The Simpsons are back for their 31st season! At this point the show isn’t breaking any new ground but it can grow as evidenced by the last week’s season premiere.
It’s also minor vindication for myself, as last season I advocated for Lisa to take on a more activist role after her decision in the brilliant Bart vs Itchy & Scratchy. In Monetized Content the B story goes to Lisa in detention and her ‘unionizing’ her fellow students to break out. Springfield Elementary have outsourced detention to a private company run by local corporate shill Lindsey Neagle. Kids are given detention for even the most minor offenses and forced to make products that the company will later sell.
Unfortunately, the episode doesn’t spend much time on this plot as Lisa quickly rallies the students to break out. Superintendent Chalmers then proposes that the teachers replace them as they would do anything to get away from the kids they teach. Done before it even really started. This could have been a potentially fruitful satire of private prison industry, mass incarceration, and unionization. At least the show is willing to explore Lisa’s more activist side which hopefully means a bigger role for her this season in that regard.
As for the A story line Homer and Bart go viral for inadvertently making a video of themselves fighting each other as they usually do. John Mulaney guest stars as a random hipster tech millionaire, Warburton Parker, who wants to make them rich. Its actually a pretty decent one off character who acts like an enabler goading Homer and Bart to keep making more videos and having each be more violent then the last. Their fame quickly fades though when Homer and Bart begin to appreciate their success and time together by hugging it out in one scene. This gets caught on video which is posted online where their fans turn on them for not being violent.
Parker though sees this as an opportunity for a comeback though. He gets the two to stage a fight with sponsor themed medieval weaponry. Parker spells it out for them noting Bart’s net (Netflix) and trident (the gum) and Homer’s Axe (the body spray) and spear (-mint, also the gum). Bart and Homer reject the stunt though with another hug and the video is a flop.
To be honest the A story line was just okay but it did provide a nice Homer/Bart arc. The two are known for the violence towards each other so it only made sense that they exploit that somehow for wealth. The turn that they actually would want to stop is a touching moment for father and son. But while it worked sentimentally, comedy wise it was just average but I suppose that’s what the writers were going for.
The ones who got the most laughs were actually the minor characters. Principal Skinner had his first wartime flashback in a long time proving via an early cafeteria food fight; I just wished this bit was a bit longer. Mr. Burns apparently gets an alert whenever anyone’s getting rich, which makes perfect sense. Moe offers Homer anything he wants which backfires when Homer asks for the bar; Moe proceeds to goes back to his people, climbing into a manhole cover and disappearing into the netherworld. Chief Wiggum might have the line of the night when he says of the bullies escorting Bart, ‘let’s the give the biggest one a gun and take the rest of the week off.’
So all in all it was an okay debut, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t great either. The episode managed to sneak in a few clever jokes (the monorail callback, the use of Charon throughout the episode which might have also foreshadowed the title of a future episode). The Lisa story could’ve used some work but it’s just the first episode so we’ll see where the show goes from here.
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