The Simpsons, Season Four, Episode Eighteen, “So It’s Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show”

As far as I know, the only person still thinking about clip shows in the year 2018 is Dan Harmon, and he’s more interested in parodying the various setups for clip shows than in ever delivering the real deal. Nobody ever actually liked clip shows; at best, they were useful for keeping the audience up to date on stories and easing the workload of the crew, and with the rise of DVDs and streaming, both the practical need and general tolerance for them has died off – hell, I get frustrated when DVDs keep the “Previously On” recaps. I know, asshole, I just saw it. The crew of The Simpsons always held themselves to a high standard, and right from this first clip show, there’s a deep sense of shame about having to resort to one – for example, the title.

That high standard is what lets me not have to resort to copying and pasting paragraphs from old writeups to fill space here; the crew are still dedicated to telling a good story, to the point that the entire first act is original animation (also, the clip where Homer falls down the gorge a second time is now fully animated). Bart and Homer getting into an escalating prank war is exactly the kind of thing they’d do, and I actually really love that the episode takes a standard sitcom plot and escalates it to absurdity within the first act, with the rest of the episode dealing with the fallout – it’s like if a romance movie had the “running to the airport” moment happen about half an hour in.

In terms of a clip show, this means that while there’s still a few “remember when?” moments, the setup for clips is actually more logical and occasionally even inspired. I’m always a fan of a good supercut, and this episode has a few; obviously, the “d’oh!” montage is a favourite, but I also love the vet asking why Homer has so many bumps on the head. By far my favourite setup in the episode, though, is the return of the “Land of Chocolate” sequence; it’s the one clip in the story where if it was your first episode, you could genuinely believe it was made for right here, because the connection is so seamless. On the flipside, I also get a laugh out of Bart blatantly describing an episode of Itchy & Scratchy for no real reason other than to kill time (“Why’d you bring that up?”).

The final act, starting Homer putting himself in a coma with a candy machine, is the right escalation; the whole episode feels pretty light and breezy, and this is just the right kind of plot to keep it feeling like it’s moving forward. It really is Bart’s fault that Homer’s in his coma, and it feels like it means something when he admits to that, and that this admission is enough to bring Homer out of it so he can strangle Bart. The final act feels like an expression of the show’s half-cynical ethos on family – that it’s flawed, that it’s violent, that it’s stupid, but that it’s necessary.

Chalkboard Gag: No one is interested in my underpants.
Couch Gag: The family all have the wrong heads.

This episode was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Carlos Baeza. Initially, Fox was hoping to make four clip shows a season due to the low cost and high profit margin, a perfect example of the network’s dedication to artistic integrity and entertainment. For some reason, censors were bothered by the line “beer causes rectal cancer”.

Barney references One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (“He really needs a girlfriend.”). Professor Frink suggests a reference to Fantastic Voyage. I’m not gonna bother recounting the references in old clips.

Iconic Moments: Four, but they’re all clips: The family doing electroshock therapy, Homer falling off Springfield Gorge, Homer’s rabbit trap, and the Land of Chocolate.
Biggest Laugh: