Friday, October 31, 2014

When cartoon funnymen collide

(Oct. 20, PDI Entertainment)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

The iconic “The Simpsons” and its “rip-off” animated series “Family Guy” finally meet in a special crossover episode, an hour-long encounter, “The Simpsons Guy,” that utilizes some popular gags from both shows.

While some have called the meeting “desperate” prior to airing, both animated Fox shows continue to be long-running hits. “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy” share enough similarities that an inevitable comedic teamup makes sense.

It is a cooperative and temporary crossover. “Family Guy” patriarch Peter Griffin becomes a cartoonist, but his sexist jokes drive him and the family out of their home city of Quahog. During a stopover, their car is stolen, just outside Springfield, town of “The Simpsons,” and are befriended by the dumb but kind Homer Simpson.

Soon enough, the two main families meet, and both riotous and not-so-funny situations ensue.

Save for its savage “Itchy and Scratchy” bits, the Matt Groening-created “Simpsons” can be considered wholesome compared to “Family Guy,” created by Seth MacFarlane (you know, that guy).

But because the latter’s humor is almost always crude and more adult, the Springfielders are influenced (infected?) in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways.

Dullards Homer and Peter, for instance, figure in implied ickiness and unintentional sexual behavior involving fuel dispensers.

There is no shortage of analogue comparisons, which allow some fun, imaginative stuff. 

Rambunctious kid Bart and diabolical toddler Stewie and the outcast girls Lisa and Meg all have moments that make their core traits stand out.

Less attention is given to similarly loyal moms Marge and Lois and the baby Maggie, whose equivalent is the immature teen Chris.

Brian the bipedal, talking dog is likewise not given much to do; he is assigned to walk the Simpsons’ actual dog Santa’s Little Helper—and loses the less-intelligent animal almost immediately.

Doppelgangers from both Quahog and Springfield are seen together, side by side, although very briefly—that scene where they sit together in the courtroom should have been mined for more jokes.

There are interesting conflicts, like the Homer-Peter fistfight, inspired by a “Family” scenario where Peter fought a violent, man-sized chicken.

It is just as prolonged and brutal, and quite pointless—it feels obligatory, just like some of the episode’s meetings and gags. Still, despite the missed opportunities and could’ve-beens, the special shows that a crossover can, and must, deploy and employ intrinsic differences, the better to show more engaging clashes.
And now that the crossover has come to pass, a future one is entirely possible and probably just a matter of time. An occasional meetup would not hurt, definitely.

Perhaps that eventual collision of cartoon realms can deal with things that this first one missed, and truly be a meeting of two differently funny worlds.

(“The Simpsons” airs 4:40 p.m. and “Family Guy” 5:05 p.m., Saturdays on Jack TV.)

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