Simpsons Did It!: “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily”

I said yesterday that season eleven has three episodes that could be considered “jump the shark” moments for The Simpsons.

This one would be the second.

Can I just say…this is a really weird episode.  I mean, it’s not weird like jockey elves weird, but it’s weird in that I’m not sure how funny it is.  The jokes are good, and even appropriate, but given the entire gist of the episode is that Maude Flanders dies unexpectedly, how much can the audience really feel like laughing about it?

Considering this episode came about since actress Maggie Roswell quit the show over a pay dispute may be the fact it seems so odd…and to be fair to Roswell, her concern was she had to fly from her home in Denver to work in Los Angeles twice a week and needed to cover travel expenses was the only reason she had a pay dispute to begin with.

But look how this episode plays out…the jokes are fine.  Heck, some of them are quite funny, like how Bart is asked to try and cheer up Rod and Tod (“Why do all the bad things happen to me?” Bart wonders) to even the fact Maude dies because of an accident involving t-shirt canons.  Much of the episode deals with Ned’s grief and how Homer helps him through it in a very Homerish way.

There’s just a very tangible aura of permanent change to this episode, one that seems so alien to The Simpsons, and while the episode actively acknowledges the other instances, like how Apu got married and had eight babies, or how Milhouse’s parents got divorced, death is a very different permanent event for the show the tackle.  It does so in a thoughtful manner, even amidst the usual humor.

And one unusual bit of humor:  Homer makes a video for Ned’s dating prospects without telling his neighbor, and at one point shows Ned in the shower with his neighbor’s genitals pixeled out…Ned seems to be hung like a horse.

Ned seems to come somewhat out of it when he hears a Christian rock band at church one Sunday, and even has an implied connection with the lead singer (country singer Shawn Colvin).  So, he’ll probably be alright, but killing off a character that was always in the background sure was an unexpected twist for The Simpsons to take.  And while I don’t think it was a true “jump the shark” moment, I do think it is one that people could argue was.

No, the episode I pick for shark jumping is coming up really soon.

And hey, Homer reminded Ned he had a Vegas wife that was crazy about him.  Marge didn’t quite catch that line…

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