Culture

In Case You Missed It: Corpses and Laffs!

the simpsons

Happy holidays, this week! I celebrated President’s Day by staring at a five dollar bill all day, and then celebrated Fat Tuesday by using said five dollars to throw a one-man regret party at Taco Bell, followed by a series of midday naps.

My favorite headline of the week goes to a St. Louis news website, and my favorite glaring oversight goes out to Madison County in Illinois. Turns out, it’s totally cool to have sex with dead bodies. The government can’t do anything. Call a representative to argue the bill, just to see how long you can keep a straight face. And this wasn’t even the first time it came up! To quote the article, “one such case in the county many years ago that could not be prosecuted for lack of such a law.” The bill was overdue after someone was tried for having sex with a dead body and straight-up bested judge and jury in the worst appropriation of “Haters Gonna Hate” that comes to mind.

In similar news, The Simpsons aired their 500th episode. It was pretty good for The Simpsons now, as The Simpsons for the last few seasons has been reliably decent television, but it’s still a far way from the show that produced the “138th Episode Spectacular” because the writers thought they would never reach a milestone number. It actively fought and television sitcom conventions and form to define an entire generation’s humor writing. You can blame a lot of things for the show’s downfall (as I’m sure you have loud friends), but the major problem came from inelasticity in form. Simpsons became a “procedural comedy,” allowing the basic rules of pop-culture parody to decide narratives and styles while never breaking the rules established by the earlier writers once things grew stagnant. The trademark middle-finger The Simpsons gave to story structure relied on the first five minutes misdirecting the audience as to what the story was about. Every episode followed this rule unless it was an episode focused around parody, or an episode of three different tales, but The Simpsons at its best (“Homer’s Enemy” and “You Only Move Twice” come to mind) transcend this rule for the sake of narrative.

On the other hand, Community was announced to be resuscitated on March 15 to finish its third and possibly final season. It’s not as surprising as it is inevitable, and a damn shame, if not just for Dan Harmon’s dedicated adherence to the Hero’s Journey, but for making a sitcom that goes to absurdist places while grounded in character. In the imagined utopia of Community fans, it would have the highest ratings and single-handedly cancel American Idol. Yet, smart television seems impossibly hopeless in today’s market. What sitcom in the last 22 years could hope to rival The Simpsons, at its best a biting satire and amazing comedy, as pop-cultural icons? What the hell can the next 22 years bring to top that unparalleled reign? My hunch: the fifth season of Celebrity Nutshots.

If you were looking for the proper way to celebrate President’s Day, you should have gone to Rebel Bar in Chicago to celebrate George Washington’s birthday with all the founding fathers. Let me calm your “Huh-wha” and “Guh-guh-guh-ghost” responses, room full of Don Knottses that I assume read every article together and aloud. I Made America is a webseries following the exploits of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Adams and Hamilton as they try to make the best of being trapped in modern-day Chicago. What sets it apart from other webseries, besides the costuming budget, is the willingness to use the entire city for their narrative playground. Each weekly episode is supplemented with Twitter and Facebook feeds for each character, along with small videos and events around Chicago that either move narrative along, or stand alone as an absurd slice of future shock. It still has its flaws, and I sometimes wish the main episodes were as funny as the actors riffing off each other in the smaller videos, but the boldness and ingenuity is worth marveling upon. Get it while it’s alive.

  • Brian Skaj

    Thank you for concisely and politely summing up my growling criticism of the Simpsons “dark years.”

  • Benjamin Franklin

    Thank you sir for your words of encouragement. May your days be properous. Should you ever be in Chicago, kindly contact us.

    Your humble and obedient servant,
    Benjamin Franklin