The 19th season of The Simpsons is nothing that I expect to be fabulous, but I’ve been anxious all the same. Having watched now all 400+ episodes and followed it’s uprising from the Tracey Ullman show at 10 years old, there’s heavy nostalgia lingering anytime they reveal something fresh and animated. Following up to the summer blockbuster shouldn’t be too difficult; not that the movie wasn’t great, but it still couldn’t hold a candle to any of the Top 50 episodes on their own. The majority of shows made in this century still may feel second, even third, class compared to the last, but as long as it delivers the punchlines with the classic Simpsons finesse and includes its vast array of disheveled, yet lovable, characters, it will always have devoted viewers like myself.
Knowing that fans still had the movie fresh on their minds, the introduction to the season premiere episode cut immediately from the opening title in the clouds to the Bart-and-chalkboard bit (fly-by of the town through the clouds to the window was cut). This led to Bart’s inevitable bursting out the school doors on his skateboard and riding home through town. This moment was it’s most memorable as it cut from the traditional opening of everyone heading home to Bart riding through the destructed town of Springfield, ala post dome destruction from the movie. They included Wolfcastle/President Schwarzenegger and the big-chested Intuit lady standing on the street corner, Homer’s car on the driveway had the pig crap silo tied onto it, and the couch scene featured the pig, with Homer cuddling it and proclaiming it as his “summer love”. It was cute and a nice shout out to the fans (something severely lacking from this show when compared to the innovative freshness of South Park and, at times, Family Guy).
Unfortunately, the opening was also the highlight of the show. The plot followed the standard Simpsons convention of following a few select characters in their nonsensical wanderings without any real direction for the entire first act. In summary, Homer gets a taste of success by being taken on a private jet after saving Mr. Burns’ life. Tuned in to her husband’s desires, Marge hires Homer a life planner to boost his confidence and motivate him for bigger success. After an unsuccessful interview where Homer would have had the opportunity to fly in a private jet, he lies to his family that he got the job and hides in the Krusty Burger all day to sulk. Bart gets wind of his dad’s routine and convinces him to come clean to Marge. In an epiphany on Homer could imagine, he feels the only way to come clean would to be on a private jet “where no one could be sad.” After hiring the services of a pilot at the airport, Homer takes Marge up in the air to give her the news, only to be interrupted by the pilot overdosing on heroin and leaving Homer to land the plane. With a quick call to the life planner, Homer gets through the situation and lands the plane. Homer doesn’t actually come clean to Marge at the end, rather he tells her that flying in a private jet is too dangerous and he’s going to get his job back at the power plant.
If the plot is any indication of how far-fetched the writers of the show are getting, it’s even more obvious with a guest appearance by Lionel Ritchie. Ritchie’s appearance was not very well thought out and did not offer anything to the plot, subtext or motivation of the characters. I’m not sure why he was added to the show other than adding another celebrity notch to the cameo bedpost. I personally couldn’t find the humor in having him sing the only hit I know him by to the theme of beer, then replacing every word with beer.
The remainder of the humor involving regular cast members falls flat from the beginning as well. There is a scene in the beginning in which Mr. Burns gets sucked into a water fountain’s pump system and repeatedly shot out of each spigot as if something comically conceived from an old MGM cartoon. The level of thought put into it reeks of an uninspired imagination. Even Ralph’s one-liner fell flat of a laugh.
There is nothing I like more than watching new Simpsons episodes and I will continue to watch them no matter how bad they get, but so far this season is not looking too promising.