208. When You Dish Upon A Star

(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.


20 responses to “208. When You Dish Upon A Star

  1. Ugh. This is the point where it stopped going down, and started going down in flames.

    The first episode with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

    And it does that horrible thing where they have all the characters together in one place for no reason at all.

  2. Simpson celebrity syndrome has been around for a LONG time. Homerpoloza was the first time I was like “I do not give a FUCK about these celebrities” but at least they had some good bits to go with them. And later in life when I rewatched Lisa the Vegetarian the McCartney’s were stupid and out of place and made no sense.

    any time the characters are exclaiming a celebrity’s voice you know the show is going to have some stupid jerk off shit going on.

    This, though. This is just awful. For those reasons and more.

  3. I’ve never much liked Homerpalooza, either. It’s always felt very Zombie-ish to me, even if it was too old to be properly in the Zombie years.

  4. The jokes keep it from being a part. But homer is just too happy go lucky and thoughtless for most of it and all the “omg x celebrity?!?!” is pretty ham fisted.

    I think the simpsons being too mired in our pop culture makes it feel like some bizzaro world, instead of their own celebrities.

  5. ugh, I don’t think you could have picked a better picture to sum up this episode: Homer lying inbetween two celebrities with a massive annoying shit eating grin. indeed, fuck this episode.

  6. I brought this up over at DHS, but the thing that always annoyed me about this episode is when Homer’s trying to prove to Moe that he’s met somebody more famous than Kent Brockman, and that leads the mob to Baldwin and Bassinger. He’s met people a lot more famous than Brockman: Buzz Aldrin, all the Hullabalooza performers, Gerald Ford. What the hell?

  7. Joey Joe Joe Shabadoo

    This is the one that did it. I watched every episode from the show’s inception faithfully – and if there were reruns on in syndication, I made sure that my schedule was cleared for those, too.

    However, when this one aired – I stopped watching. I didn’t trail off, or come back to see if the quality improved. I just stopped.

    Now when I see an ad, or something in the newspaper (like the show’s 500th episode), it barely registers a blip on my radar. I’m sure I’ve changed, but the show had gone down in terms of quality before this episode – but this one confirmed it and turned me off forever.

  8. This is a guilty pleasure of mine (in that I find it merely average as opposed to gruesome). I mean, Ron Howard failing to jump on to the bus is hilarious. And the show has sucked up to celebrities much worse and much more sincerely since. In fact, I hardly think they’re portrayed as “great people”, but I do understand that there wasn’t much “bite” to it.

  9. Magic car? No, Navitron Auto-Drive System!

  10. – “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?”
    To be fair, I’d probably act the same way at a rock ‘n roll camp hosted by Mick Jagger. Anyway, Britney Spears is an interesting case. According to the DVD commentary, her handlers basically gutted the script of anything that was even close to a joke at her expense (except her kiss killing the elderly, I guess). Britney herself was willing to take the jokes, but her people would have none of it. Doesn’t explain this episode or Richard Gere, but there you are.

    – “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?”
    My best guess is someone (probably Scully) thought Homer in “Homer Loves Flanders” was hilarious so he should be like that all the time.

    • You can look to a lot of Season 5 episodes and find the catalyst for Jerkass Homer. Episodes like Homer Goes to College and Boy Scoutz N the Hood obviously feature him at his most obnoxious to date, but even smaller things like Homer teasing Marge at the end of $pringfield (“Remember that time I got caught stealing all those watches from Sears? Well that’s nothing, because YOU have a gambling problem!”) or him mistreating Stampy in Bart Gets an Elephant seem like things that Mike Scully and his writers looked at four years later and thought “Okay, this is who Homer is.”

      What they didn’t realize is, even when David Mirkin’s Homer was at his most obnoxious, it wasn’t because he was hateful or enjoyed being an ass – it was because he didn’t know any better. He hates Dean Peterson and reviles the idea of socializing with nerds because all he’s ever known of college is what he’s seen in idiotic movies like School of Hard Knockers. He pushes Bart too hard in peewee hockey, to the point of threatening him with violence, because as Lisa said, he’s “compensating for his own failed dreams of glory”. He teases Marge because it’s the first time in their relationship when she’s exhibited a major vice and not him, and when she calls him on it, he immediately apologizes. Homer can act out of thoughtlessness or selfishness, but never consciously, and when someone calls him on it, he should know enough to realize “Oh, I’ve gone too far and hurt someone’s feelings, I need to make it right.”

      The Scully era Homer didn’t have that level of depth; he was just loud and obnoxious all the time. Mike Scully just didn’t seem to care as much about depth of character as he did about getting the biggest, wildest laughs.

  11. The Saturday Night Live episode that had Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger on it was more memorable than this (even if it was because of the sketch where Adam Sandler’s Canteen Boy gets molested by his scout master [played by Alec Baldwin]).

  12. I don’t mind this one too much; any episode which references Ray Bolger in a pejorative sense can’t be all bad. Ditto for the random bearded man in Homer’s thought cloud and Homer’s movie “script”.

    That said, the “I can’t read” joke really, really sucks. It makes zero sense, as we’ve seen him read TONS of times in the show before, and as mentioned, in the very next scene. I honestly have no idea what the writers were thinking with that line.

  13. Really! hate this one, one of the few dreadful pre season 12 episodes, heck I think the one with the jocky elves was better than this, or maybe it’s just that I can believe in surreal jocky elves rather more than in how wonderful celebrities are and how we should all love them, —– or something.

  14. “I feel I should like Homer’s Yogi Bear dream at the beginning… but for some reason, I don’t.”

    Could that be because it’s more a duplication than an actual parody (even “Homi” repeats Yogi’s “average bear” catchphrase word for word)?

    I’d put it below Maggie whacking Homer with a mallet à la the Psycho shower scene, but above the genuine duplications of later years (such as those of the Sopranos and Da Ali G Show title sequences).

  15. The Anonymous Nobody

    The joke about Homer not being able to read is one of the worst jokes in the series, mostly because I can’t even tell if Homer’s lying or he’s just stupid enough that he actually forgot he could. I believe that Homer is that stupid that he would actually forget he can read, but the joke isn’t conveyed well at all. Especially since we see him reading in the scene IMMEDIATELY AFTER THAT.

    The Yogi Bear joke and Ron Howard’s guest appearance were actually pretty good, but overall, this episode was a dud.

  16. Jesus F. Christ, what a terrible episode this was. And they couldn’t even have Homer suck up to celebrities that are actually decent people; Alec Baldwin is an arrogant, despicable jackass who treats everyone like shit.

    Fuck this episode and the three dozen or so episodes to come that are basically identical to this garbage.

  17. It’s funny how quick, and yet how gradual the decline is. This episode is bad, but it’s still not as god-awful as “Beyond Blunderdome” where everyone practically worships Mel Gibson(except, oddly enough, Homer. At least at first). This episode is like a middle step between playful jabbing at celebrities and full-blown worship

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