Original airdate: December 4, 2011
The premise: Krusty gets fired from his own show, and ends up reconnecting with his old agent and ex Joan Rivers. I’m sure the character had a name, but I forget. Joan helps Krusty find new life on pay cable, but soon proves to be an incredibly overbearing producer of his show.
The reaction: How many comebacks can Krusty possibly have? This is, what, his sixth? I guess going back to this story well is as good an excuse as any to trot out jokes about whatever the current trends in TV are. Or, rather, multi-year-old trends, and by “jokes,” I mean “love letters.” We open with the Simpson family going to visit the television museum, which I guess Springfield has, where they meet Annie Dubinsky (I just looked up the name), a talent agent who literally walks out of the shadows to introduce herself. Meanwhile, Krusty has just gotten fired and the Simpsons find him wallowing in shame bemoaning his fall from grace… while sitting in a ball pit at Krusty Burger, a restaurant named after him. On the street corner with a “Will Drop Pants for Food” sign, this ain’t. The family introduces him to Annie, who immediately is hostile to Krusty, and decides to regale the story of their past relationship to those strangers she’s known for less than 24 hours. Their backstory really doesn’t matter, and the two mend fences and get back together, and despite Annie working in a rundown office and proudly claiming most of her famous clients are dead, she works her magic and ultimately gets Krusty a show on HBOwtime (such creative naming). With four minutes left to go, a conflict is manufactured with Annie being a humongous pain-in-the-ass producer, the network heads confronting Krusty about it, then she gets fired, and then the two are rehired for a Real Sex type show, because old people sex is hilarious. What? She’s crazy, then she’s not, she’s fired, and then she’s not. What a resolution.
Three items of note:
– The episode opens with three Itchy & Scratchys, all “parodies” of Oscar contender movies from 2010. We get a laborious, self-aware line from Krusty about how the jokes were topical when written, but taking a year to actually produce and animate makes them look “dated and hacky.” Part of me has always felt that the writers of this show must be aware of some of the biggest problems plaguing the show, and this seems to be a clear example that yes, they do realize that this stuff is dated and hacky, their words, and that they don’t seem to care. Or, by commenting on it, it excuses it. Also odd is that the network heads push Krusty out of his show for making too many old references in his routine that kids don’t understand. Oh, so unlike children who are keen on Itchy & Scratchy cartoons based on kiddie fare like Black Swan and The King’s Speech?
– I feel like the genesis of this episode came from the writing staff going to see the Pee-Wee Herman revival show, and thinking they could do a similar thing with Krusty. It was a live show that ran in New York and Los Angeles around this time, and a televised version aired on HBO earlier that year, but it’s something that I’m sure was not on a lot of viewers’ radars. Despite that, they build it into the plot of this show with Krusty’s retro reboot show, with full grown men openly cheering for nostalgia, which is a really juicy topic to milk for comedy, but the show barely does anything with it. It feels more like they just put it into the show because they loved it, which would continue through the third act when Krusty makes his cable deal. We get glory shots of Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, the John Adams miniseries and The Ricky Gervais Show (in this case, literally just a clip from the actual animated show). There’s no joke to this, it’s just like, hey, these are some great shows on HBO! We love you guys!
– This is an episode that really doesn’t involve the Simpsons, which we haven’t really seen in a while, so it was weird seeing them constantly crow barred in. As mentioned earlier, Annie just rattles off her personal life story, and sexual past, to these complete strangers, then later I guess they get comped tickets to all of Krusty’s shows. Bart and Lisa are with Krusty during the set-up of his new show, for some reason. But the most telling line of all for me is after Annie pours her heart out about how Krusty broke her heart, Marge pipes in, “Would you ever consider taking Krusty back as a client?” Why does she care? She has no connection to Krusty. Why in the fuck would Marge care about Krusty getting work again, especially after hearing that story? There is no reason, other than we need to push the story along, someone needed to say that line, so they gave it to Marge.
One good line/moment: Krusty recalls in the past getting laughs out of kids by hitting them, at least until the 70’s (“Some jerk tracked down the kids and made a documentary. It’s called Circus of Shame, or something…”) Castellaneta’s read of that last part was pretty great, very subdued and introspective. Or something. He and his wife wrote this one, by the way, coming after such hits as the Christmas show with Katy Perry, and the Cheech & Chong show. Such a pedigree.