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The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season

Season Three of Matt Groening's hit animated comedy The Simpsons saw the writers and animators hitting their artistic stride — character design became more consistent, and the show's pacing and thematic elements settled into the rhythm that continued throughout the show's run. In his introduction to this DVD box set, Groening describes it as "the season in which The Simpsons found love. We see Homer and Marge getting married at Shotgun Pete's Wedding Chapel (just over the border from whatever state Springfield is in). We leer at Homer's near-romance with country singer Lurleen Lumpkin. We recoil at Marge's sister Selma's marriage to the ever-conniving Sideshow Bob … Plus we get a gander at the 1971 sex-education film "Fuzzy Bunny's Guide To You Know What," not to mention Homer's psychedelic ride in the SpineMelter 2000 massage-chair or his unforgettable rhapsody in the Land of Chocolate." Other highlights among the season's 24 episodes include "Stark Raving Dad," which sees Homer committed to a mental institution after wearing a pink shirt to work — while in the loony bin he meets a white man who looks and talks like Michael Jackson (Jackson guests, doing his own voice); "When Ned Flanders Failed," in which Homer does his best to sabotage Ned's mall store, the Leftorium, while Bart fakes taking karate lessons (leading to one of Marge's best lines ever: "Bart, don't use the Touch of Death on your sister!"). In "Bart the Murderer," Bart becomes a flunky for a group of Mafia guys (with guest voices by Joe Mantegna and Neil Patrick Harris), and in "Flaming Moe's," Homer's drink invention turns Moe's Tavern into a high-falutin' hot spot, attracting the likes of Aerosmith. A group of pro-baseball players, including Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey, Jr, Darryl Strawberry and Mike Scoscia appear as themselves in "Homer at the Bat" when Mr. Burns loads the nuclear plant's baseball team with ringers, and "The Otto Show" has the slacker bus driver living with the Simpsons temporarily (the boys from Spinal Tap guest in that one.) Season Three also saw the second annual "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween episode — in this one, Lisa, Bart, and Homer have nightmares after eating too much candy, and dream about "The Monkey's Paw," a parody of a classic Twilight Zone episode, and about Homer's brain being used as part of a human/Cyborg experiment. As Groening concludes in his introduction, "All in all, not a bad bunch of shows. I actually think this makes Season Two look like Season One." Fox's DVD release of The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season offers four discs with all 24 episodes. All have commentary by some combination of James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and various writers and directors. After two full sets of shows previous to this, they occasionally sound like they're running out of things to say — God knows how they'll sound by, say, Season 12. The full-screen transfers are bright and pristine, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (available in English, Spanish or French with English or Spanish subtitles) is excellent. There's a ton of extra features, including commercials featuring the characters, sketches and storyboards, a quick featurette on the "Bart" balloon for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, audio outtakes from cast members and guest stars, a ton of Easter eggs, and a very cool interactive "jukebox" of Simpsons song clips (including the parody of the opening of "Cheers" featured in "Flaming Moe's" and an animated Spinal Tap doing "Break Like the Wind"). Four-DVD digipak with paperboard slipcase.
—Dawn Taylor

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