A lovable blond buffoon, a bald schemer, an exasperated other half and narrow escapes from blunders. Marking 30 years of The Simpsons, meet… The Johnsons (with episodes such as The Last Temptation Of Boris)
Can it really be 30 years since The Simpsons began? After its first full episode aired in 1989, Matt Groening’s beloved cartoon has now become the longest-running American sitcom of all time.
There are some famously wacky adventures among the 672 episodes broadcast so far, but Homer and his wife Marge — along with their children Bart, Lisa and Maggie, neighbours and friends in Springfield — depict the reality of daily life for the average American family, as well as the tears and joys of the human condition.
We don’t really have an equivalent in the UK or — hang on a minute — do we? On these shores, a comedy show called The Johnsons has been fascinating millions of us.
How on earth do these citrus-hued hustlers, united by their blond moptops and unquenching thirst for power and glory, get away with it? Somehow they do, and the similarities between these two dysfunctional dynasties, divided by nothing but an ocean, are uncanny.
Like The Simpsons, The Johnsons are led by a lovable buffoon who is always getting into scrapes. At heart he is a simple soul who likes his beer cold, his doughnuts sugared and his women complicated.
And like Homer, Boris has been fired multiple times, but somehow always gets his job back. Sometimes he even gets a better job than before, and this is often arranged by his boss, the sinister Mr Cummings.
This chrome-domed schemer is a dead ringer for Mr Burns, the evil billionaire who employs Homer Simpson at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. Also like Homer, golden boy Boris has interfering relatives who thwart his comfort and peace of mind, including his militant sister Rachel (‘I’m not voting for you!’) and his boring father, known as Grandpa Stanley (‘I’m voting for me!’).
Boris is comforted in all this by his sweet girlfriend Carrie who, like Marge Simpson when it comes to Homer, is rather too accepting of his many flaws.
In this affectionate parody, we look back at some of our favourite episodes of The Johnsons over the past year.
EPISODE 1: LATE-NIGHT SPILLS
In this hilarious instalment, Boris and Carrie have a row because he spilled red wine on her prized lemon sofa.
‘I know what gets out stains really efficiently,’ says Boris.
‘What?’ demands Carrie.
‘A butler chappie,’ he tells her, pouring another quart of rioja into his beaker. He then shouts ‘yaroo, stinky!’ for no good reason except ‘it’s what I did at school’.
Carrie is livid. In the ensuing fracas, a laptop is damaged. It’s hardly an international incident, but undercover neighbours who are secret members of the KGB (Kill Golden Boris) activate their encrypted hotline to the Guardian newsdesk. ‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy,’ they whisper. ‘Send reinforcements. Domestic brewing next door and we don’t mean the teapot.’
Mr Cummings watches on his close-circuit BorisWatch feed as Channel 4 helicopters circle overhead. ‘Excellent,’ he says, steepling his fingers. ‘Boris is a complete idiot. My perfect choice of candidate to lead this country.’
2: No10 OR BUST
Laughs galore as Mr Cummings arranges a romantic photoshoot. ‘Hold hands, you dolts,’ he shouts as they pose in an overgrown garden.
Boris accidentally walks into a tree, while Carrie sobs because she is still in a huff.
Mr Cummings hopes to turn a potential career-ending crisis into a cockle-warming love story. But Carrie is not happy at the subterfuge.
‘She has no idea how to behave like a politician’s wife,’ fumes Mr Cummings. ‘Where’s her faux dignity? Her contempt for the common man?’
Then he has a brainwave. ‘Carrie, if you do it, I will give you a puppy.’
It was that easy.
3: WHEN LARRY MET DILYN
This episode tracks the whizzbang capers when Larry the Downing Street cat meets new boy Dilyn.
‘Show him who is the dog’s Pollux around here,’ says ever so erudite Boris. ‘And I mean the star in Gemini, not anything rude down below.
‘I also mean myself. I am top dog and it would be good if any old moggies hanging around, should they be called Theresa May or may not, could remember that.’
The cats don’t stand a chance. Theresa the Tabby slinks away, while Larry suddenly remembers an urgent appointment to pose outside for the Downing Street photographers.
Despite their incompetence, men like Homer Simpson and Boris Johnson never fail, although they most certainly would if either of them lived in the real world. And they always get the pretty girl in the end.
In the final scenes, Carrie and Dilyn look at Boris with adoration. ‘I love you so much,’ says Boris to himself.
