112. Simpsons

Tapehead no 112

In weeks to come, late Saturday afternoons will see a bizarre head-to-head: the Clash Of The Simpsons. Marge and Homer versus Bel and Ollie. 

Luckily, The Simpsons will be repeated – seemingly symbolically – as a warm-up to the EastEnders omnibus when things start to get seriously surreal.

The first Simpsons’ episode, There’s No Disgrace Like Home, is a pretty amusing start, although whether it really is “a more honest vision of life than other show on television” remains open to question to question. (What about Hollyoaks ?)

Homer’s complex about the dysfunctional family he has created reaches crisis proportions (he pawns the TV) after he takes them to Mr Burns’ company picnic. (“It’s time to say goodbye, now please get off my property.”)

Comparing them to the family next door, who all have haloes, a depressed Homer is forced to conclude: “sometimes I think we’re the worst family in town.”

“Maybe we should move to a larger community,” suggests Marge, brightly.

Homer’s solutions include: trying counseling (at Mr Marvin Monroe’s Family Centre), saying grace at dinner (“Thank you, Lord, for this microwave bounty”) and turning to drink.

“When will I learn ?” he cries when he finds salvation. “The answers to life’s problems are not at the bottom of a bottle. They’re on TV !”

Homer Simpson: the father Tapehead never knew.

Watching The Simpsons Have Landed is not advisable. 

For a start, programmes on how cartoons are made, all the painstaking editing and characterisation techniques are about as tedious and superfluous as television gets.

This film has all the things about The Simpsons, you’d rather not know; the things you couldn’t care less about. Like what does the person who does the voice of Bart Simpson really look like ?

The interesting-but-not-sad bits of Simpsons’ minutiae are these: when they started, all the characters were painted yellow. Just yellow. Homer and Marge were named after Matt Groening’s actual parents (typecasting for method acting). The prototype for Groening’s show was called Life In Hell. 

For his first ever piece of animation, he took his sister’s Barbie dolls and her Chatty Cathy doll (Chatty Cathy; what a girl), took their heads off and animated them wrestling naked for a few minutes. He tells this story with understandable hesitancy.

“Oh the demons ! They’re comin’ after me. In ‘ere. In me ‘ead. I can’t get rid of them, Dad. They’re callin ‘me.”

No, it’s not Joe from EastEnders but Little Jimmy at the start of this week’s Brookside, a five-part Smack Heroin Special for all the family. (Yes, another one.) What those Scousers don’t know about smack is not worth knowing.

“It’s gone beyond soap. This is Greek tragedy,” says a quote about this week from someone claiming to be actor who plays Jimmy Corkhill (as if there was such a thing).

Little Jimmy is coming down; climbing the walls; trying to scratch the tattoos off his skin; doing cold turkey in the extension. Our Jackie will never enjoy Christmas dinner the same way again.

“He’s askin’ me for drucks !” she wails.

From here on, it’s all Jackie and Ron, Jackie and Jimmy, Jimmy and Little Jimmy. Not a Simpson in sight. The only person not involved with someone is Viv, the series’ resident nymphomania. Maybe she should meet The Simpsons’ eldest. 

The rumour is that it all ends in murder. Or as they say in Liverpool, meer-dah. And revenge for Ron Dixon and Our Tony.

We even get some positively Bergman-esque flashbacks in black and white, and more needles than Trainspotting.

In the end, like Bart and Homer at the end of next week’s Truckasaurus Derby, the two Jimmies find something to bond over.

Father and son. It’s all really rather touching.


The Simpsons: Sat, 5.30pm, BBC1

The Simpsons Have Landed: Sun, 3.15pm, BBC1

Brookside: Mon-Fri, 8pm, C4