You've heard the prevailing wisdom on The Simpsons. The show was great up to a certain point, a point that vacillates depending on who you are being harangued by, and then it fell off a cliff and now it sucks and the person knows it sucks even though they haven't watched the show in years. Obviously, it makes sense that the general consensus would be that The Simpsons experienced a decline in quality. How could it not? You can only generate so many stories with a limited staff and a limited series of characters and maintain the lofty glories the show was once known for. However, it is unfair to completely write off the later seasons, whatever you define that as.
Season 16, which ran from 2004 into 2005, is presumably considered a later season by just about everybody. The show had, by that point, already run longer than almost any other sitcom. It features all the trappings of the show's autumn years. A ton of guest stars, some gimmicky episodes, a Treehouse of Horror episode of questionable quality, it is all there. It is a season that is like all the later seasons of the show. There are high points and low points, and overall it is a mishmash of quality. You just roll the dice and hope for the best.
Take, for example, the episode "All's Fair in Oven War." It is, arguably, the best episode to air after the turn of the millennium, and, in fact, is one of the top episodes of the show, period. One of the stronger Marge episodes, the beloved haggard housewife finds herself at odds with Lisa, and her own ethics, when she finds herself in the high stakes, cutthroat world of cooking competition. Meanwhile, Bart gets involved in the "Playdude" lifestyle, minus all the nude women, but maintaining the presence of James Caan. It's very funny, clever, original, and smartly plotted. It also features one of Homer's funniest daydreams as well. "Pranksta Rap" is another high quality episode, although that may only be the case if you have a deep, abiding love of Kirk Van Houten. Alas, aside from a couple other solid episodes, season 16 is overall a somewhat middling offering.
There are a couple other notable episodes from the show's run that aired this year. There is a post-Super Bowl episode in "Homer and Ned's Hail Mary Pass" featuring about a million athlete cameos. It also isn't all that good. Patty came out as a lesbian in "There's Something About Marrying." Selma adopted a Chinese baby, providing some depth to a "The Simpsons are going to..." episode in "Goo Goo Gai Pan," written by Dana Gould, who has adopted multiple children from China, under a pseudonym. There is also a future episode that isn't "Lisa's Wedding." Let's never speak of it again.
If you are a Simpsons completeist, obviously you are going to buy this, and you already made that decision many moons ago. You want it because it is The Simpsons, and you want the chance to watch these episodes, even the lesser lights such as "On A Clear Day I Can't See My Sister" with audio commentary and stuff like that. Indeed, and as per usual, this collection is loaded down with extra stuff. Audio commentary on every episode. Deleted scenes. Audio commentary on deleted scenes. And much, much more.
This is not something to pick up if you are a general TV fan, or a casual Simpsons fan. The overall quality of the season is not high enough, and you may not get satisfactory enjoyment from them. If you sort of turned your back on the show, this probably isn’t the season to check out. However, if you are a Simpsons devotee, then you will want to pick it up. There’s some quality in the episodes, and plenty of good extras. Basically, this is a self-selecting collection. If you think this is for you, then it probably is. You already know whether or not you want this.