Ten Years Too Many?
And while I never got around to putting what's been kicking around in my head into words, I haven't stopped trying to figure out what the hell happened. This summer, for the first time ever, I finally spent time watching the "classic" Simpsons episodes on DVD and in order. One thing I'm sure of, is that the classic Simpsons are still great. Seasons three through seven probably add up to five years of some of the best television ever made. What's left today is really a pale imitation of the show's former self. I bring up the Simpsons because I actually bothered to watch last night's 20th season premier and it was horrible. Rather than delving into a long, ranting discussion, I figured I'd just leave a short list of what made last night's entrant to the Simpsons family so craptacular.
# In the classic Simpsons episodes, any schemes or semi-legitimate employment opportunities Homer has are doomed to failure, as Marge never would hesitate to point out. It reflected Homer's character perfectly and provided the show with a neat bit of continuity. Last night's episode, Sex, Pies, and Idiot Scrapes, threw characterization and continuity out the window. In the episodes "A" story, Homer and Flanders became bounty hunters, successfully nabbing Snake and Fat Tony among other bail jumpers. If your initial response is "that doesn't make any sense," you're right. It doesn't. The episode ends with Homer thrown in jail for missing his own trial.
# I mentioned continuity in my last little bit and just need to point out that the classic episodes had a lot of fun with continuity. The Simpsons own house is constantly changing, as is the neighborhood and all sorts of other locales about town. But generally, these changes are meant to be jokes (particularly in the Simpson house), or more often, are added because they comprise an important part of the plot. Last night's episode featured a visual gag in which Homer and Flanders chased Fat Tony onto the Springfield monorail. The problem is, the only monorail we know about was a disaster and was presumably dismantled, seeing as it hasn't been seen since season 4. The monorail was supposed to be a callback joke, but it's brief presence last night only amounts to a cheap visual gag that doesn't add to our appreciation of Springfield (like the town's numerous ethnic neighborhoods do), it just cheapens it.
# Last night's episode featured a side plot with Marge working in an erotic bakery that was completely underdeveloped. Basically, that subplot gave us exactly what a couple of high school kids could have come up with- the lame and the obvious.
# The episode opened with an over-the-top brawl at a St. Patrick's Day parade, complete with Catholics, Protestants, and plenty of stereotypes. Classic Simpsons tended to have consistent plots. This episode, like a lot of the new Simpsons, uses one ridiculous plot to propel the characters into another, very different outrageous situation. While classic Simpsons walked a fine line between realism and cartoonishness, last night's episode obliterated that line.
# The writing is just plain bad. I didn't laugh once. The dialog sounds more like witty sitcom banter than it does anything actually funny- as if the writers are writing to showcase the supposed laughs rather than actually bothering to be funny and creative.