495. Holidays of Future Passed

Original airdate: December 11, 2011

The premise:
We get a glimpse into life during the holiday season thirty years into the future. A deadbeat Bart tries to reconnect to his kids while dealing with his wife remarrying, and Lisa struggles with how best to deal with her aloof, online addicted teenage daughter.

The reaction: This episode first hit my radar when I heard the high praise attached to it, much higher than anything I had heard from the show in a good long while. And while this is easily the best show of the season, I certainly wouldn’t call it good. I don’t even think it’s better than the future episode before this, “Future-Drama.” We focus on the parental troubles of a grown up Bart and Lisa returning home for the holidays. First up is Bart, who living in the dilapidated elementary school and trying to look like a fun dad to his two estranged sons. I don’t really care for this constant characterization of future Bart that he’s never matured beyond his ten-year-old mentality (and literally says as such at the emotional climax). “Lisa’s Wedding” showed the most believable Future Bart to me, working in demolitions and promoting local tough man contests on the side; he was always a street-smart kid, so I can easily accept this future vision. But every other future show has him as a pathetic mooch who has done absolutely nothing with his life, which makes it hard to feel any kind of sympathy for him. His plot line features the kids getting along better with Homer, who proves to be a fun grandpa, which is a pretty adorable idea I wish they’d spent more time on, and he ends up sparking the resolution with Bart and his kids, which feels pretty empty and cloying. Meanwhile, we see Lisa has ended up marrying Milhouse, another future concept I hate, but as we saw last season, the writers just can’t step away from shipping those two. Her conflict and make-up with Marge and her daughter is a little more satisfying, but nothing super notable. Surrounding these stories is an endless parade of future jokes, many of which feel like stuff picked up off the Futurama writer’s room floor. There are some amusing moments, but so much of it just seems too goddamn fantastical for just thirty years into the future. Remember how sensational but pragmatic “Lisa’s Wedding” appeared, with picture phones, VR headsets, and the Rolling Stones still on tour? Here we get sentient talking trees, shrink rays, hyper-evolved dogs and cats, and Flanders marrying Maude’s ghost. All and all, is this one of the best episodes the show has had in the last decade? Oh yeah. Is that saying much? Nope.

Three items of note:
– Also coming home for Christmas is Maggie, who is now an international singing sensation. She also doesn’t speak in the episode, because of course she doesn’t. It was a joke played to perfection in “Lisa’s Wedding,” we hear from Homer that she’s a chatterbox, and Dr. Hibbert that she sings like an angel, but she is always interrupted before she gets to speak. Here, she gets a lot more screen time than in “Wedding,” and the contrived explanation of her staying mute is that she’s pregnant, and future women need to stay quiet for the health of their baby. What? So she ends up at the airport, and then later in Kearney’s cab when she goes into labor, and then checks into the hospital, all without saying a word? Isn’t she like a hardcore rock star? And we don’t get a peep out of her? When she walks in at the very end with her new baby, she still says nothing. It felt like the writers trying to continue the joke from “Wedding” without realizing the new context for Maggie not speaking makes absolutely no sense.
– We get to see a lot of Springfield residents and what they’re up to in the future, some of which feel kind of crow barred in. In “Wedding,” they felt a little more natural and relevant to the story, or surprising, like seeing Quimby driving a cab working for Otto. Cabdriver Kearney isn’t as interesting. Neither is an entire clone army of Ralph killing themselves, nor is Lenny and Carl switching brains, continuing the endless confusion about what the fuck their relationship is. The Bart and Lisa stories might have been more successful if they were a bit more developed, so devoting so much time to these character sidebars felt like a squandered opportunity.
– Lisa virtually enters the Internet to find her daughter, which arguably is one of the slightly more plausible future things we see here, but it’s incredibly reminiscent of the Internet we saw in Futurama. There’s also a throwaway gag about Martin Prince now being Marcia Princess, which feels very odd. There was a similar “joke” in the past Martin episode of his fantasy of being a buff basketball player with male and female groupies, and him taking a good long look at the former. Are we supposed to laugh at the idea of Martin being gay or transgender? You could make jokes about these subjects, but if the joke is just “he’s gay!” or “he’s now a she!” it just seems kind of shallow and gross.

