The Simpsons Season 30 Episode 22 Review: Woo-Hoo Dunnit?

The Simpsons befuddle the true crime investigative documentary genre in Woo-Hoo Dunnit?

This The Simpsons review contains spoilers.

The Simpsons: Season 30 Episode 22

The Simpsons, season 30, episode 22, “Woo-Hoo Dunnit?,” is the best episode of the season. The Simpsons thrive on parody. It’s one of those things which never get old. And The Simpsons know old. Besides Grandpa and Montgomery Burns, the show itself is thirty years old. Gunsmoke never got that old, probably because gunsmoking shortens lives. A film or TV parody limits the possibilities to a specific film, with the reference falling mainly within shorter parameters. This is a genre parody.

“Woo-Hoo Dunnit?” is presented as an episode on the show “Dateline Springfield.” They make quite a big thing about the voice actor. In the beginning of the show he pampers his vocal cords beyond belief. He scrubs them, rubs them, gargles all the way to work and even has an aide carrying a little umbrella to keep away the unnatural moisture of rain. At the end he has emergency surgery, taking the vocal cords of a lamb. That’s makes him one ba-a-a-adass vocal interpreter, a Ray Donovan of the art. This can be taken as a nod to some of the voice talent on The Simpsons itself.

The documentary style gives all of the characters, big and small, a chance to feature their most humorous sides both directly to the camera and in seq. Hank Azaria has a field day with a secondary lead, the chief investigator of the case, Springfield’s Chief Wiggum. He’s seen enough cop shows to consider himself something of an amateur crime solver. He punctuates every piece of evidence in the case. He even gets his belly ticked just to prove a dog-eared theory. And his person-of-interest scene is very revealing.

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Azaria also pulls in a classic moment for Professor John I.Q. Nerdelbaum Frink Jr., who gets caught in a Jerry Lewis loop he may never get out of. Bartender Moe sells out his best customer, and Comic Book Guy makes his most unforgettable moment demanding to be forgotten.

Because it is a criminal investigation, many of the characters are featured as suspects. Krusty the Clown, voiced by Dan Castellaneta who also voices Homer, gets an emotional interlude tonight. He buys an alto sax from King Toot, played by guest voice actor Will Forte, because his father, voiced by the late Jackie Mason, forbade it. Castellenata’s Groundkeeper Willie also has supremely gratifying moments. Harry Shearer’s C. Montgomery Burns is also a suspect in a case far below his pay grade, which he proves by burning cash, and having burners’ remorse in retrospect. After all the unusual suspects are crossed off the list, it appears to be an inside job.

Julie Kavner gives Marge an amazing range tonight. When we finally get to the bottom of the whole case, we learn it’s all been a double blind. Marge Simpson has always been the biggest enabler on television, but tonight she grits her teeth and bares some fangs protecting the dignity and reputation of her family. They all have ethical flaws. None of them have alibis. Because she is the smartest, Lisa has the best motive, and Yeardley Smith mixes indignity with ambiguity to give a nuanced performance. But they all are prime suspects in the crime at the center of the case.

The “Dateline Springfield” documentary opens by painting the Simpsons as a loving family. “The only thing the needed were each other,” narrator, yes Liev Schreiber, informs us. They are a family with normal goals, like little Maggie’s quest to be the next Lindberg baby. And a grandfather who even Ken Burns found more boring than baseball. But the Simpsons’ nucleus is on the verge of being split. “All this talk of tearing us apart is tearing us apart,” Marge says. It is then we learn the crime, $670.42, Lisa’s college plan, which comes to about three weeks at a middling institution without a food plan, has been stolen.

We learn by subversion that the investigation was doomed from the beginning. When Lisa first called in the theft to 911, she offended the dispatcher who ended the call by humming a fake dial tone and informing her help is no longer on the way. Homer and Bart explain they’d never steal anything, while drinking out of Flanderses’ cups obviously past the recommended “borrowed” date. Soon the whole town learns about the theft and it is competing in local headlines with “Who Wore It Best, Sherri or Terri?”

Shockingly, the crime is not solved in the first five minutes of the show.

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The Springfield police do some Cracker Jack detective work. Officer Lou figures out Homer couldn’t have found the cleanser container the money was in while in a food frenzy because “the sick bastard licked those walls clean.” Who needs bleach powder when you have a tongue? The documentary brings out the worst insinuations against each of the suspects. When Lisa takes back the reed she’d been playing a 600 dollar saxophone with, the narrator admonishes “you can’t spell reed without greed.” They refer to Marge’s Olive Oyl-good looks.

Then they get to el Barto. Nancy Cartwright is at her taunting and irreverent best as Bart takes none of the proceedings seriously. The very first time he deigns to appear on camera, it is only to lure the narrator into a prank. Of course, Bart is hiding something. He’s become a Slime Kingpin. He’s cornered the market on a gooey fad. While Slime is treated like a drug, Lisa’s saxophone blows sexual innuendo.

Stop calling the sofa a love seat, I barely like it, but I do adore this episode. The mystery is finally solved, long after the documentary filmmakers leave. All of the worst suspicions are true, although one mystery remains. What is the mark-up on detachable doilies? The Simpsons‘ “Woo-Hoo Dunnit?” is a latter day classic. It caps a season which has been finding a very reliable footing.

“D’oh Canada” was written by  Brian Kelley, and directed by Steven Deane Moore.

The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer and Abe Simpson, Krusty the Clown and Groundskeeper Willia, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Comic Book Guy, 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 voices: Ken Burns as himself, Will Forte as King Toot, Jackie Mason as Rabbi Krustofsky and Liev Schreiber.

The Simpsons‘ “Woo-Hoo Dunnit?” aired Sunday, May 5, at 8:00 p.m. on Fox.

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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 JFKRead more of his work here or find him on Twitter @tsokol.


4.5 out of 5