I admit, I’ve been wary of this one coming up. “Some Enchanted Evening” was the first episode of The Simpsons ever produced, but due to severe animation issues it was pushed back to the end of the broadcast line. Going straight from the show at its peak for the season to the show just starting to find its feet was a bit worrisome, but it turned out to be unfounded, because this was a pretty funny half hour.
Marge is disappointed after a miserable breakfast watching her family wolf down food, and rings up TV psychologist Dr Marvin Monroe. Dr Munroe blasts Homer’s inadequacies as a husband, and insists that Marge stand up for herself. Homer overhears her on the show at work, and is smart enough to at least try and do something about it, and on the advice of Moe, tries to straighten himself up and buy Marge some flowers and chocolates, and booking the two of them a room in a motel together. This works wonders at improving Marge’s mood, but unfortunately Homer forgot to hire a babysitter. Because the Simpsons are the Worst Family In The World, they struggle to hire a babysitter until they lie about their names, and then the plot is off and running.
On the one hand, we have Homer and Marge on their actually quite pleasant date. This story doesn’t really amount to much; watching badly animated characters dancing isn’t all that interesting. On the other, we have Bart and Lisa’s gradual realisation that they’re being looked after by the notorious Babysitter Bandit, as they engage in a game of cat-and-mouse with her.
The animation in the final episode isn’t bad so much as it is inappropriate – The Simpsons was intended to be realistic, with people and objects basically acting how they should; in early episodes like this, people tend to move like they’re made out of rubber, and there’s much more squash-and-stretch. On top of that, a lot of the squash-and-stretch comes at a time when it really distracts from the action – I’m not looking at Ms Botz talking, I’m looking at the really weirdly detailed animation of her face.
Like a lot of early Simpsons, this episode does have a slight pacing problem, stalling a bit towards the middle. But the punchline it builds up to, when a furious Homer misunderstands why the babysitter is tied up and lets her go, only to end up humiliating himself on TV when he finds out what happened. He and Marge patch up their differences and start getting it on.
I have to say, I liked this episode much more than I was expecting to. It’s genuinely laugh-out-loud funny, which, you know, basic thing a comedy’s gotta do; the characters are a bit wrong, the voices are a bit off, and the animation is really weird, but it mostly holds together pretty well.
First Appearances: Technically, everybody and nobody at the same time
Couch Gag: Everybody sits without incident.
This episode was written by Matt Groening and Sam Simon, and directed by David Silverman and Kent Butterworth – or, more accurately, Silverman was brought in to fix much of Butterworth’s work. It guest starred Penny Marshall, most famous for playing Laverne in Laverne & Shirley, as Ms Botz.
First Season Wrapup
So, that was the first season! I’m having enormous fun doing write-ups here, and I found more good than bad in the first season. What I was most surprised by was how overstated the so-called ‘flanderization’ effect was. An idea so ubiquitous a trope was named after it, it was the belief that over time the characters of The Simpsons warped and changed as a single idea overtook them – for example, Flanders becoming deeply religious.
The thing is, I don’t think it was warping the characters, but expanding them. Flanders was a one-joke character this season, a guy who was simply more pleasant and successful than Homer; he needed layers added onto him to make him last for nine seasons. I look forward to seeing these layers added on as we go along.
But that all said, I’m glad we close the book on season one; even the very next episode, “Bart Gets An F”, will be a huge step up, and looking over the whole season there’s gonna be some real classics. I’ll be able to talk about what happens in the episode more than, you know, how much I like it or not.