Sunday 17 September 2023

31 on 4

Between 29 September 2019 and 17 May 2020, Donald Trump was impeached for the first time, the United Kingdom held a general election to decide who out of the two worst people eligible for the position would become Prime Minister, then went on to leave the European Union, the primaries for the 2020 US election got underway, that actress from Casualty referred to Greta Thunberg as "Sharon" on Celebrity Mastermind, and then the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most of the planet.

With all that going on, you'd be forgiven for forgetting that between those two dates Fox aired the 22 episodes that make up Season 31 of The Simpsons, which began airing in the UK on Sky One on 24 December 2019, and then weekly from 17 January to 29 May 2020... although there are a few little footnotes on those broadcasts we'll get onto in due course. At some point this autumn, Channel 4 will bring those episodes (or at least nearly all of them) to free-to-air television; the twentieth season of the show they've premiered, and almost certainly the sixteenth consecutive one to debut in the tried and trusted early evening slot on weekdays -- but that looks like it might be changing just a bit, as the scrapping of the terrestrial broadcasts of Hollyoaks means that from Monday 25th September, Our Favourite Family moves back half an hour to 6.30pm. Time will tell if this is a permanent change, I suppose.

For the fifth year running, then, I present my guide to possible cuts, censorship and outright cancellations to watch out for; as ever, I advise you to keep an eye on Wesley Mead's UK Scheduling Information page at The Simpsons Archive for news of when exactly these episodes will arrive on C4, and I'll be back with a full list of edits and whatnot after they do.

Before we get started, there are two episodes from Seasons 29 & 30 still outstanding at this time of writing: "No Good Read Goes Unpunished" from the former, and "Treehouse of Horror XXIX" from the latter, have yet to be aired by Channel 4. I don't hold out much hope for "Unpunished", but the Treehouse might get a showing at some point around this time.

Dedication Discourse
The following episode premieres featured dedications, which I believe were all intact on their Sky premieres but, as far as I know, were removed for all other versions (which should include the copies serviced to Channel 4) -- I am tremendously grateful to Simpsons Archive contributor Matt Garvey for his assistance with this section:

YABF19 The Winter of Our Monetized Content (dedicated to J. Michael Mendel, producer on Seasons 1-10)
ZABF09 Screenless (dedicated to guest star James Lipton) (NOTE: Unlike other examples, this dedication remained in some repeat airings; Matt theorises that Covid hitting caused some things that should be changed to slip through the cracks)
ZABF11 Better Off Ned (Max von Sydow) (NOTE: The version of this episode without the dedication features a nonstandard Gracie Films logo, where after the "sssh!" Nelson says "Haw-Haw!" and either Rod or Todd Flanders cheers, whereas the one with the dedication is normal; since the dedication comes immediately before it, presumably this was done for reasons of taste)
ZABF16 The Way of the Dog (Little Richard)

The 2 August 2020 Fox repeat of YABF13 The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby was dedicated to Regis Philbin; as with other recent cases of dedications on repeats, it was only seen on that specific airing. Given the low viewership of those repeats, and the fact that some of them are cut or compressed to fit in more advert space, you may question exactly how respectful this is.

YABF18 Treehouse of Horror XXX
Treehouses XXV through XXVII and XXIX have all been dropped outright from the 6pm slot; the former three have turned up in various late-night slots, but as mentioned above XXIX has yet to do so. (Even Sky are getting in on the act now; Season 34's offering, Treehouse XXXIII, was not broadcast when they first ran the season at the start of this year and is still missing in action as of this writing.)

XXX -- as well as being notable as the 666th episode -- is arguably one of the less objectionable THOHs of recent years; there are obvious no-nos in the Omen-parodying opening sequence (specifically the hanging scene, attempted child murder, and the impaling of characters forming the 'XXX' in the title card), but the stories themselves -- to wit, Stranger Things homage "Danger Things", Heaven Can Wait homage "Heaven Swipes Right" and The Shape of Water homage "When Hairy Met Slimy" -- might actually be OK (barring some violence with blood in the last one), and XXVIII, which I thought had no chance of being shown pre-watershed by C4, did make it to the 6pm slot with cuts. That said, I thought XXIX was also less graphic, and well, there we are.

