660. D’oh Canada

Original airdate: April 28, 2019

The premise: After accidentally plunging down Niagara Falls, Lisa is granted sanction into Canada, and finds herself not wanting to leave such a seemingly perfect country.

The reaction: The Simpsons take on Canada (again), I guess. Moments after Lisa washes up on Canadian soil, she’s greeted by a modest mountie who says “eh” a lot, and is later given an IV drip of maple syrup. It’s like ticking the over-exhausted Canadian trope boxes. When Lisa goes on an angry diatribe over all the current US affairs that plague her eight-year-old mind, aforementioned mountie deems that since she feels unsafe in her own country, she’s now a Canadian refugee, and then “deports” her parents after protesting. It all feels very… dumb, but it doesn’t matter. Lisa of course is enthralled living in a nation that prioritizes education, the environment, and actually cares for its citizens (“I’ve never been happier!” she explains to the audience, helpfully). Eventually, Marge eventually sneaks her way across the border to get her daughter back. Of course, there’s no real emotional element to this at all. Lisa seems to not care at all about being away from the family, she adamantly demands to stay in Canada when Marge shows up. She lives with foster parents who I guess were assigned to her, but of course we don’t know anything else beyond that. Meanwhile, Marge is pissed when she comes to get Lisa (“Listen you little traitor, I’m your mother, and you live where I live! You’re coming home with me!”) Remember when Marge used to be nice to her children? Anyway, it turns out the two of them are stuck there since America is very anti-immigrant at the moment, but Lisa has a last minute change of heart about the good ol’ US of A because the episode is almost over. When she’s originally about to leave Canada, her new teacher helpfully walks by to let her know that there’s a lot of shitty parts about Canada too. It’s a fairly pedestrian theme the show could have utilized, how the grass always seems greener across the border or whatever, but of course the show doesn’t even bother. The show ends with the Simpsons running across a frozen river that’s cracking apart, but that doesn’t really matter as Homer’s able to cram in a joke about the Detroit Lions, and they get back into America and that’s it. Boy oh boy did I not miss this show.

Three items of note:
– On their trip up north, the Simpsons take a little trip through Upstate New York, where Homer sings a ballad to the wretched wasteland with revised lyrics to “New York, New York.” It’s basically a minute and a half long piece of filler in an episode that already felt super short (there’s an extended reused couch gag from years ago, and another thirty-second song later by Canadian Ralph). It’s full of references to Oriskany, Mohawk Valley Community College and the old Kodak factory… which I guess people from there will understand and think is funny? I don’t get it, are a bunch of writers from upstate New York and were just laughing their tits off writing this? It’s just more of acknowledging reference humor than actual jokes. It’s 90 seconds of just shitting on upstate New York. If the Simpsons drove through Central Jersey and sang a song about all the different landmarks and tropes of the area, I’d be perplexed more than anything,  even though I would get the references. And beyond that, of course, the song is completely meaningless. “Capital City” meant something. “New Orleans” from “Oh, Streetcar!” meant something. This song means nothing, except to get mentioned in a couple of local New York papers. Any press is good press, I guess.
– I’m pretty sure this is the first time in the show proper they’ve breached any sort of discussion about President Trump. In her rage against America, Lisa repeatedly tries to hurl obscenities about our very smart big boy President, only to be shushed by Marge. Later in her new classroom, she introduces herself thusly (“As an American, I’d like to apologize for something our President said about your wonderfully progressive Prime Minister.”) She is then ushered to another room where she’s able to Skype with Justin Trudeau (voiced by some guy), who proceeds to prove he’s not “weak” by lifting himself up on his desk and shimmying around. Jesus. It truly feels like a shitty SNL sketch where whoever playing Trudeau rips his shirt off and he’s ripped, and he’s like “Does THIS look weak to you, Mr. Trump?!” And the audience goes wild. Holy fuck, how embarrassing. The scene ends with Lisa alluding to the SNC-Lavalin scandal, causing Trudeau to get the fuck out. I guess this is their way of being impartial, but it felt like too little, too late after such a sorry display.
– Marge of course doesn’t give a flying fuck about her daughter’s unhappiness or disillusionment about America. When Lisa once again affirms she’s going to stay in Canada, Marge, with a big smirk on her face, tells her to look out across the lake at the United States and think of only the good. So Lisa does, and she imagines America’s all-stars: Abraham Lincoln flying on Dumbo (SWEET, SWEET DISNEY SYNERGY!!), Aretha Franklin, Judy Blume (voicing herself) and Louis Armstrong, who sways Lisa with just one line of dialogue (“Get your ass back over there!”) It’d be funny if it were intentionally awful, but I know it’s not. Speaking of Dumbo, I thought maybe I’d talk about the absolutely stupefying piece of synergy released a month ago during the promotion of Disney+, announcing the series would be available exclusively through the new streaming service. It’s just… I still don’t fully know how to express how I feel about it. It so desperately wants to seem like it’s biting the hand that feeds like they used to, referencing to Disney as their “new corporate overlords” (SEE! They referenced that line that’s a meme!!) and showing Rupert Murdoch’s portrait in a trash can (never mind the Murdochs are now majority shareholders in Disney), but it’s all so fucking phony. The Simpsons went from being counter-culture in the 90s, to just being culture in the 2000s, and now they’re just blank-faced corporate assets to be used however their new lords and masters at Disney will see fit. To paraphrase Troy McClure, who knows how much more soulless and creatively bereft The Simpsons will become between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable?

