Tuesday, January 12, 2010
It’s been running for 20 years and has already visited Cuba, Australia, England and Japan among others. And tonight, The Simpsons finally came to Ireland.
They brought with them worn-out stereotypes about the country - they just weren’t always the ones we might have expected.
“Something terrible has happened,” squealed Homer Simpson, during In the Name of the Grandfather , which was broadcast this evening. "The Irish have become hard-working and sober.”
Lisa Simpson explained that this was because Ireland was at the forefront of Europe’s tech boom. It shows how long it takes to make an episode of The Simpsons because, like the land of cabbage and brawls they expected to find, this latest Irish stereotype happens to be a little out of date.
The episode was the first Simpsons to premiere outside of the US - even if a British station, Sky1, had the honour. Still, the show’s executive producer James L Brooks described it as “a love letter to Ireland”, although in typical fashion there was a drop of poison in the ink.
When the family visited Dublin and discovered that it was Bloomsday, they groaned and decided that this meant they had run out of fun things to do. It was perhaps the episode’s smartest gag.
It may not have been a vintage episode - there haven’t been that many in recent years – but it had plenty of good moments, and from an Irish perspective it was a fascinating opportunity to see ourselves through the eyes of the greatest comedy series ever written.
In its attempt to create some kind of record for the most Irish references in 22 minutes, there were jokes about leprechauns, potatoes, alcohol, the Giant’s Causeway, U2 and the plot of Once (thanks to guest appearances by Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova).
But even as it revelled in stereotypes, it used them to continue the running joke about how Ireland doesn’t conform to American’s views of it. So, there were “yuprechauns” on the streets and gay leprechauns were allowed display their affections in a tolerant society.
Thankfully, one tradition of US television’s relationship with Ireland remained strong - some of the accents were enjoyably terrible.