And so to our final review of a programme from this week’s Fox’s Animation Domination line up. Bob’s Burgers was a delight but Family Guy may just have created their worst episode yet, so where would The Simpsons fall? In it’s thirtieth year it’s still been capable of creating genuinely funny episodes but also rather lacklustre ones, but thankfully this is an example of the show at it’s best. Well, it’s best in the 2010’s at least.
It begins with three average couch jokes for the price of one and led me to missing the days where they hired other animators to come up with them, but perhaps it’s no surprise they quit doing so as they were often the best thing about an episode. Then the episode starts a proper with Lisa being forced to perform in a school play, where Jon Lovitz plays a theatre director who unsurprisingly sounds suspiciously like The Critic’s Jay Sherman, it’s a shame they didn’t actually use the character as he’s greatly missed. Everything soon improves though when Marge accuses Homer of not paying Lisa enough attention (albeit for the 142nd time) and so he decides to spend more time with her, leading him to railing against kid’s costumes like “Jack The Stripper” which ends with Lisa actually respecting her father for once, even giving a school report about why he’s her hero. It’s framed in the manner of To Kill A Mockingbird (which they actually watch at two different points) with Lisa narrating, it’s a cute device which shapes the episode well.
Bart is feeling left out though, and is advised by a dodgy school therapist (J.K.Simmons, in a very funny role) to act out to gain his parent’s attention. Thus when Milhouse has an asthma attack outside of a Synagogue he messes up all of the car keys so that the valet gives out the wrong ones. It’s not Bart at his most outrageous by any means but it leads to the residents of Springfield almost rioting (as it tends to take so very little for this to happen) and when someone is hurt Bart is blamed. Rushing home to ask Homer to protect him, Homer acts like Atticus Finch and Lisa as Scout, with the latter managing to calm down the baying mob, but this isn’t enough to end Bart’s jealousy.
A fair bit of the episode is surprisingly strong and pointed, like when Lisa reveals she’s reading To Kill A Mockingbird and Homer tells her “Just remember it’s set in the South a long time ago, the terrible racism that you’re reading about is now everywhere”, it’s the kind of satire the show did in it’s prime and so it’s pleasing to see the return of it. Kent Brockman also interviews three blue collar men who voted for Trump who beg to stop being interviewed, only for Kent to respond “Never!”, and there’s also genuine anger at clothing which turns kids in to sex objects, mockery of budget cuts causing therapy to be cut down to forty five seconds per student, along with a celebration of literature which is always too rare an occasion in tv these days. If only the show had more of this sort of thing then it might have a chance of regaining it’s former glory, but for twenty two minutes we got a truly strong episode of the series and that’s enough for me. It has a sweet and touching sentiment throughout, for once Homer doesn’t disappoint Lisa, and everybody gets a happy ending, even Bart.
This is The Simpsons in 2018 of course so there’s still the odd misfire, in one flashback Homer is crushed by a vending machine which is a rather bland attempt at humour, at the school Futurama’s Professor Farnsworth briefly makes a pointless cameo in the background, and at one point Bart coughs up some of Marge’s hair, but it’s an episode which is mostly extremely likeable, there’s nothing out of character or tackily gross about it, and it’s strong moral centre and the bond between Homer and Lisa is not only affecting but also often laugh out loud material. If you ever want to prove to someone that The Simpsons isn’t always a bit dodgy in this day and age, this would be the episode to show them.
Our previous review of the show.