“The Simpsons” Season 19 Premiere Recap

Posted by Mike (who is aroused … and confused)

If you’re like me, you loved the Season 19 premiere of The Simpsons. Of course, if you’re like me, that means you’re also a rabid fan of the Chicago Cubs, Chicago Bears and Joe Jackson (not the one who played for the Chicago White Sox) — all of whom were featured in the episode. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

The Simpsons is one of the only shows on television that offers its viewers something new each week during its opening credits, and this week’s sequence was reworked to include references to this summer’s The Simpsons Movie. Fans who saw the film — and can you really call yourself a fan if you didn’t? — recognized Spider Pig and Boob Lady among the images that graced the screen during Danny Elfman’s theme song.

The proper episode begins with Mr. Burns at the mall, shopping for a new cell phone since he mistook the one Smithers gave him for a lemon drop and swallowed it. Among the other items on his shopping list are laudanum, spats, a cotton gin and the Brooklyn Dodgers. Before he can cross the final item off his list, he becomes distracted by a penny in a fountain, falls in and almost drowns while trying to retrieve it. As luck would have it, Homer wanders by, pulls Burns out and is rewarded with a free dinner with his boss.

After Homer mentions a fondness for Chicago-style pizza, Mr. Burns whisks him away on a private jet to “the Miami of Canada” — Chicago! While in the air, they enjoy sushi, Itchy & Scratchy, and a beer-themed version of “Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie. After they land, they visit landmarks such as Wrigley Field (home of the 1908 world champions!), Wherever the White Sox Play, Ferris Bueller’s Day of Beauty Salon, First Bank of Oprah and Second City (where you can see great comedians before they get fat). Throughout the tour, Burns wears a Cubs hat and Homer sports a No. 54 Brian Urlacher Bears jersey, scoring bonus points with me.

While Homer and Burns enjoy Chicago — and clearly the feeling is mutual (“While you were here we felt like New York,” the Chicagoans tell them) — the highlight of the trip for Homer was the private jet. Depressed by the prospect that all the remaining flights of his life will be commercial, which is “for losers and terrorists,” he slips into a complete funk. And who can blame him for his depression? Flying by private jet vs. flying commercially is like “the difference between champagne and carbonated pee.”

Enter Colby Crouse (voiced by Stephen Colbert), life coach, who teaches Homer important lessons that are as simple as NDC — as in “never don’t concentrate.” After a period of observation, Colby helps Homer transfer his confidence at the bowling alley to his everyday life by suggesting that he wear his bowling shoes everywhere he goes. This leads to another batch of bonus points, since a musical montage of the plan being put into action is set to “I’m the Man,” by Joe Jackson. While wearing the shoes, Homer is able to post a flier at work without stapling his forehead, save Lisa from ravenous birds with a tether ball, dance with a rat, and “be intamit” with Marge — all of which, for some reason, are videotaped by Colby.

The shoes work wonders — until Homer applies for a job that would allow him to travel by private jet and he melts down during the interview. He lies to his family, telling them he got the job, when he could have eaten a delicious “at least you tried” cake had he told the truth. An elaborate ruse (is there any other kind?) ends when Homer takes Marge up in a private plane to break the bad news, but is forced to land the plane himself when the pilot passes out from, um, too much heroin. He regains his confidence, Lionel Richie regains his American Music Awards, and everything is back to normal.

A great episode by my standards, but probably only a good one by most. Then again, more than 18 seasons in, we should just be thankful they’ve given us thousands of hours of entertainment for free. If anything, we owe them.