On the surface, a Homeland parody seemed easy, after all just add an “R” and you get “Homerland,” but maybe that’s why the episode ultimately felt kind of lazy. Mocking Carrie Mathison’s bi-polar disorder with throwaway hallucinatory gags only goes so far, but Annie Crawford’s line about getting information through torture, incredible sex or just by asking, gets points. Ultimately though, the character only seemed to be there to push the Homeland connection, and she wasn’t even voiced by Claire Danes.
But there were still good opportunities for jokes. Chief Wiggum’s suspect list includes Apu, the “Black Doctor” (Dr. Hibbert) and the “Mexican Bee” (Bumblebee Man), proving that racial profiling is alive and well in Springfield. The show also proves that five years later isn’t too late to take a jab at ex-Presidents, as Lisa declares that she can finish her father’s work just like George W. Bush. Outsourcing humour gets checked too as Mr. Burns is undone by revealing that his Chinese building standards are in anticipation of an offshore move two years hence. But these were mere chuckles, and usually the more topical The Simpsons get, the sharper it becomes.
That whole moving the plant to China bit was a recycled bit, which is not good since much of the episode felt recycled as it was. Homer’s terrorist masterminds turnout to be hippies, proving that Republicans aren’t the only ones reliving the culture wars of the 60s, the Simpsons writers are still there too. Annie’s FBI surveillance vehicle is “Fresh Burritos Instantly,” a call back to the “Flowers By Irene” van in “Bart the Murderer.” There’s also a rim shot at the expense of the Police Academy movies, and another dead fish/Mr. Burns analogy.
What’s strange is I think even the show itself is conceding that there are times that they’re not trying as hard as they should, or to quote Bart’s chalkboard gag of the week, “25 years and they can’t come up with a new punishment?”
It was announced earlier this summer that The Simpsons would be crossing over twice, once with Family Guy and once with Futurama. Now one shouldn’t be against crossovers on principle, The Simpsons’ own crossover with The Critic was great fun, but two high-profile crossovers back-to-back sounds a lot like a lack of imagination. Prove me wrong, Simpsons, because “Homerland certainly didn’t.