Warning; this review contains spoilers.
I don’t think I’ve watched a full episode of The Simpsons since about 2005. That’s not to say that I don’t like everyone’s favourite yellow (but jaundice free) family, I do, I really do but it’s been quite a while since the show was at its peak. There definitely was a time when The Simpsons was the best show on television but that was before the days of publicity stunts and salary disputes. It’s also no secret that I am much more invested in Groening’s other animated hit, Futurama but for the sake of my reviews I’ll try not to compare the two.
Novastream asked me to take a look at the latest season of The Simpsons and I was interested to see whether my opinions of the show would change. The past few years have proven a little shaky for The Simpsons in terms of season renewal and I’m interested to see whether that has affected the show’s quality. Since I like to consider myself a man of science, I have decided to come up with a very complicated formula to help with my reviewing strategy of The Simpsons Season 27.
The Simpsons rating = D (Diegesis) x O(Originality)
or more simply;
The Simpsons rating = DO
Episode 1 – Every Man’s Dream
Right from the beginning I was wary of this episode, Fox made a big song and dance about Homer and Marge’s marriage problems a few months ago only to come back later on to say that it was all a lie. Hmmm, something smells a bit stunty to me. What The Simpsons always holds over other shows, especially Family Guy is the love that Marge and Homer have for each other. No matter how stupid Homer can be, Marge will always forgive him and Homer is one of the few faithful men on television, they may even love each other more than they love their own children, well at least Bart. Homer without Marge is like Hillary without Duff or Duff without Beer. So when you see them dating other people it feels very icky and I didn’t like it, it was almost like seeing your Dad’s new, young girlfriend that ruined your own parents’ marriage. Which by the way, even if it is a cartoon, I still don’t believe Homer could get a girl like that in the state he’s in, it’s hard enough understanding how Marge could be attracted to him, let alone a cool, young chick like Lena Dunham.
Having said that, every woman George ever went out with on Seinfeld was out of his league so I’ll let that nit-pick go for now. However one nit-pick I will not let go is that “it was all a dream”, oooh. God damn I hate that storytelling technique, I hated it in Futurama, I hated it in Doctor Who and I certainly hated it here. It’s such a lazy get out of jail free card for a writer to use, essentially wiping away any interesting or daring plot that they have just told. Dreams within dreams, is slightly a bit better, although it will keep the audience second-guessing anything they see on screen.
Now that I’ve ripped into the story(or diegesis as it shall be known for the sake of the formula), I have to say that this episode was very funny. Funnier than I was expecting and it’s good to see that the background jokes are as good as ever, which makes you wonder how many people they have working on them and how long they spend on each background joke. Whatever the answer, I appreciate it very much. I don’t quite appreciate the title as much though, I get that it’s a reference to all the dreams but I don’t really think it’s EVERY man’s dream to break up with his wife and go out with a young, attractive, drug addict hipster. Only two of those four things are good and not all men are sleaze bags no matter what my housemate thinks.
Alright, I’m very excited to see how my formula goes now. I’d give the diegesis a 1 out of 5, the originality a 2 out of a 5 and the hilarity a 4 out of 5. So if we put those numbers in the formula;
The Simpsons rating = 1 x 2
2 out of 5 for Every Man’s Dream, a little harsh I think. If I was rating this normally, I would have probably given it a 2.5 but hey, my formula is working better than I thought.
Episode 2 – Cue Detective
My immediate thought on the second episode of the series is, what no chalkboard joke AND no couch gag? What the hell Fox, I can understand the loss of the chalkboard joke because they don’t always have time for that but the couch gag is a staple of The Simpsons. It also seems like they are abandoning the two story structure, both this episode and the previous one only had a single story. Which isn’t really a bad thing, it is just and interesting move, maybe the show’s declining popularity is taking a toll on the writing team.
Cue Detective is an obvious parody of True Detective, which if you ask me is a little bit late. 2014 was the year of True Detective and they probably would have gathered a bit more smoke if they aired this episode back then. Since it’s a True Detective spoof, I again wasn’t too interested but the nice Simpsony charm did improve the entertainment value. Compared to last week, this episode felt a lot more like the Simpsons. Homer did something stupid, is slightly ruined for this stupidity, then it all goes wrong and it’s up to Marge and/or Bart and/or Lisa to save the day.
Unfortunately the jokes were a bit more hit and miss this time around but they were improved by some brilliant references. BENDER! BENDER! BENDER! Also, there was a nice little nod to Sherlock in there that made me feel a little sad that this episode was a True Detective parody rather than a Sherlock one.
Formula time! The story was better than last week but I still wasn’t too interested in the outcome so I’m going to give it a 2 out of 5. After 576 episodes, I understand that it is very hard to be original, especially when you have your own past to differentiate from as well as every other TV show so this episode fell a bit flat there too, 2 out of 5. There were plenty of good laughs in between the few that I didn’t enjoy so I’m going to give Cue Detective a 3 out of 5 for hilarity.
The Simpsons rating = 2 x 2
Well it’s a 1.̅3 out of 5 according to the formula. Aaaahhh, I’m going to have to scrap it aren’t I? Well to be honest, that joke has probably been done before and considering how smart The Simpsons writers are, it’s probably even been done on the show before. My real rating for this episode would be a 2.5 out of 5 as well, which makes this review a whole lot easier to structure.