This week The Simpsons forces the viewers (and reviewers like myself) to take a look in the mirror in more ways than one.
In Krusty we get a blend of two stories which naturally flow into each other but then go their separate ways.
A fifth grader, played by Billy Eichner, comes in to take over Lisa’s newspaper, The Daily Fourth Grader. Lisa’s demotion lands her the job of being a TV recapper. Feeling like the job is too monotonous for her, she convinces Homer to take the job. Homer’s honest reviews get under Krusty’s skin to the point that he attempts to murder him. Bart helps his hero escape from the police by hiding him at the circus.
Trying to fit in with the circus clowns, Krusty has to go undercover and pretend that he hates TV clowns. But, it turns out that Krusty is a terrible clown whether it is on TV or at the circus. After a near death experience on the high wire act, Krusty finds his niche and it’s being unlucky. Unfortunately, the circus closes just as he has finally embraced the lifestyle. Krusty does the most unselfish thing by allowing the circus to turn him into the police for the reward on his head.
Confronted by his failure to provide any skill in his first day under the big top (even his unicycle skills are garbage), the bereft Krusty’s embarrassment touches on the venerably reliable dramatic theme of a big star getting back in touch with his roots. When he finally finds his niche, however, the rug is pulled from under him when the circus shuts down. “For the first time, I was a real clown,” laments the newly-rechristened Soggy the Clown, momentarily grounding Springfield’s most sold-out entertainer.
There’s also another moment of pathos when Krusty, still undercover, says of himself, “In my way, I’ve hated him all my life.” Being a sad clown is one thing but its quite poignant to see an entertainer realizing that he’s forgotten why he became one in the first place. This could have easily been the main plot as there was enough material for a longer exploration of the themes inherent in this story.
Yet, the same can be said of the co-A story which sees Homer work as a TV ‘re-capper’. I’d have liked to seen The Simpsons spend an additional half-episode deconstructing what Homer’s obsession with life as a professional evaluator of the thing he loves does to his appreciation of it. In fairness we have already seen something similar in season 11’s ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner’ but there the context was food. Here, it would have been equally satisfying to see how this played out in a longer form. The backdrop of review/recap culture mixed with click-bait just seems ripe for Simpsons commentary and represents a missed opportunity.
This isn’t to say that the Homer plot didn’t work (or the Krusty one for that matter) but they would have been better served by being stand alone segments.
The payoff of Homer’s story though comes from his discovery of a global TV conspiracy. Deciding to resign his post for the sake of his marriage, Homer confronts the Lex Luthor-like exec (of corporation Google-Disney), only to learn that he and his army of keyboard-tapping recapper drones are only pawns; their inevitable B-minuses strategically turning off viewers to such a degree that the ever-expanding networks and streaming services don’t even have to bother making most of the shows. Apparently, the USA network doesn’t even exist, its just bus ads.
So, all in all a decent episode (dare I say B-) whose only flaw is that it should have been longer, which really isn’t a bad thing.
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