“Nobody reads these any more,” writes Bart on the blackboard at the start of ‘The Parent Rap’. Not true for most of us, but it can’t be denied The Simpsons has been around for a while (since 1987), and the ideas aren’t going to be endless.
Once “The 20th Century’s Best Television Show” according to Time magazine, season 13, which first aired in the States between 2001-02, now feels dated and toothless compared to the unfettered satire of South Park and the hilarious misanthropy of Family Guy.
But then, like Friends and Frasier, The Simpsons has a place in our hearts that allows much to be forgiven. We know the family. We know the town and its history, and we care whathappens there.
So while season 13 is a fair way from the genius of the show’s heyday, there are still several stand-outs here, not least ‘Half-Decent Proposal’, where Marge’s high-school prom date returns to win her heart, and ‘Tales From The Public Domain’, where the family recreate Homer’s Odyssey, Joan of Arc and Hamlet.
Simpsons boxsets are something of an investment, too, in terms of entertainment hours. Every one of the 22 episodes comes with a lively commentary featuring multiple contributors bantering about technical aspects, anecdotes and explaining the odd in-joke.
Episodes can also be watched with deleted scenes on or off. By comparison, the featurettes are for the most part disappointingly short and rather fluffy.
This set can be bought in an optional case shaped like Ralph Wiggum’s head and he’s the highlight in the ‘The Sweet Life Of Ralph’, which tracks the development of his character.
There’s also a collection of ‘Ralphisms’ in a clip-reel of his bon mots (“My cat’s breath smells of cat food”). So if you don’t bother to read Bart’s blackboard scribblings these days, you should. After all, what other show has three variable bespoke elements in its credit sequence?
And what other shows can boast series guests with the calibre of Pierce Brosnan, REM and Paul Newman? The Simpsons may not be the greatest show on TV any more, but the boxsets are made with care and full of heart.
The Simpsons might be past its best but the old sparkle’s still evident in season 13.