On January 31st, The Simpsons returned after a brief hiatus with an episode entitled “Million Dollar Maybe.” Having seen all 20 previous seasons of the show repeatedly, I tune into The Simpsons each week not so much in the hopes of being surprised and delighted by at least some amount of pitch-perfect writing – that’s a given – but more in anticipation of catching up with a very old and familiar friend. The satirical blog “Stuff White People Like” listed The Simpsons back in 2008, saying, “You have to be prepared to list the specific period in which you enjoyed the show or else you might be seen as someone with poor taste.” Indeed, the program seems to be undergoing some sort of reverse aging process, becoming less staid and rather more hyperactive, but I personally have few difficulties remaining a loyal fan.
“Million Dollar Maybe” starts out with Homer and Marge rehearsing a musical wedding toast together. Predictably, Homer fails to show up to the wedding in question. After cracking open a fortune cookie that tells him it’s his “lucky day,” he stops off at the Kwik-E-Mart for a lotto ticket before speeding off and getting into an accident on the way to the ceremony. Homer wins the lotto jackpot but is unwilling to tell Marge the reason for his having to speed in the first place, so he keeps his winnings a secret and surreptitiously spends the money on things that his family wants or needs – a washing machine, tickets to the philharmonic, etcetera. The subplot finds Lisa buying a “Zii” for the senior citizens at the retirement home, which allows them to enjoy virtual tennis games.
In the spirit of other recent episodes, “Million Dollar Maybe” is simply a cheerful hodgepodge of clever jokes. It doesn’t have the philosophic depth that a surprising number of earlier episodes do possess – “Bart of Darkness,” for example, in which Bart sells his soul and embarks on a desperate quest to regain it – and is less quotable and more forgettable. It delivers the inevitable moral, but it feels obligatory and therefore a bit forced. It probably doesn’t help that the same moral (love conquers all, or some version thereof) has been hashed out hundreds of times. I think I can safely say that next week’s episode will convey the same messages. In short, The Simpsons seems to be getting lazier.
Of course, I have seen the show so many times that I may just be getting tired of it, even if I don’t want to admit it. To a more casual viewer, The Simpsons may be as fresh as ever. Either way, I’m not about to stop watching – although I occasionally long for the days when Bart was still saying “cowabunga, dude.”
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