I promised in a previous entry that I’d talk about what we did during The 2020 Pandemic. At least I thought I did. Regardless, I’m doing so now even if you were not forewarned!
I guess the best thing that came out of the spring of 2020 was Allison finally getting comfortable on her bike. For most of the summer she enjoyed just riding up and down our street learning how to hit the bumps and how fast she could go before her little bike would start to wobble. Of course we had to go on some bike ride adventures too – including hunting down the Easter Bunny who was riding around our neighborhood on the back of a firetruck. In the past year Allison little bike has been upgraded to a “big girl” bike but still prefers her original.
But there are days that are cold, lazy. dark or wet. Sometimes all four. Bicycles are not appropriate. You need to kill some time during lockdown? Forget a measly 8 seasons of Game of Thrones. Try binge-watching 706+ episodes of The Simpsons! It took a year and a half watching an episode or two or four a day but we made it through all 32 seasons available at the time. Not all of them are available on DVD so we had to pick up a subscription to Disney+ for a few months to finish it off.
Along the way Allison was introduced to hundreds of cultural references. Often I would stop the show and google up some explanations, maps, videos or movie clips. Off the top of my head, The World Trade Towers, the World Wars, The Flintstones, Tom & Jerry, various world religions, Busch Gardens, Orson Wells, Lassie, 2001: A Space Odyssey (Daisy, daisy…), Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, Raiders Of The Lost Ark, Star Wars, Rain Man, Planet of the Apes (Rock Me Dr. Zaius!). So many movies and songs! Watching episodes of The Simpsons directly led us to then watching Gremlins, The Nutty Professor, Mary Poppins and Kindergarten Cop. Homer’s love of the song Funkytown led to Allison rediscovering her love of the Lipps Inc’s one-hit-wonder.
While the show does excel at low-brow humor, we did occasionally raise our brows with discussion of some of the many literary references in the show. Ayn Rand, Goodnight Moon (read by Christopher Walken no less), Harry Potter, Charlotte’s Web, Robert Frost, Kurt Vonnegut. The last was accidentally timed perfectly as I just happened to be listening to “Slaughterhouse 5” at the time it came up. Allison listened in for a while before deciding the poetic prose wasn’t her style.
Probably the most interesting part of (re)watching the shows for me was picking out the voice actors and guest stars… or just Frank Welker’s animal noises. We enjoyed watching clips of the actors doing their various voices and impersonators doing what they do… often poorly. My voice is naturally closest to Hank Azaria’s so I can impersonate the characters that he voices… often poorly, but good enough that Allison would recognize Comic Book Guy or Professor Frink if they showed up in one of her bedtime stories. I enjoyed cross referencing guest stars with other movies/shows she might recognize them. She enjoyed when I’d be quiet and let her watch the funny cartoons. 🙂
Two dozen seasons in Allison started to lose interest. I hadn’t seen any of the episodes after season 23 when we dropped cable TV so, while I still enjoyed the episodes, they were clearly not the classics that held up to the test of time. We both agreed that Season 29 should have been final season – and in fact I believe the writers set it up to be. It features flash backs to classic episodes and characters from the early years – all the way back to The Simpsons first appearances Tracey Ullman show. The last episode of the season shows how several of the characters meet their final end including many subtle references to the glimpses we’ve had into how the family would grow up and grow old. Bart dies wearing his Supreme Court Justice robes (Season 4 Ep 6). Marge does eventually marry Ned (Season 4 Ep 2, Season 15 Ep 10 & Season 21 Ep 5). Lisa is still pursuing Buddhist enlightenment (Season 13 Ep 6).
It’s not the best episode but it felt like reminiscing back to the golden age of the series. My favorite scene featured all of the “dead” characters – including Sherry Bobbins and Bleeding Gums Murphy. No Frank Grimes though. Now that I’ve watched the next 3 seasons I can really see the change. Season 29 was the last season under Fox’s creative control, still had the original voices for characters and still featured fan favorite Apu. It would have been a fine time for the series to fade to black. I wouldn’t mourn the loss but I will treasure the memories – from my own childhood and those I’ve made with my family.
Next up… Futurama!