73. Brother From The Same Planet

(originally aired February 4, 1993)
Homer may be completely out of his element with Lisa, but he’s got a better chance of building a somewhat substantial relationship with Bart, as they seem to operate on similar wavelengths. However, his laziness and ineptitude often creates him more damage than he intended, leaving him at a loss on how to repair things. As in “Saturdays of Thunder,” Bart seems to rarely need any sort of parental figure, but in this episode, when Homer fails to remember to perform a simple task, picking him up from soccer practice, he realizes he’s in dire need of one. The idea of Bart finding comfort in a surrogate father, and Homer, in petty vengeance, getting a surrogate son, is a pretty interesting one, but I don’t know if this episode delved into the material thoroughly enough, and missed a chance to further explore Homer and Bart’s relationship in lieu of a relatively limp B-story.

Thanks to some healthy abuse of the local big brother agency, Bart is introduced to Tom, coolest guy ever, voiced by coolest guy Phil Hartman. He’s proactive, athletic, full of wisdom and knowledge, basically everything Homer is not. In turn, Homer “adopts” a little brother, a pathetic wide-eyed little boy named Pepi. The episode plays up the betrayal angle quite a bit, with Homer bitterly (and drunkenly) accuses Bart of “adultery” a la Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and later one of the most bizarre scenes in the show’s history where Bart admits to having feigned enthusiasm on the swings in the past almost akin to faking an orgasm. The dynamic between the two is tested; Homer attempting to one-up his son is in-character enough, but its climax doesn’t seem to amount to much given the emotional stakes. Homer and Tom have an all-out brawl, which ultimately results in the resolution of the story for some reason. Bart is concerned for his father’s safety, and impressed by his cowardly fighting style, but does that really solve the conflict? It felt more like they couldn’t arrive to a sensible ending and just had the show end anyway.

I don’t have much of a problem with the B-story, which is given a lot of screen time despite the potential richness of the main plot, other than it’s not all that engaging. I like the running gag of the ambiguous teen heart throb Corey we’ve heard mentioned in previous shows, and the ridiculous pre-recorded messages on the hotline, but nothing from this plot ever seems to stick. I buy Lisa’s infatuation with the teen idol, as she’s still a young girl, but I think it works better in smaller gags as we’ve seen in the past; seeing her obsessed to such a degree kinda doesn’t work for me. I think a lot of stuff in this episode just came up short; it has its moments, and a fair share of great gags and laughs, but given the concept, I’d expect more emotional plumbing from a show like this, especially following a rich show like “Selma’s Choice.”

Tidbits and Quotes
– Love the kids’ excitement over sneaking into an R-rated movie: Barton Fink. Great movie, but not at all what a kid wants out of an R-rated flick.
– Classic line from Flanders when Homer leaps out of the tub and dashes outside (“Hey Homie! I can see your doodle!”)
– I think the A-story could have been helped with some intervention with Marge, motherly advice to Bart and scolding Homer about getting Pepi. It could have given the story some more solid emotional ground, but Marge seemed to have been wrapped up with Lisa’s B-plot.
– Love Homer’s immediate response to an alarmingly high bill: “Oh, it’s that record club. The first nine were only a penny. Then they jacked up the price!”
This show does have its great share of fantasies of Homer and Bart spinning negative stories about each other: Bart with Homer’s seedy gambling and not knowing when to say when, and Homer with Bart smashing grapefruit in his face like James Cagney (“Mmmm… grapefruit.”)
– The Ren & Stimpy segment is kind of strange, considering they hired people from the actual show to help with the segment. It’s not really a parody of the show, it’s just Ren & Stimpy randomly plopped into a Simpsons episode. It could just as easily been Itchy & Scratchy Bart and Tom were watching. I do like Dan Castellaneta’s take on voicing the two characters though.
– More of Homer being at odds with his brain: asked why he wants a little brother, his brain urges him not to say “revenge,” but he does it anyway. His brain is fed up: “That’s it, I’m out of here.” Followed by footsteps and a door slamming. Brilliant.
– Very disturbing parody as Skinner gazes out his office window at the Psycho house talking to his “mother” (“Mother, that sailor suit doesn’t fit any more!”) Marge and Lisa quietly make their exit.
– Homer teasing a dolphin at Marine World and laughing goofily is a great callback to similar antics he pulled at the zoo in the Tracey Ullman shorts, complete with slightly off-model laughing.
– Oblivious Homer is always great: Tom finally meets Homer, and it stops him in his tracks (“His father, the drunken gambler?”) Homer cheerfully responds, “That’s right. And who might you be?” right before getting punched in the face.

