Everyone’s favourite family The Simpsons make their third appearance on DVD. Season 3 was first broadcast in 1991 and introduced more celebrity guest stars including Michael Jackson, Aerosmith, Catherine O’Hara, Sting, Spinal Tap and Danny DeVito. So grab some doughnuts and hit the couch with me as I take you through The Simpsons third season on DVD. Comprised of 24 hilarious episodes, including many classic Simpsons moments such as when Bart became a member of the mob, Lisa got a pony and the Flaming Moe was created. Other stand out moments in Season 3 include the opening "Stark Raving Dad", which features a guest appearance by an un-credited Michael Jackson, who plays an obese white inmate whom Homer meets while confined to a mental institution. The episode "Like Father, Like Clown", in which Krusty reveals he is estranged from his Rabbi father; is The Simpsons at the height of its powers as it is a mature, ironic and touching episode that bristles with slapstick and an inspired cheeky performance by Bart. "Flaming Moe's" features Aerosmith and sees Homer invent a cocktail which desperate, sleazy bartender Moe steals from him. "Radio Bart" is another demonstration of the series' knack for cultural references, parodying the Billy Wilder movie Ace in the Hole. Finally, there is the episode "Brother Can You Spare Two Dimes", in which Danny DeVito reprises his role as Homer's brother, regaining the fortune Homer lost him by inventing a Baby Translator.
Season 3 was a benchmark year for The Simpsons, at this stage of its history the pace of the show was cranked up several notches with the writers and the actors still managing to keep the original concept fresh. Whilst later seasons may have perhaps at times been a case of hit and miss, this third year of the show demonstrated that The Simpsons was a creation of comic genius and quite simply, one of the greatest television programmes ever made.
Episode Guide (1-24)
1. "Stark Raving Dad"
Thanks to Bart leaving his lucky red hat in with the whites, Homer must wear a pink shirt to work where he is promptly singled out by Mr. Burns and soon committed to a mental institution. Here he meets up with a white man who walks and talks just like Michael Jackson.
2. "Mr Lisa Goes to Washington"
Thanks to Lisa's patriotic and winning essay in a Reading Digest contest, The Simpsons win a trip to Washington DC. However, Lisa's faith in democracy is shaken when she witnesses her local representative taking a bribe for a permit to cut down Springfield National Forest.
3. "When Flanders Failed"
Ned Flanders quits his regular job and announces at a barbecue that he is opening a mall store catering to lefties. Homer, however, wishes that Flanders would fail.
4. "Bart the Murderer"
After having a very lousy day of school, Bart accidentally stumbles into `The Legitimate Businessmen’s Social Club', a mobster front. He becomes a bartender, but when he shows up late at work and blames Principal Skinner, Skinner disappears. Joe Mantegna and Neil Patrick Harris guest star.
5. "Homer Defined"
When Homer accidentally saves the nuclear power plant he becomes a local hero and is admired by all including his daughter, Lisa.
6. "Like Father, Like Clown"
Krusty finally drops by to have dinner with The Simpsons to thank Bart for believing in him (see "Krusty Gets Busted", Season 1 Episode 12), and drops a bombshell: His real name is Krustofsky, and he is estranged from his rabbi father, who disowned him when Krusty decided to be a clown instead of a rabbi. Now, Bart vows to reunite Clown and rabbi.
7. "Treehouse of Horror II"
In the sequel to the original Treehouse of Horror. Lisa, Bart, and Homer eat too much candy, and end up having nightmares...:
The Monkey's Paw - The Simpsons pick up a monkey's paw that gives the holder four wishes . . . with unexpected side effects.
Bart The Monster - In a parody of a classic Twilight Zone episode, everyone in Springfield must be happy or else something will happen to them by a monster. The monster is known as . . . Bart Simpson, the kid with the mental powers.
Homer's Brain - Homer is randomly fired from the nuclear power plant, and gets hired as a gravedigger. While working he falls asleep in a grave and is happened upon by Mr. Burns, who selects him for a Cyborg experiment.
8. "Lisa's Pony"
After disappointing Lisa, again, Homer finally buys her a pony. Now, in desperation to pay off the bills associated with owning a pony, Homer works the graveyard shift at Apu's Kwik-E-Mart.
9. "Saturdays of Thunder"
In order to build a father/son relationship, Homer helps Bart build a soapbox racer. However, when Martin crashes his racer during the time trials, Bart must make an important decision: Turn his back on Homer and be Martin's replacement driver, or race in his soapbox and let Nelson win.
