This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 27 Episode 12.
“Much Apu About Something” is a more appropriately titled show than you might think. The Simpsons have built almost a tradition of radically changing an element or character on the show only to backtrack before the last commercial and miraculously revert to the status quo. That is the essence of Springfield. The only things with lasting change are the smoother animations that have stoppered the golden tongue of Jebediah Sprungfeld.
Most characters have gone through major adjustments and been readjusted back. Fat Tony became Fit Tony when the character died, but gained weight so he could take his brother’s place and no one had to remember a new name. Principal Seymour Skinner was actually run out of Springfield on a rail when he returned to his mother and the soldier in his platoon who took his identity. Mayor Quimby has been recalled and beaten in runoff elections, but was returned to office because we’ve grown accustomed to his Harvard drawl. Mr. Burns has become a nice guy, buying bowling jackets and saving fish from plastic six-pack holders. The town of Springfield itself moved itself a few miles east a few seasons ago only to recreate the town in its entirety to preserve the quo that status affords.
Even Apu Nahasapeemapetilon has undergone changes from what makes him tick. In “Much Apu About Nothing,” the Hindu yoga enthusiast and vegan shortly became a southern drawling, meat-eating citizen of the American heartland before he decided he couldn’t take the assimilation. Springfieldians are on the fence about conformity to the norm, if only because the norm is comfortably nonconformitable. The town needs its stereotypes, if only to reveal the vacuous yellow underbelly of the majority rule.
One thing though, wooden spoons are no Italian stereotype. They are all too real. I have memories. We all have memories. It’s not as bad as other stereotypes we’ve been tagged with so we choose to own it. Apu and Jay face off in each of their well-trenched clichés, but it is really a battle between old and new. Traditions or change and in Springfield, traditions always win. How else could Maggie be a toddler for 27 seasons and still be on her second word? Apu is holding tight to a past as old as Life of Pi, while Jay is looking forward to the more recent past of the same movie. He probably saw it with his uncle Apu. His own father was only briefly seen in three or four episodes and one of them was a special where everyone only got a five minute story.
On Evergreen Terrace, the boy in the blue shorts with the lil bastard sling shot in his back pocket is also making a major short lived change. Bart set the whole ball rolling when he fired the first shot in the parade prank battle. Homer busts him with his baseball cap-cam and blackmails Bart into vowing to go prank-free. This is a role regression for both Simpsons and completely out of character. Like the urban pacification tank that Springfield’s Waddliest is brandishing, we know it’s going to backfire. This is El Barto, the kid who flushed a cherry bomb while Skinner’s mother was on the toilet, who burned “Eat My Shorts” into the grass with permanent weed killer, the kid who cut off the head of the original, immobile statue of Jebediah Springfield.
But Bart’s turn doesn’t backfire. He is fully able to resist the temptations of the tallest cherrypickers and even learns to empathize, again, with Lisa. No good deed goes unpunished by familial indifference. Bart gets better grades, well at least in some kind of kiddy civics and even makes Springfield Elementary safer, one brick at a time. Lisa rewards Bart with unconditional love, the best excuse to revert to old patterns. When someone tells you they’ll love you no matter what, it starts to matter what you can get them to love you through.
So Homer sells out the future of his kid for the present of his bar buddy, who has forgiven him for offering peanuts to his gods and invited him to come again and wasting his one question when the pair made the pilgrimage to India to petition an ancient Quik E Mart guru for his nonrefundable wisdom. But the real temptation for Bart is the chance to wear the Clockwork Orange eyelash, complete with Wendy Carlos background music. The Anthony Burgess/Stanley Kubrick masterpiece is what put the spring in Bart’s bop and no kid could pass up a chance at the old ultraviolence, even if it’s just to spoil some fruit.
The episode was layered and in some ways took advantage of the extra time afforded by the missing couch gag, but it didn’t provide any side splitters. There were some giggles, a few chuckles, a chortle and a few snorts, but no guffaws. The Simpsons teased change the way they do a lot and took it back the way they do more often. While that may not seem like a ringing endorsement, it’s only because I didn’t bring a bell.
“Much Apu About Something” was written by Michael Price and directed by Bob Anderson. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson and Nelson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and Chief Wiggum. Harry Shearer is Mr. Burns. Pamela Hayden plays Millhouse and Jimbo Jones. Guest voice: Utkarsh Ambudkar as Jay
But It All Went By So Fast: Amazing Water Show Mix Tape. Springfield General Hospital: If you died here, you’d be home now.