695. The Dad-Feelings Limited

Original airdate: January 3, 2021

The premise: Comic Book Guy’s wife Kumiko gets baby fever, but CBG isn’t crazy on the idea of having kids. When the pressure gets to be too much for him, he retreats to his childhood home, forcing Homer and Marge to convince him to come back.

The reaction: Season 25’s “Married to the Blob” introduced Kumiko, the love of Comic Book Guy’s life whom he married by the end of the episode. In the seven years since then, we’ve only seen her a small handful of times; much like Selma’s daughter Ling or Ned Flanders becoming the new fourth grade teacher, this “big change” ended up barely being addressed in the years following, in this case, a new character to easily be discarded if need be (as we just saw this season in “Three Dreams Denied.”) Kumiko is a manga artist whose biggest turn-on is American sarcasm, but we basically know nothing else about her, so reading the synopsis to this episode was kind of laughable. How can I give a shit about whether CBG and Kumiko have a kid when I barely even understand them as a couple? That being said, I was willing to push all of that aside; if this episode wanted to retroactively develop Kumiko’s character and her relationship with CBG, I’m fine with that. But of course, that didn’t really happen. Kumiko is basically an otaku’s dream girl, as she and CBG spend their Sunday having tea service and attending a Miyazaki film marathon. This changes once she gets to hold Maggie for the first time, awakening her desire to have a child of her own. This change of heart doesn’t reveal any new info about Kumiko and her hopes for a family, never extending any further than her just being baby crazy, like all women get, amirite, guys?! CBG is blindsided by this, as they had bonded in their mutual disinterest in having children. This scene contains a nugget of actual character work, as CBG explains that his years of minding the comic book store have given him a natural disdain toward children, never imagining he could ever be a father. Marge (and begrudgingly, Homer) stick their noses in their affairs by trying to push CBG in the right direction, pawning Bart and Lisa on them during an outdoor film screening of a Back to the Future “parody.” Having never seen it before, Bart and Lisa are enchanted by the film, getting CBG incredibly emotional, watching this favorite film through new eyes, regaling the kids with trivia and factoids. Although over-explained through the dialogue, this feels like the perfect inspiration for why CBG would ever consider procreating, so kudos to the writers on that. When Bart and Lisa get frightened as their parents have seemingly gone missing (they’ve run off to have sex, btw), Kumiko continues to try and get CBG to emotionally open up and comfort the kids, but it proves to be too much as CBG flees the scene. Despite Kumiko still not being a real character, things seemed to be going in a promising direction with seeing the couple actually acting and reacting back and forth with each other, but it was over far too soon.

Kumiko knows where CBG has run off to, but she demands Homer and Marge go after him, because God forbid she actually take agency in her own story, lest we actually learn something about her. CBG’s childhood home is an old, pretty lavish mansion, and from this point, we’re regaled with CBG’s youthful origin story via a quirky, narrated flashback with picture book-esque visuals. These sections are clearly referencing the style of Wes Anderson, even though I’ve only seen four of his movies, I still got what they were going for. CBG grew up in a house full of childless relatives, each with their own obsessive collections, too busy to pay attention to him. When his father missed his big baseball game, he retreated to the world of comic books. All of this is not very funny and pretty underdeveloped, and it all feels like it would hold a lot more weight if CBG had actually narrated his own story, or if it unfolded over time as CBG and his father talked about it. Instead, it feels like Tell, Not Show again, almost intentionally, as the book closes on the flashback and we see the title, “Great Expositions.” But what specifically about comics was CBG drawn to? The escape into fantasy? How there’s always a status quo in long-running comics, so there’s no permanent emotional pain? Also, it’s unclear what CBG’s relationship with his father is. His father lets him back into the house, no problem, but then CBG just goes to his room and it seems the two don’t even speak to each other. Ultimately it’s revealed that CBG’s father missed his son’s big game in order to buy a baseball signed by his favorite player, but ended up not going (“I was afraid if you lost, I wouldn’t know how to comfort you.”) I guess they’re showing how CBG got his stunted emotional growth from his father, but there’s way too much open-endedness to this story. What happened after the game? Did CBG and his dad just never speak again? His father says he expressed his affection with collectibles, so did he buy CBG his comics when he was younger? Their story is so underdeveloped I just don’t know what to make of this ending. Despite my initial grumblings, a story about CBG and Kumiko planning a family could work, and a few pivotal moments here do, but it’s mostly just severely undercooked and rushed to actually feel like a meaningful story.

