SPOILER WARNING – FAT JOKES AHEAD. This may turn out to be Bill Maher’s favorite episode of The Simpsons, no fat chicks. Well, two in the funeral scene, which is another spoiler. Pointless irreverence brings out the best in The Simpsons and when they can be politically incorrect it’s even more filling. The Simpsons’ episode lucky number 13, “Walking Big & Tall,” sees the second half of season 26 riding the upswing and gaining.
If we’ve learned nothing from The Simpsons, and we haven’t, it’s that everything can be solved with a song or another helping. When in doubt, overdo and when The Simpsons over indulges in jokes they harken back to an earlier time, when the majority of their episodes were supersized with one-liners, came with a side dish of witty self-referential rejoinders and were smothered in sight gags. “Walking Big & Tall” is a fast food feast that doesn’t repeat on itself, like so many of this season’s refried ribs. It only had a dash of Pharrell, but damn if I can’t get him out of my head, or in this case, stuck in my teeth. Springfield drools.
Sure, The Simpsons has gone back for seconds and thirds on weight issues. Homer has gained, lost, gained again, exercised, and gained again. He’s been liposucked, basted and glazed. Springfield has already been named the most overweight town in America. Marge has prodded Homer to take care of himself and even lost interest, sexually, in her husband a few times, over his weight. Taking out the theater after Bart and Lisa actually do something he could be proud of isn’t even the first time Homer’s laid waste to a major portion of Springfield, having once taken out the food court district.
The town anthem copyright infringement setup delivers a satirical take on Springfield almost but not quite worthy of past musical winners like “Monorail” and the A Streetcar Named Desire takeoff. Springfield, meh. Why not? Who cares? Whatever. It’s all Mayor Holeman’s fault anyway, buying from traveling songwriters for less than a batch of brownies. That’s why we sit through Springfield Elementary’s oh-so-obviousy linp-sync’d (Bart leaves the guitar behind, Lisa leaves the piano. Ralph gets his line right). Okay, it’s a little cringe worthy, but Lisa and Bart, channeling past collaborations, turn everyday blah into treacle cutting social commentary. The cops are all on the take, dentists are home-schooled. That’s what makes Springfield Springfield, Everytown, USA. They don’t even have a human zoo.
Bart captures the heart of musical collaborations. As a musician who’s collaborated with other musicians, I can attest to it. Don’t fall asleep while writing a song. You’ll wake up with a cat eating scrambled eggs in your ear, but then, you might have dreamed a song called “Yesterday.” You don’t have to be able to solve a Rubik’s cube to figure that Bart and Lisa would be one-hit wonders, incapable of enabling the fit-challenged to skip snacks. Squabbling over cymbal crashes. They can’t sell the lies of big nutrition through a song. Only Marge can get through the gelatinous matter of Homer’s brain to deliver the pizza of understanding.
This episode isn’t just fat-shaming, or empowering. The Simpsons take more jabs at police brutality and finally question whether or not it was appropriate for Bart to spend a night alone with an escaped mental patient who thought he was Michael Jackson. The couch gag matches the episode. The family is a plate of sushi and Homer escapes only to be eaten by the very fish he replaced on the plate. Subtle as Wasabi.
Homer blindly followed quick and easy answer gurus before, but he’s never gotten to the making amends part of any twelve step. Embracing the scale and broken swing as weapons of empowerment are liberating, but ultimately unsatisfying. Of course no one should be mocked, but it does come from one of their own, most of their own, when you look at the stuffed jail cell. But then, in cases and cages like these, two makes a crowd. They might have included Dr. Hibbert and Krusty the Clown if they’d have fit.
The best bit of the night was the list Homer reads to Lenny, Carl, Barney and the homunculus gargoyle, Moe. Just when you think it’s gone on long enough, it goes on longer but keeps getting better. The Simpsons really do get the most mileage out of risking going too far. They often come perilously close to the brink of milking something, but, to their credit, more often, they do overmilk. They may not go that one step that Family Guy goes, but that restraint is just their own unique sense of timing. It really is like risking putting in too much seasoning and ruining a meal. I think of the scene in Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid, where Steve Martin is making his perfect cup of joe and carefully, meticulously, perfectly over-pours until there is nothing left to pour. Timing on The Simpsons warps depending on the degree of ridiculous in the atmosphere of a particular episode. Obie Want Canoli and Calvin Cool-Whip, I’m still laughing over those two.
Stick a fork-lift in it, the show’s over, nothing to eat here. Once again, Marge is proven right, though still misguided. Homer will live to eat another day, because who knows? Maybe the booze will get him first. Either way, once you’re dead, at some point during decomposition you really do hit your ideal weight.
“Walking Big & Tall” was written by Michael Price and directed by Chris Clements. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Chief Wiggum, Comic Book Guy and Moe. Harry Shearer is Mr. C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest star Pharrell Williams and Kevin Michael Richardson.
But It All Went By So Fast: Baby’s First Peaches. Senior’s Last Peaches. Springfield’s the only home we got. Where Mr. Burns was shot. New Springfield Anthem Debut Tonight. Two-Hour Line, Five-Minute Show. Sinkole swallows minor league all-star game. Library demolished. Not trending: #SpringfieldPride, #C-Batteries, #OriginsofThePaperclip, #TrustFoxNews, #DateNightAtMoes, #BringBackLeno, #KrustyNudePix, #YogalsJustStretching, #TappedOutWorkingPerfectly.
Blimp Disaster! Historic Theater Red-Tagged. Over-Feeders Anonymous: Quit Looking Like An Average American. Community Center: Solve Your Problems In This Depressing Building. The Periodic Table of Dipping Sauces. Put Bread On Me. ROUND. From my cold dead fingers. Knob Turner. Window Opener. Door Opener. Foot Waker Upper. Dink Finder. Donut Locator. Belt Extender. Congratulations on your acquittal Dad! www.scrapped.com/mar. We Shall Overeat. Low Fat Celery Sticks: Ready To Eat. Wide Pride: This Revolution Will Not Be Televised.