This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.
The Simpsons: Season 30 Episode 13
The Simpsons Season 30, Episode 13, “I’m Dancing as Fat as I Can,” is a Valentine’s Day offering, gifting us with a tale of marital regeneration with a secondary story about boosting sales at Krustylu Studios. The sales pitch winds up offside, but the rekindling of Homer and Marge’s marriage catches sparks, without resorting to dirty dancing.
The episode opens when Marge’s aunt Eunice dies. Homer’s self-absorbed reactions are classic. He really thinks what men are all thinking and have been since the dawn of the sitcom. Marge does everything to make her leave of absence easier on Homer. He bakes a loaf of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that only have to be cut to be served fully prepared, sets the robo-sweeper on superfast and only gives Homer one edict. He is not to watch “Odder Stuff,” the Netflx series the two have bonded over. The shared experience made the show “their thing” to Marge, ranking up there with the couple’s wedding birthday, and Marge’s birth anniversary.
More than a few marriages have been saved, and destroyed, by Odder Stuff. Binge-watching turns a dating ritual into a romantic Stockholm Syndrome, the bonds are as deep as the butt indentations in the cushions of the couch. Marge takes this seriously. Homer resists the urge to break down and binge for a long time. He endures the water cooler crowd, his own children’s taunts and Lenny’s “Odder Stuff” fan fiction in an attempt to stay true.
Marge actually gets through to Homer. Her simple directives force him to skip the kids’ indulgence in favor of family-approved fair. His first choice is a delicious reference to Bojack Horseman, which Homer passes off as too depressing. He finally breaks down, in a feat he himself is proud of: accomplishing something he never should have started. Marge is absolutely right to offer him nothing but the icy glare of her disappointment to keep him warm at night. This is deeply personal to her and Homer tries to pass it off with the banality of some TV show. The Simpsons love TV, and television has had a fairly long romance with the family. They also have a long history with dance. Lisa’s oversized head gave her perfect balance and Bart was once coached by a ballet teacher voiced by Susan Sarandon.
Netflix got Homer into this and Netflix gets him out. Ted Sarandos built his Netflix empire just to do a voice on The Simpsons. It was all part of his evil plan. His streaming service is so much a part of people’s lives, they can program those lives through recommended content. He also suggests Homer watch the latest Chris Rock special without Marge as well. She’s not interested in that. She likes dance shows. Sarandos knows all.
Homer goes for lessons at the strip mall dance academy Some of That Jazz. The lithe and lively instructor promises she will never give up. Homer is a hard case and she takes him on as a personal challenge. The pair’s dance sequence is a nice bit of physical humor, but what puts it over the edge is the second time Homer breaks the mirrored walls. He is a mastodon in a china shop. He makes a little progress, learning that stepping on the toes of his dance partner causes pain, something he actually files away for later. But for all his retention, his dancing is so bad even the woman who never gives up pirouettes him into someone else’s arms.
One crowd-pleasing visual gag is Santa’s Little Helper winding up in Homer’s disguise. We see it coming, and gives a warm and cuddly tingle to the otherwise insidious late night endeavor. Barney blows Homer’s cover. Saying his best customer hasn’t been in the bar in weeks before he remembers it’s the author of the Iliad and the odyssey who hasn’t been around since 700 BC.
Dual storylines are mixed bag on The Simpsons. Sometimes one of the subplots gets too little service. Sometimes it eats at the main one. Nobody’s watching Krusty the Clown anymore, he anguishes. What with the downloading, streaming and everything else that’s better, he needs a good gimmick to grub more cash from kids. Krusty lives by the physics of comedy, and that includes how he manages his finances. He decides on “Krusty’s Holiday Trample,” a competition where three kids get to grab as much merchandise they can throw in a shopping cart the quickest, only because it works within comedy’s rule of three.
The most subversive comedy comes in this segment, as the clown sells his ideas to kids saying they should love Krusty more than “god and America.” He also uses the word “diddly” on TV, something Ned Flanders takes exception to. It’s nice to see Ned relegated to punch line status. He’s taken up a lot of time lately and is funnier in smaller doses. Side characters are that way for a reason.
The competitors at the game come down to Bart, Millhouse and Ralph Wiggum. Bart cheats to an early lead, but it would be too easy. The episode gives a nod to Apocalypse Now!, as Ralph rises from the slime to pedal past destiny. All three kids know to hit hyperspace when confronted with Solo: A Star Wars Story merchandise. Bart gets back in time to see the romantic conclusion, but misses it as he gets caught up in paddle game.
The Simpsons‘ “I’m Dancing as Fat as I Can” follows what has become an almost cookie cutter redemption arc. The issue of binge-watch bonding is a deeply personal one, and Lisa’s very moving reaction to her parents having a moment is very effective. But we’ve seen it before, just a few weeks ago. One of the best things about Marge and Homer’s marriage is that it is constantly on the verge of collapse. This offers a multitude of opportunities for redemption, something Homer usually does with a grand gesture. Some of his grand gestures have been completely accidental, such as when he landed at Marge’s feet in a hail of roses. Homer studies hard to make this particular gesture. It is a true work out that works out. Things didn’t always work out for the Simpsons even in their happiest of endings and I miss the ambiguity.
“I’m Dancing as Fat as I Can” was directed by Matthew Nastuk, and written by Jane Becker.
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, Professor John I.Q. Nerdelbaum Frink Jr., and Moe. Harry Shearer is Seymour Skinner, Kent Brockman, C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest stars: Ted Sarandos as himself.
The Simpsons‘ “I’m Dancing as Fat as I Can” aired Sunday, February 10 at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.
Culture Editor Tony Sokol cut his teeth on the wire services and also wrote and produced New York City’s Vampyr Theatre and the rock opera AssassiNation: We Killed JFK. Read more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.