THE SCREENING ROOM
By Bill KallayDie hard "Simpsons" fans, like yours truly, will debate when the show started having the worst episodes ever. Some might say the quality started going down way back in the '90s. Others might say by Season 10. My pick, and it's because the episodes were hit-and-miss, is indeed Season 12.
"The Simpsons: The Twelfth Season" is now available on DVD.
Let me put it this way: I'll take a bad season of "The Simpsons" over "Family Guy" any day. Even in this season, where the whole vibe of the show took a turn, the writing and voice talent still made for good viewing. It's just not the same as past seasons. A lot of the jokes fall flat, and the storylines aren't all the memorable.
I've watched "The Simpsons" ever since they were crude drawings come to life on the "Tracy Ullman Show." I always enjoyed watching the antics of this nuclear family. I think it's a testament to the entire crew of the show to have created so many memorable episodes. It's hard enough keeping a show fresh for one season. Imagine producing 12 and trying to maintain quality across the board.
Still, the show lost some of its edge and emotion by this season. It's almost always been one of the few shows that can make a person laugh, and occasionally feel sadness for its characters. By this season, it felt like most of the episodes were running on autopilot.
I also noticed how the show's style changed, too. The animation was crisper and not as unrefined as it had been. Even though the show improved its animation quality over the years, it still had a bit of crudeness to it.
But I was also struck with the violence. Strange to say that. The show has always been violent. For some reason that I can't pinpoint as I write this review, the violence just seems gratuituous and over-the-top. This season's "Treehouse of Horror" is way over-the-top with killer dolphins and actually burning an evil witch alive. The show always seemed to have a sense of humor when it came to the violence. In this season, though, it just seems gratuitous.
There are some gems to be found. "Simpson Safari" returns the show to its excellent storytelling by sending the family to Africa. "Simpsons Tall Tales" has some fun moments where the family become characters from American tall tales. "Skinner's Sense of Snow" is a pretty good Christmas episode that fits right in with classic Simpsons Yuletide episodes.
Most of the remaining episodes aren't all that great. "A Tale of Two Springfields" turns Homer into the mayor of his side of Springfield after the phone company changes the area code. The Who show up for a cameo, which is cool. But the episode just lacks spark. Is there a worst episode ever in this disc set? I don't know if they're the worst episodes ever, but "Children of a Lessor Clod," "The Great Money Caper," "Pokey Mom," and even "Worst Episode Ever" pretty much seem to phone their storylines in. These episodes aren't the worst ever for "The Simpsons," but they're not very good, either.
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