#12: Behind the Laughter
A la VH-1's Behind the Music, a behind the scenes look is taken at the Simpson family's rise to fame, their successful years together and then their feud which resulted in a breakup and solo careers for the family members. The history is as follows: Homer decides to start a television show in the 1980s. He sends in a tape of their family antics to the major networks, and even FOX. They soon become successful, so successful that they waste money. They put out terrible records to supplement their income. Homer gets injured filming a scene, beginning his long addiction to painkillers. They start having financial problems due to their outrageous spending. Apu rats them out to the IRS and they lose everything. The episodes' plots get really lame, too. Bart goes to jail, being replaced by Richie Rich. When he returns, they agree to do an appearance at the Iowa State Fair. It goes to hell when they get in an argument onstage. This is the end of the Simpsons, or is it? Each goes on to do solo projects and they all hold grudges. Homer returns to his first love, the theatre, where he was dissed for literally eating the set. Marge opens a nightclub named "Marge and Friends," Lisa writes a book, and Bart gets a TV show. Perhaps through the efforts of Dr. Hibbert's old college buddy Willie Nelson (musician/taxpayer) the family might be reunited to bring their brand of entertainment back to the millions of viewers who tune in each week.
Why I Like It
Vh1's Behind the Music is a guilty pleasure for me. In all honesty, I've probably only seen a handful of episodes, and I even actively avoid watching it. But the truth is, if it's on, I can't turn it off. The stories are always exactly the same: unlikely group rises to fame; eventually egos, drugs and alcohol threaten the survival of group; group recovers, at least temporarily. Who would think that would be so interesting? This episode is an absolutely pitch-perfect parody of that series. Actually, I'm not entirely sure that it can be called a parody, as it is Behind the Music, in every detail, down to using the same narrator.
This episode is a perfect example of why I watch The Simpsons. There are many shows that make pop-culture references (Family Guy, as an extreme example), but very few of them actually have anything to say when they do. Here, the writers take aim not only at shows like Behind the Music, but more importantly at the celebrity-centered culture they reflect. Why should any of us care about these ridiculous stories? The answer is that we shouldn't, but, alas we shamefully consume (in mass quantities) the "stories," gossip, lies, and paparazzi photos of both those we love and those we love to hate. This is a great episode.
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