The Simpsons is having a bit of a moment. The every-episode-ever marathon was a massive event, they had a big live show at the Hollywood Bowl, and now, in their 26th season premiere, a character is going to DIE—a fact that got plenty of play in the press. Then we found out it was Krusty’s dad.
As soon as we learned that the person who voiced the character won an Emmy for the role, it became fairly obvious that it was going to be Rabbi Krustofski, as voiced by Jackie Mason. That’s fine, even if it makes the rigmarole feel like a ratings plot; that’s the nature of the biz. Still, there is something to be said for the fact that The Simpsons can make a season premiere about the death of a secondary character’s father. This is very much Krusty’s story, and it is a good one.
The episode did pull out some, if not all, of the stops, with guest appearances from Jeff Ross, Sarah Silverman, David Hyde Pierce, and Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob. After Krusty is roasted, he turns to his father for solace, only for the good rabbi to die before he can say anything reassuring. Thus begins Krusty’s journey of despair, misery, and dreams of Jewish Heaven, where Rodney Dangerfield finally gets some respect.
Krusty has been down and out many times over. Actually, that’s pretty much his regular state, but there was plenty of humor on Krusty’s journey of acceptance. Was there any emotional resonance? Probably not, but that’s fine. Because along the way there were drunken ramblings by Sideshow Mel, and a new version of The Odd Couple starring Hyde Pierce and Mr. Teeny.
Meanwhile, Lisa is worrying about losing her father. It seems strange that she is only now beginning to worry about a man who has had open heart surgery, and also had that drawbridge close on his head. But they needed a story to tell, and Lisa’s concern about her father someday being taken away in an elephant ambulance is sweet—a nice pairing with the bitterness that Krusty lives through in every day of his life.
These days, The Simpsons can be hit or miss, and there was nothing to guarantee success from “Clown in the Dumps.” However, even if the character death was perfunctory, and Rabbi Krustofski has made only a handful of appearances in over 550 episodes, it was still a funny, solid half hour of television. Nothing special—really, it was just another Krusty episode, and not the best Krusty episode. Nevertheless, the 26th season of The Simpsons has started out on somewhat of a high note. The good times keep on rolling for Matt Groening’s deathless creation.
Chris Morgan is an Internet gadabout who writes on a variety of topics and in a variety of mediums. If he had to select one thing to promote, however, it would be his ’90s blog/podcast, Existential Parachute Pants. (You can also follow him on Twitter.)