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The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season

Fox Home Video

Starring Starring Dan Castelanetta, Julie Kavner, Hank Azaria,
Harry Shearer, and Yeardley Smith

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Review by Dawn Taylor                    

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 (one as short as 25 seconds) 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.


Disc One

Bart Gets an F

Synopsis: When Bart is told to shape up or get kept back a grade, he strikes a deal with Martin: if he helps turn Martin into a "normal" kid, Martin will help Bart pass his next test. But when the newly cool Martin plays video games instead of helping Bart study, Bart asks God for one more day before the test. The next morning finds the town blanketed with snow. To honor his deal with God, Bart studies instead of playing in the snow ... and still gets an F. But when he blurts out a history fact to Mrs. Krabappel, she pulls out "Old Red," her test-marking pen, and changes Bart's grade to D-. The episode ends with Homer proudly displaying Bart's paper on the fridge door.

Memorable Line:Martin, after Bart explains that the cool kids only sit in the back of the bus: "Oooh. I think I understand. The potential for mischief varies inversely to one's proximity to the authority figure — or, MOP 1/PA."


Simpson and Delilah

Synopsis: Homer spots a miracle hair-growth formula on TV, but it costs $1,000. Lenny talks Homer into cheating his insurance company so that the nuclear plant will pay for it. Homer uses the formula overnight and grows a thick mop of luxurious brown hair. After running through the streets as in It's a Wonderful Life, Homer goes to work where Mr. Burns mistakes him for an energetic young go-getter and promotes him. Homer hires a dynamic assistant named Karl (Harvey Fierstein) who helps him turn the company around so brilliantly that Mr. Burns gives Homer a key to the luxurious executive washroom. Burning up with jealousy, Smithers snoops through Homer's files and finds the phony insurance claim, but Karl takes the blame for Homer and gets fired. Bart breaks the bottle with the remaining hair tonic (leading Homer to tell him three things that he predicts will haunt him for life: "You've ruined your father. You've crippled your family. And baldness is hereditary.") But Karl convinces Homer that it was him believing in himself and not his hair that made him a better person. When Homer gives a speech, though, no one takes him seriously and he's demoted.

Memorable Line:"Oh, hey ho, men! You know, I was watching the DuMont last night and happened to catch a fascinating documentary on Rommel, The Desert Fox. Now there's a man who could get things done." — Mr. Burns, making small talk.


Treehouse of Horror

Synopsis:The first Simpsons Halloween episode. Framed with Bart and Lisa telling each other ghost stories, the episode features three stories: "Bad Dream House," with the family moving into a haunted house, becoming possessed and trying to kill each other; when Marge tells the spirit of the house to find a way for them all to live together because the Simpsons aren't leaving, the house blows itself up. "Hungry Are the Damned" is a take-off on the classic Twilight Zone episode, "To Serve Man," with the Simpsons abducted by space aliens (the recurring Kang and Kodos) and fearing that they're being fattened up so that they can be eaten. And "The Raven," with Homer imagining himself as the narrator, Marge as Lenore and Bart as the raven (repeating "Eat my shorts!' instead of "Nevermore.") The episode features James Earl Jones as a guest voice.

Memorable Line:Marge: "You speak English?" Kang: "I am actually speaking Rigellian. By an astonishing coincidence, both of our languages are exactly the same."


Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish

Synopsis: Bart and Lisa catch a three-eyed fish near the nuclear reactor, the story makes national headlines, and Washington sends a team to investigate the plant. Burns decides to run for governor to get Washington off his back, and hires spin doctors to improve his public image. When reporters ask Burns about the three-eyed fish, Burns says that the extra eye is an improvement, and nicknames the fish Blinky. As a publicity stunt, Burns' people arrange for him to dine at the Simpsons' house (to show he's in touch with the common man). With TV cameras watching, Marge — a supporter of Burns' opponent — serves up Blinky for dinner and insists that, if the fish is safe, he won't mind eating it. Burns takes one bite of the radioactive fish and spits it out, ruining his campaign.

Memorable Line:"Oh, look — some careless person has left thousands and thousands of dollars just lying here on my coffee table! Smithers, why don't we leave the room and hopefully when we return the pile of money will be gone." — Mr. Burns, bribing an inspector.


