Allow me to be the first to admit that I am one of those formerly ravenous fans of The Simpsons. I grew up just as the show grew into its early 90s-era brilliance, and my attention waned as the series began to decline later that decade and into the 2000s.
I blink, and, suddenly, I’m almost 40 and The Simpsons is somehow on its 26th season.
Occasionally, I drop in on the show to take a pulse check. Introducing my son to my favorite past episodes has helped rekindle my interest as well. Some have been good, and others not. Name one show (looking at you, Internet) that can sustain greatness for 26 seasons. It’s simply impossible.
With all that said, I found Sunday night’s return from hiatus, titled “The Man Who Came To Be Dinner,” to be something of a pleasant gem even if there are likely scores of Internet haters claiming (all together now) “worst… episode… ever!”
The episode centered around a Simpsons family trip to “Dizzneeland” and a subsequent ride to beloved aliens Kodos and Kang’s home planet of Rigel 7. Full disclosure here: I’m a massive Disney nerd, so the first five minutes provided enough amusement to supplant this week’s ab routine.
Here are a few of the more amusing “Dizzneeland” site gags, in case you missed them:
- The family parks in the “Ethnic Princess” section. Spot on, my friends. Spot on.
- The long trek from the parking lot includes a fall of Saigon-like helicopter ride.
- Their first ride in the park is a slow-moving bug ride with a catchy theme song: “Don’t get off the bug. Don’t get off the bug. Certain death awaits if you get off the bug.”
- There are many references to “Dizznee” buying “Cosmic Wars” and cheaply reimagining existing rides, including “Country Storm Trooper Jamboree,” the Jar-Jar Binks-inspired “Jim-Jam Bonk’s Wild Ride,” and “Jabba the Tiki Hut.”
- We are also treated to a politically correct version of “Pirates of the Caribbean” that includes a man hanging for the crime of bias.
Are all of these gags brilliant? Not really. The critique that “Dizznee” is too expensive isn’t particularly new or insightful. I did think the references to the Disney/LucasFilm buyout and its subsequent fallout on the parks was dead-on and clever.
The remainder of the episode ushers the Simpsons to Rigel 7 where, of course, one of them must be eaten – something of a running joke for the aliens. Along the way, we revisit a clever visual sight gag from an earlier episode where Homer attempts to eat chips in zero gravity a la 2001: A Space Odyssey. I took it to be a nice throwback to a history that the show’s current fans most likely don’t know. On Rigel 7, Homer is chosen to be sacrificed, but the whole affair ends with the aliens learning that, thanks to years of filling their bodies with cheap crap, humans are not fit for alien consumption.
Where does this fall in the cannon of great Simpsons episodes? I have no idea, nor do I care. Did I laugh? Yes, I did. Quite a few times actually. The Simpsons is one of those shows that has fallen into the trap of being unable to please anyone who loved it from its infancy. Times (and comic sensibilities) have changed, and The Simpsons have evolved to reflect those changing sentiments. Will they ever win over the fans who have placed emotional value on the series? Probably not.
But isn’t it a bit of a cliche for Internet critics to constantly complain about the series without recognizing quality when quality appears? After all, Comic Book Guy was doing that 20 years ago.
Worst… critics… ever..