Simpsons Season Six Marks the End of an Era

August 16, 2005: A milestone in DVD history. This date marks the release of season six of The Simpsons on DVD, thereby bringing to home video the final installment of the Simpsons’ golden years.

To be sure, with each subsequent release of The Simpsons on DVD will mark a move closer toward bringing the entire series of the best show ever to appear on television home. There can be no question that even recent seasons, by far not up the standards of the show’s best, far outshine anything else on television.

But even the most diehard Simpsons fan is forced to agree that the show has gone downhill since season 6. But let’s not allow that to get in the way of rejoicing over what we have.

Season six differs from the preceding five in one obvious way. Instead of the boxed packaging of the first five seasons, season six comes in a box shaped and designed like Homer’s head. According to the producers, the next four seasons will follow this season with each looking like a different Simpsons family member. As with the previous seasons, all episodes will come with commentary tracks.

There will be even more deleted scenes, a special called “Springfield’s Most Wanted” that ties in with the season-ending cliffhanger episode “Who Shot Mr. Burns,” and assorted featurettes and commercials. But of course unlike many TV DVDs, the real reason to buy Simpsons season is not the extras but the shows themselves. And season six, though not quite as strong as seasons two through five, still contains some of the highlights of this highlight-heavy series.

“Bart of Darkness” is a takeoff of the Alfred Hitchcock/Jimmy Stewart classic “Rear Window.” The plot revolves around whether Bart, laid up in room with a broken leg, actually saw neighbor Ned Flanders murder his wife Maude or not. This episode includes classic gags like Martin getting a rival pool, Lisa having an argument with her own brain, and Marge and Homer doing some nude swimming. Favorite off the wall moment: Bart reading his play to Lisa.

“Lisa’s Rival” tests the mettle of just how good a person Lisa really is. Is she really too good to be true? According to this episode, no. After meeting a girl who is better at everything, Lisa gets bitten by the green-eyed monster big time. Meanwhile, Homer attempts to make a killing in the sugar market. Favorite off the wall moment: Ralph Wiggum bending his Wookiee.

“Another Simpsons Clip Show” is the producers being forced by Fox to do a cheap clip show and the writers turning it into an exercise in postmodernity. The plot revolves around extracurricular and failed love affairs. Favorite off the wall moment: Marge inquiring about Ren and Stimpy’s lost popularity.

“Itchy and Scratchy Land” sends the Simpsons clan to a Disney World-like theme park built around the homicidal mouse and his victimized cat cartoon characters Itchy and Scratchy. Things don’t go well and the park ends up more like Jurassic Park. Favorite off the wall moment: Bart cutting short Homer’s attempt at action-hero verbal humor.

“Sideshow Bob Roberts” is yet another in the long series of episodes revolving around Sideshow Bob, the poorest excuse for a killer in TV history. It’s also a slight parody of the film Bob Roberts. Very slight. Features the first appearance of Birch Barlow, big fat idiot who bears a resemblance toâÂ?¦wellâÂ?¦you know. Favorite off the wall moment: An appearance by Archie, Jughead and the gang.

“Treehouse of Horror V” marks the height of the yearly Halloween extravaganza. The parody of The Shinning is absolutely the best parody in the show’s history. Time and Punishment features some of the best animation in the show’s history. Nightmare Cafeteria is genuinely eerie and gross. Favorite off the wall moment: You go squish now!

“Bart’s Girlfriend” reveals a Bart who isn’t the most amoral character in Springfield. In fact, his girlfriend is too bad even for Bart. This is made all the more fun since this bad girl is the reverend’s daughter. But ain’t that always the way? Favorite off the wall moment: Some times you can’t do nothing but strut.

“Lisa on Ice” pits Lisa versus Bart in a hockey rivalry that piles on joke after joke and then ends in a surprisingly moving and yet not hokey way. Favorite off the wall moment: Just how many times did Fox used to air Cops on a single night. Quote alert: This episode features one of the greatest quotes in the series’ history. Ralph Wiggum: Me fail English? That’s unpossible.

“Homer Badman” is the Simpsons at their satiric best, delving into where should society draw the line on what constitutes sexual harassment. Certainly it should at least be at the point where a man reaches out to pick a stolen piece of gummy candy off a babysitter’s butt! Favorite off the wall moment: Homer’s fantasia about life under the sea.

“Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy” is a little nugget about the Simpson patriarch’s sexual potency concoction. Ah, who am I kidding, it’s really about the bond between a father and son and what can come between them and how they can reconnect. Funny and touching. But mostly funny. Favorite off the wall moment: Professor Frink’s transformation from Jerry Lewis to Dean Martin.

“Fear of Flying” is, alas, a sign of things to come. Not the Simpsons at their best, more akin to a season eight or nine episode. Favorite off the wall moment: A visit from one Mr. Guy Incognito.

“Homer Alone” gets us back to greatness. Literally. Homer is identified by his birthmark as being the Chosen One. In this one you get to see a naked Homer dragging a rock, the brilliant Stonecutters song and Patrick Stewart. What more could you ask for from a TV show. Favorite off the wall moment: Moe realizing that Homer should probably have to take a different sacred oath.

