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A Review of Ricky's episode of The Simpsons
by Chris Cox

The day after it aired in the US, complete with that brilliant Sky real-life opening scene, a lucky few souls were invited into a Soho screening room to get a dose of The Simpsons, Ricky Gervais-style.

What can I say about it? Well it's good. Very good. Gervais has managed to make The Simpsons that little bit odd, giving it a new lease of life, a new style of humour and - dare I say it? - a few more belly laughs than a regular episode.

The show is half The Simpsons, half The Office as Ricky voices Charles, an awkward, goateed character whose only difference to David Brent is the name - oh and that he is yellow and animated. Otherwise he has the same terrible sense of humour, looks to camera and cringe-inducing songs. It's odd, to start with, to hear Ricky but see an animation but after a few minutes, you slouch into your chair, forget about it and find yourself laughing your head off. Gervais loves the show, and in writing this episode, he has ensured the core characters stay the same, although the addition of Charles means some of the others don't get much of a look-in. Bart and Lisa, for example, are underused. So what happens? To cut a 22-minute story short, Homer becomes obsessed with high-definition TV and finds out the family can win a set by signing up for a reality wife swap show. So Marge moves in with Charles and Homer has Charles' controlling wife living with him, Charles then falls in love with Marge as she gives him the strength to stand up to his own wife. Much hilarity ensues, the credits role, and the Gracie Films lady says ' shhh' .

The joy of the episode lies in seeing a humour that isn't exploited that much on The Simpsons. Ricky really has put his stamp of social awkwardness on the script, and when mixed with Simpsons' brand of slapstick you get a unique episode that it will surely stand up to repeat viewing - just like The Office. Ricky had been worried his involvement might damage the how he loves so much, but he has managed to reinvigorate it. There are some noticeable shoe-hornings of American references, but the one thing Ricky has done really well is combine the adult humour of the show with things the huge child fan base will still love.

The best moments are when Gervais writes for Homer, giving him brilliantly stupid lines, and a guest appearance from a cartoon Dan Castellaneta - the man who provides Homer' s voice - along with a little nod to Christopher Guest's brilliant movie, Best In Show (and let's not forget Ricky is to appear in Best's next film) keeps the postmodernism alive and well. The show is likely to be praised massively, because a Brit in Springfield is such a big thing, but it really does deserve that praise. There is talk of him doing more, and I for one can't wait - but this episode was two years in the making so I guess I' ll have to.

Homer Simpson: This Is Your Wife airs on Sunday April 23 at 6.30pm on Sky One. Or if you don't have Sky it'll be on terrestrial TV in about 2010. Seriously.

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