In tonight’s new episode of The Simpsons (the 19th installment of the long-running animated sitcom’s 34th season), entitled “Write Off This Episode,” Marge and Lisa team up to start a charity for the homeless– er, the “unhoused,” as Lisa keeps reminding us.
But first, “Write Off This Episode” begins with Homer Simpson (voiced, as always, by Dan Castellaneta) betting on football from his living room, and he’s so successful at it that he takes off his lucky wedding ring to thank it, only to drop it down between the floorboards and into the crawlspace under the house.
This leads poor, stupid Homer to literally crawl into that space to retrieve the ring, but finding a “stink” of skunks living there instead– among other horrible things like a dead handyman from years past. Homer does manage to locate the ring, but in the process he gets sprayed by the skunks, so his wife Marge (Julie Kavner) has to employ a tried-and-true trick of hers to get the smell off his clothes. She pours a combination of ingredients into a pillowcase and then inserts the shirt and pants, shaking the mixtures until the clothes come out looking and smelling like new– as their son Bart (Nancy Cartwright) observes, she managed to get rid of both the skunk smell and the Homer smell. This gives the Simpson daughter Lisa (Yeardley Smith) a bright idea: why not distribute Marge’s miracle cleaning solution to the unhoused for free to help them get back on their feet. That process goes so well that the Rich Texan (also Castellaneta) donates $100 to their cause, which forces the mother-daughter pair to form a legitimate charity, which Marge insists they name the Lisa M. Simpson foundation in honor of the girl whose idea it was in the first place. This all goes smashingly until Bernice Hibbert (Dawnn Lewis) introduces Marge to the world of high-society charitable awareness-raising. Things progress to the point that Lisa gets upset with Marge for partnering with some very questionable donors who are only using the charity as an excuse to deduct from their taxes, including the “worst polluter in Springfield” Mr. Burns (Harry Shearer).
Marge responds by promoting Lisa to “emeritus” status, effectively meaning she’s been removed from having any influence in the charity. But on opening night of the Lisa M. Simpson Foundation’s lavish new headquarters, Marge sees some billboards while riding in a limousine to the event that convince her that Lisa was right all along. Then she discovers that Gil (another Castellaneta character) was actually literally un-housed once again when the low-income apartment building he was living in was razed to make room for the headquarters. Marge’s solution is to reinstate Lisa, giving her control of the charity, which the younger Simpson uses to transform the building into a new homeless shelter, enraging donors like Burns, who makes off with the table he paid $10,000 for. I thought the first act of this episode was really funny and the setup of Homer entering the crawlspace had a string of jokes that elicited pretty consistent laughter from me all the way through, but the back half of “Write Off This Episode” ended up being more preachy than it was entertaining. I appreciate the criticisms of upper-crust charities, but I’d say Arrested Development did it first (not to mention better) 20 years ago. Still, there were some solid gags here and there, and the episode ends with Castellaneta’s hilarious extended riff of Homer going through a variety of emotions while getting his backside sprayed with a hose, so it gets a pass from me.
New episodes of The Simpsons air Sunday evenings on FOX.