(originally aired November 14, 1999)
Normally when you’re writing an episode, you should make it around one story, one concept, one core idea. This show is so disjointed, but even stranger is there is some groundwork for the final act put into the first, but the middle portion of the episode is so disconnected and irrelevant that it doesn’t even matter. It’s just such a mess structurally. We’re pretty aimless at the start with Homer blowing off steam after work going bowling, with crowds and fanfare slowly emerging as he gets closer and closer to getting a perfect 300 score. For him, it’s a release after a particularly bad day, but it’s less satisfying to us as the audience since all the bad things that happened to him were his fault. Classic Homer was an unlucky son-of-a-bitch who fate spat in the face repeatedly; here Homer oversleeps, runs his car through the median and molests his boss’ face repeatedly. Then he’s punished and made to eat barrels of toxic waste. Nothing wrong with that. Nope. Totally makes sense.
So when Homer gets his perfect game, the show shifts gears; now all of a sudden it’s about the fleeting nature of fame, particularly those who are flash-in-the-pan. He has his brief moment in the sun, but is unable to step away. I really don’t know what to make of this second act, every single scene is truly bizarre. I get that this is an easily impressed podunk town, but why are they this amazed at a guy who bowled well? Also, we just jump from random set piece to random set piece. From giving a talk at Bart’s class, we immediately jump to Springfield’s answer to Hollywood Squares, with Homer as the center square. And over Ron Howard, no less, in his second guest appearance for some reason. Then we’re just burning through celebrities; Homer tries to do a walk-on during Penn & Teller’s show and almost gets crossbowed, one of the only funny scenes in the show (“I’m gonna kill you!” “He’ll do it! I’m not the first Teller!”) then he watches TV at home where Pat O’Brien and Nancy O’Dell tell him he’s old hat. Why have them on the show? Hosting “Access Springfield”? Not only does it make no sense, but was it really necessary? All just to raise the guest star count, I guess.
Homer’s star is falling, what’s a man to do? Commit suicide of course. Think back to “Homer’s Odyssey,” him wanting to jump off a bridge was a tough pill to swallow, but at least it made sense and the episode was building toward it. Time and again we’ve seen that Homer feels he only have worth if he can provide for his family, and when things seemed impossible for him to do that, he gave up. Here, he thinks his life has peaked and he makes a snap decision to jump off a building. No consideration to his family, nothing. Then he’s saved by Otto bungee jumping and everything’s okay. Brilliant. After that, he decides to devote his life to his kids, but when he sees Bart and Lisa are out of his league, settles for Maggie, who has a not-so-great view of her distant father. Now, we did set up earlier in the episode how Homer ignores the baby and the effect it has on her, but there’s nothing in the episode that really built toward his realization that his kids could give his life meaning. The only prompting was him running into Ron Howard and his kids, it was more random than anything. Much like most of the content here. The most scatter-shot episode ever, with no focus, no ideas and no clue where to go. There’s a few funny lines, but that’s about it.
Tidbits and Quotes
– In art school, I leaped at the chance to see “Koyaanisqatsi” basically because I know it from this episode in the fast-motion sequence of Homer oversleeping. It was… interesting.
– Homer pulls out Burns’ dentures, who regenerates a new pair complete with a cash register sound. He escapes and hides in the reactor core, where Burns proceeds to strangle him through the mounted gloves, and kick him with the mounted feet, which makes no sense. Then Homer is forced to eat nuclear waste. That’s a trifecta right there, the show is officially a goofy cartoon that can do anything.
– Lenny and Carl at the bowling alley have a lot of great material: ‘POO’ and ‘ASS’ on the scoreboard, Lenny’s banana split (“I paid 7.10 for this split.” “Will you at least call it a banana split, you dumbwad?” “Hey, spare me your gutter mouth!”), and Lenny dumping his pills in the trash seeing a “psychotic” Homer get strike after strike.
– I don’t quite see why Marge isn’t upset that Homer lied to him to get out of bonding with their daughter. Instead she and the kids just stand at the sidelines, telling them to not disturb their father.
– I don’t understand the Springfield Squares bit. Why is the Capitol City Goofball there? And really, if you’ve got Ron Howard, you make him the center square. And Itchy & Scratchy… are real? Somehow? Whatever. I do like this exchange though (“Homer, you can’t just ride one accomplishment forever. Why do you think I stopped acting and became a director?” “I don’t know, because you weren’t cute anymore?” “Hmm… I’ll agree.” “Circle gets the square. Goodnight, everyone!”)
– More dumb cartoony shit where Homer somehow inhales the ‘300’ balloon. He didn’t even inhale that deeply, it just plummeted down his throat.
– Otto was bungee jumping off the building, conveniently, and managed to catch up to a falling Homer, which defies gravity, and for some reason his cord was long enough to descend through various underground levels below the city. So if they hadn’t gone in that manhole, Otto would have smashed his face into the pavement. Was that the aim? And I love that Homer gets hit with the manhole cover before he pops back on the surface, just one more opportunity to see him get hurt.
– Speaking of which, his Teletubby bit makes no sense either. He’s got the TV chained to his neck, sometimes holding it with one hand, which is ridiculous as that thing must weigh a fair amount. Then the TV seems to work without being plugged in, and electrocutes him somehow. It’s not so much nitpicking as it is pointing out stuff that makes no sense.
– I don’t even feel like commenting about Maggie saving Homer’s life at the end. The commentary yields no answers, as usual. But the episode can barely be bothered to explain it, they just crammed in a quick Hibbert line (“When a parent’s life is in danger, a child can summon super-human strength.”) No joke, no response, no questioning. Honestly, if you’re going to pull this kind of shit, at least have characters acknowledge how it makes no sense. By this point though I’d been so dulled by the rest of the episode, this is just the cherry on top of the shit sundae. …oh, but I will say that I thought Maggie looked very cute in her little swim suit. At least I have a positive note to end on. …before she pulled a two hundred and eighty fucking pound man to shore. WHAT THE FUCK.