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The Simpsons: Season 4 (1992) artwork

The Simpsons: Season 4 (1992)

7th August 2004

The forth season of Americas longest running primetime sitcom family from Springfield is on DVD with even more madcap schemes and antics than ever before.
Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer
Comedy, Animation, Television
2
9 Hours 10 Minutes

The man of the house, Homer, works at the local nuclear power plant doing the same dead end job he has done for years. In fact, Homer holds the plant record for the number of years worked at an entry level position. As a safety supervisor it is proven fact that safety improves whenever he is away on holiday or sickness - mainly because he causes most of the accidents in the first place. He is not the brightest light in the sky, but what he lacks in intelligence he makes up in the love for his family and food, especially donuts and Duff beer.

His faithful housewife Marge is the youngest of three sisters and puts up with Homers bungling plans and personal hygiene deficiencies and her many moral crusades in Springfield make her a pain in many peoples backsides. She has her work cut out looking after Homer and their three children Bart, Lisa, Maggie and the advances of Mr. Burns, Homer's boss at the nuclear power plant.

Bart is the hell cat of the house and Marge's "special little guy". He's a constant worry for Homer. Forever the practical joker and trouble maker, mayhem and madness follow him wherever he goes. Not a day goes by without him getting into trouble, especially at school where he is a particular pain in the side of the long suffering principle Skinner. Bart also suffers from the same problem 'Simpsons' gene as his father and is not graced with the highest of IQs.

Lisa is the black sheep of the family with a high IQ and first-rate school grades. Hopes are high at Springfield elementary that they'll finally get a graduate with good grades. As well be being intelligent and a vegetarian, Lisa is musical minded and plays a mean saxophone. However, she doesn't get much opportunity to practice before Bart starts annoying her and Homer is shouting for her to stop making a racket.

Maggie is the youngest member of the family and although she has been greatly encouraged by Marge she is still yet to utter her first word, preferring to suck on her pacifier. Together with their two pets, "Snowball II" the cat (the first one being run over) and "Santa's little helper" the dog, they form the family known as the Simpsons who live in Evergreen terrace in the town of Springfield.

Season Four Episodes

  • Kamp Krusty
  • A Streetcar Named Marge
  • Homer The Heretic
  • Lisa The Beauty Queen
  • Treehouse Of Horror III
  • Itchy and Scratchy: The Movie
  • Marge Gets A Job
  • New Kid On The Block
  • Mr Plow
  • Lisa's First Word
  • Homers Triple Bypass
  • Marge Vs The Monorail
  • Selma's Choice
  • Brother From The Same Planet
  • I Love Lisa
  • Duffless
  • Last Exit To Springfield
  • So It's Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show
  • The Front
  • Whacking Day
  • Marge In Chains
  • Krusty Gets Kancelled

Although the popularity of the series was growing at an exponential rate the budgets still managed to remain tight for a number of years. As a consequence of this, the overall picture quality of the earlier seasons suffered with a relatively poor print and general picture clarity resulting in a rather uninspiring transfer for season four. Mind you, it is still far superior to anything VHS could ever offer. Fortunately season four appears to be the last year of the penny pinching from the Fox executives before the good picture times can finally roll and do justice to the DVD format.

In general, and given the quality of the source material, the picture transfer of each episode is good whilst picture noise is kept to a minimum. Colours are not as rich and vibrant as the later seasons whilst the amount of bright colours on offer, especially the large swathes of yellow, can cause a bit of a problem with over saturation. But no matter high a bit-rate or clean the print, the general animation process used in the series does mean that there can be the occasional problem with artifacting.

As the soundtrack is limited by bandwidth of the broadcast medium there's never going to be much scope for a dramatic or dynamic soundtrack. However, as with the previous seasons, it has been remastered into a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. But to me, the series doesn't really need this and it all seems to be a bit of an overkill and waste of time and money. Sure, the clarity of the dialogue is a little improved, but it wasn't that bad in the first place, whilst the remastered soundtrack is hardly adventurous in the surround department with only the musical score finding its way to the rear channels. This is definitely one series which sounds just as good in the original Dolby Digital 2.0 as it does in 5.1.

