I have to admit I cringed when I first heard there would be a Family Guy and Simpsons cross-over. Put together they have been on the air for thirty-eight years, approaching 800 episodes. These are more than TV shows, these are franchises. Both retain a strong and loyal fan base, even as they both struggle to remain funny and relevant with each accumulating year. So at first the cross-over came off as somewhat desperate, an obvious attempt to appease both fan bases at once.
Over the years I’ve learned not to get my hopes up about things like this, novelty episodes. This time I dialed down the anticipation even lower that usual.
And I was pleasantly surprised. Some of it was downright hilarious, literally laugh out loud funny. For the most part these two worlds merged together for an hour to coexist and even complement each other.
The only complaint I could make would be toward something that Family Guy does well and seems to enjoy; taking a bit too far, running a gag too long. Just about every line of dialogue is double entendre, a reference to one or both of the shows or sometimes other targets such as the Fox Network. For the most part it is well written, a blend of the best that each show has to offer. But after a while the constant ‘meta’ dialogue can induce heavy bouts of eye rolling. Anyone who has seen Peter Griffin sing ‘Surfin’ Bird’ knows that Family Guy is not afraid to become obnoxious to the point of annoying. But somehow usually still funny.
The episode begins with Peter attempt to draw his own comic strip, Pete’s Sake, which he quickly is able to publish. His jokes become offensive and soon the Griffins are forced to flee Quahog.
They find themselves in Springfield (Stewie: ‘What state?’ Brian: ‘I can’t imagine we’re allowed to say’), where they are taken in by the Simpsons.
The two families get to know each other. There are quite a few zingers aimed at each of the shows idiosyncrasies, such as when Stewie sees Bart bullied by Nelson. Stewie asks how long this has been going on, to which Bart replies “Twenty four years.”
Peter offers a gift to Homer, a six-pack of his favorite hometown beer, Pawtucket Patriot Ale. Homer peels off the label, exposing Peter’s beer as a watered down version of Springfield’s famous brew, Duff Beer. Here the self referential dialogue climbs to its loftiest heights. Homer accuses Quahog of blatantly ripping off Springfield.
The two beer companies are soon in court. Most of each town’s residents come together. Mayor West and Mayor Quimby sit together (and apparently party together), as do Cleveland and Carl. Quahog’s James Woods has a brief conversation with James Woods from Springfield.
I won’t spoil the conclusion in case you haven’t seen it yet. But both sides agree that neither beer is completely original and each owes a debt to several earlier brands. Wink wink.
Just about every character from each show has a part to play, and they bring out just about every recurring gag. After a series of characters in the courtroom cries ‘Oh No!’ successively louder, the Kool-Aid Man calls from another court to say he’s in the wrong Springfield.
This episode was obviously made for the fans, but there is nothing wrong that if it is done well. And this is. Neither show is afraid to poke fun at anyone or anything, including themselves. And while it may be argued that neither show is quite what it was five or ten years ago, these are still two of the funniest and most popular shows on television. The writing is strong throughout. The characters get along and work together much better than I imagined they would.
I couldn’t help thinking that if the two shows combined forces on a regular basis, it could help to regain the glory both seem to be searching for recently. I am afraid to give the Fox Network or Messrs Groening or MacFarlane any ideas. When the Griffin’s first find themselves in Springfield, Brian remarked that ‘this is probably a one time thing.’ Something about this line rang out like famous last words.