TV Review

This TV review first appeared in the Andersonstown News

All sorts of strange stuff happens to your TV viewing habits during lockdown. These days, when house-imprisonment becomes a bit heavy, I head to SKY ONE and watch The Simpsons.

SKY ONE offers  a double and sometimes a treble dose of them, one after the other. The Simpsons has been going since the late 1980s and they’ve broadcast just a bit short of 700 episodes. What I love about it is similar to a thing I love about another family – The Sopranos : they toss in references so fast, you’ll miss them if you’re not hyper-alert.

Last week’s episode was based on the power of TV advertising. “Honouring America’s advertisements world” as Marge puts it, the family pile into the car and visit an advertised spare-ribs restaurant.  But what’s this? The good ol’ cowboy guy from the advertisement is really Sideshow Bob in disguise!

In no time Sideshow Bob has the family tied up and he’s speechifying about how he’s going to kill them. “Just skip all the boring stuff you delivered the last time you didn’t kill us” Bart tells him. Sideshow Bob quotes Shakespeare’s Macbeth  and Lisa corrects him: “That should be ‘If it were done’ – Act I, Scene 7, Macbeth”. “It’s ‘hoist with  his own petard’, not ‘by’”.

Sideshow Bob, instead of killing the Simpsons, is killed himself (that’s the ‘Hoist with his own petard’ reference) and at his funeral service Krusty the Clown sings a Krusty version of ‘Candle in the Wind’ while playing the piano. Remind you of anyone?

Bart is accused of having killed Sideshow Bob, with local newspaper headline “Boy Shames Region”. Not that Bart is repentant: “I hope he’s in hell eating barfburgers!” Later, he softens as he stands beside Sideshow Bob’s coffin “I just wanted you to go to jail and get beat up a lot”  he tells the recently deceased.

Outside the undertaker’s place  there’s a sign: “Same low prices – even for fatties!”  Eventually Bart works out that Sideshow Bob is only feigning death, because the coffin has a huge L-shape at one end for his big feet.

I haven’t even mentioned that Homer works in a nuclear plant,  Marge has a giant beehive of blue hair, that Bart is on first-name terms with his father who regularly grabs him by the throat, and that Lisa plays a mean saxophone. Or that Marge has two unmarried sisters who visit occasionally and glower at Homer.

It’s irreverent, it’s pacey, it’s loaded with one-liners, it’s as if the script-writers knew we’d need this chaotic world where everybody is yellow and where plots that start with reality spin off into glorious, hilarious swipes at so many of our sacred cows. In fact, it’s so clever and cutting, some American parents won’t let their kids watch it.

I defy you to watch it and not whoop with delight at least seventeen  times.

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