653. The Clown Stays in the Picture

Original airdate: February 17, 2019

The premise:
Krusty relays a story from his past in the 1980s, where he embarked to direct his own passion project of a seemingly unfilmable story, with the help of some beloved familiar faces on the crew.

The reaction: After our introduction to the story through Krusty appearing on Marc Maron’s podcast, we get a glimpse of Krusty’s old film career, where he hit it big off a successful high-concept comedy (“You mix two kooky words together in the title, put a rap song at the end that explains the plot, and bam! You’re on the cover of Premiere magazine!”) When the film execs come at him with a sequel, Krusty rebuffs, having fallen in love with a sci-fi book he randomly came across, wanting funding to star in this story that clearly has great meaning to him. The execs agree, but only with a shoestring budget, and a Mexico shoot with a non-experienced crew. And just about when I was starting to get interested, said crew was being shuttled in from Springfield, featuring two production assistants by the names of Homer and Marge. The story then becomes about Marge becoming Krusty’s AD, and Krusty wanting to push Homer out of the way so he can have Marge and her decision-making skills all to himself… so, another Homer-Marge show. Sigh. I’ve mentioned a couple times before about how I feel like there’s no reason a show with this large of a cast couldn’t stay fresh after thirty years as long as they experiment with the components they have. Why not have an entire episode devoted to a secondary character and their world? How does Chief Wiggum unwind after a long day’s work? What’s Professor Frink up to in his lab? But as always happens, a Simpsons always needs to be crammed into the story somehow. Yes, I understand this is The Simpsons, but really, did we need another fucking episode where Marge reassures that Homer is her soulmate for the ten thousandth time? I don’t get why we can’t have stories about secondary/tertiary characters featuring the Simpsons in minor or supporting roles (“A Fish Called Selma” being one of the only examples, and one of the best episodes of the show ever.) It would allow some new personalities to take center stage, new perspectives, new kinds of stories, but instead, we just go through the same familiar beats over and over again. The ending involves Homer inexplicably being kidnapped by some Mexican ruffians, and in lieu of their requested million dollar ransom, Krusty offers up the negative to his film instead. Does that sound like a fair trade to you? Who are these blackmailers? Why did they still continue their shoot-out with the film crew after realizing they were using space-age prop weapons? What a pointless anti-climax. At the beginning, I thought the show would culminate with Krusty becoming demoralized by the creative process, a de-evolution of him not caring about art and just wanting to be crass and commercial (and financially lucrative) for his whole career. Y’know, something illuminating about his character. Instead, it’s this nothing story that wraps up with Krusty doing a nicety for a woman who name he doesn’t remember, working a job that made zero impact on anybody.

Three items of note:
– Late into the last act, young Homer has a vision of a cactus Bart and Lisa, appearing to him as representations of his future with Marge and how he needed to win her back. It felt very unnecessary, considering I didn’t really care about him in the story and his viewpoint on this relationship “strife” was stupid and it just resolved itself in the end. It seems the scene was only there so to justify paying Nancy Cartwright and Yeardley Smith their hundreds of thousands of dollars that episode for more than just three lines in the wrap-around segments.
– The tag features Krusty going down to Mexico with Marc Maron to finally see his masterwork, shocked to find that audiences are laughing at it (“It was supposed to show how we’re all connected!” “Look around, man. Maybe it did!”) This whole idea of this deeply personal creative endeavor Krusty went on that didn’t turn out how he wanted, actively avoided seeing it for over thirty years, and now mustering up the courage to go and seek it out is incredibly interesting, as is the conclusion of making peace with the fact that audiences are enjoying it, and that it shouldn’t matter if it’s not for the reasons he intended, but it’s relegated to a quick joke in the tag. Once again, I really, really wish the Homer-Marge shit was cut out of this.
– More timeline nonsense again… I really don’t pay much mind to this stuff anymore, but I can’t think of a third thing to talk about, so whatever. This show takes place in the “late 1980s” and features a young, childless Homer and Marge who are maybe 19 at their youngest. Which would put them in their mid fifties in the present timeline. I know the writers don’t care about this, but surely it must come up at some point during production.

One good line/moment: Aside for enjoying the potential of Krusty’s story at the beginning, I liked elements of Krusty being an indecisive wreck during the entire production. Again, if there had been more of a focus on that for the entire episode, this might have actually been something intriguing. Working in post, I certainly empathized with him scrolling back and forth between dailies, unsure of what nearly identical take to go with.

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11 responses to “653. The Clown Stays in the Picture

  1. It’s funny how Homer and Marge are supposed to be young adults in the 80s with Bart and Lisa both being born in that decade, but thanks to the floating timeline, Homer and Marge are the ones born in the 80s! What irony! Oh, and this episode is boring and makes me think that if “A Fish Called Selma” was pitched in 1998 or later, they’d most likely turn it down due to not having enough Simpson involvement.

  2. Not that I’d put it past the Simpsons staff at this point to be so creatively inert, but I could totally see network heads at Fox demanding that at least one of the “main Simpsons” appear in every episode for merchandising reasons.

  3. This episode was a thing and I don’t know what the thing was. Yeah, I’m getting tired of them retconning the era when Bart and Lisa were born in. At this point, just leave it ambiguous, stop putting dates on things.

    I also think that they should have just had the episode fully focus on Krusty and not have our normal Springfield residents involved at all. As you said Mike, it’s a show in its 30th season with over 650 episodes to its name, there is no reason we need to have episodes still focusing on the Simpson family.

    Then you have other scenes that made no sense such as the Bart and Lisa cacti and the whole Cartel bit (why would they not shoot Marge when she walked in?).

    I don’t know what happened during the break between episodes, but these ones are right back to the same garbage nonsense that 29 was full of.

  4. There’s also the fact that in the HD era, there have been a grand total of four episodes that don’t feature The Simpsons prominently, and three of them (The Ten-Per-Cent Solution, The Nightmare After Krustmas, Fears of a Clown) are Krusty episodes. (The other is Flaming Moe.) So if it’s possible for Krusty-centric episodes without Simpsons prominent to be in the HD era, what was stopping them now?

    • Never underestimate the power of “OUR MARRIAGE IS THREATENED!” plots. And the plot itself reminds me a bit of when the comics did it, only there it was a big budget trainwreck.

      Also, anyone else notice how old Otto sounded at the beginning? He sounds like he’s dying more than Marge does.

      • Harry Shearer is having a rough time doing some of his voices, especially gruff ones like Otto. It’s yet another sign the show really should just end. Maybe try to arrange the next two seasons so the show ends on episode 700 or something. Whatever they do, they really should stop before one of the main six actors dies.

  5. Is it just me or does Marge look way too skinny in that screencap? Especially her left arm.

  6. I’m relieved Mage and Homer didn’t break up. I thought it was really going to happen this time.

  7. One positive I’ll say is at least this early-dating crisis isn’t because Homer did something thoughtless and insensitive to hurt Marge. Of course, we just got that last episode, but still…

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