(originally aired January 21, 1999)
With a title that’s very much an omen, this episode is pretty bad. But I’ll be honest with you, I was expecting a lot worse. This is one of those episodes that stuck out to me as being absolutely atrocious, but it didn’t feel that level of terrible upon re-watch. Where shows like “Kidney Trouble” and “Viva Ned Flanders” were particularly offensive, this one was just kinda… whatever. Its lack of story and absolute squandering of its cast was disappointing, sure, but never to the point that I became upset. For its bombastic setting and cavalcade of guest stars, it was just very banal. The “fun” begins when Homer crosses paths with some schmuck named Wally Kogan, a travel agent with no real discernible personality who invites Homer and his buddies on his bus to Miami for the Super Bowl. Before long, a collection of notable secondary characters are on their way to the game. We see a lot of familiar faces who make sense as football fans, but also many who don’t. Sideshow Mel? Comic Book Guy? Reverend Lovejoy? Burns’ lawyer? Something’s not quite right with the whole line-up.
But really, none of that matters since every single character exhibits no real personality throughout the episode, they’re just mindless sheep in Homer’s insane Super Bowl mob. While I suppose the point is that they’re like revved up football fans psyched for the game, it still feels like such wasted potential. You have a show filled with so many great side characters and not give any of them their time to shine? Instead they’re identity-less, with each one saying a token line of expository dialogue here and there (“I can’t believe it! We’re actually in the winning locker room!” Thanks a lot, Ned, I didn’t notice.) It’s kind of amazing how much is in this episode, and yet how empty it feels. The whole second half of the show is Homer and co. running from set piece to set piece, with isolated guest appearances from the likes of Dolly Parton and Rupert Murdoch. Nothing that happens is particularly funny, or in the least bit interesting. It’s just like a bunch of random crap that happens. Like I said earlier, nothing I can get too angry about, it’s just a bunch of dead air.
There’s something about this episode that feels very ominous; a show filled to the brim with useless guest star appearances, with the hopes that they’ll be funny and eat up enough screen time that they don’t have to write as much story. But in the end, it all feels sort of empty. And it doesn’t kill enough time at all, so the writers have to cram in a sub”plot” involving Marge and Lisa coloring eggs. I barely have much to comment on the main story, so I got nothing for this one. It’s just inoffensive and dry, with only the ridiculousness of Castallaneta’s Vincent Price impersonation to help it along. The writers (all four of them!) then try to cover their asses by having Pat Summerall and John Madden comment on the absurd and nonsensical nature of the episode, but that only serves to make the show out to be even worse in retrospect. “What a way to treat the loyal fans who put up with so much nonsense from this franchise!” No kidding. It’s a pretty damn awful show, but some sporadically placed laughs help it slightly. Very slightly.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The post office opening is pretty much laugh-free. There’s also a pretty crass line where the postman assures them the days of disgruntled mailman shooting up the place are in the past, and Skinner comments, “Well, I’m just glad I work in an elementary school.” Now this episode aired a few months before the Colombine massacre, and what seemed to be a growing number of school shootings (not actually true, but from a media stand point anyway). I guess I can’t blame the writers for this being questionable in hindsight, but it’s a pretty distasteful joke nonetheless.
– I did laugh at Homer mistaking ‘colonic’ with ‘colada,’ and singing “Escape” to that effect.
– Wally Kogan is of course named after the classic era writing team Jay Kogan and Wally Waladorsky. I’m sure they must be honored to have one of the dullest characters in the history of the series named after him. And poor Fred Willard with absolutely nothing to work with.
– I get the bit with Homer, Wally and Moe holding the mugs up to their mouths while mentioning the team names, a meta joke about how they can just dub in whatever year’s teams with no concern about lip sync. But it kind of felt too meta, it was just too absurd and inside in practice than it probably was on paper.
– I love Shearer’s nondescript Lenny noises when Homer pleads with him to go to the Super Bowl (“Naaaaaaah…”)
– The bit with Marge coming in saying how glad she is Homer’s going to the Super Bowl feels kind of off, kind of like a sign of things to come where she’d become more and more enabling of her husband’s insane hijinks.
– Like how Jerry “Lightfoot” McGee seems to be Castellaneta doing his Grampa voice from Hey Arnold, a show created by Matt Groening’s brother-in-law.
– The only guest appearance here I like is Troy Aikman as a caricaturist; I love his bizarre insistence of drawing everyone on dune buggies because it’s so stupid and random (“Everyone likes dune buggies!”)
– The absurd Super Bowl ad for the Catholic Church got the show in a lot of trouble back then. The joke is so obvious though, but you know how uptight fundamentalist groups are about things like humor and fun. It’s a pretty good gag, especially Lisa’s confused, slightly disgusted reaction.
– Dolly Parton’s explosive make-up, the gang running out of Murdoch’s skybox Looney Tunes style, winding up in the locker room… the third act is absolute shit. The only bit I like in it is after they get out of jail, we get a montage of them running around like maniacs to “Song 2” by Blur, which is cut short by Moe stopping and saying, “We’ve been running around cheering for an hour! Where the hell’s the game?” It’s just really well timed and delivered.