Three items of note:
– Continuing this season’s recasting, Jenny Yokobori is the new voice of Kumiko, replacing Tress MacNeille. I actually enjoyed her performance, though it’s hard to directly compare to MacNeille, since the material here is more emotional and substantial than any of Kumiko’s other appearances, where MacNeille just did a generic Japanese girl voice. Hopefully they don’t rope Yokobori into voicing Cookie Kwan, best to just let that horrible character stay dead.
– CBG, Kumiko and the Simpsons all attend the movie screening at Springfield Forever Cemetery, inspired by similar events hosted at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (yet another example of Springfield basically being Los Angeles, Jr. now.) There, they watch the classic sci-fi film “Forward to the Past.” Sigh. We see scenes of the movie featuring not-Marty and not-Doc and their time traveling steamboat. I honestly don’t get why they do these almost-but-not-really parodies. Am I supposed to think it’s funny that you took a famous movie and just changed some words around? Why couldn’t they have just been watching Back to the Future? Earlier, Kumiko cosplays as a character from Gremlins 2, which CBG mentions by name, so what the hell’s the difference? The fake movie scenes aren’t commenting on BTTF in a funny or interesting way, it just feels pointless.
– In our last scene, CBG returns home and tells Kumiko he’s a changed man. Kumiko is thrilled (“You are ready to make a baby!”), the two don their cosplay and share a romantic dance as the Faces song “Ooh La La” plays. Curtains close as the credits start to roll (this song was also used in the Wes Anderson film Rushmore, most likely why they used it here.) It’s all just so sickeningly sweet. This is another Matt Selman-produced episode, and all of his episodes always seem to have these incredibly saccharine conclusions, emotional endings that are 100% played straight. They always feel like shit the show would have made fun of in its prime. During my Revisited series, rewatching seasons 6 and 7, there are plenty of examples of genuine, heartwarming moments, but they’re always surrounded by absurdity, or have some kind of undercutting joke or weird element to them that make them simultaneously funny. Here, I guess we’re supposed to laugh that CBG is in a beaver costume, but it’s just not enough. It’s just a schmaltzy sweet final shot that feels absolutely unearned.

18 thoughts on “695. The Dad-Feelings Limited

  1. Welp, this is the best episode this season so far. To bad it’s still complete trash like the previous ten. Oh, well. Some things never change. Here’s to the new year and hopefully Zombie Simpsons’ final year. I swear to god, if this show gets renewed for a 33rd production season…

    “Hopefully they don’t rope Yokobori into voicing Cookie Kwan, best to just let that horrible character stay dead.”

    Yeah, please make Kwan stay down alongside Crazy Cat Lady and Shauna Chalmers. I don’t wanna see any of those monsters ever again.

    “We see scenes of the movie featuring not-Marty and not-Doc and their time traveling steamboat.”

    Obviously you couldn’t see it, but I facepalmed hard when I read that sentence. Ahahaha, laugh at the fact that we made the Delorean a freakin’ steamboat! I don’t get these parodies. They feel like they belong in a Seltzer & Friedberg movie.

    “This is another Matt Selman-produced episode, and all of his episodes always seem to have these incredibly saccharine conclusions, emotional endings that are 100% played straight.”

    I don’t mean any disrespect to Selman, but do you think his favorite show as a child was “Leave it to Beaver?”

