257. HOMR

(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.”)

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17 responses to “257. HOMR

  1. I pretty much agree, but Homer’s silly voice impersonating his kids gets me every time. It’s not smart or anything, but it makes me laugh.

  2. Happy 1 year of this blog mike

    • Yes indeed, happy 1 year! Always love your writeups, Mike; I especially enjoy the “Tidbits” wherein you question the point of a joke or scene. For example, I recently re-read your “Cartridge Family” review and when you examined Homer’s “security device”, it made me go and pause my DVD for 5 minutes staring at the security device, trying to figure it out too. I think the knob turns which activates the fishing pole line which activates the flashlight which is supposed to melt the string with the alarm clock which will drop in, and I think the fish is somehow supposed to activate the “alarm switch” (as you probably know, on windup clocks, there is a switch to turn the alarm on and off.. however, if it’s turned OFF but goes past the “alarm time”, then the alarm will sound when you turn the switch to an ON position, unless you UNWIND the alarm dial before it sounds… so, assuming it’s already supposed to go off, perhaps the fish is supposed to be alerted to the nuisance in his tank and activate it himself, per Homer’s logic?). Uh, I think.

      Anyway, thanks for taking these writeups seriously, you are always so detailed in your writeups, even often finding interesting tidbits in episodes you clearly dislike. It’s very easy to overlook episodes from the last few seasons you’ve reviewed, but you still always find something good or interesting. I like that.

      Thanks Mike!

      • Clearly you put more thought into analyzing it than I did. Kudos for that. I guess. And thanks for reading. I hope to keep at least a shred of optomism until the very end; as bad as the shows get, there’s got to be some small bit of goodness in it. At least for most episodes.

  3. I’ve said it before, but I really like this one. Ridiculous crayon concept aside, I think it actually has a little heart, and a lot of laughs. Heart and laughs aren’t something I’d equate with latter-day Simpsons in any way whatsoever, so this wins for me. I found the whole episode really interesting, and I even liked the jerkass part where Homer jumps through the window at the end to prove he’s an idiot. Unnecessary but pretty hilarious and unexpected.

    Despite whatever reputation he gets because of his years as a showrunner, Al Jean is a smart guy and a good writer, and I think this was the last episode he wrote too, which makes it kinda special, since he has been involved with lots of great episodes.

    Anyway, I just think this episode has lots of classic bits, “I’ll show myself out.” by Hibbert (this was right before characters ALWAYS randomly showed up in places) and casually disproving the existence of God are bits I always found hilarious. I loved all the animation stuff at the beginning, too, since I’m an animation nerd.

    The only thing I find odd is that Moe is a surgeon now. I know they did it so they could have the joke involving the business card… but why not just have Dr. Nick do the operation?

    Also, as far as 105 IQ goes… since 99% of Springfield appears to be idiotic, maybe 105 is considered genius there?

    • Jean also wrote “Day of the Jackanapes” and “Children of a Lesser Clod.” I don’t remember much of “Clod,” but “Jackanapes” is pretty terrible to my recollection. I think Jean needs Mike Reiss; you can’t split up a great comedy duo.

      • Oh wow, he wrote those? Okay, I stand corrected then. My memory gets a bit fuzzy when it comes to zombie stuff. Ehhh.

        The only thing memorable about Day of the Jackanapes is that my favorite character finally gets a name (Raphael instead of “wiseass sarcastic clerk guy”). Clod I… think I saw… maybe.. in syndication… and uhhh… *reads summary on wikipedia real quick* OKAY THAT EPISODE IS FUCKING TERRIBLE FUCK.

  4. Hmm, this was a stronger episode than I remembered. I’m impressed that they didn’t just make Homer into an altogether different character with the crayon removed; he’s smart, but he’d still rather drive to a movie than take a thoughtful walk like Lisa.

    And though Homer’s procedure could have probably come earlier in the episode, I do like that the scientists are basically ignoring the results of all their tests. “Leave that to the marketing department” is pretty hilarious.

  5. “Does anyone know what these scenes are a parody of?”
    Been wondering this for ages because they’ve used it a tonne of times.
    TV Tropes saves the day again though. This trope is known as the “Drunken Montage” (http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/DrunkenMontage) The original usage comes from the 1945 film “The Lost Weekend”.

  6. This probably wasn’t Jean’s intention, but I get a really anti-intellectual vibe from this episode. When Homer becomes smart, he becomes unhappy. So what’s his solution? To make himself stupid again. It feels like the episode is saying, “Don’t be smart, you’ll be miserable. Stay stupid and be happy!” And it honestly felt like a selfish choice to boot; he sacrificed his budding relationship with Lisa for being able to act like an idiot.

    And because Homer made himself stupid again (thus reverting to the status quo), this episode had no real reason to exist.

    There are some funny moments here, but between what I stated above, the really hard-to-buy excuse that Dr. Hibbert always had his thumb over the crayon on the X-rays, and the flashback that doesn’t make sense (if Homer was supposedly normal intelligence before the crayons, why was he stupid enough to shove that many crayons up his nose in the first place??), “HOMR” leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

  7. RADICAL!

    Also, loved the “Daddy can I have some candy” bit.

  8. phillyfoodie85

    [QUOTE]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.[/QUOTE]

    I always saw it as the writers saying the characters on the show really are stupid (though that doesn’t explain characters like Martin, Lisa, or the people of MENSA from “They Saved Lisa’s Brain”).

  9. This is the first and maybe only time i disagree with the post. I can’t accept this episode. There are some good moments for sure, and the ending is heartful, but i feel the whole concept is dumb and unacceptable like the worst zombie simpsons episodes, so i really can’t watch this episode again. even the intresting topic like the “being smart=being sad” is made in such a simple and conventional way that make everything forgettable. but again, i hate too much the concept that Homer would have been a genius without the crayon to see whats good in this episode.

  10. How does Animotion’s stock plunge 75 points, if Homer is the only stockholder?

  11. This episode is pretty meh rewatching it now, takes more than half the episode to get to the ‘smart Homer’ stuff and to me there was nothing heartfelt between Lisa and smart Homer, maybe if they didn’t waste the first act like they always do they could’ve shown more of that.
    “Bwak, polly shouldn’t be!”

  12. I fucking hated this one. It takes way too long to get to the actual story, the crayon thing is just silly (number of crayons in Lil’ Homer’s nose is just too ridiculous to enjoy, crayon lodged in brain should kill you, removal would still leave severe damage to brain, etc), ignores the Simpson gene thing, Hibbert continues his slide into quackery. The moral of the episode appears to be that its better to be a happy, ignorant fool.

    Plus, as you say, 105 is just average.

    No thanks.

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