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Tag Archives: Meta Humor
The Simpsons: “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” Is the Perfect Showbiz Satire with Just Enough Heart
In “Homer the Smithers” Mr. Burns apologizes to his mother for pulling the plug on her, adding “Who could have known you’d pull through and…live for another five decades.” There’s a similar vibe in “The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show,” an episode that seems to be contemplating a looming end to The Simpsons way back in Season 8, little realizing that the show would be renewed for twenty-two more seasons and counting. Showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein believed the series was winding down at the time, and true to that perspective, this episode seems to ask how much longer the show could reasonably continue until the network, the fans, and the creators themselves were simply too exhausted to go on.
As I discussed on The Simpsons Show Podcast, the irony of an episode devoted to that type of reflection airing less than a third of the way through The Simpsons’s run inevitably colors any look back at “I&S&P.” But the episode still works as an epitaph for the show’s classic years (with “Homer’s Enemy” serving as a coda) and presents a prescient view of the inherent difficulties that would make it harder and harder for The Simpsons to flourish as it aged, even before the quality of the show started to wane. And yet, what makes this installment of the show still so salient — despite the ways in which it both guessed wrong and eerily predicted The Simpsons’s future — is that it offers a universal satire of the issues that plague any long-running T.V. show, and of television as a whole.
In the most recent episode of The Simpsons, entitled “The Blue and the Gray,” Marge takes the bold step of forgoing her usual hair dye and deciding to sport her natural gray hair color. I really enjoyed this main story. It was fresh and original without feeling forced or contrived. It’s hard to come up with a situation the Simpson family has not already dealt with, and Marge-centric episodes in particular tend to cover already well-trodden ground. Who would have thought that a pack of middle-aged male comedy writers would have a hard time coming up with interesting material about a wife and mother? That barb aside, this episode bucked the trend. The basic plotline of Marge deciding to embrace her self confidence by going gray soared. The central conflict of Marge balancing her commitment to being “empowering” against the town’s reaction, not to mention her concerns about whether Homer’s support for the new-do is genuine, carried this episode home.
Of course, my fellow Simpsons nerds and I have known since Season 5’s episode “Secrets of a Successful Marriage” that Marge has been as “gray as a mule since she was seventeen.” In that same vein, I have no doubt that this blip in continuity will be cause for much consternation for my fellow diehards, but I’m willing to overlook it. I am a firm believer in Matt Groening’s “waistband continuity” where the continuity can stretch to fit the joke. I did take some issue with the fact that they hand-waved the issue with the hairdresser that the fumes from the dye wipe Marge’s memory that she’s actually gray. It would be better just to play it off as though the hairdresser was keeping it from her, or just reframe it as Marge knowing about the dyeing all along, but choosing to stop. Still, that’s a quibble in what was otherwise a strong and unique storyline.