I'm usually pretty unimpressed with The Simpsons. As you can tell from the last episode, I, like show's writers, am just waiting for the inevitable conclusion to this long-running series.
But occasionally the sitcom can still surprise me with an understated story that carries all the warmth of its earlier seasons. "A Tree Grows in Springfield" focused on one character, Homer, and despite my dislike for his increasingly ridiculous shenanigans, I found myself moved by his tale of hope lost and regained.
I must be feeling a little sappy today.
Homer definitely suffers from the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune more often than not. His luck can only be described as bad, and he doesn't help matters when he makes irrational and irresponsible decisions all the time. But this week, the pressure of all the little things just got to be too much for him and not even a drink at Moe's (or an impromptu Duffman party) could help.
I've always liked Homer when he's more contemplative, like when he went on a search for his soulmate after eating the insanity peppers. What do you think? Crazy/stupid Homer or sad/stupid Homer?
His brief upturn after winning the "mypad" was amusing, but only because it smartly criticized the many Apple users who are app-crazy. My favorite gag of the night was when Homer used "Rosetta Crone" translator app to speak with Mr. Burns. Silly, but hilariously effective!
But the real heart of the episode was the message of hope embodied by the tree bearing the letters "H-O-P-E" in maple syrup. In the end, it didn't matter that it was Homer who put the message on the tree. Homer was inspired by his own need for something more to believe in, or you could read it as God working through Homer. Either way, the method of its appearance was irrelevant. It achieved its purpose and made the episode more touching than a failed comedic satire (as many of the more recent episodes have been).
The comedy, by way of the funny sight gags and hilarious The Simpsons quotes, was also rather effective because it took a back seat to the story.
Perhaps the only disappointing part of the episode was the "Logomania" cartoon at the end. When episodes run a little too short, the writers will tack on an unrelated short. It feels like an afterthought, and it would have been better to think of something to add to the original cartoon instead.