No fan of The Simpsons will argue that the quality of the show hasn't declined since the "classic" days of the show, most often considered seasons 1-10. That being said, the 450th Episode "Once Upon A Time In Springfield" and "The Simpsons 20th Anniversary Special: 3-D! On Ice!" episodes last night were terrific and a lot of fun for a forever-obsessed fan like myself.
When 2001-present writer Matt Warburton joked, "I think that Internet message boards used to be a lot funnier 10 years ago. And I've sort of stopped reading their new posts," I thought about the quality of the 450th episode and argue that the writing still has the potential to be as sharp as it was in the classic episodes. For that reason, I give you the moments that reminded me of The Simpsons of yesteryear.
10. Krusty is a clown first, a real person second.
When the flower always pinned to Krusty's shirt has a quick, intense burst of water, I wasn't laughing at the sex joke. What I really loved about this moment is how Krusty is always a clown, never seen without his makeup and never a normal guy first. This moment is not unlike when Homer rings Krusty's seltzer-squirting doorbell in Season 5, Episode 7 ("Bart's Inner Child").
9. When it comes to merchandise, the joke is on us.
Every fan has purchased at least one Simpson item in their life, and the writers are no fools about that. The crap filled in the new Princess Penelope store (from magic wands to face masks) is a common joke on the show; need I remind you of Kamp Krusty (Season 4, Episode 1) or the Krusty-Brand Home Pregnancy Test which "May Cause Birth Defects"?
8. Mr. Burns is a miserly, fragile old man.
Burns is his classic self in the 450th episode: he cuts back on doughnuts, he resents the New Deal, and he is capable of collapsing at any moment. When massaging his own temples dents his skull, he has to hold is nose and blow it back to its original shape. While Mr. Burns is at his best as a germophobe in "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)" (Season 5, Episode 10), last night's skull gag was as good as any classic moment.
7. Great gags never die.
As I've learned from 20 years of The Simpsons, funny visual comedy is timeless. When Krusty is thrown into the dumpster, emerges with a banana peel on his head, has the lid snap shut on him, a raccoon bites him, and then the dumpster rolls away while he's still in it, I thought back to Season 5, Episode 2 ("Cape Feare"), when Sideshow Bob continually steps on a rakes and gets hit in the face with their handles over and over again.
6. Ralph Wiggum is a genius.
I love the Simpson universe, and it wouldn't be any sort of anniversary episode without Ralph Wiggum. When I saw his quick Princess Leia gag, I remembered Season 4, Episode 15 ("I Love Lisa"), when Ralph stole our hearts in the first place.
5. Millhouse rules.
The Van Houten boy had a lot of great moments last night, my favorite being "First, girls ruin Sex and the City, now this." His hilarious one-liners, being called "Bart's ugly sister" by Krusty, and a shot of him with a bag over his head and his glasses over the bag made for really fun gags. Ever since he played Fall Out Boy [the original, not the band that stole his name] in "Radioactive Man" (Season 7, Episode 2), Millhouse has been one of my favorites.
4. Schemes are a lot of fun.
When Bart and Millhouse devise a plan to stop Penelope from marrying Krusty, I thought of the old days of elaborate schemes. As Marge once said, the kids have, "United Krusty with his father, gotten Principal Skinner his job back, and helped Dr. Riveria perform open-heart surgery on your father. You've even foiled Sideshow Bob on five separate occasions, and he's an evil genius!" (Season 7, Episode 9, "The Day the Violence")
3. While Lisa is brilliant, she is also a little girl, and both are perfectly acceptable.
Lisa instantly loves Princess Penelope. When Bart points out that her unicorn is a complete fake, Lisa grits her teeth and snaps, "Let me have this!" One of the most adorable moments in Simpson history is when Lisa comes down with the mumps ("Bart's Dog Gets An F" Season 2, Episode 16) and asks her father to get her copies of Teen Dream, Teen Scream, and Teen Steam magazines.
2. A funny sign is the best thing.
Simpsons writers have perfected the art of funny captions and signs. In this episode, the two we get are: "Capital City Nuclear: The Cleanest Energy There Is Except Once In A While, But Then, Look Out" and "Warning: Bridge's High School Friends Are Annoying." One of our all-time favorites is from Season 6, Episode 9 ("Homer Badman"): "Jolly Gummibears: They Hibernate In Your Colon."
1. A nice ending.
We don't really get to see sweet endings on The Simpsons anymore, which is why I loved the final scene of "Once Upon A Time In Springfield." I was reminded of Season 1, Episode 9, when Homer carries Marge out of the power plant to the tune of "Up Where We Belong" from An Officer and a Gentleman ("Life on the Fast Lane").
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