Episode by Ian Maxtone-Graham wins the animation category.
February 20, 2005

Union conflict may result in replacing Simpsons actors.
January 14, 2005

In-depth look at the latest Simpsons DVD boxed set.
January 1, 2005

The Simpsons give Christmas speech on British television.
December 22, 2004

Writers Guild of America announced nominees for this year's awards.
December 16, 2004

New series of official Simpsons books from HarperCollins.
October 27, 2004

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WGA Awards for The Simpsons
By Jouni Paakkinen ( - February 20, 2005
     Ian Maxtone-Graham received a Writers Guild of America award for the 15th season Simpsons episode "Catch 'Em If You Can" yesterday. Winners were announced in the 57th annual WGA ceremonies held in Beverly Hills and New York.
     Other nominees in the animation category featured three Simpsons episodes ("Today, I Am a Clown" by Joel H. Cohen, "Fraudcast News" by Don Payne, "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore" by Julie and David Chambers) and episode "Starcrossed of Cartoon Network's Justice League.
     "Fraudcast News", however, received the guild's Paul Selvin Award honoring works that focus on First Amendment issues.
     Last year Matt Selman won the Writers Guild of America Award for the 14th season episode "The Dad Who Knew Too Little."

New Voices in Latin America?
By Nicolás Di Candia ( - January 14, 2005
     Simpsons viewers in Latin America may get a very different show when season 16 premieres. On January 8th news media all over the region began to report that the voices of Homer (done by Humberto Velez, see photo), Marge (Nancy McKenzy), Bart (Claudia Mota), Lisa (Patricia Acevedo) and Mr. Burns (Gabriel Chávez) would change beginning with next season. This was due to a conflict between the company that dubs the show into Spanish and the Mexican actors' union. The show is dubbed in Mexico City.
     However, the reality seems a bit less drastic. The company, called Grabaciones y Doblajes Internacionales, is negotiating a new contract with the union, called Asociación Nacional de Actores, or ANDA. The core of the conflict seems to be that the ANDA wants the company to commit to hiring only ANDA members, and the company refuses to agree. This was the policy before, when the show was dubbed by two different production houses that are no longer in business.
     The company says that, as it is new, it doesn't have to renew a contract it didn't sign in the first place. To which the union responds that there are common shareholders between GDI and one of the previous companies, so it's not a completely new company.
     Of course, not having to hire union actors means lower costs for the company. The negotiation is ongoing and arguments keep going back and forth.. As such, it's hard to discern truth from fiction when reading press statements made by the parties involved.
     Actor Humberto Velez, who directs the dubbing on The Simpsons and plays Homer (called Homero), first talked about this as a done deal, and was limited to say how sorry he was that it happened. Now he's saying what the demands are and is believed to be taking part in the union negotiations. It's becoming quite evident that the press statements are part of both parties' negotiation strategies. It needs to be made clear that this is not a salary conflict, and it's not a conflict involving the Simpsons actors directly. It's strictly an union conflict.
     If no settlement is reached, one of the following will happen:

The Simpsons (and some other shows) will have new voices. If the situation stays like today, chances are this will happen.
20th Century Fox will have to change the company where the dubbing is made.
The actors will have to leave the union to keep that gig. This means that they would not be able to work for any company which has a contract with the union. And, as freelancers, they would lose a big portion of their work.
     The position of 20th Century Fox in this conflict is unclear. The actors have said the corporation is on their side, but their public statements come of noncommital: "We hope a settlement can be reached".
     20th Century Fox pays for the dubbing. The actors have said that each episode cost 1,000 US dollars to be dubbed, and each actor gets $60 an episode (the actors say they are not asking for raises). Compared to that, the salaries of the original voices, $250,000 an episode, seem astronomical. And while there is a huge difference, it should be noted that they do very different jobs, in very different conditions and in very different markets.
     Though we don't know if there's a connection, it's worth to point out that months after the first conflict with the original actors of The Simpsons, the Latin American voice of Bart was changed and has not been changed back. The switch was the result of a salary dispute with actress Marina Huerta.
     This incident applies to the Spanish version of The Simpsons seen in all Latin America. It does not apply to Spain, where a different Spanish version is made.
     For more detailed and continually updated coverage of the situation, visit Simpsons en Argentina , the CASFO forum (both in Spanish) or the No Homers Club (in English).
     Update (February 25, 2005) - The voices went on strike yesterday. The actors picketed the offices of the company, Grabaciones y Doblajes Internationales, blocking entry to the non-union actors, BBC reports.
     Update (April 3, 2005) - It has been confirmed that the main voices of the show in Latin America will be replaced. Canal Fox will air the 16th season, probably starting in June, with the new voices.

