“The Simpsons” kicked off its milestone 600th episode with a new couch gag that took audiences inside the family’s two-dimensional, yellow world.
Sunday’s “Treehouse of Horror XXVII” debuted a virtual reality introduction that parodied the “Planet of the Apes” franchise, and it was pretty adorable.
Pairing up with Google Cardboard, the series’ annual Halloween extravaganza premiered a virtual reality experience titled “Planet of the Couches.” In the satire, the sofas were the superior species and the Simpsons, their prisoners. Branching into a fully immersive “Simpsons” universe allowed the writers to overload the viewer with seemingly limitless couch gags.
Meaning there was no cushion pun too soft to hit in this new reality. Posters for a “Modern Family” series starring “Sofa Vergara” and ads for couch slipcovers “for her protection” (that cued up a wailing saxophone when the participant turned their viewfinder on the joke) filled the “ottoman empire.”
And the yuks didn’t stop there. The gag follows the Simpsons as they escape from their captors (aided by their own orange family sofa) leading up, naturally, to the big beach reveal straight out of the 1968 original film.
If you already have a cardboard viewer, the story is free at Google Spotlight Stories.
We tested out the immersive experience in the office, and much to the surprise of everyone involved, it didn’t make any skeptical members sick. In fact, a few were hopeful that this experiment may open the door to an episode that is entirely set in VR.
Last year’s “Treehouse” gag, directed by Guillermo del Toro, was an equally detailed horror movie homage, but limited to just one point of view.
As for the episode itself, the show stuck with tradition and sprinkled in timely pop culture references with a spooky twist.
- A major drought occurs, after which Mr. Burns (Harry Shearer) introduces a “Hunger Games”-style contest in which Springfield’s children fight each other for a day in Burns’ personal reservoir.
- Lisa’s (Yeardley Smith) imaginary best friend, Rachel (guest voice Sarah Silverman), is jealous of Lisa’s real best friends and starts killing them.
- Moe tells Bart that the barflies in his pub are actually covert agents and that he wants Bart to join their secret spy team. Their villainous enemy? Homer Simpson? A bloody melee occurs, seemingly modeled after the violent church scene in “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” or the more tame bar fight.
It was all clever and fun, but the real gem of the evening was the immersive “Simpsons” world, which didn’t even air on television.
Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this inventive couch gag is that despite 600 episodes and years of story lines, the animated series still finds ways to surprise its audience and reinvent its franchise.
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