The Simpsons and 24

The Simpsons (1989-    )
24 (2001-    )
Type: Crossover

   With 24's 6th season drawing to a close and on the cusp of The Simpsons hitting its 400th episode, 24's hero Jack Bauer and his "partner in crime" Chloe put in guest appearances on The Simpsons. With season 6 of 24 being kind of a disappointment, you kinda hoped The Simpsons spoofing the show would be more fun. wasn't.

   Right of I should also point out, given the nature of this crossover, I consider it a one way deal. The characters of 24 may exists in the cartoon world of The Simpsons but I refuse to believe yellow, four fingered cartoon freaks are running around in the world of 24.

   For those living in a cave, The Simpsons is Fox TV's cartoon series about the dysfunctional Simpson family living it the town of Springfield, Who-knows-what-state, USA. The show is great in that the range of stories they can do is pretty unlimited. If they want to do a story with some actual heart, they can. They don't do it a lot but they have. They can also do shows with just crazy scattershot jokes, parodies of tv shows and movies, name it. The show does a lot of spoofs that verge on crossovers but are more just quick cameo not meant as anything but a reference joke. But other times the show goes for the full true crossover with actors from another show coming on and voicing cartoon versions of those characters. The 24 episode falls into the area of a true crossover.

   24 was another Fox hit that you really wouldn't have expected to work, especially past a single season. 24 is an action thriller. The conceit is that the action occurs in "real time". Each hour long episode represents one hour of one day for the characters on the show. Each 24 episode season equals one day. The plus to this is the immediacy of the action. The negative is over the course of the series you don't get to see oodles of development in plot or characters. If someone falls in love, you get as much "falling in love" as can happen in a day and then with the next season you jump ahead to a day a year or more later and that relationship will have changed drastically in that missing time. Other characters came and went (often in a body bag) but heroic Jack Bauer saved the day, day after day after day.

   The conceit also does get, uh, cheated. My favorite cheats. At the end of one season Jack had to cut his partner Chase's hand off so he could remove a bomb that was handcuffed to his wrist. They were in a school. Clearly Chase had to be rushed to a hospital. They went to a commercial break that was, oh, 4 minutes long. Coming back from the break only about 4 minutes should have passed in the 24 world too. But coming back we found Jack in a hospital corridor getting a report on Chase's surgery to reattach his hand. In 4 minutes?!?!? Really??? In 4 minutes support officers found Jack and Chase, called for a helicopter or an ambulance, had that vehicle arrive, stabilized Chase at the site, rushed he and Jack to the hospital and then they were there long enough for surgery to get started and for Jack to have time to get a proper worry going in the hall. Really??? And season 6 had Jack's evil traitorous brother being murder by Jack's evil traitorous father. Jack's brother was married and had a kid. Okay, that morning Jack's brother's wife finds out her husband is partly responsible for a nuclear bomb going off in Los Angeles earlier that day, he is then murdered in her own house by his dad. I would think that would be a lot to absorb. Like, she should be emotionally fragged for a couple of months. But only a few hours later, the window Bauer is openly hitting on her brother-in-law Jack. What the hell?!?!? Hey, Lady Macbeth! I know your husband turned out to be a load but how about waiting until he is buried, hell how about waiting until his body is at least COLD before hitting on HIS BROTHER. Wow.

   Anyway, The Simpsons 399th episode spoofed 24 as well as featuring Jack and Chloe from the show itself. The plot had the Springfield Elementary School's hall monitors operating like 24's Counter Terrorist Unit (CTU). Lisa Simpson worked from the school's elaborate operation center (like on 24) as field ops ran around trying to find out what trouble the school bullies were up to. Turns out they were planning to release a stink bomb at the school's annual bake sale, a bake sale who's profits made up most of the budget for the next school year (I guess the budget thing was supposed to be a funny way to raise the tension? I guess?). To stop the bullies, the school called in their own man of action, bad boy Bart Simpson. That's about it plotwise. The show also parodied 24's look. Lots of split screens showing multiple angles or different locations at the same time. At the start, like on 24, they would show a character doing something and then pull the that picture back onto a black background with a label of who that person character is off to the side. And then going into and out of breaks as well, as at key moments, they would go to a shot with the clock counting down the show's time in the middle of the screen with shots of various scenes popping up around the clock.

