The Simpsons: Marge Gamer
I may be a Simpsons apologist, but that doesn't mean I don't understand where people are coming from when they say the show isn't what it used to be. Even those like myself who defend the series for still being one of the smartest and funniest shows on television can still recognize a lesser episode, and this episode was certainly not the best one of the season.
I'm sure most of you thought of the "Make Love, Not Warcraft" episode of South Park when Marge becomes immersed in an online game called Earthland Realms, but just because two shows coincidentally decide to spoof the same thing it doesn't necessarily follow that I need to compare and contrast the episodes. Besides, the South Park episode was a kind of twisted love letter to World of Warcraft, whereas Earthland Realms had more of a symbolic purpose as Bart tries to lead the "adult " life of the Shadow Knight while not hurting his mother's feelings (or killing her).
Between the main plot with Marge and Bart and the B story with Homer officiating at Lisa's soccer game, I thought this episode had a lot of potential. Yes, it was venturing into territory already explored in previous episodes by focusing on the dynamics between the kids and the parents, but this isn't the Early Simpsons Era in which we're still learning about the family, this is the Modern Simpsons Era in which the roles are already well-established. Admittedly, that can result in episodes like this one where the plot feels very "paint-by-numbers," but the series has returned to familiar territory before and conjured up something just as hilarious and refreshing as those heavily-praised early seasons.
I felt the Homer /Lisa story might have worked better as the main plot, but even that segment of the episode was hindered by a terrible guest voice in soccer player Ronaldo, who I'm sure is an excellent soccer player, but I hate it when non-actors do guest voices on The Simpsons. If the episode is funny enough, that can be forgiven, but when most of the episode consists of different versions of gags I've already seen the show do a hundred times, bad voice acting becomes much more of a distraction.