Despite my post from a week or two ago decrying the use of Ke$ha's Tik Tok in its opening couch gag, I haven't actually sat down and watched an episode of The Simpsons since...well, I can't remember. I gave up on it not because it was bad, but because it was relentlessly mediocre, which in a way seemed even worse. This was a show that had scaled the heights of greatness, that literally defined a whole new comedic sensibility. To see it just sitting there spinning its wheels just kind of hurt.
Last night, mostly due to lack of anything else to do, I sat through the season finale. It's official: The Simpsons has officially slipped the surly bonds of mediocrity and touched the face of awfulness.
I don't even know where to begin. The shameless pimping for another Fox show, American Idol? The incredibly generic designs for new characters? The stiff, lifeless animation? The terrible writing?
Oh yes, let's focus on that last one. There wasn't a single laugh to be had in the entire episode. (I did smile once, at a throwaway gag involving a mongoose/cobra reconciliation clinic.) The main plot was so transparently designed to plug American Idol it seemed static, covered with Krusty levels of flop sweat, unable to even pretend it was anything other than a promo piece. The B plot was a complete non-starter--how many times, oh Lord, can this show go to the "conflict between Marge and Homer" well?--and, incredibly, there were even trace elements of a C plot involving Santa's Little Helper, which seemingly only existed to pad the running time.
Admittedly, plot isn't necessarily what we go to The Simpsons for, but when it is this formulaic, it can't possibly serve as a springboard for any kind of organic laughs. It didn't even try to mine the characters for comedy--everybody just had generic laugh lines, and most of the alleged comedy came from desperate attempts to be meta, to reference the history of the show or the network or...whatever. The point is, it sucked. Hard.
How bad has The Simpsons become? Afterward, I watched my first episode of The Cleveland Show, a Family Guy spinoff from the rancid Seth MacFarlane factory. And, though it wasn't good, it at least wasn't actively painful.