Monthly Archives: January 2013

Can Greatness Just Be Funny? – The Simpsons and “Marge on the Lam” (s05e06)

 

Mike Scully is, however unfairly, the bête noire of The Simpsons in the eyes of the show’s most ardent fans. Scully was the series’ showrunner for seasons 9-12, and he shoulders much of the blame for the show’s decline. One of the most frequent criticisms leveled against Scully is that he had no mind for story or character. Instead, the episodes under his watch have been slammed as nothing more than joke after joke with no deeper grounding in storytelling or consistent characterization to add color or depth to the comedy.

But Mike Scully was hired by a man who has both faced similar criticisms and presided over some of the show’s peak years. David Mirkin joined The Simpsons as the series’ showrunner for seasons 5 and 6. He brought with him a brand new staff, including Mike Scully, after the departure of most of the show’s stalwart writers from the first four seasons.

Mirkin was known for having few concerns about realism in The Simpsons. His only writing credit on the show is for “Deep Space Homer” an outlandish (and subsequently lampshaded) tale where Homer’s angry crank calls somehow lead to him joining N.A.S.A. and launching into space with Buzz Aldrin. While the show’s most devoted fans look back on Mirkin’s tenure fondly, some of those same diehards point to this lack of grounding and diminish him in comparison to other showrunners from the series history. In fact, a recurring criticism of David Mirkin is that he was merely “Mike Scully with better jokes.”

“Marge on the Lam” was the first episode produced under his watch, and it does little to contradict this narrative of Mirkin leading a “nothing but gags” administration. The episode is jam-packed with jokes, many of them pretty outrageous, and story and heart clearly take a backseat to the humor.

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