Dancin' Homer

Synopsis: When Homer gets drunk at a baseball game and dances on top of the dugout, the team's owner offers Homer a job as team mascot. He's so popular, he's offered a job as mascot for the Capital City Capitals, so the family packs up and move to the big city (to the tune of "Capital City," sung by Tony Bennett, which includes the immortal lyrics, "It's the kind of a place that makes a bum feel like a king/and it makes a king feel like some nutty cuckoo super-king"). The big-city crowd is unimpressed by Dancin' Homer, and he's fired.

Memorable Line:Homer: "Marge, this ticket doesn't just give me a seat. It also gives me the right — no, the duty — to make a complete ass of myself."


Dead Putting Society

Synopsis: Homer boasts to Flanders that Bart will beat Flanders' son, Todd, in a big miniature golf tournament. Bart isn't a very good golfer, however, so Lisa coaches Bart on Zen concentration techniques. With his game much improved, Homer bets Flanders the father whose son doesn't win has to mow the other's lawn while wearing his wife's dress. At the last hole, the score is tied — so Bart and Todd quit and call it a draw. Without a winner, both Homer and Flanders put on dresses and mow their lawns.

Memorable Line:Homer to Flanders: "You've been rubbing my nose in it since I got here! Your family is better than my family, your beer is from farther away than my beer, you and your son like each other, your wife's butt is higher than my wife's butt ... you make me sick!"


Disc Two

Bart vs. Thanksgiving

Synopsis: Lisa creates an elaborate Thanksgiving centerpiece for the family table, which is flung into the fireplace when Bart and Lisa fight over where it should go. Lisa breaks down sobbing and Bart is sent to his room. Feeling unfairly punished, Bart runs away. He wanders the streets, cold and hungry, until he finds a homeless shelter serving dinner. A TV news crew interviews Bart; Homer and Marge see him on TV and call the police. When Bart finally returns home, he hears Lisa crying because she misses him. Bart realizes what he did was wrong, and the family has their Thanksgiving dinner.

Memorable Line:Marge's mother: "I have laryngitis and it hurts to talk, so I'll just say one thing — you never do anything right."


Bart the Daredevil

Synopsis: Bart becomes enamored of daredevil Captain Lance Murdock at a local truck show. When Bart sees Murdock's big stunt (jumping over a shark- and lion-infested tank of water) go wrong — and the enormous ovation Murdock gets from the crowd as he dragged from the tank — Bart decides he's found his calling. He crashes his skateboard and ends up going to the hospital (where there's a special ward for kids who have injured themselves imitating stunts they've seen "on television, films, and the legitimate stage"), where he sees Captain Murdock, who tells him "It's always good to see young people taking an interest in danger" and encourages Bart to live on the edge. Bart decides to jump Springfield Gorge on his skateboard. Homer tries to stop him, but accidentally jumps Bart's skateboard into the gorge ... which is full of garbage. This episode features the first appearance of Dr. Julius Hibbert, based quite transparently on Bill Cosby's character on his competing show.

Memorable Line:Dr. Hibbert, treating Captain Murdock: "Hmm, I'm afraid this bone's broken. Well, that's all of them."


Itchy & Scratchy & Marge

Synopsis: Maggie attacks Homer with a mallet, and Marge decides TV is to blame. Her protest of the Itchy & Scratchy Show becomes a nationwide boycott; as the show's ratings decline, the producer asks Marge to write some scripts for the show. Itchy and Scratchy become gentle, loving best pals under Marge's guidance, and no one watches the show anymore. When Michaelangelo's "David" is set to come to Springfield's museum, a group of protesters ask Marge to join them. Marge doesn't want to, and realizes that she was wrong for protesting free speech.

