The Simpsons : Going Through The Animotions

May 13, 2010 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

THE SIMPSONS: Thursday 13th May, SKY1, 7.30pm ALERT ME

In the 17th season of The Simpsons there is an episode titled “Million Dollar Abie? – fast forward to the 21st season of The Simpsons and the latest episode is called “Million Dollar Maybe?. This seems to embody an encompassing problem with the latter day incarnation of America’s favourite family: they’ve simply run out of ideas.

In “Million Dollar Maybe? the story is split between Homer secretly winning the lottery – who is forced for unconvincing reasons to hide this from his family – and Lisa’s attempt to breathe new life into Grandpa’s nursing home community through the acquisition of a ‘Zii’. For a show that used to be renowned for its ability to seamlessly interweave several strands of narrative together – with emotionally affecting endings – The Simpsons has structurally fallen by the wayside. Lisa’s plight to bring joy to Grandpa and his friends is completely arbitrary to Homer’s endeavours to keep his recent windfall secret. With no idea of how to tie up the loose ends they simply abandon Lisa’s story and in the process neglect her ensuing sadness. Hardly the catharsis Simpsons fans would like.

The debate regarding the quality of The Simpsons has been raging for the last ten seasons which equates to almost 250 episodes of dubious quality. Akin to watching a much loved elderly relative slowly sliding into dementia there are still rare flashes of what used to make this show essential viewing. Occasionally the dialogue still delivers: Mr. Burns, playing a World War II computer game, says in bewilderment, “I’m shooting at Nazis? That’s not how I remember it.?

The essential problem with this latest offering is the founding values of the show have been eroded and replaced with increasingly desperate attempts to get a laugh from progressively poorer gags all at the expense of the audiences’ investment. Coldplay’s sudden – and thankfully brief – appearance particularly irks as their inclusion comes across as a marketing exercise as opposed to having any comic intent. It feels wedged in and inorganic like so many of the guest celebrity appearances who play themselves – as opposed to voicing a character – that were never that funny even in earlier seasons.

The 22nd season has already been commissioned which, unless a miracle occurs, will probably only serve to spread the format even thinner and, consequentially, considerably less funny. George Bush Sr famously said: “We’re going to keep trying to strengthen the American family. To make them more like the Waltons and less like the Simpsons.” The current writers haven’t quite achieved this proposed metamorphosis but they have managed to make The Simpsons almost unrecognisable to those who first met them 22 seasons ago.