This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 30 Episode 10
In the spirit of the season, start shopping, Krusty the Clown entreated fifteen holiday season episodes ago, and as The Simpsons celebrates the holidays with “‘Tis the 30th Season,” the family is once again overwhelmed by the greed of giving. This time, little gangsters Bart and Lisa are asking for shakedown in the form of a GL50 9x Smart TV with sit-n-watch technology powered by a smart genius. It is ultimately attainable, through extortion and the promise of more extortion, but it is a hollow star on the tree at Evergreen Terrace. As far as Christmas miracles go, it is on par with turning wine into water.
“‘Tis the 30th Season” has a better premise than an execution, not to be confused with a crucifixion. Marge does a good deed in the spirit of the holiday and it costs her the perfect Christmas gift for the kids. It’s kind of like the gift of the Maggie without even any Oh Henry bars for Homer. The Simpson family sacrifice personal happiness to the least fortunate, former salesman Gil, the unluckiest man in town, only to see it crassly discarded for a better offer. The casual cynicism sends Marge on an implosive breakdown, which is the best part of the episode, but ultimately gets caught in a chimney.
Santa’s driving a self-flying sled this Christmas as The Simpsons go on auto cruise for the episode. Why work on a holiday when everyone else has off? Homer certainly wouldn’t, and he barely does here. This is a truth that could make baby Jesus cry. They take the promise of the premise on a 2,000 mile road trip, but should have saved the gas.
The best laid plans for retail strategy are foiled by Black Friday crowds. Marge is humiliated in defeat and so shocked by the callous disregard she encounters daily she shuts down. Lisa’s teacher puts a cigarette out in Marge’s newly mangled hair, her fingers are frostbitten and she is totally barehanded. The whole situation throws Marge into a loop. Nothing will save the holiday. Her brain is ruffled and fried, and she’s knitting ornamental mini-sweaters for stray cats. In a season of giving, something’s got to give.
Homer has ruined Christmas before. He’s also saved it. He’s probably about even by now, because this time it really wasn’t his fault. Scarves aren’t a good fit in a Christmas rush. Homer succumbs to the lure of the Sunshine State, and pays full price for a non-refundable stay at a Florida theme park. It’s not the world the Mickey built, nor Universal or even Family Guy World, but after a few sips of Snoozafed, it can almost be considered a travel destination. It is run by Jeanie, voiced by Jane Lynch, who is probably best known for taking the relations out of customer relations.
Homer advises the kids that Marge is only as happy as the saddest one of them, usually Lisa. He is intuitive enough to see Marge responds to the signals the family gives off. This is very understanding of Homer. It may even be a minor Christmas miracle because it infuses the Simpsons kids with the gift of fake enthusiasm, which is the biggest enthusiasm. They are so enthused Bart even hugs a bull, a very, very needy bull it turns out as the kid in the costume almost becomes a running gag. With only two appearances, there is no true running of the bulls.
Bart saves Christmas this year by borrowing from one of the holiday perennials, The Godfather, most likely already running in a marathon on basic cable as you read this. He gets the idea straight from the horse’s mouth. The Grinchy El Barto buries all the heads from the Hall of Vice Presidents under the cover of night, and elicits a cash payout for a promise the Simpsons will never breakfast in that bed again.
The holidays are a time for a family to spend time with their bartender, because, as humble as it is, there’s no place like Moe’s. The saloon-keep shows yet another glimpse of his tortured soul’s longing for appeasement. Every year he serves dinner and a drink for the homeless rummies of town. He saves them from going to church, where they night turn their lives around. That would be bad for business.
Christmas episodes on The Simpsons are not as sacred as their Treehouse of Horror installments. Primarily because, while the Simpsons may go to church every Sunday, their path to salvation lies somewhat lower. And no, they haven’t joined Reverend Lovejoy’s flirtations with the Episcopalians, with their light, flaky eucharists. The Simpsons dip their hands in a more infernal font. The series may have premiered with a Christmas show, but they save the big budgets for Halloween. With “‘Tis the 30th Season,” The Simpsons leaves a big box under the tree, but it’s filled with bubble wrap. They pop off some quick giggles, but no lasting guffaws.
“‘Tis the 30th Season” was directed by Lance Kramer, story by Jeff Westbrook, teleplay by John Frink and Joel H. Cohen.
The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum, Professor John I.Q. Nerdelbaum Frink Jr., and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest star: Guest star: Jane Lynch as Jeanie.
The Simpsons‘ “‘Tis the 30th Season” aired Sunday, December 9 at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.
Bart’s Chalkboard: “The fat man who works one day a year is my dad.”
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.