When A Couch Gag Isn’t Just a Couch Gag

What has become increasingly evident over more than 600 episodes, is that the “Couch Gag” has often taken on a status that can actually outshine the rest of the episode.  Like Saturday Night Live, the opening segment is often the best part of the show. There have been loads of “guest directors” for the couch gags, with some providing simply amazing sequences in their scope and creativity.

I won’t weigh in on whether this week’s couch gag (S28E14) outshines the rest of the episode (I’ll leave that for another time).  But, I WILL say, that I do like it when “The Simpsons,” which has clearly earned “revered old man” status in the pantheon of Prime Time animated shows, flexes a bit and takes the competition down a peg or two.

But, there is also an inside bit of humor that made me laugh. For Matt Groening, I suspect that part of this couch gag was a personal swipe at a family member.

Let’s see what you think…

Before I break it down…take a look for yourself.

It starts with the Simpsons discovering that the “Seascape” painting, that usually hangs over the top of their couch has gone missing. (I hate the phrase…really…Gone Missing? Went Missing? Come on…it didn’t just walk away. It IS missing…it didn’t actively grow legs and two-step off of the screen! Man. I need to dial back on the coffee).

Bart opines “Maybe another animated show stole it!”  And from here, as they say, “Hijinx ensue!”  (Really? Who talks like that anymore??? And who are “they?”)

Homer walks off of the “set,” and onto the set for “South Park” where he exclaims, “Is this a TV show, or did I walk into a 3rd Grade Shoe Box Diorama?”

BURN! Score one for the Simpsons. The South Park gang is portrayed as cutouts (ironically more detailed than the actual characters) who simply mumble and grumble and scream bleeped epithets.

He then walks onto the set of “The California Raisins” who are singing “We’re in the cookies you hate to eat,  an unpleasant surprise when you trick or treat.” Homer boos, a fight breaks out, and the raisins (who are made of clay) melt in the heat of the subsequent fire (an homage to the Nazi treasure scene in “Raiders of the Lost Ark“.  I’ll come back to this one…because there’s MORE to the story.

Homer ends up in the bedroom set of “Robot Chicken,” where he proclaims, “Oooo…it smells like comic books and loneliness!” BURN! 

The rest is a minor slam on Robot Chicken…Homer Grabs the painting…makes his way through the other sets, and returns home with “body parts” clinging to his clothes…in what becomes a minor homage to Picasso.


Funny Stuff.

However, I suspect that there is a reason that the California Raisins showed up in this gag…even though they don’t qualify as “another animated show.”  In fact, the California Raisins haven’t really been around since the 1980s, and were never really a “show” but merely a “product endorsement” deal, and a handful of Television specials.  Yes. The fact that the Raisins attained “star status” including a top-selling record album, and Emmy-Award winning TV special is weird, and typical of the 1980s when Pop Culture ruled the airwaves.

But the funnier part, is the “Inside Family Poke” that I suspect Groening is doing here.  Because, if you have read bits of my own history with the California Raisins you may remember that one of the lead animators of the California Raisin commercials, and a lead scene manager on the Claymation Christmas Celebration was Craig Bartlett, (creator of Hey Arnold, animator of the Penny cartoons for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, and creator of Dinosaur train, among others). And Craig Bartlett is MARRIED to Matt Groening’s sister, Lisa.  So, I am guessing that anytime he has a chance to poke fun at the past accomplishments of his Brother-In-Law, he’s gonna do it.

There you have it. The insider edge on a Couch Gag, that is likely more than a couch gag. It is a bit of “shade throwing” by The Simpsons’ staff…and a little inside humor for the next family gathering at the Groenings.

Did you watch the show? Did you only watch the opening couch gag because I posted it?  Do you watch other animated shows?  Am I annoying you with too many questions yet? Let us know. We LOVE to hear from you! (Did I sound sincere?).

22 responses to “When A Couch Gag Isn’t Just a Couch Gag

  1. Really, are The Simpsons taking the other animated shows down a peg? I think you’re looking at it backwards — the guest directors are using the Couch Gag to have fun poking at themselves, and Matt Groening is giving them a wonderful medium to do it. How good do you think Pendleton Ward feels for the opportunity to wink at the wonderful Adventure Time series? I don’t think there is “competition” between the animated shows, I think there is admiration.

    The Couch Gag is fair game for fun, I think Banksy’s depressing (and hilarious) poke at The Simpsons “exploited animation labor” displays that.

