The Simpsons (Season 6) ReviewUsually, by the sixth season of the series, TV shows have long reached their peak and have packed their bags for syndication. The Simpsons, however, was only just getting started. Some would even argue that this was the real beginning of its Golden Age that lasted through season 7 and 8. The ratings would certainly reflect that, as season 6 marks the highest-rated season of the series yet. The animated adult cartoon would literally never be as good ever again, for better or worse.
Personally, I had a lot of problems with Mirkin’s direction previous season, to turn up the zaniness of the cartoon and dial down the realism or even the satire of earlier seasons. Season 5 became one huge gag show that’s made purely for laughs, containing very few of the clever social commentary or even the emotional moments that made season 2 through 4 such a blast. Fortunately, season 6 has returned to form and brought a nice mix of a ridiculous cartoonish nature and a more heartfelt examination of the characters and their relationships. Mirkin’s usage of character traits (as opposed to their flanderization) to bring the humor worked to great effect this season.
For starters, we get three very nice episodes revolving round my favorite Simpson yet, Lisa’s Rival (where Lisa gets a friend as smart as her), Round Springfield (an incredibly grounded episode by Mike Reiss & Al Jean that deals with Lisa grieving for her one connection to her love for Jazz), and Lisa’s Wedding. The last of which was literally an Emmy-winning landmark on its own as it features the series’ first episode to be set almost entirely in the future. While such speculative scenes have been present in the series’ history before, this was the first to center its entire premise around what might happen to the Simpsons family decades down the road. It’s also one of the rare chances we get to have the satisfaction of seeing OFF (Our Favorite Family™) grow up, an element that easily makes me more eager than ever to watch similar episodes like this such as Holidays of Future Passed and Barthood. Meanwhile, we also get two episodes focused on the often overlooked Marge as well, Fear of Flying and The Springfield Connection, even if the former didn’t work so well in its attempt to inject humor into a non-humorous character. But from such episodes that lend further depth to the characters, season 6 has a more intimate feeling that reinforce the character qualities that made us like them in the first place. Alongside Lisa’s Wedding, the tightening of familial bonds also extends to Grandpa and Homer Simpson in Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy. Another standout episode with such a strong emotional core is And Maggie Makes Three, of which its “Do It For Maggie” ending reminds us we put up with his buffoonery: because he’s a doting father at heart full of fatherly love.
But emotional rollercoasters aside, this is still a comedy series, and the first few episodes of season 6 (though the first two were delayed from season 5) already gave me a good impression of what’s to come, with Simpsons being as biting with its satirical commentary as ever in the forms of Itchy & Scratchy Land and Sideshow Bob Roberts (one was taking jabs at Disney’s merchandising and Disneyland’s poor working environment almost two and a half decades before their purchase of Fox, while the other was supposed to be a parody of Bob Roberts, but ended up predicting problematic candidacies voted by the people). This was followed by my favorite Treehouse of Horror thus far that’s probably also the darkest one yet that really pushed back against the censor-pushing of Fox and the FCC. Later on, Homer Badman once again exemplified the show’s hilarious social mockery by predicting SJWs long before SJW culture. Needless to say, season 6 was firing on all cylinders: comedy, satire and emotions.
However, some of the later episodes did fail to get as many laughs from me like Bart vs. Australia (a mockery of Australian stereotypes conceived by Americans), A Star is Burns (a blatant advertisement for another Fox show known as The Critic, a parody of movies that should’ve been more appealing to a movie fan like me but somehow didn’t catch my attention), Homer vs. Patty and Selma, Homie the Clown and Homer the Great. These are the furthest things from being the kind of bad episodes we’d see down the decades, but they are kinda forgettable and just didn’t really do much for me with their usual Mirkin cartoonish shenanigans that bored me in season 5. On the other hand, I quite enjoyed Two Dozen and One Greyhounds and its blatant parody of 101 Dalmatians and the Be Our Guest musical number from Beauty and the Beast. Much like the other episodes I mentioned this paragraph, it feels like a typical episode written for the fun of it (as opposed to having anything that clever to say), but it strikes a chord for me and my Millennial childhood, something rare for a show written by Boomers. In fact, most of the jokes in the show probably don’t land well with me because they’re obscure references to some ’70s talk show host or celebrity I never heard of in my non-American country (somehow, anime like Gintama and their obscure references to other anime and Japanese culture Americans won’t get land better for me, a non-Japanese).
But to its credit, season 6 has both a strong start and a strong ending, with winning entries near the tail-end of the season like the aforementioned Lisa’s Wedding, Two Dozen and One Greyhounds, Round Springfield, and of course, the famous milestone that’s part one of Who Shot Mr. Burns? an episode where the show gets the audience to answer the titular question through a hotline (before revealing the “truth” three months later). Such a publicity stunt is obviously a reference of the 1978 drama, Dallas and the coined catchphrase spawned from its third season finale, A House Divided, but for a comic book fan like myself… well, you comic book fans probably know what I’m about to say. Yes indeed, it’s the 1988 Jim Starling series known as Batman: A Death in the Family, where fans were asked to dial a number to decide if Robin should be horrifically murdered by The Joker. It’s not the first time audience interaction became that intimate, and with Gravity Falls, it certainly wouldn’t be the last. It’s an interesting social experiment that led to a whole generation of media sensation and ultimately heightened the cartoon’s already heightened reputation as a historical TV landmark the likes of I Love Lucy, The Brady Bunch, Cheers and of course, Dallas (shows that are so old and yet somehow I have still heard of them).
All in all, even while not every episode works for me, it’s still an ambitious season that has thoroughly entertained and even amazed me, possibly more than ever since season 3. Yes, The Simpsons is definitely heading off to a a great future ahead… or at least two more years (or three depending on whom you ask) of glorious laughter before said laughter is behind us, replaced with a husk of its former self. No wonder many consider S6 the peak of the series.
Final Rating: 8.5/10