Well, they finally cancelled The Simpsons. The DVD releases, that is. As has been widely reported, show runner Al Jean announced last week that Fox would no longer produce season sets of The Simpsons on DVD or Blu Ray.
Fox released the extant season sets over a period of thirteen years, launching season one for the 2001 holiday season, then releasing roughly two a year until 2009, when they released the 20th season set out of order to coincide with the show’s two decade anniversary. The sets came one a year after that, through season seventeen in the fourth quarter of 2014. The extensive audio commentary on each episode in the season sets likely accounted for the gradual slowing of the releases, not to mention the slow decline of physical media sales in the last half decade.
Possibly, had the commentary not been recorded, Fox could have released the seasons in a more accelerated manner, though one wonders how much they needed to protect the lucrative syndication market for the show by pacing out the releases. Still, the remarkable commentary tracks were a labor of love, and while the commentary at times diverges wildly from the episode being discussed, it’s hard to begrudge the creators of the show the right to talk about the episodes and their creation.
It’s fashionable to note that the “best” years of The Simpsons are already on DVD, so the loss of the remaining seasons in this format shouldn’t be considered a tragedy, but the later seasons have their share of gems, and to watch the arc of the show is a pleasure in its own right. While Fox does run a streaming site for the series, providing access (with restrictions) to the whole series, there’s something to be said for having them all on the shelf, ready to watch regardless of bandwidth issues or what cable provider I have.
Perhaps DVD is a dying format, but I still want my box sets. Just seeing them all there, on the shelf, mostly uniform in terms of appearance, makes me happy. Like, Homer with beer happy.