704. Mother and Child Reunion

Original airdate: May 9, 2021

The premise: Nine years into the future, 17-year-old Lisa suddenly decides she doesn’t want to go to college, unsure of what she wants out of her life. This infuriates Marge, who was riding her entire hopes and dreams through her daughter, causing a massive rift between the two that would last for decades.

The reaction: The novelty of these future shows really start to run on empty when you’re going on your eighth one. I honestly don’t remember anything about the last one, which was also focused on Lisa, but this episode feels a bit discouraging because it actually touches on a promising premise: after grade-grubbing and spending her entire childhood studying, Lisa has an internal crisis about what her life is going to be. However, as it’s introduced in the episode, it’s difficult to follow. Lisa complains about how college costs a fortune now (now?) and won’t lead to any jobs, and separately laments about how she missed out on doing anything fun as a kid. These feel like two separate issues: Lisa’s future career prospects vs. actually having fun in life/having friends and relationships. Before she expresses her crisis, she had just rebuffed a promposal from Milhouse, but it’s not like it was specifically triggered by that, but I thought there would be something about how Lisa is crestfallen how she’s made no friends or had no romantic partners through school and regrets it. But hey, you know where you can start over and have a rich social life? College. Anyway, Lisa has gotten into every school and Marge is waiting with bated breath as to which she’ll pick. When Lisa announces she’s not going to college, Marge is pissed, outright telling her daughter she’s rested all her abandoned hopes and dreams on her so you better fucking pick a college, you sniveling ingrate. In three different interactions, Marge comes at Lisa hard about how much she’s sacrificed for her so pick a damn school, rather than, y’know, ask why her daughter feels this way and what’s going on. There’s been plenty (way too many) recent episodes featuring Marge being an irrational bitch toward Lisa, which always feels so incredibly distasteful. Marge is an eternally loving and understanding mother, so seeing her act this way is bizarre to see. So Lisa doesn’t know what to do next, which is fine, but the episode feels like it’s fumbling its way into finding a point. Lisa gets a food service job, and after an interaction with a dullard kid customer, gets the inspiration to start an after-school program to help underprivileged kids. Hey, do you know what might help you get that started? An education degree. We quickly flash forward and see that Lisa’s teachings (Knowledge Minus College) leads to great success, with dozens of schools opening nationwide, with Lisa later becoming superintendent, governor, and finally President. We barely get a scene out of Lisa’s classroom, where she teaches Shakespeare using dances from TikTok, so I really have no idea what I’m supposed to latch onto. Over halfway through the episode, Lisa’s existential ennui is finally solved, she’s interested in education, and then after one minute of screen time, we move through decades into the future, and then it becomes about Lisa and Marge finally making up, with Marge apparently a completely senile old person who didn’t even know her daughter was elected President and still insists she was right that she should have gone to college. The conflict between the two is so completely empty and meaningless that they don’t even make up directly, thanks to a great joke involving a “Mom translator” who “interprets” Marge and Lisa’s remarks back at each other until they hug and that’s the end. This one was a real stinker. It honestly feels like they wanted to do an episode featuring President Lisa after Trump was elected because of the reference in “Bart to the Future” (who is referenced to without naming him as Lisa’s new aide tells her, “Just after you were sworn in, your predecessor finally conceded,”) and then they worked backwards to actually come up with a plot. Maybe they should have worked harder and actually written one.

Three items of note:
– The wrap-around features this future vision being told by magician shop owner Werner Herzog and his mystical tarot cards (hey, remember “Lisa’s Wedding”?) Herzog appeared in an episode last season (or two seasons, I forget), and I gotta say, I have a little difficulty understanding his voice, especially when he’s trying to work his way through some labored joke dialogue.
– There’s been so many future episodes that nothing in these shows really feels fresh anymore. 3D printed pancakes, floating tablets, an antiquated Fruit Ninja reference, the college drones (which I think was in the last future episode), none of it feels like anything new. We see muscular teenage Milhouse, who has shown up before, as well as the ending with Bart and Lisa getting high and having a heart-to-heart on the White House roof, which very much feels lifted from when they got drunk in the treehouse in “Holidays of Future Passed.” We also need to give some kind of excuse for why Maggie doesn’t talk, so they have her communicate through emoticons or something. Why the fuck not just have her talk? At least it would be something different.
– Nate Silver voices himself to smugly poke fun at how absolutely incompetent and shameless he is as a political commentator and it made my skin crawl just a bit. Worst guest appearance since Chrissy Teigen.

Season Eleven Revisited (Part One)

1. Beyond Blunderdome

  • For the longest time, I never understood what the hell the title meant. I’ve never seen the original Mad Max movies, so I didn’t know about Beyond the Thunderdome. But then why isn’t the title “Beyond THE Blunderdome”?
  • Just a few minutes in, the Simpsons have driven an electric car into the ocean, floating along the sea bottom completely submerged, and electrocute a bunch of mermaids. With Loch Ness and Godzilla showing up at the end of last season, any semblance of realism left in this series is fading fast.
  • Rewatching this Mel Gibson asskissing session felt awkward in 2012, and it feels pretty much the same way. But even if you put aside all of Gibson’s controversies, there’s no joke with him except that he’s a perfect, beloved movie star, no different than Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger before him. It’s just so wild that an episode of TV exists depicting Mel Gibson as a universally revered celebrity and Robert Downey, Jr. being shot down by police.
  • I’d say there’s not even any commentary about test screenings and revising movies based on audience reaction, but we all know what this crew thinks about those kinds of things after The Simpsons Movie
  • When washed up baseball player Flash Baylor all but propositioned Marge to come to his motel room, Homer was impressed and was playful with her about it (“Wow! Flash Baylor came onto my wife!”) Here, Mel Gibson kissing Marge’s hand throws him into a rage, later confronting him and flaunting her wedding ring in his face (“You see this? It symbolizes that she’s my property, and I own her!”) Which portrayal sounds more likeable to you?
  • Homer hates Mel Gibson’s guts until he needs his help, then they’re the best of buddies. He’s not so much a character anymore as he is just a utility persona that can be changed and molded into whichever new profession or scenario they need him to fit into. But why exactly does Gibson need Homer anyway? Homer’s comment card complaining about the lack of violence mirrors exactly what Gibson wanted, it gave him the excuse to validate his feelings through a regular audience member to the studio execs. Why couldn’t he just fix the movie himself? He’s a fucking film director, and he needs some random dumbass to help him?
  • The only thing I like in the new Mr. Smith ending is Gibson slapping his face and making Curly noises. There’s a shot that’s always stuck out to me when Homer and Gibson give each other finger guns in the screening room where Homer’s grin is turned downward for some reason. He’s clearly not smiling, they couldn’t go back and fix that?
  • This episode is like an unholy blend of “When You Dish Upon a Star” with its toothless celebrity worship and “Viva Ned Flanders” where instead of Ned Flanders being Homer’s unquestioning sidekick, now it’s mega  celebrity Mel Gibson who continuously follows Homer’s lead for some reason, no matter how ridiculous or idiotic his suggestions are.
  • I guess there’s something to be said about the death of the brainless action pictures of yesteryear… but I can’t even pretend to say there’s anything close to satire here. Why does everyone at the Springfield premiere hate the new ending when they’re the kind of slack-jawed idiots that would eat up a brainless, violent spectacle like that? How did Gibson get the movie released at all? Last we saw in Hollywood, the executives lodged their car into Homer’s ass.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:This was a hilarious ep. The self-parody and the swipes at the Hollywood establishment were quite funny. It was a typical ep which starts with something completely unrelated, but as usual the show’s endings are the best on TV. It’s also funny Mel Gibson was willing to go along with all of that.”