One good line/moment: I got nothin’ here. This was a pretty bad one.

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11 responses to “660. D’oh Canada

  1. Hey, better late than never! I saw snippets of this episode and… yeah. It was stupid, but what more is there to say? Actually, I’m surprised you didn’t mention the return of Mt. Splashmore at the beginning of the episode (Complete with Bart and Lisa echoing the “Will you take us to Mt. Splashmore” chant at Homer) plus, Lisa’s Canadian classroom the framed photo of Gordie Howe AKA Woodrow from “Bart the Lover.” The writers seem to miss old Simpsons just as much as its consumers do, but no matter how hard they try, they’re never going to match the quality of those older seasons. And I just found out they’ve renewed themselves for a 32nd season. THEY’LL NEVER STOP THE SIMPSONS!!!

    • But on the bright side, at least the season finale’s going to be written by Megan Amram. So maybe this season will end on a high note.

  2. This show is so fucking terrible. It’s like one of the many awful long-running comic strips, like Garfield or Blondie or Hi & Lois or idk most if not all of them, in that it just soullessly plugs these familiar characters into “contemporary” contexts, but it just seems so forced and awkward.

  3. The Anonymous Nobody

    It was going to happen at some point. The Simpsons was anti-establishment not only because nobody had ever seen anything like it, but because that kind of thing was in style back then. It’s been on the air for 30 years now. The days of being that kind of show are over.

    Of course, this is why shows need to end at some point to avoid this, but in 2019, The Simpsons is no longer a show made by young comedy writers from Harvard on a network that some parts of the country don’t even have. It’s a multimillion dollar franchise, like McDonald’s or Coca-Cola. The writing is corporate because everything surrounding it is.

    I feel like The Simpsons needs to take a break.
    A chance to do a hard reset so it can come back with fresh ideas and appeal to a new generation of fans without pandering. There’s probably still life left in it as a television series, but at this rate, we’ll never know.

    • They should’ve took a break 20 years ago. They should’ve ended the show 20 years ago.

      • The Anonymous Nobody

        I agree with both of those statements, but the days of us hoping that The Simpsons will just end and never come back are over. It’s at the point where the show has outgrown itself and it has become something far bigger. Not only does it have this untouchable iconic status now, the formula of the show has allowed it to transition into the semi-corporate franchise that it is now. Family Guy or South Park or Rick and Morty will never reduce a character’s screentime because of public pressure, or erase an episode from history based on a documentary containing allegations that have been repeatedly picked apart over the past number of weeks. Those are corporate decisions, and all three of these shows are too weird to make those decisions. The Simpsons isn’t. Twenty years ago, it was considered weird. Not anymore.

        The best we can hope for at this point is for the original series to finally end in the next couple years, then be restarted with a new creative vision, new writers, and a new sense of purpose. The Simpsons hasn’t been a contemporary show in a very long time. It doesn’t push the culture like it used to. It’s just reacting to culture and coasting off of what it was capable of doing 25 years ago.

  4. Big John's Breakfast Log

    This is the second time this season where Marge goes to Lisa and goes “Screw how you feel! You’re doing what I tell you to do, dammit!” as if she’s Bart and is an antisocial anarchist as opposed to the generic ultra liberal moral beacon the writers have developed her into. Remember when one of Marge’s very few character traits was that she tried to be the good parent? The episode got into a bit of so-called “controversy” over that Canadian Ralph joke where he wails on the seal plush with Canadian news, as well as insulting Newfoundlanders, though that’s ultimately going to boil down to “Pay attention to us!” But, I’ll bet you the moment Oprah Winfrey makes a documentary on seal clubbing, this episode will be blacklisted from the airwaves.

