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January 12, 2005 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2005-01-12

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8- The Michigan Daily - Wednesday, January 12, 2005 ARTS
'The Simpsons' hits its stride in stellar fifth-season DVD set.

By Adam Rottenberg
Daily Arts Editor
There's a reason "The Simpsons"
became a pop culture phenomenon.
Quick-witted writing, coupled with
heart and timeliness, made the series
rise above ..__.......__
its mediocre
animation to The Simpsons:
become one The Complete
of the all time Fifth Season
great primetime 20th Century Fox
series. Even
though at its core
"The Simpsons" is a sitcom, it rejuve-
nated the played-out format. Unfor-
tunately for viewers, Fox and Matt
Groening continue to sully the show's
reputation with each subsequent epi-
sode. With the release of "The Simp-
sons: The Complete Fifth Season,"
20th Century Fox helps alleviate the
pain through a reminder of a simpler
time when the series reached brilliant
comedic heights.
Through the course of 22 episodes,
the Simpson family had its fair share
of ups and downs. Homer went to outer
space, Lisa fought Malibu Stacey,
Marge battled a gambling addiction,
Bart found fame and Maggie discovers

an invaluable stuffed bear. Yet through
it all, viewers can find plenty of humor
and compassion - even in the show's
cruelest moments.
What makes season five so dif-
ferent from the current crop of epi-
sodes is that the quirky citizens of
Springfield serve as comic foils to the
Simpsons's storylines, rather than the
centerpieces of the shows. The show
still was filled with fresh ideas and
nonstop jokes.
Season five derived much of its
humor from the dim-witted behavior of
family patriarch, Homer. Continuing a
trend from earlier years, Homer's stu-
pidity stooped to new levels with each
episode. By removing the focus further
from the original breakout star, Bart,
and onto Homer, the creators were able
to craft funnier and stronger narratives.
Bart's bratty shenanigans had run their
course as the centerpiece of the series
to the point where the creators lam-
pooned it in the episode "Bart Gets
Famous."
In season five, "The Simpsons"
aimed its attacks at all realms of
popular culture. Whole episodes were
crafted as extended film parodies, most
noticeably "Cape Feare," where Side-
show Bob acts as stalker Max Cady, as
well as "Rosebud," which places Mr.
Burns into the role of Charles Foster

Kane.
The town of Springfield has never
looked clearer and crisper than in these
DVDs. Years of syndication have ruined
the reruns by featuring shortened epi-
sodes and worn-out video. Thankfully,
Fox has restored the series to its origi-
nal luster, making the viewing experi-
ence more pleasing than ever.
Moreover, the set offers fans the
chance to hear from the creators on
every episode. Twenty-two commen-
tary tracks is a feat few television
programs dare to take on, but "The
Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Sea-
son" commentaries offer plenty of
laughs and insights into the produc-
tion of the show. Each track features
Groening, the writers of the episode
and some of the cast. The most satis-
fying of these commentaries feature
former writer Conan O'Brien - yes,
the same one of NBC fame - who
goes into great detail about how he
was lured away from the show while
writing some of these episodes.
The other features on the set fail to
capture fans' attention quite like the
commentaries. Commercials starring
the Simpson clan, a brief featurette on
the season, animatics and a collection
of deleted scenes round out the extras.
While the deleted scenes are hilarious,
many of them have already been seen in

e0

Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

No. 8 *burp* No. 8 *burp* No. 8.
the classic episode "The 138th Episode
Spectacular" and are further hampered
by being grouped together as a single
30-minute viewing option.
The television landscape has forever
been altered by the impact of "The

Simpsons." It not only proved that ani-
mated programming could thrive in
primetime, but it also paved the way
for a throng of imitators. Yet, it was in
season five that "The Simpsons" grew
into the fully formed show that defied

conventions and became an immortal
classic.
Show: *****
Picture/Sound: ****
Extras: ****
Patchen
re-issue
ages with
grace
By Lloyd Cargo
Daily Arts Writer
M I E*
It was about damn time this album
got re-issued.
Long recognized
as the greatest Kenneth
poetry and music Patchen
collaboration Kenneth Patchen
ever set to wax, Reads with Jazz
Kenneth Patchen in Canada
Reads with Jazz Locust Music
in Canada finally
gets the digital
treatment it deserves on Chicago's
excellent Locust Music label.
Playing with a young band featur-
ing the Charlie Parker-worshipping
alto sax of Dale Hillary, Ken-
neth Patchen creates an album that
swings harder than the sum of its
parts. What's even more amazing is
the story behind the making of this
album - it's almost more Kerouac-
ian than the poetry itself.
According to pianist Alan Neil,
Patchen had to make an emergency
trip to the dentist right before a 1959
session at the CBC's studio in Van-
couver. Despite incredible pain and
numbed lips, Patchen emerged from
the operation ready to perform. Expe-
riencing problems with certain syl-
lables, Patchen's toughness inspired
his band to reach a level all musicians
aspire to attain - to truly wail. Drum-
mer Bill Boyle does his best Philly
Joe Jones imitation, while bassist
Lionel Chambers keeps the beat loose
and galloping right along. Alan Neil's
piano is understated, yet comple-
mentary to the rest of the ensemble,
and Dale Hillary, only 18 years old,
effortlessly channels his idols Sonny
Rollins and Charlie Parker.
On top of all this, Patchen proph-
esizes with verve, speaking primar-
ily on the post-WWII reinvention of
America. It's his delivery that sets
this collaboration above all other jazz-
poetry combinations. His sing-songy
raps make his low howls and moans
that much more effective. When
Patchen has something to emphasize,
he makes sure it gets heard. Kenneth
Patchen Reads with Jazz in Canada
avoids the pretentiousness associated
with jazz and poetry in a way no one
else ever could.

a0

41

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