Complete Fifth Season Reviewed
By Wesley Mead ( - January 1, 2005
     "The Complete Fifth Season" DVD set, featuring all 22 episodes from the series' fifth season (1993-1994), was released in the USA and Canada on December 21st, 2004. It will be released in other countries around the globe throughout the first half of 2005.
     This quick release was a pleasant surprise for fans who were expecting to have to wait a year but got away this time around with a mere six months. Many would argue season five of the show is a slightly weaker season than season 4, just prior to it, and whilst that may be true - certain episodes seemed to rely more upon wacky outrageous gags than strong satire and well-written wit - there's no denying this season contained several of the greatest episodes ever, and every 23-minute animated masterpiece here will satisfy a fan's appetite for the show. All-time greats "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", "Cape Feare" and "Deep Space Homer", are present and correct, alongside other favourites like "Treehouse Of Horror IV", "Bart Gets Famous" and the 100th episode "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song". This set brings a few weaker episodes with it - some purists cite "Bart Gets An Elephant" and "Lady Bouvier's Lover" as cases of the wacky outweighing the clever, so to speak, but to all intents and purposes, every episode here is simply great.
     Also among this season's events were Marge's infamous addiction to gambling in "$pringfield"; Bart managing to con a radio station out of an African elephant in the cleverly-titled "Bart Gets An Elephant"; and Homer's befriending of Ned Flanders - much to the latter's dismay - in "Homer Loves Flanders". We also see Bart become Burns' heir, Lisa take on big business with her feminist Lisa Lionheart doll, and Apu coming to live with the Simpsons; not forgetting Homer's unforgettable antics teaching an adult education class on how to build a successful marriage and the entire town getting in touch with their inner child. To say season 5 was an eventful year for the show would be a gross understatement. This season also featured its fair share of guest stars, with big names such as Conan O'Brien, George Harrison, The Ramones, Robert Goulet, Sam Neill, Michelle Pfeiffer, Ernest Borgnine, James Brown, Buzz Aldrin, Kathleen Turner and more all popping up in Springfield, as well as regular special guests Kelsey Grammer and Phil Hartman also stopping by.
     This season's packaging follows the trend of the past four seasons, as you might expect. The four discs are held in a five-panel fold-out digipak enclosed in a cardboard slipcase - this time a lovely metallic deep red - with one panel holding the detailed episode booklet, featuring titles, synopses, original airdates, guest stars and details on episode-specific extras (including commentary participants). The booklet is 10 pages long.
     The packaging art this season is even more goregously detailed than the previous four seasons'. It shows a display of the Simpson family seemingly taking part in a circus, a la the well-known extra-long couch gag, complete with trumpeting elephants, a magician, and scanticy-clad dancers. The discs as usual tie in with the artwork behind them. On the back of one of the panels is the letter from Matt Groening we've become accustomed to, in which he addresses this DVD set and the episodes it contains.
     The menus in the Simpsons' series are seemingly improving with each season set: these discs have the best navigation yet! When you insert a disc, after copyrigth warnings, the screen is divided into two. The top half contains a moving image featuring a Simpson family member; which after you have waited for a while will animate in one of several different ways - for example, on disc 1, we see Homer sleeping at the power plant; one of the animations sees him falling off of his chair. The bottom half of the screen lists the episodes along with the lovely Play All option, and an "Extras" button. Each episode has two small buttons next to it: choosing the first, featuring a triangle similar to a Play button, will play the episode; the other, with a "+" mark, will open a sub-menu (of which there can be several in a row) featuring scene, language, commentary and deleted scenes options. There is a chapter stop after the opening of the show for quick skipping.
