Watching The Simpsons used to be the best part of my Sunday nights when I was growing up. Lately, though, this ritual has been more about nostalgia than true delight.
For quite a few years, the show has been cashing in on its long history and the goodwill it built with its viewers during the 90s. But I think we're past the point where The Simpsons is all out of credit. Still, that doesn't mean the show has stopped try to ask for more and more credit.
About the only thing I enjoyed about "Penny-Wiseguys" were the not-so-subtle references to far superior episodes in the past.
For starters, the subplot involving Lisa's iron deficiency and subsequent bug-eating had the pre-teen vegetarian referencing the biggest influence in her decision to go meat-free: Paul McCartney. In struggling with whether or not to eat bugs, Lisa has the following exchange with Lunch Lady Doris:
Lisa: But I promised Paul McCartney I wouldn't eat meat.
Doris: And I promised Paul McCartney I wouldn't sleep with John.
"Lisa the Vegetarian" was a great episode, showcasing The Simpsons' ability to deal with complex life choices with humor and insightfulness. The attempt to bring some of the success of that seventh season episode into the present didn't really work. All it did was make me miss what the show once was.
The main plot also made a less overt reference to the past with Homer's Pin Pals. While Homer's team shirt has made a few appearances over the years, this was the first time the team was seen playing (against their rivals The Holy Rollers no less). New guy Dan replaces Otto, which is convenient way to introduce his mob dealings and guest star Steve Carrell.
Carell's moments as the slightly unhinged accountant were fair enough, but not especially hilarious. Being attacked by Lisa's swarms of grasshoppers while Homer watched AFI's greatest movie screams was probably the most amusing of the night's gags, which isn't saying much.
What was your favorite Carell scene?
While there was a fair share of funny The Simpsons' quotes, nothing in tonight's episode was as amusing as remembering those past episodes.