Original airdate: November 25, 2018
The premise: On the run from the law, Krusty lies low in disguise as the circus, only to come to love being an authentic circus performer. Meanwhile, Homer takes on a new job as a TV recapper, only to discover a conspiracy involving our current “peak TV” climate.
The reaction: I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but this episode re-reminded me just how incongruous the Krusty the Klown Show is in the year 2018. Lisa tasks Homer with doing recaps of the show, which is what exactly? We see Krusty, Mel and Mr. Teeny doing a hula dance against a fake set, then we see an Itchy & Scratchy cartoon. At the end of the show, apparently Chris Pine did a guest appearance, and from the photo in a newspaper it seems he and Krusty did a Star Trek sketch. So is it like Saturday Night Live for kids? Krusty’s show has always been a catch-all for a bunch of different TV parodies, but as time goes on, his status as a renowned entertainer makes less and less sense. But anyway, Krusty literally tries to kill Homer in a rage while driving, getting them both in an accident. Bart somehow rushes to the scene and gets Krusty out of there before police can press charges. They do a “hilarious” bait-and-switch where you think Bart’s actually concerned for Homer’s well being but he runs to Krusty, but… his beloved TV hero just tried to strangle his father to death. Bart tags along with Krusty for the rest of the show, and he makes no mention of this incident going forward. Krusty hides out at a local circus under the alias “Soggy,” only to find his new fellow performers are true professionals who hate sell-out TV clowns. So Krusty needs to step his game up and rekindle his love of performing to go toe-to-toe with these guys… or he can get drunk and perform a crazy stunt by accident and that makes everything okay. But just as Krusty starts to truly embrace his new life, the circus has to close its doors (“A terrible video got out.” “Which one?” “The video we sell here at the circus.”) Don’t see how that makes sense, given how filled the seats have been and how excited the crowds seem at their performances. Do people even go to the circus anymore? Surely they must, but I imagine the industry can’t be doing too hot. Maybe they could have been a struggling performance troupe which causes Krusty’s long-dormant inner enthusiastic performer to come out and act as mentor to these amateur clowns. Considering the B-plot involves an over-abundance of streaming television people are watching (or not watching), I think the decrepit circus concept would have played better.
Said B-plot features Homer getting into the world of TV recapping, summarizing one’s thoughts and opinions about a variety of different shows after they air. Man, what kind of pathetic loser would do that? He’s of course great at it, and renowned the Internet over for his work, as all Simpsons are immediately the best at everything they try ever. He even incorporates it into his foreplay, which I thought was actually kind of cute, but then Marge gets irrationally pissed off at him, so I guess it was supposed to a sign that he was getting too invested in his work. The climax involves Homer facing down the head of Google-Disney (voiced by Peter Serafinowicz), who goes on a big monologue about how “peak TV” is all a scam: there’s hundreds of shows out there, but most of them aren’t even produced; they know no one has time to watch that many shows, all they want is people’s subscriber fees. I actually kind of like this reveal (paired with Serafinowicz’s great performance), but I feel like there could have been more to it. The incredibly populated TV landscape and the psychology of what you’re gonna watch, one’s ever growing backlog of media to consume, and using streaming services in general, that’s more than enough material for an entire episode, not playing second fiddle to Krusty fucking around at a circus. Though I did appreciate them tying the two plots together at the end, with Krusty getting declared not guilty by a jury deeming his attacks justified due to Homer’s scathing B- review. These last couple episodes have actually had some decent stuff in them, but there’s still that ever present stagnation the show’s been lounging in for the last fifteen-plus years that’s hard to shake.
Three items of note:
– So yeah, Krusty as a modern day performer doesn’t really make sense anymore. From way back in 1990, Krusty and his show was an homage to the low-budget but charming children’s television programs, with Portland, Oregan’s favorite clown son Rusty Nails being the direct inspiration for the character. Krusty being a hometown performer who amused children with his cheesy buffoonery worked back then, and any joke about him being a higher level celebrity or getting knighted was funny because it was so absurd that a low-level children’s performer was considered at all notable outside the jerkwater burg he had fame in. But by the mid-to-late-90s, TV clowns went extinct, and by the time everyone got satellite TV and smartphones, locally produced television shows kind of disappeared as well. In an age of YouTube and streaming, what kid would waste their time and watch a rinky-dink, no-effort show like Krusty’s nowadays? It’s another instance of the ever-frozen cast of characters being more and more antiquated as culture marches forward.
– At the circus, we’re introduced to “hippo juice,” a strange purple concoction that circus folk drink, and eventually Krusty develops a taste for as well. It’s used as a joke multiple times in the episode, the performers drinking it is used as an act break joke… We see people drinking it so much, I was expecting there to be some kind of twist of what the drink actually was, or some kind of capper joke to it all. But no, nothing. I guess we’re just supposed to think the name “hippo juice” is funny enough to sustain multiple bits.
– In the end, Krusty saves the circus by letting them turn him into the police for the reward money. But when he’s let off and goes back to the circus to plea for his job back, they still rebuff him. Honestly, why not have him go with them? I know status quo is God, but I think when you’ve run almost 650 episodes, you need to start trying new things. They’re done a few shows where they shake the format up or try different stories, but the characters have remained stagnant since their creation. Why the fuck not have Krusty leave Springfield, at least for a little while? The Simpsons could go see him on the road, Sideshow Mel could take over the Klown show… I’d love to see new things happen to shake up the series’ foundations just a little bit, but it’s like Springfield is forever stuck in formaldehyde.
One good line/moment: Like last episode, actually a couple decent moments. The final scene of Homer’s story was probably the best isolated scene this show has done in years, even if the whole twist could have been handled a little better. But man, that Serafinowicz has got one dynamite voice (“There is no USA Network! There hasn’t been for twenty years! It’s just bus ads!!”)
If I may wax positive very briefly, this season has been noticeably less terrible so far. By no means is this show anywhere close to good, but episodes at least have had a handful of jokes in them. I used to think as the seasons went on, this show was in a never-ending free fall to a creative nadir that they’d never reach. But, at least for now, it looks like season 28 was the actual bottom, which had some of the worst episodes of television I’ve ever seen. Season 29 wasn’t nearly as bad, and now season 30 has noticeably increased in quality slightly. It’s like these two years has been the show attempting to claw and scrape out of the bottom of a pit. Will they manage to resurface and regain some sense of greatness? I’m gonna take a safe bet and say ‘no,’ but I’m at least a little glad to see a little bit of effort in these episodes again.