I didn’t plan to review The Simpsons quite so soon after the most recent piece on it, despite the uptick in quality it’s still been an unreliable season and there are many, many other shows I wish to write about and only so many hours in a day (24, apparently, but I’ll believe that when I see it) however when I heard that this latest episode was the debut of Megan Amram on the series I knew I had no choice. For those not in the know she’s the creator of the Emmy nominated web series An Emmy For Megan but also a writer on The Good Place, Silicon Valley, Parks and Recreation, Childrens Hospital and Kroll Show, and that was more than enough to get me excited about the episode.
The storyline intrigued too as it saw Itchy and Scratchy rebooted as female characters, much to the horror of Bart and his friends. What might have been a slightly outdated plot given that the Ghostbusters reboot was three years ago has (sadly) been made more relevant by the hatred received by Captain Marvel as a small part of the Marvel fan base were writing negative reviews before the film was even released and planning to boycott it, so targeting the shittier element of obsessive fans is still greatly needed as it’s sadly an ongoing issue.
Unfortunately while it’s a great episode, and very funny throughout, it still feels like a bit of a disappointment, if only because it comes so close to being right up there with the classic era but falls slightly short. Starting at a Krusty convention it’s packed full of superb sight gags (a panel of Krusty’s stunt doubles being my favourite) before we’re treated to a selection of really funny outtakes in a supposed season 40 gag reel for Krusty’s show, and equally strong is the announcement that Itchy and Scratchy are going to be changed in to female characters, with the shitty reactions from the boys present amusing, as did Krusty not caring about them as he’s losing them to video games anyway, and there was also a lovely reference to how this is “Even worse than Sideshow Leonard Cohen” which was a flashback I really wish they’d created.
Lisa is understandably overjoyed, while Marge is slightly perplexed, commenting “I always thought they were a married couple and that’s why they fought so much” which is a bleak reflection on her own marriage but still a very funny one. But Bart, Milhouse, Nelson and are others are appalled, and so take part in a silent protest, with Milhouse’s “We did it, we prejudged something without giving it a chance” a sharp and accurate take on the ridiculousness of such a situation. Amram mocks their idiocy effectively throughout this part of the episode and it left me with high hopes for the rest of it.
Alas these were slightly dashed as the story goes off the rails a little at this point as Bart secretly watches it and loves it, and when Lisa outs him the boys try to beat him up, only for him to hide in the sixth grade girl’s toilets. And it’s here it really frustrates as he discovers the girls love pranking Skinner and acting out in the name of feminism, and joins up with them. It’s not a bad b-plot by any means and it does have some lovely moments (the best being Bart standing next to an “Adam Framed Eve” sign at the church) but it waters down the main plot about the boy’s being utter twats, and it’s a shame that when given the opportunity though they put the boot in it’s a reasonably soft kick.
That’s not to say that it’s unfunny, Nelson’s appalled “They’re putting drugs in are medication?” line, Milhouse’s rant about how girls get everything, including much to his frustration “Two piece bathing suits”, and Skinner reacting to his office being vandalised with “I will not negotiate with terrorists, I’ll just give in” are all very strong lines, while Milhouse naming their group the Boys Rights Association (leading him to say “Right now we’re just training bras” among other daft things) is inspired stuff indeed. But the episode becomes distracted with showing Bart and the girl’s carrying out various pranks and acts of vandalism and I couldn’t help but feel annoyed as though it was fine it was nothing we hadn’t really seen before, whereas the attack on toxic masculinity was.
The episode eventually comes to a close with Lisa being irritated with Bart as she believes “You shouldn’t be part of a protest if you don’t care about the cause” which is more than fair enough. But the fact that the girls plan to destroy all of the old Itchy and Scratchy episodes is enough for her to team up with Bart to save them feels like a bit of a letdown, and even though she complains that Bart must stop mansplaining, and joins up with the girls at the end, it still feels like something of a missed opportunity, or at least only a partially taken one.
Ignoring such issues it was a genuinely very funny episode though, and Amram certainly has proven that she should be given many, many more chances to write for the show. And I only hope that this is the start of a new trend and Al Jean starts hiring more writers of this quality, which it seems is quite possibly going to happen as next week’s episode is Nancy Cartwright’s first ever attempt at writing an episode. Unfortunately due to the fact that she’s a Scientologist means I can’t be overly optimistic that it’ll be a brilliantly inventive one, but let’s just hope that membership of that cult hasn’t prevented her with coming up with something as entertaining as this week’s show.