With 2018 coming to a close The Simpsons ends the year on a heartwarming note.
In ‘Tis the 30th Season, Marge and Homer fail to get the kids the gift they want (a new smart HDTV) during Black Friday. Marge obsesses over making it up to the kids by trying to create the perfect Christmas. Unfortunately, this drives her nearly mad so Homer and the kids decide to take her on an impromptu trip to Florida. The trip ends being not what they bargained for and the family returns home; only they run out of gas. As they walk the rest of the way they make it to Moe’s only to find that the barkeep converted his bar into a community kitchen for the less fortunate. Christmas is saved.
The episode started off rather promisingly with the mission to Sprawl-Mart to get the HDTV. My favorite was the ad for the Black Friday sale which had some pretty funny sight gags: “cashiers with no families”, “sit and watch technology”, “restrooms locked” “free handful of mashed potatoes.” Even the co-ordinated plan to get the TV complete with blueprint was pretty cool.
Gil, Springfield’s saddest sack, makes an appearance to foil the plan. He wants to get a stuffed toy for his grand daughter but is trampled over by raging customers similar to what happened to Moe. At least for Gil’s sake no one’s wearing cleat’s. Marge sees this, and in dramatic frames, comes to his aid by throwing him over the crowd to catch the last one. Unfortunately for her the last TV is scooped up in the process. And to make matters worse Gil sells the toy for $100 almost immediately.
It was kind of troubling the way the show made Marge out to be a kind of unhinged, holiday obsessed mother after her failure at Sprawl-Mart. This behavior by Marge isn’t without precedent (an exact episode escapes me at the moment) but from my recollection those times that it did happen there were better reasons for it or it seemed more believable. Here, it kind of seems like the writers wanted this happen so they made it so.
The trip to Florida is yet another Simpsons rush job. There’s nothing specifically clever about the decrepit motel they wind up at, or the equally low-rent theme park included in Homer’s chosen package. Jane Lynch shows up as the uncaring desk clerk/owner, but isn’t given anything interesting to do. The best line from here actually comes from Milhouse. During a trip to the Hall of Vice Presidents Bart face times his friend desperately seeking some distraction to which Milhouse responds: “well, I’m kind of the vice president of us.”
Moments later (and in order to leave before scheduled) Bart pranks the motel clerk, a la Godfather, by placing the severed heads of the vice presidents in her bed. The rest of the episode is then wrapped up quite quickly by ending off at Moe’s for a Christmas meal.
I did appreciate Homer’s advice to the kids that Marge is only as happy as the saddest one of them, usually Lisa. He is intuitive enough to see that Marge responds to the signals the family gives off. This is very understanding of Homer and given the right episode this idea could be explored further but not on this occasion.
There have been some thoughtful and even genuinely sweet Christmas episodes in season’s past. You can tell that this one tries to be but it doesn’t quite get there. I know The Simpsons put all their eggs on Treehouse of Horror but I really think they should make a bigger deal out of Christmas episodes; give the writers free reign like they do for Halloween.
In any event this was an average episode that wasn’t without its moments. Certainly not the best but not certainly not the worst.
The Simpsons are taking a break for the holidays and will return in early January.
In the meantime, keep it locked on TGON for all your news, reviews and analysis.