I'm leaning towards this one being dropped because the opening sequence would definitely have to be cut, and very obviously cut at that, and it seems to be C4's default position for THOHs these days anyway, with Season 29's being the outlier.

ZABF02 Marge the Lumberjill
A pretty much definite cut, from when the family go to Portland:

LISA: I mean, I can't believe we've never been here before. Indigenous artworks, craft breweries, independent movie theaters... and that's just in one coffee shop.
[Cut to reveal they are indeed approaching a coffee shop that incorporates all of these things. COMIC BOOK GUY is seated at the second of those things.]
LISA: Comic Book Guy?
CBG: Yes, I often come here to recharge. In Portland I'm quirky, rather than objectionable.
BART: You sell comic books here?
CBG: No, marijuana. And artisanal salami, laced with marijuana.

YABF17 Thanksgiving of Horror
This is a Thanksgiving-themed spin on the THOH format, with three scary stories based on Thanksgivings of past, present and future. It seems borderline as to whether or not this one will make it to the 6pm slot; the past story features bloody violence, but chiefly against anthropomorphised turkey versions of characters, and the future story, an Alien-esque tale of a Thanksgiving on a spaceship that has left the dying Earth, features multiple character deaths, but not particularly bloody ones (as they're consumed by a cranberry sauce monster). There's also a "bitch" in act 2, but that's a relatively minor thing compared to whether or not C4 will even show the thing in the first place.

On another note, this is by some distance the longest episode of the show ever produced, running to just under 25 minutes; outstripping the longest modern episodes by some 3 minutes, and even the longest classic-era episodes by nearly 2 minutes! I think Sky coped with this by just running fewer adverts during and right after the show; C4 tend to start the show a minute or two after 6pm (or as late as 6.03pm if there's a substantial cut!) and end it a few minutes before 6.30pm. (Over in the States, Fox coped with repeats of this episode by, er, simply never repeating it.)

ZABF01 Bobby, It's Cold Outside
A Christmas episode (and, combining two traditions dating back to Season 1, a Sideshow Bob episode!), which might get moved to a closer-to-Christmas slot depending on what mood C4 are in, but this does give me space to note a major oddity regarding this episode's original broadcast on Sky.

Sky were scheduled to premiere this episode as a Christmas special on 24 December 2019, but those of us settling down to watch it then were in for a surprise, as a different new episode was aired (and on the Christmas Day repeat showing too!): "Livin' La Pura Vida", which is based around a holiday to Costa Rica but not Christmassy at all. "Bobby" then aired as part of the regular season on 13 March (with "Vida" skipped during that run); whether this was a mistake or Sky deciding the episode was somehow inappropriate to air on Christmas Eve at the very last moment (and substituting the most holiday-themed new episode they had instead) is unclear.

(The season finale, "The Way of the Dog", also begins at Christmas -- there's another example of an "out-of-season" Christmas-set episode airing in Spring in Season 32, in fact -- but it seems unlikely that will be subject to a change in running order.)

Anyway, there's two probable cuts to this episode, so this section does have a point: Right at the top of the episode, we see Bob's Christmas tree, which is decorated with various ornaments of a dead Bart; there's no actual blood, obviously, but this still might cross a line. Not long after, when Bob is asked if he has any dark secrets, there's a montage of clips from previous Bob episodes which includes his face falling off from Season 22's "The Bob Next Door"; I'm fairly sure C4 cut this from that episode (confirmation would be nice, as I might be conflating their airings with Sky's, which were definitely censored), so logically it should be too much here.

ZABF05 Hail to the Teeth
From the dentist scene:

LISA: I can't close my mouth.
DENTIST: The brackets are holding up your lips at the edges. They'll adjust. The main thing is you're happy.
LISA: I'm not happy.
DENTIST: Have a little nitrous. [She applies the mask.]
LISA [gassed]: They should revoke your license... ha! More, please.
DENTIST: That's enough.
LISA: No, it's not!
[She grabs the mask and inhales until her face turns blue.]
DENTIST: Yeah, give me that.
LISA: I thought your name was "Kidzrule".
DENTIST: Shortened from "Kidzrulovitch". Which is Romanian for "kill all the children".

