The various continuity/timeline threads in The Simpsons are so vast that anyone tasked with putting it down on paper would find it next to impossible. There are certain ones that are untouchable but there are an even greater number of them that are of mixed or dubious strength.

The Clown belongs in the latter but is acceptable because its derivation is rather slight (we’ll get to it below). In fact the premise is used to tell a decent story that doesn’t damage the core of the characters.

In The Clown, Bart’s phone dies on the bus and must settle for sharing with Lisa, since everyone else is on their phone as well. The best part here is when Bart asks Milhouse about the group chat who responds that he’ll never catch up (even though all the messages are just: brb, lol, or hi). Lisa tells Bart that she’s listening to Marc Maron’s podcast and as Bart scrolls through he finds that there is an interview with Krusty.

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The episode then switches to the interview where Krusty tells about the movie he directed and starred in some twenty odd years ago: The Sands of Space. The sign gags are once again on point as we tour a Hollywood-esque studio. Some of the best ones: Nun-Jas, Pope-And-A-Half, My Uncle The Nephew and Krusty’s own Good Cop, Dog Cop franchise. The studio execs are also quite cartoonish with their movie jargon: “It doesn’t quite ‘land’ for me.” Krusty rejects a pitch for a second Dog Cop movie and instead proceeds on a sci-fi vanity project.

Krusty proceeds to hire Homer and Marge to help in the creation of the film. Here’s where the continuity cops might have an issue: Marge isn’t pregnant with Bart. If you recall Marge gives birth to Bart very early on in their relationship so at this point you would expect her to at least be showing a bump. To be honest this is a minor gripe and one that shows that the writers are willing to stretch the timeline out a bit in order to tell a good story. It’s also quite refreshing to see Homer and Marge still in the throes of love and dedicated to each  other, so I don’t have a problem with it. This of course is different from radically changing the timeline which the writers have done in the past and is a major no-no.

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But I digress.

The studio decides to make this film on the cheap so Krusty and the crew go to Mexico with limited supplies. Krusty fires the director provided over creative differences and decides to direct the film as well. Although, he can’t handle all the pressure and all the questions so he gets Marge to be his assistant. The two get the movie rolling but spend a lot of time together. Homer becomes jealous but Marge reassures him that he has nothing to worry about. Krusty, too, confirms that he has no interest in Marge sexually, as he can’t even remember her name (an ongoing gag).

Krusty’s love is for the movie and for it to be good and he sees Homer as a distraction to Marge so he works Homer on all the hardest and time consuming tasks. He eventually gets Homer to go into the middle of the dessert to fetch a lizard. Homer falls into a ditch and begins to hallucinate; the cacti speak to him in the form of Bart, Lisa and Maggie and inform him that they are his future kids and that he needs to return to Marge. Homer though gets kidnapped by  a group of bandits.

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Upon noticing the disappearance the crew go on a mission to save Homer with materials from the set. They go in Mad Max style but are no match for the actual guns the bandits have. Marge steps in and offers the finished movie in exchange for Homer’s life. Krusty, of course, rejects this but Marge reads back the quote that got Krusty hooked on the book in the first place and accepts the deal.

The post credits scene goes back to the present day where Maron takes Krusty to a small town Mexican movie theater. The film has turned into a comedic cult classic El Bozo Loco. Krusty has himself resigned all artistic integrity but Maron, among the crowds delight, tries to uplift him by highlighting the film’s improbable journey from studio afterthought to indie hit.

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There’s something compelling about a story based on the discovery of forgotten film culture that kind of resonates. It also fits in nicely with the opening on how a new generation engages with technology and pop culture from the past. Today’s world is overly saturated with content but it also affords the youth an opportunity to discover for themselves how things got to the way they are now. Bart and Lisa share the experience of listening to someone whose work has informed their cultural universe expound upon the things that informed his cultural universe. It also adds to their history by learning more about the relationship between their parents.

All in all this was a solid story driven episode that had its laughs but more importantly had heart.

Catch new episodes of The Simpsons every Sunday on Fox and make sure to keep it locked on TGON for all things nerdy!