One good line/moment: The scene of Bart and Lisa drinking up in their treehouse I thought was incredibly effective. The two felt very natural and believable as they bitched about their problems and reassured each other. It’s easily the most effectively human scene this show has done in years. Not even the talking tree bullshit that ends the scene could ruin it.

9 thoughts on “495. Holidays of Future Passed

  1. This is the most overrated episode of the entire series. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not bad, but you get a LOT OF LOVE.
    This isn’t even the best HD episode, imo.

    By the way, this episode has a sequel to season 25, called “Days of Future Future” (AWFUL! AWUFUL!).

    1. Exactly. It seems now accepted that when a ZS episode got something that works, be it the plot that make at least a little sense, or the character not constantly acting like buffoons, the episode become a masterpiece. I HATE IT. I hate how people constantly lower the standard of everything.

      1. For once, I agree with you, Di Ed. I wouldn’t call Holidays of Future Passed bad. In fact, I would call it…almost good. I still disagree with the folk who say it measures up to the classic episodes. For another episode that was almost a series finale, Eternal Moonshine came much closer to meeting that criteria, I believe.

  2. I first saw this episode on the season 16 set. I was pretty underwhelmed after reading comment after comment about how it was an awesome episode.

    Trivia: This was written as a possible series finale when the cast renewal contract was up in the air.

  3. The Bart-as-deadbeat-mooch future is just lazy and unimaginative. He’s ten years old, FFS. He’ll grow out of his mischievous phase. It’s also inconsistent with how Bart is currently written (i.e., less “mischievous,” more “sniveling little pussy”). I still view future Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as canon.

    The Martin/Marcia thing is more of the offensive representation of gays on this show. Remember Smithers and the estrogen pills. It’s like the writers’ thought process goes: gays = HILARIOUS!! wants to have sex with men. Women also want to have sex with men. Ergo, gay men = women! Get it? Get it? Because they both have sex with men!!! OMGSOOOOOFUNNY

  4. The frozen Grandpa and Mr. Burns really encapsulated this one for me, nothing really changed. Lisa’s wedding at least showed us character’s who’d grown slightly, but Ten year old Bart forever, and Lisa always being unappreciated.

    Then again I suppose just degenerating into a colourless future slog where only silly things encapsulates the simpsons generally, and at least a little of entertainment today.

    Remember when the Simpsons made jokes about Tv shows like Admiral Baby? well now we have boss baby as a multi million dollar film.

  5. I don’t think this is anywhere near the masterpiece some made it out to be, but it does have some legitimate moments that makes it well worth the viewing. As you said, the Bart and Lisa bit in the treehouse is exceptional and I do like the how Lisa’s daughter is the opposite of her.

    On the other hand, some jokes, like the freezing and unfreezing Abe scene goes on for too long. Also, I’m tired of Bart always being some sort of adult bum. They’ve done it so many times beforehand that maybe they should do something different for a change?

  6. Having just seen this episode for the first time, I do not understand even the mild praise you guys are giving it here. Granted, aside from a few select episodes I haven’t seen much of post-Season 10 Simpsons but this was astoundingly bad to me.

    At least half the jokes (and that’s being generous) boiled down to “look at how different the future is”, and were delivered by characters speaking in stilted exposition. Most jokes go on too long and wouldn’t even be funny as a background gag. They all get hammered into the ground. The actual plot is just a whole lot of nothing and the “character” moments fail because no effort was put into making the characters’ future selves compelling to begin with. One of the most recent episodes I rewatched was “kidney trouble”, KIDNEY TROUBLE of all episodes, and even that was far better written than this garbage. And this is the best of Season 23? My goodness … The Simpsons really has become a zombie of a show.

    I’ve read a lot of this blog but this is my first time commenting on a post. I just found episode so aggressively bad that I felt the need to say something. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to rewatch “Lisa’s Wedding” to flush this out of my system.

  7. I never understood all the praise for this episode. I does feel somewhat like an episode of Futurama, but a subpar one at that. But standards for Zombie Simpsons are so low, anything that’s merely decent will get tons of praise by the ZS apologists.
    But why did they not bother to make Bart sound like an adult? He still sounds ten years old, just he did in Bart To The Future and Future Drama. It’s lazy as fuck.

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