I’m always happy when I get an episode of “The Simpsons” early. I haven’t missed one in 22 years. It was appointment viewing and VCR taping long before there was DVR. Now getting a screener just gives me a bonus treat, since I’m so up to date I’m jonesing for the newest one.

This season’s premiere is really guest star centric and the best jokes are courtesy of the guests. That’s unusual because usually guest stars play minor roles, or at least they’re in on the “Simpsons” joke. This one really depends on them.

More after the jump..

The best “Simpsons” specific joke is in the chalkboard gag. It’s a recent movie reference that demonstrates how the “Simpsons” team pays attention to what’s culturally popular, and they’re smarter than that cultural phenomenon. Kent Brockman has a good nod to modern newscasts when he introduces himself at a press conference too.

The first act centers around Krusty winning the Nobel peace prize. That’s not a spoiler. It pays off differently. As always, the first act that has nothing to do with the rest of the show is the funniest part with the fun they have with ceremonial celebratory music, and poop and sex jokes.

The real story is that while Bart and Homer accompany Krusty to get his prize, Lisa spends a week at performing arts camp. It’s “Elementary School Musical.” That’s introduced by a song parody cover. It’s not quite “Glee” because they change the words and it’s definitely not a “High School Musical” original.

The real stars of this episode are Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie. They have big roles as the camp counselors and they do thei Flight of the Conchords thing. They have Flight of the Conchords banter and some original folk riffs for a line each, all referencing the arts but still in that innocent, irreverent tone.

Sometimes they get to do a whole mini-song, not quite as long as a full song on their own show would be, but a full song by “Simpsons” standards. They do sort of spoofs of their own songs so it’s spoofs of homages. There are plenty of tunes for the next “Simpsons” soundtrack and a lot of banter. It’s the last “Flight of the Conchords” episode we’ll never get.

Otherwise there isn’t a whole lot of music for a music themed episode. I think they had more songs in “Sherry Bobbins.” I didn’t even realize this was the episode with “Glee” kids. They could have been anyone. It makes sense. “Glee” has only been on for a year so they were already working on this when it started. Luckily they had SOMETHING they could put musical kids in but they weren’t going to write a whole episode for them.

It’s a good looking episode. There’s a beautiful rear silhouette shot with the Simpsons ladies in the airport. Other than the Conchords, it’s not some of the strongest writing. I mean, their perspective on the arts world isn’t that original. A lot of the jokes are obvious. Even with highbrow references, it’s predictable. There’s a DVD region joke some of the techies might appreciate.

I know some people reference the golden age of “The Simpsons” and think it’s passed. I’ll give you the golden age and a rough patch but I think we’ve moved through the new renaissance and into the postmodern period of “The Simpsons.” It’s still the best thing ever, so they try new things. They made great use of Flight of the Conchords and didn’t connect on some other things, so watch the season premiere and see which parts you like.

"The Simpsons" returns September 26th at 8/7c on Fox.