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`Simpsons' DVD is rolling in `D'oh!'

August 26, 2003

On Tuesday the third season collection of "The Simpsons" arrives in stores. Although it's hard to imagine anyone not liking this four-DVD set -- 24 episodes with no commercials! --it will be especially welcome by aficionados of all things "Simpsons."

Season 3 (1991-92) was filled with classic episodes. In one, Homer nearly drives his pompous Christian neighbor Ned Flanders out of business, only to have a change of heart. In another, Homer is thrown into an asylum, where he is befriended by an obese inmate who is voiced either by Michael Jackson or someone who sounds a lot like the King of Pop.

"The Simpsons" is well known for shoehorning cultural references and sight gags into every scene, and many of these are pointed out in the commentaries. Every episode has an an optional commentary track, and the two men perhaps more knowledgeable on the show's inner workings than any other -- "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening and longtime showrunner Al Jean -- seem to be on all of them.

I like the fact that Groening, Jean and the others are admirably free-spoken about the sausage-making aspects of the show. They point out places where the animation, which was still a work in progress that season, didn't quite work. I learned that "Simpsons" episodes now are shorter than they were then (Fox enlarged the commercial breaks), and that some episodes are electronically speeded up so the producers don't have to cut scenes.

There are insights into the bizarre negotiations that go on between "Simpsons" writers and the Fox censor; and in what may be the best revelation of the set, Dan Castellanata, the voice of Homer, explains the origin of "D'oh!"

Among other TV titles, the second season of "Futurama" was released on DVD

earlier this month and "ER: The Complete First Season" is out Tuesday.