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The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season

The sixth season of Fox-TV's "The Simpsons" offered a number of excellent episodes, starting with "Bart of Darkness," in which Bart witnesses Ned Flanders digging a hole in his garden and crying "I'm a murderer!" The entire episode is an homage to Hitchcock's Rear Window and features moments throughout alluding to movies like Witness and Beneath the Planet of the Apes as well as"The Menagerie" episode of TV's "Star Trek." It was a season chock-full of guest appearances, including Susan Sarandon, Meryl Streep, the entire cast of "Cheers," Mandy Patinkin, Mel Brooks, and Tito Puente. In "Sideshow Bob Roberts," Krusty's second-banana becomes the Republican Party candidate for mayor; "Bart's Girlfriend" finds Bart falling for a seemingly sweet new girl in town (Streep) who turns out to have a malevolent side; a fortune-teller gives Lisa a look at her family's future in "Lisa's Wedding"; Marge becomes a cop in "The Springfield Connection"; and Homer tells the family the story of Maggie's birth in "And Maggie Makes Three." The writing for season six was top-notch and a few of the show's best, most memorable episodes aired this year — the annual "Treehouse of Horror" Halloween show offered up "The Shinning" (when Bart corrects Groundskeeper Willie, "You mean 'shining,'" he replies, "Sshh! You wanna get sued?"); "Time and Punishment," with Homer turning a faulty toaster into a time machine and wreaking havoc with reality; and "Nightmare Cafeteria" finds Principal Skinner coming up with a unique solution for solving both classroom overcrowding and cuts in the school's lunch budget. The season ender, "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" parodies TV's "Dallas" when Mr. Burns steals the school's funds to build a device that blocks the sun and angers everyone in town, with all the clues in place offering a genuine whodunit. And "Homer the Great" finds Homer joining Springfield's secret society, The Stonecutters, led by the mysterious Number One (Patrick Stewart) allowing him secret driving privileges, a special vibrating office chair, and a hotline to the "real" 9-1-1 emergency service. It also finds him raising his voice with the other Stonecutters to sing the society's brilliant song:

Who controls the British crown?
Who keeps the metric system down?
We do, we do!
Who holds back the electric car?
Who makes Steve Guttenberg a star?
We do, we do!

*          *          *

Fox's DVD release of The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season offers four discs with all 25 episodes. 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. All the episodes have commentary by some combination of James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, and various writers and directors — the comments are detailed and anecdotal, but by Season Six only the most hardcore fans will probably be interested in any but their favorite episodes. Extras include a featurette, "Springfield's Most Wanted," hosted by "America's Most Wanted" anchor John Walsh, "The Simpsons Plane" a short featurette about Western Pacific's "Simpsons"-themed airplane, three commercials, a "Special Language" featurette offering clips translated into Castilian Spanish, Czech, French, and Russian, and an "Art & Animation" featurette showing the tedious process of taking the show from pencil sketch to final product. The single worst thing about this release, far and away, is the packaging. After five box sets featuring awkward, multi-disc fold-out cases, Fox has changed horses midstream with something even worse — a cheesy, hard-to-open plastic clamshell shaped like Homer's head, containing four single-disc holders taped along one side and then glued (in the case of this reviewer's set, off-center and crooked) onto a hunk of cardboard. In every possible way, it's ugly, difficult to use, and poorly constructed — besides not matching the boxes for the first five seasons. Early response to the new case has been so negative that Fox is reportedly including a card with information on how to send away for a new box that'll match the others. D'oh!
—Dawn Taylor

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