My friends will confirm that I do not watch much in the way of television. However, they will also point out that neither the dancing images of the cinema screen nor the digital contents of DVDs, are included beneath the umbrella of my distaste.
My problems with TV are not that it’s anti-intellectual or a form of mass-government. Believe me, I love the escape value and easy access to what Harlan Ellison calls ‘the glass teat’. There’s very little I enjoy more than vegging out on the couch and catching a few phospordots. My problem with TV lies in its fragmented nature: the ad-breaks are excruciating and you have to wait a whole week for the next installment of your show. DVDs remove these problems. One episode of Frasier isn’t enough for me: I want twelve. I also hate how your entire life will have to be arranged around these TV schedules if you want to catch every installment of your favourite programme but with DVD, you’re in control. There doesn’t even seem to be a good reason for the weekly interval (except for with Lost which has mastered the art of the cliffhanger and cleverly takes advantage of the episodic nature of TV Shows).
The reason for my writing about this bollocks, is connected to my sister’s recent lending to me the first four seasons of The Simpsons on Digital Versatile Disc. They’re shiny. The excite. They do dazzle. Until yesterday evening, I hadn’t watched an episode of The Simpsons for so long, distracted instead by the clever naughtiness of and hard-to-believe-it-got-through-the-censors satire of Family Guy. Oh, Simpsons, how I’ve missed thee. My time away from Springfield has resulted in a grotesque devouring of these DVDs in a series of most disgusting binges.
Occasionally, with these DVDs, you think you have come across an episode you’ve not seen before. But that’s only because the beginnings of episodes of The Simpsons are so different to the episodes’ main storylines that it’s fallen out of your head. They start off with Bart and Lisa’s parent-teacher night and wind up with telling the history of The Itchy and Scratchy Show.
Today, however, by some freak miracle, I saw an episode entirely new to me. It’s ‘Marge Gets a Job’ in which Marge, as the title may hint, gets a job. At the nuclear plant. And Mr. Burns falls in love with her. And Smithers kidnaps Tom Jones. And Groundskeeper Willy has to wrestle a wolf, escaped from Krusty’s Studio. Insane. How did this episode pass me by? According to the commentary, the episode was first shown in 1992. That’s fourteen years with me missing it every time. Bizarre.
The best episode I’ve seen while on this binge is one called ‘Homer the Heretic’ in which Homer decides to stay at home instead of going to Church and winds up having a face-to-face theopany with Big G. It’s a fantastic argument for idling and the apocryphal idea that God doesn’t particularly want you to go to church. Matt Groening points out that when Homer meets God, God has five fingers (where all other characters in The Simpsons have only four). Oh, the theological ramifications.