The premise: After being incredibly moved by a jail cell serenade by Cletus, Homer vows to make him a music superstar, which he succeeds at. However, he must pull Cletus back down to Earth when he hires a new manager after fame goes to his head.
The reaction: I’ve long spoken of my desire for this show to flesh out its secondary cast in the pursuit of new and different stories to tell, but I don’t think every denizen of Springfield deserves to be put under the characterization microscope. Case in point: an episode about everybody’s favorite slack-jawed yokel Cletus. He’s played a part in a couple plot lines over the last decade or so, but this feels like his meatiest role yet. I guess you could make a substantial episode all about Cletus… but man, I am perfectly fine with keeping him a goofy side character, because I did not give a flying fuck about him at all in this show. It also doesn’t help that the premise is obviously lifted from “Colonel Homer” (they even directly reference it), and it’s not even worth comparing the two. Homer gets tossed in the drunk tank, missing yet another family dinner, and Cletus’ heartfelt song about family or something motivates him to be a better family man, which we know because he goes home and tells the family that directly. And like all good family men, he then proceeds to spend all his time managing a hillbilly’s singing career. Cletus sings about how he doesn’t need the finer things and loves his country life, but none of the songs are funny or catchy, or honestly, even intelligible, I had trouble hearing his low singing voice over the music at points. He has no real motivation to want to be famous, nor does Homer to actually give a shit about making him famous. His jail cell song didn’t move him in a profound way like Lurleen Lumpkin back in the day, at least it didn’t feel like it at all. Whatever. When Cletus hits it big and he and Homer are on a private jet for some reason, he fires Homer, gets a new agent and moves to a fancy Shelbyville loft, content to shill low-grade moonshine on TV with teevee actors playing his kids. I’m finding it difficult to really parse through the plot, because I honestly and truly did not give a shit. Cletus abandons his family through one quick line to Homer at the agent’s office that it doesn’t even register, so Homer and Marge end up confronting him with his wife and kids, and Cletus makes good with them, and then that’s the end. But the episode was short, so we end on Albert Brooks’ agent character talking with an unnamed client for two minutes. Boy, maybe you could have used those extra minutes to flesh out the story some more? No matter, it would have been wasted anyway. But like I said, some characters like Cletus, or Miss Hoover earlier this season, you can leave well enough alone in the background, and they’re much better for it. Later this season, we’re going to get an episode spotlighting Sarah Wiggum. I think I’d put her right below Cletus on a list of characters I want to learn more about.
Three items of note:
– Homer’s desire to be a better family man ultimately translates into him being the good guy not wanting Cletus to abandon his family for his career. But he’s basically abandoned his own family to manage Cletus. It’s unclear exactly how much time elapses between the first montage and when they’re on the private jet before Cletus fires Homer. We see a bunch of magazine covers with Cletus’ face on it, it’s implied they’ve been touring and working a lot, presumably with Marge and the kids stuck at home. In the third act, when Homer is finally back, rather than be pissed at all about this, Marge insists they both go get Cletus back with his family? Why? What loyalty does Marge have to this random hillbilly who lives in her town? It’s a big leap for me in certain episodes where she supposedly cares about Moe, but he at least has some connection to the family, but fucking Cletus? Ridiculous.
– The only scene devoted to actually showing Cletus’s success is her appearing on the Ellen Show, or “Elin Degenerous” as she’s called here. They attempt to do material about the recent stories about the toxic work environment on Ellen’s actual show by having her trapdoor the audience for not applauding enough, and her billboard shooting lasers out its eyes, but it all just falls flat. First, why the hell don’t they just make it Ellen? I hate this change one letter bullshit when it comes to referencing real people. But beyond that, I remember a decade or so ago in that fucking terrible American Idol episode, they had Ellen on as a guest, because that was the one season she was an Idol judge for some fucking reason, and they made fun of her by having her dance, because that’s the thing she does in real life. And what does “Elin” do when we first see her? She’s dancing in her office. Eleven fucking years and they can still only do the same fucking “joke” about fucking Ellen. A good show would have fucking ripped her apart, not this softball nonsense.
– The unnamed agent is voiced by Albert Brooks, having last appeared six seasons ago as an anger management counselor (I think?) in the brilliantly named “Bull-E.” I remember not being too taken by his character then, and I feel about the same here. It completely hurts him that he’s showing up thirteen minutes into a story that nobody could possibly care about, but none of his lines are really very funny, which makes it more baffling that they give him two whole minutes at the end to just ad-lib and fill up time. I guess his material is a lot funnier in isolation, and I imagine it was very funny to hear him in the booth just riffing and they laughed so much they decided to keep it all in, but none of any of that humor translated onto the screen.