  2. Recently logged into my town and had a minor glitch where the news van turned into what appeared to be the unlicensed cab in the crafting chart, which I am a few away from still. Upon tapping it changed to the small latern and then back to the news van. Blew my mind for a moment as I thought I had been awarded it somehow. Suppose I will just have to keep on tapping until I get to it officially. Anyone else had a lot of glitches in this event? Seems to be a lot happening in my Springfield

    • When you get to a high number of items in your town (usually over 6000), you will get occasional data “scrambles” such as what you described. You may get a notice soon, reminding you to keep your item count to a certain number (it varies from player to player). Not to worry, the “scrambles” resolve themselves and it won’t hurt your game or device. I have found that these data mixups are no worse at any given number of items, so whether you have 5000 items or 9000 items, they will occasionally occur…just scroll past them and they fix themselves.

  3. I love that it ends with Lisa and Marge hanging a copy of one of my favorite paintings- Girl with a Pearl Earring. She peers at me constantly from a giant Vermeer art book ensconed on my living room coffee table.
    Thoroughly enjoyed your post Patric!

  4. I can’t seem to get the point in the part where the virus it to be spread it’s stuck at 39 …Can’t reach 100 part one

  5. When I saw this on air, I imidiately thought “I wonder what Patric is going to say?” 🙃

  6. Thanks for the insightful explanation. I had no idea what the Robot Chicken spoof segment was until this post. (I had heard the name before but have never seen it.) The California Raisins spoof on the other hand I thought was the best part of the gag.

    I am a big fan of Claymation Studios works. Claymation Christmas is a holiday staple in my family. (My parents, siblings, and children. Between us we probably bought 4 copies of the DVD when in came out.) My 5 and 8 year olds also love the Claymation special “Meet the Raisins!” They don’t watch the Simpsons yet. The Indiana Jones face melt joke would have traumatized them. I thought it was hilarious though.

    After talking to my father today he and I agreed that the whole episode was one of the Simpson’s best in years.

    “Ahh. Raisin blood.”

    • Glad to know there is another “Clay-Head” out there. It was a fun time…for sure. Just heard from Will recently. He is still stewed about losing the studio to Phil Knight and his kid. But…it was a LONG time ago.

      I LOVED the couch scene. Not nearly as much a fan of the rest of the episode. It seemed to get way off track…and at times was just gross to be gross. We already have South Park for that.

      • I always thought CGI was why Claymation disappeared. I’m kind of bummed to learn there was something more nefarious. One of my favorite movies is The Adventures of Mark Twain. (It had a steam punk airship before that was even a thing, let alone cool.) I also love pointing out to people that the Nomes in Return to Oz were Claymation. So yeah I guess I am a total “Clay-Head” and I am raising two more.

        I see where you are coming from with regard to the actual Simpsons episode. I guess the Itchy and Scratchy cartoons in past episodes have just been way worse for me as far as grossness. That’s the main reason my 5 and 8 year old have only watched a handful of select Simpsons episodes. (The Lego one is a favorite.)

      • Gross to be gross? That ain’t South Park’s bag, that’s Family Guy. Don’t see the point of Family Guy myself but South Park beats even the Simpsons hands down in terms of originality and humour these days. Just an opinion of course.

  7. I liked this South Park Simpsons better:

  8. I had a Three Eyed Sushi building in my store this morning. Looks good on my pier with the Chinese boats pulled up to it. I even had one of the tourists in the red dress get off the boat onto the pier and rush off to one off the other buildings.

  9. Josephine Kick@$$

    Very interesting explanation of a confusing couch gag. Thank you for your annoying explanation Patric 😂 JK, great post, well done, always entertaining. 👍 😀

  10. Actually Patrick, in 1989 going into the 90’s, the California Raisins did have their own cartoon/Claymation television show, so it’s poking fun at that as well.

    • Well…yes. But it was awful. Lasted all of 13 weeks. Not claymation…and just plain sucked. I prefer to forget all about it. As I did here. And as long a we are in a “correcting mood,” my name doesn’t have a “K” in it. Just sayin’…

      • Realized the K thing after I pressed enter, you’ll notice I do that a lot, my apologies 🙂 For the longest time I spelled Alissa’s name wrong, keep typing it Alyssa for some reason, same with Wookiee at times I drop the last e unintentionally. (Somehow never messed up Bunny’s name though lol) Never claimed cartoon was any good, jus that it existed lol, and yes it was definitely short lived. For some reason I thought at least part of the show consisted of them doing a song in their Claymation form though, guess my memory is foggy on that. Sorry Patric.

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