2. Brother’s Little Helper

  • Bart feels believably obnoxious at the fire safety fair. We also get our first and only appearance of the gigantic gymnasium that is its own separate building from the school that for sure has always existed. 
  • I really like Skinner punching the giant clown inflatable in his office before beginning his meeting with Homer and Marge. He may be a giant rigid nerd, but Skinner also has some untapped rage, and it’s great to actually see it before he eventually devolved into a sniveling wuss.
  • Homer’s drug freakout is an excuse for some silly David Silverman poses, but ultimately not that funny (especially to repeat twice), however, I do like Ned instructing Rod to get his “exorcism tongs.”
  • Bart’s oranges/enlarged testicles is a great gag, made even better by Lisa’s disgust at Marge dropping them back into their lunches, with her responding with a dismissive, “Oh, grow up.”
  • Krusty’s skit resulting in almost being strangled by his automated bowtie is pretty excellent, as is him throttling his producer offstage (“Sorry, Krusty, I choked.” “You choked? YOU CHOKED?!”)
  • “My career has kind of lost momentum.” “I think it’s the bright blue pants. I mean, you’re not on a golf course.” “Well, I have been thinking about making them into cutoffs.” I like that when we cut to the next scene at the power plant with Homer’s crudely severed pants, they’re never explicitly addressed, and on top of that, we get a joke on top of it with Homer’s digital planner (Buy sunscreen for legs). I’m kind of surprised how much of this episode I’m enjoying so far, and surprised to look back and see it didn’t make my season 11 top 5.
  • With this episode airing at the end of 1999, it seems a little late to be taking shots at 1995’s Showgirls. It pretty much could have been a fake R-rated movie and there would have been no difference. 
  • I’m a bit mixed about Bart’s freakout. There’s definitely too many suspenseful moments in the second half of the episode, but I like Bart’s subtle change in demeanor, how focused and direct he is. I like his casual greeting to Marge when she steps in front of the tank (“Hey, Mom, thanks for coming out!”) 
  • There’s not much plot progression to be had in the third act, but there’s really a lot of good jokes: Homer reading the Focusyn side effects (“Erratic behavior, paranoia, diarrhea…” “I don’t think he has diarrhea.” “But how do we know, Marge? How do we know?!”), Comic Book Guy deliberating which hero could best the tank, and the sad tragedy that is Sir Wide-Bottom’s deflated bottom (“I know I’m alive, but why…”) Of all, my favorite bit is the showering soldiers (“I can’t believe that Sarge said we’re the worst bunch he’s ever seen.” “See, I have to believe he’s seen worse bunches than us. He was just trying to motivate us.” “Well, it ruined the whole hike!”)
  • The MLB conspiracy twist at the end is okay. It definitely feels like something that could have been strengthened with a more creative explanation, but compared to later absolute bullshit endings, I give this one a pass, especially with the ending joke with the surveillance bat Mark McGwire gives the Simpsons.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “A horrible episode even by last year’s standard. The plot made very little sense, and the conspiracy theory was just some filler material to make the episode long enough for viewing. Plus, the social commentary on the “over-drugged” society was too weak for the Simpsons. I guess Fox is trying to make the show appeal to the non-intellectuals and ‘non-nerds.’”

3. Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?

  • The incredibly random scene of Homer screaming bleeped expletives at an ambulance and his impromptu song about eating feel very much like evidence about how Homer is basically a completely malleable character who can say and do whatever the writers want regardless if it makes sense for the story or his characterization within a scene.
  • The Springfield Shopper isn’t a bad set piece with a fair share of good gags (the preserved Ann Landers and Dear Abby, the “recycled” trees) along with the excellent line, “If he’s so smart, how come he’s dead?”
  • Making Homer a food critic seems like a no-brainer of an idea, the man likes to eat. But it suffers from the problem nearly all Homer-gets-a-job episodes have, where it doesn’t even seem like Homer particularly seems to care about his joke. He gives a toss-off line about his excitement (“Can you believe it, Marge? This job is the greatest. They’re paying me to eat!”), but he never seems that invested in his job. Maybe that’s because everything’s getting filtered through Lisa’s words, and that’s really the core of the episode, but I dunno, there felt like a disconnect between what Homer actually cared about and what he was doing, which is fairly typical for this era of episodes.
  • “Wow, my first published article … although someone else’s name is on it.” “Welcome to the humiliating world of professional writing.” Speaking of malleable, Homer just gives this punchline about professional writers despite there being absolutely no reason for him to say this. The writers wrote it (clearly speaking from experience) and gave it to Homer because why not.
  • The cane “from” Citizen Kane at Planet Springfield is a great gag, and also gave us a whole slew of shitposts based on the template.
  • This episode wasn’t too bad until the midpoint, then things start going downhill. Why does Homer care about what the other critics think of him? He should be getting no pressure from the Shopper itself, since his positive reviews have been great for business for the restaurants, but why would Homer give any kind of shit about these snobby critics who we haven’t seen before or since their only scene? As the episode goes on, Homer smugly pisses on every bit of food he eats, and I don’t understand what pleasure he’s getting out of it and why he’s doing it.
  • Homer’s newspaper profile is a really funny drawing, the man is clearly very inebriated.
  • The restaurateurs of Springfield being a-OK with murder feels like a bridge too far for me. There’s some good banter to be had (“I’m surprised he doesn’t just give it up and go for sweatpants.” “He says the crotch wears out too fast.” “Yarrr! That’s going to replace the whale in my nightmares!”) but it feels like an unnecessarily crazy ending. Since they set it up, it should have been some kind of emotional reconciliation Homer makes to Lisa, but instead, the invincible Super-Homer gets no comeuppance, as he puts it. We also get a very telling line from an exasperated Marge when he finds out about the plan to poison Homer (“Only your father could take a part time job at a small town paper and wind up the target of international assassins.”) If that’s not an admission from the writers that this show has become a coo-coo-bananas wacky cartoon with almost no connection to reality, I don’t know what is.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: Three episodes into the eleventh season and I am not pleased. The episode started off groin-grabbingly good, but the quality descended. The episode was only sorta good, not excellent. Well, I think it’s safe to say that the UN has done its job. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders.

4. Treehouse of Horror X

  • I never understood the Sugar Crisp joke at the start of the first segment. First off, when I watched it when I was younger, I didn’t get it since Sugar Crisp has been known as Golden Crisp for almost my entire lifetime. Also, Homer singing the jingle after recovering the cereal from an unseen vampire adventure, is this supposed to be a specific reference to a commercial or something? Or is it just a silly non sequitur?
  • Homer manipulating Ned’s corpse on the roof is pretty wonderfully macabre. It stands in stark contrast to only two seasons later where they would puppet Burns’ body like a marionette in the medical marijuana episode.
  • Moe calling the recent widow Maude Flanders to make his move feels very on-brand for him.
  • Milhouse’s awful Radioactive Man costume is a perfect representation of those bizarre old school costumes where it would just be a mask and a smock with the character’s face and name on it. What was with those?
  • Everything about the second segment works so well. Bart and Lisa act very true to themselves if they were to have super powers (Bart fucking with Skinner, stretching into the adult section), Comic Book Guy makes an excellent villain, with almost every line of his being excellent, and Lucy Lawless gives a stellar performance, both as herself and when she goes into Xena mode. Two lines stand out: her “Oh dear God!” upon hearing CBG’s plans to make her his bride is just perfect, the perfect mix of shock and disgust, like this is the devastating natural conclusion of all of the mouth-breathing nerds she’s had to put up with at conventions. And damn, does that woman sell the hell out of “Xena needs xex!” CBG is right, it would have made even Stan Lee blush.
  • The third segment is a true time capsule, but I remember how unnecessarily freaks out people were about Y2K and this feels like an appropriate in-the-moment rip on that. I really like the ominous rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” when everything goes to shit after the New Year’s countdown.
  • Speaking of time capsule, the ending with all of the “bad” celebrities sort of feels like that, although the joke still feels like it plays and doesn’t feel too obscure even in 2021 (I’m not sure why Spike Lee is there, though). It also gives way to a truly horrific ending with Homer and Bart’s heads exploding in the vacuum of space. It’s off-screen and has a cartoony balloon popping sound effect, but it’s also mixed with a light matter squishing noise, which makes it pretty gross, but that makes it even better.
  • My overall feelings on this special is it’s got an absolutely stellar middle section sandwiched by two alright sections. Of the Scully Halloween specials, I put this first, then IX, then VIII, then XI.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “I Know What You Diddily-Iddly-Did: Lame. Homer’s characterization was absolutely abysmal, and Flanders’s unnecessary ‘diddily’s’ were tiresome. I can’t think of anything positive about this one. Desperately Xeeking Xena: The worst of the three Halloween installments. Absolutely ridiculous storyline, and despite that it’s supposed to be a parody of superhero cartoons, it completely falls flat. Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die: Probably the best of the three, but that’s really not saying much. The celebrity cameos were embarrassing, and Homer’s stupidity has reached a new low. The ending felt rushed, as well. Overall, absolutely pointless. One of the worst, if not the worst, THoHs in recent years.”

