Friday, February 5, 2010

The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season Blu-ray Review

Disc 1 Size: 43.8 GB
Disc 2 Size: 44.3 GB
Show Rating: TV-PG/TV-14
Region: A

The Video
The Simpsons: The Complete Twentieth Season comes to Blu-ray with 1080p AVC/MPEG-4 video presentations for all 21 episodes. This season the show transitioned from standard-definition to high-definition, although after 9 episodes had already been produced. Which is why Fox has decided to put all the standard definition episodes on disc one, with the high-definition episodes on disc two.

Fox has upconverted all the standard-def episodes so they actually look quite good on Blu-ray. The aspect ratio of the standard definition episodes are 1:33:1 (which means black bars on each side of the screen) while the high definition episodes fill the entire screen.

I already knew The Simpsons looked good in high-definition when The Simpsons Movie hit Blu-ray back in December 2007. My hopes of seasons on Blu-ray were quickly dropped when I realized the show was produced in standard definition, but as of 2009 the show is now produced in high-definition and future seasons will also likely receive Blu-ray releases.

The Simpsons features very simple style animation, there is not any detail to be found as everything is one dimensional. That being said, even black lines and colors can benefit significantly from a Blu-ray release and The Simpsons: Season 20 definitely does. The character outlines are much sharper than the DVD which I also have and the colors also see improvement.

While I wish I could say the transfers were perfect, I cannot. There was noticeable banding present on most episodes and I can’t help but feel that if Fox allowed the high-def episodes to span another disc we could have seen a noticeable improvement. Regardless I am very happy to have The Simpsons in high-definition and it easily improves upon both the DVD and high-def broadcasts. 8.5/10.

The Audio
Fox Home Entertainment has included a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is included for each episode and surprisingly adds quite a bit to the experience. No, this is not an immersive surround experience, but the clarity of everything is very nice.

Surround use is there, although reserved for only the most fitting moments. The opening sequences of each episode are very aggressive and very lively, definitely very nice for a television program. Rather than feeling flat and like a front only experience, The Simpsons does try to pay attention to its surroundings somewhat.

I am also very pleased by the clear improvement from the DVD, dialogue in particular feels more muddy and flat on the DVD, but that was expected. The Simpsons: Season 20 won’t have your surround speakers working very hard at all, but the improvement from DVD is easy to appreciate. For an animated television show, I could not have expected much more. 8/10.

The Extras

The 20th Anniversary Special Sneak Peek (3:32) (HD)
This is a sneak peek of a documentary by Morgan Spurlock, which aired two days before release of this Blu-ray and DVD. So it is more of a quick look at what you missed rather than a sneak peek.

The sneak peek of a documentary that aired before release is the only bonus feature included. When the title was originally announced I was not surprised to see a lack of extras since this was released to tie in with the 20th anniversary of the show as well as increase profits from the most recent season like most shows do.

I was not expecting audio commentaries until the inevitable release in 5 or more years, but I was at least hoping for a featurette regarding the transition from standard-def to high-def, etc. 1/10.

The Season
The Simpsons: Season 20 has received somewhat of a mixed reception, but definitely a much better acceptance than the last few seasons of the show. Season 20 makes a positive turn for the show, returning to a better storytelling aspect and focusing less on the random humor that is not always very funny.

I absolutely love The Simpsons, a show which I didn’t really catch until the DVD seasons began to release. I love the classic episodes from the first few seasons, featuring surprisingly effective storytelling and humor, and a family you just can’t help but love and possibly connect with.

The Simpsons is celebrating its 20th anniversary and it’s crazy to think that the show has been on so long, particularly when the quality of the show went so downhill from season 12. I never found the show terrible regardless of season, but it was clear that something was missing and it was not the same how we have all come to love.

This season was a bit of a surprise, mostly because I had become so used to the show becoming much more random than ever before. Season 20 still features a lot of random humor, but its focus has definitely changed. The majority of episodes are very good this season, although there are a couple of episodes which do lack in quality.

Season 20 definitely reminds us why viewers fell in love with the show to begin with. The Simpsons family is still very dysfunctional; It is just less wacky and easier to relate to this time around. This season definitely restored my faith in the series and hope the quality can continue strong into future seasons of the show. The Simpsons: Season 20 is not perfect, but it’s a clear improvement from the last few years. 8/10.

Blu-news Summary
The Blu-ray release of The Simpsons: Season 20 is good, featuring good video and audio presentations. Lack of extras are disappointing, but the quality of the show this season definitely helps make up for it a little. Overall The Simpsons: Season 20 is ‘Recommended’ to fans and ‘Worth A Look’ to all others.

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