I’ve written a lot about “The Simpsons” this season, between the two-year renewal, a wave of nostalgia before the airing of the 500th episode, and my feeling that this is one of the stronger overall seasons of the last 10-plus years, and a good example of why I’m glad the show continues to churn out new episodes after all this time.
One of the running themes of what I’ve written, though, is that even the good episodes, for the most part, involve the show’s creative team coming up with new variations on stories they’ve told at least two and sometimes three times in the past. (Cases in point: “Holidays of Future Passed” and “The Food Wife.”) But I got an early look at Sunday night’s episode and among the many remarkable things about it is that it doesn’t feel like a story I’ve seen before on the show.
There are elements that will be familiar – it’s another episode where a Simpson family vacation verges on disaster – but the main emotional storyline involving Bart is one “The Simpsons” hasn’t touched on before, as a fantastic luxury cruise makes him uneasy about the state of the rest of his life. (The episode is called “A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again,” and both title and plot are an homage to a David Foster Wallace essay “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.”) I’m always a fan of single-story “Simpsons” episodes, as well as ones built around an emotional issue facing a member of the family, and this has both – in addition to being funny and sweet and clever in its depiction of the Best Cruise Ever.
It’s a very good one.