This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 27 Episode 6.
The Simpsons present a pleasantly funny ribbing in “Friend with Benefit.” The laughs are paced right. There are dozens of hidden jokes. They don’t blow the ending. That being said, a glossy niceness has been creeping up on Springfield for seasons and it’s not paying off like it has on South Park. The Simpsons were able to moon America week after week with surprising bits of subversion. Like the podpeople in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, the rude laughs have been replaced by accessible laughs.
Lisa finds a new friend this week, someone who doesn’t know her past and hasn’t had to forgive her yet. Harper is everything, including mad card trick skills, a kid could want. And if she doesn’t have it, her old man can get it for her and if she doesn’t want something, she never has to see it again. Cops actually show up when her stuff is stolen. Her single father is rich, connected and puts his own head through walls. He is the CEO of J-Cloud Storage Solutions and owns the Springfield Sports Arena and has all the power that wealth could buy. When you get platinum passes with stripes, you walk past the A-Listers to hang with him himself. The most interesting man in the world begs him for stories. Mike Jambowski can walk out of a boy band concert in the middle of the stage to get a beer and the indicipherable subliminally warbling non-threatening predigested corporate-made and autotuned musicians thank him for it.
That’s not enough for Lisa, of course. She also wants, if not respect, to get a word in edgewise while David Copperfield is talking. Spoiled kids have been a staple on The Simpsons since Bart stole the Bonestorm video game in the seventh Christmas episode. A toy commercial was nominated for an award at the Springfield Film Festival. Harper is aggressively nice, lauding her gifts over Lisa, who doesn’t buy into the celebrity culture that is her only chance at really nice things nobody on earth gets a chance to get. If she weren’t such an overachiever, she just might get somewhere.
Homer is lazy. He’s also fat enough to order delivery from doggie hell, but it’s his laziness that propels him through his misadventures. The chairlift makes life so much easier, everyone should beg for one through crowdfunding. You never even have to worry about spilling soup because you’re still using your arms. It’s just like Homer to trade it all in for just a little bit less. He is the polar opposite of Harper’s rich dad and that’s what makes their friendship so special. Why Homer says I love you on the very first playdate. After being so rudely unseated by his friends, it’s no wonder Homer falls for all that wealth and privilege.
Marge is wasted tonight. Not in the good more-than-one-glass-of-red-wine way, it’s more like she is being teased at us like a hungry crocodile at a David Copperfield show. Having her just get up on water skis in the moment has to leave the island is apropos of her time on screen. You just know her every need isn’t being met by any man. Bart does kind of get to moon us at the end.
It’s good to see The Simpsons stick to running gags. Tonight’s Doe Eyed Boys concert had the obligatory boy-band navy recruitment subliminal ads running. Jambowski Island used to be Haiti.
“Friend with Benefit” was loaded with good jokes and sly cultural commentary, but it didn’t have the incisive bareknuckle buffoonery that first set this series apart from the escapism of the TV landscape. Homer always winds up sticking up for Lisa, she’s the sun, the moon and the other thing to him. He can often be counted on to sacrifice for the greater good of better things and Lisa always stands by her principles, if not her principal. Well, she stands near them, almost consistently. There have been times she’s lapsed, but not for a free Malibu Stacy, usually it’s for something like perpetuating the myth of Jebediah Sprungfeld and his silver tongue. The episode was filling. There wasn’t enough room for a full opening and barely enough for a closing theme. But I have a feeling I’ll be hungry for a giggle in a half hour.
“Friend with Benefit” was written by Rob LaZebnik and directed by Matthew Faughnan. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Groundskeeper Willie, Apu and Moe. Harry Shearer is Mr. Burns. Guest stars: Kristen Bell as Harper and David Copperfield.
But It All Went By So Fast: Statins with snacks. The French Kissing Club. Children Without Phones. The Stolen Bicycle Society. Club Meds. Golf with Dolph. Crowdfunding: The New Panhandling. FrendMoocher: Record Your Plea. Abstinence Rocks. Magic Palace Tonight David Copperfield: You Won’t Believe What He Charges For A T-Shirt. Kids have school. No Can Do. Beer at Moe’s? How To Relax On A Tropical Island. Harper’s Ferry. Swim Lessons With Michael Phelps. Be in a Movie with Adam Sandler. Make a Decision with Dr. Phil.