The Simpsons: Season 28 Episode 22
This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons Season 28 Episode 22, “Dogtown,” panders to puppy love and yet somehow manages to mangle the mutts into a mangy mess of mischievous mayhem. Who doesn’t love cute puppies, playing piano, getting their snouts stuck in pickle jars or scratching their butts along the concrete to clean their fire hydrant debris? Cats will get their day, but doggies are adorable. They are instant memes, man’s best friend, blind people’s eyes and the saviors of drunken arctic explorers.
There used to be a popular T-shirt that read “the more I know people, the more I love my dog.” Homer gets to put that to the test when his GPS system guides him careening down garbage alley with just enough room to spare either perennial ne’er-do-well-enough Gil Gunderson or his own roving greyhound Santa’s Helper. Homer pulls Snoopy’s Choice, but with only a smidgeon of reluctance, and even that because of the looming lawsuit. The Simpson family practices groveling to screw the biggest failure in town out of his one sure win, a court fight with the guy who casually opted to hospitalize him. They are callous. They are conniving. But they bring cake. And the best comic mouthpiece this side of the one who represented Kramer on Seinfeld. He’s not as beloved as Lionel Hutz, but he is growing on me. The Simpsons could lose everything they have. While that’s not much, it is all they have. They might even have to rent out the kids to more or less affluent families.
What’s with the British accents? It makes sense in Lisa’s abandonment fantasia, where she is transported into the Victorian alternative to a Dickensian orphanage, but it carries on into the court scene with Bart, who wasn’t part of the fantasy. Freed to be a student of life, not of anatomy, he sees himself selling two kidneys for a special deal, nothing inherently British in that. Last week it was Moe, intimating his intentions to a semi-interested Sideshow Mel with a wink and a nod. It is random, while Bart’s cockney crocodile tears are purposeful, and legally lethal.
Not only does the mob prefer the mutt over the failure, but the loser plaintiff gets stepped on over and over at the end of the trial. One extra lap to retrieve Homer’s cellphone. This works on as many levels as a football to the groin. It’s a variation on an oft-shown gag, but remains timeless. Done with a triplet set-up, the extra crunch the animators put into the bones of the unluckiest man in Springfield is perfectly set up by Homer’s downplayed afterthought. Dan Castellaneta’s voice can make anything funny, even the whole setup for the “look what the cat dragged in” line.
The Mayor has a new voice, and it’s not backed by the electorate. Springfield is going to the dogs and Quimby is a never one to strain at the collar. The perennial politician, he bows to the will of the masses. He gives the dogcatcher his pink slip, frees the dogs and opens to the gates to Springfield’s Apawcalypse.
Everyone in Springfield follows the crowd. That’s part of what makes it America’s most representative town, even if Rand McNally won’t put it on the map. Of course they’re going to side with the canines, who always revert to traveling in packs. Gil’s nose isn’t even cold. It sounds like a good idea. Locking pets up in cages until they’re put to sleep is horrible animal cruelty. And that inhuman animal hospital looks like something they found on the Island of Doctor Moreau.
At first everything goes great. In a flash of foreshadow, Marge gets a poodle do at the local salon. But soon the dogs get into everything but the dog food. What’s next? Cats using credit cards? Dr. Budgie, played by Michael York doing a kind of James Mason, is the stereotypical mad veterinarian who knows the end is near. If that’s not a stereotype yet, it should be. He knows that, deprived of human dominance, the dogs will revert to their primal state and humanity is doomed. It probably wasn’t a coincidence that Fox aired the premiere of the new Planet of the Apes movie. The Alpha Dog is of course a chilling Chihuahua with an obvious Napoleon complex. Domesticity falls as fast as humans can say “let them eat Ken L Ration.”
The first thing Santa Little Helper does when he heeds the call of the wild is to rip the stuffing out of the seats in Homer’s car. This is bad continuity, even for a cartoon. It was already established that Homer tried to dive a parking meter home, and that run was the most exercise he’s gotten since finding Burns in the woods.
The dogs soon make Springfield’s mankind their bitches. They have no concern and no decency. They go around sniffing each other’s butts like they don’t stink and generally dominate and subjugate everything around them. That’s humanses jobs, Moe says. He knows feral, but not as well as Groundskeeper Willie, who finally finds a place in a herd. Willie has always had a soft spot for the canine class. When Bart cried wolf to skip a test, it was Willie who shared a victory drink.
Crazy Cat Lady gets the chance to save the day, but her feline armature only gets her so far. Crazy Cat Lady needs subtitles, but the funniest line she has we will never know because it can only be translated as gibberish. The audience immediately, subliminally, needs to know what it was about that line that was gibberish, more incomprehensible than the other lines, which were for the most part, quite sublime.
Because this is The Simpsons, it is Lisa and Bart’s job to save Springfield from falling entirely into the dog pack’s hands. “Paws,” Lisa corrects, making the last thing the know-it-all teacher’s pet would do in life be to correct her know-almost-nothing brother. She’s fine with that. There is a comfort in being right, even as your face is being chewed off like so much rawhide. Dr. Budgie doesn’t get that comfort. He’s proven right and Chief Wiggum tightens the cuffs.
It takes Marge to be the alpha dog. She doesn’t do it through excessive violence. She picks on the runt of the litter and wins over the pack with firm, unwavering understanding. Who doesn’t like dogs? Marge’s down home wisdom and scraggly voice is like a dog whistle.
“Dogtown” is a season end treat. It puts a dangerous spin on a cuddly tail, and keeps the laughs coming at a steady pace. Everything turns out alright in the end. It’s a dog’s life, after all.
“Dogtown” was written by J. Stewart Burns and directed by Steven Dean Moore. 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. Guest star: Michael York as Dr. Budgie.
Chalkboard: Thank you for 28 great years… Taylor Swift.
But It All Went By So Fast: Ralph Wiggum is a stork delivery return. Tire Fire Barbecue: Get your car-broiled steak. Ezcape. Brake Malfunction: Service Due May 2009. Springfield General Hospital: Birthplace of drug-resistant gangrene. For He’s A Jolly Good Plaintiff. Springfield Court House: Justice for Most. Dog Yay Afternoon.
No, You Shut Up! With Anger Watkins. First Church of Springfield: A Mighty Fortress is our Dog. The Paws that Refreshes. I own a dog and I vote. It’s not anti-cat to be pro-dog. Death to squirrels. Let Mutts Sniff butts. Welcome to Springfield: Pooch Paradise. Puppy Gap. Bones and Noble. Abercrombie and Fetch. Rovers Palace Casino. Mario’s Meats.
Lionel Budgie, D.V.M. Not the DMV, that’s across the street.
Emergency Meeting tonight – Topic: Second Thoughts.
I can take you no further. Good luck my friends.