On The Simpsons, Neil Gaiman was "the British Fonzie"

Or at least that's how Homer referred to the author on Sunday's episode of The Simpsons, "The Book Job." This was the 492nd installment of the long-running cartoon sitcom. And while the show hasn't been at the loopy zeniths of "Worker and Parasite" and Homer's vision of the ballet or Ned Flanders' apple cider lesson or Mr. Burns' ether binge or — well, I'm going to rein myself in here — a bunch of gags lately, "The Book Job" did justice to Gaiman's guest appearance...in that it made the author look like a total nutcase.


Long story short, Bart and Homer rope together a motley crew of Springfieldians to pen a hack fantasy novel to capitalize on the young adult genre craze. Neil Gaiman, who happens to be in the same bookstore as the conspirators, quickly latches on to their plan with a maniac glee.

Bart and Homer force the author to pick up pizzas, make tuna fish salad, and deal with Moe's violent instability. Unlike Alan Moore's muscled-up appearance a few years back, Gaiman gamely depicts himself as a goony spaniel. Sure, Andy Garcia guest-starred too, but Gaiman stole the show.

Outside of the Gaiman abuse, the show offered up a couple good gags, such as the revelation that Twilight was originally a novel about golems and a quick appearance by The Far Side smoking dinosaurs. Also, Patty can speak fluent Dothraki. Can't be churlish about that.



Slightly OT, but I just wanted to throw this out there:

I think the big problem with The Simpsons is that the world that they were, in effect, called into existence to make fun of just doesn't exist anymore. That post-Reagan, pre-Clinton, pre-Internet Bush I America, with a consensus culture shaped by a handful of TV networks and huge media superstars, just doesn't exist anymore, at least not in the way it used to. The show was funny and edgy because it made fun of a saccharine, hollow media landscape that many people of a certain age didn't believe in. And I would argue that, like "Smells Like Teen Spirit," the show preemptively destroyed the '80s cultural legacy in such a way that no one would ever be able to celebrate the decade without a cool sense of distance and irony. There's a reason why Family Ties and The Cosby Show aren't on heavy circulation in reruns today. There's a reason why almost nobody makes sitcoms with laugh tracks anymore. And there's a reason why almost any show or movie about the 1980s is done with ginormous quotation marks around everything, instead of simple, straightforward nostalgia. A lot of it can be ascribed to The Simpsons, and the cultural impact of its first four or five seasons.

Nowadays, pop culture is a splintered, diffracted phenomenon, and we're unquestionably the better for it. The media landscape is likewise fractured, with attention spans divided between entertainment channels that would have been unimaginable around the time the first bootleg Black Bart T-shirts appeared. The Simpsons has worked hard to catch up with these developments: Instead of Michael Jackson or Dustin Hoffman making a guest appearance, we've got Gaiman and the Conchords. But the show's humor is really rooted in another, simpler era, and that's why it isn't as revolutionarily funny as it was, say, in 1993. Something about the characters using Twitter or reading George R.R. Martin doesn't jibe with their basic naiveté. In a way, it's kind of like what the Beatles would have been like if they'd never broken up after 1970s and kept putting out LPs every couple of years, at least into the '90s. At first that sounds pretty wonderful. But then you think about what would have probably followed, at least in one form or another: glam Beatles, disco Beatles, cokehead L.A. Beatles, metal Beatles, hip-hop Beatles, ambient Beatles, grunge Beatles, nu-metal Beatles. That's basically what's happened to The Simpsons.