The Simpsons is one great but frustrating TV show. The animated series about our favourite dysfunctional family and the other characters that inhabit Springfield is now in its 26th series. The DVD releases are a little delayed with season 17 (which aired in 2005) only just being released. In the style of the more recent series, this season contains some laughs, some dud episodes and the occasional feeling that perhaps all of the best ideas have already been done.
The 22-episode series isn’t without highlights. It actually won an Emmy for the episode, The Seemingly Neverending Story. This was a clever episode boasting a tale in a story in a narrative. There was also The Last of the Red Hat Mammas, which seemed like a nostalgic take on a plotline from The Simpsons of yesteryear.
But then there was also some inevitable and predictable plots where Homer and Marge have marital troubles (The Bonfire of the Manatees, Regarding Margie and Marge and Homer Turn A Couple Play), a tedious Treehouse of Horror (XVI), and an average Sideshow Bob episode (The Italian Bob). There were three story trilogies like The Wettest Stories Ever Told and Simpsons Christmas Stories and some ridiculous premises like Grandpa Simpson becoming a bullfighter and Homer becoming a safety salamander who also wanted to try to run for mayor, among things.
This series did feature two good parodies with My Fair Laddy seeing Groundskeeper Willie adopting the role of Eliza Doolittle and The Simpsons starring in their own version of The Poseidon Adventure. This season also saw a solid episode written and voiced by Ricky Gervais (The Office) which poked fun at Wife Swap. In all, it seems like this series was rather inconsistent because it was sometimes good while at other points (like The Bonfire of The Manatees) it was dull or at its worst (see the bullfighter and salamander) where it was just plain silly.
This series is one of the last ones to have been shot prior to the arrival of HD. It also features an impressive list of guest stars including: Alec Baldwin, Dennis Rodman, Michael York, William H. Macy, Smokin’ Joe Frazier, Susan Sarandon, Frances McDormand, Melanie Griffith, Mandy Moore and others.
The special features are also a great bonus. Almost every episode features deleted scenes and audio commentaries. There is a bonus episode about genetically modified food, a collection of the best blackboard and couch gags, bonus featurettes, a live script read and an introduction from creator, Matt Groening.
Season 17 is a four disc DVD set that is another reasonable addition to the collections of hard-core and completist Simpsons fans. But for those people whose interest began to wane after season 12, these later episodes just aren’t for you. Because while the series has some good moments, there are other points where the episodes can be lacklustre or stupid.
Review Score: TWO AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The seventeenth season of The Simpsons is now available on DVD and Blu-Ray through 20th Century Fox.