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'The Simpsons,' 'Family Guy' crossover earns a B-

What did we really think of the

What did we really think of the "Family Guy/ Simpsons" crossover episode that aired Sunday, Sept. 28 on Fox? Photo Credit: FOX

As suspected, the "Family Guy" crossover - "The Simpsons Guy" - was just another one of those flagrant, impudent, unashamed, wanton crossovers into the land of corporate logrolling, or that craven place where I-scratch-your-back-you-scratch-mine serves both parties, and where corporate initiative - Fox's - trumps even the creators' -- Seth MacFarlane, Matt Groening -- innate aversion to "crossover" episodes (the tawdriest form of TV promotion) every time or at least this time. 

 But at least we have an answer to this question - why mix, meld and match the sensibilities of two radically different enterprises unless to serve some greater master, notably the one paying bills? To promote FXX’s enormous (and enormously expensive) “Simpsons" rerun package, which launched recently. (And to subliminally remind everyone that the website, Simpsons World, arrives next month.)

That said, and against all odds, "The Simpsons Guy" actually worked on a number of levels - homage, animation craftsmanship (very high) and as even a glimpse into the mind of MacFarlane. Sure, the chicken fight was endless, out of character for "The Simpsons," and more tedious than clever. But from the get-go, this was MacFarlane's love letter to the great American institution -- a tip of the hat in almost every frame, and even those frames that came before Springfield (which -- no -- is not in New Mexico, where the Griffin’s car broke down, because New Mexico is one of the few states of the Union that does not have a "Springfield").

'The courtroom scene in particular established "Guy's" indebtedness to the master -- it was a shock actually to realize just how many "Guy" characters really were the monstrous spawn of some essential "Simpsons" prototype that had come before.

Did this alt-universe linkage of DNA damage either show in any way? Of course not, even though that was a concern going in - that "Simpsons" would be devalued in some way. Just the opposite, actually. In fact, by "Guy" standards, this episode was almost blushingly chaste and without the usual stew of vulgarity and cultural references designed to satisfy a Macfarlane grudge or writers' prurience. Very little here was something even the Parents Television Association - which howled over Stewie's stupid rape line - would be offended by. It was as if McFarlane and his rowdy crew were on their best behavior.

Meanwhile, you now know who died on "The Simpsons" last night - a death foretold over the summer by showrunner Al Jean which led to endless speculation by fans who figured the obvious clue was the title (“Clown in the Dumps") pointing to Krusty's death.

Instead, it was Krusty's father, Rabbi Hyman Krustofski, voiced by Jackie Mason. Jean never exactly offered a clue as to the magnitude of the character - there are about two dozen "Simpsons" characters over the years that have appeared multiple times, although Mason's Krustofski appeared only six times, which is probably why many fans didn't even know he was still alive.

Neverless, rest in peace, Rabbi Krustofski. We hardly knew ye, but that didn't mean you weren't a worthy send-off. You got one last night.

The episode was a good one, if perhaps not great - has anyone ever worried much about Krusty's paternal relations, and how they made Krusty Krusty? But it was still smart and interesting - a philosophical reverie of sorts on the absence of "Jewish Heaven" and the meaning of "eh."

The couch gag? Mmmm, the couch gag was special, or one for the ages - many ages in fact. "Unfortunately, my dad doesn't die ..." Bart wrote on the chalkboard at the outset, and in fact Homer does not, for there is no death in cartoons, but transformation, while during these few frames, "The Simpsons" evolved over the millennia into an entirely new form of animation, whereby the characters no longer spoke colloquial English or, for that matter, even had bodies.

Last night's episode was dedicated to Louis Castellaneta, father of Dan (Homer, of course, and Krusty) who died mid-August at the age of 99. Maybe that's what this whole thing was really about - a gentle farewell to remarkable guy who "loved retirement, returning to his painting, taking woodworking classes, traveling with his wife and designing posters for a children’s theater in England." Here's his obit ...

Here's that terrific couch gag ... by Don Hertzfeldt: It takes Best in Show: 

 

 

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