So yesterday I mentioned that this week was going to have one really great episode. And folks, we’re getting it out of the way quick, because it’s this one. I had never seen this episode, but it’s so crazy, and I love it so much. I seriously can’t believe that they made a full episode that was a parody of the Up series of documentaries. If you’re not familiar with these documentaries, check them out because they’re worth it, and you probably will have no idea what’s up with this weird episode.
The episode begins, without opening scene or couch gag, with the documentary filmmaker Declan Desmond, who has been in the show before, explaining what’s going on. He tells us that he’s been filming a series of documentaries that have been examining the life of the people of Springfield. He began by interviewing the people of Homer’s generation when they were in Elementary School and has been coming back every few years to see how they’re growing up.
The structure of this episode is a little odd, and basically just switches between characters and shows you how their lives have progressed, giving you some back story on characters that we’ve known for years. At first we just get a series of fun moments with all of the characters as children, like poor little Lenny being too boring for Declan to bother with. We also get to see little Homer being a jerk, and everyone making fun of him, which will become a real runner through the episode.
After that though we start focusing on specific characters, beginning with good old Clancy Wiggum. We see him as a little boy playing cops and robbers while being a cop, then him being a hall monitor, and finally getting accepted into the Police Academy. Which is where we learn that Wiggum was a terrible recruit, and was only saved by the fact that he apparently gave amazing back rubs. And this skill really became useful when he used it to convince Quimby to let him be Chief of Police so that he could give him massages all the time.
After Wiggum though we move straight to Homer and chart his depressing journey. It starts with him a dumb child, and heads right into him being a dumb 24 year old selling manure out of his car and being in a one-man band. The only bright part of his life was his relationship with Marge, and this continues when he gets a little older and has small Bart and baby Lisa. So Homer’s life isn’t that great, and Declan expect that to continue.
However, when he comes to speak to Homer for the latest installment, he’s shocked to find that Homer appears to be a millionaire. He and the rest of the family are living in a mansion and Homer gives his interview to a shocked Declan while the kids are racing around on jet skis. Marge seems a little weird during her interview, and she explains that Homer got rich inventing a condiment pen. Which seems suspicious, but Declan accepts it. For now.
Back to random characters! First up is Professor Frink, who we first see as a dorky little kid wanting to be a rocket scientist. We then skip straight ahead to present day, where he’s a renowned scientist, and he decides to build a time machine and go back to when he was a child and convince his younger self to date girls. This doesn’t work well though, because Frink ends up getting hit by a car, and some dude just steals the time machine and zips off into the time stream.
Next up we get the most depressing segment, which was actually a pretty great reveal. It starts off interviewing some little girl named Eleanor who doesn’t seem familiar at all. She’s a bright little girl, and we follow her through time becoming more and more impressive. She ends up going to Yale as both a doctor and lawyer, and starts a high-stress life. She then falls down a slippery slope of alcohol and cats, and before we know it she’s the Crazy Cat Lady. Yeesh.
Let’s get slightly less depressing though, and check out Marge’s life. We see her as a little girl, having a passion for photography, which is new, and we start to see her be a photographer in highschool for the paper and working as a Sears photographer in her early twenties. Which lead to a hilarious fake-out where it seems like the Sea Captain is getting his photo taken, but instead it’s the origin story of Disco Stu. Solid. But then we get to modern day, where Marge is still acting weird about being rich.
Which is when the real owner of the mansion comes strolling in the door. Mr. Burns. Apparently this is Burns’ summer mansion, and Homer has concocted this whole insane little ploy to get Declan to think that he’s living a better life than he actually does. Burns is furious, and end up sending Smithers to the regular mansion, 90 minutes away, to get the hounds in time to release them on the Simpsons and Declan, officially ruining Homer’s scam.
So Homer’s depressed, and Declan finds this hilarious. He begins stalking Homer, trying to get embarrassing footage of his real life while Homer tries to hide from him. And Declan just won’t give up. He follows Homer all around town, and eventually heads to the house to try and get in and make fun of him. But Marge won’t stand for it anymore, and she just ends up yelling at Declan, telling him that Homer did all of this because the stupid documentary makes him feel bad about his life.
This surprisingly moves Declan, who heads to Moe’s to drink away his guilt for causing so much stress in Homer’s life. And while he’s talking about this to Moe, Lenny, and Carl, they begin telling Declan about how much they adore Homer, and Declan comes up with a plan. He then calls Homer to the editing bay, and shows him a montage of footage from the years of interviews where people all over town talk about how much they love Homer, and how important he is. It’s actually super sweet, and Homer realizes that he didn’t waste his life, and that’s he’s actually had a really great one. Aw.
I like this episode quite a bit. I watched all of the Up documentaries in college, and I find them utterly fascinating, and the idea to put on in Springfield is a great idea. I do have a little bit of a problem with the fact that basically every adult in Springfield is apparently the exact same age and went to Elementary School together, but whatever, that’s a minor quibble. I was always a big fan of the flashback episodes of the show, which really haven’t been happening that much, and this episode is like ten flashback episodes in one. Honestly the thing I would have loved even more about this episode would have been if they didn’t focus on Homer’s lie of being rich, and had just made it a series of montages of different characters. Seeing these funny beats like the origin of Disco Stu and the Crazy Cat Lady were gold, and I kind of could have used more of that. But regardless of that, this episode is a lot of fun, has a unique structure, and was just full of great gags and a surprising amount of heart. Just like the good old days.
Take Away: It doesn’t matter what other people think, if you’re happy with your life you’ve lived a good life.
“Springfield Up” was written by Matt Warburton and directed by Chuck Sheetz, 2007.