Cartoon family get animated on first Irish visit

Tue, Mar 17, 2009, 00:00

"SIMPSONS" VISIT:THEY CAUSED uproar on a visit to Australia, were described as blasphemes following a trip to Brazil, and tonight, after 20 years and 450 episodes, The Simpsonsare finally coming to Ireland.

In The Name of the Grandfathersees the dysfunctional animated family travel, on a pilgrimage of sorts, to the village of Dunkilderry so Homer can make his ageing father’s dream of one last pint in Tom O’Flanagan’s bar a reality.

In what Simpsonsexecutive producer James L Brooks described “as a love letter to Ireland”, the family pays an eventful visit to the pub and embarks on a tour of familiar Irish sites.

The episode, which premiered at the Lighthouse Cinema in Dublin yesterday, will have its world network premiere on Sky 1 in Ireland and the UK today, a week ahead of airing in the US – the first time an episode receives its premiere outside the US. The Simpsonsis the longest-running primetime animated comedy series in television history.

A flashback explains that Grampa’s love of O’Flanagan’s and Ireland stems from a visit decades ago when, in spite of a row between locals and an unwelcome Scot, he had the night of his life. But on his return he soon learns that the Emerald Isle he longed to visit for years is no more.

The taps of stout, cabbage and corned beef no longer flow, and bars are short of customers because the Irish are too busy working in high-tech firms like Cisc O’Systems, Hewlett FitzPackard and Mick-Rosoft.

“Something terrible has happened,” Homer laments. “The Irish have become hard-working and sober!”

Mr Brooks said the storyline was inspired by a newspaper article he read last year.

“I read this article in the New York Timesabout the smoking ban and the fact that the pubs were closing,” he said.

“Irish people were also working so hard and crunching hours to the point that the pubs were suffering.”

As Homer and Grampa attempt to overcome the shock, the one-pint pilgrimage descends into a drinking binge, featuring a cast of beers and a rare cocktail called Bushmills served in a potato floating on a Guinness.

The episode turns when Homer and Grampa wake in the bar the next morning to the news that, thanks to Irish property law, they purchased O’Flanagan’s in their inebriated state.

While Homer and Grampa are busy flouting the smoking ban, Marge, Maggie, Lisa and Bart embark on a sightseeing trip, calling on Blarney Castle, Giant’s Causeway and the Guinness brewery.

During their visit, Homer and Grampa meet barman Tom O’Flanagan, voiced by actor Colm Meaney, while the rest of the family see Academy Award winners Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova from the film Once.

The tale ends in a courtroom, where Homer tells a judge he ignored the smoking ban in his bar because he wanted to “take Ireland back to the good old days of ‘Angela’s Ashes’.”

Executive producer Al Jean said despite the appearance of leprechauns and a strong focus on alcohol, he was confident the episode would receive a warm response from its Irish audience.