If you haven’t heard, Judd Apatow (of The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up) wrote a script for The Simpsons. 25 years later – seriously – it was made into an episode, and it aired last night.
The anticipation was of course high, but cautiously so, considering the current state of the series. However, if the guest-written episode is anything like the one penned by Apatow golden boys Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (which coincided with a slight reinvigoration of the show at the beginning of the 20th season) we all have reason to be excited.
In “Bart’s New Friend,” a co-worker of Homer retired, leaving him solo in his sector, and overworked. As a relaxing trip, Marge took the family to the circus, and Homer was hypnotized by Svenjamin “Sven” Golly into thinking he’s a ten-year-old boy. It took, Homer became stuck as a child, and the family didn’t tell him otherwise, under the advice of Dr. Hibbert. Homer and Bart became best friends, but eventually, after tracking down Sven, Homer had to be returned to his normal self, much to his son’s dismay.
In the last scene of the episode, an imprisoned Sven Golly tricked Chief Wiggum into letting him escape.
In Case You Missed It:
1) Chalkboard gag: “Snowmen don’t have carrot penises.”
2) Couch gag: Homer, Marge, and Bart are Mama, Papa, and Bart Bear. They found Lisa/Goldilocks asleep on their couch, got into a tussle, and ended up eating Homer together.
3) Signs hanging in the power plant read: “When in doubt, put it out.” And “Propaganda! Profit! War!”
4) Homer was reading: “Radiation: Nature’s Drunken Monster,” “Depressing Data,” “Warning Lights: Not Just Pretty Displays,” and “The Core: Mistress of Death.”
5) Some of the freak tents were labeled: Freaks and Geeks, Drillbit Taylor, Funny People, Superfat, and The 400-Year-Old Virgin – all references to Apatow movies.
6) Sven Golly was arrested for getting KISS into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame, on the orders of The Police (the band).
7) The episode referenced the time Homer got his thumb cut off, a.k.a. “Trilogy of Error” (season 12, episode 18).
8) The box of Bart’s “Celtic Charms” cereal read: “Makes a nutritious breakfast when combined with a nutritious breakfast.”
9) Lisa played part of “Baker Street” on her sax for Homer, the same one she performed at the end of season 9, episode 3, “Lisa’s Sax.”
10) The “Soarin’ Over Springfield” ride is 4D for: height, weight, depth, and spray!
11) The silhouettes of the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000 can be seen next to Homer and Bart on the “Soarin’” ride.
12) The last part of the episode was a frame featuring Maggie holding a “Je suis Charlie” flag.
As a single, standalone episode, “Bart’s New Friend” wasn’t too bad. It had jokes of all sorts: subtle background ones, sight gags, references, and the usual silliness associated with The Simpsons. It featured a plotline that was simple, easily remedied, and had a little heart. If someone were to only see this installment, they’d probably rank it pretty decently.
However, for Simpsons fans, it had to seem pretty damn redundant, right? Consider this: we had a plot reference to an episode from season 12, a sax song from season 9, an attempt to change Homer’s long-running tradition of choking Bart, and – oh yeah – we’ve already had a Simpsons episode where Homer was hypnotized into thinking he was a young boy. That’s right, in “The Blunder Years,” a less cleverly named hypnotist, Mesmerino, made Homer recall his days as a twelve year old. I know the script for last night’s show was originally inked 25 years ago, so it may have seemed unique then, but it has already been done.
I enjoyed Principal Skinner’s “Bumble and Grumble” comics, the now-famous Apatow was lampooned in his own episode, there were some good lines scattered throughout, and a lot of quick jokes lurking in the backdrop, but the laughs weren’t hearty enough, and the episode didn’t have the story strength to stay afloat.
Many shows have fallen victim to the “Simpsons already did it,” ailment in the past, including a South Park episode with that very title, but this time it was The Simpsons itself that suffered.