649. ‘Tis the 30th Season

Original airdate: December 9, 2018

The premise:
When Marge fails to get the kids a new smart TV on Black Friday, the rest of the family plan an impromptu trip to Florida to make her feel better, a trip that turns out to be pretty damn miserable (as any visit to Florida is wont to be).

The reaction: As the episode’s title refers to, thirty years is a long-ass time. And this has gotta be, what, the fifteenth Christmas show, at least? I say over and over that I’d love to see this show try something radically new, but as usually happens, this show is perfectly fine just cycling through traditional sitcom plots sprinkled with attempted jokes and calling it a day. This Xmas special opens with Bart and Lisa asking for a smart TV, and Marge waiting on line all night on Black Friday to acquire one. Her efforts are thwarted when she takes pity on a pathetic, trampled Gil and helps him get his own present to his granddaughter while the last smart TV is being taken. I forget if this show has tackled Black Friday before, but it’s definitely featured great scenes of mobs in stores (“Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy,” “Grift of the Magi”), as have other shows taken the chaotic realities of this “holiday” to their extreme (South Park‘s Black Friday trilogy). Not to say this show can’t do any Black Friday jokes, but as usual, none of them feel particularly fresh or original. So Marge is crestfallen that she let her kids down, Homer catches wind of it, and consults the kids about taking their mother on a vacation for Christmas to raise her spirits. So, they drug Marge’s tea with Sudafed to get her to pass out as they pack the car and all start driving to their vacation destination (not even gonna touch the iffyness of that subject…) Arriving in sunny Florida, they find that it’s not so sunny at all, their hotel is an absolute dump, and the attractions are less than desirable. At this point, it’s just a series of travel vignettes running at a quarter speed at best, of the family going to crappy amusement parks and finding more things to hate about their terrible hotel. I kept wondering what the point of all this was; Homer and the kids try to put on brave faces for Marge, but in the end, she admits she’s not having any fun. Like, of course she isn’t, this is the worst place ever. I lived in Florida for five years, making fun of that state is like shooting fish in a barrel, and this show can’t even execute that properly anymore. In the end, the family returns to Springfield, and Marge’s faith in the holidays is restored by Moe’s yearly act of charity, and they all sit down for dinner. Bart says grace, recapping the episode and espousing the hollow message (“Dear Lord, we didn’t get the gift we wanted, the place we went was a dump, but isn’t Christmas about being with your family and your bartender?”) I guess the big joke is supposed to be that they’re celebrating at Moe’s, but at this point, he’s a close family friend, not just some skeevy guy, and they seem to have a nice holiday feast. Why is this funny? I’m sure it’s daunting coming up with new ideas for Christmas episodes, but if this is the best you can think of, maybe just sit the holiday out if you’ve got nothing to work with.

Three items of note:
– The last smart TV is taken by Cletus and Brandine. As they’re hillbillies who live in abject squalor, I wondered if they even had electricity in their home. Sure enough, they sing a carol about it as they leave the store, almost as an insult to injury for Marge. But why would they spend $500 on something they can’t use? And do they even have $500 to spend? I mean, making fun of poor American schmoes who just compulsively buy on Black Friday even if they don’t have the money to spend, or don’t even want the products, people who just buy literally because they’re “getting a good deal,” that’s a great comedic vein to tap into. Instead, it just ignores all that and leaves you with more questions than answers. Am I thinking too much into this? I mean, at least include a throwaway line about Cletus getting a windfall check for doing a slip-and-fall at Krusty Burger or something.
– The show takes their shot at Family Guy in a cutaway showing Disney hard at work at a new “Family Guy World” theme park (the second Disney-FOX merger reference thus far). As the Family Guy theme plays, we see costumed characters of the Griffins, with Stewie boasting, “I was the It Boy of 2006!” Firstly, is this a burn? Honestly, if your joke is commenting that a show has lived on way past its luster, and you’re doing that joke on The Simpsons, and you’re doing it in a episode whose titled literally comments that you are in your thirtieth season, you should not do that joke. I keep forgetting that Family Guy is almost at twenty seasons at this point. Is it similar to this show when it came back, that it just became a sliding scale of quality into a bottomless pit? Is there an alternate universe where I run a blog where I watch every Family Guy episode ever and snarkily comment on them?
– The final joke in this episode is especially indicative of how fall this show has fallen. Homer sets up the new smart TV over the mantle, putting on the yule log, as the family sits down to watch in awe… despite the actual fireplace burning just below the TV. Look, that’s a fair enough joke. But wait, what if people don’t get it? LISA, PLEASE EXPLAIN THE JOKE TO US. (“You know there’s a real log burning below it, right?”) Bart replies, “Yeah, but is it HD?” I guess that joke was worth insulting the audience’s intelligence. Like, I really don’t get it, you could have just ended the show, why explain the fucking joke back to us? Also, as I’m writing this, I remember that the show already did this joke! Remember “Miracle at Evergreen Terrace”?

My complaint isn’t that they did the same joke again. You’re bound to repeat yourself after thirty years, and honestly, I’m surprised this doesn’t happen more often. But look at this. This pan occurs after we change scenes to the Simpson house. They thought of the yule log joke, but kept it as an unspoken little gag your brain might not even put together as we set the scene before Marge walks in with Christmas cookies. Twenty-old years later, someone thought of the same joke, but was afraid the audience wouldn’t pick up on it, so they needed to overtly highlight it just in case. Is there any other explanation why? This show used to reward you for paying attention. Now, it desperately wants to make sure you understand every joke they lob at you.

