Over its 28 seasons on the air — with seasons 29 and 30 already ordered by FOX — The Simpsons has turned its opening credits into an art form, creating hundreds of original jokes and animation pieces over the years. While Bart writing on the chalkboard and the billboard outside the school have their fans, the signature bit during The Simpsons opening is the couch gag, otherwise known as whatever weird thing happens once the titular family in their living room.
In more recent years, what were once fairly quick jokes during each episode’s couch gag have steadily become more and more complex, with several sequences stretching out for minutes on end and incorporating various styles of animation not native to The Simpsons universe. Just a few of these special extended couch gags include a Breaking Bad parody in which Marge cooks meth to the tune of Crystal Blue Persuasion, a claymation sequence featuring a cameo by Gumby, and a Magic School Bus-style trip inside Homer’s body.
This weekend’s all-new Simpsons episode, entitled ‘The Cad and the Hat’, sees America’s favorite animated family engage in yet another extended couch gag sequence, in which Homer ventures outside of his own realm and onto the “sets” of other famous animated properties. His journey is sparked by the disappearance of The Simpsons’ sailboat painting that hangs over the couch. Check out the full clip above.
While Bart implies that he may have in fact sold the painting — which Lisa refers to as a “derivative amateur seascape” — on Craigslist, Homer does indeed end up finding the painting in the possession of another animated character, that being Robot Chicken’s recurring nerd stereotype (voiced by Seth Green). Along the way to recovering his artwork, Homer also encounters the South Park kids — who live in what Homer calls “third-grade shoebox diorama” — and in a bizarre twist, the California Raisins.
This isn’t the first time Robot Chicken has played a part in a Simpsons couch gag, though, as season 24’s The Fabulous Faker Boy began with a sequence fully created by the RC crew, done in the action-figure animation style of that series. Fitting his usual demeanor, Homer ended that bit by complaining about the channel being changed back to his own show, yelling “Hey, put the chicken one back on.” It took four years, Homer, but they finally kinda did.
The Simpsons airs Sundays at 8pm on FOX.