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The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season

The second season of The Simpsons hit the airwaves on October 11, 1990. The show's first season had proved it to be an astounding, unexpected hit. So, against the wishes of creator Matt Groening, producer James L. Brooks, and pretty much everyone associated with the show, the Fox network decided to move it from Sunday night to Thursdays at 8 p.m., opposite the unbeatable Cosby Show. The move could have sunk either program, but really just ended up costing them both — Cosby lost viewers, but The Simpsons, which could have owned Sunday nights, didn't beat Cosby in the ratings until 1992. In Season Two, the show's animation and character design became much more consistent, and new characters like Dr. Hibbert (a blatant parody of Cosby's jovial pediatrician) and the Comic Store Guy were introduced. The opening credits were played with, offering three different versions of varying lengths to accommodate the length of the stories. And the Halloween "Treehouse of Terror" was introduced. Fox's DVD release of The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season offers four discs with all 22 episodes. All have commentary by some combination of James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Mike Reiss, and various writers and directors. Most of them sound remarkably similar, so it's difficult to decipher who's saying what, but the pride they take in the work they've done is evident, and none of the embarrassment they expressed over the less-polished Season One episodes is in evidence. The full-screen transfers are crisp, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (available in English or French with English or Spanish subtitles) is clear as a bell. All episodes — and several of the special features — offer commentary from Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and various writers and directors. Extra features include a "live-action" Bart Simpson (actually actress Nancy Cartwright in an enormous rubber Bart suit, pregnant and unable to hear anything) at the American Music Awards in 1991; Simpsons music videos for "Deep Deep Trouble" and "Do the Bartman"; three Butterfinger TV commercials; a six-minute featurette with senior director David Silverman on "Creating an Episode"; the animated Simpsons presenting at the Emmy Awards in 1990 (Lisa says, "Look, Mom, it's Harry Hamlin!" to great laughter and, when his name is read, nominee Craig T. Nelson looks none too pleased about the cartoon gag); a 10-minute interview with Matt Groening and James L. Brooks created for publicity during Season Two; and an "Art of the Simpson" feature, which ostensibly offers storyboards, sketches, and magazine covers, but which we found unnavigable. Also look for Easter eggs. Four-DVD digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—Dawn Taylor

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