5. E-I-E-I-D’oh!

  • The Simpsons at the movies is full of good jokes: the Milk Duds swimming in butter, the Zorro movies where he inexplicably fights the Man in the Iron Mask, and the king screaming he’s a coward and fleeing.
  • Homer’s glove slapping never feels too dickish to me, there’s a degree of innocence to it that he’s just emulating something cool he saw in a movie. Plus we get the great B-52s cover, which, although a direct parody, is one of the last great songs this series ever did. 
  • Two very random callbacks: the design of Homer’s headstone looks a lot like the one Patty and Selma “got” him in “Mother Simpson” (although without the ‘Beloved By All’ inscription, of course), and the family stops near the outskirts of town at Donny’s Discount Gas, last seen in “In Marge We Trust.”
  • I’m okay with Jimmy Carter’s random appearance, but it’s yet another celebrity appearance where a character will just shout out, “Hey look, it’s [blank]!” I can only think of a few times that happened in the classic era, and usually always with some kind of self-awareness to it, while here, it’s almost every time a celebrity shows up, it happens.
  • I know everybody loves Sneed’s Feed & Seed, but it seems like it’s way too dirty for this show, even as a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it joke. Although there’s another great dirty joke that feels almost as gross later (“Maybe it needs more fertilizer.” “I’m only one man, Marge.”) Is it just me, or is the gag that he was going to jerk off over the entire plot of land?
  • Boy, they sure thought Homer getting pinned by that tractor was hysterical, huh? It happens four damn times, one of which was thankfully cut in syndication. I’ll say at least it’s much more bearable than other instances in the Scully era of Homer getting hurt, mostly thanks to him not screaming in pain during any of it.
  • I like that Homer has some kind of sense of responsibility in trying to grow food for his family, and a resulting sense of shame when the family reminds him this whole situation is his dumb fault (“Oh, you’re right! I’m a coward.  I made such a mess of things!”) Moments where Homer actually acts like a human are getting fewer and fewer to find, so I appreciate moments like this. But then there’s the runner where Lisa tells Homer to get rid of the last tomacco plant and he keeps talking about how he can’t do anything as only one man and it’s just terrible.
  • The concept of tomacco and the tobacco industry wanting their hands on it as a loophole to get kids addicted are both excellent. I’ll even give them that the animals getting addicted and going nuts being an alright idea, albeit pushed a little too far in the ending. But it’s way too much to cram into the last five or six minutes of the episode. Act two probably should have ended with the discovery of a crop growing, not the night before with the irradiated field.
  • This, “Mom and Pop Art,” and “Maximum Homerdrive” are like the Zombie Homer trilogy for me, where they’re episodes filled with crazy, unhinged Homer moments, but I find myself still able to get on board and enjoy myself for whatever reason. A lot of it is just the strength of the jokes, which up until now has been a big saving grace for the Scully era, but things are gonna be slipping real fast from here.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Was this a Halloween special? I’ve seen FAR more plausible things happen in those episodes than this one. Lessee… sheep and goats stoned on drugs, tobacco flavored tomatoes, radioactive waste being licked and chewed on. What is this? I’ve never been so appalled at a Simpsons episode… really. I can’t wait to see what the Maxtone-Graham apologists have to say about this one. ‘duh, homerz so kewl cuz he’s WACKY, you’re just a looser with no life.’ It’s sad, this show is no longer aimed at people with an IQ over 50. ‘The Simpsons’ today is like a close relative I once loved being slowly destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. No offense to anyone who this has actually happened to.”

Season Ten Revisited (Part Four)

19. Mom and Pop Art

  • I like the few instances we see Ned Flanders actually getting annoyed, even angry; it certainly makes him feel more human. His stifled profanity getting hit by a can over Homer’s fence (“God… bless him!”) and his ending remark about Homer being in “heaven” (“I guess heaven’s easier to get into than Arizona State!”) are two great examples.
  • Homer’s meltdown attempting to build the grill is loud, obnoxious and over-the-top, much like a lot of his batshit crazy behavior of this era, but I still find myself enjoying it. I like how quickly it escalates, with all of the parts falling out of the box into the cement immediately and it only getting worse from there. I also love the specificity of Homer’s anguished cry, ”Why must I fail at every attempt at masonry?!” The only thing I dislike is the joke of Homer forcing his daughter to set the cement first, which feels unnecessarily cruel (and sadly, not the last time he’d do something like this.)
  • When Astrid arrives at the Simpson house, we’re treated to two jokes that make me feel bad. First, when Marge tells Homer someone’s at the door about a car accident, Homer whips out a shotgun and tells her and the kids to go out back. The most generous reading of this is that he’s going to brandish a gun to intimidate the poor schmuck who got their car totaled by his negligence, and that’s not a very good read. But later we see Marge and the kids poking their heads from the side of the house, with Marge piping up, “I got worried when I didn’t hear any shots.” So she was expecting her husband to shoot a stranger at their door then? Or at best, fire it into the air to scare them or something? There’s also the gag where Homer puts the loaded shotgun in Maggie’s crib at the foot of the stairs, so I guess Marge forgot to grab the baby before her insane husband answered the door with his gun. We also get this joke when Homer immediately breaks down (“Just go ahead and sue me! Everybody else does! The average settlement is $68,000!”) The idea of someone being involved in lawsuits so often they have an average settlement is kind of funny, but it’s another line that breaks the quickly crumbling illusion that Homer is just an average guy, not a wacky maniac who gets into law-breaking shenanigans weekly.
  • Homer being explicitly labeled an outsider artist definitely makes this “Homer-gets-a-job” episode much more palatable than most. His failed barbecue pit being embraced by the off-kilter art community for the visually bizarre and intriguing object it is makes much more sense than Homer becoming a bodyguard with no real ability or desire for being so.
  • I like that Bart is chomping at an entire wheel of cheese at the gallery opening.
  • I really love the bite about Burns passing on purchasing Picasso’s Guernica for a song (“Luckily that song was White Christmas and by holding onto it, I made billions!”)
  • Bart throws Homer into a rage by saying he felt a little attracted to Milhouse, which is a fair enough joke, whatever, but then a minute later he’s in the power plant shower room sketching a nude Lenny and Carl apparently just because he’s bi-curious? (“He’s just doing this for his art. Right, Homer?” “Yeah… art…”) So…?
  • Homer and Marge talking in bed near the end of act 2 is a really solid scene, where both characters express their feelings in meaningful ways, Marge with her jealousy of Homer succeeding at her childhood dreams of being an artist, and Homer saying how good it makes him feel that people actually appreciate his screw-ups. The latter makes him feel less of a rampant egotist as usually happens in a lot of “Homer-gets-a-job” shows, he knows he’s not a “real” artist but is embracing this opportunity nonetheless.
  • Moe attempting to shoot the shit with the Eurotrash is pretty great (“We are adrift in a sea of decadent luxury and  meaningless sex.” “Uh-huh …so where might this sea be located?”)
  • All the art history references in the third act are pretty well done, and definitely work on their own even if you don’t know the specific piece of work or the artist
  • I don’t know why, but Homer’s impassioned “Not the Reichstag!” always makes me laugh.
  • The ending is absolutely silly, no question, but it’s weirdly sweet in a way. I like how Homer took childish inspiration from the Joseph Turner painting of the Venetian canals and re-appropriated the idea in a ridiculous way. That the whole town would all embrace it and everything is fine at the end is a stretch, but whatever, I’m fine with an absurd fantasy ending as long as the road there felt satisfying.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:Maybe my expectations have been lowered, but I didn’t find it to be a bad episode. Not very good though. The plot was tired, and there weren’t even any good gags to save it. I wasn’t groaning in agony, but I wasn’t laughing either. Boring!”