   As to the crossover bit, at one point Bart calls Lisa for help on his cell phone. By accident he is connected to Jack Bauer who is also in the middle of a mission. They then play with two classic bits of Simpsons business. In a parody of Bart's line of, "I'm Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?" Bart accidentally connects to Jack, asks who HE is and Jack replies, "I'm Jack Bauer, who the hell are you?" Then in response, Bart gives Jack a fake prank phone call name, leading to Jack calling out the joke name until Chloe breaks in to explain to Jack the name is a joke name. Jack then disappears for most of the episode, returning at the very end with every agent he could round up to get Bart for his prank call. He says pulled men off of other missions but that it was a good idea. Then a mushroom cloud appears behind him. Jack deadpans, "It's okay, that was just Shelbyville." Shelbyville being the hated neighboring town.

   Sadly, the funniest moments were the actual crossover moments which didn't make up much of the show. The rest was just flat. It was like a parody of 24 written by someone who had only seen maybe just 10 minutes of the show or hadn't seen it at all and only had it described to them by someone else. 24 is a highly violent show with huge stakes at risk and with myriad twists and turns. Making the parody about a stink bomb at a bake sail? I get the idea but without real high stakes at risk, it all just feels cute and cute is deadly to parodying a show like 24. There weren't any real shocking twists either. And here's the most unforgivable thing. Okay, mostly they relied on spoofing "the look". The split screens and such. Remember I mentioned the bit on 24 where the clock is in the middle of the screen and various scenes pop up around it? Okay, on 24 a new scene pops up every second, on each "bee-bop" sound of the clock. They would stay on this "clock shot" for maybe 5 seconds before cutting to a specific scene and getting on with things. They leave the clock up just long enough to tease out some tension. On this episode of The Simpsons, it seemed like they popped up a new scene every 2 seconds and the "clock shots" seemed to stay up for forever. Like maybe 10 seconds or more. What the hell? The show had no tension to start with with such a silly plot and then they stay on the clock so long that instead of creating more tension, you sit there going, "Okay...get on with it already." It was like they really didn't even understand the show they were spoofing.

   And here's some irony. When it first aired, this episode was originally followed by The Simpsons' 400th episode. That episode actually had everything the 24 episode should have. It opened with an exciting action shot of Marge racing across town. It had a scene of Homer being screaming out in comic "torture" at the dentist. It had Bart at the dentist administering some cartoony torture violence on his school principal. It had actual backstabbing and plotting by a local cabal of rich conservatives as to how to shut up a troublemaking local newsman. Why wasn't this stuff in the 24 episode instead of a stink bomb plot about a stink bomb.

   And yet more irony. The cable series South Park did an episode called "Simpsons Did It". In that episode, one of the South park kids, Butters, becomes a super villain and comes up with plan after plan to wreck the town of South Park. But every plan he comes up with ends up having already been done on The Simpsons. The plot came out of the fact that the makers of South Park constantly had the same problem. They constantly would come up with a great show idea just to find out The Simpsons already did it. Well, for once the shoe is on the other foot. South Park beat The Simpsons to the punch, airing a 24 parody episode months before The Simpsons. Not only that, they actually did it way better. It was really clear The South Park guys understood 24 much better. In one half hour they nailed every element of 24, not just "the look". The show had South Park bad boy Eric Cartman calling in the government because he thought trouble was brewing when it was fact just his imagination. But in true 24 twist fashion, it turned out Cartman was accidentally right and that there was a huge threat. There was crazy over the top violence and torture. They worked in a joke about how CTU could find anything on their computers (The South Park kids used Google and My Space to find vital intel). They worked in a joke about how every season who is in charge of CTU gets flipped about 5 times. They worked in a gag about how every season, behind the intial bad guy is another bad guy, and another one behind them. Even their jokes about the 24 split screens were better and sharper. The South Park show was biting and funny rather than cute like The Simpsons episode. There was like one cute moment on South Park. Jack Bauer is known for torturing people. Eric Cartman, who has done horrible things in other episodes, tortured prisoners by farting on them. Right there is the problem with The Simpsons episode. What South Park used as it's one "cute" bit a fart joke The Simpsons made its whole episode a stink bomb. Hate to say it, Simpsons folks, but South Park did it!

Other Simpsons Crossover Links
The Simpsons and Cheers
The Simpsons and The Critic
The Simpsons and The Flintstones
The Simpsons and Futurama
The Simpsons and King Of The Hill
The Simpsons and The Tracey Ullman Show
The Simpsons and The X-Files

Links To Simpson Web Sites
New Springfield: It's a helluva town!
The Simpsons Emporium

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