The Simpsons officially kicks off its monumental 30th season! Is it still as entertaining as it was in 1989?
Bart refuses a dare to pull the fire alarm to avoid embarrassing his sister. Homer steps in as the parent of the year with the advice of “never turning down a dare.” These actions result in Bart trying to make up for it with the bullies by taking on a new dare, jumping off a dam into the river. Obviously, this ends up with Bart hospitalized. Instead of getting him and Homer in trouble, Bart convinces his mother that he visited heaven with a message from Jesus.
As the lie grows, Homer and Ned Flanders are approached by Christian film producers to make a movie about Bart’s “experience.” With some all-star guest appearances, the movie becomes an overnight sensation, which requires that Homer come out with the truth.
A big congratulations goes out to The Simpsons creative team who have managed to keep the show going long enough that people have been born, grown up, finished university, found a partner, and had babies of their own. Generations of people have never known a world where The Simpsons weren’t on the air. Even television has shifted into a world of digital streaming, but The Simpsons remain with their fresh episodes on Sunday evenings, the same way it has always been.
It is astounding to look back and think that this show came into existence the same year as Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, or Tim Burton’s Batman. The world and media have adapted and changed at an incredible pace, yet this family of five is still as relevant as ever. I mean, I couldn’t imagine still watching new episodes of The Cosby Show or Doogie Howser. Yet, here we are. In the 90’s I was excited to talk about the latest Simpsons episode on the playground Monday mornings. A lifetime later and I am still sharing my thoughts on the same show – though, hopefully, I am a bit more articulate then I was in first grade.
To kick off this milestone season, The Simpsons pulled a theme out of its old grab-bag and faced the hot topic of Christianity. Having Bart lie about visiting heaven is precisely the type of commentary that made the show ground-breaking 30 years ago. They even go as far to say that “Christianity is founded on myth” within the show itself. In today’s culture, religion may not be as prominent as it once was, but is still a relevant discussion to be had.
The Simpsons is also a significant player in the guest appearance department with an endless list of stars appearing on the show over the years. Season thirty is no different, with appearances from Dave Attell, Gal Gadot, and Emily Deschanel all happening in this first episode. Having Wonder Woman herself is a pretty big catch, and I couldn’t help but break out in laughter with Homer’s comment on the DC Universe movies. This all-star list on the first episode should get us excited for the appearances to come this year.
With all of the excitement surrounding the milestone season, the brilliant commentary, and the major guest stars, it’s important to take a step back and review this as an episode on its own. And, in all honesty, I have not enthralled the way that I would hope I would have been. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of great jokes, the story holds on its own, and it is The Simpsons as we have come to love. The show just no longer carries the same importance it once had, and this felt like an episode that could have been made any time in the last 10-15 years. It would be nice to see The Simpsons step up there game and become a show for another generation, especially considering all of the discussion on whether the show can stand for many more years after this.
I do give this episode bonus points for the mere mention of my hometown of Calgary, and the broad claim that it could be mistaken for New York City on film.