I have watched a lot Simpsons shows for many, many years and I try to judge each episode on its own merit. One of many great things about those earlier episodes is that they managed to combine top-notch humor with truly touching moments without making those emotional moments seem trite or tacked-on. I think the series, even as it nears its 400th episode, can still conjure up those moments, but I will admit that sometimes it doesn't quite hit the target.
Take, for example, this episode. First of all, this one of the funniest episodes I had seen in a long time. Here's just a few of the moments I loved and be sure to watch the YouTube video above:
- The Nappien ad, complete with a bird pooping the pill into the man's mouth and phrases like "napping centers" and "awakegins"
- The clever jab at the expense of Ambien (which was proved to cause "sleep eating" in some people) when Lisa 'accidentally' says the name of the real-life product
- Homer's "Dominex" kneepads, and his videotape dominoes self-portrait, complete with Matt Groening's signature
- Homer's MOOD SWINGS! Moooood swings.
- The man in the house fire who states that gay marriage is the "real emergency"
- The pastiche of the Forrest Gump theme that plays when Mr. Burns floats out his window
- Apu's threatening stance: slapping a puppy against his hand
- Apu pretending to be a reincarnated into a cat ("you have just been Apu-ed!")
However, when it came time for the emotional arc of the episode when Homer realizes his kids are disappointed in him, the episode was so immersed in wackiness it just couldn't pull it off. I thought the "Sad Eyes" sequence was funny, but it was funny at the expense of the kind of emotional payoff that puts The Simpsons ahead of more cartoony fare like Family Guy and American Dad (which are both funny shows in their own right, and yes, you can like them all equally and for different reasons).