227. Beyond Blunderdome

(originally aired September 26, 1999)
Cut from similar cloth of “When You Dish Upon A Star,” here’s a show centered around a celebrity, featuring bits that instead of poke fun at them, serve only to put them on a higher pedestal and kiss their already lipstick-smeared ass even further. In this case, it’s made even more bizarre that said celebrity is Mel Gibson, who at the time was a well-respected and admired Hollywood hunk, and not the anti-Semitic misogynist religious wacko nutcase that he is now. So while seeing Marge and the citizens of Springfield fawn over this man is a little disconcerting now, I can’t hold these uncomfortable-in-hindsight moments against the episode. Which is okay since there’s plenty more to hate here. Homer and Marge score tickets to an advance screening of the remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, starring Mel Gibson. Starstruck when they discover Gibson is at the screening, all the citizens of Springfield give glowing feedback, save a terminally bored Homer. Gibson takes his comment to heart, and flies him and the family to Hollywood to fix his film.

Now, Homer starts out with a dissatisfaction towards Gibson. A Hollywood pretty boy serious actor whom his wife has the hots for; makes a lot more sense than getting buddy-buddy with Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. It’s a more interesting role for Homer to play. And when Gibson needs Homer’s help, it’d be neat if he were kind of pressured into it by his family, who’d love a chance to see the sights in Hollywood. Homer starts out resistant to help Gibson, then find that they have a similar interest in mindless bloodshed and violence, and he slowly warms to the guy. That would be engaging and make sense. But, oh wait, Gibson asks Homer to help him, and all of a sudden he’s the guy’s best friend and we get to laugh it up at his insane suggestions to make the film in fast forward and include a villainous dog with shifty eyes. Har har har. The moment Lisa questions Homer’s sudden turn from hate to love regarding Gibson and Homer tells his daughter to shut up, the episode tanks. It’s not really funny when you fear your main character may either have bipolar disorder or have severe brain damage.

The only thing I like about this episode is the revised ending they make, and how absolutely stupid and gratuitous it is. The cheesy action catchphrases, Homer’s dumb cameo, the over-the-top blood and gore; it’s just so wonderfully ridiculous. It also plays to the Gibson we know now, considering the sadomasochistic nature of his later films. The studio execs, expecting this to be their big award picture, are not happy with this. So what do we do? Have a fucking action chase sequence. Boy, am I getting sick of these. So much of this episode just feels so lazy and wrong; the opening with the electric car, the family’s sight-seeing, the executive banter, none of it seemed to work at all. This was the season premiere, but last in the production season of season 10, and it was written by Mike Scully. It’s pretty astounding to just see how far not only the show has fallen, but Scully. He wrote such great shows as “Lisa on Ice” and “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds,” and now we have this slop: a series of dumb easy jokes and insider set pieces, serving as a 22-minute blowjob for Mel fucking Gibson. We’re one episode in and I think this one’s the worst, but I know there’s a lot more awfulness to come. And I apologize for sounding pessimistic, but at this point I can’t really help it.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening commercial for the Elec-Taurus is surprisingly joke-free. It’s like they forgot to include one. Then the rest of the prelude before the screening is pretty dead. We get a fart joke from Marge, more braindead Homer thinking he can drive underwater, and find out that apparently mermaids exist in this universe. Nessie, Godzilla, mermaids, whatever, it’s a cartoon, fuck you.
– I get what they were trying to do with Homer and Marge’s bedside back-and-forth about not opening the envelope. In sitcoms, something could happen at another location, but characters have to wait until they get back home to discuss it. Wouldn’t they have talked about it in the car ride home? Well they had to get back to the standing set since there is no car. But this is a cartoon where they could have discussed it in the car. Also it feels too self-conscious and lazy. And isn’t funny.
– Amusing to see Internet spy Comic Book Guy get tossed out of the screening with his giant “portable” computer. Now we all have iPhones with Internet access and can tweet from the screening or some shit.
– I listened to part of the commentary for this episode, and there’s a lot of discussion about the Simpsons Movie, as there are on many commentaries of this era. The focus group in this episode reminded them of their frantic testing of the movie, examining each and every audience member’s reactions to every frame of film and changing the movie accordingly. It made me pretty angry, but I’ll wait until I get to the movie to bitch about all that.
– Some good small acting moments: I like Homer’s angry muttering while filling out the opinion card, followed by a curt “‘Preciate it!” handing Gibson the pencil back. I also like Gibson’s confused reading of “Glavin?” on Professor Frink’s card.
– I can’t stress enough how fucking stupid Homer’s attitude turn is. He’s almost prepared to punch Gibson in the face at his door, but immediately after he says he needs his help, Homer turns around immediately (“Really? You want my help? Marge, did you hear that? Mel Gibson wants my help. Mel Gibson!”) Fucking unbelievable.
– Hearing Gibson ask Homer to round up the teamsters and Homer demanding someone bring him a latte is pretty painful; he couldn’t be further from the average American schmuck he used to be.
– The new Smith ending, as I said, is the only solid thing here. As dumb as it is, I like Gibson making Curly noises, and the children running in cheering after he decapitates the President for no discernible reason. I also like Homer’s defense of it (“It was symbolism! He was mad!”)
– The entire third act chase is so boring, like really, who cares. The only bit I like is when the executive immediately prepares to cover his ass after they seemingly run over Gibson (“You all saw it, he came at me with a knife, right!”) Then we end with Homer’s ass impaled on the front end of their car. Hysterical, right?

