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Crossover episodes are not a new thing in television, and comic book TV is taking the concept to new heights. So the perfect mash-up special needs a lot of things going in the right direction, and while the Family Guy/Simpsons crossover isn’t a flawless hour of television by any means, it met or surpassed the expectations I had going into it. It’s fun, it’s surprisingly grounded, and it lets us watch the rarity of the Simpson family earning true moral superiority.
It is literally impossible to assume that everyone else out there in the world agreed with me, as people’s feelings about these two shows in particular are exemplified by some of the most strongly worded phrasings on the Internet. (As my viewership goes, I’m a diehard Simpsons fan who recognizes the decline and still celebrates the modern cycles, while Family Guy is watched mainly to hear the three psycho-raunchy jokes that inevitably slay me.) But “The Simpsons Guy” manages to bring freshness to the crossover episode, and here are seven reasons why this episode is the best crossover ever. At least, until the Futurama/Simpsons episode happens and I change my opinion completely.
Duff vs. Pawtucket Patriot AleFor the third act of “The Simpsons Guy,” the writers humorously addressed the oft-heard cries of Seth MacFarlane’s series being a slight ripoff of Matt Groening’s primetime animated hit, and did it using each series’ signature potable. It’s a bit of a goofy contrivance for Moe to reveal that Peter’s Pawtucket Patriot is just a bottle of Duff with a different name and look, but it took the claim into the courtroom, where the comparisons are allowed to become more direct. (It’s like a more immature version of Dane Cook’s episode of Louie.) And it drives home the fact that Quagmire and Lenny would be a truly disturbing version of The Odd Couple. There are a lot of ways this episode could have gone, and having MacFarlane point the target at himself to show a bit of reverence was a quality decision. Plus, it allowed them to all bow down to the animated man who started it all, Fred Flintstone, and also gave the show a reason for a Kool-Aid Man callback joke.
The Griffins in SpringfieldWhen we watch Arrow head to Central City on The CW’s Flash, it will have a cool kitsch value, but TV viewers haven’t spent the last 24 years inside of Central City. It’s a revelation of sorts to see the Griffin family walking around Springfield’s streets and sitting inside 742 Evergreen Terrace. This wouldn’t have worked as well as a Simpsons episode, as we get the slightly warped outsider’s view of this world and its inhabitants, while still ostensibly experiencing the sights and sounds just as we would normally. In the case of characters like Chief Wiggum and Ralph, it’s refreshing that they stuck to the regular bumbling and randomness and never tried to subvert the Simpsons characters with behavior they’re unfamiliar with. I expected to see some bizarrely dark things with Moe, though. I guess that’s a bit of a failure.
The FightLove them or hate them, Family Guy’s massive “Peter vs. Ernie the Giant Chicken” fights are always series highlights, paying homage to cartoon violence of yesteryear while also taking it to illogical extremes. This fight is no less epic than any of those in the past, and we get to see Homer both dealing and taking some of the most brutal blows imaginable. They turn into giant glowing radioactive men whose combined forces knocked people’s clothes into non-existence. It’s about what I expect of Zack Snyder’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, only with Lard Lad Donuts in the foreground. Some of the funniest animation Family Guy has given audiences are in this fight, not only when Homer chokes Peter out, Bart-style, but when he smashes Peter’s head in the bus door, and when they knock each other out and the animation gets super-stylized and more realistic, like a Ren and Stimpy close-up. Homer getting crushed gruesomely beneath Kang and Kodos’ spaceship was also gloriously gross.
The Other Crossover MomentsAlong with the previously mentioned Kang and Kodos, the spaceship scene also got American Guy's alien Roger into the mix, saying the extraterrestrials all went to summer camp together. He leaves the scene by saying "Thanks for having us," or something along those lines, as American Dad's final episode on Fox was last weekend. (It moves to TBS next month.) In an earlier scene, a cutaway gag in which Peter and Homer are piloting warplanes, Bob (H. Jon Benjamin) is also in the plane, which gets a nice joke about Bob's Burgers needing a ride from the other series' viewerships. And of course Cleveland was there, although he officially started off as a Family Guy character. Still, I'd watch another spinoff series with Cleveland and Carl any day. Why hasn't that happened yet? Also, why weren't there any Futurama characters on here? Also, it doesn't matter. There were so many characters here already.
Bart and StewieStewie has spent so many years trying to take on the worlds' problems with an adult's eye, it's an interesting twist to see him become wholeheartedly inspired by a character who is basically just being a rascal. (Okay, so Bart shooting Ralph with a slingshot is post-rascal behavior,but you get my point.) It all starts with Bart's longtime catchphrase "Eat my shorts," which Stewie thinks is delightful, and it then evolves into him just idolizing Bart, down to copying his outfit and extreme sports lifestyle. (It was also a great gag to reference the Simpsons' opening titles for the skateboard scene.) But inspirations can't always change the monster that lies within, and so it makes perfect sense that Stewie kidnaps everyone that has ever given Bart problems in the past. (He also "took Apu." Laugh, damn you!) This plotline also involves both Nelson literally eating Stewie's shorts and Nelson's trademark laugh as heard through a ball gag.
The Car Wash SceneYeah, so this is about as gratuitously ridiculous as an animated sequence can get, but it's still morbidly amusing to watch Homer and Peter get "sexy" for a car wash, one in which they're washing stolen vehicles. This gives us cameos from Springfield's criminal underworld like Fat Tony and Snake, and also lets us watch these grown-ass oversized men wearing tight shorts and squirting each other with hoses. There are some great visuals to be mentally absorbed here, and while it's just a goofy sequence in the context of the show, it can forever live on out of context as a moist and disturbing music sequence. Like most of the other things that happen in this episode between two characters, this moment is quite unique to the worlds of these characters and would doubtfully get touched upon anywhere else.
Meg Gets Her Day, Sort OfOne of Family Guy’s more familiar tropes is “Everyone treats Meg like absolute shit.” Meg has had friends in the past and been inspired by people, sure, but never quite by anyone as virtuous and intelligent as Lisa. Meg is inspired time and again during this episode to feel like she is worth something, even if it isn’t painting, sculpting or speaking quietly. But she does something better than Lisa can, and it just so happens to be the thing that Lisa loves the most: playing the saxophone. Lisa can’t have that, can she? (Hearing “butcher arms” come out of Lisa’s mouth was absolutely one of the episode’s best laughs.) Of course, Lisa turns around in true Lisa fashion and gives Meg her saxophone, though Peter immediately throws it in the trash can. Meg isn’t coming away from this experience with any lasting pride or sense of self, but it was fun to see Lisa fool her into thinking some existed in the first place. It was an exquisitely inspired choice for the most tender moment to be the line “Shut up, Meg.”
Still, having this as a strong storyline doesn't excuse the fact that Lois and Marge did almost nothing during this episode, especially when the inciting action here is Peter not understanding that being sexist in public is a problem. Let's hope they right that wrong when Family Guy and The Simpsons do the next crossover in 15 years. What did you guys think of the episode?