Tourism agency files lawsuit over Simpsons episode.
April 9, 2002

Original voice of Maude Flanders to speak again, from beyond the grave.
February 15, 2002

New set of Simpsons trading cards coming from Inkworks.
January 7, 2002

Voice of multiple Simpsons characters gets his own time-slot.
December 8, 2001

Fox encourages Duff family brewery to rename its beverage.
December 8, 2001

The anticipated Complete First Season boxed set reviewed.
September 25, 2001

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Rio vs. Springfield
By Jouni Paakkinen ( - April 9, 2002
     Riotur, the official tourism bureau of Rio de Janeiro, has asked its attorneys to file a civil lawsuit against Fox in a U.S. court over the recent depiction of its city by The Simpsons.
     In the episode “Blame it on Lisa,” originally aired March 31, 2002, the Simpsons visitited Rio to seek out a missing orphan whom Lisa had been sponsoring. During their stay, the family members were robbed by street urchins, kidnapped and held for $50,000 ransom, eaten by a boa constrictor, subjected to sexually-provocative children's television programming, and attacked by vicious monkeys.
     “He understands it is a satire,” the agency's Sergio Cavalcanti told Reuters. “What really hurt was the idea of the monkeys -- the image that Rio de Janeiro was a jungle.”
     According to Riotur, more than 220,000 US citizens visited Rio in 2001. This year, the tourist industry has suffered from an outbreak of dengue fever. Riotur president José Eduardo Guinle feels that the episode overstepped practical boundaries in satirizing the city, and that his bureau's $18 million advertising campaign has accordingly been thwarted.
     The Simpsons has previously taken-on a multitude of national stereotypes, including an episode-length satire of Australia during its sixth season. While no lawsuits resulted from the broadcast, the ensuing turmoil ultimately prompted series-creator Matt Groening to apologize to the Australian people. “We didn't know anything about Australia. We knew we were going to get it wrong, so we decided we'd get it wrong in every single way,” he confessed.
     Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoco has chosen not to comment on the recent Brazilian episode which his spokesman, Alexandre Parola, said contains “distorted views of the Brazilian reality.”
     Additional complaints about the episode centered around the portrayal of Rio's police as lazy and unhelpful, and of its slums as dirty and dangerous.
     Riotur suggested that donating profits from the episode to the city's orphans would be an approriate way to express the producers' concern.
     Source: Reuters, BBC & Folha

Maggie Roswell Goes Ghostal
By Jouni Paakkinen ( - February 15, 2002
     Maggie Roswell, the voice actress who until 1999 gave life to popular Simpsons characters including Maude Flanders, Helen Lovejoy, Miss Hoover, and Luann Van Houten, is coming back to Springfield. Roswell, who recently announced her return to fans of The Simpsons following a new deal with Fox, will voice the ghost of Maude Flanders in the upcoming 14th season's “Treehouse of Horror XIII” Halloween episode.
     Based in Denver, Colorado, Mrs. Roswell originally resigned from the series following failed salary negotiations with Simpsons production company 20th Century Fox Television, during which she was offered a token raise that couldn't cover travel expenses between her Colorado home and Fox's Los Angeles-based recording studios. According to the February 4, 2000 edition of the Los Angeles Times, the amount offered was a mere $150.00 dollars more per episode.
     Following her departure, voice actress Marcia Mitzman Gaven was called upon to keep Roswell's characters talking. But soon after, fans witnessed the death of character Maude Flanders, the loving wife of the Simpsons' next door neighbor Ned, and serious reductions in the screen time afforded to her remaining characters.
     But with her upcoming appearance in next year's Halloween episode, Roswell is hopeful of eventually returning to her former role as a semi-regular presence on the series. “It depends on Fox, the story lines, and whether or not I can do the shows from Colorado,” Roswell told The Simpsons Archive. “I don't think in today's economy and with the Airline strikes that Fox will fly me in to Los Angeles.”
     Said Roswell of her absence, “I have been touched by the letters I've received from people who said how much they miss my doing the show. Unfortunately, Fox believed that the fans of the show wouldn't be able to tell I wasn't doing the voices [anymore].”
     To overcome the commuting problem, Roswell's appearance in next year's Halloween episode will be recorded at her Denver-based Audio R'n'R studios, which Roswell owns and operates along with her husband, Hal Rayle. The state of the art studio, which has been involved in numerous commercial projects for companies including AT&T, Perkins, Quest, and Universal, will allow Roswell to record her parts in next year's halloween show and deliver them digitally to the Los Angeles production facilities via ISDN. Roswell sees her Audio R'n'R enterprise as a “communication entertainment company,” specializing in infusing dry text with humor and accessibility. Audio R'n'R additionally sells compact discs containing humorous answering machine messages under the “Phoney Images” moniker, including some tailored specifically to various holidays.
     Despite the death of her most prominent character Maude Flanders, Simpsons fans are still quite eager to see Roswell return to the series and resume her other common roles as the voice of Helen Lovejoy, Miss Hoover, and Luann Van Houten in the long term. Whether this happens, however, will depend upon Fox's position on the recording of her roles from afar.
     For Roswell, working at her own studio, far away from directors, is a cinch. “I am used to being directed virtually,“ she says. “We have been out of L.A. for 8 years, so most of our work is done through phone or land patch.” Having familiar characters to voice makes it notably easier as well. “I know Maude and the rest of my characters inside and out.” Adds Roswell, “I do miss the interaction with my fellow actors, though.”
     In the meantime, she finds the Colorado lifestyle significantly more enjoyable, and has used the extra time at home to finalize her soon to be released book, “Springfield: Inside/Out” -- the story of her first ten years on the series. While a specific release date has yet to materialize, Roswell believes the timing of its release is crucial. We'll keep you posted.
     Finally, Maggie asks us to relay her thanks to all those who pitched for her during the past few years. If you would like to hear more of her work on the show, just be sure to drop Fox a line!

