(originally aired November 8, 1998)
Let’s talk about the role celebrities play on this show. This is a series that skewers all elements of American society, and the media elite is a humungous prime target. Along with the dozens of media and pop culture digs they make in every show, whenever a celebrity does a guest voice as themselves, they’re always subject to some level of mockery or derision. James Taylor is surprisingly disgruntled, Dick Cavett is a fame whore leech, Ernest Bourgnine ends up lost in the woods and presumably killed. Sure, the writers respected anyone who would be nice enough to do the show, but the humor was always sharp that even with mocking them, it still felt sincere and appreciative; they could have it both ways. Now we have this episode, where the celebrities are the stars: Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger are presented in the highest, most holiest of lights, more so than any other guest star. There’s lots of problems with this trash heap, but the first being that the kiddiest of kid gloves are used here in handling these two; be it characters saying it, or the rarefied air throughout the episode, they’re presented as such great people. Bleeech.
So through a bonehead mishap, Homer winds smackdab in the bedroom of Baldwin and Basinger’s secluded Springfield estate, where they’re residing to get away from the hustle and bustle of Hollywood. Then somehow Homer winds up their servant/friend/something. Homer doesn’t appear to be starstruck at all upon meeting them, and becomes cloyingly annoying and options to work for them apropos of nothing. He really becomes this leech that they can’t get rid of, which actually could have been a little interesting, except here Baldwin and Basinger really like him for some reason. Aside from Jerkass Homer present through the whole show, this is a fatal flaw here. Homer is most lovable when he’s a down-on-his-luck schlub; like the common man, it seems the whole world is against him, and we cheer on when he manages to achieve something despite himself. Here, he’s playing badminton with celebrities and having a grand old time. It’s like polar opposite interpretations. Later when the celebrities “fire” him, he’s gotten used to the high life and believes he’s better than his commoner family. He even turns down Marge’s bargain basement sloppy Joes. Homer turning down food of any kind? Ridiculous.
There’s not much I can praise this episode for. I guess the only mildly bright spot is Ron Howard and his inexplicable alcoholism, and how he shamelessly steals Homer’s movie pitch at the very end. Unlike the other two, I guess the writers felt he wasn’t high profile enough so they could rip on him a bit, even enough to have him back next season for no apparent reason. There’s some mocking of society’s obsession with celebrity culture in the mob of Springfieldians flocking to the celebrity home, and indulging in Homer’s perverted museum of oddities, but it all feels either really obvious or real softball stuff that could have been crammed into any episode. A lot of terrible changes occurred during the Scully years, and it’s not clear who to blame, but one big thing was not only the sharp increase in amount of random celebrity guests, but in having them on and treating them with the utmost reverence. So you’re gonna have Britney Spears, Richard Gere and the Rolling Stones on just so you can kiss their asses and say how cool they are? That’s not The Simpsons. That’s Entertainment fucking Tonight. Fuck this episode.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I feel I should like Homer’s Yogi Bear dream at the beginning… but for some reason, I don’t. But I do like his recollection of it when he wakes up (“I was having the most wonderful dream. I had a hat and a tie with no pants on.”)
– Nice moment in cartoon timing when Homer’s parachute gets ripped off in the trees, he floats in the air long enough to vocally moan about it, then he plummets to the ground.
– Why the fuck didn’t Baldwin and Basinger have an assistant before? Or some means to get things if they’re running out of toilet paper and toothpaste? They could have all that shit mailed to them, I’m sure they have the funds and connections to do so.
– So… the Homer-can’t-read bit. What’s spectacular about this is a minute after that joke we see Homer drive to the Kwik-E-Mart (in a Humvee for some reason. Presumably Baldwin and Basinger’s), and proceeds to read off a list to Apu. So clearly he can read. So the joke can be two things: either Homer felt he needed to make up a secret on the spot to impress the two celebrities, or Homer is so unbelievably stupid that he forgot he could read. I don’t like playing guessing games when it comes to a simple joke like this. Also the joke wasn’t funny, so fuck it.
– The bit with the Oscar polish and Baldwin whining that too much will take the finish off really reminds me of the bit where Krusty complains about everyday problems for the average man (“You mean like when your lazy butler washes your sock garters and they’re still covered with schmutz?”)
– At some point, Homer morphed into this bizarre clingy guy who believes he’s super awesome and everybody’s best friend. He’s so annoying and bizarre in this episode, and many after it; who thought this was a good character turn?
– Moe tricking Kirk Van Houten to climb the electric fence and get shocked right in front of his son is pretty cruel. I mean, even by Moe’s standards.
– I like during his incensed rant about celebrities, Homer name-drops Ray Bolger (“And when it’s time to do the dishes, where’s Ray Bolger? I’ll tell ya! Ray Bolger is looking out for Ray Bolger!”) Research reveals he was the Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Also he’s been dead for twenty-five years.
– Why are Krusty and Sideshow Mel stooped outside the celebrity house? And when the celebrities leave and chase after Homer’s van, the crowd just stands there and watches. Wouldn’t they immediately flock the vehicle? Especially since they say in the drive for a bit to spout a few dumb lines. And the car chase is so unbelievably dumb, the Humvee continues moving even when no one’s at the wheel. Magic car?
– Homer’s final statements in court about the nature of celebrity is a pretty alright wrap-up to such a shit show (“If celebrities didn’t want people pawing through their garbage and saying they’re gay, they shouldn’t have tried to express themselves creatively. In closing, you people must realize that the public owns you for life! And when you’re dead, you’ll all be in commercials, dancing with vacuum cleaners.”) Also the restraining order keeping him five hundred feet from any celebrity sure worked out, didn’t it? How long before that got broken? About four more episodes before he’s bodyguard to Mark Hamill. Mmn.