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The Simpsons Folder


Simpsons Still Great
September 19, 1998, By Steve Tilley, Express Writer

Genius is one per cent inspiration and 99% perspiration, as Thomas Alva Edison was fond of saying. If anyone knows perspiration, it’s Homer Simpson. Now if only he could do something about that other 1% …

The Simpsons rolls into its 10th season tomorrow night with The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace (9 p.m. on ITV and Fox), in which Homer’s mid-life crisis spurs him to take a long, hard look at his past accomplishments.

While talking to Marge, our balding, beer-bellied hero realizes he has exactly three memories of his past 38 years: Standing in line for a movie, getting a key made and the conversation he’s having at that very moment.

While 38-year-old men everywhere can surely feel Homer’s pain (made worse when Marge reminds him he’s actually 39), Homer decides to do something about it.

Inspired by the life of Edison, who had come up with 203 inventions by the time he was Homer’s age, Homer decides to sit down with pencil and paper and follow in the footsteps of the Wizard of Menlo Park.

Trouble is, Edison was a creative genius with a solid scientific background and a knack for thinking up devices that people needed but didn’t yet have.

Homer, on the other hand, is good at … eating. And scratching himself.

Written by regular series contributor John Swartzwelder, the season premiere is a good example of why The Simpsons is still on after almost a decade.

By consistently pumping out quality writing, fresh ideas and deceptively multi-faceted characters, the show has never really lost steam. Compare it to Seinfeld, which suffered through a few substandard seasons before Jerry wisely decided to quit while he was ahead.

Unlike last April’s 200th episode, The Simpsons’ season premiere is low-key and has no notable guest voices, unless you count that guy from St. Elsewhere who used to do the voice of KITT on Knight Rider. But it is funny.

In his quest to be the next Edison, Homer comes up with a handful of inventions best described as somewhere between obviously not useful and downright dangerous – including the Everything’s OK Alarm, the Make-up Gun (“for the woman who only has four-fifths of a second to get ready”) and the La-Z-Man Reclining Toilet Chair.

But Homer does stumble upon a truly useful invention, only to learn that his new-found historical hero may have already come up with the device more than a century earlier. Naturally, Homer decides to do the logical thing: Destroy any evidence that Edison had the idea first.

While not flashy, it’s a sly little episode.

Fun is poked at those “wacky” morning show DJs, TV news dramatizations, tour guides and their pre-fab humour and, most of all, the Simpson clan itself. After almost a decade, Homer and family are so much a part of the culture that they can get away with making in-jokes about themselves.

And while it may be a subtle jab at the raunchifying of television via South Park and its ilk, there seems to be a lot of cussing in this episode – Simpsons-style, of course.

It’s amusing to note that nine years ago, people raised their eyebrows when Bart said, “Eat my shorts.”

Now, he’s spouting words like crap, boobs and fart, and it seems, well, almost tame.

TV has come a long way since 1990. Fortunately, so has The Simpsons.