Memorable Line:"Welcome to another edition of 'Smartline.' Are cartoons too violent for children? Most people would say, 'No, of course not. What kind of a stupid question is that?' But one woman says yes — Marge Simpson." — Kent Brockman


Bart Gets Hit By a Car

Synopsis: Mr. Burns hits a skateboard-riding Bart, and attorney Lionel Hutz tells Homer to call if he wants to make big bucks on a lawsuit. When Burns offers Homer a measly $100, Homer call Hutz. To get a promised million-dollar settlement, Bart will have to lie about his injuries in court — using the "expert testimony" of Dr. Nick Riviera. Burns offers to settle for $500,000, but Homer won't take it. Marge takes the stand and tells the truth, losing them the case. Homer ends up broke, sitting in Moe's, wondering if he can love a woman who lost him a million dollars. But when Marge shows up to apologize, Homer tells her he loves her more than ever.

Memorable Line:"It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. I was playing in my wholesome childlike way, little realizing that I was about to be struck down by the Luxury Car of Death." — Bart's testimony.


One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish

Synopsis: Homer takes the family to the Happy Sumo restaurant for sushi. He insists upon ordering fugu. Convinced that the chef prepared the delicacy (made from a highly poisonous blowfish) wrong, Homer goes to the hospital, where Dr. Hibbert tells him he has 24 hours to live. Homer write a to-do list of things to accomplish before he dies, and sets out to complete it: He makes a video of himself for Maggie, listens to Lisa play sax, has a beer with Barney, tells off Mr. Burns, and makes amends with his father. After completing the last item ("Be intamit with Marge"), Homer falls asleep in a chair, listening to the Bible on tape. He wakes up in the morning, happy to be alive ... and heads back to the TV and a bag of pork rinds. Larry King appears as himself.

Memorable Line:Homer to Bart: "I want to share something with you ... the three little sentences that will get you through life. Number one: 'Cover for me.' Number two: 'Oh, good idea, boss.' Number three, 'It was like that when I got here.'"


The Way We Was

Synopsis: Marge tells the children the story of how she and Homer met. Flashback to 1974: Homer ditches class and Marge burns her bra, so they both end up in detention. When Homer sees Marge, he falls in love instantly. To impress her, he signs up for the debate team, asks Marge to tutor him in French, and invites her to be his date to the prom. But Marge finds out that Homer's interest in French and debating is a ruse and she accepts Artie Ziff's (Jon Lovitz) invitation to the prom instead. Homer goes to the prom alone; meanwhile, Marge fights off an amorous Artie and demands that he take her home. She sees Homer walking down the street and comes back in her car to pick him up, realizing that she should have gone to the prom with him. The episode features a laundry list of '70s songs, including music by The Carpenters, Barry White, Elton John, the Average White Band and Homer's famous singalong to Steve Miller's "The Joker."

Memorable Line:Selma: "Marge's dates get homelier all the time." Patty: "That's what you get when you don't put out."


Disc Three

Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment

Synopsis: Homer invites his buddies over to watch a boxing match on his illegal cable. Lisa learns about the eighth commandment ("Thou shalt not steal") in Sunday school and fears the family will go to hell. Reverend Lovejoy tells Lisa to set a good example by refusing to watch cable, and Marge fears that cable is a bad influence on the family and wants to get rid of it. But Homer insists they keep it so he can watch the big fight with his pals. On the night of the fight, Homer sends Lisa outside, where Marge joins her. Homer's conscience bothers him, so he goes out to sit with his family. After the match, he climbs up on the roof with wirecutters and severs the cable line — plunging the whole neighborhood into darkness.

Memorable Line:Mr. Burns: "I'm so keen on seeing Watson vs. Tatum II, I'd even go to an employee's house! Oh, I can picture it now, the screen door rusting off its filthy hinges and the mangy dog staggering about, looking vainly for a place to die."


Principal Charming

Synopsis: Marge asks Homer to fix Selma up, but he can't think of anyone. When he's called in to talk to Principal Skinner about Bart's behavior, Homer invites him home to meet Selma. Skinner is first introduced to Patty, and is immediately smitten. Skinner and Patty start to date and Selma become more and more depressed. Barney hears of Selma's predicament and offers to go out with her; when Skinner asks Patty to marry him, Selma decides to take up with Barney. Patty then realizes the effect her relationship with Skinner is having on her sister, turns him down, and rescues Selma from her date with Barney.

Memorable Line:Moe: "Homer, lighten up. You're making happy hour bitterly ironic."


Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

Synopsis: After having a heart attack, Grandpa Simpson tells Homer that he has another son, the result of a long-ago affair. Homer soon finds his brother, Herb Powell (Danny DeVito), a multi-millionaire owner of a Detroit car company. Considering Homer to be a "typical American," Herb hires Homer to design a car. Homer applies himself and works hard, like Herb, while Herb spends time with Marge and the kids, enjoying the family he never had. Homer's nightmarish car — "The Homer," of course — is unveiled, and bombs. Herb loses his business, regrets ever meeting Homer, and takes off on the bus. Bart comforts Homer on the way back to Springfield, telling his dad that he thought the car was cool.

Memorable Line:Homer: "You know that little ball you put on the aerial so you can find your car in a parking lot? That should be on every car! And some things are so snazzy they never go out of style — like tail fins! And bubble domes! And shag carpeting!"


Bart's Dog Gets an F

Synopsis: Bart has to take Santa's Little Helper to obedience school, or Homer's going to get rid of the dog. At "Canine College," the dog fails miserably. When Santa's Little Helper eats the family's prized heirloom quilt, Homer decides the dog has to go — but Bart begs for one more chance. Though he works tirelessly, the dog is an idiot, and Bart gives up. He begs the dog to just sit, roll over and speak so he can stay with the family — miraculously, the dog does it and passes his test. Tracey Ullman guests as the dog trainer, Emily Winthrop.

Memorable Line:Flanders, telling Homer about his new "Assassin" sneakers: "They've got Velcro straps, a water pump in the tongue, a built-in pedometer, reflective sidewalls and little vanity plates."


Old Money

Synopsis: Grandpa Simpson falls in love with a woman he meets at the retirement home named Beatrice (Audrey Meadows). Grandpa plans to celebrate Bea's birthday, but Homer drags him off on a family trip to Discount Lion Safari. Returning to the rest home, Grandpa learns that Bea has died. She leaves him all her money and, appearing to him as an angel, tells Grandpa to help those in need. He interviews so many needy people that he decides the $100,000 she left him isn't enough — so he heads to Vegas. Homer finds Grandpa at the roulette table and stops him from gambling all his money. Unsure what to do with the money, Grandpa decides to fix up the retirement home.

Memorable Line:Bart: "You know, Grandpa kind smells like that trunk in the garage where the bottom's all wet." Lisa: "Nuh-uh. He smells more like a photo lab." Homer: "Stop it, both of you! Grandpa smells like a regular old man ... which is more like a hallway in a hospital."


Brush with Greatness

Synopsis: After getting stuck in a water slide at Mount Splashmore amusement park, Homer decides he needs to get in better shape. Searching in the attic for his barbells, he finds an old painting that Marge did of Ringo Starr back when she was a young girl. Lisa urges Marge to go back to school to study art, so Marge enrolls in community college. Her instructor, Professor Lombardo, loves Marge's painting of Homer sleeping on the couch and enters it in the Springfield Art Fair. Marge wins, and Mr. Burns commissions her to do a painting of him. When Burns makes fun of Homer's attempts at weight loss ("My good man, you're the fattest thing I've ever seen — and I've been on safari!") Marge decides that she's unable to uncover Burns' "inner beauty." But when she receives a thank-you note from Ringo Starr for her old painting, she creates a portrait of a withered, naked Mr. Burns.

Memorable Line:Apu: "I've enrolled in a screenwriting class. I yearn to tell the story of an idealistic young Hindu, pushed too far by convenience-store bandits. I call it, 'Hands Off My Jerky, Turkey.'"


Disc Four

Lisa's Substitute

Synopsis: Lisa's teacher comes down with Lyme Disease and Lisa develops a crush on the substitute, the cool, guitar-playing Mr. Bergstrom. Running into him later at the museum, Lisa's embarrassed by Homer's behavior. Mr. Bergstrom takes Homer aside and suggests that he be a more positive role model. On Monday morning, Lisa is devastated to see her usual teacher is back and tells Homer he's a baboon ("Did you hear that Marge? She called me a baboon! The stupidest, ugliest, smelliest ape of them all!") Meanwhile, Bart runs for class president against Martin and loses. Homer gives both his children pep talks and helps them with their problems. He then asks Marge if they can just go to bed, saying, "I'm on the biggest roll of my life."

