I’ve been a big supporter of The Simpsons for as long as I can remember. Literally, one of my first memories was asking to watch the show. And if you ask my mother, she’d tell you I’d move around in my high chair in order to catch The Simpsons on TV. It started a year before I was born, and I’ve been hooked ever since. Lots of hours have gone in to memorizing bits and pieces no one else would bother to.
So now that we’re entering the monumental 27th season of the series, I’m finally feeling fatigue. It’s honestly something I’d never thought I’d have to utter, but for once I finally understand what people have been saying for years. Maybe it’s time for The Simpsons to pack it up.
I blame Flanders. Screw Flanders.
If you’ve followed any kind of entertainment news, you’ve probably heard of how Fox was promoting Homer and Marge’s separation (along with Lena Dunham’s cameo) as the next big thing to happen to the family. In recent years (more so in the upper 20s than not), the series has relied on these big events to draw in viewers. It kind of sucks since these kinds of events are usually saved for shows on the brink of cancellation as they gasp for air, and this show has never been starved for viewers. It’s more telling that the event was advertised like a big deal, forgoing all of Homer and Marge’s history (they were technically not married between Season 8’s “A Milhouse Divided” and Season 16’s “There’s Something About Marrying”) and not focusing on the why it happens. I guess when I finally sat down to watch this, I had hoped we’d get a well written story out of all of this nonsense. I mean, we’re looking at a couple that’s withstood an entire town riot, multiple opportunities to cheat, and several failed mortgages. So what finally rips them apart? Narcolepsy.
When Homer is diagnosed with narcolepsy (featuring the only funny segment in the episode as Dr. Hibbert notes the family’s been on way too many wacky vacations), he uses the prescription to avoid all sorts of responsibilities. Marge’s finally had enough, and after visiting a marriage counselor, decides to legally separate. Homer then ends up dating the kooky pharmacist Candace (Lena Dunham) and it leads to cheating on Marge, Marge quickly marrying Candace’s dad, and the Simpsons kids welcoming their new predicament. The thing is, I can totally see this premise working in an earlier season. It’s all just badly handled. I don’t see Homer’s laziness finally breaking Marge down since she’s been through so much, and it’s a shame that we don’t get any other point of views. It’s yet another formulaic “Homer is a dope” episode that doesn’t treat any of its happenings with any weight. You know why? Because it’s all a dream sequence. That’s right, the big separation Fox has been pushing has been one of Homer’s narcoleptic dreams. And when I thought for a second that the series wouldn’t return to the status quo by episode end (since most of the series’ future episodes laid out Homer and Marge’s divorce as canon), the rug’s pulled out several times. A “dream within a dream within a dream” bit would’ve been enjoyable had it been funny, or at least well written, but this wasn’t the case.
This premiere has just been the latest in a long line of examples (the big “death” promoted last season, big guest stars in bit parts) why the show ain’t what she used to be. I’ve stuck it out through these later seasons out of loyalty and the occasional nuggets (“500 Keys,” “Holidays of Future Passed,” “Eternal Moonshine of the Spotless Mind”), but this premiere feels more like a spit in my face than ever. I don’t care if it’s all a dream, but it’s just so lazy. It neglects years of character work in favor of the “now.” In an episode that references obscure oddities like the Springfield Atom, the Space Coyote, Fatov, or the one time Germans owned the power plant, it’s hard to believe that they’d forget that Homer would never cheat on Marge. Every time they’ve been separated, he’s always been a pitiable recluse full of blind love, and that’s always been one of the reasons Marge finally takes him back. To see him do such a 180 is ridiculous, even for a supposed dream. Not to mention, there’s no real reason Candace should go out with Homer. He’s completely negative, washed out, and bashes her friends.
To do a premise like this properly, we’d have to take time and look at both and Homer and Marge. I would’ve welcomed them actually separating since it would’ve opened up all sorts of story potential. We’ve seen so much of this family as a unit, it would’ve been a good late season shake up to have them be apart for longer than an episode. But it feels like we’re going in terrible circles. If the rest of the season is like this, I don’t know if I can hang on anymore.
- Good to hear the rest of the Girls cast came along as Candace’s friends, but their roles are wasted. Maybe a full on millenial episode like the Portlandia tribute “The Day the Earth Stood Cool” would’ve been a better idea.
- Seriously, the opening bit at the hospital had some good meta jokes. Lots of Dr. Hibbert means that Harry Shearer definitely would’ve been missed.
- My roommate’s got a Space Coyote tattoo, so I’m sure he would’ve enjoyed that visual. That whole fantasy sequence wasn’t too bad either.