At Long Last Leave
So it finally comes down to this. After 9 milestone episodes and 499 episodes; we have finally reached the 500th episode! With this, the series has finally matched Gunsmoke in longevity (the show feels the need to celebrate this with the opening scenes which showcases past couch gags and a sequence where it pulls out to reveal even more past couch gags that reveal the number 500, talk about not celebrating meaningless milestones.) but is longevity all it's cracked up to be, especially with an episode as bad as this one; I'm aware of the title screen at the end that told people to get some fresh air (which I have more of), they must of got wind of my comments/criticisms.
*sigh* Let's get this over with.
From the moment I've heard the plot for the 500th episode, I've dreaded it. I mean The Simpsons weren't exactly a bad family, from the first few seasons; they were just a family living in the town of Springfield. It wasn't until Season 9 that they finally became somewhat of a menace (thanks to Scully) and the further they got along, the more exaggerated the family's antics became. This is one of the problems the premise suffers from, the reason why they don't want the Simpsons around is solely because of the exaggerated antics that cause Springfield trouble; stuff like trying to set the moon on fire or forcing a tital surge of water all throughout the city; all stuff that's exaggerated, cartoonish and just plain bullshit. Not only that, but after all those years, why hate them now? I mean surely we've had some people hate them but most of them have been able to deal with them, hell; some even like them. You telling me that they now hate them, and that they hate them for reasons that are totally contrived? I thought this was going to be about the subtle things but instead it's like the things that confound me, even The Simpsons don't do much to prove their status as people as they feel like cartoon characters with barely any sense of personality; the scenes in the city hall exemplifying this.
We've seen the Simpsons move out of Springfield before and in the movie it's used as a good point but even with the expulsion; there was nothing they could do to make their situation interesting. Even when they movie to the outland where everything is under the radar; the characters aren't there, the connections aren't there and everything feels out of place; as I said before, these aren't the same character's we come to know and love; these are different characters. (I do appreciate the attempt to have them act like a close family in the beginning, that was nice.) The outlands themselves and the way the outlands is revealed is sudden, and abrupt; they do look interesting but we barely get any sense of the community at hand, the only shots we get is when Homer goofs off and the fake opening which was poorly produced and lacked the impact that the Thompson opening had; there was something that could of been done with the community, something that would of shown the differences between the two towns and shown how The Simpsons ultimately feel better in Springfield but it never comes to that; instead it's only featured in a small number of scenes, and that alone is a complete waste of potential.
The moments of Springfield are the ones that are going to be well remembered, mainly due to the emotional content of it. Those scenes are well positioned, well intentioned and despite the terribleness of the episode, the moments that have heart; of course it doesn't matter much if it's placed in the most awkward of positions, I mean we've had The Simpsons basically liking the outland community (except Marge) and to see Homer and Marge have emotional moments in the places where they used to be is headscratching. I guess it was better then having them see whether or not life without The Simpsons is better but still; to have emotional content to make up for wasted potential is fucking disgraceful. Again, these moments are done well, these moments are emotional, they're also the best executed but it does nothing but cover up the flaws, which are exposed when the behavior of Springfield in those scenes are exposed.
Let's not forget about how the plot goes from various points very abruptly. It's like at one point they're at point A then they're at point X then they're at point B and they're at point X and then point X somehow becomes point Y. The Fox-forced four act structure ruins anything the episode have and instead of having ample time to include the stuff they want, they're forced to sequence stuff in a way that somehow forms an episode. Additionally, there is stuff that is also undeserved; we've had Springfield hate The Simpsons but after a speech from Marge, they decide to move in with the Simpsons and rebuild their community and add internet? (which leads to a painful Lisa moment.) Why not ask them to move back into Springfield? Their actions aren't making sense; it's like an attempt at having the episode end in a sweet moment but that moment fails because none of it is deserved, none of it works and all of it is just lazy. Really, really lazy.
This also translates into the humor material of the episode; gone is the delivery style that actually mattered and in it's place is attempts to do what Family Guy is doing, (that cringeworthy Lisa and Homer dialog in the beginning is an example.) in terms of the plot, the fakeout is okay but it barely does anything for the plot; it just exists as something that the writer had in mind for the plot but forgot what. Additionally it's just tiring that they have the characters explain stuff instead of letting the jokes do their thing; we are intelligent people, we don't need stuff flashed in our face like we're idiots; we can understand what you're trying to do just fine. The guest appearance from the WikiLeaks guy is a total waste; it isn't satirical, it literally sounds phoned-in and it's not even edgy; that spreads to the Simpsons themselves who sound as phoned-in as the guest star.
Additionally; with this episode Michael Price is officially the worst writer on the Simpsons. This is just an example of what happens when you rest on laurels you never even had in the first place; the writing is just an attempt to capture various magical moment but the problem is those moments aren't sticking and it feels forced as a result. There is also a large showing of "convenience" everywhere we look, as if he couldn't find a way to segue into those segments naturally. It's like "we're driving, oh look; there's something important.", that is just bad writing. I've read his interview and while he does seem like a nice guy, he just represents everything that is wrong with the Simpsons; everything. The 500th episode should of been given to a guy who was more capable, more experienced and more determined.
That's not to say the 500th episode isn't worthless as a whole but it does suck balls. The jokes suck, the plotting sucks (with the exception of one good moment), the characters sucks, it has no impact whatsoever and it makes Michael Price, a guy who's studied theater look like a hack. It is appreciable that they wanted to do something special with the family but the 500th episode is all hype; there is barley any reason you should see this.