When you’ve been around for close to 30 years like The Simpsons, you’re bound to repeat yourself a time or four dozen. The trick is to find new and interesting variations on old themes. This season’s “The Town,” for instance, was the umpteenth episode built around very region-specific jokes when the Simpsons visit a new place, but the jokes were so good — and the story about everyone finding true happiness in New England so emotionally rich — that the familiar structure didn’t matter.
Last night’s episode, “Kamp Krustier,” was the show repeating itself in a different way: as a direct sequel to the classic season four premiere “Kamp Krusty,” even bringing back the original episode’s writer, David M. Stern, for his first credited Simpsons script since season 10.
“Kamp Krustier” wasn’t as funny as “Kamp Krusty” — and lacked a cameo by Krusty’s pal Mr. Black — but like a lot of the better latter-era Simpsons episodes, it went deeper emotionally than the show usually did in its glory years, letting Bart and Lisa grapple with the emotional trauma of what the camp put them through. And its Homer and Marge subplot was an amusing mirror of what they went through in the original episode: there, the kids’ absence supercharged their sex life (and even regrew a hair on Homer’s head), where here the kids’ return leaves Homer so sexually frustrated that he finally starts paying attention at work, putting his brain (presented as a long-dormant factory filled with miniature Homers) to work like never before.
The show has brought back characters plenty of times in the past, like periodic episodes with Sideshow Bob, or Uncie Herb, or Homer’s mom, but direct sequels to the plots of past episodes — and certainly one that aired almost 25 years ago — are more rare. But there’s money in the banana stand more to be mined here, as my old pal Daniel Fienberg noted:
Here are three other vintage Simpsons episodes I wouldn’t mind seeing “Kamp Krustier”-style sequels to:
“You Only Move Twice”: Not only is Hank Scorpio the best of Albert Brooks’ many Simpsons characters, but the Bond villain of him lends itself to the occasional sequel. Why not a riff on Goldfinger or Casino Royale or The Spy Who Loved Me? Or, for that matter, why not an episode dealing with the fact that, thanks to Scorpio, Homer used to own the Denver Broncos?