This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 29 Episode 11
Only the sharpest razors in the Halloween candy will survive the upcoming holocaust. Nostradamus predicted it’s coming soon and he’s never been wrong once. It should have been here already, the first sign of the apocalypse was when Fleetwood Mac reunited. Now that the anti-Christ is in the White House in The Simpsons season 29, episode 11, is it any wonder “Frink Gets Testy.”
The first cut is the deepest tonight. The fictitious The Learning Network, a cable channel that promotes itself as educational, classical and historic, is running the most tawdry, high voltage programming for APOCALYPSE WEEK: “Ebola Meteor,” “Nukes of Hazard,” and “Jesus Christ Superstorm.” It’s the Learning Channel, History Channel and Arts and Entertainment all wrapped in one. The punch line is that they’re still running documentaries from the forty years ago.
The man who controls the present is watching the documentary on the man who saw the future, the Prophet Nostradamus, who saw this episode in the past and wrote sixteen quatrains about it. Montgomery Burns is so upset by the coming conflagration he calls in the comfort hounds, and then makes comforters out of them. The man who has it all only wants a little bit more, but will settle for much more. All if he can get it. In the documentary, where others see gloom, doom, despair and a wine served before it’s time, Burns sees opportunity.
Burns gathers Mensa, which is not an acronym, to find the brightest minds in Springfield to join him on the Montgomery Burns Doomsday Arc. Here they will be subject to his miserly rule and used to wreak terror on the living, who already envy the dead. The pay sucks, and the retirement plan is commensurate with the one provided by the Springfield Nuclear Plant, but they get almost nothing in return, only an idiot would pass that up. This brings us to why Professor Frink gets testy.
Frink developed a new method of determining value that far surpasses the IQ test, which only measures intelligence. It doesn’t take into account traits like arrogance, slovenliness, health, hygiene, and altruism. The Mensa people know about quark, strangeness and charm, but do you want them fixing a toilet? Frink’s Personal Value Quota, or PVQ, takes everything into account to determine an individual’s raw worth as a person. It is the yardstick of the soul.
The test is like a son to Frink. He raised it from a quiz. Frink is so happy about the PVQ he doesn’t just give a lecture. He sings its praises, with a 1 and a 2, and a 3.14159, in one highlight of the episode. The song is broken down in measures of intelligence and counterintelligence, but the town genii still look surprised when they’re suddenly decked out in full dance regalia. They should have seen it coming. We learn that Waylon Smithers is planning a sex change. He’s already decided on a name, Wanda, and he’s also planning how to join Mr. Burns’ concubines on the arc.
Sadly, Frink isn’t given enough air time in an episode that bears his name, and the test he designs does became all about intelligence. Burns needs utilitarian cogs who won’t turn on him, but the town turns it into a chance to shame the bottom dwellers. In a not-so-subtle caste system, Lisa, who aces everything, obsesses over how she could come in lower than Ralph Wiggum. Bart is last on the list and sees his entire future, most of which is still in front of him, shatter into a firecracker explosion of pointlessness. It could almost be an existential moment, but Marge shuts that down before the next commercial.
The other highlight is the recurring gag of the Orson Welles commentary, from his classic films through his wines to his botched productions. At one point he talks about being tasked to make a rainbow, but spent his whole budget on indigo. This leads to his momentous and triumphant decision to play red himself. Imagine what he could do with a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame he himself could not get into.
The Simpsons have a knack for celebrity taunts and revel in irreverence. The only rule they have to respect is never be a cat in a cartoon, ask Scratchy. When Homer learns he’s replaced Bart as the town oaf, he figures all possibilities end when he hits 40. Marge confirms it by pointing out George W. Bush quit drinking and became president after the age of 39, two huge mistakes. They get in a subliminal religious snicker when Homer’s penmanship lessons are notarized by Jesus H. Christ, Esquire.
The cursive has been the bane of The Simpsons for years. Nowhere nearly as pronounced as Sideshow Bob’s rake problems, it’s been simmering underneath. When Bart went to the special school at the Scorpio Corporation compound, he admitted he knew hell and damn, and was placed in the slow class for troubled children. Homer’s handwriting has been erratic. He’s written nicely and he’s written sloppily, depending on the joke. Usually he prints. But here, proper penmanship not only counts for something, it gives Homer special writing skills. He’s always getting something for nothing. He may be the worst man in Springfield, but he is always growing.
The Simpsons is becoming increasingly top-heavy. Some of that has to do with Homer. Not because he thinks pigs are magical but mythical creatures that produce bacon, ham and pork. But because Dan Castellaneta’s voice can carry any tirade, rant or sound for however long it takes for the premise to set in. The best episodes veer into the main premise from oddly tangential angles. This puts most of the funny at the beginning. During the classic years, The Simpsons’ episodes grew funnier as they went. Now, the biggest laughs come quick, and then it feels like the writers need a lie down.
“Frink Gets Testy” was written by Dan Vebber, and directed by Chris Clements.
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 Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers.
Chalkboard: Strangling is not an effective parenting tool.