Archive for April, 2011

The Simpsons on Reflection Part V: Seasons 3-5

Posted in The Simpsons on April 5, 2011 by kokairu

Apologies for the lack of updates lately! It’s been a fair while!

So, the entry that is long overdue on this blog is the next update on my Simpsons marathon. This is still going ahead and I am still very much enjoying it – I just have very little to review about the latest seasons in the run (3, 4, & 5) other than just how brilliant they are. Moreover, series 3 has been shown a lot over the past year or so on Channel 4, and series 4 makes it into my regular rotation anyway, so I have already observed the jokes from a more adult perspective.

For many people, Season 3 is where “The Simpsons” really begins. I disagree – I think Season 1 is more than worth a watch (even if it’s not truly established itself yet), and the show is more than recognisable somewhere in the middle of Season 2. Still, it contains no bad episodes (Season 2 did have a couple of weaker editions) at all, and as a result, it marks the beginning of the golden age. I really do think Season 4 will always be my favourite, though. The show began to use its supportive cast more, and to great effect, without merely assuming that a simple catch phrase would suffice for humour. Marge vs The Monorail remains a firm favourite of mine, though it only just avoids being outclassed by Last Exit to Springfield. The latter just hits the jokes so hard and fast, you need to pause it to get your breath back. Burns’s mistaking of Homer as a clever and dynamic new head of the union is superb use of dramatic irony, and it doesn’t just end with Homer being found out and making a mockery of himself – a route that most sitcoms would opt for – Burns realises that he was mistaken all too late, with Homer doing his… what would you call it? A “celebratory, vocal floor dance?”

“The Front” is another that stood out to me like never before – maybe, because of the Godawful Oscars episode that I watched only shortly afterwards – but the writers did exercise their talents so well in their comfort zone, i.e. writing about writing cartoons. Some of the best jokes in this one went over my head when I was younger; “… actually, I did my thesis in life experience…” Perfect on so many levels.

Season 5, after several years’ absence from my regular rotation, is a little more unusual. Sadly, this is the first time where I start to worry about the quality of the programme: there are some bland episodes, such as Bart Gets an Elephant, Homer and Apu, and Bart Get Famous (ironically, the most entertaining part of this episode is the Box Factory). With the latter especially, I may be losing marks for context again. Perhaps, at the time, the episode was successfully poking fun at the show’s excessive notoriety, and Krusty’s ridiculous attempts to cash in on Bart’s 5 minutes of fame may have been funnier at the time. But such parodies have been done-to-death in the many years since that episode aired, and I couldn’t look beyond that fact. I also noticed that the jokes just don’t come as thick and fast as this season’s predecessors. There are longer pauses between interactions and obvious time killing segments (Sideshow Bob’s rakes notwithstanding…).

It’s not a massive deal, really – we can give the show a break, I’d never say that it was truly on the decline at this stage – but in light of later episodes, it just couldn’t escape my attention. In a similar vein, Homer’s slightly more inane antics were probably passable at the time (as a 13-year-old I’dve said so, anyway), but it feels necessary to mention that we may already be seeing traces of his Jerkass ways. He’s still the same bumbling, well-intended father, but his antics are less down-to-earth and more obnoxious in parts. His tone is becoming a little louder, and I started to see him as Grimey may have done. The examples are small, mainly revolving around his elevated tone and volume, but the best example I can recollect is his hysterical laughter in Treehouse of Horror IV, in regard to the portrait of dogs playing poker. It pains me to critique the golden age in this way, but my retrospective view of it can’t be undone. On a more positive note, I paid special attention to the animation in Season 5 after reading a very interesting article on Dead Homer Society about its imaginative use in ‘Homer Goes to College.’ Parts of it are very wacky, but in a very good way – it’s deliberate, unlike the very early animation style. The Simpsons is a cartoon, so why not make the most of it? I found it very mesmerising and, in places, a perfect asset to the visual humour.

I’m going to have so much more to say about the later episodes, but how long will I last before I crack?