20. The Old Man and the “C” Student

  • Every Olympic season, I will invariably think of the “beautiful gold, so-so silver, and shameful bronze” distinctions.
  • The sub-headline under Town Prepares for Olympics is pretty good (Pickpockets Call Up Reserves).
  • I really don’t get why they devoted so much time to the “Children Are Our Future” song. You get the joke after Skinner’s belabored intro (“And now, because the children our are future, here are the children or Springfield Elementary, with a song they call, ‘The Children Are Our Future.’ Children?”)
  • Skinner is absolutely 100% at fault for the Olympics debacle. Why in God’s name would he not only allow Bart to do his insulting routine, but interrupt the commissioner mere moments before he sealed the deal on his decision? It feels so bizarrely out-of-character. Skinner is revealed to be a member of MENSA in two episodes, how could he be this stupid? Later when we see him force Martin and Milhouse into dangerous community service and repeatedly punch Homer in the face for Bart “costing” the town the Olympics, it makes him feel like an even bigger dick. Motherfucker, that was your fault.
  • Springfield Retirement Castle never looked so good, and that’s a big problem. What used to be a decrepit dump run by a borderline criminally negligent staff whose only concern was milking these old geezers and their paying families dry, now we see not-Nurse Ratchet and volunteer Lisa vacuuming their clothes for crumbs and holding Imagination Time hour to make the old folks feel good. It just doesn’t feel like the same place.
  • The Springy subplot is pretty stupid, but acts as a fun distraction from the incredibly dull A-plot. And as absolutely ridiculous as it is, I still like how the two stories intersect at the end where Homer’s flushed springs save the drowning ship.
  • Going hand-in-hand with the retirement home’s depiction, the old people themselves are completely de-fanged this episode. No longer crotchety and bitter, now they’re a pathetic, easily manipulated hive mind acting upon either Bart or Lisa’s whims in this weird battle over the senior citizens’ “freedom.” It more or less kills the entire episode for me. Abe, Jasper and the rest are at their best when they’re filled with piss and vinegar. This is just piss.
  • “I want some taquitos” remains a very quotable line.
  • Jack LaLanne is such a strange guest spot. How relevant was he in the late 90s? And how do Bart and Lisa know who the hell he is? Who was responsible for this booking?
  • The “Hard Day’s Night” parody album cover under the end credits feels weird attached to this episode since it had nothing to do with The Beatles, but I guess they figured since they paid the rights for “Money Can’t Buy Me Love,” they’d play it again over the credits and do that little parody artwork. And money well spent, used over a great montage of wheelchairs flying around skate ramps and Crazy Old Man and Jasper fencing at 1.5x speed. Pretty boring stuff.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:On the whole, I liked this episode. This episode had much to offer in the way of subtlety, and much to offer in characterization. Bart’s interests show once again that he is someone who seriously cares about people, and that he’s working to make a difference. The spring thing was kinda stupid, and a bit too cartoony for my tastes. We are, however, on the right track.

21. Monty Can’t Buy Me Love

  • The family walk opening feels so weirdly aimless. Like I get the point that it’s supposed to be boring, but it’s filled with weird lines like Marge writing poems about ducks and Homer suggesting they all ride dogs. What? The Fortune Megastore is also pretty bereft of jokes. We get a great scene where Lisa, an eight-year-old, makes a joke about Kevin Costner in The Postman, a joke that feels like it’s preserved in amber it feels so dated.
  • The bit about Burns daydreaming about how cool a talking banana would be is incredibly bizarre. So much of this first act is especially terrible humor-wise, I feel like John Swartzwelder didn’t write much of it.
  • So obviously this episode is patient zero for all the horrible Burns-wants-to-be-good episodes, the latest horrid example coming this latest season in “Burger Kings.” Like I said then, and for every other episode of this ilk, a story about Mr. Burns actually craving human acceptance could work, hell, it’s a promising idea, but it needs to be told in a believable fashion. Here, Burns feels sad that the townspeople and the media love some other billionaire more than him, and that’s it. “What’s it all worth when nobody likes you?” It’s just not enough. Honestly, the scene towards the end of “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” is a more than satisfying enough examination of this side of Burns, when a drunken Homer asks him if his money ever hugs him and tells him it loves him, and Burns sadly replies, “No, it doesn’t.” It’s a very honest moment, but what’s Burns’ takeaway at the end of it? He values his immense wealth and its power more than anything else (“What good is money if you can’t inspire terror in your fellow man?”) That’s the Mr. Burns we know and love.
  • Burns immediately enlists Homer to show him how to be beloved just because. Why not? He’s the main character so Mr. Burns obviously has to go to him. Though Homer is more a follower in this episode, this kind of feels like “Viva Ned Flanders” Part 2, where a side character gains Homer as a sidekick for no explicable reason.
  • Mr. Burns, Charles Montgomery Burns, writes a $200,000 check to a children’s hospital without a second thought. Just try and process that sentence for a moment.
  • I do like the cricket poison joke. I’m desperately trying to cling onto some positivity in this train wreck of an episode.
  • It’s not a very good scene for several reasons, but Michael McKean’s not-Howard Stern character is a pretty good caricature. The real Mr. Burns would have Johnny Rude executed on the spot for humiliating him, but part of me kind of likes his innocent childhood tale (“When I was six, my father took me on a picnic. That was a gay old time! Oh-ho, I ate my share of wieners that day.”) Also, “Won’t someone please stop the farting?!” is so wildly inappropriate for Burns that it’s funny to me.
  • In Scotland, Willie is there, of course, and Homer just casually addresses him by his first name when he asks about his family. What relationship could Homer possibly have with his kids’ school janitor? Yet another example of every character knowing every other character for no real reason.
  • The fucking Loch Ness monster… what more can I possibly say about this? They don’t even bother explaining how they apprehend the damn thing. It’s a humongous fucking monster and they somehow get it hitched up to a helicopter with not even a joke explanation. Nessie eats Burns… then they caught him? Then later he’s like a third of his size when he’s working at the casino. What a piece of shit.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:The best episode in some time. Great to see Burns being himself. In fact, great to see Burns period. The plot was wonderfully done, and got delightfully wacky during Act Three (especially the ending). The only bad part was the grotesque humor after Lenny got hit by a silver dollar. An 8/10.

