(originally aired March 28, 1991)
Many cultures respect and treasure their elderly, looking upon them as a source of wisdom. In America, we’re not quite as reverent. This series is nothing but a brilliant satire on all of society, and their depiction of old people is slightly exaggerated, but brutally honest. The elderly are shown as a burden, locked away in retirement homes, dank, desolate domiciles where old folks can putter away by their lonesome, desperate for a visit from a relative that will never come. We saw this early on in season 1 in “Bart the General” where every inmate at the Retirement Castle reared their heads when Bart asked for “Grampa.” That’s also the first time we saw Abe Simpson, a grizzled old coot who may be a tad senile, but has enough pep and gumption left to complain about how the world’s going to hell-in-a-hand basket. This is an episode about the harsh and unloving treatment of old people, most importantly Grampa Simpson.
We begin with Abe meeting Beatrice, a beguiling fellow resident at the retirement home, and the two fall in love fast. Some time later, Abe is reared up for Bea’s birthday, but is whisked away by the Simpson family for their monthly obligatory trip with Grampa, this time to Discount Lion Safari. The Simpsons getting their car attacked by lions is pretty goofy, but Abe’s plight always remains the focus, from Homer patronizingly playing off Bea to be part of Abe’s imagination to every shot in the car showing a stern-faced Abe in the backseat. Upon his return, Abe learns Bea has died over the past day, and left him her fortune of $106,000. We then get a look at society’s only viable use for old people: bilking them of their inheritance. Finding spending for himself brought him no happiness, Abe opens the floor to all the people of Springfield to pitch them how they’d put the money to good use, which gives us great scenes with a variety of characters from Mr. Burns, Marvin Monroe, Otto, and our first look at Professor Frink.
Also nestled in this show is an examination of Homer’s relationship with his father. Abe is infuriated with Homer over having missed out on Bea’s final moments, and Homer, understanding the blunder of his actions, feels a heavy remorse. By the urgings of Bea’s ghost, Abe forgives his son, and Homer later returns the favor from stopping Abe from gambling away his fortune. Abe had been trying to help too many people with too little cash, but in the end, decides a small step is as good as any, and repairs the down-and-out retirement home to look like new. It’s a bit of a sappy ending, especially with Abe’s final line, “Dignity’s on me, friends,” but it works all the same. The back half of the episode is a wonderful depiction of a man who desperately wants to do some good with a kindness that has been given to him, and eventually finds it in his own backyard.
Tidbits and Quotes
- The show brilliantly lays a lot of focus on how shitty the retirement home is. There’s lots of panning shots showing crusty walls and dilapidated tiles without feeling like it’s lingering on it. We also get it through jokes, like when you think Abe is crying over the photo of Bea when it’s just the leaky ceiling.
- I don’t know why I love Discount Lion Safari so much. The billboard for it is so spectacular. Maybe it’s the way the family yells it in unison… twice.
- I love when Abe remarks that Bea has “the bluest eyes he’s ever seen in [his] life” when, like everyone else’s, they’re just black dots.
- The scene with Abe and Bea when they eat their pills… mercy. It serves a story point of their form of courting, but my goodness is it disturbing.
- Another great Simpsons product: Lucky Lindy’s All Purpose Pomade. “You’ll never fly solo again!”
- I’d like to have seen more of Grandma’s World; so great that a wool shoal is in active ware. Also, the clerk appears to be the same as the grocery cashier in “8th Commandment.” Second job perhaps?
- Second appearance of Lionel Hutz, a wonderful follow-up as executor of Bea’s estate. Phil Hartman also voices “Plato,” the casino greeter. “My philosophy is: enjoy!”
- I love the montage of Abe attempting to enjoy himself, with halfhearted “Yeah”s along the way, ending with the great Diz-Nee-Land (not affiliated with Disneyland, Disney World, or anything else from the Walt Disney Company).
- It’s pretty heart-wrenching seeing Homer so broken up about his father. Marge suggests he seek help and hands him the phone connected to Marvin Monroe’s anxiety line. There’s a sweet bit where Marge pats her husband’s head reassuringly before leaving the room, it’s such a nice, subtle bit of animation that is sorely absent from recent years.
- This episode is pretty noteworthy in the shot of the line for Abe is filled with the collection of minor characters we’ve seen over thirty episodes. What would once be faceless nobodies are now established characters, as the series would grow to have hundreds and hundreds of familiar faces as crowd characters.
- There’s a great bit when Homer arrives at the casino and sees Abe about to gamble away his winnings. He screams with a shot in his open mouth, with a series of shots following pulling out further and further. It really intensifies the moment, and builds up to the fake-out that Abe has actually doubled his earnings.