(originally aired December 20, 1998)
Well look at that, another job for Homer! I don’t know how these ideas came to be, but I’m guessing that someone in the writer’s room said, “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if Homer was a bodyguard?” And before someone answered no, another writer had written an outline already. This is certainly not a terrible episode, but it has the same kind of ridiculous plot conceits and circumstances that most Homer-gets-a-job shows have. Mainly who in their right mind would entrust Homer… Homer Simpson… with their lives, and why so many people would just go along with it like it’s normal. The guy can’t even run down a city block without becoming exhausted, he’s going to be muscle to the mayor? Well the impetus is at the Springfield comic convention, which has a few good gags, but just reminds me of the infinitely better “Three Men and a Comic Book.” There, it was a small town rinky dink operation, here it’s this massive event with big time star Mark Hamill, and characters like Willie and Lenny and Carl are inexplicably there. When a riot breaks out, Homer, with no real provoking at all, screams and bursts through the crowd to save a pinned Quimby and Hamill. Quimby proceeds to fire his two loafing bodyguards and hire Homer in their place.
I’m of the belief that you can make any kind of story serviceable, and as improbable as it sounds, Homer the bodyguard could have worked. He could have some kind of specific ire toward wanting the job, train a little bit, do his fair share of bumbling of course, confront some believable conflict and eventually end up back at square one as the status quo dictates. So why does Homer want to be a bodyguard? Because Mayor Quimby pointed at him. Yep. Does he have go through any hardships for the position? He does go through training, but that’s like a minute and a half of screen time and we don’t really see Homer in action, or caring about it at all. Next scene he’s donned in full black and exacting the sleeper hold on his wife and children. Never mind the cruelty, or the fact they reuse the joke over and over, but really? He learned that? At this point, Homer is not so much a character anymore as he is a vehicle for whatever joke they need.
The main conflict here is with Fat Tony; when Homer finds Quimby is allowing him to supply the local school with rat’s milk, he demands the operation be shut down. Fat Tony is of course not pleased, and makes a very obvious death threat towards him, over public air waves, no less. To take his mind of violence and gangsters, Homer takes Quimby out to a dinner theatre performing Guys and Dolls (with leading man Mark Hamill), where of course Fat Tony is there. The stage is set for some kind of suspense, but instead they squander it by having henchman Louie do a ridiculous dance routine on stage before accosting Homer, and have the pay-off be that during the fight Fat Tony was pummeling Quimby with a baseball bat. Out in the open. Come on. When you play your entire episode silly and over-the-top, you run the risk of falling hard when the jokes don’t work, and boy do a lot of them not work. There are a few shining moments here and there, particularly with Hamill, but a lot of this is just too big a mess to salvage.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Love the name Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con. But does that mean they hold one of these once every two months? And again, I’ll say the treatment of this kind of convention in “Three Men” was a lot better. Springfield’s a small time nothing burg, the biggest star they could get was the guy who played Fallout Boy, who is currently doing community theater. Here, not only did they get Mark Hamill, but also Neil Armstrong, Dr. Smith, and ALF! ALF!
– Armstrong’s agent is appalled that his client’s booth is getting no play against the likes of Doctor Who and Godzilla, crying that he’s an actual sci-fi here. Armstrong himself is none too pleased either (“This is one small step towards firing your ass!”)
– Comic Book Guy gets a shining moment of course, griping that some uninformed fool has mixed up two separate series of Spider-Man comics. He then comes across a nerdy girl and a potential love connection (“Tell me, how do you feel about forty-five year-old virgins who still live with their parents?” “Comb the Sweet-Tarts out of your beard and you’re on.” “Don’t try to change me, baby.”)
– Lenny desperately wants to act out Star Wars with Mark Hamill? Why? Willie critiques Frink’s lightsaber sounds. Why? Again, it’s just whatever characters we can cram into a scene, regardless if they would believably be there or not.
– Here’s a distasteful Homer line (“Oh my God! Someone has to go back in for Maggie!” “Forget Maggie! She’s gone!”) Now compare this to “City of New York” where Homer drives alongside the carriage telling Marge “throw the kids! No time for the baby!” Same kind of line, but different context. Homer’s paranoia about the city has turned him into a crazy madman, so the line there makes sense and is actually funny. What’s going on in this episode? Nothing. Homer’s just a violent inconsiderate asshole for some reason.
– Nothing at the bodyguard school is funny. Homer screaming because he has to do push-ups? Really? And I guess they thought the instructor singing the theme from The Bodyguard was hysterical.
– Best bit of the show is Homer learning the ropes first day on the job: whilst driving, be sure to slow down when you see a hot babe on the sidewalk so Quimby can do a cat call (“Good work, Simpson! I couldn’t be happier with the way that went.”)
– There are a few good Quimby lines here, like asking Fat Tony for a nondescript briefcase instead of a sack with a dollar sign, and his outrage about finding out about the rats (“You promised me dog or higher!”)
– So much dumb suspense in this episode; Homer bursts into the school and we get like a dozen shots of everyone drinking milk and him looking disgusted. I do like how he spots Bart who is about to use the craziest crazy straw I’ve ever seen, and Homer has a few seconds before the liquid reaches his precious son’s mouth.
– Stupid stupid second act break where Quimby gets flung out the window, because it makes perfect sense for someone to set up their treadmill right in front of their open window, so the fresh air hits their back while they’re exercising.
– I cringed when Homer informed Quimby that do not fear, he’s the best bodyguard in the business. When did his self-confidence sky rocket so much? Remember in “Homer Defined” the absolute shame he felt at being acknowledged as a hero for saving the town accidentally? If that were a season 10 episode, he would lap up the praise and demand all the town’s riches.
– First appearance of the Frank Nelson “Yesss!” guy; somehow he sort of became a regular character, but I kind of like him. I just love that voice.
– We get the great joke at the entrance of the theater (Mark Hamill is Nathan Detroit, Peppered Steak is the Entree), which is then made funnier when Hamill is confronting a showboating Louie (“Hey, pal. That’s my head shot up there next to the pepper steak, and don’t you forget it.”)
– I like Hamill’s despair of being pigeonholed as Luke Skywalker regardless of context, and he does give it his all with the songs. I still love “Luke, Be a Jedi Tonight;” in high school I was doing stage crew for Guys and Dolls, and I heard the genuine article so many times, and every time I’d think of this version. So yeah, Hamill’s one of the only good things here, a great guest appearance, but as far as cameos go, I liked him better as Cockknocker in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. Don’t fuck with a Jedi master, son…