"OK Simpsons"


A couple of decades ago, “The Simpsons” was the most outrageous show on TV. Ten years ago, it was “so ten minutes ago”. Now, it’s a perennial, a TV comfort food. That arc of popular perception is based on the way the audience has changed, since I can discern very little change in the show over all these years – which is not that surprising, considering that, thanks to the time-warping abilities of animation, no character on the show has grown a day, chronologically or emotionally. This has resulted in some real challenges in keeping 18-year-running jokes from getting stale and moldy, which the producers and writers have done surprisingly well (but not perfectly). Recently harvested quotes from Matt Groening have him crediting the way the show has always been allowed to go in a million directions at once, from literary wit to goofy slapstick to sharp satire. Sunday’s
season finale/400th episode big dealie was a good example (as well as one of the most enjoyable hours of TV comedy I’ve experienced this year). The first half-hour was a spot on parody of “24” using the Simpsons characters staying solidly in character, an impressive achievement, with only a cameo-length guest appearance by “Jack Bauer” at his most outlandish (that also featured a mushroom-cloud-sized reference to the current season’s plot, although considering the two shows’ production schedules, The Simpsons may indeed have thought of it first). Then the second half hour featured the show’s now-almost-annual ritual of biting the hand that feeds it (FOX) and biting down hard. It was quite telling that all the promos for this ep showed scenes from the first ten minutes, because the last five minutes had all the satirical goodies. (There was much stuff to enjoy in the rest of the show, just going off in the other 999,999 directions.)

It was inevitable that those five minutes would find their way to YouTube (although the final payoff gag is cut off), but it probably won’t be there for long. Enjoy it while you can. Note to “South Park”: THIS is how it should be done.

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