Simpsons Card Mania!
By Jouni Paakkinen ( - January 7, 2002
     Inkworks has announced “SimpsonsMania!” – a new collection of trading cards with all fresh and original Simpsons art.
     The base set of 72 cards is spiced up with interactive subsets including Treehouse of Horror Cards with a black light image on the back, artistic interpretations of Simpsons characters in Bart Gallery Cards, as well as Packy Wack Cards and various Character Cards.
     As a special treat for collectors, randomly inserted bonus cards include:

  • Simpsadelic Blacklight Cards; (9 cards, approximate odds 1:11 packs)
  • Fold 'Em Cards; with interchangeable tops and bottoms (9 cards, 1:17)
  • Sketch Card Artists; personally hand drawn and individually numbered (9 artists, multiple images, 1:144)
  • Autograph Cards; featuring voice actors (7 cards, 1:71)
  • Box Loader and Case Loader cards (1 per display box and 1 per case)
     Each pack contains seven collector cards. Suggested retail price is $1.99. A collector album for storing the cards is also available. See press release and Inworks' web site for further details.
     “SimpsonsMania!” makes the second Simpsons card set by Inkworks, following up the company's first set released in fall 2000.

The Hank Azaria Show
By Jouni Paakkinen ( - December 8, 2001
     Simpsons voice actor Hank Azaria has been awarded his own comedy series on NBC, a network with which he has worked numerous times before. As a mid-season replacement for “Emeril,” “The Hank Azaria Show” will debut on January 8 in NBC's Tuesday 8 PM time slot.
     Azaria, 37, will play self-effacing comedy writer Josh Miller, whose daydreams provide an outlet for his home and career frustrations.
     According to Daily Variety, the new show's future is uncertain. NBC is presently searching for a new producer, and has placed its taping schedule on hiatus. The five episodes completed thus far are scheduled or air before the Winter Olympics.
     Hank Azaria is best known for his many vocal roles on The Simpsons, where he brings life to popular characters including Moe the Bartender, Chief Wiggum, Apu, and Professor Frink. Along with five other key Simpsons voice cast members, Azaria signed a deal for the current and upcoming 14th season of the series last spring, with an option for a 15th season. The contract will hopefully ensure that the show's 13th season will not be its last.
     Earlier this year, Azaria won his third Emmy for the role of the Comic Book Guy, this time for his role in the 12th season episode, “Worst Episode Ever.”
     Source: Reuters
     Update (01/21) Due to poor ratings, the show has been cancelled after just two episodes.

Duffs off or Cuffs on
By Jouni Paakkinen ( - December 8, 2001
     Attorneys representing 20th Century Fox have approached a family-owned brewery in Dunedin, New Zealand, demanding that they cease and desist all production of their “Duffs” brand alcoholic beverage.
     The incident marks the second legal scuffle over the “Duff” beer brand portrayed in The Simpsons. In 1996, Fox successfully sued The South Australian Brewing company for producing “Duff” brand beer, citing a violation of copyright over the Duff Beer name and logo. In forcing the company to cease its manufacture, South Australian Brewing company Duff beer cans became a hot collector's item among fans of The Simpsons.
     The brewery, operated by the Duff family, “I have always thought the letter might come one day,” Mr. Duff said to Independent Newspapers.
     In complying with Fox's wishes, the Duffs have rebranded their beverage “McDuffs.” Fox, in response, has offered to help the brewery cover some of the costs of replacing labels and other promotional materials.
     When asked for his thoughts on the matter, Mr. Duff expressed surprise rather than resentment, unclear on what all the fuss was about. “I have been amazed at how many Americans come in here and mention it. Grown adults, people in their 50s and 60s, and they all watch that programme,” Duff said. According to the report, Mr. Duff has only watched the show once, and concluded that it was rubbish.
     Source: Stuff / Independent Newspapers Limited