Kind of interested how much of that gets cut, if you recall how a similar scene was cut back in Season 29's "Left Behind", and the context that they're at a dentist and the show isn't really on either party's side in terms of inhaling nitrous here. (The "Kidzrulovitch" bit isn't really objectionable -- at least in one sense -- but might have to go to avoid a non sequitur.)

ZABF09 Screenless
From the very last scene:

CHIEF WIGGUM: Wow, you are such a great profiler. With you, we wouldn't even need DNA evidence... Boy, so sick of getting criminals to give semen samples.
LOU: Uh, chief, you don't need semen samples. A lock of hair will do.

ZABF11 Better Off Ned
Penultimate scene, right before the tag, should hopefully edit together quite nicely since I can't see any way this stays:

HOMER: Son, you want to ride in the ambulance together?
BART: Aww, that's always been our thing.
[The paramedics wheel HOMER into the ambulance with BART following.]
BART: Dad?
HOMER: Yes, son?
BART: Can I have a hit off your oxygen?
HOMER: Of course.
[BART removes HOMER's mask and inhales, whilst HOMER's face turns an unpleasant colour.]
HOMER: I'm a great dad.

ZABF10 Highway to Well
This episode's plot, involving Marge getting a job at a legal cannabis shop, spurred Sky into a rare case of action (having pretty much entirely left the show alone since moving it to an 8pm timeslot for Season 29), airing it in a late-night, midweek slot: to be precise, Tuesday 28 April at 10.35pm, sandwiched between their Friday premieres of "Better Off Ned" on 24/04 and "Incredible Lightness" on 01/05. There was a late-night repeat at midnight on 01/05 (technically Saturday 2nd) in lieu of the usual Sunday evening repeat; you have to admit that Sky made it pretty convenient to still catch it on their premiere run, but "Highway" has not been included in any of their subsequent repeats of this season. (Thanks to Wesley for confirming this.)

Given drugs references are one of the things C4 will still reliably censor (although it's a myth that they never aired "Weekend at Burnsie's", which was one of the final episodes to get a prime time premiere before they were abandoned), this episode is surely not getting an early-evening airing; we can but hope that they deal with it as well as Sky did. (Or show it at all.) Three episodes getting dropped from a single season would be a hell of a thing even for C4 -- the last time they dropped more than one from the 6pm slot, in Season 28, they actually dealt with it very sensibly, so I am hoping things can turn out better than they have for 29 and 30's still-MIA episodes.

YABF13 The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby
(No, I haven't screwed up the production codes; "Incredible Lightness" was produced much earlier, and held over for longer, as it ties in with the theatrical short Playdate with Destiny, which was attached to the Pixar film Onward... although obviously certain real-world events rather affected that plan.)

Anyway, Homer and Cletus' version of "You're My Best Friend" includes the potentially troublesome lines "And I want you to know / That I'm not sniffing glue" and "And I love to drink / the methanol from your still"; I'm presuming the helium-inhaling stuff will be OK, despite really being an extension of whatever the writers' fascination with nitrous is.

And on that note, we'll meet back here in December (probably) to find out exactly what the score was.


  1. C4 did censor Bob's face falling off in "The Bob Next Door", as well as Bob performing the face swap with Walt, which lead to the plot of how Bob escapes prison making little sense.

    1. I am very grateful for the confirmation, thank you (I *think* Sky's edit was similar but possibly with more of the face-swap left in)!

  2. THOH XXXIII is currently scheduled to premiere on Sky on the 22nd at 16:45, so the reason they didn't air it at first could just be them holding it back for Halloween.

    1. That's a curious decision if so, as I'm pretty sure it wasn't the case for any previous THOH... Wesley doesn't have it down as a premiere so I'll give him a shout, cheers!