With season 7, I felt The Simpsons had turned a corner, but season 8 felt like more of the same. It’s still mid-turn, with some very goo
episodes, and my all-time favourite Simpsons moment (‘There’s your answer, fishbulb’). There are two of the best parody episodes in the series (X-Files and Frasier), another moment that really last
in an otherwise episodic show (The Van Houtens’ divorce), some good episodes for Ned and Reverend Lovejoy, and the best of Seymour Skinner’s many dabbles in romance. The Frank Grimes episode is also a clever bit of meta-humour examining the premise of the show, and homer’s chili-based hallucinations are wonderfully 90s. ‘Bart After Dark’ showcases some slightly more complex issues than typical for a cartoon, and Marge gets some fantastic moments, and ‘Homer’s Phobia’ is a bit ham-fisted but brave in what it attempts.
On the other hand, this season has some real duds. The spin-off showcase is a bad idea done badly, the Poochie episode falls flat and the parody of Mary Poppins is too obvious, too lazy and definitely not funny enough to work. A James Bond villain fighting with machine guns and grenades while Homer doesn’t notice and an Italian mafia-Yakuza showdown in Evergreen Terrace just take this show too far from its relatable origins and simply don’t feel very Simpsons. Firing people from human catapults just about passes.
But at this stage, I miss the days of a normal, dysfunctional American family, but they already seem distant. The Simpsons is still kept afloat with some classic moments and clever writing, but it’s right on the edge of sinking, and that’s a shame.