Review: ‘The Simpsons Maggie’s First Word’

Voices: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Elizabeth Taylor, Pamela Hayden.

Voices: Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith, Hank Azaria, Harry Shearer, Elizabeth Taylor, Pamela Hayden.

It’s probably no surprise that the casting of Elizabeth Taylor as the voice for baby Maggie Simpson’s first word was a publicity stunt; what Maggie said could have been spoken by any female, and Taylor’s own personality was subdued by the character. No mind, episode in question delivered well-rounded view of series’ multiple attractions.

Flashbacks to first words of Bart and Lisa filled most of Jeff Martin’s action-packed script, allowing show’s run through the gamut of pop culture references to go all the way back to the mid-’80s, with Johnny Carson (voiced by Harry Shearer) cracking tired Boy George reference on TV, pop Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta) coming home from work with Cyndi Lauper’s “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” on his lips, and running takeoff on McDonald’s 1984 Olympic Games promotion starring Krusty the Clown (Shearer, again).

Flashbacks also suggest possibility–or it is “threat”–of a Simpsons Kids spinoff somewhere in the future, if not a feature-length “The Simpsons–The Early Years.”

Bart (Nancy Cartwright) was bratty from the first, to nobody’s surprise, and always jealous of his adoring younger sister, Lisa (Yeardley Smith). Bart’s efforts to get Lisa in trouble supply episode’s violence quota, along with snatch of televised Itchy and Scratchy parody of old Tom and Jerry cartoons. Both children refer to dad as “Homer” from the start, all his efforts to have them call him something more fatherly notwithstanding.

Baby Maggie’s first word, out of earshot of entire family, is to call Homer “Daddy.” Even in madcap Simpsons environment, it’s quite a heart-melter.

Julie Kavner’s voicing of long-suffering mother Marge Simon was typically on-the-mark, and Hank Azaria and Pamela Hayden supplied various supplementary voices.

Show’s design makes limited animation almost an asset, Alf Clausen’s symphonic-sounding scoring gives much texture, and wide-screen stereo sound is another plus.

The Simpsons Maggie's First Word

(Thurs. (3), 8-8:30 p.m., Fox)

Production

Produced by Gracie Films in association with 20th Television. Executive producers, James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Sam Simon; producers, Richard Raynis, David Silverman, Richard Sakai; director, Mark Kirkland, script, Jeff Martin; animation executive producer, Phil Roman; animation producers, Bill Schultz, Michael Wolf.

Crew

Editors, Mark McJimsey, Don Barrozo; sound, Brad Brook; music, Alf Clausen.

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