Lifetime of Simpsons

S11 E22 – Behind the Laughter

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Holy crap everybody. It’s the end of Season Eleven! How crazy is that? We’re getting close to this project’s one year anniversary, and we’ve made it through eleven years of this show. And yeah, things aren’t going that hot, but I have some hope that things will pick back up. I mean, the show is still on, they must be doing something right? Right? Eh, we’ll figure it out, for now let’s enjoy this bonkers little episode.

So, this episode is just a huge parody of the Behind the Music show that VH1 used to have, but where the Simpsons are actual people playing themselves on a show. It’s a crazy idea, and I’ve got to admit, the episode really works for me. So let’s get into it! The episode starts off with a narrator explaining how immensely popular the Simpsons are, and that we’ll get to learn all sort of torrid details about them, like why Lisa got spit on by Meryl Streep at the Oscars (we don’t learn that).

But before they get to the fame, they have to talk about the beginning. We see that the Simpsons used to be a normal family, just living life like everybody else. But after they start complaining to each other that there are no families on TV like them, they decide to change that and make a show. So Homer writes and directs a pilot, which is terrible. And yet Homer shops it around to all the major television networks, and they all refuse. That is until Marge learns her hairdresser is also the president of Fox, so they have their in. Homer and Rupert Murdoch then sign a contract, and the Simpsons begins!

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And they’re immediately popular. The school stats to go crazy about Bart and Lisa, and the whole town starts bowing down to their whims. We learn about Homer strangling Bart getting on the show after a funny behind the scenes moment, we see that they get rich enough to move out of the classic house and into MC Hammer’s house, and that they start to sell out immediately. They even have the Simpsons start recording terrible records, that sweep the Grammy’s. And everybody loves them!

Which obviously means things are about to go bad. And it’s confirmed when the documentary starts to interview members of the town, who tell all sorts of stories about the family members wasting their money on stupid stuff. Marge also loses a lot of their money by endorsing a diaphragm company, which bombs. And it’s not just money, because we learn that after the whole “jumping over the gorge” stunt, Homer got addicted to pain killers, letting him to all the ridiculous physical stunts that he becomes known for.

And obviously, what goes up must come down, so we then move on to the downfall of the Simpsons family. It all starts when Apu rats them out to the IRS for tax evasion, causing them to confiscate MC Hammer’s house. Bart also gets arrested for causing some sort of ruckus on an airplane after judging some sort of swimsuit competition. And these issues start to take a toll on the show, leading to lackluster scripts, like “Principal and the Pauper.” Hey, I kind of like that one!

And eventually the family can’t take it anymore, and split up. So of course, Jimmy Carter has to fix things, and invites them to the Iowa State fair to patch things up. Where they promptly get into a massive fight and officially all leave the show to go their own ways. They all briefly pursue solo projects, which are disastrous. Homer starts in a terrible RENT sequel, Lisa writes a tell-all book, Marge has a weird Vegas night-club act, and Bart takes over in the TV show Renegade.

But where Jimmy Carter failed, Willie Nelson will prevail. He gets called in by Dr. Hibbert to solve the families problems, and decides the way to do that is organize a fake awards show, and trick all the family members to be awards presenters. And even though it’s uncomfortable at first, they eventually give in, and make up. The episode then ends with the promise that they’ve patched everything up, that they live in Northern Kentucky, and that the show only has one more season left. Yeah right guys, I’m not even halfway through this shit! Oh, and Huckleberry Hound is gay. Do what you will with that information.

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I don’t know what it is about this episode, but I like it a whole lot. It may be a nostalgia thing, because I remember this episode being on constantly when I was a teenager, so I saw it a whole lot. But I’ve also seen the last couple episode a whole lot, and they’ve been pretty terrible. I think it may just be the central premise, which pays off great. The episode really got the schtick of a Behind the Music right, and it’s just hilarious. I love the idea of the Simpsons being real people who have made a show based on themselves, and seeing their rise and fall, which does kind of mirror the real life rise and fall in quality of the show, is pretty great. There’s not a lot to this episode, and it’s certainly not an emotionally satisfying or engaging story, but it’s dumb and funny, and I kind of love it.

Take Away: What goes up must come down. And don’t invest in diaphragms.

 

“Behind the Laughter” was written by  Tim Long, George Meyer, Mike Scully & Matt Selman, and directed by Mark Kirkland, 2000.

 

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