(originally aired May 20, 2001)
So after “Bible Stories,” we get “Tall Tales,” another three-story episode, and I’m just as ambivalent to this one as I was with that one. There’s nothing really to hate here, but also not much to love; these episodes always kind of have a phoned-in feel, where I’d rather be watching a normal twenty-minute story. While riding the rails to Delaware, the Simpsons have a run-in with a kindly hobo, who regales them with three tall tales. First the legend of Paul Bunyan, a big lovable oaf who of course is played by Homer. Then we get the story of Johnny… err, Connie Appleseed, played by Lisa. And then we have Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn… not really a tall tale, but whatever, portrayed by Bart and Nelson. Oddly enough being a non-religious type, I remember less of the specifics of these stories than I do the Bible ones, but for what I do recall, a great deal of liberties were taken in these renditions. So at least I can credit this one more than “Bible Stories,” which played most of their stories fairly straight to the source material.
There’s amusing bits and moments throughout all three stories, but it’s a little difficult reviewing these episodes. I find there’s a lot more going on in Halloween shows to elaborate on, but these are a bit thinner and don’t have much to really comment on. I’ll say what stuck out to me the most was the odd feeling I got from the wrap-around. All the Simpsons felt like a weird unified entity, all reacting in unison to almost everything the hobo did; it’s kind of hard to explain. But then they also had Lisa be the mouthpiece for the audience, another example of a few this season where they’ve done this just to have another character shoot them down and call them stupid for having valid complaints. And when the strange, creepy smelly man starts to take off his clothes and ask for a sponge bath, none of them even bat an eye. Marge doesn’t object, try to shield her children’s eyes, no one acts disgusted, it’s just like a wacky comedy bit. It’s a small moment like that that reminds me that any semblance of realism this show once had has pretty much evaporated, and this is what we’re left with: Homer scrubbing the cracks and crevices of a homeless man’s body. Eight more seasons to go…
Tidbits and Quotes
- We open the show with the dialogue we saw at the end of “Behind the Laughter,” but here taking place at the airport rather than in the Simpson living room.
- “Stupid anti-fist-shaking laws!” Really? That sounds like a line that I wrote in comics I wrote in middle school. Between that and “The Simpsons are going to Delaware/riding the rails!” the dialogue feels clunky from the start.
- Like the hobo vernacular for those with homes being “no-bos.”
- I honestly don’t have much to say about each segment. The only bit I liked in the first act was Big Holes with Beer National Park. The love montage between gigantic Homer and normal-sized Marge is pretty sweet, but is then ruined when Homer asks when they’re going to consummate their relationship, if only because of the mental picture it gave me. I mean, really, his genitalia has got to be bigger than her.
- The running gag of the easy-to-kill buffalo is kind of amusing, as is the Simpsons changing their last name to Bufflekill. But the story kind of just ends as Lisa randomly returns to the troupe with apples and saves the day. I do like the wrap-up with the hobo at the end (“And thanks to that little girl, today you can find apples in everything that’s good: Apple wine, apple whiskey, apple schnapps, apple martinis… uh, Snapple with vodka in it, apple nail polish remover…” “Don’t forget apple sauce.” “Yeah, I suppose you could grind some pills into it.”)
- The cast members do their darnedest at Southern accents in the third act, and are mostly successful. It’s definitely the funniest of the three: Nelson reckonin’ he can get a new neck from a cat, Marge bolting after Grampa finally turns down his shotgun, leaving Missouri and entering Missoura, the photo of a young lady flashing her “privates” (the best line of the show, “All for Silas, all for Silas!!”), Apu’s indictment of the high prices at the 99-cent store, the powerful-weak Derringers… Now I’m just listing stuff though. There’s not much to evaluate with these shows, it’s just mentioning what was funny about them. Just like “Bible Stories,” this one’s amusing enough, but wholly disposable.
Season 12 Final Thoughts
After seemingly hitting rock bottom last season, the series is just as ramshackle as ever: plot turns that make no sense, sorry attempts at humor, slapdash characterization for whatever is convenient for the scene… A few new awful things cropped up this season. Firstly, a lot more direct shots at the viewer, sometimes through Lisa commenting about how something makes no sense or is questionable, followed by her being interrupted or belittled for her point. There were plenty of times when the writers deliberately pointed out how their shit made no sense and figured that made it okay, but all it did was further emphasize how the writing was shit. Quite ballsy, but doesn’t make for a good show. Also on the rise are the number of crude, tasteless sex jokes, which all feel very out-of-place and strange. This show has slipped in plenty under the radar in the past, but being more overt about it is clearly not their strong suit. But here we are the end of Mike Scully’s reign of terror. When Al Jean took the helm, things seemed to level off a bit in terms of quality. Will this be a good thing? I guess we’ll have to see.
“A Tale of Two Springfields,” “Pokey Mom,” “New Kids on the Blecch,” “Trilogy of Error.” Yeah, just four this time. And three of them shock me that they ended up on the best list. Things are looking mighty grim.
“Homer vs. Dignity,” “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes,” “Tennis the Menace,” “Day of the Jackanapes,” “Simpson Safari”
I’ll start up Season 13 at the start of next week; see you then.