    1. Why do you want the show cancelled? Just out of spite for those who enjoy it? If you don’t like it nobody’s forcing you to watch it. I don’t like a lot of shows, but I’m happy they’re on the air for people who like them. What good would cancelling it do anyway. What legacy are they gonna tarnish in the next 1-10 seasons that they haven’t already in the publics eyes. It just seems juvenile and self absorbed to want it cancelled.

      1. Exactly! You see how desperate and in denial I sound? No matter how much I yearn for this show to finally retire, to finally give the tired voice actors a break, and for them to acknowledge there’s no more records to break, they’ll never stop this show! I’m just some average joe yelling at a wall. My voice is not strong enough.

        Zombie Simpsons has left me broken.

  2. I had a problem with this episode, since even Matt Selman isn’t safe from the stink that is Al Jean. During the episode last night, I made mention on Twitter that in Al Jean episodes, the characters are all but likely to speak like aliens trying to convey human language (such as the scene where Homer was pouting about CBG’s bachelor life and how Homer can’t get away with infanticide, which not only sounds more like something a sociopath like Peter Griffin would say, but went all over the place), and to my shock, Selman was the showrunner for this episode and not Jean.

    Also, for an episode that’s supposed to involve a minor character and his barely-featured wife, it once again presents the issue that Homer and Marge have to meddle since that’s all the show knows. Though, in-universe, would you really want to take advice from a dysfunctional couple that the universe seems to revolve around? Granted, there aren’t other options that exist and are fleshed out, but that’s more of a weakness of the show’s failure to develop other characters.

  3. CBG being married is something that just doesn’t work for me. He was a lot funnier when he was just a bitter loser IMO.

  4. Gotta love this fucking line from Homer explaining everything that just happened:

    “So, your husband ran away to his childhood home. Leaving you alone…maybe forever. Also childless.”

    Not to worry though, that’s the last we’ll see of Zombie Simpsons until February 14th. Until then I look forward to your season 7 and 8 revisits.

  5. Ok ok, I laughed when I read that Marge and Homer are part of the story.

    This show is going for the Steven Universe syndrome, just make the main cast being part of everyone’s personal life.

    1. It’s been that way for decades, actually. Nobody in Springfield can decide what they will have for dinner without a Simpson butting in somehow. That’s how the writers have established the supporting cast, as objects for the main family to do stuff when they get bored instead of actual people with varying degrees of independence.

      1. That is not always true. Do you remember The Road to Cincinnati 3 episodes ago? Marge and Homer only appear at the end of the story that was focused on Seymour Skinner and Gary Chalmers.

  6. I’m not watching new episodes of this show anymore (except on VERY rare occasions), but oh god, it’s becoming abundantly clear they’re running out of clever episode titles. This one feels like they’re REALLY stretching to make that reference work.

  7. If you ask me, they should have gotten Janice Kawaye to do Kumiko’s voice. How could they pass that up?

    1. I know, right? I remember her from Captain Planet and the Planeteers, My Life As a Teenage Robot, and Hi Hi Puffy Ami Yuri, and I really miss her. She mostly just works in video games now. But it is nice to give a newer, unknown voice actress a chance. I never heard of Jenny Yokobori before now.

  8. I am not sure if it was just Kumiko having better material than she usually has in this episode, but I liked Jenny Yokobori’s new performance of her too. Seeing as Kumiko is a newer character who debuted back in 2014, it seems kind of fitting that her new Japanese voice actress starts playing her much closer to her age than Tress MacNeille. I knew I would like having new voice actors of color in The Simpsons. If the current directors and writers also shape up, this might actually work out after all.

  9. Because it is nice for long-running shows, even animated ones, to have newer actors voicing newer characters to give the show new energy after more than a decade, like when Zooey Deschanel (b. 1980) came in to voice Mary Spuckler in 2008, and two more times in 2012 and 2013. I hope Jenny Yokobori (b. 1997) whose first episode was in 2021, gets to have more good episodes to play Kumiko in the near future.

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