They say a boy never gets over seeing his dad in a Santa Suit being hanged and electrocuted on Christmas Eve.
Oh, of all the seasons to mar with a bah humdrum Christmas episode, why did it have to be Christmas season? Homer and Marge always seem to be stretched to the breaking point in their marriage and I can’t take no Moe. What with his pathetic failed suicide attempts, clinging at the heels or shoulders of his customers and piling snow in front of his bar to lure lazy lushes and his- wait. I love Moe. He is the hook on the ornament that gets stuck between your fingernails when you’re trying to fit it on a high branch. He is the 33rd playing of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” that makes you unsubscribe to Spotify. He is the itchy sweater you always got from that aunt who smelled vaguely like naugahyde. Admit it, she did.
The Simpsons, like almost all TV series, celebrate all the major holidays, like Greek Orthodox Christmas with special holiday episodes. These have yielded some classics, from the very first Simpsons Christmas that introduced Santa’s Little Helper. The reason it works, for me, better on The Simpsons than on most TV fare, is because holidays in Springfield usually go against the grain. Sure, we know, like on all TV, that it will turn out all right in the end. The Simpsons usually get there in some kind of subversive way. Marital strife at Christmas is pretty subversive for TV, but after so many weeks of the same arguments, a lot of the fight is going out of it.
This is not the first time we’ve seen Lisa and Bart immediately drop dime on Homer either. Lisa says that not being home for Christmas is an unforgivable gaffe. Bart correctly surmises that it sets a bad Christmas Eve precedent, fat guys showing up late. The kids usually side with Marge, but it seems that since The Simpsons Movie, they’re all too quick to dump the guy altogether.
The setup piece for how near and yet how far things are between Homer and Marge, the he-thinks, she-thinks bit, should have worked a little better. It was a good premise for a joke but somehow didn’t quite pay off with the larfable dividends, even if Cheap Wiggum only gives one corn-holder as his Secret Santa gift.
The individual jokes work and there are a lot of them. That takes a little bit of the sting out it. “I Won’t Be Home For Christmas” opens with a mashup of holidays specials past, even the happy Vince Guaradli style Peanuts piano styling. Comic Book Guy warns us that this will be the worst 30 minutes ever and that it will be worse than we remember it when we re-watch it on On Demand tomorrow. I love the use of Darth Vader’s light saber to cut the holiday bird and Doctor Hibbert’s medicinal seasonal greeting.
Homer seems to truly believe that he just might win one of the scratch-off lotteries. Each loss hits him painfully unsuspectingly, but each call for a new scratch-off has hope. This is impressive given how quickly it all goes by until Apu has to stop to appease his Gandhi-like Hindu conscience.
One detail seemed very important, Ned Flanders talking about Edna. Ned Says Bart’s old teacher left him with some nice memories and ungraded papers that he’s still getting throught. Not Maude Flanders, the kids’ mom, but Edna Krabappel. When Marcia Wallace died, the Simpsons crew said they were going to leave her fate up in the air. This is the first time they’ve addressed her as a gone character. We also learned that the verdict in Miracle on 34th Street that Santa Claus was indeed Santa Claus was overturned in the sequel, Gumby Goes to Gimbals.
Every seasonal Simpsons episode has the family learn some kind of, well not necessarily a lesson, but they learn something about themselves through what really winds up being a random act of epiphany that is just enough scotch tape to hold them together until it loses its stickiness. Tonight it is Moe who saves the day. At one minute to midnight, he comes down the chimney to give his good buddy and best customer the excuse he needs. Of course, Moe never gives up on trying to get a little Midge action, but Homer’s bluer half only has eyes for her husband. Moe’s confession is a bit of an easy out. The Simpsons have always celebrated easy outs, so we shouldn’t be too up disappointed. But I like my Moe’s just a little more needy and greedy. These bouts of altruism could really ruin his reputation.
The Stevie Wonder ditty “Some Day at Christmas,” is nicely unexpected montage music. “Someday at Christmas men won’t be boys. Playing with bombs like kids play with toys” is an subtly subversive choice, once again throwing the proceedings further left.
But we can’t always assume the Simpsons team screwed up. There really is a good explanation for what they do and even if it’s a crazy excuse it’s usually pretty entertaining. “I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” isn’t quite the magical Christmas episode that we’ve seen in the past, but there are great random giggles and we learn something. On Christmas, the place to get drunk is at home.
“I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” was written by Al Jean and directed by Mark Kirkland. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Pattie and Selma Bouvier, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Moe Szyslak and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Harry Shearer is Mr. C. Montgomery Burns and yet he is also Waylon Smithers.
But It All Went By So Fast: Pineapple Plopper Ham: Cooked and Cured Premium Holiday Ham. Christmas Music Channels: Country and Wenceslas, Norwegian Death Metal Holiday Hymns, A Vin Scully Christmas. Lego Simpsons 90% Off. Kwik E Nog Used to Be Milk. Bart’s card to Lisa: This counts as a present. Anchor Management. Welcome Relatives, Extended Hours, See your Loved Ones, Springfield Retirement Castle.