(originally aired January 7, 2001)
There are really only two season 12 episodes I can think of that were generally heralded as being great, and this is the first one. It certainly isn’t bad, but I’m not exactly thrilled about it. It was really grasping for an emotional push at the end and I just wasn’t on board, but I’ll get into that in a bit. Homer ends up losing all of his life savings to a bankrupt company, giving us our ten thousandth family-in-money-woes story. To save face this time, he agrees to be a guinea pig for science experiments, which gives us more opportunities for Castellaneta to scream his head off. The scientists soon discover Homer’s limited intelligence is the result of a crayon lodged in his brain, and once they remove it his IQ is raised a good fifty points. Now Homer’s a brainiac, and Lisa is thrilled to have more common ground with her father. The financial troubles plot is kind of dropped off here; it’s not a huge deal, but perhaps a scene showing a newly smart Homer being more money conscious would have tied up that thread, and also showed another contrast between the dumb Homer we know and love.
Structure-wise this episode is pretty solid, and it’s pretty entertaining, but I kind of had some problems with it. First off, the crayon in the brain thing is kind of silly. It’s not overly ridiculous, but it felt like a little much. I kind of feel the idea of the Simpson gene from “Lisa the Simpson” makes more sense and is a more satisfying answer for Homer’s idiocy than this explanation. Second there’s the resolution, which suffers a bit thanks to the Simpsons comic books. A few years prior to this show there was a comic that had a very similar story. In this case, Professor Frink experimented on Homer to enhance his brain, and smarter Homer bonded with his daughter. Homer was miserable being smart, as he is in the episode, but wanted to go through a final, more permanent operation for his daughter’s sake. But Lisa stops him, not wanting to sacrifice his happiness just for her. That feels a bit more meaty than what we have here, which feels more like the opposite. I can’t say Lisa is selfish and wants to keep her dad smart since there’s really just one scene of Homer expressing his dissatisfaction. Maybe if they had had act one end with Homer becoming smart they’d have more time, but overall, I think the comic really trumps the show in terms of emotional weight. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing.
The isolated scenes save the episode from these comparisons though. The animation festival has some great bits, like the ridiculous anime and the old-time Itchy & Scratchy commercial recalling the days when The Flintstones was sponsored by cigarette companies. I also love Animotion, if only because I’ve been working with motion capture animation for the last few weeks or so. Also great is the Julia Roberts movie “Love is Nice,” containing a laundry list of terrible rom-com cliches in about ten seconds. The audience is completely aghast when Homer reveals the incredibly obvious “twist” ending and expels him from the theater (“Point out your plot holes elsewhere!”) Following this is Homer’s hopeless quest for intelligence in town, but all he finds are “Smart People Not Welcome” signs and the Disney store. Though I kind of like it better whenFuturamadid it with Bender’s sobriety spree. It’s in “The Mysterious Voyage of Homer” too… Does anyone know what these scenes are a parody of? Or is it not a parody and they’re just reusing it over and over? Whatever. Anyway, not a bad episode, but not one I’d put on a pedestal as a shining beacon of a shit season. Hopefully I can find one worthy of that title…
Tidbits and Quotes
– Springfield tops the title of Spike & Mike’s festival by calling theirs the “Sick, Twisted, F***ed-Up Animation Festival” (Children half-price).
– The Flanders flock watching “Gravey and Jobriath” feels very ominous, with it being about blowing up Planned Parenthood. It’s the first time Ned’s been involved in parodying extremist religious types. It won’t be long before we have jokes about him being intolerant of gays or being ultra-conservative, and just be an all-and-out religious nut instead of a kindly neighbor-eeno. Also, what happened to Todd thinking talking dogs are blasphemous?
– Like the voice-over artist coming under fire for his voices lifted from celebrities, similar to many of the classic Hanna-Barabara characters, and then of course pointing at themselves with Professor Frink as Jerry Lewis.
– I feel obliged to say how the Animotion presentation makes no sense. The animated character’s eyes and mouth wouldn’t move since Homer has no sensors on his face. Also it wouldn’t capture his movement in the bathroom as I assume there’s no cameras rigged up in there. I sure hope someone got fired for these blunders.
– I hate the bit of Homer mimicking his wife and Lisa behind the plant at the bank, but I do like the casual way he returns back to the desk for his life savings (“Ah, yes, I see that it’s in bill form. Excellent.”) Later he goes to I.P.O. Friday’s at the mall (great name) to invest his cash. The broker asks if he understands the risk of stock ownership, which Homer responds he does. By which he means he’s imaging being in a kick line singing “We’re in the Money” with King Kong behind them holding fistfuls of cash.
– Homer has a brilliant plan to solve their financial problem (“You rent your womb to a rich childless couple. If you agree, signify by getting indignant.” “Are you crazy? I’m not going to be a surrogate mother.” “C’mon, Marge, we’re a team. It’s uter-us, not uter-you.” “Forget it!”)
– I think the flashback of li’l Homer shoving the crayons up his nose puts me off more than anything. And really, he can shove up a dozen of them up there? Crayons are pretty long. It’s not so much disgusting as much as it seems like it would be painful.
– An instance where I actually like the casual way the show attempts to cover its ass with Hibbert’s random appearance and explanation of why he never saw the crayon (“You see, whenever I picked up an X-ray, I’d always hold it like this. His thumb falls right where the crayon would be. My thumb must’ve covered up the crayon every time. I’ll show myself out.”)
– Homer’s intelligence post-op is 105, which is pretty much average. Yet he’s solving Rubick’s cubes and disproving the existence of God like a super genius. Maybe the gag is that it’s mind over matter, and if Homer thinks he’s a genius, then he is. Yeah, that works. Sure.
– Nice bit with Homer turning Nelson’s prank around on him (“A moron says what?” “Not being a moron, I wouldn’t know. However… [mumbles]” “What?” “Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your moron!”)
– “One groom? Two grooms? Oh, my medication!” is a line I’d quote a lot for some reason.
– Moe starts off act three being pissed at Homer (“I was a lot happier before I knew Dame Edna was a man. A lot happier!”) but then he agrees to operate him on the end. Whatever, it’s not a big deal. I like how Moe realizes he hit the sweet spot (“Extended warranty? How can I lose?” “Perfect.”)