Memorable Line:Homer, after Mr. Bergstrom explains mummification: "Oooh, pretty creepy. Still, I'd rather have him chasing me than the Wolf Man."


The War of the Simpsons

Synopsis: Homer gets drunk at a party and makes a fool of himself. The next day at church, Marge signs them up for a marriage retreat led by Reverend Lovejoy, recruiting Grandpa to sit with the kids. Homer finds out the retreat will be held at Catfish Lake and tries to sneak away to fish; Marge is upset that Homer would choose fishing over their marriage. He takes a walk and, on the dock, picks up a fishing pole he finds lying there and gets yanked into a rowboat, then pulled out on the lake, by a huge fish. Marge goes to the workshops alone while Homer struggles with the huge fish, the legendary "General Sherman"; after telling him that their marriage is doomed if he loves fishing more than her, Homer lets the fish go. Meanwhile, back home, Bart and Lisa throw a party and end up having to clean up the mess at the last minute so Grandpa won't get in trouble.

Memorable Line:Marge's list of Homer's faults: "He forgets birthdays, anniversaries, holidays — both religious and secular — he chews with his mouth open, he gambles, he hangs out in a seedy bar with bums and lowlifes. He blows his nose on towels and puts them back in the middle. He drinks out of the carton. He never changes the baby. When he goes to sleep, he makes chewing noises. When he wakes up, he makes honking noises. Oh, oh — and he scratches himself with his keys. I guess that's it. Oh, no, wait. He kicks me in his sleep and his toenails are too long ... and yellow."


Three Men and a Comic Book

Synopsis: Bart wants the first issue of "Radioactive Man," but it costs $100, so he does odd jobs to raise money. Scraping together $35, he goes to the comic shop, where he runs into Martin and Milhouse. He talks them into pooling their money together to buy the comic. None of them want to let it out of their sight, so they all spend the night in the treehouse. Paranoid, Bart wakes up in the middle of the night and ties Martin up so he can't steal the book. During a freak storm, Milhouse tries to tell Marge that Bart has gone mad, but Bart thinks he's trying to steal the comic; during the fight, Milhouse almost falls out of the treehouse, but Bart catches him by his sleeve. As the wind threatens to blow the comic book out into the storm, Bart has to decide whether to save Milhouse or the comic. He chooses Milhouse, and lightning fries the comic.

Memorable Line:Comic Book Store Guy: "Friggin' kids, I don't need this! I've got a master's degree in folklore mythology."


Blood Feud

Synopsis: Mr. Burns is diagnosed with a rare disease that leaves him without enough blood. Desperate to save him, Smithers asks the nuclear plant's employees for type double-O negative donors. Homer, thinking Burns will reward him, comes forward, but he doesn't have the right kind of blood. Bart, however, does, and after a transfusion Burns is healthier than ever. He sends Bart a thank-you note, but no money. Homer is furious and writes Burns a nasty letter. Marge stops him from mailing it but, the next morning, they discover that Bart dropped it in the mail. When Burns receives the letter, he orders Smithers to have Homer beaten to a pulp, but Smithers says he can't harm the man who saved Burns' life. Burns realizes what a good thing the Simpsons' did and sends over a reward — an enormous Olmec head statue.

Memorable Line:Burns: "We'll get the Simpsons a present. An extravagant present! A mad, unthinkable, impossible present! A frabulous, grabulous, zip-zoom-zabulous present!"

*          *          *

Special Features: This section includes 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.

As with the Season One set, The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season is impressive. The colors are bright, 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. Each disc features the body of a Simpsons character and, if you spin it around, you can see what it looks like with one of four different character's heads. Put the disc in, hit your remote, and the picture on-screen spins four bodies around to mis-matched heads; on the third try, the right heads are matched up and the menu appears. A cute gimmick, but annoying to have to go through every time you want to look at a disc. The four-DVD digipak comes in a snazzy green paperboard slipcover, complementing the silver slipcover for Season One.

— Dawn Taylor

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