This evening saw the debut airing of the sixth episode of The Simpsons’ 35th season, entitled “It’s a Blunderful Life” (a play on the classic Frank Capra film It’s a Wonderful Life), and below are my brief recap and thoughts on this installment of the long-running animated sitcom.
“It’s a Blunderful Life” begins with a fun couch gag using cutout stop-motion animation to turn a handmade turkey’s feathers into four members of the Simpson family, with the notable absence being Homer. Then the turkey jumps on the couch and poops out a pile of Homer, who emits a “D’oh!” Next, the episode proper starts with another flash-forward to the future, and it’s the first Thanksgiving holiday after Homer’s death, with Marge Simpson (voiced, as always, by Julie Kavner) serving as great-grandmother to several generations of offspring. Homer (Dan Castellaneta) is present, however, via a hologram that can speak and eat, though in actuality the food goes right through his non-corporeal body, and the Simpsons’ future dog eats it off his chair. But the bulk of this episode is about grandma Lida (Yeardley Smith) telling a story about a Thanksgiving that was almost ruined by a blackout in Springfield many decades earlier.
Then we flash back to the present, and Marge seeing a warning on the news about a winter storm approaching, so she wakes Homer up from a Hawaii-related dream to make sure he’s installed the storm windows. He hasn’t, of course, but instead of following through on that promise he heads to work, which he’s actually excited for because it’s Hawaiian Day at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Little does Homer (and the rest of the familiar employees) know that Mr. Burns (Harry Shearer) is merely using Hawaii Day as a distraction so he can hire scabs to replace all his union workers. We get a fun anti-union song from Shearer, which climaxes in Burns accidentally setting fire to a pile of cardboard boxes– one of which naturally contains oily rags– in the power plant hallway. Meanwhile, Homer narrowly avoids catastrophe by dumping the trash from the party into the correct receptacle, but when the plant nearly burns down everyone blames him anyway for the resulting Springfield power outage.
When Homer returns home to install the storm windows, Marge figures out that something is wrong pretty much right away, but she’s hesitant to believe Homer that he didn’t cause the blackout. The same can be said for the rest of the town, as a line of cars forms on Evergreen Terrace to throw bricks through the Simpsons’ windows… with Grampa (also Castellaneta) being the only one who believes his son. Inspired by a Little House On the Prairie-esque book that she’s forced to read due to the outage, Lisa begins keeping a journal of this period in her life– though she finds herself reminiscing in an unusual old-timey accent. Eventually the townsfolk get so fed up with Homer’s blunders (hence the title) that they hoist the Simpson home on a flatbed truck and move it to the top of a mountain. Thankfully they’re not alone up there, as Ned Flanders (Shearer) asks to be moved along with them, but this only makes Homer want to win back the trust of his wife and his town even more.
They finally figure out that it was Mr. Burns behind the fire, and when they go to confront him at his mansion, Monty is surprised to learn that his faithful trap door requires electricity to function as well. Mr. Smithers (yup, Shearer) attempts to activate the trap door manually, but it takes so long to turn the crank that Our Favorite Family has ample time to just step out of the way. Soon Chief Wiggum (Hank Azaria) shows up to arrest Burns, who’s surprised that he’s actually going to face consequences for something he did, though it turns out his punishment is just “a fine he can easily pay.” But fortunately the town forgives Homer, moves the two houses back where they were, and everyone enjoys Thanksgiving dinner in both the present and the future– except for Bart (Nancy Cartwright), who has died from boredom. A funny mid-credits scene has Homer reading to Lisa from another Little House-type book, and I’d call this episode pretty charming overall, though the show reached some outlandish new heights with the relocation of the houses to those dangling precipices. Some of the funnier gags this week had to do with the series merely pointing out how long it’s been on for, like Grampa not knowing which decade he grew up in anymore, and the family having kept a tally of all the angry mobs that have come after Homer. But what stuck out to me the most this week was all the really nice-looking animation, and a warm holiday season glow that often comes with The Simpsons this time of year.
New episodes of The Simpsons air Sunday evenings on FOX.