By the scale of modern Simpsons episodes, “The Food Wife” is pretty sharp, with a sequence that parodies gaming culture, a Tim And Eric song about food blogs, and guest appearances by a handful of celebrity chefs. The jokes run from amusing to quite funny, and that’s quite a step up from the last two episodes, both of which were so much joyless trudging across the tundra.
The show skips the opening sequence and cuts right to Bart and Lisa receiving the final marbles needed to fill their reward jars. Their good behavior has bought them a Saturday Surprise Dad Day, and Homer takes them to a video game convention. Among the games are Shaun White: Time Snowboarder, Terrence Malick’s Tree Of Life Online, and, best of all, Human Centipede. Lisa enjoying the homework mission on Marching Band is pretty good, too.
By three minutes in, Marge is jealous of Homer’s new title, “Fun Dad.” She and Homer decide that she will take them for a fun Saturday next, but instead of the X-Games, she somehow takes them to the Cross-GAMES (which is, as Flanders explains, the Gathering of American Messengers for Evangelical SPORTS—which stands for Strict Parental Oversight Rather Than Sports). Hooray for acronym jokes! On the way home, car trouble lands them in Little Ethiopia, where Marge, Bart, and Lisa dine at the Haile Delicious restaurant, conveniently located next to a hookah bar.
While Marge is initially nervous, she is quickly won over by the awesomeness of Ethiopian food. They are joined by Comic Book Guy, Sideshow Mel, and some local foodies, played by Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Inspired by the shared experience, Marge and the kids start a food blog. Cue a food-blog song from Tim and Eric, which was the highlight of this episode. “The hotties that I chill with: srirachi and kimchi.” Yes, yes.
Homer is jealous and tries to woo the kids to a crazy amusement-park ride, but they have an invitation to a molecular gastronomy restaurant. It’s silly, but I love Homer’s slink-off here: “It’s too sad to walk! It’s too sad and fun to waaaalk.” Marge invites Homer to join them, but she is later troubled by a dream in which Homer steals her thunder. The dream includes a bouncy-ball parade of Anthony Bourdain, the Swedish Chef (exchanging words with Mario Batali), Julia Child, Colonel Sanders, some guy I should probably recognize, and Guy Fieri riding Paul Prudhomme. Then Gordon Ramsey shows up to yell at Marge and steal her dream.
After a brief argument with Lisa about The Three Musketeers in which Marge is hilariously knowledgeable about the plot, she decides to give Homer the wrong address to the restaurant. I don’t know why he’s at work when they explicitly stated that this meal was taking place on a Saturday night, but I’m rolling with this minor script inconsistency. Anyway, Homer winds up at a meth lab instead, and while I like the idea that Homer could confuse a meth lab with a gastrochemistry kitchen, the execution of this final sequence is somewhat less fun than the rest of the episode. I like the parsnips from space and the Ratatouille callback, but the meth-cooker guy getting angry at Homer and trying to kill him just seems random.
Credit must be given to the writer of this episode, Matt Selman, for finding a fun topic to lightly mock, and to Tim And Eric for their song—although their characters don’t have that much else to do. I thought Bourdain, who is my favorite travel-show guy, was sadly underused, but I liked the little bit of Batali and Ramsey. The best thing about this episode is that it doesn’t try to stuff any outlandish plot mechanics or out-of-character character moments down the viewers’ throats. It sticks to the basics: the family dynamic combined with gentle mocking of a still-current fad. I say “still-current” because although it is probably true that food blogging is a bit past its expiration date in some cities, I don’t think that it has been overdone everywhere. The episode was funny and well-observed, and that is all that any Simpsons fans can ask for.
- “A family’s like a team, and on every team you have the slam-dunking mega-star and the referee!”
- “Oh sure, they cook it. But they don’t get it.”
- “What kind of American man doesn’t want to explore global food culture?” “And then brag about it on the Internet?”
- “People are loving our list of Springfield’s top 99 Afghani restaurants!” “I feel bad for all those places that didn’t make the cut.”
- “Pine needle sorbet? My kids do not eat sorbet! They eat sherbet! And they pronounce it ‘sherbert!’ And they wish it was ice cream!”
- Shameful Joy Walrus Mustaches.
- The piling up of computers was a weird but amusing sight gag.
- “Actually, I’ve come around on hipsters. Takes a lot of guts to all wear the same hat.”