This caper should maybe not have happened.
This week’s new Simpsons episode, “The Caper Chase” was an odd sort of episode that had many different elements, and appeared to have a lot of promise from the teasers. However, it ended up being semi-disjointed and mostly fell flat.
Most Simpsons writers are or have been Harvard grads. Tonight’s writer, Jeff Westbrook, taught at Yale for a time but graduated from Harvard. Sideshow Bob, of course, went to Yale, and Lisa Simpson may go there in the future, but C. Montgomery Burns (class of 1914) is the most well-known Yale man among the Simpsons cast.
“The Caper Chase” begins as Burns returns to his alma mater to fund a new nuclear plant management major, only to be disgusted by the ultra-liberal institution that Yale has apparently become. Burns is then inspired to open a for-profit, Trump-style university.
This is probably the most that the Simpsons folks have come out so far against the new Trump administration and Betsy DeVos being Secretary of Education (student loans, unqualified teachers). A lot of these themes seem very on the nose, but it’s also refreshing to see The Simpsons framing these issues in their own universe, instead of a more satirical, straightforward South Park-style skewering.
So in Burns’ new school, Homer and the other plant workers become teachers, to save Burns money. Lisa is, of course, horrified at the idea of higher education being demeaned by Burns’ school, and gets movies for Homer to watch of great movie teachers. Homer gets noticed as a great teacher, is whisked away to an island to help a rich guy trying to propagate a scheme involving robots and school loans… I don’t even know.
The episode features several guest stars– Jason Alexander, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Suze Orman, Ken Jennings, and Robert McKee. All the guest spots are relatively rushed, and there are some chuckle-worthy jokes in the mix (stop billionaires or elect them to the highest offices).
Basically, Homer figures out how to save the day, etc etc. Not the worst episode ever, but certainly nowhere near the best. The couch gag had Stan Lee, but frankly, the plot was all over the place. There were some modernist type ultra-liberal observations/stereotypes, feminism digs, cultural appropriation stuff, and whatnot.
Don’t get me wrong, The Simpsons crew still makes seriously great episodes. “The Man Who Came to be Dinner” (season 26) and “The Marge-ian Chronicles” (season 27) are both evidence of this. Hoping for more like those this season. Until then.