This past Sunday marked the 500th episode of the Simpsons. D'oh! Uh, I mean, Woohoo! That's a pretty amazing run. Despite my advancing Alzheimer's I still remember watching that first episode oh so long ago. I have missed a few dozen/hundred in the meantime but I do try to catch them on TiVo when time allows and I'm still a pretty hard-core Simpsons nerd.
All those couch gags got me thinking though, what if you were somehow only just arriving on this planet with no prior knowledge of The Simpsons. Let's assume you have adopted a humanoid disguise so as not to tip-off the natives that you are not originally from Earth, and also that your term paper on The History of American Television is due by the end of the week. How much would it cost to purchase every available episode of The Simpsons so that you can catch up? (Yes, these are the sorts of scenarios that keep me up an night.)
It turns out that it's actually pretty affordable on a per-episode basis, although the sheer number of episodes does drive up the cost quite a bit. If you chose to purchase the DVD sets from Amazon up through Season 20 (ignoring the Blu-ray sets available from Season 13 onwards), and the SD-quality episodes from iTunes for Season 21 and up you get the following breakdown:
Season 1: $20.49 Season 11: $21.10
Season 2: $32.96 Season 12: $27.99
Season 3: $25 Season 13: $26.69
Season 4: $24.99 Season 14: $24.42
Season 5: $28.49 Season 15-19: n/a
Season 6: $30.99 Season 20: $29.99
Season 7: $19.99 Season 21: $29.99
Season 8: $19.99 Season 22: $29.99
Season 9: $20.10 Season 23: $37.99°
Season 10: $19.99 The Simpsons Movie: $9.23
Seasons 21 and up are not available on DVD or Blu-ray yet, thus the iTunes requirement. Seasons 15-19 are strangely not available in any format at the moment so you end up being able to purchase over 400 episodes (plus the movie which I'll count as equivalent to 4 episodes) for about $1.20 each.
If you start to factor in HD releases for the later seasons, that total is obviously going to creep even higher. (Oddly, Seasons 13 and 14 are available on Blu-ray even though the show did not start broadcasting in HD until midway through Season 20. I don't know why you would purchase those over the cheaper DVD sets.)
Is The Simpsons the most expensive DVD collection in the world for a single TV series? I couldn't find a more expensive one with a quick search.
Somehow or another the only release I have in my collection so far is the movie. Looks like my term paper is going to have to be copied from the Internet like everyone else's!
° Includes all episodes of Season 23, including those which have not yet aired as of this writing
* Valid as of today, but Amazon's pricing vagaries being what they are the total may have changed by the time you read this