22. They Saved Lisa’s Brain

  • The “How Low Will You Go” contest is a good enough set piece, definitely believable as a crass contest put on by the schmucks that run KBBL, and it serves as a good establishing contrast between the dullards of Springfield and MENSA. It starts to wear a bit as it goes (also Burns and Smithers are there as two halves of a horse costume for some reason), but the riot set to Planet of the Apes music was excellent.
  • I’m pretty partial to the excerpt of Lisa’s open letters, “I write this letter not to nag or whine, but to prod.” It feels like an innocent distillation of her activist tendencies, before she would slip further and further into her insufferable soapbox characterization.
  • Lovejoy’s Book Burning Mobile is a great gag, but I remember it best as a playable vehicle in The Simpsons: Road Rage. The endless hours I spent playing that game…
  • It’s not exactly clear why MENSA keeps itself secret from Lisa until she arrives, other than to build to a surprise reveal to create an ending for act one. They could have just mailed Lisa the letter, which one of them was standing in the Simpson backyard to throw the note as a paper airplane through her window?
  • The boudoir photography subplot, like Springy in “The Old Man and the ‘C’ Student,” is a dumb, but fun Homer B-plot that serves to mix things up tonally with the main story. The enduring disgust of the photographer (“Light is not your friend”) to the ending where Homer’s gift to his wife backfires in her interest in satin pillows over the general eroticism. A bit that stuck out to me was the final scene (“But I was gonna score!” “Oh, no, you weren’t.”) Marge seemed pretty into the photographs when she was looking at them, and the two have normally been shown to enjoy each other’s company, so it felt weirdly out-of-character to me, like for one line, Marge transformed into a typical TV housewife who denies sex from her big dumb husband for the sitcom audience to laugh at.
  • I always laugh at the ADR “Faster, you moron!” as we see Quimby ride on the horse to his plane for his getaway.
  • How MENSA ends up running the town feels a bit rushed, but the concept of these super nerds trying to improve conditions for the dullards they live with in their own way is a novel one, as is their petty bickering amongst themselves (with great moments from the likes of Comic Book Guy and Skinner, smugly taking jabs at each other). It doesn’t feel like it all comes together in the best way, and I accept the episode for what it is, but it definitely seems like a story that could have been a slam dunk if it were done a couple seasons earlier.
  • Stephen Hawking (who gets introduced with everyone announcing his name, which is becoming a new annoying pattern) is a pretty damn good guest, harkening back to how celebrities used to be either ridiculed or depicted as assholes for no real reason. He’s definitely the latter, suckerpunching Skinner and openly being contemptious to everyone else he deems less intelligent (“Don’t feel bad, Lisa. Sometimes, the smartest of us can be the most childish.” “Even you?” “No. Not me. Never.”) One line sticks in my craw a bit though, at the very end when he and Homer are at Moe’s, and Homer says, “Wow, I can’t believe someone I never heard of is hanging out with a guy like me.” That kind of feels like a line you could put into dozens of future episodes where Homer is randomly hanging out with a big name celebrity that he would have little knowledge or care of who they are.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “There’s too much one-dimensional characterization and too many liberties taken with realism here. Intellect is given too much of a shallow treatment with this episode for its story to be likeable, and its efforts are undermined by mostly idiotic gags. It’s a bright milestone for Simpsons to celebrate to have someone as intellectually renowned as Stephen Hawking on the show, but it still doesn’t save the episode from having little impact for me.”

23. Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo

  • The Java Cafe opening feels like such a funny time capsule to the days of the early Internet. It’s also the early stages of me feeling awkward about the show entering the “modern” age with characters starting to use computers, which would soon be followed by smartphones, tablets, earbuds, etc. I also don’t know how good I feel about Lisa, an eight-year-old, referring to the Internet as “more than just a global pornography network.”
  • Speaking of a time capsule, Snake steals Homer’s life savings with a floppy disk! Remember when you could only store like 128MB at a time on those things? 
  • I don’t care for Homer burglarizing the Flanderses (on multiple occasions, as Ned points out), but I do like that Homer still expresses his series-long envy at the seemingly better lives of his neighbors (“It’s just that you and Maude live like royalty in your fancy castle while I’ve got Marge trapped over there like a pig in a mud beehive.”)
  • Between Wiggum scoffing at “she-males” in the last episode and the crowd’s disgusted reaction to Chuck Garabedean revealing the beautiful women in his photo used to be men, this is like a one-two transphobic punch. But there have been jokes that have aged much poorer than these, many of which are coming up in seasons to come, seasons that I thankfully won’t be watching.
  • Lots of great background products at the 33-cent store (Cool Ranch Soda, Onions?), including Skittlebrau, the soda Homer seemingly didn’t make up from “Bart Star.”
  • Whenever someone says that I “could have” done something, my knee jerk response to them is always, “A little late for could’ves”
  • “You liked Rashomon!” “Yeah, that’s not how I remember it” is one of those jokes that I never got until like my twentieth time watching.
  • Watching this episode is only making me want to go to Japan even more. Originally my wife and I planned to go last year for our delayed honeymoon, but that didn’t happen for obvious reasons. But when we finally go, America Town is first on my list. Though considering it doesn’t exist, I guess the closest would be to go to the Hard Rock Cafe in Tokyo and that robot restaurant and blend the two memories together.
  • Homer just assaults the Emperor of Japan and nothing happens. They put him and Bart in jail but then are just let out after Marge pays their bail. He attacked their head of state! The episode where they go to England and Homer rear ends the Queen’s carriage, the entire third act is his trial, but here, it just doesn’t matter. And boy does it not feel good to compare this episode I genuinely enjoy to that piece of crap.
  • George Takei is the MVP of the third act as Wink, just absolutely killing every single line. His role as Akira way back in season 2 didn’t give him much to work with, but he’s just splendid here.
  • Where exactly is this enormous fake volcano? How much does it cost to heat up all that orange soda close to boiling? Wouldn’t the Simpsons be able to tell the difference between the smell of lava and soda? And on top of all that, it’s really an incredible cheat to milk the suspense as much as they did, with each family member running across the bridge and the audience chanting for them to plummet. Like yeah, of course they’re not all going to die, so it feels like overkill creating this elaborate volcano set piece for a payoff that’s not bad, but maybe not worth all that effort.
  • Thinking about how ridiculous the volcano thing is kind of softens any annoyance I have about Godzilla and the other monsters showing up at the end. Yeah, it’s just a dumb gag versus the entire third act with Loch Ness in “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love,” but it feels like a cheap ending to an otherwise mostly enjoyable show.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “With this episode, the last bit of life is sucked out of ‘The Simpsons.’ The jokes are not clever but cartoonish and/or sitcom-ish — completely un-Simpsonlike. (What the hell was with that ‘squeeze the penny’ into the arm bit, to cite one example out of a sea to choose for?) Homer, as he was throughout the season, was not himself — though he wasn’t cruel this time, it’s nonetheless like watching a completely different character — an unlikable, way exaggerated cheap imitation of Homer with no depth to his character. The Homer from the earlier seasons was likeable — we could identify with him; this one is too shallow a character to be likeable. The plot and gags were typical of ‘wild cartoon goofiness’ rather than the puncturing intelligent humor found in seasons 1-8.”

Season 10 episodes I would actually help out of a burning bus: “Lard of the Dance,” “Treehouse of Horror IX,” “Lisa Gets an ‘A,'” “Maximum Homerdrive,” “Mom and Pop Art,” “They Saved Lisa’s Brain,” “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo”

Season Ten Revisited (Part Three)

