Well, here we are for another Christmas-themed episode of The Simpsons. And this one is…a bit different.
Apparently, this episode is structured after one of those Hallmark Christmas movies where some woman from the big city is in a small town and falls in love with a local man or some such. I’ve never actually seen one of those, but I somehow feel like I have, and this episode is structured that way.
The big city woman? Mary Tannenbaum (guest star Ellie Kemper), a woman sent to Springfield by her boss at the Heartmark Channel to make sure one of their Christmas movies is finished in the only small town in America where they weren’t already filming a Christmas movie that summer. Yes, this episode is set in the summer.
The local man? Principal Skinner, who really is handy at gazebo construction (Christmas movies need a lot of those) and whose biggest interest seems to be making sure the town’s annual Lettuce and Tomato Festival goes off without a hitch (and those things are, conveniently, the Christmas colors of red and green).
By the by, is Skinner still in-canon a Vietnam War vet because he’s looking rather buff in this episode?
Anyway, Mary actually hates Christmas movies. She lost her father during the filming of Jingle All the Way. She can’t get her fancy coffee in Springfield, thinks the townspeople are all rubes, and she has her surgeon fiance back home (guest star Chris Parnell) who can’t remember her very specific coffee preference regardless of where she is. She’s staying at the Simpson house where Marge has set it up as an Airbnb, Homer sees that as a great way to make money, and Bart grumbles because people are staying in his room and he can’t even spend the night in his treehouse since Homer is renting that too. He has to share Lisa’s room with both of his sisters.
Lisa, for her part, is filming a behind-the-scenes documentary while the movie’s director (guest star Richard Kind) mostly doesn’t care because they just change the names and the town they film in but keep making the same movie over and over again and it doesn’t really matter.
Will Mary and Skinner fall in love, causing Mary to see the values of these small towns despite some predictable hurdles involving fake snow, Bart showing Lisa’s footage of Mary complaining about the residents, and having a surgeon fiance?
Well, Mary does. Skinner remembers her coffee preference. Bart’s second prank shows her changing her mind about Christmas movies while talking to Marge, and they never told us that surgeon’s name anyway. Mary says she’s staying in Springfield with Skinner.
And then Skinner says that’s the stupidest decision she could possibly make. Her fiance is a surgeon, and Skinner, well, he’s still Seymour Skinner and he isn’t ready for anything like that with a woman he just met.
And then as Mary and the surgeon leave to go home, the surgeon mentions how this isn’t the first time this has happened.
For what it’s worth, when the movie does come out, all the Simpsons watch it. True, only Marge likes it, but they all watch it.