    About the Disney Merger bit; I agree with your thoughts, but there’s another piece to it all that makes things even less impressive for the show, considering that one of the things that made the Simpsons part of the counterculture in the 1990s was how they mocked “the Disney formula” and Disney as a corporation. It wasn’t a surprise that the Disney’s America fiasco was mentioned in “The PTA Disbands!” when Diz-Nee (the short-lived running gag) bought Fort Springfield and turned what was originally a free historical site anyone can visit into something commercially driven (“Sorry, but there’s profit to be had.”), and Al Jean and Mike Reiss bared no bones about how miserable it was to work there after leaving the show. 25 years later, Al Jean is going to talk about how awesome it is to be part of Disney, now that Disney has monopolized virtually everything you were familiar with growing up, and won’t dare upset the apple cart.

    There’s also a difference between mocking something like Fox and something like Disney; when “The Simpsons” made fun of Fox, not only was it a “biting the hand that feeds them” type of reaction the audience could get, it also was itself an additional commentary, given that Fox was the renegade network and would do whatever was needed to get noticed in the market share, which meant that the network’s standards would be lower than the rest, and although you would get the occasional “In Living Color”, you’d get about 5-10 “Bob’s Big Ass Show(s)”. Unfortunately, as Fox became part of the establishment, the concept of making fun of the network you were on would lose its appeal, and yet, because the writers are often bereft of creative ideas for the series (how many times do they have J.K. Simmons come on just to do the exact same voice?) Mocking Disney doesn’t have that allure, particularly given that the best time to get in all of that humor was during the late 1990s and early 2000s, when the Eisner Era had the company at its lowest and damn near close to being bought out by Comcast. This isn’t me defending Disney; I actually despise Disney, and unlike most of the kids growing up with their franchises, I wound up hating most of their properties as a child, which in turn, allowed me to not put up with the B.S. in their business practices once I got older and explored the “what” and “how” of the factory rather than only caring about the output. My point is, I’m expecting more of the same “let’s poke fun at our corporate overlords” jokes, and dumb synergy, only now the show will probably stop trying with their pitiful parodies of “Cosmic Wars” and “The Assemblers” and just mention the properties directly like “Family Guy” does.

  5. I wouldn’t say there were no good lines, I liked the “Department of Justice”/”Department of Just Ice” sign gags as well as Lisa’s “Fox News is actually news about foxes!” (for the latter, however, it’s partly because I half-expected them to cut to someone explaining or doing just that).

    Still, this episode was more trolly than anything else to me. Seeing the New York opening made me feel like this could be the second time this season, being the first since Season 18’s “The Wife Aquatic” that a vacation episode wasn’t a love letter, but no, we got this instead.

  6. I moved here from Canada and they think I’m slow, eh?

  7. This is weird, I had to connect my Google account to actually post now. I’ve never had to log in to something to post here.

    Anyway, so my wife showed me the Upstate NY song (which I thought was a separate video, had no idea it was attached to this episode) because we both grew up in Buffalo NY. I have to say that I found it to be the funniest thing from The Simpsons in a long time because it was so true with how broken down that portion of the state is. Ever since the steel industry left in the late 80s and then due to 9/11, places like Buffalo were left with very little funding and fell to shit.

    However, I can definitely see your side of the argument as you didn’t understand what they were saying, so yes, you do have to be from there to know what the “joke” is. That is definitely how comedy should NOT be. Everyone should be able to enjoy the jokes whether they know the reference or not.

    That’s all I have to say about this episode at this time since I still haven’t watched anything since the SRD announcement.

  8. Frankly, I think people go overboard on the Disney hate. They aren’t perfect (their biggest mistake is how they have treated Gargoyles like the adopted child no one wanted), but they do strive to do their best more often than not. They have done exceptional work with the MCU, Pixar, and of course, their own animation. It’s really only their live action department, especially in the live action remakes of the animated classics, that they fail at. Oh, and Star Wars is hit or miss, but that franchise has always been 50/50 on quality.

    Nevertheless, if I could vote for a corporation to be president, it would be Disney as I would trust them to run our country far better than any wretched political figure available.

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