13. Homer to the Max

  • The midseason TV opening is pretty good, with Homer’s blind excitement over what will undeniably be a night of great television (with his ranking chart of “Excellent Shows” and “Really Good Shows.”) Lisa’s comment about midseason being “a dumping ground for second-rate shows” may be mostly correct, but it feels especially mean given that Futurama would premiere mid-season just a month after this aired.
  • “Police Cops” is great dumb TV, with its random explosions, “Homer Simpson” catching the crook’s bullet and throwing it back at him (followed by him ordering, “Arrest that guy!”) and the ending text revealing the blood used being provided by the Red Cross (Donate Blood Today!)
  • I really like the idea of Homer being admired solely for having a cool character on TV having the same name as him. It definitely feels true to Springfield’s small town nature that Homer’s bar buddies would be especially impressed by something like that. I do not like the opening bit where Homer is too stupid to realize that it’s not actually him on TV (“Did you see the way Daddy caught that bullet?”)
  • There’s a bit too much literal dialogue of characters plainly explaining the mechanics of television, from Lenny’s “Looks like they changed the character into a bumbling sidekick!” to Lisa explaining how TV pilots work. This feels like the early stages of the over-explaining dialogue creeping in.
  • Moe and the other barflies cheering Homer for his cool-by-association name I can buy, but Homer the town-wide pariah after “Homer Simpson” becomes a bumbling buffoon is another. Why would everybody in town, including actual celebrity Krusty, publicly hound Homer because of this? Even putting aside that “Police Cops” is apparently this monster hit two episodes in that everybody in town has seen, are they all as dumb as Homer in thinking that he’s literally the same character? And yes, “Homer Simpson” is a moron just like our Homer, but that’s not even part of it. It feels like this could have been a weird meta episode where Homer is upset about his TV doppelganger’s exaggerated portrayal. I don’t know where they could have gone with it, but it could have been interesting.
  • Pretty good visual summation of the past year.
  • Homer not only flies to Hollywood for just one scene, but manages to get a meeting with seven producers to express his grievances. Absurdity of the set-up aside, their explanation about their dumbass ideas is great, from their original idea (“The thirteen of us began with a singular vision: Titanic meets Frasier”) and its evolution into “Badge Patrol” (“The network idiots didn’t want a show about high-tech badges that shoot laser beams!”)
  • It’s a bit over half the running time that Homer actually changes his name, making the episode really feel like two stories crammed together. “Homer vs. TV” wasn’t perfect, but definitely felt like it could have been expanded and smoothed out into a full-length, competently told story. But I really don’t know what to make of the Max Power story. I guess it’s supposed to be Homer reinventing himself, but he just kind of falls into the “friendship” of a charming upperclassmen, and that causes Homer to get excited about rubbing elbows with “Springfield’s young, hip power couples,” for some fucking reason.
  • I said last time it was the last Dankmus, but “strap yourself in and feel the G’s” reminded me there’s actually one more fantastic one.
  • My favorite joke in act three is Homer’s innocent admission he got the idea of “Max Power” off a hairdryer. That line alone makes me wish it belonged to a better episode.
  • A fatal flaw of the third act is the very existence of Trent Steele and his rich, young and hip associates residing in Springfield. Springfield had always been a small nothing of a town, with Mr. Burns being a sole heartless plutocrat throttling the throat of a poorer city, with the other “elites” being the likes of Evelyn and her friends from “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield,” born-and-raised Springfieldians with a little more extra income they can flaunt in others’ faces. Meanwhile, Trent Steele lives on a lavish estate, holding garden parties attended by Hollywood celebrities and the fucking President. What business is he in? What the hell are he and the others doing in a jerkwater berg like Springfield? This feels like the first warning sign of Springfield slowly becoming whatever the show needs it to be, which more often than not is Los Angeles, Jr. so the writers could make relatable SoCal jokes.
  • The ending just sucks so much. Homer and Marge getting swept up in the whole environmentalist cause was a left field plot turn in an entire left field third act, but then the chain sawing through the entire giant redwood within a minute or two and knocking down the whole goddamn forest like dominoes… fuck.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Pure crap. If there is a season next year, I will not watch it. The writing was pathetic, the jokes were all repeated, and the Clinton joke was simply terrible. Please, please, please, please end the Simpsons now.”

14. I’m With Cupid

  • Bart’s last minute digestive system project serves the necessary plot function of establishing Apu’s never-ending work schedule and setting up the dinner date, but there’s not really anything clever or funny about it. Nelson makes it explode on the bus, and that’s basically it. It feels like a first act set piece that would have at least seven or eight solid jokes just a few seasons ago.
  • A season after her introduction, we get our second look at Manjula (it can be argued that it’s really her first look since she only appeared in the last two minutes of her last episode.) There’s not really much to her character, which to be fair, in this plotline, she’s just supposed to be the disappointed wife. It’s just weird considering they bothered to marry off a significant secondary character, they didn’t even think to examine how his life would change or what his partner would be like. One season later, they decided to give him eight kids, and since then, we’ve learned next to nothing more about Manjulia or the octuplets except that they make Apu more exhausted because having a wife and kids sure is hell, amirite, folks?! Even though putting a magnifying lens up to Apu’s sworn allegiance to the Kwik-E-Mart kind of sours the joke of it, an episode actually about Apu’s rivaling love between his work and his wife might actually be interesting, but instead, we got a painfully generic Valentine’s plot that tells us nothing about the couple themselves, but ends up mostly being hijacked by wacky Homer shenanigans. You know, just like last time! 
  • A very funny touch to see Surly Duff in a hot rod on the Duff calendar. A very romantic picture for February.
  • The best scene in the episode is the brief glimpse at Chief Wiggum’s love life: him talking about how Sarah is usually all over him after he reads a couple of tasteless jokes is pretty adorable, quickly followed by his pathetic plea to his wife about how expensive Viagra is. How exactly did I learn more about Chief Wiggum’s marriage in a ten second scene than Apu’s in an episode ostensibly all about his?
  • Homer riles up the other husbands at Moe’s, which of course consists of familiar faces like Dr. Hibbert and Ned Flanders, for some reason. Why doesn’t he bust out the ol’ heart costume and croon for Maude like the good old days? Also Moe goes along for the ride, because why not. Once more, we’re just plugging in our regular characters whenever possible, regardless of the situation, which ultimately makes the once sprawling town of Springfield feel much smaller.
  • Elton John doesn’t have much to do, but he’s not bad. I like his incredibly touched response to Moe’s bullshit made-up compliment about teaching them to love again (“Really? I did that?”) and how instantly annoyed Apu gets at him referencing his songs. It’s actually even funnier given in the recent episode “Uncut Femmes,” Bob Seger’s guest appearance was just a series of him quoting his song titles, and that was supposed to be the joke. Season 10 is where the free fall for this series really starts, but we’re nowhere near the bottom yet.
  • A big problem for me in this show is Homer is basically a raging jackass for most of the running time. Then we get to him beating up a pilot in mid-flight, dangling off the plane, flying through rose bushes… I guess when they watched that sequence back, they were just laughing their asses off? Despite ignoring Marge through the entire episode, he is completely redeemed by the end via complete coincidence, and it sucks. We love Homer because despite his ignorance and occasional selfishness, he genuinely cares and tries to do the right thing if pressed. Here, he doesn’t do a damn thing.
  • Sarah cutting Ralph’s hair on the front lawn is really cute, as is Pamela Hayden’s sweet little laugh after she reads the skywriting blob in the air as “Poppin’ Fresh,” Clancy’s pet name for her. This may be the most we saw of Sarah Wiggum before “Uncut Femmes,” but you know what, I’ll take “sweet housewife in love with her big dumb husband” over “retired girlboss jewel thief who fell in love with her mark” any fucking day.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Like always these days, Home-boy owned this episode, yet some good support was brought from other residents of Springfield. This ep had a few humorous laughs, a nice(tacked on) cameo, and a good focus on Apu and Manjula. The problem was, though, that Homer acted too much like he usually does in this season: a jerk. And that is never a good thing.”

