Was it just me, or did this episode of The Simpsons feel a little empty? Maybe it was just that “A Test Before Trying” started with the long version of the opening sequence, followed by an EXTRA-long couch gag, which was amusing enough, but really just served to raise my suspicions. Was there really no better way to spend my time?
The plot of the episode, focusing on standardized testing serving to close down the weakest school in Springfield’s mystery state. Of course, that ends up being Springfield Elementary, and some of the funnier gags in this A-plot are around sending the kids to other school districts. The Arkham Asylum bit was good, but I especially liked the visual gag of the twin girls melting as they walked away from each other.
As it always must on The Simpsons, the fate of Springfield rests on the shoulders of a Simpson; this time, it’s Bart. He didn’t take the test along with everyone else, instead spending his time in an idyllic field, torturing a bug. This was another bit of the episode that felt like it went on more than a little too long. They could have been trying to go for humor-via-overextension, but it really didn’t land at all.
Homer’s B-plot, however, really did something for me, comedically. At the dump, where he’s gone to throw away all the Simpson’s shrimp-related kitchen gadgets (another great gag, from earlier in the episode), he finds a discarded parking meter, and begins to grift the whole city. It’s perfectly silly, right from the start, where Homer proclaims “Parking meter, you’re working for me now!” and is immediately echoed by Moe, walking by with a shopping cart, saying “Mannequin heads, you’re working for me now!” It’s even better that Homer’s scheme ends with him sitting at the bus station, watching TV on a coin-fed machine. (Sidebar: do those exist? I’ve never seen one, but I have to assume they do, since it’d be a pretty strange thing to invent just for this joke.)
All in all, it was a pretty solid episode of The Simpsons. What did you guys think about “A Test Before Trying”?