When Matt Groening came up with a little idea to create a show about a dysfunctional, yellow, middle class American family for a new sitcom back in 1987 I’m sure he never imagined that it would become such a phenomenon over the course of the next 25+ years. Since first appearing as a short on the Tracy Ullman Show back in the eighties, The Simpsons has become one of the most successful sitcoms, animated or not, in television history and also the longest running American sitcom.
Over the past few decades the show has grown in popularity and remains a staple in households around the world as it continues to reinvent itself and keep up with the trends of today’s newer animated shows, delving into more adult-oriented themes and even joining forces with some of today’s biggest competition including most recently, Family Guy, which saw The Simpsons meet Quahog’s favourite family, The Griffins in the acclaimed crossover episode.
While the sitcom enjoys its 26th season on air, the shows seventeenth season has recently been released to home entertainment. The season is one of the sitcoms highlights with as much laugh out loud moments and containing the same nostalgic charm as its earlier, retro episodes.
The Bonfire of the Manatees opens Season 17 as Homer, following a run in with Fat Tony and an adult film production being set up in the family home, tries to reconcile with Marge who, after discovering what is taking place in their home, leaves with the kids and meets a charming scientist who is trying to save endangered manatees. The show is a real treat to welcome the new season and Alec Baldwin (Beetlejuice, The Departed, 30 Rock) provides his memorable voicework to the role of Dr. Caleb Thorn.
Further into the season Flanders gets some lessons in raising his children and we see Bart being taken hostage by a doting mother chimpanzee during a trip to the zoo with Homer and Lisa in Bart Has Two Mommies; a family evening of dining at the Frying Dutchman turns into a nautical-themed storytelling episode of 3 tales and the 16th instalment of the fan favourite series within the show – Treehouse of Horrors – entertains us with more spooky stories. During the latest instalment we are offered the family’s parodies of A.I. Artificial Intelligence, The Most Dangerous Game and Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge. The final story of this Treehouse instalment is one of the shows best as, during the latest Halloween celebrations, a witch turns all of the residents of Springfield into real-life versions of their worn costumes.
As well as the seasons notable guest voice of Alec Baldwin, other stars joining the seventeenth season of The Simpsons include Kelsey Grammer, Lily Tomlin, William H. Macy, Susan Sarandon, Ricky Gervais, Melanie Griffith, Mandy Moore among plenty of others. Episode 13, The Seemingly Never-Ending Story, where Homer finds himself stuck upside down in a cave, also won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program so the show boasts some sitcom highlights in both episodes and accolades.
While we are quite behind in seasons in terms of DVD releases given the sitcom is currently running its 26th season on television, the collection offers a nostalgic look back at one of the true greats of animated comedy. While some of the later seasons are a little stale from time to time, this beauty within The Simpsons lengthy portfolio is one of the standouts of the show.
OWN THE SIMPSONS SEASON 17 ON BLU-RAY & DVD 3 DEC
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