Sunday's episode of The Simpsons, guest-starring Jack Black and some comics people, was a weird experience. I guess almost every time I see a new episode of The Simpsons, it's weird and discomfort-inducing for a moment or two. It's still on the air, it really shouldn't be, and no one knows what to do with it. Occasionally, a joke will be really mean- I remember a "Bart torturing Skinner" sequence that seemed completely unacceptable to me. Generally, the vibe is that it's trying to be Family Guy- a show that I would assume everyone who wrote for The Simpsons would feel superior to. I just feel bad for large segments of people when I see an episode.
My theory as to why that show is still on the air is because Matt Groening is too much of a good liberal to lay off nice, funny people from what is probably the best job they will ever have.
Anyway, the last episode didn't have moments that were like that. It just had a bunch of jokes that were so nerdy and inside that I can't imagine normal people would get them. And they weren't delivered casually- They happened one after the other. Just relentless nerdiness.
There was this animated Tintin sequence, which I'm not even sure constitutes a parody or a joke. Because I've never read Tintin. If you have, and can explain if that was a joke, and how it was a joke, I would like to hear it. I get the impression things don't explode that much in Tintin.
I imagine that the general public was as dumbfounded and bored during the whole subplot as I was during that scene. Even the stuff that I understood made me vaguely uncomfortable- the bit where Lisa tells Dan Clowes how much she related to Ghost World? Yeah, that bothered me.
Still, I laughed at a lot of the nerdy shit, and in a way where I was really glad there was no one around to not laugh at that shit with me in the same room. I was really thrown by its existence, but that made me laugh, when I did laugh, all the harder: It felt like inside jokes being done on this grand scale that had to be alienating most people.
Or maybe no one watches The Simpsons these days.
I also laughed later on, at the sight gag of Homer with his stomach stapled, and then later on, post plastic surgery. Oh, and the "Count back from ten" "Okay, I admit it, I'm drunk" exchange.
During the subplot that was all nerd shit, all the time, the only joke that wasn't just an obscure reference was Jack Black's girlfriend saying the line "My name is Strawberry, and I have a lunchbox for a purse," which is hysterical to me. Way funnier than Alan Moore complaining about corporate behemoth employers mistreat his work. For the people reading this blog who might need that joke explained to them: That's what he does in real life! All the time! Not really a well-observed joke about certain types of people like the thing about the lunchbox purse is, no.
The last episode I remember seeing and thinking was okay was later highlighted by a blogger for The Onion AV Club as being written by the guy who did My Super Ex-Girlfriend, and having similar undercurrents of casual misogyny. That episode was good enough to have come from a season where The Simpsons was just starting to go bad.