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Eat Bart's Shorts Again … Doh!

13 Jun, 2002 By: Fred Topel

The Aug. 6 release of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment's The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season DVD set (prebook July 10, SRP $49.98) will have as many extras as the previous season's release, but with a slightly different slant. Whereas the first season's set explored the genesis of the show, the second set will show how the series became a commercial bonanza for cross-promotional marketing.

In addition to commentaries, interviews and behind-the-scenes features, Simpsons: Season Two includes music videos and Butterfinger commercials.

“In the second season, you could see how the show started to reflect the commercial success it had when Marge says, ‘A Simpson on a T-shirt -- I never thought I'd see the day,’ producer Al Jean explained. “I think it's pretty well known how commercially successful the show became and how many different uses of Bart there were.

“You could look at it with subtext, but I think it's just if you want this in your collection, here it is. The commercials are pretty funny,” he added.

For one music video, “Do the Bartman,” two versions are included: the original televised one and a director's cut. Jean assured us there was nothing racy about the director's cut, only a longer version of the video.

“We always trim a lot when we put a show on the air, even the video,” he said. “The directors all have sequences where they think, ‘OK, this is good. I'm not sure why they cut it.' Almost always we do it because we think the joke doesn't play, not because it wasn't well directed.”

Including items like music videos and commercials may account for part of the reason consumers are so willing to buy sets of TV shows that are available for free in daily syndication. Another factor, Jean said, was the editing of many episodes for syndicated time slots.

“If you go on Internet sites with regard to the show, you'll see that people are just fascinated with how it gets done, what goes into it and what's left out. [The DVD] is an attempt on our part to say, ‘Here's the real comprehensive picture.' Also, the episodes that are in syndication have a lot of cuts that get taken because they have more commercials in reruns.”

Other extra features in the set include interviews with developer James L. Brooks and creator Matt Groening, a licensing and merchandising review, and director David Silverman's feature on the creation of an episode. Silverman's piece is a complete portrait of making a “Simpsons” episode, Jean said.

“David Silverman is one of the directors we had from the beginning, so he's showing how it can be done. He's really one of the people responsible for the visual style of the series and directed a lot of the great early episodes. [The featurette] is him showing from beginning to conclusion how something starts with the storyboards and on to the final product.”

The secret to making each commentary interesting is the rotating talent participating in each one, Jean said. Only those directly responsible for an episode participate in that episode's commentary track.

“There are always different writers and directors coming and going, so we try to have the people that ran the show -- the writers and directors involved -- rotating in and out so that you have a different perspective for each one,” he said.

Work on the third-season DVD is now in the planning stages, Jean said. But expect more exploration of the Simpsons' cultural impact.

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