14 responses to “73. Brother From The Same Planet

  1. This episode has one of the most underrated Marge lines in the show: “Lisa, the only way you’ll lick this is one day at a time. If you can make it ’til midnight without calling the Corey hotline, you’ll now you’ve beaten it forever.” Way to contradict your overall point in the very next sentence, Marge.

  2. “…I miss Joe Piscopo…”

    • Thanks to this episode, I now use that line if I’m watching a current SNL episode that’s not very good (even though, like Bart, I wasn’t alive when Joe Piscopo was on SNL [1980-1984; I was born in 1985, and, according to “I Married Marge,” Bart was born in 1980], but I do know SNL’s history, thanks to documentaries, the book “Live From New York: The Uncensored History of SNL”, and the Internet).

      Also, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that the writers hated this episode and when James L. Brooks hired David Mirkin as showrunner in season five, he showed him this episode and told him not to make any episodes that were like this one. Kinda odd, given that later episodes would be worse than this. Why don’t the writers like any of their old stuff, and treat the new crap like it’s the best work they’ve done? Are the writers really that blind to what’s good and what’s bad or is this a case of cognitive dissonance?

      • nah, true artists are usually like that. unless a past work is really really great, they usually hate or dislike anything they’ve made(not because it’s shit, but because they could have done it better). it’s natural because the work of the artists is a part of them, like a child they gave the birth and raised, and if watching it again they find something not as good as they thought it was, they are really hard on themselves.

      • Kaiju no Kami

        Well remember, “Lisa’s First Word” changed Bart to being born in 82 as Lisa was born in 84.

      • Kaiju no Kami

        As for an artist’s past work, it is hard to say for certain. I mean, I started my entire Youtube channel to review Godzilla movies and now when I look at my reviews for them, I find them hard to watch since I’ve learned so much since then, especially when I was reviewing the Showa era. My comfortability in front of the camera was improved so much, I’ve gotten more lively when I talk, etc.

  3. – I think the reason behind the Ren & Stimpy bit was two-fold:
    1) Within the show itself, I think it was to show Tom had cable while the Simpsons only had antenna.
    2) On a meta level, the popular rumor floating around was Simpsons was afraid of Ren & Stimpy becoming the hip cartoon show. Showing R&S on The Simpsons was basically their way of saying “nope.”

    – Homer had a jackass of a dealer in the blackjack flashback. Once Homer hit 21, the game should have been over, but the dealer still dealt another card. Also a shame they weren’t playing poker, Homer got four aces in a row!

  4. No mention of a furious Bart imagining Homer’s face melting as he says, “Now how ’bout a hug?”

    A moment many regard as one of the scariest ever in the show – even counting all the TOHs.

  5. While I will agree it’s not the strongest episode of the season, it also isn’t the worst (as that goes to the clip show). Homer’s revenge comment was funny, but what makes it golden is that that is actually on the list.

    I love Homer’s dream sequence of him finding Bart as a skeleton.

  6. Oh, i forgot to mention how I love the bit when Skinner looks out his window and his house resembles the house from Psycho. God damn that scene is golden.

  7. I like this one a lot more than you do. True it isn’t as great as the majority of the season, but it’s still quite an enjoyable episode if you ask me.

  8. In a season filled with many strong, fantastic episodes, this one really sticks out as being just average. It’s not bad, and it has many great funny lines (“Pick Up Bart”, “Homer, I can see your doodle!”, “Revenge”, “Mother, that sailor suit doesn’t fit anymore!”, among others), but overall, it’s just not a very interesting episode. The subplot with Lisa and Marge is actually a little more interesting, and even that doesn’t stand out too much to me. Again, it’s still a decent episode, but it sticks out as average in a season with some of the best episodes of the series.

  9. Wow, there really *isn’t* that much love for this episode…

    I *do* agree that it isn’t the best classic-era episode – and I wouldn’t put it in my top 5 for Season 4 either.

    But a decision between watching this and watching a Zombie Simpsons episode would be a pretty easy one, wouldn’t it? Needless to say, ZS can’t even do proper parodies of *modern* films, let alone classic ones like Psycho and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

    And I have to bring up the “Now how ’bout a hug?” bit again, because no-one else has (for shame)…

    I mean, Bart hates his father *that* much at that moment in time – how can it not chill you to some extent? Of course, it’s made even better by Bart having a melting sundae atop his head, as a result of Homer driving a little too fast over a bump in the road.

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