- Haven’t you always dreamt of this moment? No?
I’d like to know exactly who was clamoring for the Family Guy/The Simpsons crossover that Fox aired on Sunday night. By all accounts (my social-media feeds), there isn’t a ton of overlap in their current audiences: if you are still into either show’s shtick, you hate the other show’s shtick. That is, you are either “over” The Simpsons or you never got into Family Guy.
Well, it turns out that notion of mutual exclusivity isn’t entirely accurate—at least, according to the shows’ executive producers. Apparently there are FG/TS fans, and they wanted to see Homer Simpson at the Drunken Clam or Peter Griffin at the Kwik-E-Mart. And so we got the hour-long abomination that was the Family Guy season 13 (that’s not ominous at all) premiere, “The Simpsons Guy.” There isn’t much of a plot to recap: a typical FG opening setup—as a misogynistic cartoonist, Peter offends the “shrill, humorless” women of Quahog—sends the Griffins on the run and into Springfield. The two patriarchs meet cute, then join forces (to find the Griffins’ stolen car), then clash like titans.
The premiere focuses on the Homer-Peter friendship and subsequent standoff because that’s the rancid meat of this crossover premise. It’s where the most frequent comparisons are drawn in real life—a sort of modern day equivalent of the Ralph Kramden-Fred Flintstone parallels. So the B plots are mostly afterthoughts, aside from the budding friendship between resident bad boys, Bart and Stewie. It’s this side story that best encapsulates the dynamic between the two shows, and also what’s so very wrong about this episode.
Stewie instantly idolizes Bart, and the two trade catchphrases and trouble-making trademarks before Stewie kidnaps several of Bart’s foes in a misguided act of devotion. Bart is understandably appalled, and ends their friendship. It’s not hard to see how their interactions are meant to symbolize the passing of the shockrage torch from Matt Groening to Seth MacFarlane. Where Bart is merely mischievous, Stewie is malevolent; where Groening angered parents by “glorifying” underachievement, MacFarlane has offended, well, just about everyone.
And because MacFarlane’s team helmed the crossover, there are offensive jokes aplenty, the worst of which is the prank-call-gone-bad scene. The punchline—delivered by Stewie, because it’s just sooo outrageous to have a baby say these things—is “Your sister’s being raped.” This “joke” is just such a fucking dud. Although he doesn’t laugh, Bart doesn’t so much as gasp when Stewie utters the line, and the show quickly cuts away to another scene. Family Guy writers purport to subvert sexism (and racism) by making jokes of this nature, but they usually just defer to the cheap laugh. They never aim up, so they never actually send up, so they should just quit trying to disguise their asshole tendencies as “edgy humor.”
This summer’s 12-day marathon on FXX reminded us of what we loved about The Simpsons, but this bit of corporate synergy, along with their own weak season opener, threatens to reverse that surge of goodwill. Maybe The Simpsons isn’t a very good show anymore, but it’s still too good for this.