(originally aired February 20, 2000)
I guess at some point I’m just going to have to accept this show is just another cartoon now. I throw that term around a lot, and let it be known, I am in no way decrying cartoons. It’s all about context; I don’t expect to see an episode about sleazy public figures or marital spats on Dexter’s Laboratory, and nor do I expect to see superstrong babies or mythical creatures on The Simpsons. And yet, I have, and the series shows no signs of getting any less ridiculous and wacky. But I just can’t go along for the ride; I’m not saying the show has to be firmly grounded in reality all the time, it never was, but if you’re going to make that reach, at least have it make a little bit of sense, or at least be funny. The show manages to do neither. Take the lead-in with this one, where Homer makes a phony pledge to PBS to get them to stop interrupting programming with a pledge drive. When he’s exposed for not having the money, he’s chased by an angry mob, consisting of Mr. Rogers, Yo Yo Ma, Teletubbies who shoot fucking lasers, and Big Bird, who flies in like a hawk. I mean, this is like Family Guy shit. It’s ironic that the writers would take a shot at them at the end of the show, considering that at this point, the series isn’t that much worse than them. Man, I never thought I would say that…
Reverend Lovejoy assists Homer in his escape from PBS, in exchange for acting as a missionary on the small island of Microatia. Now, bizarre set-up aside, I don’t think this premise makes much sense from a story point of view. Homer the missionary? What’s the point, other than to have him engage in wacky antics and berate the natives? Maybe if he had been paired up with Flanders, who proceeds to curry the favor of the people, and Homer out of jealous attempts to one-up them, and the two egos get the best of each other in the end. That might have been interesting, and made more sense as a basis of a show. Here, it’s just silly and pointless storytelling. He builds them a casino for reasons that escape me, which ends up backfiring, and then he goes back to finishing off the chapel. Which turns into a big disaster and then we have our PBS ending, which feels like less of a clever callback than just a cheap cop-out. It really honestly seems like the writers are caring less and less about these episodes being somewhat meaningful or having a point. Just throw in a bunch of wacky shit, and we’re good.
Back home, the rest of the Simpsons keep in touch with Homer via ham radio, which Marge seems to know how to use, and is able to get reception from where what must be on the other side of the planet. Also it’s daytime in both places during their call. But who cares, right? Homer makes Bart the man of the house, which of course means that now he has to go into work for him. And Lenny, Carl, and Burns can’t tell that it’s a kid. This stuff just really aggravates me, and departs the series even further from the reality it once was in, if that were even possible. You’re telling me Burns doesn’t realize he’s talking to a ten-year-old? Lenny and Carl have met Homer’s son, they don’t recognize him? I’m putting more thought into this than the writers did, they just thought it’d be funny if Bart actually acted like the “man of the house.” Doesn’t Bart have school? How did he get to the power plant? Why would Marge put up with this bullshit? Doesn’t matter. None of this matters. I’m getting a headache. We’re done here.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I like pretty much everything before the mob chase: “Do Shut Up” being England’s longest running series (“And today, we’re showing all seven episodes,”) the pledge gifts of a tote bag, and an umbrella with a picture of the tote bag, and Betty White, who gives a great performance (“If you watch even one second of PBS and don’t contribute, you’re a thief. A common thief!”) I also like Homer’s contentment with thinking he’d get away with his anonymous contribution, then being hoisted by his own petard (“Ohh, why did I register with Insta-Trace!”)
– Lovejoy’s pretty good for the little screen time he has, wishing he had never taught Homer the word “sanctuary,” and this great runner (“Please help me, I’ll do anything! I’ll light a candle! I’ll help with your next charity scam!” “The word is drive.” “Sure, sure, Bob’s your uncle, let’s just get out of here!”)
– If nothing else, I can credit this episode with giving us the word “Jebus.”
– More dumb cartoony shit with the butterfly burrowing into Homer’s arm and crawling about his body. It’s like the penny thing in “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo,” but even more disgusting.
– I do kind of like the native girl Lisa, Jr., though I wish her relationship with Homer had been played up a bit more, acting as Lisa’s surrogate whose presence makes Homer want to do a good job in helping the natives. That’s sort of the case, but not really.
– It’s a small line, but I hate when Bart cuts off Homer’s nonsensical diatribe to ask him if he’s been licking toads. Like, why would Bart even know about that, let alone think to ask his father that question? To make the joke work, of course. Never mind that none of this sounds like actual dialogue a real person would say, we need to set up and pay off our clunky material.
– I fucking hate his scene, but I do like Burns’ outrage that Homer apparently sold plutonium to the Iraqis, with no mark-up.
– This whole thing’s a cartoon now. They built that whole casino, and roulette wheel and everything? And later one of them holds up actual playing cards, which came from God knows where. Although through all of it, I liked the idea of Homer making his own beer, which to me feels like a call-back to “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment.”
– I like this token Homer line (“Well, I may not know much about God, but I have to say we built a pretty nice cage for Him.”)
– The pledge ending feels like a cop-out, like I said, but I do like the idea of it, and seeing all the other FOX stars waiting for your call, including Hank Hill, Bender, Thurgood Stubbs from The PJ’s, and of course Rupert Murdoch. And I do love the shot at Family Guy, but honestly, this show should not be throwing stones at “crude, low-brow programming” considering what I’ve been watching for the last two seasons.