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TV Review: The Simpsons – “A Midsummer’s Nice Dream”

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It was high time Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong, better known as Cheech and Chong, got to guest star as themselves on FOX’s The Simpsons. I was stoked to see them. They were smokin’! OK, enough with the pot puns. This episode has enough drug references for a season’s worth of episodes. But they weren’t just stereotypical chariactures, thank goodness, so it ended up being a fairly funny.

Apparently Cheech and Chong are from Springfield, go figure. They began life as local broadcasters, until a strange smell wafted in and made them who they are. So, this week, they return to their hometown to do a show. Homer (Dan Castellaneta) takes his family, because, of course, they will certainly be putting on an appropriate performance. But Chong decides he is tired of the classic bits, and wants to do something more daring. With Cheech left on stage by himself, Homer is encouraged by friends and family to step up to the plate, since he knows all of their bits by heart. Cheech is so impressed, he invites Homer to go on tour with him as Cheech and Chunk.

Cheech and Chong are merely the latest in a long line of famous celebrities willing to bring a bit of themselves into the small town supposedly bursting with connections to funny people. Funnily enough, the stereotypical image of the two of them gels much better with the denizens than the reality. This episode played up the latter, so the fit was a little uneven.

Homer is a drinking man. As referenced in the episode, beer has always been his thing, not pot. As such, I find it odd that Homer would know and enjoy stoner comedy so dang much. Wouldn’t this be a better role for a side character? I understand that the Simpson family is the heart of the show and are usually central to the main story, but I can’t help but feeling that Homer was the wrong man for the job. However, since Homer has gotten himself into many situations he probably shouldn’t ever have been in over the years, it can be sort of excused, because it has become a common conceit of the show.

Chong also interviews replacements for his own new act. For no apparent reason, he thinks the unfunniest man is the right one, so he hires Skinner (Harry Shearer) for Teech and Chong. My biggest regret in this episode is that we didn’t get nearly as much of Teech and Chong as Cheech and Chunk. I find the principal’s antics far more entertaining than Homer’s in this case, and wish there was a better balance.

The B plot involved Marge (Julie Kavner) venturing into the Crazy Cat Lady’s (Tress MacNeille) lair and discovering why she is so crazy: she is a hoarder! Once Marge removes all the junk, the cats begin to wonder away, and the woman finally finds her speech after twenty years of appearing on the show. Remarkably, she sounds just like a number of other women in Springfield! Yeah, that last comment is sarcastic. But the temptation of the junk is too much for Marge, who becomes a hoarder herself.

Setting aside how unrealistic it is that the Simpson household completely fills with junk so quickly, I don’t think it is in Marge’s nature to ever be a hoarder like this. She is concerned with a neat house, and prides herself on her homemaking skills. As such, I don’t see her actually falling into this trap.

But, I admit, I am overanalyzing. The Simpsons is meant to be enjoyed without question, and have apparently earned the right for that to be the case after more than two decades on television. I personally don’t think that is an excuse to rest on their laurels, but I’m not a fraction as successful as Matt Groenig, so who am I to judge?

It just makes me sad when they don’t try just a tad bit harder sometimes. There have been many brilliantly funny episodes of The Simpsons over the years. I feel like when guest stars are stuck into characters that would have worked for any voice actor, they are more successful than when the show is worked around the guest stars. This episode was definitely in the second category, and that may be why I was a little less than satisfied with it, even though I delighted at the concept.

That being said, my favorite sequence is the A Midsummer Night’s Dream reference of Bart (Nancy Cartwright) as Puck at the end, tying everything up neatly. Only incredibly loosely did this episode resemble the Shakespeare work about two couples confused in the woods by fairies, but at least the bit tied in the title.

The Simpsons airs Sunday nights at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.

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About JeromeWetzelTV

Jerome writes TV reviews for BlogCritics.org and Seat42F.com, as well as fiction. He is a frequent guest on two podcasts, Let's Talk TV with Barbara Barnett and The Good, the Bad, & the Geeky. All of his work can be found on his website, jeromewetzel.com