The Simpsons: Season 28 Episode 18
This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons‘ season 28 episode 18, “A Father’s Watch,” is about inflated self-esteem, something the show knows at least a little about. Starting out as a proto-slacker series of short animated skits, The Simpsons were always told they were special. Whether they got credit for being bad, like they did when ex-Vice President Dan Quayle or ex-celebrated TV dad Bill Cosby came down on them, or for being good, such as when they’re deft social commentary occasionally hit a headline grabbing funny bone, The Simpsons have always patted themselves on the back. Hell, once they hit 20 seasons there was almost no living with them. Remember the behind the scenes clip shows?
So now they’re handing out and taking back plaques, trophies of nebulous achievement which diminishes the exemplary works being done by star students. Good. Star students should get pulled down a notch, what with their snooty knowledge and quick access to facts or talents that regular kids don’t have. Why should only the tall excel in basketball, or the strong and fast run into the end zone when there are still flabby pouched, tobacco chewing, only-run-when-I’m-stealing semi-athletes taking home a World Series Pennant. When everybody wins, everybody loses, The Simpsons seem to be saying.
They blame the parents of course. Because it is a family show and families love experts coming into their lives and telling them what do to do. Do they? I kind of see Grandpa Simpson as the type who’d stand by the door with a Lugar if anyone wanted to dissect his parenting skills. But no, Grandpa has learned, in all his years of surreptitious discernment, that the men in the Simpson family have something to be proud of: the destruction of the spirit of each successive generation.
Abe can boost Bart’s confidence, while at the same time solidifying his part in deflating the self-esteem in his own kid, with the twist of a watch. And oh boy what a watch. Stolen from a grave in the 80s, it has been a family tradition longer than the family can remember and still, it can only fetch about twenty bucks today. Even if only a little of this really happened, Bart finds a sunburn of pride fill him with creepy optimism.
So what’s really wrong with Bart? His dissection skills may be a little askew, but he has heart. A pig’s heart, when he’s filled with the pride of the old watch. The audience learns at the very beginning that, after 28 seasons of random destruction and wanton indifference, that 10 year Bart is never going to win student of the year, day or quarter-hour. Marge, of course, will never give up on the kid who reminds her so much of the man she loves and puts up with. She cannot accept that there’s nothing to be done, which Homer prefers to having to give all they’ve got.
Lisa has given all she’s got all her life and has the real trophies on the shelves that Homer built in her room to prove it. Not that she needs to prove anything. Lisa is an overachiever and a selfless self-promoter. Yes, she occasionally passes off credit to the less inclined, like when she gave Ralph Wiggum props for being smart enough to ask her for help stopping a real execution. It is not surprising that she and Homer come up with the same philosophical conclusion, everyone sucks. No one deserves trophies. Give Up Trying.
It seems like just a few weeks ago that Homer was bitching and moaning about how many awards were being given out to too many people who did too little and would say too much. It’s an old problem, and it’s a new problem and these kinds of things can’t be solved with new math because there are no American trophies in metric at the 2nd Grade Math Pentathlon. And what ribbon could Bart possibly stick on his lapel? Most buggers rubbed on the bedroom wall?
Good lines, very funny lines, not quite as ever-flowing as has been this season’s usual. But a show about positive reinforcement doesn’t need quite so many lines to make the point. It just has to make the point repeatedly. Or in song, as Homer does often. Castellenata should sing something in every episode. Even a line or two brings a special grin. This goes back as far as his take on Steve Miller’s “The Joker.” Homer is a master song interpreter, especially when he forgets the words.
All of the Simpsons family pets are accounted for in the couch gag, except one of Lisa’s cute, brown non-Snowball cat when she lost too many in a row.
I don’t know whether to reward this episode with a trophy star. It was a very edumacational episode and I believe it taught me a lesson about the arbitrary designation of excellence or worse. It might be better to grit my teeth and give up trying. But “A Father’s Watch” tries, sometimes a little too hard, but at least it didn’t take a page from a Quentin Tarantino movie, like South Park did. And Moe yells a third thing to be part of the group.
“A Father’s Watch” was written by Simon Rich and directed by Bob Anderson. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Kirk Van Houten, Chief Wiggum and Moe. Harry Shearer is Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Tress Macneille and Pamela Hayden also star. Guest star Brian Posehn as Dumlee.
Chalkboard: Studying is not appropriating nerd culture.
But It All Went By So Fast: Report Card: Bart – Science F. History F. Math F. PE D. Music F. Art D. Lunch Incomplete. Clarity Hoffman-Roth, Author of The Myth of the Imperfect Child. Tonight Successorizing Your Child. Smallest Carbon Footprint – Lisa Simpson. Spelling Bee Women. Hall Monitor of the Year. The Erosion of Accomplishment by Lisa Simpson.
Professor Simpson Universal Panacea for Disagreeable Juveniles. 1+3=Ralph.
Tonight: Dr. Fenton Pooltoy Atrophy: The Weakening of the American Child.
End of Fad Sale. Now worthless trophies 15% off.
As Abe strangled his grandson, their shadow moved upon a wheel of violence that spon from father and sons and their sons once more.