One good line/moment: I think I remember a line I chuckled at when I watched it last night. But now it’s the morning and I forget it. C’est la vie.

16 thoughts on “649. ‘Tis the 30th Season

  1. I thought this episode was actually pretty damn good. Probably the best Xmas episode this decade. I laughed a lot of times be it from all of the Black Friday jokes (having worked in retail from 2005-2011, I experienced several Black Fridays) to some of the comments Homer made to crash both cars. Not to mention Homer pulling the kids to the side and asking him what they were planning to give Marge for Xmas was very heartfelt.

    I think my favorite scene was when Homer and Marge were in the living room trying to figure out how they could get Bart and Lisa the new TV because I kept staring at their current TV with the huge cable box on it and then a moment later Marge asks, “Why do we have a cable box on an HDTV?” That was funny, but I also got a laugh out of how the cables going from the box to the TV switched sides (that was probably an unintentional error though).

    Lisa and Bart gong to complain to the hotel manager was quite funny, though I felt the “Godfather” bed scene was nowhere near as effective as it was way back in “Lisa’s Pony.” Another hilarious moment with the hotel manager was the ending bit with her writing a letter to Bart while wearing a shirt that read, “As seen on COPS.”

    1. No, it wasn’t. That episode also ended with showing the family had been banned from 48 of the 50 states, presumably including the one they live in, so it doesn’t really matter.

      1. You gotta remember, the family was killed when that train hit them. As such, everything since has been in their own personal purgatory. Thus, they’re not banned in any state.

    1. Also, theoretically, would Disney want a show like Family Guy that has an executive producer constantly butts heads with what is undoubtedly a corporately driven environment focused on maximum profit in a conveyor belt system where risk is meant to be removed as a variable, even for their Disney+ streaming service? I’m more than certain that Seth MacFarlane would rather negotiate a deal where the Family Guy intellectual property is sold elsewhere, considering Time Warner (particularly TBS and [adult swim]) spend far more time prompting it than FOX does. Netflix cancelled all of the Marvel shows, and Disney isn’t going to bother reviving any of those projects whatsoever (and if they do, they’ll probably be stripped down to meet their core guidelines). Ironically, a show like The Simpsons, and a producer like Al Jean is a match made in heaven for Disney… or hell, depending on your perspective.

      1. First off, MacFarlane has been wanting to end Family Guy for a few years now, but Fox won’t let it stop. As such, he will easily have no issue if Disney gives the show the axe.

        Secondly, if you think Disney is all about child friendly content, then you don’t really know Disney. Did you forget they were the ones who did such movies as Halloween 6, H20, Resurrection, the Scream Trilogy, half of Tarantino’s library, not to mention various animated horror segments like Night on Bald Mountain and the moment when the Headless Horsemen chases after Icabod Crane? What about the murdering of Mufasa in Lion King? Hell, Gargoyles.

        Yeah, Disney is only for kids.

      1. Plus, that episode had Kid Rock as the main guest star, which makes it suck 50 times worse.

      2. It did give us Florida’s nickname of “America’s Wang” though. And as stupid as a lot of those shows were, at least the Scully years had a manic energy and some solid jokes as opposed to modern shows that make me drowsy. I’d much rather watch any Scully episode over almost anything from the last decade.

  2. There’s a few comments I’d like to mention about the episode.

    1. Why are we supposed to feel sorry for Gil again? The last time he had any prominence, we were supposed to hate him because he didn’t like dogs in an episode where Homer made it clear that the life of a dog was far more important than the life of his fellow man because that man was Gil. I know the show likes to use their butt monkeys, but the problem with using characters like Gil is that, inevitably, you get sick and tired of seeing characters like Gil being used as characters like Gil. Does this make any sense? Well, we need the conflict to set up the wrinkle that begins the true plot.
    2. On the Cletus thing; oh my fucking GOD, I HATE Cletus with a burning passion! Cletus is one of the absolute worst things in the history of the series. Another user complained about Shauna last week, but Shauna originated recently from the depths of the Zombie Era; Cletus was a bad idea from the Classic Era. The reason I despise Cletus so much is that so many tertiary characters don’t get a chance to do much of anything, but here we have the inbred redneck stereotype with his ever-changing children total, guaranteed to ruin any story by simply being in proximity. He’s good for a joke or two about hillbillies, but he shouldn’t be involved in your story by any means whatsoever.
    3. “Florida Sucks” isn’t fresh comedy territory, particularly the comedy territory that the show handicaps itself to, depending on the week the writers choose to. The issue is that the writers limit the type of comedy to “Oh, the amusement parks are terrible, hurr dee hurr!” and “Gee, the weather is awful!”, which once again, is the same type of first-draft comedy writing that seems to be a trend with these episodes. It’s not like they don’t try; it’s just that the level of effort doesn’t match what was there 25 years ago because if you’re doing a scene in a crummy Florida motel, you’d probably do at least one or two meth jokes. But, again, that involves research, and research is hard.

  3. Family Guy is exactly how you described it, except it never reached its full potential. The first three seasons were full of classic episodes, but when it came back, it started relying more on random jokes and pop culture references than character development. It had a harsher, wackier energy after it was revived, and it worked for a couple seasons because the show was funny enough to accommodate the new style. I don’t know when it happened, but FG gradually became worse and worse until now, when it is at its lowest point possible.

    It’s sad, because American Dad (which was under the creative direction of Mike Barker and Matt Weitzman, two former Family Guy writers, for several years) ended up being the spiritual successor of the old Family Guy. Had the show never been cancelled twice, it would have most likely went in the same direction as American Dad.

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