This Is So Not About The Simpsons: American Voyeurs

Note: This review is from 2006

Review by Steve Bennett

This is so not about The Simpsons. It is so not about comedy, either. This is so about showcasing the work of a decent but unexceptional singer-songwriter who just happens to be married to one of The Simpsons stars.

And that's the problem. We are well primed not to expect Harry Shearer to plough through the voices of Monty Burns or Waylon Smithers or the Rev Lovejoy or Ned Flanders ­ although he does, briefly, at the start. But we have been led to expect one of the colossuses of comedy to give some sort of satirical insight on the world's only superpower (for now).

Instead we get a few bland pronouncements on the evils of plastic surgery, or televangelists and other such Californian obsessions that serve as extended set-ups to Judith Owen's middle-of-the road lounge songs, which contain little in the way of message and nothing in the way of jokes (deliberately, I think). She has, however, got a decent voice on her. Must be the Welsh blood.

As a show, it really struggles to be average, and there really can only be two causes. Either (a) that Shearer is bankrolling Owen's attempts to forge her own career by cashing in some of the comedy kudos he's so rightly earned over the years, or (b) that Shearer's comedy instincts have let him down badly. And no one wants to think that of one of the geniuses behind Spinal Tap.

Sometimes, you still get a glimpse of brilliance here. Shearer's description of Vice-President Dick Cheney stalking through Washington like a Raymond Chandler antihero is a delight, and also ends in a very good joke; and when he says America's pig-headed disregard of history is rooted in its make-up of immigrants, it's a very intelligent point: 'History is what Americans came to escape'.

But such moments are few and far between. The show is flaccid and more than a bit cheesy ­ never more so when Owen says 'Well Harry, here's a question I've never asked you before' to prompt him into another carefully scripted room. The pair might also have wanted to check their reference points. I'm sure Shearer's impressions of Tom Brokaw and Aaron Brown are spot-on, but we'll have to take his word for that.

This show's clearly marketed at die-hard Shearer fans. But it's they who would be best advised to stay away, lest their comic icon be tarnished by mediocrity.

Steve Bennett

 

Review date: 1 Jan 2006
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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