I was first introduced to “The Simpsons” on December 17th, 1989 at the age of six, when I spent all day with my dad and brother visiting my grandparents for the Christmas season. After arriving in the evening to my aunt’s house, my dad ensured we’d be there a while and I sat down with my big cousin to watch “The Simpsons” special “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” Little did I know this simple yellow skinned family of underdogs and losers would become one of the biggest comedic and creative influences of my life. It’s a show that’s stuck with me well in to my thirties, and it all started “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.”
Debuting to the world in April 19th, 1987, thirty years later, The Simpsons has never been afraid to take a look back at their history and mock the absurdity of it all. While the show has been quite excellent in its formative years, back in 1990, the show reached the height of its popularity to where it had oodles of merchandise. There were dolls, shirts, comic books, books, video games, et al. and the show took the opportunity to mock that period back in the “Behind the Laughter” episode. In it the narrator looks at how obscene the merchandising for the show was to the point where the characters went so far as to release birth control and, yes, two cheesy hit novelty albums.
Hilariously enough in 1990, The Simpsons did release a “legitimate” music album named “The Simpsons Sing the Blues!”
2016 is just about done, thank goodness, and like last year, Fox cable channel FXX in America is hosting their “The Simpsons 600” marathon. Beginning on Thanksgiving day, they give 600 episodes of “The Simpsons” starting from episode one, and they’ve given every episode non-stop and completely uncut. This marathon has reminded me how much I adore “The Simpsons” and will always adore “The Simpsons” even when it’s at its lowest. Ninety five percent of the episodes from season one to season ten are brilliant and absolutely hysterical, while the other five percent being mediocre to forgettable episodes still end up being rather funny, offering at least two instances of chuckles here and there.
With the series nearing thirty record breaking seasons, I thought I’d fondly remember five of the best guest spots from celebrities popular among fan boys and fan girls alike. As always if you have your own choices, let me know in the comments!
“Look I don’t want to be rude, but you sad losers should go suck somewhere else.”
Like every other hardcore Simpsons fan, I was a bit surprised that the series decided to not go with “Treehouse of Horror” this year. But FOX publicists assured fans that the following week would bring a new “Treehouse of Horror.” Even the characters address it in the first few minutes, as Homer has to appease Flanders, who asks why Halloween isn’t being celebrated in a treehouse this year. Thankfully “Halloween of Horror” is an experiment, and a damn good one. In all of the twenty seven seasons of “The Simpsons,” there were Christmas and Thanksgiving episodes, but Halloween was a special event with standalone non-canon horror stories meant to pay tribute to everything from Stephen King to Edgar Allen Poe. This year, the series treats us to two Halloween based episodes! Thankfully, “Halloween of Horror” is quite great and reminded me of a time where “The Simpsons were hilarious.
“Futurama” deserves so much better than to become a sight gag in future episodes of “The Simpsons,” but hey, at least “Simpsorama” is a hilarious meta-crossover. Not to mention it’s kind of a closer to the “Futurama” series that gets the official goodbye by Matt Groening’s first really popular show. It’s a respectful and dignified farewell to what was a great companion to “The Simpsons.” Not to mention, an animation crossover I actually give two craps about. At least “Futurama” deserved this crossover.
It’s no secret that the writers of “The Simpsons” hold a great love for Stanley Kubrick. Bart Dressed as a Droog for “Treehouse of Horror III,” and “Treehouse of Horror V” delivered the brilliant “The Shinning.” For the 25th “Treehouse of Horror” yearly special, the gang behind the series pays a full unabashed tribute to Kubrick in what is easily the best “Treehouse” special in years. Though supplying only three segments this year, the writers opts for quality over quantity and the show really hits its stride for the Halloween Season well.
“School is Hell” is a fun opener in which Bart and Lisa accidentally find an Aramaic inscription while dusting during detention. Using her Apple App, Lisa translates the inscription and Bart reads it aloud without regard to caution. This causes them to be scooped up by hell fires and thrown in to an Elementary school in the underworld. Oddly enough, this is a dimension opposite to Springfield Elementary in every way. Bart becomes an A student when he impresses his class with his various ideas for torture, while Lisa becomes popular with a clique of female demons. The segment is a wonderful opener featuring a lot great puns and unusual jokes regarding religion (“Haw-haw! Your heresies were venialized by the Council of Palermo!”), plus, there’s a great call back to “Treehouse of Horror IV” with someone in the background being tortured with the donut conveyor belt Homer suffered.
“A Clockwork Yellow” is another excellent Kubrick love letter, with the story of Moe who was once the leader of the Droogs, a gang that held Carl, Lenny, and Homer. After many years of crime and havoc, Homer meets a “blue haired bird” named Marge in a record shop and the two get married leaving their life of crime behind. This segment contains so many great references to “A Clockwork Orange” including a pretty funny twist on the threesome montage set to a high speed. Not to mention there’s the great finale where Kubrick’s various world come smashing together as the old time Droogs crash a mansion that happens to be holding a sex party. I loved how when the partiers charged the Droogs, Burns reminded the background sex blockers to snap in to action.
The Kubrick references don’t stop there, as there are more overt winks, and background gags like Homer in the record shop walking by records “Dr. Strangelaugh,” “Paths Of Gravy,” “D’oh-lita,” and “Full Milhouse Jacket.” “The Others” is purely meta-fan service that has given the special the biggest press as the Simpsons begin getting haunted by mysterious presences in their house. Much to their horror, they discover they’re being haunted by the Tracey Ullman incarnations of their characters. When they refuse to leave, a war ensues between both versions of the family, especially with Marge angrily competing with classic Marge for the affection of modern Homer. The segment is dark and pretty disturbing when it wants to be, but it’s also mainly about paying tribute to the fans. There’s a wonderful final gag about different variations of the Simpsons, and Dr. Marvin Monroe, deemed dead many years ago, returns as a ghost to try and sort out the battle between both clans.
For the centerpiece it’s perfectly fine but there seems like so much more could have been done, like perhaps grabbing Tracey Ullman for a cameo, but in its small window it acknowledges that the show has changed drastically, and that their corporate entity ensure more variations down the line. The real Easter egg is the family picture with both clans which is quite excellent for fans that remember the original short. Homer even says “Watch your mouth, you little smart ass.” I love it, and I wish “The Simpsons” could gain this kind of momentum all season. The glory days of the “Simpsons” dynasty might be over, but at least “Treehouse of Horror” is still a fun tradition that delivers.
1. Mother Simpson
All the years we watched “The Simpsons” we never quite knew about Homer’s mother. We know that Homer grew up with an overbearing occasionally mean father who didn’t care much for Homer, but we barely garnered a glimpse in to Homer’s other parent. I naturally assumed for many years that she died when he was a baby and Homer was stuck with an awful dad. Truth be told, Homer’s father Abe isn’t even that much of a mean dad, just someone who grew up in a different time. There was that stern belief that dads couldn’t and shouldn’t be friends with their sons. That idea still carries over today with some parents. In either case, we’re finally given an idea of what happened to Homer’s mother and why he never really spoke of her all this time.
2. Deep Space Homer
All hail the inanimate carbon rod! Homer is able to finagle a trip to space by NASA thanks to his usual bumbling and insanely good luck. NASA, just like every other organization, wants to attract public interest to their space launches (that are losing out to “A Connie Chung Christmas”), and decide to find an average man to go to space with them. Little does Homer know that they’ve picked him after he spends an unusual amount of time calling them to complain about their boring space launches. After a twist of fates, Barney becomes Homer’s competitor for the spot as an astronaut allowing for one of the wackiest and most memorable episodes of the series bar none.