The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season
The Simpsons returned to Fox for its fourth season in September 1992 with a team of writers and animators ready to take the show in some new, often surreal, directions. Always sardonic and a more than a little dark, the fourth season produced several episodes that were among the best of the show's run and some of the weirdest, most hilarious comedy to ever air on television. In the season's first episode, "Kamp Krusty," Bart and Lisa are lured to the Klown's summer camp for kids, only to discover that it's a dilapidated hell-hole where the kids toil in a sweatshop in the name of "arts and crafts." The memorable "I Love Lisa" episode finds poor Ralph Wiggum falling for Lisa after she gives him a valentine (the famous "I choo-choo-choose you" card); Springfield hits the streets for the annual "Whacking Day" snake-whacking festivities, but Lisa (with the help of guest voice Barry White) determines to put a stop to the brutality; "Duffless" finds Homer exploring the possibilities of a world without beer while Bart becomes the subject of Lisa's Clockwork Orange-style science fair project (calling her experiment "half P. T. Barnum, half B. F. Skinner"); and "New Kid on the Block" finds Marge befriending the new single mom next door (Pamela Reed, voicing the character who'll take Marge on a Thelma and Louise adventure in Season Five) while Bart falls in love with her daughter (Sara Gilbert), only to discover the pain of jealousy when he loses her to Jimbo. Among the very best episodes of the season are the Homer vs. Barney rivalry in "Mr. Plow," with the friends competing for the town's snowplow business (with guest Linda Ronstadt singing Barney's "Plow King" theme song); "Homer the Heretic," where Homer receives the okay from God in a dream to skip church (which also features one of the very funniest Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, "Flay Me to the Moon"); the horrifyingly funny "Homer's Triple Bypass," with Homer going to cut-rate Dr. Nick Riviera (Hi, everybody!") for the $129.99 special; and the laugh-packed "Last Exit to Springfield," which has Homer becoming a union organizer after discovering that the plant's medical plan won't cover Lisa's braces leading to many memorable Simpsons moments, including Lisa's "Yellow Submarine" trip while under the dentist's gas, Homer's fantasy about becoming Don Homer and Mr. Burns' observation: "Looking at him strutting about, like he's cock of the walk! Well, let me tell you he's cock of nothing!" The season's "Treehouse of Horror" episode featured three of The Simpsons' best Halloween installments Homer battling a demonic Krusty doll in "Klown Without Pity," The King Kong parody "King Homer," and "Dial Z for Zombies" (Bart: "Dad! You killed the zombie Flanders!" Homer: "He was a zombie?") And for music lovers, season four offered the brilliant "A Streetcar Named Marge," sending up Tennessee Williams, community theater, and self-important musical productions which also offers a hilarious secondary story with Maggie, stuck in the Ayn Rand Day Care Center, going after her pacifier in a nod to The Great Escape and the Music Man homage in "Marge vs. the Monorail" by the late, great Phil Hartman.
* * *
Fox's DVD release of The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season offers four discs with all 24 episodes. All have commentary by the writers, directors, animators, and voice talent and these are some of the funniest, most informative commentaries in the DVD series so far (a cut above the lackluster tracks for the Season Three set), especially the track for "A Streetcar Named Marge," which has Hank Azaria and episode guest Jon Lovitz contributing. The full-screen transfers are extraordinarily clean, bright and richly saturated, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (available in English, Spanish or French with English or Spanish subtitles) is excellent. Each DVD set seems to come packed with more extras than the one before this time, besides the commentaries, there's "A Word From Matt Groening," a brief two-minute introduction with clips; extremely detailed looks at the work behind the "Streetcar," "Homer Gets a Bypass," and "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons' Clip Show" episodes with behind-the-scenes looks at the animation process, animatics, sketches, picture-in-picture comparison with storyboards, and more; "The Cajun Controversy" (2 min.), a look at negative public reaction to the perceived New Orleans-bashing of the "Oh! Streetcar!" opening number; a short piece on bizarre public attacks on The Simpsons by Barbara and George Bush in 1990 and how producer James L. Brooks' responded; an opportunity to watch "Kamp Krusty" in Portuguese, Italian, Japanese or Castilian Spanish; "Promotional Stuff" (14 min.), a 1993 behind-the-scenes promo for the show; four very funny Simpsons commercials; an animation feature on the work behind Itchy & Scratchy, including a picture-in-picture storyboard comparison; four deleted scenes from "Homer's Triple Bypass" that can be watched separately or as part of the episode; and six deleted scenes from "The Front." Four-DVD digipak with paperboard slipcase.