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.
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?).