The Simpsons “The Changing of the Guardian” Review

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 After a freak tornado temporarily traps them in a bank (yeah, I don’t know either), Marge and Homer decide to name a legal guardian for the kids should anything happen to them. There’s hijinks, low-jinks and sometimes things that don’t make any kind of jink at all.

As the season goes on, the more tired I get of the Simpsons formula of the random first act that’s only tangentially related to the meat of the plot. I know it’s something this show has done for years, and in some cases, has done really well, but recently  all it’s done is make everything feel haphazard. Particularly because the first acts are now completely fucking ludicrous in scale. A tornado? Seriously?

Normally, I don’t like to be one of those fans. You know, the ones who pretend everything after 1998 or so never happened. That said, I recently purchased the fourth season DVD set and it served as a reminder of the drastic shift in tone over the years. I feel like opening with a tornado and then dropping that completely for the rest of the episode is just too hard a pill to swallow. We’ve gone way past silly and entered the land of random for random’s sake.

Even so, I’ll give it some points for making me laugh myself silly for no good reason whatsoever when Chief Wiggum asks for a crane to help Marge and Homer out of the bank, and is instead brought a rather pathetic-looking bird.

This is a bird known as a crane. It got very sick on the way over.

The Simpsons crane

Yes, it’s a predictable joke to a degree, but there’s something said for delivery and for just how thoroughly pathetic said crane looked.

The rest of the story isn’t bad, if a little flat. I really enjoyed the scenes of Marge and Homer interviewing the other citizens of Springfield for the dubious privilege of being Bart, Lisa & Maggie’s legal guardian. After twenty-four years of this shit, the townsfolk know what’s up and they want no part of it at all.

I must say I am also getting increasingly sick of everyone in Springfield being shown dicking around on their iPad constantly. I know it’s true to life and it’s more a personal pet peeve than a legitimate criticism, but good god, y’all, I remember a time when Homer couldn’t find the “Any” key.

Thankfully, I can still count on the Hibberts. I find it just adorable how they continue to dress like the goddamn Cosbys, 2013 or not.

After ruling out Grandpa, Homer’s next call is to his brother Herb, played by Danny DeVito, who hasn’t been seen since “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?”  The third season finale. In 1992.

I actually got a little excited there for about four seconds. This was the perfect premise to bring Herb back, especially given how much Bart and Lisa enjoyed spending time with “Unky Herb” in “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou?” Alas, it was not meant to be since DeVito’s appearance was limited to Herb’s answering machine message. Admittedly, said message was pretty funny, but color me disappointed.

Two gays and a baby.
The less said about this the better.

So after searching Springfield from top to bottom for someone willing to take the kids, the Simpsons drive further out of town and end up at the beach, for some reason. This segment contains some of the better dialogue, with Homer explaining to the kids that the guardians would take care of them “should we fail to die together as a family,” and the Simpsons fleeing from a couple with mid-Atlantic accents (“That’s where they filmed The Wire!”)

While sitting in the sand feeling dejected, a brotastic surfer and his environmentalist/lawyer wife, Mav and Portia, happen upon the family and one thing leads to another and they are named legal guardians to the Simpson brood. Guess what? Mav and Portia are bland as unsweetened oatmeal. There’s nothing special about these two. They could have been anyone, really.  So, the cool couple takes the kids up to their ski shack for the weekend, while Marge and Homer stay at home.

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 The remainder of the episode focuses on their worry that their kids would love their guardians more than their blood parents and the fear that the younger couple are trying to “steal” the kids from them. It’s yet another failed attempt at recapturing that heartwarming quality the classic years could do so well. Not to mention, we had almost this exact idea done much better earlier in the season with “The Day the Earth Stood Cool.”

The entire final act is pretty lacking, really. Marge and Homer drive up to the young couple’s house and demand their kids back. And you know what? They do get them back with almost zero fuss. What a shocker. There’s no real conflict here. We don’t even get to see the kids interact  with Mav and Portia without their parents present. I mean, yes, it makes sense they would miss their children but that wouldn’t matter since the point of a legal guardian is to take care of them if you are dead. It’s a case of Marge and Homer getting worried over nothing and being given exactly what they want almost immediately. Where’s the story in that?

It makes no sense that after being so fixated on ensuring there would be someone to watch over the kids, they just break off the arrangement at the drop of a hat, consequence free. They didn’t talk about it, they didn’t take the kids home but still leave the guardianship intact, nothing. They just go up the mountain, get the kids and we’re back in the Simpsons’ kitchen for our moral of the story. I don’t know exactly what that moral is supposed to be, though. “Being jealous and overreacting will get you what you want”?

Homer strangling Bart

Ah, well, at least we close out with a good old-fashioned Bart-strangling. Good times.

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