TV Club: When The Simpsons made fun of that religion (you know the one)

Nearly 20 years removed from its original airdate, I’m not sure we can fully appreciate just how razor-sharp the satire in “The Joy Of Sect” really is. This episode aired less than a year after 39 members of the Heaven’s Gate cult killed themselves in order to reach a starship hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet. In the episode’s DVD commentary, writer Steve O’Donnell notes the production team took care to tone down and change some of the eerier similarities between the Heaven’s Gate story and the original draft of the episode, which returning showrunner David Mirkin had started working on shortly before the mass suicide occurred. Even so, the episode’s Movementarians promise a new and better life awaits Springfield when their spaceship transports them to the planet Blisstonia. I’m sure Mirkin and company changed enough details to take the episode out of the …

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