The Simpsons: Friends and Family Review

Mr. Burns causes an ocular rift in the Simpson family.

The Simpsons: Season 28 Episode 2

This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.

The Simpsons become “Friends and Family” with Montgomery Burns in this episode but it’s really virtual.

What’s it all coming to when you can’t buy euthanasia for a friend? It’s no wonder Mr. Burns has anger issues. Oh sure, it seems like he has everything he could possibly want: the largest mansion in Springfield, all the money riches could buy and the thrill of outliving all his friends. Except of course Abe Simpson, though he is really an acquaintance at best. But Burns, being Burns, would trade it all in for just a little more. He’s done this before but now there’s a new toy on the event horizon and it eclipses all the other simple joys of life.

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Virtual reality, it’s so much better than real reality because anything that’s really happening is lamer than dodging incoming cars. It just seems like things happen and it seems like Monty happened to have missed the best part of living his storied life. He missed his chance to have a family. But a rich man like Burns doesn’t have to miss out on anything. Any man who can slip an EMT guy enough money to get him to drop him home before delivering an ambulatory patient knows how much to pay to make up for lost time. And with this new Oculus Frink, or Froculus, thingamagadget, he can rent a family, tape it and keep it on loop until he gets bored or someone mentions homeless or Harvard.

Springfield holds another audition for a family for Mr. Burns. The Van Houtens blow it by well, being the Van Houtens, although Mrs. Van Houten does wear a very formidable expression of indifference. But it’s not recklessly indifferent enough for the owner of the Springfield Nuclear Plant who finds the perfect nuclear family in the Simpson family. You would think he’d know enough about them to pass. He’s had this family as a family before. He even abducted Tom Jones to get some time alone with Marge and it was just last week that Lisa clipped his boards.

All those ugly people the psychiatrist keeps in a cheap plastic cube gives Burns a great idea. He should encase more people in plastic, that way he can always see the fear on their faces. The last underwriter to get stoned at a funeral was repped by Woody Harrelson and Willie Nelson, but Otto knows how to rock a cemetery.

Maggie talked tonight and not only did none of the Simpsons, nor the psychiatrist, notice, but no one noticed that it wasn’t the late Elizabeth Taylor doing the voice. So sad and yet so poignant. Too bad it went under the family’s heads.

Virtual reality is a new technology. There’s really not much besides advertisements, a rollercoaster, a little global destruction, and porn. And not good wholesome porn like milk maids skipping rope. This stuff is hot. It is certainly too hot for the man whose genitalia disintegrated after a lifetime making energy from atoms. We’re talking dragon porn and if that doesn’t burn your britches, well, maybe we should party.

When he’s not watching his single viewer virtual reality family melodrama, Burns mainly riffs on ocular nostalgia, poring over Hitler home movies and reimagining the Simpsons less like the river otters they are and more like the half-Monties he wants them to be.

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Homer finds such pleasure in his empty nest. He can eat in any room in the house, except those scary rooms like the basement and Bart’s room. I haven’t seen him this happy since he found god in churchless Sunday mornings. A beer hammock replaces the full-butter waffles and he lets it almost all hang out, except for the occasional Frisbee.

Homer finds solace in Julia, the roof-top hanging, beer-guzzling, Flanders-hating neighbor with the beer and the pretzels. She’s not that into him, they have more of a catatonic relationship, but it’s okay because he’s not that into her either. She’s a good listener and an entertaining talker and so much nicer than Moe, in spite of his blowing-his-head-off-with-a-rifle trick. And it’s cheaper, though not cheap in any sexy way.

This is worst for Marge, of course, because emotional infidelity is a far worse sting than extracurricular sexual peccadilloes. But what’s worse than any of this is that no one writes any jokes for Marge. I see this is a slight dig at the fact that Julie Kavner doesn’t need funny lines to get laughs. All of the Simpson voice talent are masters at imbuing mundane lines with dripping wit. I’m no prude, but I do believe Marge showed a little too much ankle. Bart gets a good zinger during Mr. Burns’ birthday song with “and maybe more.” While Lisa devils her ham with passive aggressive belligerence in her line reads and improvisations. Homer’s best line was “why are you mad at those eggs, they didn’t do anything?”

Lines aren’t everything, especially in animated entertainment and this episode has dozens of sight gags, many of them are happening in the background. Burns is a scream, flailing about in his reverie, with all his trophies, including Big Bird. (That trophy wall is a subtle homage to co-creator and animal savior Sam Simon.) And again when he is fencing and heiling Hitler in the nuclear hallways. I didn’t know Harry Shearer could move like that.

Homer’s ingenious way of eating out of the microwave is a worthy sight gag. It is also very revealing how Homer decides whether a man can, indeed, be just friends with a woman. When he drops his Frisbee for the right pretzels, we know everything’s going to work out.

The close out was very romantic. Once they get the Oculus headset, everyone in Springfield gets lost in fantasies of what they would like to have or do, but Homer and Marge both fantasize about each other.

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I don’t use this word lightly, but this episode was excellent. Like a Supreme Court full of Scalias. 

“Friends and Family” was written by J. Stewart Burns and directed by Lance Kramer. 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 Professor Frink and Moe. Harry Shearer is Mr. C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest star Allison Janney as Julia.

Chalkboard: I will stop losing 50% of my NFL lead-in.

But It All Went By So Fast: Dr. Nick Rivera: Tell me what and I’ll cut. Men’s Health. Old Men’s Health: Outdoor Bathtubs new leading cause of pneumonia. Very Old Men’s Health: Medical Breakthroughs You’ll Just Miss. Bucket List: Outlive all friends; Bench press 3 pounds; Launch Eiffel Tower into space; Woo Rockette. Mr. Burns is left-handed. Absolut Vodka + you = excellent chemistry. Virtual Reality Casting Call: Families wanted. No child care. Guest House. Smithers. The Hounds, and the hounds house is bigger than Smithers’. Burns’ eyes blink in the portrait behind Marge.


4 out of 5