(originally aired February 7, 1999)
At least at this point in the run, there’s still a dwindling sense of vitality in the Scully run, with episodes that have elements and ideas within them that could actually work and be entertaining. Homer changing his name and getting wrapped up in the cultural elite? Farfetched, yes, but it’s possible. The problem here is that this episode is so lopsided that we spend two-thirds of the episode dwelling on the set-up, which is a lot less funny than the writers seem to think. The story begins with the family watching the new mid-season show “Police Cops” and being surprised to find the suave hotshot detective lead is named Homer Simpson. The entirety of act one is focused on Homer becoming a bizarre hometown celebrity, which he absolutely laps up, asserting that the fictional character was wholly based on himself. But the next episode, he’s shocked to find the character has been altered to be a bumbling idiot, leaving him to subject of constant mockery by the whole town. Unable to get the TV executives to change their show, Homer is left with one option: change his name to Max Power.
That short plot write-up is basically the entirety of the first two acts, and it plays as thinly as it seems. Not even in the town of Springfield do I buy that not only would people care so much about Homer sharing the name of a TV character that it would make the paper, but Moe and the barflies seem to believe Homer’s bullshit about the producers of the show using him as inspiration. The same basically applies in the second act except in reverse, where the townspeople are making Homer’s life a living hell, mocking him and trying to goad him into saying his TV catchphrase. So Homer changes his name to Max Power, a moniker that grabs the attention of fellow awesomely named Trent Steele, who invites him and Marge to an elegant garden party. Homer’s new name seems to have been enough to grant him access to Springfield’s cultural elite, something he takes full advantage of, until he gets himself stuck at their eco rally to save the town’s redwoods from loggers.
The end bit with affluent people being activists for self-obsessed reasons is really a rich topic for comedy, but it’s localized to the last three minutes. Meanwhile we spend half the episode with the stupid Police Cops shit. Why didn’t they just have the Homer Simpson character be a doofus to begin with? They could’ve gotten their jokes, like Homer commenting how the dumb idiot character is nothing like him, gotten his name changed by act two, and developed his relationship and feelings toward his new social group better. There really isn’t any need for any of the material in the first act, it’s inconsequential to what the main story is. This is an episode that I think really could have worked if there hadn’t been so much time wasted getting to Max Power. Homer developing this other self in distancing himself from his TV persona, then desperately having to back out when he gets in too deep, it could have been kind of interesting. But instead he screams and yells and causes every tree in Springfield to collapse like dominoes. Much better.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I would like to see a bit of “All in the Family 1999” (“Aw, jeez, they got me livin’ with an African-American, a Semite-American, and a woman American there, and I’m glad, I loves youse all! I love everybody! I wish I’d saved my money from the first show…”)
– I do like Homer’s enthusiasm for midseason TV, having written up a scorecard of two categories: Excellent Shows and Very Good Shows. But upon watching the first program “Admiral Baby,” Homer is stuck with a bizarre feeling (“I never thought I’d say this about a TV show, but this is kind of stupid.”)
– Great ending of “Police Cops,” with Homer saying, “Arrest that guy!” after having just flung a bullet through the crook’s heart, and the chyron revealing the blood used in the show is real, donated by the Red Cross.
– A trend in the Scully years is Homer consistently being happy and sure of himself, which there’s a lot of in the first act, with his cocky attitude towards his peon friends, and saying he’s available when his high school prom queen calls him, though I do like the callback to her later on (“This is our chance to rub elbows with Springfield’s young, hip power couples, like me and Debbie Pinson!”)
– All the scorn and mockery turns Homer into a crazy attic-dwelling hermit, for all of one scene. Again, not a lot of material here.
– At first I thought “Police Cops” was shot in Springfield, like Krusty’s show and other local productions are, but that wouldn’t make sense given that the producers probably wouldn’t have named the character after Homer if he was a local, semi-well known resident. So yeah, it seems Homer flew out to Hollywood somehow for a single scene. Whatever. At least it’s a funny scene, with the producers explaining how they came up with the idea of the show (“The thirteen of us began with a singular vision: ‘Titanic’ meets ‘Frasier.'” “But then we found out that ABC had a similar project in development.”) Also the original name: “Badge Patrol.” (“But the network idiots didn’t want a show about high- tech badges that shoot laser beams!” “So we asked ourselves, ‘Who’s behind the badge?'” “Police…” “Cops…” “‘Police Cops.'”) Brilliant minds at work.
– Homer’s alternate names for himself are pretty amazing (Hercules Rockefeller, Rembrandt Q. Einstein, Handsome B. Wonderful), as is Judge Snyder’s decree to only use the name that Homer spelled correctly.
– There’s a few good bits with the family finding out about Homer’s name change: Homer callously commenting there are acids to burn off Marge’s tattoo of his name on her nether regions, learning about the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way (also the wrong way, but faster), and this raw but still hilarious line (“Nobody snuggles with Max Power. You strap yourself in and feel the G’s!”)
– I like Homer’s innocent revelation that he got Max Power off a hair dryer. It totally makes sense that that’s where he got it from.
– More celebrity name dropping, but it makes sense coming from a starstruck Marge to point out Woody Harrleson and Ed Begley, Jr. by name. Begley isn’t given much, though I do like his personal go-kart powered by his sense of self-satisfaction.
– Great moments with President Clinton, mentioning he’s done it with pigs (“Really, no foolin’, pigs!”) and telling Marge if she’s near the White House, she can find him in his tool shed out back.
– Trent Steele addresses his guests about taking up their cause, while an obnoxious and irritating Homer makes loud comments after each sentence. And no one says a word about it for some reason.
– The ending is so fucking stupid and makes no sense. Homer running in circles with the chain around him for what couldn’t have been more than a few minutes cutting through an entire redwood? Which then of course causes a chain reaction and knocks over every tree. Uggghh…