15. Marge Simpson in “Screaming Yellow Honkers”

  • “That’s Edu-tainment” doesn’t work whatsoever. The teachers and staff of Springfield Elementary can’t fucking wait to bolt out of school at last bell, why are they holding an elaborate live comedy show? Even if it was a fundraising effort, it would be a big stretch, but there’s no mention of anything like that. The opening really could have been anything, they just needed a set piece of a traffic jam of people trying to leave, leading Homer to see the Canyonero (driven by Krusty, who was inexplicably attending a school event.) The only bit I liked was Chalmers seething with anger at Skinner blowing the “Who’s On First” routine, muttering about the “sexless freak” while storming off stage.
  • “I hate to change lanes once I get going. That’s really for race car drivers.” “As soon as I get over, that lane will stop moving. Erma Bombeck said so, and Dave Barry agrees.” I’m a pretty overly cautious driver, so I feel somewhat embarrassed that I found these lines very relatable.
  • Gil definitely feels like he’s starting to wear out his welcome. It’s not easy shaking him up when it’s basically the same schtick every time with him.
  • An episode actually about Marge’s unaddressed pent up anger being channelled through road rage might have been interesting. She’s definitely a woman with a lot of locked away frustration, but very few episodes actually deal with it. I remember the third act of season 14’s “Brake My Wife, Please” introduced that plot angle randomly with Marge unconsciously trying to maim Homer, and it was really stupid. Here, Marge starts driving the Canyonero and just randomly starts raging, then anger management cures her, then she gets angry again, feels remorseful that her license is revoked, then is angry one last time to save the day. It’s not so much plot progression as a random character trait being switched on and off as needed.
  • The anger management class is easily the best part of the episode: Wiggum’s speech about breaking the class down and building them back up (if time permits), Eddie getting savaged as Curtis E. Bear, and the Road Rage filmstrip, which is a pretty perfect piece on its own (“Anger is what makes America great. But you must find a proper outlet for your rage. Fire a weapon at your television screen, pick a fight with someone weaker than you, or write a threatening letter to a celebrity. So when you go out for a drive, remember to leave your murderous anger where it belongs: at home.”)
  • Mike Scully, his wife/show producer and writer Julie Thacker and their five daughters make an appearance running out of the wildlife sanctuary. Switching to the commentary for this part, Mike Scully laughed, “Take that, No Homers!” I don’t know if people actually complained (or even knew about this) at the time, but it feels weirdly vindictive. I dunno, I guess it’s fine, you’re the boss, you can put your family members into the show as cameos if you want, why not (his kids also make a noticeable appearance in “Simpsons Bible Stories.”) It just feels kind of lame and cheap to me as a viewer though. We previously saw cameos of the writing staff as the much abused and beleaguered writer’s room of Itchy & Scratchy, which actually feels appropriate, but stuff like this feels like when somebody’s niece gets to be a featured extra in a movie because their parents are friends with the studio head or something.
  • The fucking rhino ending is so bad. It’s bad enough that it’s unintentionally caused by Homer being a dick, but it’s just so cartoonishly absurd, and it just goes on for so long, where Homer and the kids are trapped, then the last rhino takes Homer through the town, then he’s stuck in the porta-john… all completely boring and laugh-free.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:Well, this was pleasantly surprising … It’s rare these days when they can make a good episode about Marge. Can’t really say I liked the overall wackiness of the rhino scenes but the first two acts were a treat. For a late-season Simpsons episode, this is about as enjoyable as they come. The Simpsons to me is a shadow of it’s former self these past couple of seasons, but it can still be quite entertaining once in awhile.

16. Make Room For Lisa

  • Bill & Marty’s lame “Men Without Jobs” crack followed by them obnoxiously laughing is pretty good.
  • The OmniTouch stuff at the beginning is pretty solid, with the representative outlining America’s priorities (“Anti-tobacco programs, pro-tobacco programs, killing wild donkeys, and Israel.”) The corporate sponsorship/possession of historical treasures concept is also interesting, but doesn’t really go anyway beyond the opening.
  • I’m sure I bitched enough about how awful it is that Homer just completely gutted Lisa’s room. Where did all her stuff go? Why didn’t they put all that stuff in Maggie’s room? Why does Marge seem to not give a shit? The whole thing is pretty much forgotten partway into act two, so it really could have been any slight of Homer’s to alienate Lisa to kick this story off.
  • Homer spends half the episode acting as a fucking asshole to Lisa to the point that she becomes physically ill with stress, and it really sucks. I get that it’s establishing how diametrically opposite they are, contrasting Lisa doing homework with “When Animals Attack Magicians,” but Homer just comes off so, so bad here. His inability to connect with Lisa in the past came off as awkward, and at worse ignorantly dismissive, but here it’s just moment after moment of him aggressively ignoring Lisa’s pleas, and all of this after completely destroying her room.
  • The baby monitor subplot is just boring time filler. I guess instead of helping her daughter out in any way, Marge decides to revel in town gossip. I do like Agnes being upset about Skinner driving through tunnels (“I know what they represent!”)
  • Not a fan of Homer dismissing new age medicine as “touchy-queery crap.” I know he’s a latent homophobe, but it feels a little gross.
  • The wild adventures of Homer in the tube goes on for so fucking long. Even this episode needs a lengthy action sequence? There’s little to no jokes in these scenes, it’s not exciting or interesting, why were there so many of these in the Scully years?
  • The moving men are easily the strongest part of the episode: their gruff rebuttal to the new age shop owner (“Channel somebody who gives a damn!”), the two of them arduously trying to lift the heavy deprivation tube with Homer in it (“Ah, screw it, I got health insurance!”), and the one guy teasing the other with the crystal while driving (“Your baby will be a girl!” “Shut up!”)
  • Homer has it even easier here than the ending of “I’m With Cupid,” where he re-enters Marge’s good graces by complete accident. Here, he doesn’t have to do a damn thing, Lisa forgives him after seeing things from his perspective in the deprivation tube. Lisa even blames herself for her frayed relationship with her father (“I can really be a pain in the butt.”) I mean, we never saw Lisa be irrationally angry at Homer in this episode, despite all the truly terrible things he said and did, nor have we ever seen her be that sternly direct to Homer as she was in her dream sequence. It’s very strange, and feels completely unsatisfying. On the commentary, Mike Scully and company joke about the message of the episode being kids seeing things from their parent’s perspective (“We do our best, kids!”) With this episode being written by Brian Scully, could this script have been born out of grievance about all the things they were dragged to by their kids, with having Homer be their surrogate and Lisa apologizing to them? I mean, it’s not a bad idea, but it feels like too big of a burden that an eight-year-old should be that compromising of their fragile, idiotic manchild of a father, especially after, again, he completely destroyed her room for no reason and it never being brought up again. Fuck this episode.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “An excellent episode about learning to compromise, taking family for granted, and character growth. A month after I lost all hope in the series, they come at me with this. I pray that this trend continues. ‘Make Room for Lisa’ is easily the best episode so far with Mike Scully as executive producer.”

17. Maximum Homerdrive

  • I appreciate Lisa’s more restrained outrage in the opening about The Slaughterhouse (“Lousy meat-eating scum! …not you!” is a good line.) Her being upset about the cartoonishly brutal practices of the new restaurant feels appropriate, and it’s also great how she’s just not present when the family goes there, that you can fill in that gap of her refusing to go yourself as a viewer with moderate intelligence paying attention to what they’re watching, something that doesn’t really happen anymore. This Lisa stands in great contrast with the recent episode where she tricks everyone into eating mushroom tacos and then feels personally attacked when she finds meat was added to it.
  • The Slaughterhouse is honestly a pretty great set piece, with its incredibly graphic neon sign and the pounded flat chicken menu (“The kid’s menu is on the beak!”) Even though it makes little sense for him to be there, I like Mr. Burns’ dissatisfaction that the original steer he chose to kill “didn’t put up much of a fight. Homer entering an eating contest and becoming horrified at actually becoming full is a great concept as well, as is Dr. Hibbert turning a blind eye to any wrongdoings of a restaurant he owns 12% share in (“Looks to me like beef poisoning… probably from some other restaurant.”)
  • The end of act one where Homer takes up the job of trucker feels like a self-parody of these wacky “Homer-gets-a-job” episodes, which on one hand I can somewhat admire the transparency of, but on the other, it feels pretty shocking that they are this referential about it so quickly. Pointing out shoddy writing doesn’t excuse it, of course, as I’ve screamed and ranted about over and over on this blog, but there’s some level of innocence to it in this early episode that I can’t quite place exactly why.
  • The Red Rascal decal on the truck is a great design, with the Tex Avery wolf and Confederate babe.

