gets an Elephant" (Bart gets an elephant as a radio show prize, who he names Stampy.)
The fourth disc starts off with "Burns' Heir", a funny episode (Bart becomes Burns' heir and the old man starts to mold Bart in his image) that rarely seems to be broadcast in syndication. There's the classic moment where Homer confronts Burns - "Are you going to release the dogs? Or the bees? Or the dogs with bees in their mouths and when they bark they shoot bees at you?" "Secrets of a Successful Marriage" has Homer continuing his downward intelligence streak as the episode opens, with Homer trying to eat a poker chip ("Don't try and eat these 'so-called' chips!", he says.)
82. 5- 1 Homer's Barbershop Quartet
83. 5- 2 Cape Feare
84. 5- 3 Homer Goes to College
85. 5- 4 Rosebud
86. 5- 5 Tree House of Horror IV: The Simpson's Halloween Special IV
87. 5- 6 Marge on the Lam
88. 5- 7 Bart's Inner Child
89. 5- 8 Boy Scoutz N the Hood
90. 5- 9 The Last Temptation of Homer
91. 5-10 $pringfield (or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)
92. 5-11 Homer the Vigilante
93. 5-12 Bart Gets Famous
94. 5-13 Homer and Apu
95. 5-14 Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy
96. 5-15 Deep Space Homer
97. 5-16 Homer Loves Flanders
98. 5-17 Bart Gets an Elephant
99. 5-18 Burns' Heir
100. 5-19 Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song
101. 5-20 The Boy Who Knew Too Much
102. 5-21 Lady Bouvier's Lover
103. 5-22 Secrets of a Successful Marriage
VIDEO: "The Simpsons" is presented once again here in 1.33:1 full-frame, the show's original aspect ratio. The picture quality is again quite good, even looking somewhat better than they currently do in syndication. Sharpness and detail remained perfectly fine, as the animation remained crisp and clean looking throughout.
Shimmering was really the only issue with the presentations. Although it wasn't distracting, some minor shimmer was spotted in several scenes. Edge enhancement wasn't noticed, but there were a couple of brief traces of pixelation. The elements used seemed to be in terrific shape, with no instances of wear present. Colors looked bright and vivid, with excellent saturation and no concerns. Colors seemed even a tad more vibrant here than they do when broadcast in syndication.
SOUND: The fifth 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.
Commentary by Matt Groening, Al Jean, Hank Azaria, Jon Lovitz, Jeff Martin, and Mark Kirkland on Homer's Barbershop Quartet
Commentary by Matt Groening, Al Jean, and Jon Vitti on Cape Feare
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, James L. Brooks, Conan O'Brien (who does a very funny Leno impersonation briefly on the commentary), Jim Reardon, and David Silverman on Homer Goes to College
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Wes Archer, and David Silverman on Rosebud.
Commentary by Matt Groening, James L. Brookes, David Mirkin, Conan O'Brien, Greg Daniels, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, and David Silverman on Treehouse of Horror
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Mark Kirkland, David Silverman on Marge on the Lam
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, George Meyer, Bob Anderson, and David Silverman on Bart's Inner Child
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, George Meyer, Bob Anderson, and David Silverman on Boy-Scoutz N the Hood
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, and David Silverman on The Last Temptation of Homer
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, and Wes Archer on Springfield
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, and David Silverman on Homer the Vigilante
Commentary by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, David Mirkin, Conan O'Brien, Susie Dietter, and David Silverman on Bart Gets Famous
Commentary by David Mirkin, Greg Daniels, Mark Kirkland, and David Silverman on Homer and Apu
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, and David Silverman on Lisa vs. Malibu Stacey
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Mark Silverman, and David Silverman on Deep Space Homer
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, David Richardson, Wes Archer, and David Silverman on Homer Loves Flanders
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, and David Silverman on Bart Gets an Elephant
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Jace Richdale, Mark Kirkland, and David Silverman on Burn's Heir
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, Bob Anderson, and David Silverman on Sweet Seymour Skinner's Badasssss Song
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, and David Silverman on The Boy Who Knew Too Much
Commentary by Matt Groening, David Mirkin, Bill Oakley, Josh Weinstein, and Wes Archer on Lady Bouvier's Lover
Commentary by David Mirkin, Greg Daniels, and David Silverman on Secrets of a Successful Marriage
Deleted scenes are offered on "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", "Cape Feare", "Homer Goes to College", "Rosebud", "Treehouse of Horror IV", "The Last Temptation of Homer", "Springfield", "Homer the Vigilante", "Bart Gets Famous", "Homer and Apu", "Homer Loves Flanders", "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baaadasss Song" and "Burns' Heir".
There are also additional features. There's an "Animation Showcase" on the first disc offering a multi-angle/picture-in-picture look at "Treehouse of Horror IV", with storyboards, animatic and the completed episode. We also get an "illustrated" (the participants drawing on-screen) commentary for the "Treehouse" episode, but the participants are watching the early animation version of the episode. Finally, we also get a series of "Simpsons" sketches. Disc two offers an "Animation Showcase" for "Springfield", as well as an illustrated commentary for the early animation reel of the episode. The third disc offers an "Animation Showcase", sketches and commentary (not illustrated, and once again early animation reel) for "Bart Gets an Elephant". Finally, the fourth disc offers the ability to play all the deleted scenes back-to-back, a commentary from David Mirkin for some of the deleted scenes, an "Animation Showcase" and an early animation commentary for "Sweet Seymour Skinner's...". On the first disc, there's an intro from creator Matt Groenig and the final disc there's a look back with producer James L. Brooks.
Final Thoughts: "Simpsons: Season 5" 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. While the fifth season of the series doesn't match the classics available in season 4, it's still a very fun set of shows that includes one of my favorites ("Deep Space Homer".) Highly recommended.