     Once again, the principal extra is the commentary on every one of the 22 episodes in the set, featuring a vast array of contributors. Matt Groening, creator of the show himself, is present on a whopping 20 of these; other regulars throughout the set David Mirkin, Mark Kirkland, David Silverman, James L. Brooks, Conan O'Brien, Jon Lovitz, Wes Archer, Jon Vitti and Josh Weinstein. A few cast members also pop in – Dan Castellaneta, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria – and previous commentary heavyweight Al Jean gets away with just two this time around, as he was not a major staff member in season 5, and thus only appears on the season 4 holdover tracks.
     One complaint many Simpsons fans have had with the sets has been the lack of a really complete, comprehensive documentary. But these 22 commentaries, totalling over 8 hours, are surely even better. Think of them as 23 minutes full of anecdotes, jokes and inside stories from the production of the episode – they're really the most comprehensive collections of background information on the shows you could ever hope to have. With up to 7 or 8 contributors a time, there's rarely a quiet moment, and whilst the occasional sections of indecipheral information are present when more than one person is talking at a time, for the most part we get to hear some really interesting people discuss a really interesting show. The commentaries also prove just how funny the guys really are, even when not writing for the show: occasionally a commentary will go a little off-topic and we'll be treated to hilarious banter from the participants. The all-important interesting tidbits are also present: how else would we find out about Conan's antics backstage, or the cast's ad-libs?
     It's no surprise to learn that Fox have yet more up their sleeves for this package, though. Kicking off the additional bonus features is the "Word From Matt Groening" on disc 1, a short two-minute reel of quick season five clips over which Matt discusses the DVD. It's very similar to the printed letter on the package itself, and is in the same vein as his season 4 "Word". There's also a short three-minute featurette from James L. Brooks on the last disc, looking back at the creation of the show and the first 100 episodes.
     This time, the boat has really been pished out when it comes to deleted scenes. There are 40 of them, from 14 different episodes, totally a whopping 22 minutes. All are entertaining, and are in the later stages of production - the only thing really missing is some voice cleanup and sound effects. You view them inserted into their respective episodes, or as a reel with optional commentary by David Mirkin on the final disc.
     As well as all of this, there are great "Animation Showcases" for four episodes – "Treehouse Of Horror IV", "$pringfield", "Bart Gets An Elephant", "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" - which feature multi-angle animation comparisons from different stages of the animation and original sketches - and some great commercials featuring the Simpsons from 1993 and 1994. There are several "Illustrated Commentaries", each of which last an act of the original animatic, which feature several participants with the ability to "draw" on the screen; and finally, there is a James Taylor audio outtake from "Deep Space Homer", and an option of watching all of "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song" in four different languages, including Italian and Czechoslovakian. Whew!
     The audio-video quality on this set is excellent – it's improving with each successive season, and whilst we're not quite up to the impressive digital quality we'll be expecting with the later seasons, we're getting a lot closer. This time round, the DD5.1 remaster is even better than last time, and whilst largely front-focused, directional effects sometimes do make their way to the back, and the overall clarity makes for an improved listening experience. French and Spanish DD2.0 soundtracks are also included, as are French, Spanish and English DHI subtitles. I extensively tested the English subtitles; they were very accurate and mostly in sync, but for some reason "dropped out" (disappeared) occasionally for a few seconds.
     Video quality is also improving. This time around, there are no digital defects to speak of at all. The full-frame presentation is bright and fully detailed; it's only marred by the limitation of the source material. There is minimal grain and shimmering, colours are vivid and there's no edge-enhancement to speak of.
     Once again, Fox and the team have done themselves proud. Everything that could have been improved with this package has been, and with such a brilliant collection of episodes and expansive extras, only a fool would pass up on the oppurtunity to pick up this fantastic set. Highly recommended.