4: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND READ COMICS
Boris is preparing for the Election with Michael Milhouse Gove. The two have fallen out so often that no one is sure of their current relationship status. Including them!
The two get down to some homework. Michael is on Page 789 of the European Trade Agreement Subsection 37 (halibut fishing quotas), while Boris is on Page Six of the Beano (Dennis the Menace swallows a spanner). ‘Boris, you must be serious about this!’ chides his friend.
‘Why?’ says Boris. ‘Everyone listens to me, no matter how dumb my suggestions. Remember the garden bridge? Tulips on the Thames?
‘Anyway, you’re no fun any more, Michael. I thought we’d be driving around in a van solving mysteries. Not this girly swot rubbish.’
5: THE LAST TEMPTATION OF BORIS
Our hero finds his bicycle clips and escapes from his minders to visit American friend Jennifer.
She is a very fruity lady who likes to dance on a pole. ‘Think unsexy thoughts,’ Boris whispers to himself, as she twirls around in her Wanton Barmaid outfit.
‘Eat my shorts,’ she whispers, but Boris thinks she wants him to eat her tortes. ‘Where are they?’ he cries. ‘What a treat! I hope they’ve got jam inside!’
Jennifer is not doing this to entertain Boris, but to teach him about Googling. ‘Which is not the same as goggling,’ she says, as he sits whorl-eyed.
A follow-up episode called The Great Escape finds Jennifer phoning to arrange another visit, but Boris gets scared when he hears her voice.
‘Mistah Boris, him no here. Him run away to Peking,’ he says in a Chinese accent.
6. ANOTHER BRICK IN THE WALL
Boris runs amok with a digger to get the Brexit message across. ‘No ifs, no buts,’ he says, revving the gears.
‘You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off,’ says Mr Cummings, as Boris damages a wall, runs over Laura Kuenssberg’s foot and ploughs through some vehicles in the car park.
‘It was like that when I got here,’ Boris says, adding: ‘I didn’t do it, nobody saw me do it and you can’t prove anything.’
Mr Cummings sits in a corner and sobs.
7. AVOIDING THE BIG TV INTERVIEW
OCH AYE! Terrifying Scotsman Groundskeeper Andy is chasing poor Boris to appear on his television show, Head Butt.
Boris tries to give him the slip, fleeing across an entire country to evade the forensic questions that might lose him an election.
Like what? Hard-hitting questions on numbers of offspring, letterboxes, Russia and favourite biscuits were to be avoided at all costs.
In the end, exhausted Boris gets confused and befuddled.
After Mr Cummings tells him repeatedly that all interview requests are going in the deep freeze, silly Boris misinterprets this and hides in a fridge instead. D’oh!
8. THE ELECTION NIGHT SPECIAL
The day of reckoning is here. Carrie calms herself by making them both a chicken curry.
Mr Cummings sits drumming his fingertips together while contemplating the couple with a beady eye.
‘Ironic isn’t it?’ he says. ‘The idiotic behaviour of you two pups nearly cost me the election, yet if I were to have you killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That’s democracy for you!’
Then the exit polls come in. Boris has won by a landslide and everyone jumps up, jubilant. ‘Lucky for you,’ says Mr Cummings, before slinking into the shadows once more.
9. JOHNSONS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE
All 327 members of the Johnson clan gather at Chequers for Christmas lunch.
‘Are you sure this is free?’ says brother Jo, as he carves a thick slice of truffled ham and pours himself a glass of Chateau de Taxpayer.
‘Yes,’ says Boris. ‘And there is plenty more where that came from. Let us all pour the gravy of freedom over the turkey of good fortune.
‘If being PM has taught me anything, it’s that miracles always happen at Christmas. It happened to Tiny Tim, it happened to the Smurfs, and it’s going to happen to the Johnsons, too.’
Grandpa Stanley stands up and taps his glass. ‘Sit down, Stanley,’ everyone shouts.
Sister Rachel spreads some caviar on toast. ‘I still won’t vote for you,’ she tells Boris. ‘But isn’t this delicious?’
And a Merry Christmas from all the Johnsons!
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his partner Carrie Symonds watch the 2019 Election results on the TV in his study in No10 Downing Street
Johnson drives a Union flag-themed JCB, with the words “Get Brexit Done” inside the digger bucket, through a fake wall emblazoned with the word “GRIDLOCK”, during a general election campaign event on December 10
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