The Simpsons get all politcal (“I feel like one of the Kennedy’s”, Lisa acknowledges) this week as Monty Burns runs for governor of Springfield after his powerplant is threatened with closure. Still early on in the show’s run, Two Cars in Every Garage demonstrates how the writers’ could and would manage on more than one occasion to walk the line between thinly veiled satire and down to earth family drama. Of course, there’s still a handful of great gags here and there but the best part about this one lies in the characterization of Burns, Homer, Marge and to a lesser but still welcome degree, Lisa. In fact, this is probably the first real great exposition of CMB, and still years down the line seems like one of the most memorable.
Now a yearly source of glee for fans of the series (and even then, non-fans sometimes gather to watch them), the lauded Treehouse of Horror episodes first began here in the second season and with quite a bang too. Aside from the obvious Edgar Allan Poe parody The Raven, which practically speaks for itself (check out Dan Castellaneta’s great reading for one) we have two other classic tales dealing with a murder house and a couple of aliens who would become just as regular as the Halloween episodes themselves. With three pretty much flawless stories, it’s hard to pick a favourite; so I won’t. Funny, inventive and simply a joy to watch as our troubled family spends a night amidst all things frightful. Same time next year, anyone?
After two fairly solid episodes focusing on his parent’s marital problems, Bart gets yet another episode where he finds himself in an unenviable situation. Perhaps the best thing about this one (and yeah, there’s a lot to choose from) is simply in the fact that much of show by now (this being the last episode produced for season 1) is started to take shape with animations, character designs and voices all beginning to find their grooves. By all means, it’s a bit of an oddball episode and one which I always under appreciate until I actually sit down and re-watch it, but it’s definitely one of the funniest, and most structurally solid episodes of the season. That, and it probably has the best ending out the lot with characterization for Bart that very rarely would get this touching. Great stuff.
Life on the Fast Lane, which is widely know as Matt Goening’s second favourite episode from the entire series (losing only to Bart the Daredevil) is a perfect example of what Season 1 of The Simpsons does that much of the later seasons don’t—for better or worse. While it has way more characterization and drama that we as viewers actively care about, it also suffers from an extremely unsatisfying conclusion that feels rushed and somewhat haphazard. As a whole however, the episode does very little wrong and features one of the best one-off characters the show’s ever had in Albert Brooks’ Jacques—a pompous womanizer with the wit and charm only Homer could wish he had. Entertaining and affecting; but flawed in major areas.
So it only took six episodes prior to this one for the creators to realise that the show was always on a bit of a down note, and thus came The Call of the Simpsons— arguably the wackiest, pure comedy-driven episode of the series yet. Unfortunately it’s still an outing that suffers from the usual weak third-act wrap up syndrome that has dominated episodes thus far, and so despite a great opening and middle section, doesn’t ever quite add up to the sum of its laughs. Nevertheless, it’s still an entertaining twenty minutes whether you find a bear sucking on a pacifier funny or not. Plus, Flanders makes his debut here and his character is just about the most fully realised yet. Okaly dokely!