10. "Flaming Moe's"
Homer helps invent the hottest drink in Springfield. However, when Moe steals the recipe and turns Moe's Tavern into the most exclusive spot in town Homer vows revenge. Guest stars Catherine O'Hara and the Rock band Aerosmith.
11. "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk"
Homer finds that his job as `safety inspector' is in danger when Mr. Burns sells the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant to German businessmen for $100,000,000.
12. "I Married Marge"
Picking up where "The Way We Was" left off....The year is 1980, and Homer is working at the local miniature golfing course, living with Marge at her parents. Then Marge becomes pregnant with Bart.
13. "Radio Bart"
For his tenth birthday Bart receives a radio microphone which is promptly used to play practical jokes on everyone, including the creation of a little boy named Timmy O’Toole who Bart makes everyone believe has fallen down the local well.
14. "Lisa the Greek"
Lisa's football predicting skills brings about a closer relationship between her and Homer, not to mention making Moe broke, until Lisa realizes that the relationship may end with the Super Bowl.
15. "Homer Alone"
When the family causes Marge to flip out, she takes a vacation from it all at Rancho Relaxo, leaving Lisa and Bart with Patty and Selma (shudder), and Homer alone with Maggie. Then, Maggie goes searching for Marge.
16. "Bart the Lover"
He has the name of the 23rd president, the face of Gordie Howe, and the lines of a Frenchman. Is Mrs. Krabapple's new pen pal/lover Bart's latest practical joke? Meanwhile, Homer starts building a doghouse, and learns to give up swearing.
17. "Homer at the Bat"
Mr. Burns bets $1,000,000 that his company softball team can beat a competing plant's team. In order to do so, he substitutes the regular company team with famous baseball players including new security guard Roger Clemens, new janitor Wade Boggs, lunchroom cashier Ken Griffey Jr., and other new employees like Steve Sax, Don Mattingly, Ozzie Smith, Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, and Mike Scoscia (who runs the solid contaminate encapsulator). Terry Cashman also guest stars.
18. "Separate Vocations"
After taking the Career Aptitude Normalization Test, or CANT. Lisa finds out she's more suited to be a homemaker, while Bart is destined for a career in law enforcement. As Bart enjoys his taste of authority, Lisa begins to rebel.
19. "Dog of Death"
When Santa's Little Helper suffers from a twisted stomach, The Simpsons sacrifice in order to pay for a life saving operation. However, when the family's morale suffers from the cuts, the dog runs away, and quickly becomes one of Mr. Burns' hounds.
20. "Colonel Homer"
After a particularly bad movie experience, Homer drives to a bar where he discovers a singer named Lurleen Lumpkin. Now, Colonel Homer is her manager, much to Marge's disgust. Beverly D'Angelo guest stars.
21. "Black Widower"
Sideshow Bob gets paroled, and marries Selma. However, Bart suspects that Sideshow Bob has something else up his sleeve. Guest stars Kelsey Grammer.
22. "The Otto Show"
Otto loses his job driving the school bus after wrecking it with the children present on the way to school. After being kicked out of his apartment he goes to live with the Simpsons. Spinal Tap guest star
23. "Bart's Friend Falls in Love"
Bart and Milhouse enter the age of cooties, when Milhouse begins dating the new girl at school. Meanwhile, Homer tries to lose weight by listening to a subliminal tape. Kimmy Robertson guest stars
24. "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?"
Herbert Powell returns and asks for The Simpsons help to fund his new invention using the money Homer received from the nuclear power plant for some bogus award. Guest stars Joe Frazier and Danny DeVito.
The Menus:. This time around Fox have learnt from the criticism of the first and second season seasons when it comes to the menus for season three. Here we get superb animated menus in the style of the shows opening credits. On the main menu you are given the choice for the first time ever to play all the episodes from the disc you are watching, an episode selection menu to watch them individually like before, language selection menu and a special features menu which allows you to watch all the bonus material from the current disc. All these separate menus have little segments of animation when you click on them, although only the language selection menu and the subtitles menu are animated. Unfortunately just like the R1 version the other submenus are just a black background with the titles for each episode with the special features pages being the same. These are functional but dull.
The Packaging: A similar packaging design to seasons one and two, with a cardboard gatefold packaging housing the four discs. These are then housed in separate cardboard dust cover; the colour of the packaging for season 3 is purple.
Presented in the shows original 4:3 aspect ratio, the transfer of The Simpsons is better than the first and second seasons. The colours are much improved seeing as they are now a lot brighter than they were in season two. The animation techniques are better in season three and edge enhancement is a lot less. Overall this is probably the best presentation of the series on DVD so far.