DVD Set Hits Stores
By Petri Teittinen ( Courtesy FS Film - September 25, 2001
     Starting with its 13th season, The Simpsons is no longer just an animated show. It has become a phenomenon that's conquered television audiences worldwide. The citizens of Springfield represent a very profitable trademark, under which nearly everything from t-shirts to dolls have been sold throughout the years. That said, it comes as no surprise that 20th Century Fox is now releasing the complete first season as a three-disc, boxed DVD set, complete with everything from stylish packaging to custom-made illustrations and colored disc labels.
     The forewording by series creator Matt Groening, printed in the inside sleeve, is both blatantly honest, and damned funny. Those same accolades can be used to describe the show itself, which by means of humor depicts the distress of a modern family in all its horror ... and delight.
     Admittedly, the first season of The Simpsons is not a favorite among many fans. The stories and character personalities were still very much in development, the animation was occasionally crude, and the producers had to wrestle endlessly with their tight budget. Even Homer's voice wasn't in-line with its modern-day form, despite the fact that Dan Castellaneta has voiced the character since its first utterance. However, watching the early episodes, with all their fumbling and stumbling, is an educating and entertaining experience, one that adds depth to today's episodes and illustrates how immensely the show evolved during its first year alone.
     Considering the show's popularity and the enormous profits it has generated for Fox, it's a shame, however, to see that less attention was given to the DVDs' digital mastering process than to the design of the packaging. As with many of today's DVD releases, the Season 1 DVDs' video suffers from digital noise. Although it can be somewhat suppressed by players featuring a digital noise reduction function, a more severe problem is the so-called “mosquito noise” clearly visible in high-contrast areas, such as along outlines. Encoding techniques which minimize or eliminate this form of artifacting are not beyond the reach of quality mastering houses today. So, with respect to the DVDs' video in general, one must wonder whether Fox decided to cut costs by using a second-rate mastering service. Whatever the explanation may be, the digital encoding problems bring down the total technical score by a full star.
     Luckily, we are treated with a new 5.1-channel sound mix. All 13 episodes have new, Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks, even if their full potential isn't exploited at all times. While directional and spatial effects are used creatively in dream sequences, most audio eminates from the center channel, leaving the episodes with something resembling old-fashioned mono sound. Also, the low-budget production standards which affected the show's early years are still evident, as heard in the sound remix's slightly stuffy texture.
     Speaking with respect to special features, the best among the frankly generous helping thereof is the series of commentary tracks recorded for each episode. Most tracks include the voices of the episodes' directors and writers, along with one of the producers. Matt Groening is present on as many as ten commentaries. These tracks, with bursts of laughter, inside jokes, and nostalgic memories, are also vast treasure troves of trivia, which should please fans as much as the episodes themselves do. While every track isn't a comedic goldmine, several nevertheless serve fans by knocking down or confirming tidbits that were once only rumors. Most of the special features are stored on the set's third disc, and each episode is divided into six chapters.
     The new Simpsons Season 1 DVD box set includes original scripts for the episodes entitled “Bart the Genius,” “Bart the General,” “Moaning Lisa,” and “Some Enchanted Evening.” What makes them especially interesting is the fact that they include Groening's hand-written notes and doodles. Other special features include five minutes of outtakes from the original version of “Some Enchanted Evening,” and animatic clips from “Bart the General” – with commentary by Groening and David Silverman, which last a little under two minutes. “The Making of The Simpsons” is a five-minute sequence composed of scenes from an originally-50 minute-long BBC documentary, including brief interviews with the creators. The “Foreign Language Clips” feature includes the same scene dubbed in French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, and Portuguese.
     The Simpsons first appeared as short-length vignettes in The Tracey Ullman Show. As a special feature, the first-ever short, “Good Night,” is included.
     The award for the most wacky special feature goes to the four-minute collage of audio outtakes from Albert Brooks' appearance as Marge's bowling instructor in “Life on the Fast Lane.” As stated in the commentary track, Brooks improvised nearly all his lines: the outtakes of his voice-over session prove it.
     The image gallery includes the particular strip of “Life in Hell” which originally caught the eye of James L. Brooks, as well as about 40 early sketches of the Simpsons characters. The set also has two hidden features, or easter eggs, which can be found by carefully poring over its menus.
     For further details on the DVD releases, see the DVD News page.

The Simpsons - The Complete First Season (Collector's Edition)
5 h, 1990

Show: * * * *
Technical: * * * ˝

(Review based on the region 2 edition)

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Last updated on July 24, 2002 by Jouni Paakkinen (