Airing from late 1996 to early 1997 this Season of The Simpsons falls right into the golden age of the show. The dialogue is at its funniest, the plots are not entirely ridiculous, and the focus on the relationships between the family members and their fellow “Springfieldians” is ever present and drives the show forward. Because this show is not episodic the season finale did not do much to tie up loose ends. The importance of individual episodes can be better measured not in the content of their plots but in the general quality of each episode and how they are placed in relation to one another. I have already covered my thoughts on this in the previous posts and while I did take issue with some of the positioning of episodes I was happy over all with the structure of the season.
The character development has been one of my primary focuses this season primarily because it is the driving force behind the entire underlying concept of the show. The producers of the show did a wonderful job of rotating between development of the relationships within the family and those with their neighbors. The soundtrack for The Simpsons in general is a large part of the shows ambiance and could in some ways be considered a character in and of itself. The score is usually subtle and unobtrusive. The use of prerecorded music is in your face, obvious and generally consists of pre-nineteen nineties popular music which is right up my alley. It’s use is particularly effective when used in montages.
My favorite individual episode was, hands down, number nine: El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Homer also known as The Mysterious Voyage of our Homer. The reasons I like it so much are that it is the funniest, it focuses on the reason that people love The Simpsons (the relationship between Homer and Marge), its psychedelic sequence is amazing animation, and it features Johnny Cash in one of the best guest starring roles of the series as the Space Coyote. It also features my single favorite quote from this season. When Homer hears the voice of the Space Coyote say “Find your soul mate” he asks “where?” The response is “This is just your imagination Homer. I can’t give you any new information.” I laugh at that line every time I hear it. While it does not say anything about the Space Coyote as he’s not really saying it, it says a great deal about Homer and what goes on in his tiny brain. This is another subject that defines the series.
The theme song has been the same since the very beginning. Danny Elfman’s instrumental piece is a wonderful reflection of the show. It is light and lyrical and its nonchalance is a perfect lead in for a show with those same qualities. While the show rarely presents real-life issues in a terribly realistic way it is the cartoonish handling of serious things from relationships, politics, and religion that make you stop and think about how seriously you may be taking things that are absurd when you step back from them. This is the essence of family life and of The Simpsons. The moment I fell in love with this show was nearly twenty years ago but watching a full season in order for the first time gave me a new appreciation of the loose continuity that is has. While it’s fun to go back and watch favorite episodes I would recommend to any Simpsons fan that they try watching in order. It has given me a new appreciation for the show and I believe it will do the same for others.
Finally the setting which I have only discussed in relation to the characters in it is immensely important. The reality of Springfield allows for a wealth of second, third, and even fourth tier characters and encourages the use of guest stars playing both themselves or fictional characters. The town has been through so many ridiculous disasters natural, fantastical, and manmade that their effects can be completely ignored in future episodes. The status quo in Springfield is change and anything can happen there. It is a testament to the never say die, never think things through, spirit of Springfield