Note: Announced in July 2013, “The Simpsons Guy” is a double-length Family Guy-Simpsons cross-over episode. Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith and Hank Azaria all provide their characters’ voices, but Harry Shearer (Skinner, Brockman) was unavailable, his characters are animated but not heard (I didn’t notice at all). The episode also features cameos from other cartoons that are great, and I won’t spoil.
Season 13, Episode 1
Original US Air Date: September 28, 2014
US Viewership: 8,450,000
Plot: The Griffins visit Springfield! This comes about after Peter’s newspaper comic “For Pete’s Sake” gains traction and then the ire of women for his sexist jokes. They leave town until the heat dies down. Their car is stolen, and the Griffins are taken in by the Simpsons. Whilst there, it’s found out that Pawtucket Ale (from Quahog) stole it’s recipe from Duff beer, leading to a big courtroom case.
Thoughts on the show:
• This is a Family Guy episode – as such, it’s animated using “Family Guy tech”, i.e. certain backgrounds will be rendered in 3D, the camera will pan around it, and will use more interesting camera angles; as opposed to the Simpsons’ quite flat sitcom 2D setup. This also means the Simpsons look slightly stretched – taller and thinner to be proportioned to the Family Guy world, while FG characters are coloured less ‘brilliant’ so it doesn’t look too weird.
• Since it’s written by Family Guy writers, there’s a ton of 4th wall jokes, and they’re generally hilarious. (see Notable Quotables). The FG humour is generally self-depreciating, admitting that they’re inferior to the Simpsons, and the jabs they take get a laugh. It makes it funnier as a character of Seth MacFarlane (creator of Family Guy) is generally involved in the joke. Family Guy writers also means we get more lowbrow jokes (e.g. Homer & Peter think like a car, and fill up on gas (“Gassensexen!”); and have a stolen car free carwash song montage); it’s fun to see Simpsons more edgy. I’d make a comment about lacking smarter Simpsons writers but that just hasn’t been the case in many years.
• I’m glad this was a double episode, as it takes a while getting used to worlds colliding, both aesthetically and in a story-line. Family Guy has been around for 12 years, and even though both are on FOX, we’re finally seeing an official cross-over. There’s an extended sequence of the Griffens walking around Springfield (in Family Guy animation), which is pretty cool.
• The episode ticks all the boxes in terms of what is necessary to assuage expectations of a cross-over – Homer and Peter hang out, as do Bart and Stewie. They use a courtcase (Duff suing Pawtucket Ale) as a clever out to ream off comparisons/rip-off characters from Simpsons and Family Guy. And of course, an extended fight sequence between Homer and Peter, with expected ending that’ll please neither hardcore fanbase.
• There’s a scene that perfectly describes ‘modern’ Family Guy and Simpsons: When Bart and Stewie crank call Moe’s Tavern. Bart gives a fake name (“Lee Keebum”) and Stewie tries his own “hey Moe your sister’s being raped”. Family Guy goes for tactless shock value humour, and The Simpsons go for inoffensive humour, and neither are funny!
• Conversely, Peter’s newspaper gags are a big win. The jokes are shockingly embarrassingly blunt and crude, which I found hilarious. (e.g. a man throws a woman on a helpdesk counter shouting “my dishwasher broke!”)
• Music-wise it’s the Family Guy orchestra playing Simpsons motifs – perfect.
• Having to leave town temporarily is much like Homer avoiding a duel after slapping a Southern Colonel with his glove.
• The writers take their one chance to do some long-running Simpsons gags, such as the Springfield Gorge spot.
• However since it’s part Simpsons-style, there’s very few cutaway gags (usually just to feature cameos). Peter has to set up his own cutaway gag (the first one’s 15 minutes in).
• Stewie’s storyline of trying to get Bart’s friendship/approval is expected but is absolutely not funny. It’s depressing to see Stewie trot out Bart’s catchphrases, sucking up to him.
• Brian’s story about losing Santa’s Little Helper is not good either. He’s also an insufferable prat. Maybe he could’ve tagged with Lisa!
• Chris has nothing to do, and does some impressions which fall flat. He hangs around Brian.
• Lisa teams with Meg. Much like Maggie, her hidden talent is also the saxophone. Lisa gets insanely jealous about it. It’s like they booked Lisa to be obnoxious – a kind layer underneath a mound of spite.
• During the fight sequence, Homer throws Emmys, Peter contending “that’s not fair, I don’t have any of those!”) which is brilliant.
Lois “This Springfield seems nice. We should visit here again.”
Brian “I don’t know, Lois. This seems like a one-shot deal”.
Stewie “Springfield, eh? What state?”
Brian “I can’t imagine that we’re allowed to say.”
Peter (referring to the yellow Simpson skintone) “Don’t drink the water. Everybody around here looks like they have hepatitis.”
Homer (referring to the Griffins) “Apu, a dozen donuts for our albino visitors!”
Stewie ” ‘Eat my shorts’ – I love that! Is that a popular expression, like What the Deuce?”
Brian “Probably more popular. Probably WAY more popular”.
Homer “Duff is an icon!”
Peter “Maybe some folks prefer Pawtucket Pat. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I used to love Duff when I was younger, but I haven’t even had it in like, 13 years”
Lois: “What are they gonna come HERE? I think we know that’s never gonna happen!”
Overall, just for the cross-over idea alone, you should watch this episode. It kinda falls apart in the middle (all of the side-stories are poor) but between the strong start, a good main story with hilariously petty in-jokes…even if it’s not one for the ages, it’s definitely worth checking out.