I watched an episode of The Simpsons tonight–first time I’d done that since I don’t know when.
Sideshow Bob, long-time homicidal nemesis of Bart Simpson, turned up. The plot, such as it was, had Homer and the kids travel to Italy, entrusted with picking up an expensive sports car and bringing it back to the United States for Mr. Burns. An accident with cheese, however, left the sports car in need of major repairs, and the Simpsons clan found themselves in a Tuscan village. No one speaks English in this remote burg, however, until an old woman tells Homer to talk to the town’s mayor. Who is none other than Sideshow Bob himself.
Bob, it seems, fled America after his last attempt to kil Bart failed, and he decided to make a new life for himself elsewhere in the world. Italy seemed as good a place as any, so he moved there, and his enormous feet provided him with a means of support–he could stomp the wine grapes that the villagers would not. After that first wine harvest, Bob was elected mayor of the town, he met a woman, fell in love, married, and fathered a child. The arrival of the Simpsons in town jeopardized all that. Sideshow Bob hadn’t told his new neighbors about his chequered past, and Bob worried that even an inadvertant word could bring his new life crashing around him.
Lisa proved to be Sideshow Bob’s undoing. Drunk, perhaps for the first time in her life, she revealed that Bob was a wanted criminal in the United States, and suddenly the townspeople turned on Bob, casting him out, ruining the new life he’d built for himself.
I could go on summarizing the episode, but why bother? The last half of the episode turns into a stupid revenge plot involving Krusty the Clown and an opera at the Great Colliseum, and while the story ends, it’s not resolved. And Sideshow Bob seemed somehow diminished. The idea of Bob building a new life for himself was a compelling one. The idea of Bob renouncing his old ways, though it’s been seen before, has redemptive power. But the way this episode put the pieces together simply didn’t add up to anything.
I like Sideshow Bob. I really do, though I’m sure Kelsey Grammer’s voice has a lot to do with that. This episode seemed unworthy of Sideshow Bob, and that’s disappointing. I’ve no doubt that in a season or two Bob, his wife, and son will pay Springfield a visit, but I can only hope that the story befits the characters.
Whatever happened to the days when The Simpsons told a story, rather than string together a couple dozen sight gags and jokes?