Still making my way through the fourth season of The Simpsons. I was struck by how dated “Homer the Heretic” feels. Would an episode of any television show to-day think there’s any sufficient drama in the premise of a man choosing not to go to church on Sunday? It remains a very funny episode, though.
Writer George Meyer comes up with a pretty ingenious series of gags to contrast Homer’s bliss at home with the misery of Marge and the kids at church. While Homer’s experimenting with the waffle iron, everyone in the church is shivering due to a broken heater. Maggie’s milk has frozen solid.
Homer has dream conversations with God a few times in the episode I remember being mildly controversial. I know many people in the U.S. still go to church but it seems like shows and movies that actually reflect that have become specialty fare, like Tyler Perry movies. That The Simpsons, a show with a reputation for irreverent satire, took it as a given that Homer would still believe in God feels very strange.
But then, I don’t watch network television sitcoms anymore. Maybe this is also part of the increasingly fractured audience.
The following episode, “Lisa the Beauty Queen”, is noted in the Wikipedia entry as feeling dated for its innocence related to child beauty pageants but it didn’t actually feel that dated to me. It’s not like the beauty pageant is shown as a very positive thing. “Homer the Heretic” is much funnier but I liked Barney in “Lisa the Beauty Queen” having 250 dollars cash on hand because he’s been offering his body to scientists to experiment on. It’s also notable the episode begins with a group of lawyers from Disney threatening Principal Skinner with a law suit for calling his school carnival “The Happiest Place on Earth”. I do have to hand it to Disney for evidently having something like a sense of humour about this stuff.
The Simpsons is available on Disney+.