After a brief hiatus The Simpsons are back with a very funny episode that unfortunately, is dragged down by being overcrowded.
If you recall from last week’s ‘classic‘ review, I mentioned, at the beginning, the classification of eras in The Simpsons. The Golden Age has long since passed and what we’re experiencing now is that tricky final act that has plagued good movies and shows since the dawn of time (The Dark Knight and I am Legend come to mind). The Simpsons is still a good show but very often will produce lackluster episodes which have scared away fans over the years.
But more often than not Simpsons episodes nowadays are much like this one: a good episode with a lot of potential that could do with fewer story lines and better concentration.
In Grampy, Can You Hear Me?, Grandpa gets a hearing aid and finally hears what everyone has been saying about him; Principal Skinner finds out that his mother has been hiding a university acceptance letter from him; and Lisa worries about a minor error she made on an assignment and asks Bart for help.
Abe is many things but most of all he is endearing; from his chronic audio impairment, to his erratic memory loss and unforgettably endless reminiscences. Without misheard pronouncements, where would we have gotten such classic lines as “I did the icky?”
We get a bit more of that in this episode when at the beginning while watching a film at the planetarium Grandpa speaks up because he can’t hear and leaves because he thinks the Big Bang is a visual of the theatre blowing up. To which squeeky voiced teen yells: your pupils aren’t ready for earth light!
When Abe gets hearing aid as a gift from the Old Jewish Man his world is opened up and we get a funny sequence of him hearing things for the first time. He then comes over to the Simpson house and we hear just the end of Homer’s amusingly inexplicable breakfast table announcement, “So it’s for all these reasons I will not be seeking a seat in the U.S. Senate.” The family then proceed to group yawn and murmur strategies on how to get rid of him. Abe leaves upset that even Maggie joined in on the gag.
Drowning his sorrows at the Veterans of Unpopular Wars Hall, Abe’s typically rambling story is rendered in pantomime when the grumpy bartender turns his own hearing aids off. (We only hear the suitably Abe-esque conclusion, “…and that’s how I opened the orange!”) There’s also a genuinely funny scene where the ladies working the kiosks at the mall all run to not have to deal with an old man. The lady working the sunglasses kiosk at the mall shoots her upended display to put it out of its misery when she knocks it over fleeing Abe.
Ultimately, this gets resolved when he returns home and eaves drops on the family reading from a script on how much they love Grandpa. Homer, hugs his dad and delightfully reads the ‘fading out’ portion of the script only to find a new story on the next page. D’oh!
Bart and Lisa
During their visit to the planetarium Lisa freaks out when she realizes she had put millions instead of billions in her school report. She enlists Bart to sneak into the school and help her edit it. This storyline works because it lets the kids carry out their shenanigans. Bart enters the Simpson house in the night in full ninja garb preparing the old “python in Skinner’s mailbox” gag when Lisa asks him for the favour. Bart and Lisa then banter at each other like brother and sister, which is both cute and funny (“sounds like you can’t even do your homework”). It continues when they reach the school when a frightened Lisa looks for reassurance that Bart is making up his ghost story while Bart denies it, asking, “Am I that creative?”
Lisa ends up editing her work but comes clean at the end when Mrs. Hoover calls her up for a word. Bart left so many clues of the break in, in particular, her missing nicotene gum. She’s willing to let the edit slide in return for her gum. The funniest bits of this story though come from Willie. When Lisa asks how Bart sneaks into the school he says he gives him licorice to satisfy his addiction. This is followed by a scene of Willie in his shed smothered by the candy. Then when Mrs. Hoover’s hamster is revealed to have eaten the nicotene gum it goes crazy and rolls its way into Willie’s shack where he funnily screams in horror.
In this story Skinner is revealed to be living in the school basement after leaving home when he finds out that his mother lied to him about an acceptance letter from Ohio State. That letter was to join the marching band and when Lisa interrupts Skinner’s tale with the fun fact that the dot over a lower-case ‘i’ is called a tittle, it gets Skinner’s affronted nerdy response, “Don’t you think I know that?” The exchange between him and the kids was funny because their interplay shows a relaxed prickly chemistry that’s been built up over the years.
Even the scene where he goes to Ohio State in protest was funny, even if I didn’t fully get the references. In the end he reconciles with his mom but on the condition that the parental controls on the TV be lifted. This leads to a scene where Skinner watches Game of Thrones and his mother not understanding it on account of it being too complicated.
Lastly, we get what amounts to a post credit scene of a song ‘Nobody knows Hans Moleman’. This of course is an obvious dark take to season 4’s ‘Everyone loves Ned Flanders.’ Much like the original this bit came as a welcome surprise and most of its laughs come from sheer ridiculousness (a cashier trying to scan Hans is a case in point).
As evidenced by the length of this article there was a lot in this episode. The writers were able to cram everything but the kitchen sink. While the episode itself was funny it felt very crowded and rushed. It would have benefited from losing the Skinner section as the other two were far superior. That being said I wouldn’t mind watching a full episode on any one of the three storylines. The Simpsons have set the bar so high that its a testament to the show that it makes us want more.
Make sure to tune in every Sunday on Fox for new Simpsons episodes and keep it locked on TGON for all your reviews and analysis.