Episode Twenty Four, Season Eight of The Simpson’s is entitled The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase. It originally aired on May 11th, 1997. I viewed this episode Tuesday March 23rd on a widescreen plasma TV at my Grandmother’s house. Due to its unique format this episode has no couch gag. The three story episodes such as this one have been a Simpsons staple for years, in fact the bulk of its now 21 seasons. This episode begins with an introduction from Troy McClure (voiced by the late great Phil Hartman). Troy tells us that the producers at Fox approached the producers of The Simpsons to make thirty eight new shows to fill their entire line up. McClure reveals a chart of the Fox line that features The Simpsons, the X Files, and all other time slots with a question mark. Troy tells us that they weren’t up to the task but did produce three new shows that transport familiar Simpsons characters to new locales and situations.
The first new show is “Chief Wiggum: P.I.” in which Chief Wiggum, having been fired from his job in Springfield, moves to New Orleans to become a private detective, assisted by Seymour Skinner and with his son Ralph Wiggum. The Chief runs afoul of Louisiana crime boss Big Daddy who kidnaps Ralph. After several mishaps Wiggum and Skinner track them to the Louisiana Governor’s mansion which Big Daddy had stolen and relocated to the bayou. They manage to save Ralph but Big Daddy escapes leaving room for plenty more episodes.
The second show is “The Love-Matic Grampa” which, according to www.imdb.com is a spoof of the 1960’s TV show “My Mother the Car.” In this spin-off Grampa Simpson dies but is lost on his way to heaven and now inhabits the novelty love tester machine at Moe’s bar. He dispenses increasingly poor advice for Moe’s love life but in the end his date discovers the situation and we’re led to believe that she wants to stay with Moe.
The final story is “The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour” in which The Simpson’s appear in their own variety show. Lisa has been replaced with a new, beautiful teenage Lisa. The family does some song and dance with very little plot but featuring some decent shtick with some help from special guest Tim Conway.
My description, or any for that matter, really can’t do this episode justice. While the first two stories are by far the strongest each of them is funny. The peril in an episode like this is that the audience must be familiar with the characters in order for it to be funny. Most of the humor is self-referential and dialogue based. While that cuts out the possibility of any character development or profound thematic statement this episode isn’t meant to be. It is the Simpsons equivalent of a pop-corn movie. It is purely for entertainments sake and it delivers.
The Simpsons Season 8 Episode #24: The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase
Rating: 5 out of 5