If we were to rank the great human achievements throughout history, The Simpsons would rank somewhere between the Salk vaccine and the Moon landing. With each new episode it seems that the venerable series is just filling in the blanks in the history books for the longest running shows. While the show has definitely slipped from the unbelievable highs of earlier years, even the worst episode of The Simpsons is better than the best episode of Family Guy. It’s not even close.
Certainly every die-hard Simpsons fan out there would be forced to admit that the show has been on the decline. It only proves just how great the best Simpsons seasons are that the show can go into a decade long decline and still be on the air. By the time that Season 17 aired, I wasn’t a regular Simpsons viewer. I was pleased to get the chance to review this set because I had only seen a handful of episodes. Now I wouldn’t say that there are any episodes here that are on par with, say, Marge vs. the Monorail, there are some hidden gems in the 22 episodes of Season 17.
The best episode of the set is The Monkey Suit, a sharply written satirical take on the debate over evolution and creationism. The set also boasts other fine episodes like The Milhouse of Sand and Fog, My Fair Laddy, and the Emmy-winning The Seemingly Neverending Story. Of course, the season is filled with celebrity guests, including Kelsey Grammer once again as Sideshow Bob, Lily Tomlin, Terry Bradshaw, Michael York, Ricky Gervais, who also wrote the episode in which he appears, and many, many more.
Like they’ve done with every previously released seasons, the set is packed full of extra features. Every episode features audio commentary with writers, stars, Matt Groening, Al Jean, producers, directors, and more. Toss in the deleted scenes and animation breakdowns, they pretty much give you a glimpse into each episode from every conceivable angle. Other special features include a lengthy compilation of couch gags through the years, featuring some great couch gags by Banksy, Guillermo Del Toro, Bill Plympton, and Sylvain Chomet, as well as Live! It’s The Simpsons, giving fans a chance to listen to the cast perform a table read, and Let There Be Music, a featurette on the work of long-time Simpsons composer Alf Clausen. The set also features a few bonus episodes, including the Season 5 classic Cape Feare.
Season 17 of The Simpsons can’t be considered essential to anyone but completists, but for those completists this set shouldn’t disappoint. As it has always done, The Simpsons still places a mirror up to American life and culture. Even though it isn’t as a great as it once was, the show still boast some very clever writing and the best voice cast of any animated program in history. Some Simpsons is better than no Simpsons. After all, you’ll never stop The Simpsons.