  • Marge and Lisa’s doorbell escapades is definitely a much better follow-up than their stupid egg-scapdes in “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday.” Marge considering doorbell shopping to be a walk on the wild side, then wanting the first ring to be organic all feels appropriate, and lends itself to some funny scenes, like the Jehovah’s witnesses having a change of heart moments from ringing (“Let’s go get real jobs,”) to Marge’s conservative Luigi’s order of half an order of garlic bread just to get him to the house. It’s not amazing material, but still enjoyable.
  • The scene of Homer and Bart at the diner (which I think is a syndication cut) is so bizarre, with Homer waxing on about divorcing Marge to live the trucker life. It’s this weird thing where you’re not sure whether Homer is fantasizing or if he’s serious and believes he can be a real trucker… it’s difficult to tell with these kinds of episodes because Homer has no real motivation for any of his new occupations, so anything he says and does ultimately feels pointless.
  • The auto-driver third act twist isn’t a bad idea (“All you gotta do is sit back and feel your ass grow!”) but then Homer just lays out on the hood of the car and blabs about it to strangers for no real reason just so we can manufacture a conflict to close the episode on. Then he flips his big rig multiple times over an entire convoy because who gives a shit about writing things that make sense, right?
  • The ass-pull appearance of the train to get Homer and Bart back to Springfield is another clear example of the self-awareness of this nonsense (“Are you crazy?  I’m not driving a trainload of napalm to Springfield!”) But you know what, I laughed. This episode isn’t any less dumb than a lot of season 10, but for some reason I have some fondness for it. Maybe the acknowledgement of its goofiness makes it easier to swallow, especially in the early stages of the show turning into wet garbage, but I give this episode a pass.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:Typical of later-season Swartzwelder material in that the humor was lacking but we got to see some nice Homer-Bart bonding, which was about the only thing really redeeming about it. Not much to laugh at; they can’t seem to progress beyond the most obvious gag anymore, and it’s very very sad. This ‘Homer gets into some crazy crazy job’ was getting tiresome last season and yet it’s still being rehashed over and over. The subplot with the whole doorbell thing was a snooze. Even Futurama was disappointing – has Groening lost his touch completely? Half-grade deduction for using a Spice Girls song – SHAME ON YOU STAFF!

18. Simpsons Bible Stories

  • Ah, the very first, and certainly not the last, trilogy episode. I’ve bitched about this before, but I really don’t like these episodes, nor do I like fantasy episodes of any other series. When you’re retelling a known story with your protagonists, there’s no interest from me as a viewer because it feels just like going through the motions of an established narrative, which is not why I tune into what was once an original and creative comedy program. Treehouse of Horrors are different because they’re stories that still exist within the reality of Springfield (at least in the classic era) and experiment more with tone than the other trilogy shows. 
  • “Christ Dyed Eggs For Your Sins” is a damn solid church marquee joke, definitely in the top 3.
  • I don’t know if I ever caught this, but Bart’s “Bush set me up!” complaining about the burning bush ratting him out is definitely a reference to the immortal words of former D.C. mayor Marion Barry’s famous words after getting busted smoking crack with a hooker, “Bitch set me up!” Making such a crude reference in a Biblical story definitely deserves some degree of props.
  • I’m pretty sure I mentioned this in the original review, but Milhouse/Moses commanding his people to flush the toilets to empty the Red Sea feels like something they would have done in the Rugrats Chanukah special or something. That’s maybe not the best comparison to make for a show like this.
  • Homer’s People’s Court dream is the best one, with the twist on the King Solomon tale and Jesus taking the stand (his “My Accident” folder always makes me laugh.) I think it’s my favorite because it’s like a minute long, you get the joke about the story and you move on.
  • Bart’s David vs. Goliath dream being somewhat structured like an action movie, with its revenge story and training montage, definitely makes it feel more distinct, like what you’d normally get from a Treehouse of Horror. I also like that it feels like something Bart might actually be dreaming about, a Biblical story filtered through his perspective. If all the trilogy stories were done with this distinct point-of-view storytelling device, they might be more interesting (Bob’s Burgers does its trilogy stories this way, with the stories being told by one character in their own unique way.)
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “I’m not one of those Old Testament-thumping fundamentalists, but come on! MILHOUSE AS MOSES? What better way to insult the Jewish people in the middle of Passover than to have the Red Sea part by flushing a bunch of ancient Egyptian port-a-potties? Were the writers looking for a way to shock people? Mission accomplished. As for the Adam and Eve story, it started out kind of cute, but after the apple business it all went downhill. Watching this episode was like LIVING in a Treehouse of Horror episode!”

703. Panic on the Streets of Springfield

Original airdate: April 18, 2021

The premise: Lisa becomes so obsessed with sardonic British pop artist Quilloughby that she personifies him as her imaginary friend, becoming even more of a judgy snob. Also Homer gets a truck, I guess.

The reaction: I’m still not sure if the writers realize how unlikable they’ve made Lisa in recent years. She might have had a slightly big head on her in the early years, but nowadays, her pretentiousness and condescending attitude really makes her come off bad, and this is basically an episode all about that. After rejecting every suggested track off of “Slapify” (“Let’s see if your algorithm can predict my tastes?” she chuckles), she finally lands on the morose artist Quilloughby, a British singer/vegan activist who hasn’t been seen in public for years. Inspired by his music, Lisa gets the school cafeteria to serve mushroom tacos (how she did this is unexplained), but is shocked that Lunchlady Doris added bacon into it. “Everyone at my school is a jerk! Why are they so mean?” she cries. Then she starts to see Quilloughby, who becomes her closest confidant, as they proceed to bond over their snarky displeasure in literally everything and everyone. It’s clear they’re having Lisa go through some teen angst (at age 8), and she’s supposed to be taking things too far and realizes that in the end, but her attitude isn’t grounded in anything as the audience can get behind, so she ends up coming off more annoying than sympathetic. The story culminates in Lisa going to an outdoor music festival where the real Quilloughby is appearing for the first time in decades. While there, her Quilloughby begins to get on her nerves with his never-ending negativity. Real Quilloughby takes the stage, now an out-of-shape middle-aged failure of a has-been who has renounced his veganism and antagonizes the crowd by spewing out bigotry. Ultimately the lesson, intoned by imaginary Quilloughby, is for Lisa to be more open-minded and not sneer at others with differing opinions. It’s almost like an admission by the writers at what they’ve turned Lisa into over the years, that she’s so stubborn and myopic in her worldview that she’s basically on her way to being an irrationally angry bigot who everybody hates. The comparison also feels shaky given that real Quilloughby is screaming about how migrants should die, whereas Lisa is just against eating meat. In the end, it’s yet another episode I don’t see the point in. There was no inciting incident to make Lisa feel so pissed, and her epiphany was basically all internal, but not at all interesting in the slightest, since it’s all painfully spelled out through dialogue, per usual. They try to put a sweet bow on things with Lisa and Marge having a sweet reconciliation, but so much of this episode is intensely sour that it feels pointless.

Three items of note:
– I was very confused by the episode title, and now I see it’s a reference to a Smiths song “Panic,” as in “Panic on the streets of London.” I guess that’s a well-known song, right? Quilloughby is seemingly based on Morrissey, who I’m not very familiar with, but it’s just strange since the majority of the episode titles are extremely obvious “parodies,” and this one sticks out as being less obvious than usual.
– The episode opens with Dr. Hibbert advising Homer about his health, in his first major appearance since Kevin Michael Richardson took over the character starting in “Wad Goals.” He ends up feeling like the weakest replacement voice yet to me only because Richardson’s voice is so familiar, him being very ubiquitous in the TV animation landscape. He’s doing his best to do a Hibbert imitation, but the timber of his voice is just so completely different than Harry Shearer’s that it just doesn’t feel right. But ultimately, none of the new voices will sound “right” because they’re different actors, so it’s inevitably going to be an adjustment. I really don’t want to talk about this new voices stuff anymore, but sometimes I have so little to talk about with specific episodes I just end up talking about it again. At this point, all the POC characters have been covered, with one glaring exception: Apu. Whether he gets a full episode reintroduction, a sneaky reappearance in one scene, or is just gone for good remains to be seen.
– Homer buys a truck after Dr. Hibbert tells him his testosterone levels are slightly low. This isn’t so much a B-plot as just some random stuff happening alongside the main story. Marge ends up exploding at Homer because he’s being so annoying about being a trucker guy (another heavy exercise on Julie Kavner’s vocal chords that made me feel sad.) The ending involves a riot at the music festival Lisa is at, and Homer’s truck finally coming in handy as he goes into all-terrain mode to save Lisa, but that turned out to just be him dreaming asleep at the wheel and Marge found Lisa and brought her back to the truck and she was fine. Whatever. I got bored even just writing that sentence.