The Simpsons season 34 concluded on Sunday, May 21, 2023 with a season finale guest-starring Lizzo as Goobie-Doo, one of the Happy Little Elves. However, the most recent season of the long-running animated sitcom relied less on guest stars and more on experimental episodes for success. In spite of a few underwhelming outings, The Simpsons season 34 boasts enough standout episodes to qualify as an above-average showing for this season of Matt Groening‘s longest-running series.
One of the best parts of The Simpsons season 34 was individual standout episodes, of which there were many. Several of these benefited from a more experimental format. In “Lisa the Boy Scout,” a standard broadcast episode is overridden by a pair of hackers who want to extort money from Disney. To accomplish this goal, they release forbidden deleted Simpsons footage.
And in “My Life as A Vlog,” the rise and fall of the Simpsons family vlog is documented through a series of YouTube-style videos. This episode excelled at immersion by incorporating the creator credits into the screen as “pop-up notifications.” Furthermore, the reveal of who has been watching all these videos (instead of doing the writing they should be doing) is both hilarious and relatable.
However, it wasn’t just experimental episodes that stood out in this season. Those that drew on nightmarish recent national developments, like “Hostile Kirk Place” and “The Very Hungry Caterpillars,” directly spoke to current events without coming across as too preachy or too cynical. Meanwhile, Krusty the Clown (Dan Castellaneta) is put into heavy but hilarious rotation with two episodes. In “Clown V. Board of Education,” he attempts to impress his late father by opening a children’s clown college. And in the especially hilarious “The King of Nice,” Krusty becomes embroiled in a very familiar daytime TV scandal.
Finally, the subgenre of episodes that focused on the supporting characters of Springfield continued to shine. In “Carl Carlson Rides Again,” the story of Carl (Alex Désert) gets some thoughtful development. And “From Beer to Paternity” gives Homer (Castellaneta) a chance to help recurring mascot Duffman (Hank Azaria) reconnect with his estranged daughter (Aubrey Plaza).
Treehouse of Horror
However, one of the best experiments of the season took place during the Halloween season. A week before the reliably hilarious “Treehouse of Horror XXXIII” aired on October 31, 2022, a full-length out-of-continuity special aired: “Treehouse of Horror Presents: Not It.” Like a standard “Treehouse of Horror” story, this tale recasts the citizens of Springfield as characters in a horror parody.
Set in the city of “Kingfield,” this story uses Stephen King‘s novel IT (and its multiple adaptations) for inspiration. As a Constant Reader of King and a constant watcher of The Simpsons generally and the Treehouse of Horror episodes specifically, this episode was catnip for me.
At the conclusion of “Not It,” Kang (Harry Shearer) and Kodos (Castellaneta) appear and threaten to unleash several other King stories on the Kingfield denizens. While this is likely a throwaway gag, I would like nothing better than to see the “Treehouse of Horror Presents” trend continue alongside season 35’s “Treehouse of Horror XXXIV,” preferably with another King parody.
Finally, seeing the Pennywise-style Krusty doppelgänger Krusto reappear in the penultimate episode of the season, “Clown V. Board of Education,” was a nice Easter egg. Almost as cool as the montage of fanart depicting Krusto that played under the closing credits for “Not It”!
Sunday’s episode, “Homer’s Adventures Through the Windshield Glass,” was an unusual episode that was suited to being a season finale. Heavily relying on a flashback structure and guest star Lizzo alike, the finale saw Homer grappling with a personal revelation regarding Marge (Julie Kavner) while soaring through the air toward his possible death. This meant Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardly Smith), and Maggie were mostly confined to flashbacks (but did get to appear in the tag at the episode’s conclusion).
“Homer’s Adventures Through the Windshield Glass” provided a solid finale for The Simpsons season 34. Still, it did not quite reach the show-stopping status of the season 33 finale, “Poorhouse Rock.” Both finales featured a strong musical element (with Hugh Jackman appearing in “Poorhouse Rock”). But the emphasis “Poorhouse Rock” places on the intergenerational development of American culture since The Simpsons first aired elevates it above the clever format but straightforward misunderstanding storyline of “Windshield Glass.”
The Simpsons season 34
Overall, The Simpsons season 34 makes a strong argument for the longer seasons of yore. With 22 episodes, the animated comedy can take the opportunity to use some for more experimental stories and formats. While this does lead to some misfires, it also delivers the best and most memorable episodes of the season.
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