The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season

EPISODES: A+ - Classic collection - one of the best.
PRESENTATION: A - Perfect packaging and menus; the best AV quality yet.
EXTRAS: A+ - Extensive and entertaining once again.
OVERALL: A+ - The best boxset yet.

     Future news concerning the DVDs, including the forthcoming Season 6 release, and various other compilation discs, will be added to our DVD News page.

Marge Goes Head to Head With Queen
By Wesley Mead ( - December 22, 2004
     Lucky viewers in Britain get a rare treat this Christmas Day. For the first time ever, Channel 4 are to a air a Simpsons short specially made for the channel, to celebrate the network's recent acquisition of the show in the UK.
     Marge Simpson and co will be going head to head with the Queen herself in the 3 pm slot on the 25th, as the family are taking part in a special 5-minute short for Channel 4's acclaimed "Alternative Christmas Message" slot, which in previous years has involved Sharon Osbourne and Ali G.
     The speech promises to deliver quickfire sarcasm and satire in the way in which only the Simpsons can: those behind the penning of the short are all acclaimed Simpsons writers, and various previews of the speech obtained by the press have apparently delivered laughs thick and fast. Digs at many of Britain's celebs and politics are present and correct: Marge digs at David Beckham's much-publiscised alleged affair with Rebecca Loos, whilst jibes at everything from the current Bush-Blair relationship ("You're like Mini Me to our Dr Evil - helping out in all our zany schemes to take over the world") to the nation's description of Santa Claus as "Father Christmas" are satirized.
     Unfortunately, there are currently no plans to air this short outside of the UK, but for those of you who do live in the country, you can catch the clip at 3pm, 4:05pm, 6:10pm, 8:25pm and 10:35pm on Christmas Day on Channel 4. A set of preview clips is available on the Channel 4 web site.
     Update (December 25, 2004) - Those of you not in the UK can download a 10 Mb Windows Media video clip from HemusTVThemes. Thanks Mark!

The Simpsons Bags Four WGA Nods
By Jouni Paakkinen ( - December 16, 2004
     The Simpsons received four out of five nominations in the animation category when The Writers Guild of America announced nominees for its 2004 TV awards yesterday.
     Our favorite family was nominated for 15th season episodes "Today, I Am a Clown" by Joel H. Cohen, "Fraudcast News" by Don Payne, "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore" by Julie and David Chambers and "Catch 'Em If You Can" by Ian Maxtone-Graham.
     The other nominee in the category is Cartoon Network's Justice League with episode "Starcrossed."
     Last year Matt Selman won the Writers Guild of America Award for the 14th season episode "The Dad Who Knew Too Little." The WGA Award winners of 2004 will be announced February 19, 2005 in ceremonies held in Los Angeles and New York.

Library of Wisdom
Courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers - October 27, 2004
     Perennial, an Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, today announced the launch of a new Simpons series. The Simpsons Library of Wisdom, which will be introduced in November 2004 with two inaugural volumes, "The Bart Book" and "The Homer Book". With the publication of these books Perennial will have more than 30 Simpsons books in print.
     "This is an incredible milestone – reaching five million copies," says Susan Weinberg, Senior VP of HarperCollins. "The books embody all the wonderful qualities you've come to expect from the award-winning television show. The Simpsons Library of Wisdom is another gem in this treasured publishing program."
     The books in this new series will explore the human condition and the meaning of life through the eyes of the show's characters.
     In The Bart Book , Bart will share his School Survival Guide, secret codes, pullable pranks, dream tattoos, favorite El Barto "tags," and the Xmas list to end all lists (and future visits from Santa.)
     In The Homer Book, readers find out what's on Homer's mind, discover the mysteries of Homer's fridge, hang out in Homer's haunts, meet his friends and enemies; and spend a typical day with the lovable lout who will lift you out of your D'oh-ldrums. The possibility for future books in the series is endless; it will continue to draw from the bountiful cast of Simpsons characters.

The Bart Book
By Matt Groening
Perennial (HarperCollins)
ISBN 0060738855
MSRP $9.95
The Homer Book
By Matt Groening
Perennial (HarperCollins)
ISBN 0060738847
MSRP $9.95

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Last updated on August 30, 2005 by Jouni Paakkinen (