Like the previous boxsets the show is once again presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 but seen as the episodes are mostly two track stereo in both design and final product the choice of a Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is perhaps slightly limited. The rears are only used occasionally, although the music is given decent left/right separation from the dialogue, which itself is mostly confined to the centre channel and is perfectly clear. Overall the 5.1 soundtrack is fairly underused but it does its job well.
Audio Commentaries for All 24 Episodes – These are a real bonus for Simpsons fans. The shows creator Matt Groening along with a rotating pattern of cast and crew members offer their views on all 24 episodes. These members include James L Brooks, Al Jean, Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Rich Moore, David Silverman, Mike Reiss, Wes Archer, Jon Vitti, Jim Reardon, Nancy Cartwright, Howard Gewirtz, Mark Kirkland, Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky, Brad Bird, Jeff Martin, Ken Levine, Jeffrey Lynch and Yeardley Smith.
What’s particularly good about them is that each commentary focuses strongly on the relevant episode with many jokes and insightful anecdotes being shared by Groening and co. The commentaries are fun to listen to, and because each episode is under 25 minutes long they are easy to get through and the contributors rarely run out of things to say nor do they lose their impetus to commentate on what you are seeing onscreen.
For the first time on The Simpsons DVD sets the main voice actors are present on most of the audio commentaries.
Easter Eggs – As with the previous season releases there are plenty of hidden extras tucked away on the discs if you’re willing to look. The best of these on this third season box set are the additional audio commentaries present for the episodes Stark Raving Dad, Lisa’s Pony, Bart the Lover and Separate Vocations that can be accessed using your ‘Audio’ button and flicking through to the fifth audio track.
Also present, though much harder to find, are 12 voice actor audio outtakes on disc three that can be accessed by pressing the following number sequence on the main menu screen (wait for the menu music to start up again after each number): 84763.
Last but not least is another number based Easter Egg. On disc 4 jump to the Special Features menu and enter ‘742’ (again, wait for the menu to refresh after each number) and you will be presented with a random sketch.
Matt Groening Storyboards for Homer Defined, Treehouse of Horror II, Radio Bart and Black Widower - You can view these with either episode audio or within an image gallery. What you get is the episode in design form with annotated notes for specific scenes before they are transferred to animated form on the screen. This is an interesting look at the early stages in the design process and gives you a chance to see one of the main components used when putting an episode together. There are 236, 241, 241 and 170 storyboards respectively for these episodes.
Scene Specific Sketches for Like Father, Like Clown, Treehouse of Horror II, Flaming Moe’s, Burns Verkaufen Der Kraftwerk, I Married Marge, Radio Bart, Homer Alone, Dog of Death, Colonel Homer and Black Widower - Whilst watching the episode with this feature you will have the opportunity to see sketches that are specific to scenes within the episode. Once you have seen the sketches the episode will automatically carry on where it left off.
You will also find several smaller individual bonus features across the discs that break up like so.
Commercials – 5 Butterfinger Commercials which were first broadcast when The Simpsons Season Three first aired in America. They are from January, April and May 1992. The Simpsons helped to advertise the chocolate crispy peanut Butterfinger bar and other Butterfinger products. Each one last between 15 and 30 seconds.
Bart Balloon – Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade 1991- Archive footage from the Thanksgiving Parade with a Huge Bart Balloon on a Simpsons float traveling down Broadway back in 1991. This piece last for about 1min 20 seconds.
Multi Languages Presentation – The Episode Treehouse of Horror II can be viewed in its entirety in four different languages, French, Spanish, Czech and Polish.
Featured Songs - Jukebox - 13 Songs to choose from the episodes of season three. You can choose to play all the songs or you can listen to them individually. The Songs are as follows:
Pop up Simpsons for Colonel Homer – Fun and interesting trivia that appears on screen at certain points throughout the episode.
Promo with unseen footage for Colonel Homer – This is basically just a trailer previewing the episode before it was first screened on US Television which lasts for about 30 seconds.
On DVD The Simpsons Season Three is a definite improvement over series One and Two. Firstly the animation techniques are much improved and the colours are a lot more vibrant. This is backed up with fairly decent audio and visual presentation from Fox. The menus are much better than before and the inclusion of a play all option for those who don’t like navigating menus is a welcome bonus. The extras are also an improvement over previous boxsets with the commentaries on every episode being a particular highlight and a must have for fans of the show.