Sunday 22 September 2019

Television: Let The Simpsons die with dignity

* The Simpsons, Sky One
* Lugs, TG4

Stale: Lena Dunham guest starred in the 27th series premiere of 'The Simpsons'
Stale: Lena Dunham guest starred in the 27th series premiere of 'The Simpsons'
Ian O'Doherty

Ian O'Doherty

There are several ways you know you're getting older. The cops, of course, start to look younger. You find yourself saying: "The problem with kids today…" and you haven't a clue who is number one in the pop charts.

In fact, even using a phrase such as 'the pop charts' is surely enough to prove that you're now a ridiculous old fart whose best days are far, far behind you.

But there's another, far more depressing indicator of increasing decrepitude and irrelevance - being old enough to remember a time when The Simpsons was quite simply the best thing on the box.

In fact, for the first decade and more of The Simpsons it was old-school event television, worthy of gathering your friends and family around to the house to have a Springfield party.

That was then, of course. The now is a rather more depressing matter.

For example, did you know that The Simpsons returned with the premiere of a new season last Sunday?

Even worse, did you know - but realised that you didn't really care one way or the other? This is the 27th season but it has been a long, long time since a new run elicited anything more than a shrug of the shoulders and almost guilty 'myeh.'

Such a decline in material is perhaps inevitable, and nobody ever complains that there were too many episodes of Fawlty Towers or Fr Ted because both shows decided to get out while the going was still good.

The problem with this opening episode of the new season, called 'Every Man's Dream' was that Lena Dunham was the main guest character and she wasn't even the most annoying thing in it, which is surely a first for anything that poster child for spoiled Millennials has ever appeared in.

Homer and Marge are in trouble again so they go to a marriage guidance counsellor, again.

This time, however, they go for a trial separation and before you know it, Homer's dating a hip pharmacist (Dunham) while Marge is seeing an older guy who happens to be the Dunham character's father.

The producers have been teasing a full-on divorce on the show for the last few seasons and this episode was obviously what they had been alluding to but, frankly, it looked as if it had been written by people who had never actually watched the show before.

Lisa may well be, as Ned Flanders once claimed, the answer to a question that nobody asked, but both she and Marge were the emotional heart of the family and the ease with which both mother and daughter greeted the trial separation was jarring.

Would Lisa really give up on Homer just because she was promised a pony? Would she have so blithely informed Homer that she would 'Skype you at Christmas'?

Yes, yes, yes. I know, they're only badly drawn cartoon characters but many of us have spent more time with the family Simpson than our own flesh and blood and many of us certainly like the Simpsons more than we like our own relations.

In other words, we have come to love these little yellow buggers and any uncharacteristic behaviour is immediately notable.

The reaction Stateside has been absolutely vicious, with some critics claiming that this was probably the worst episode ever - and that's saying something.

Apparently, this season's instalment of their Halloween Tree House Of Horror is a cracker, but that will just remind viewers of a show that was loved and adored by anyone with a heart.

Now it's largely ignored by anyone with a sense of humour.

And that should be a cause of widespread, genuine sadness.

There's an early scene in this episode where Homer is on life support and Bart offers to pull the plug.

Viewers will know how he feels.

Growing up in Dublin, the name Lugs Brannigan was legendary.

A community cop in the inner city in the middle part of the last century, he was a renowned dispenser of summary street justice to miscreants and the fact that he was an international heavyweight boxer meant he always won.

TG4's latest excellent local documentary, Lugs, was a refreshingly non-sentimental appraisal of a man who, even when I was a kid in Crumlin, was a wildly divisive figure.

It's easy to hark back to the good old days when a firm but fair copper could give you a clout over the back of the head rather than drag you to court where the sentence could damage the rest of your life.

But behind the lyrical waxing of how he was a decent man, the kind of hard man we could use on our streets today, does anyone want to live in a city where the local cops have free licence to give suspected criminals -or just kids playing football on the street - a beating?

As tempting as it might be to pretend that they were simpler times, this was an era when any energetic working-class male ran the risk of being sent to an industrial school and all the delights that involved.

It's pointless, of course, to compare then and now and it's important to remember that Brannigan was making his name in a city that has always been violent and will always be thus.

But perhaps the best testament to this complicated character lies in the fact that when he retired, his most treasured gift was a presentation made to him by Dublin's prostitutes, who were grateful for his protection.

Irish Independent

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