15 responses to “227. Beyond Blunderdome

  1. I think we’re getting to the point where the writers are treating it more like a sketch show. I think that’s evident with some of the bits in Hollywood like Marge mistaking Robert Downey Jr’s shootout with the police for a real movie (which I’ll admit is a little funny) to Marge pointing out Ellen Degeneres and Anne Heche only for them to announce that they’re lesbians (I know, biting satire.)

    And if there’s any more faint praise I’ll give this episode, it’s that Gibson’s line about how he never gets pulled over by cops is kind of funny in hindsight.

    • Actually, Mel Gibson whining over how everyone loves him too much and the fact that he made a violent, controversial movie that alienates him makes the episode funnier now than it was back when it premiered.

  2. This is a bad episode, no doubt, but I LOVE the ending with the shift eyed dog and the music, and of course the revised ending which is hilarious. Otherwise, yep, it’s bad.

  3. Piss poor, and it’s going to get a lot worse.

    At this point, I salute your commitment.

  4. I agree with the above comment…

    There’s not a lot to like from here on out. You have a handful of great episodes left but that’s about it. One handful.

    I did always wonder why, when Family Guy came off its hiatus, the first thing it did was rip this episode off…

    • If, by “rip it off”, you mean that both happened to feature Mel Gibson as a central character, then yes. But both episodes had completely different executions. I never thought of “Beyond Blunderdome” while watching “North By North Quahog”.

      This episode isn’t greatness, but I get some laughs out of it. The best stuff was the revised ending (“I’m the president of the United States, and I demand to know what’s going on here!”), Batman & Robin in the wax museum, and “The one on the left is Mel Gibson. I don’t know who the other two guys are.”

      It’s a small thing, but I liked the verbal tic of Edward Christian repeatedly adding “Huh?” when somebody responded affirmatively.

  5. I really liked this episode at the time. For whatever reason it didn’t bother me at all. I HATED dish upon a star.

  6. I’m not too surprised about Homer’s attitude changing. In fact, it makes perfect sense. Homer is jealous of Marge fauning over Mel Gibson, then when he asks for his help, it’s like, “Hey! That guy you like wants my help!”

  7. I hate the beginning where, the whole Springfield people love that sophisticated movie, and only Homer found it boring. What a fucking garbage.. Springfield is a town full of rude, ignorant, dumb people, and everybody was amazed by a movie like that?
    Anyway, I loved John Travolta’s cameo.

  8. Again I’m struggling to things I like here, John Travalta

  9. I thought this one was terrible when it aired, but knowing everything we now know about Gibson, a lot of the jokes become absolutely fucking hilarious, albeit for inappropriate reasons.

    The celebrity-fellating is probably the worst thing about zombie Simpsons. Where they once skewered Hollywood and all the egos in it, now it’s OMG LOOK HOW GREAT MOVIE STARS ARE!!!!

  10. I was able to get through 9 and 10 okay, but this episode was the nail on the coffin for me. I hated every second of it when it aired and I hate it more now.

  11. This is a guilty pleasure of mine. Well, I actually only like the concept: the whole idea that people are getting too sophisticated to love the good old violent movies is pure Classic Simpsons twist, and using a dedicated and psychotic Mel Gibson could have made it a great silly episode. Instead we have celebrity ass kissing, brain dead Homer and another chase sequence.

    Two scenes are great, though: Mel Gibson on the plane, reading Homer’s review of the movie and being immediately electrified knowing there is still someone like him; and the new Mr Smith ending, where everything is so dumb that is perfect, from any point of view. Pure classic stuff.

  12. I thought this episode was really unusual for this era, unfortunately bad in its own way, in actually being pretty *un*-flattering, just a little too much so, to the celebrity guest star. The portrayal of Gibson was too wildly inconsistent, often the straight man to Homer but sometimes just as much a total-dumb-cartoon character. Still better than glorifying the celebrity.

    I thought, despite that inconsistency, the jokes were decent as was the energy; Homer and Mel mooning their enemies was a highlight (although Homer saying he hadn’t watched Braveheart but knew about the scene was weak) but the enemies just giving up, letting them release the alternate cut, was a bad shift.

  13. The only aspect that really seemed flattering to Mel at all was acknowledging that he was widely considered to be a handsome hunk-while also acknowledging that that was both arbitrary and fleeting, probably wouldn’t be the case for too much longer.

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