‘Behind the Laughter’ sums up the state of The Simpsons by season 11. It was a pretty poor episode, lacking in laughs but with the occasional bright moment, and at least not just a clip show. But by this stage the jokes were about terrible episodes like ‘The Principal and the Pauper’ and some of the more stupid celebrity cameos.
There are still some good episodes, of course. This isn’t quite the nadir yet. Episodes where Bart is put on Focusyn and where the family have to live in Mr. Burns’ mansion and Homer gets carried away are good ones. But there’s just too much nonsense and the grip on reality is long gone. In this season alone, Bart becomes a faith healer, has a mystical vision of his future and adopts another horse. Homer, meanwhile, becomes a Hell’s Angel, a professional duellist, a food critic, a Hollywood writer, a missionary and almost entirely responsible for Maud Flanders’ death in what would otherwise have been a clever and interesting piece of continuity development and was otherwise a strong episode.
Oh, and for some reason Maggie is a bowling savant.
Some parts just about work, like when Lisa gets Bart and Homer sent to a leper colony, or evil corporate sponsors turn Apu’s kids into a zoo exhibit. Other ideas are fairly normal but ruined by bizarre twists, like when Lisa takes up tap dancing and ends up assisted by science-magic dancing shoes.
But by far the worst part of this season is that it’s now very clear Homer has made the change from likeable idiot who loves his family to outright psychopath. Say what you will about Flanderisation, the devolution of Homer’s character is by far the worst thing to happen to the Simpsons. But at least at this stage, the show is generally enjoyable.