When Fox decided to stop publishing The Simpsons on DVD, one thing we lamented (apart forcing you to get a cable subscription to watch the show) was the fate of the show’s audio commentary. The creators of The Simpsons recorded in-depth, insightful discussions for every episode of the show, and although you can still access the commentary through the official streaming app, it’s significantly more hidden than it was on the DVDs. And we’ll probably never have commentary for shows and movies released through Netflix, Hulu, and other streaming platforms.
On the bright side, maybe we’ve been spared. As D. K. Holm at Crooked Scoreboard points out, the quality of movie commentary tracks has plummeted recently.
When the Criterion Collection first devised commentary tracks, the concept attracted film scholars and served as an useful outlet for behind-the-scenes stories. As more DVDs included them, the tracks became more and more obligatory and less enthusiastic. Although it’s over a decade old, I still remember the commentary track for the action movie Ultraviolet, where star Milla Jovovich plays with her cats for an hour and doesn’t really say anything.
But we’ll also miss out on the occasionally deeply entertaining track, like an example Holm gives of a low-budget action movie where the director is completely frank about its doomed production.
If they’re going to be phoned in, they may as well not exist. It’s a shame that the good ones may as well not exist now either.