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Funeral for a Fiend

Couch gag: A magician uses his cape to make the couch and family appear.

Director: Rob Oliver

Guest voices:
Keith Olbermann as himself
Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob
David Hyde Pierce as Cecil
John Mahoney as Dr Robert Terwilliger Sr

Synopsis: The Simpsons are lured into another murder plot by Sideshow Bob, but will Bart make it out alive?

Discussion: Firstly, didja miss me? I’ve been away for a week without internet. Well, there was internet, but it was slow and expensive.

Secondly, this episode harks the return of Sideshow Bob, who hasn’t been seen since his Italian adventure in season 17. The premise to Bob’s return is some garbage about batteries, TiVo and not watching ads, making the Simpsons see a TV commercial specifically aimed at them to draw them into another murderous plot by Sideshow Bob. The plan works nicely until Lisa uncovers the true plot but are they in time to save Bart?

Sideshow Bob is one of those characters that gets better as the seasons progress. He’s now got a family as well as revenge to think about, so 87 years in jail is a nice long time to think about them. This episode has very average moments, but also moments of laugh-out-loud funny, which is missing too often from these episodes. One standout moment of sheer comedic silliness is Homer coming out of the bathroom with a DIY home perm. Unfortunately the moments of funny aren’t enough to save the episode; Krusty’s parody of Elton John’s Candle in the Wind from Diana, Princess of Wales’ funeral could have been tweaked to have a funeral for the show in general… Anyhoo, I digress.

This ep follows standard formula whenever Sideshow Bob is present: he’s trying to kill the family, there’s a fantastic scheme foiled at the last minute (usually by Lisa) and Bob ends up in jail. This gives the viewer a narrative framework to work from and also gives the show a chance to embrace continuity and enhance the Bob character. These aren’t bad things, by the way. It’s just something to remind us of why we loved the show and why the die-hard fans (and bored bloggers) continue to watch.

More kudos for the guest voice cast: it was a brilliant move to engage David Hyde Pierce as Bob’s brother Cecil back in season 8 as Pierce and Grammer played brothers on Frasier. Dr Robert Terwilliger Sr, crucial to Sideshow Bob’s evil plan, is voiced by John Mahoney, who played Frasier and Cecil’s father on Frasier. There’s nothing like keeping it in the family, even if the family are fictional characters on TV.

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