The Simpsons had to go to another galaxy to beam down a classic episode. Or was it another season? Another reason to love the steady but firm hand of Al Jean on the series. Jean co-wrote this episode, which is a singular highlight to this lackluster season. This was supposed to be a season finale a couple years ago, probably bumped by a Dallas game that went way past sudden death, which may explain why it works on so many levels without a single football to the groin.
Sure, “The Man Who Came To Be Dinner” is just a “Treehouse of Horrors” segment stretched to a full half hour. And yeah, that whole bit with the potato chips comes right out of the episode when Homer became an astronaut. And okay, they’ve kinda played the Kubrick 2001 thing to death, but this is classic Simpsons. Why? Because almost every line of dialog is a punch line, even the set-ups, so put your eyeballs together in a round of applause.
The Simpsons start where they all began, kinda, at Dizzneeland, the happiest hell on earth. No, The Simpsons didn’t start with the mouse, they started on The Tracey Ullman Show and she was no Mouseketeer, but Walt and the gang were the start of modern animation. They weren’t the best, they weren’t even that good, they were just the first and The Simpsons never let you forget it. From the very first long trek from the parking lot to the amusement park to the tune of your favorite magician’s apprentice, The Simpsons is just one “are we there yet” away from a magic mountain.
The Simpson family is met at the gate by the surly Chippendale security force who plant evidentiary chestnuts on Homer, beat him and take away Maggie’s pacifier. It’s funny how an episode made for another season can still be so relevant at any given moment. Though, chestnuts like these are perennial. Disney will always be a cash machine and a uniform never met a nightstick it didn’t like. The politically correct Pirates of the Caribbean ride, changed because of multiple complaints by two people, was only mildly more offensive than it must have been before the letters came pouring in.
Attractive families in commercials would be eaten alive by the wholesome Dizzneeland fun while still standing in line, but we’re putting the dessert before the appetizer, unsuspecting fools.
Kang and Kodos live on Rigel VII now. If I’m remembering correctly, that’s an upgrade from Rigel IV, but not enough of an upgrade to afford them fondue forks. All the Rigelians look kinda like Principal Skinner to me. They traded in their Pong games for Asteroids, which Comic Book Guy might call the pinnacle of arcade games.
At Den of Geek, we always appreciate a good Star Trek reference. Tonight’s episode had a tribbleful. From the Tricorder readings (a tricorder actually looks like an old style cassette recorder, but it records everything in triplicate), which if you didn’t know, Dr. Spock designed, to the closing credits. Marge may be a blue lady from Orion but the Simpsons will never develop tentacles.
There are a lot of similarities between Dizzneeland and Rigel VII. It is a small world, after all, and the escape is futile at both places. The Riding on a Bug sequence was a great metaphor for the cycle of life, kiddie rides are a slippery slope into truly treacherous territory and just when you think it’s over, welcome to the bug. On Rigel VII humans are always a pot away from a stew and in Dizzneebland humans are just fodder for an acid bath, to be harvested for their ears. Only the space broccoli are sensitive enough to empathize.
I love how Marge is still consistently creeped out by things just as Homer still can find endless pleasure in the smallest reanimations. Lisa will always be the wet blanket, especially if she’s right and Bart will always find new ways to entangle the family just a bit further. Lisa meets and alienates a Rigellian Lisa who shares a toy that can be anything in the universe, except a ball. Lisa has never been that good at bouncing anyway. Remember the trouble she had when she was bumped to second chair sax? And Maggie? Well, the kid’s got talent, but come on.
As always, Homer does the right thing. He doesn’t do it right away and he doesn’t quite get it right, but the Simpsons as a family unit is something that is stronger than any gravitational tug. After culling and one last meal, he waddles in his bacon-shorts to represent Sector 7G in The Hunger Games, I mean the Annual Consumption Ritual.
The sight gags were great tonight. They even came with extra ketchup. The Dizznnee sequence had the Simpsons family catching the last helicopter to the amusement park like they were escaping Saigon. Some of the Dizznee rides threw me for a loop. The subtly not-so-subtle threat from Fat Tony is the stuff Arthurian legends are made from.
Kang and Kodos rode the family in a pet carrier strapped to the top of their vehicle. The Rigel VII cycle of life scenario had every multiple birth followed by another multiple birth of the newly born a second later, which goes on only one beat past ad nausea without even any Hillarium to dull the post-partum pain. It felt sad to watch Rocky the Flying Squirrel explode in the icy cold of space without one last Whatsamatta U fight song, but not as sad as seeing fallen Rigellians dumped into a river of their own drool on their sacred journey to the chopper-upper. Touching in a way that is only possible for the tentacled. Rigelian porn stars also have cheesy seventies mustaches.
I’m torn between two minor lines as to my favorite. After Homer regales the Rigellians with tales of his home planet and the rebel forces laud earthlings as a “species with much to offer,” someone asks, “seriously, are we listening to the same guy?” the other line is about the Space Broccoli, which cried for six years after being stepped on once.
This is a great episode, more than well worth watching in spite of all the joke abductions, maybe because of them. If aliens come thousands of years from now and this is the only record of The Simpsons’ time on Fox, I will almost be satisfied. Though, like all Rigellians, there will forever be an empty space in my stomach for more.
“The Man Who Came to Be Dinner” was written by Al Jean & David Mirkin and directed by David Silverman. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson and Kodos, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Harry Shearer plays Kang.
But It All Went By So Fast: Pretzels $7. Country Storm Trooper Jamboree. Jim-Jam Bonk’s Wild Ride. Jabba the Tikki Hut. Do Not Objectify Your Conquest. Here Be Recyclables. Our Bodies Ourselves. My Crime: Bias. Kooky Cat’s Deli-Cat-Eessin. Songs of the South Bronx. Hall of Dizznee C.E.O.s No Stockholder Questions. The Leg-Go Loop. Out Of Date Futureland. Milkman of the Future. Life Magazine June 18, 2003: Cigarette Pills for Kids! Toonton Abbey: Closed Due to Anglophobia. Cosmos Café. Continue Spending. Air Marshall is reading UFO Today. Larry H. Zeeblezoop Attorney. Zoo News: Escape is futile. Dead Flanderses. The Complete Works of Shakespeare Made of Chocolate. Silver Surfer. Star Trek TV theme turns into Klingon theme from the movies.
Humanity’s Achievements: Free Refills. Pre-mixed peanut butter and jelly. Instant replay in MLB. Grindr. Did I mention Free Refills? Ringo Starr’s All-Star Band.