The Simpsons Season 24 Finale and Wrap-Up!

The Simpsons celebrated what is likely it's ALMOST final season by continuing with its blend of self-referential and biting humor.

As I sit down to write this, I think how amazing it is that The Simpsons has just finished its twenty-fourth season and has been picked up for a twenty-fifth, which I hear will probably be its last. So, let’s have a look back at all the craziness that happened in Springfield (which we now know is in Oregon…mystery solved!).A few changes were made to the beginnings of some, but not all, of the episodes.  A few couch gags were missing, with short “pre-stories” taking their place. One of my favorites had Homer going to vote in the presidential election (Episode 3, “Adventures in Baby Getting”). As soon as he submits his vote for Romney, he suddenly gets access to a bunch of tax records, then gets sucked away in a giant tube to an American flag factory in China (of course). This is the one episode that really drove me crazy for the rest of the season because of one detail:  Marge’s old car ends up in a sinkhole, later filled with burning tires, so she has to go buy a new one. The problem is, we never see the new car again, and the old car reappears in some of the last few episodes. Then again, The Simpsons isn’t exactly known for its continuity. Other viewers have commented on inconsistencies over the years, but hey, this show is the longest running animated series in television history! Certain things can be overlooked.One of the best things about the show is that it has been keeping up with the explosion in social media and its associated devices, like readers and tablets. In Episode 6, “A Tree Grows in Springfield,” Homer wins an iPad, only to become so involved with it that he’s literally driven to distraction (watch him playing a game called Distracted Driver, while driving) and eventually falls down a manhole while pushing Maggie in her stroller. He loses family dog Santa’s Little Helper when he gets caught up in a medieval role playing game (Episode 8, “To Cur With Love”) and examines the Kuddle e-reader at an educational toy store (Episode 13, “Hardly Kirk-ing”). Homer even jumps onto the doomsday prepper bandwagon (after mistaking them for preppies).  Everyone panics about an electromagnetic pulse that’s supposed to end the world, but, mirroring real life, nothing really happens and Springfield is fine. “America can’t collapse,” Homer says. “We’re as powerful as ancient Rome!” The technology gets abandoned, briefly, when new neighbors move in (Episode 7, “The Day the Earth Stood Cool”). Hip dad Terrence introduces the Simpson family to man hugs and Korean film festivals, and Bart forms a tentative friendship with son T-Rex. Marge, however, is frustrated by the sudden changes and the kids’ new schedule. “You brought them home exhausted and pretentious!” she complains, later facing down the nipple Nazis at T-Rex’s warehouse birthday party. Marge may be a housewife, but boy can she stand her ground when she wants to. When she catches Homer hoarding food for the apocalypse, she says, “You can’t have secrets from your wife!”I’m going back over the entire twenty four seasons in my mind, trying to count how many times Homer has kept a secret from Marge. Nope…can’t do it.One of the funniest episodes (especially since I live in the state of New York, which has had a great deal of controversy over standardized testing) was number ten, “A Test Before Trying.” The future of the school hangs on Bart’s test results, since he decided to skip on that particular day. His fellow classmates take the marathon tests to the Exorcist theme, with exhausted students collapsing and getting swept to the front of the room by Groundskeeper Willy. When Marge goes to Principal Skinner’s office, he whips out a bottle of vodka and she asks, “You’ve been in public education a long time, haven’t you?” The parallel story line involves Homer making money from a parking meter he found at the dump, even though he and Marge have been making an effort to downsize on things at home (like the shrimp deveiner). At least the meter brings in some cash, but being the hapless guy that he is, Homer gets a little too greedy and is busted in the end, as usual.One of the best things about The Simpsons is the lineup of celebrity guest voices. Season 24 saw the return of Zooey Deschanel as Bart’s love interest, Mary Spuckler, who seems like the most intelligent and talented child in Cletus’s sprawling redneck family. Alas, Bart, being the eternal pre-teenage boy, is far more interested in video games, and loses Mary yet again. Family Guy guy Seth MacFarlane voices a married man who bonds with Marge in the second part of the season finale, “Dangers on a Train.” (Note to Marge: Sassy Madison and Dolly Madison are NOT the same thing!) This same episode gives us a nice little spoof of Breaking Bad, and reveals Marge’s addiction (pun definitely intended) to a show called Upton Rectory. There is even a nod (I think) to Modern Family in Episode 11, “Changing of the Guardian,” where we find that grumpy sisters Patty and Selma have adopted a Chinese girl who is already being pushed to overachieving. Even if you don’t watch the shows they’re referencing, you’ve probably at least heard of them and know the general idea, so they’re easy to recognize and the mini-spoofs are really funny. Even some of the supporting cast members take moments in the spotlight, including Lenny’s buddy Carl, who we find out is from…Iceland? In the first half of the season finale, “The Saga of Carl,” his shameful past is revealed when he takes lottery winnings from his friends, flees to his home country to clear his name, then tells his friends they’ve never really been his friends all along. That was a bigger surprise than finding out he was from Iceland, which is also home to the Fjord Fiesta and Yukki’s Grossfud, which serves up traditional rotten shark meat.No, really…people in Iceland eat rotten shark meat. Watch Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern sometime…even he thought it was disgusting.Anyway, Milhouse has his own moment in the sun with “Hardly Kirk-ing,” in which he pretends to be his dad and gets to do grown up stuff like take urine flow pills, vote, and rent a car. He even gets hit up for a casual encounter, which of course is where the charade ends. It’s cute to see Milhouse trying to emulate his dad, but even Kirk admits in the end that he’s a loser. I would like to say that maybe things will change for Milhouse when he gets older, but none of the characters in the show age, ever. Back in January, as the Academy Awards were approaching, I started seeing that a Simpsons short was up for an award in the short  animated film category…a first for the series. In the five-minute span of “The Longest Daycare,” Maggie goes up against her rival, the creepy unibrow baby, to save a caterpillar that morphs into a butterfly by the end. Not one word is spoken during the film, and I won’t reveal details because it’s so touching and very much worth watching…definitely one of the show’s highest points. It was shown in 3D format before screenings of Ice Age: Continental Drift, but lost out to Paperman at the Oscars even though it was well received by audiences. It just goes to show that the creators can make a short film that’s as good as (perhaps better than) a full length feature movie.Final review: Arrrrrrgh, I don’t want The Simpsons to end! It’s lasted this long because of its inventive plot lines, irreverent humor, and simply by keeping up with everything going on in the world, especially as related to pop culture. If Season 25 is going to be the last, it’s going to have to have a big premiere and go out with a bang in the finale. The last episode with Seth MacFarlane was supposed to be the opening episode for next season, but got bumped, so who knows what’s going to beat that for a premiere?  I remember seeing some of the very early Simpsons cartoons all the way back in 1987 when it first appeared on The Tracey Ullman Show. If you go back and watch them now, you can see how far the characters and animation have evolved. The voices sound funny, the family looks weird…who would have thought that this bunch of yellow skinned, google eyed folks would become some of the biggest players in the realm of animated shows? It hurts my heart to think that its run is ending after so long. Congratulations, Simpsons. You will go down in history as cartoon royalty.Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for all news updates related to the world of geek. And Google+, if that’s your thing!