The Simpsons’ “Super Franchise Me” is a little bit of self-mockery, a smidgeon of social commentary and a dash of d’oh. It’s not a full meal and it doesn’t come with a slice of cantaloupe, but it can be taken as a dig at the also-rans that are also running on the network they call home.
I sense a pattern on The Simpsons season 26 and I’m not liking it. This is the year of the retreaded setups. Last week, Marge took charge of Homer’s fantasy football team, much like Lisa handicapped football for Homer a few seasons ago. Two weeks ago, in the season opener, Krusty’s father died, much like last season opened with the death of the most beloved person in Springfield. And now, Marge is opening a franchise. Much like she had a mob-enforced pretzel monopoly a few years ago.
Even the couch gag was derivative. Pick another Cat Stevens tune, that one was used by Ricky Gervais on Extras. Okay, maybe Ricky gave permission when he was a guest star on The Simpsons but still, Stevens has quite the catalog. Though I admit, I liked the Tea for the Tillerman artwork takeoff and I never get tired of Homer tucking a table cloth in his pants.
Oh and what about Homer bankrupting a Pizza Hut with the all you can drink jumbo cup? There was an entire episode about all you can eat. The most open and close case of false advertising since The Never Ending Story.
There are laughs, though. Not all of them tired. The Simpsons usually doesn’t skimp on good lines and visual gags. Homer makes a beautiful crotch model. Professor Frink’s job interview is a beauty of understated megloiben, though Gil, what can I say? He’s a little tiresome for a whole episode. Sorry Jack Lemmon, but you’ll never get those Glengarry leads. I did like his corpse suit, though, it was airy. The hillbillies, Cletus and the gang, are also little too much in one spot. But I am a sucker for one-liners and really never get tired of their endless supply of backwoods names and down home cooking. It looks like fox, but it isn’t.
All of that being said, The Simpsons offers some very subtle social commentary and there really aren’t enough Marge-centered episodes. Marge is a capable woman, one of the best moms on TV and we know she can can glaze a ham until it gives off a glow that can be seen on the International Space Station. She is obviously at home with the spatulas and the sliced pickles.
Corporate screwery and cannibalism is rampant and The Simpsons never tire of biting of the gaping mouth that feeds them, Fox. It is obvious that Fox makes a lot of money from the series and treats them with little respect. They open franchises like Family Guy and Bob’s Burgers right across the street from Evergreen Terrace. Fox puts them up after football and while that hasn’t impacted it this season, it has in seasons past.
Because I am an admitted Simpsonsfiliac, I usually try to find the subtext under the text and I believe that this episode is a veiled reference to the sidelining of The Simpsons. Maybe last week’s episode was a protest episode. Yeah, that makes me feel better.
The wait and worry bit worked for me, especially when we see Homer seeking comfort with Reverend Lovejoy. They’ve had a rocky relationship, but in time of need, before the meat is ready, Homer can always find solace, or at least sleep, during the reverend’s counsel. I didn’t like that Lisa would pass on meat to her classmates, being part of the food chain like she matriculated at Bovine Academy. Of course, this might be further commentary on the sell-out nature of all things franchised.
Mr. Burns never disappoints, when he believes his date dies, he instructs Smithers to “put her body with the others.” Flanders almost gets upset. He’s actually cross and admits to a higher power than even he believes in. Yes, pulled more plugs than a Dutch doctor. But to deny his neighbor? That’s not very flanderstanding.
The episode works, but just a little more than barely and only if you squint your eyes and look at it through the eyes of its self-referencing satire. If you look to close it’s more of a cardboard cut-out that can be blown over by a mouth organ.
“Super Franchise Me” was written by Bill Odenkirk and directed by Mark Kirkland. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Groundskeeper Willie, Gil Gunderson and Principal Skinner, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson, Pamela Hayden as Millhouse. Hank Azaria plays Moe Szyslak and Professor Frink..
But It All Went By So Fast: Flander’s Jebus figurinos say Jesus is my coach; Jesus checks Satan into the boards; Jesus dunks on Judas; Jesus wins biathlon. The countdown to the rapture is at 9645:43. Homer reads Timepassers and Can’t Focus magazines. A sandwich is when bread gives meat a hug. Now hiring: Must be licensed to use a mayonnaise gun. Two great sandwiches. Two great meals.