Review: ‘The Simpsons’

'The Simpsons'

The great thing about “The Simpsons” is the freedom to stop watching for, oh, three or four years and return to find everything exactly where you left it.

The great thing about “The Simpsons” is the freedom to stop watching for, oh, three or four years and return to find everything exactly where you left it. The latest annual Halloween-themed episode opens with a fabulous (and already widely circulated) election-eve gag about rigged voting, but that’s just the tip of an irreverent, at-times surreal iceberg that parodies “Transformers,” the “Peanuts” specials and AMC’s “Mad Men,” while finding time to question Abe Lincoln’s sexuality. There happily remain no sacred cows (or even lipsticked pigs) in “Simpsons”-land — which is no mean feat 20-some-odd years later.

Clever as it is, the bit in which Homer tries to vote for Barack Obama — only to have the machine keep ringing up ballots for “President John McCain” — amounts to a throwaway prior to the three “Treehouse” segments: Transformer-like robots laying waste to Springfield; Homer being recruited to murder celebrities so that advertisers can brazenly exploit their likenesses; and a “Great Pumpkin” tribute, complete with (in the show’s single best gag) a nod to why those Charlie Brown parents always sounded like a muted trumpet.

As has always been the case, most of the material in the middle sending up deceased luminaries like John Wayne and Edward G. Robinson will fly over the heads of children and goes directly toward their parents — most of whom were kids, notably, back when the show premiered during the first Bush administration. Seldom has a series benefited more from relying upon the writers’ instincts that if the jokes are funny to them, that will somehow connect with an audience.

Admittedly, the series has a way of quickly degenerating from satirical into silly, in a less-exaggerated version of the excesses to which “South Park” often falls prey. That occurs in a few places here, especially as the episode’s mutilated bodies (amazing what you can get away with in animation) begin to pile up.

For the most part, though, this latest “Treehouse” is another reminder that “The Simpsons” has managed to stay remarkably fresh, if not as ageless as its animated stars — and thus worthy of the epic, Super Bowl-like Roman numeral designation that “XIX” denotes.

The Simpsons

Fox, Sun. Nov. 2, 8 p.m.


Produced by Gracie Films in association with 20th Century Fox Television. Executive producers, James L. Brooks, Matt Groening, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Matt Selman, Tim Long; co-executive producers, John Frink, Kevin Curran, J. Stewart Burns, Michael Price, Bill Odenkirk, Marc Wilmore, Joel H. Cohen, Ron Hauge, Rob Lazebnik.


Animation producers, Laurie Biernacki, Rick Polizzi; director, Bob Anderson; writer, Matt Warburton. RUNNING TIME: 30 MIN.


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

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 0

Leave a Reply

No Comments

Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

More TV News from Variety