“And Maggie Makes Three” is another in the great flashback episodes detailing the growth of the family. We find out that Homer actually was happy with his work at one time in his life-when he was working at the bowling alley. But he can’t support one extra child on that salary so he has to go back to the nuclear power plant. Another surprisingly moving ending, proving that tossing in emotion at the end of a sitcom need not be handled in the Full House kind of way. Favorite off the wall moment: Homer graphically explaining conception.

“Bart’s Comet” is a classic that starts out on a roll and never stops. Containing such memorable sequences as Bart helping out Skinner with his telescope, the town watching as a their plans to blow up the comet fail miserably, and the absolutely brilliant scene featuring just about every character in Springfield up to that point stuffed into Ned Flanders’ bomb shelter. We also learn who “invented” helium. Not to mention the frightening surprise ending in which it turns out that Homer actually knew what he was talking about. Favorite off the wall moment: Homer stage-whispering to Rod and Todd Flanders.

“Homie the Clown” is a sign of future gimmicky plots to come, but this one works surprisingly well. Homer decides to make a little extra scratch by becoming a Krusty the Klown impersonator. Along the way he manages to become a target of the mob. If you think that’s a strange turn of events, you obviously haven’t watched this show much. Favorite off the wall moment: Homer losing his pants.

“Bart vs. Australia” could have degenerated into a gimmick plot but survives as one of the great satiric assaults on Americans’ assumptions about the rest of the world. Australia could have been easily offended by this episode and if it had been an Australian show doing the same thing to America it would have been denounced on the floor of Congress no doubt by some brainless nationalist right-winger.

The target of this show isn’t Australia, it’s the myopically anti-internationalist Americans who believe that America has it all and the rest of the world are bumpkins. Favorite off the wall moment: Bruno Dundridge calling his country’s Prime Ministah.

“Homer vs. Patty and Selma” continues the ongoing saga of Homer’s difficult relations with his sisters-in-law. After investing heavily in pumpkins and deciding to sell after Halloween, Homer faces a debt and his only creditors turn out to be Patty and Selma. Meanwhile, Bart becomes a ballet sensation! Favorite off the wall moment: Bart’s mistaken impression about the relationship between birds and bees.

“A Star is Burns” has often been criticized as a low point in the Simpsons canon. Worked up as a crossover opportunity for a character from another show to appear on the Simpsons, the plot revolves around a Springfield film festival. Several of the films rise to the occasion, but overall this is a rather luckluster effort. Favorite off the wall moment: Finding out that Pulitzer Prize winning author Eudora Welty can burp with the best. By the way, this is NOT the worst Simpsons episode of all time as some hardcore fans might argue.

“Lisa’s Wedding” might actually look like a masterpiece simply because it followed the previous episode. Don’t be fooled. It truly is a great, great episode that follows a fortune teller’s prediction of whom Lisa will marry and why it just doesn’t turn out. This vision of the future ranks among the all time great satiric visions in television history. There are just so many small touches in this episode and it’s hard to pick out which are the best. Favorite off the wall moment: A rare two-headed hound that was born with only one head.

“Two Dozen and One Greyhounds” is better when remembered than actually watched. You come away singing Burns’ song See My Vest which is arguably the best song parody of all time from the show, but when you try to think back to what else was so great about this one, you come up short. It’s a wonderful episode, yes, but it seems better in retrospect than in rewatching. Favorite off the wall moment: Homer trying to eat potato chips.

“The PTA Disbands” is a wicked satire on how just much the American educational system really means to politicians and, indeed, most people. We don’t mind spending billions of dollars fighting an unwinnable war, meanwhile kids go to broken down schools with lousy supplies and teachers who won’t make in an entire career what a baseball player hitting .220 will make in a year. This is one of those episodes that achieves greatness through effective use of bizarre and unexpected juxtapositions. Favorite off the wall moment: Bart flying a kite at night.

“Round Springfield” is about Lisa’s sax hero dying. But enough about that, this episode is only really interesting when it concerns Bart’s suit against Krusty-O Cereal. Best to just watch this one with the commentary. Favorite off the wall moment: Groundskeeper Willie teaching French to the kids in school.

“The Springfield Connection” is one of the rare but ongoing series of shows detailing Marge’s experiments in the workforce. In the case, she become a cop. Thanks to Homer, naturally, she uncovers a knockoff scam being run from her home. Along the way we get to find out the first name of the designer of Bugle Boy pants and get to watch Homer’s hysterically response to being told “not so fast.” Actually better than it sounds. Favorite off the wall moment: Gloria Vanderbilt is out for revenge!

“Lemon of Troy” reworks the story of the Trojan Horse to hilarious effect. The highlight of this episode is the trip to Shelbyville and the realization that it’s actually a sort of parallel universe. There’s also a brilliant flashback showing how both towns were founded and the nonstop laughs generated by the actual rescue of the beloved lemon tree. Favorite off the wall moment: Almost too many to choose from, but what really sticks out is that lemon shaped rock.

“Who Shot Mr. Burns” is the only cliffhanger ending the show has ever spawned. And it’s actually quite satisfying. Heavier on plot than most Simpsons shows-by its very nature it had to be-it also manages to stick in some of the stock bizarre moments that make the shows so incredible. Favorite off the wall moment: Can you solve this mystery?

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