Each disc along with pretty much each menu has its own animated and scored character from the Simpsons to help you make your choice. The funniest character has to be Homer who is struggling to remove a rubber plunger from the top of his head. In some cases he'll manage to pull it off to find a donut whilst on other occasions he'll pull the top of his head off to reveal his brain. Other discs and menus include Bart, Lisa, Marge and even Professor Fink and a mechanical bird careering around the menu. Great stuff, and hurrah, there's even a 'Play all' facility too!

Extras wise, the content is little changed from the previous season box-sets with an audio commentary to accompany each episode in the collection and a host of other features of varying quality and interest. Whilst true fans of The Simpsons are sure to enjoy these extras (and I'd like to class myself as one by owning up to a large collection of Simpsons memorabilia including socks, ties, handkerchiefs and, yes, even underwear - sad I know, but what the hell) but really I think its about time the team came up with some more behind-the-scenes documentaries that last longer than two minutes.

With so many episodes to provide commentaries plus the large circle of contributors including Groening, the writers and actors, it's hardly surprising that it takes a while to tie everyone down for a commentary track (Matt Groening even admits as much in his short A Word from Matt Groening introduction). Trouble is, interesting as they are, I'd happily to sacrifice many of these commentaries for more frequent releases. But with over nine hours of commentaries to plough through, the best way to enjoy them is to watch the entire season and then return to watch your favourite episodes with the commentary track. You can then sit back and listen to the highly interesting and detailed commentaries as they help you spot things you would have previously never noticed.

Next up is the Multi-angle Animation Showcase features for the Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie, A Streetcar Named Marge, Homer's Triple Bypass and So It's Come To This: A Simpsons Clips Show episodes. These features contain multi-angle storyboards, animatics and a picture-in-picture facility. Although it's certainly a nice to have, it does become a little tedious after a while and it's something you're not really likely to want to return to.

Next up are a couple of short featurettes looking at some of the controversy The Simpsons has picked up on its travels. First off is the The Cajun Controversy Feature where a song in the Streetcar Named Marge episode outraged New Orleans residents by referring to their home as a "a city that the damned call home". Episode writer Jeff Martin attempts to explain all and even points out their apology in the form of Bart's blackboard lines in the next episode. Then there's the Bush Vs. Simpson Featurette which, to much world wide publicity at the time, explains The Simpsons run in with the Bush Senior family and the producers eventual meeting at the White House.

Also included is a bit or promotional material for The Simpsons in the form a couple of trailers for the show and some television advertisements for KFC and Butterfingers. I can only assume that these are heart attack inducing products for the likes of the Simpsons be promoting them. There's also an oddly named Promotional Stuff featurette containing interviews with Matt Groening and James L. Brooks who talk about just why their creations are so popular the world over.

The shows creators clearly know that they have a limited timeslot for the show and yet they still have to delete scenes from some of the episodes. The deleted scenes for Homers Triple Bypass and The Front are include here and, although they only last for a few seconds (but probably a few days of work for the animators), they've simply been dropped for timing purposes. The scenes are nothing special, but it is still nice to see there reproduced here.

Finally we come to the pointless filler material. As with The X-Files season box-sets there seems to be some bizarre desire to include foreign language clips from an episode. In this case it is for the season opener Kamp Krusty, with languages such as Italian and Japanese. Whilst it may be interesting to hear just how Homer and friends sound it different languages, it's hardly what I'd call a standout extra.

You could charge £1 million pounds for this box-set and it would still be a bargain. Whilst it took a season or two for The Simpsons to really get going, season four is really where the fun started (plus it contains my all time favourite episode Kamp Krusty) and continued to do so for the following three seasons. But the best part of season four is that there's not a single stinker of an episode in this complete 22 episode collection, and that is something which cannot be taken lightly. It's very hard to keep a series fresh and funny from season to season, but with so many classic episodes it is something that the The Simpsons does with ease.

Like the Flintstones before them The Simpsons is one of the few animated series which is aimed at a more mature and primetime audience. Mind you, there's certainly no reason why children shouldn't watch and enjoy The Simpsons as, even with such a dysfunctional family, television has no better loving family environment or parental role models than in Homer and Marge Simpson. Why else would TIME magazine vote it the best show of the 20th century?

The only let down with the DVD is the fact that it appears that fans are only ever going to be treated to the release of one season per year. Doh!!

  • The Cajun Controversy Featurette
  • Bush Vs. Simpson Featurette
  • A Word from Matt Groening
  • Special Language Feature
  • Promotional Stuff
  • Deleted Scenes
  • Easter Eggs
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