265. Simpson Safari

(originally aired April 1, 2001)
Travel episodes are normally best when they have a character-driven story behind them. “Bart vs. Australia” saw Bart’s prank as the epicenter of strife in American-Australian relations, “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” had Lisa go to the capitol for her award-winning essay on American, only to have her faith tainted by corrupt politicians, these episodes have some heft to them because they directly involve the family. But even if your show is just a series of culture-clash set pieces, that has a chance of working as well; that’s about all that “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” was, and that was a pretty good show. But this episode is pretty much DOA from the start: a ridiculously stupid lead-in brings our family to Africa, which is one nonsensical gag and plot turn after another. Absolutely none of the Africa material works; since very few of the viewers know much about how the continent really is (myself included), they just made it over-the-top silly and inflated stereotypes, except none of it is funny and it all sucks.

So here’s how we get to Africa: a bag boy strike causes a near-famine in Springfield. That’s the kind of gag that maybe works when you’re joking around in the writer’s room, but in execution just feels so completely ridiculous. What about the Kwik-E-Mart? Or a gas station? There’s a myriad of places that you can find food. It’s just the right kind of illogical nonsense to get you in the mood for this episode. Santa’s Little Helper uncovers an old box of animal crackers, which contains a solid gold piece, as part of a contest where the winner is sent to Africa. Once the Simpsons are there, as I mentioned, it’s just one dumb impossible gag after another: rhinos hatching from eggs, gigantic spiders, bees being used as blowing darts, hippos being afraid of water, Bart getting a lip disc… I could just keep going. Even worse is how clear it was that the writers put some of those jokes in to fuck with the viewers; through most of the episode Lisa acts as kind of a narrator, giving out exposition and actively commenting on things not making sense (“Wait, rhinos don’t come from eggs.” “What did you just see, Lisa?”) I have no problem with writers wanting to fuck with fans once and a while, but it’s usually best if your show is actually good.

So the family ends up getting hopelessly lost and stumble upon the reserve of famed chimp researcher Dr. Bushwell, obviously a parody of Jane Goodall. Her compound is being threatened of being ambushed by poachers, but those “attackers” are revealed to be from Greenpeace. Turns out Bushwell had put her animals into slavery, working in a diamond mine below her home. An woman off the edge, she desperately offers everyone diamonds to hush up… and they take them. And then that’s the end. I suppose there’s some kind of story there, but it’s in the third act and had no set-up and something I could really care less about. I feel I can’t comment at what point this show went off the rails because it was pretty much awful at the start, and never let up. That the writers seem so pleased with themselves and their work that they feel they can directly say fuck you to their viewers is pretty ballsy, especially given the episode they’re doing it in. I guess you could say they’re underachievers… and proud of it? …seriously, fuck this episode.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The stupid jokes start almost immediately as we see Maggie has gone to the emergency room for swallowing an entire fucking magazine. An odd thing is the first time we see the X-ray, the title of the magazine is digitally blurred, which I thought maybe there was a title there and then they found out they didn’t have permission to use it and couldn’t reanimate. Then in the next shot you can clearly see it’s Time. Hmn.
– Homer incessantly pokes the bag boy with a baguette (“Hurry up! I can’t stand here jabbing you all day.” “Ow! Stop. Bag boys have feelings, too, you know.” “No, you don’t.”) Yep, that’s our lovable protagonist! It’s to the point that even the exasperated supermarket manager addresses him by name and asks him to leave, implying numerous instances in the past of him being an insufferable ass.
– I guess the whole bag boy strike leading to famine thing is supposed to be absurdist, but I just wasn’t buying it. Why couldn’t Lenny have put all his shit in a bag? And why were the striking bag boys allowed on the roof of the supermarket they’re protesting?
– When Homer is frantically looking through cabinets, we see Bart standing with the rest of the family. Then four seconds later, we see him out the back window with a bird’s nest. Guess he just teleported or something.
– The only thing I like in this episode is how they get to Africa. The animal crackers are so old that the company that made them doesn’t even make crackers anymore (“We make household poisons and Christmas lights.”) They’re about to throw Homer out on his ass until the string of the box the executive is holding snaps and accidentally swings into Homer’s eye (“He could sue us.” This defective string…” “Yeah, it’s got very sharp corners.”) The execs do damage control and agree to send them all to Africa.
– I know this has been present for the last few seasons, but it really bugged me here, that I’m really kind of sick of Tress MacNeille voiced every single woman character. The old waitress, the female executive, the flight attendant, Dr. Bushwell… it’s all basically the same voice every time. Now, Tress is definitely very talented, and has done great work with many characters, like Agnes Skinner, the Crazy Cat Lady, Mom on Futurama, but some variety would be nice. With male incidentals, we have Castallaneta, Azaria and Shearer in rotation, so why not bring in at least one other female actress? Pamela Hayden could come and do some stuff, or Russi Taylor, or hell, just a woman from the office to deliver a few lines. Just so it’s not all Tress, all the time.
– The scene leading up to the warthog reveal is so drawn out, way too much time wasted for such a small gag. And you know it’s coming because Lisa’s hair is being pulled out of frame, you’re just waiting and waiting until the payoff so they can move on.
– Homer is really nonplussed about any of the danger going on in the third act, he’s just this mindless cartoon character spouting stupid jokes. He even brings up the bagboy strike from the first act, which then later appears as a dedication at the end of the show, more of the writers acknowledging their shit makes no sense.
– The family ends up going down Victoria Falls, which is in Zimbabwe, nowhere near Tanzania. It could have just been a random giant waterfall, why did it have to be named at a location nowhere near where they were? We see them falling straight down the water, then near the bottom we see they land in a gigantic flower a fair distance from the falls. Totally unharmed. Just landed comfortably in a giant fucking flower. Which then proceeds to “eat” them, and then Homer just pushes his way out. These are the jokes, people.
– So the Simpsons are rich now, right? You can’t just end your episode with them carrying armfuls of diamonds and just do a reset. This isn’t that kind of cartoon. At least it used to not be…


26 responses to “265. Simpson Safari

  1. Excellent work as ever, but reading these season 12 blogs is quite depressing, as this is the point at which I accepted that the decline that set in with Homer’s Enemy wasn’t going to be reversed. These were the first (and last) episodes that I downloaded and watched via internet means. The initial excitement of being able to do so quickly wore off as I realised how bad they were, and this particular episode is an excellent illustration of just how bad. Mike pretty much nails exactly why the episode is unwatchable, so I won’t repeat his points. However even now, 11 years after I last watched it, I can still remember how depressed and disgusted I was by just how moronic their depiction of Africa was, especially by the reveal that the monkeys were being used as slave labour. I couldn’t bring myself to watch any more episodes for a couple of years, and only managed a couple more before I finally and permanently gave up on proceedings, after watching the atrocity of Krusty’s election to Congress. Somehow, I don’t think I’m going I’m going to find myself regretting that choice as we move on to season 13 and beyond.

  2. As trite as this episode is, I still love this exchange
    “I want everything put in one bag. But I don’t want the bag to be heavy!”
    “I don’t think that’s possible.”
    “Who are you, the Possible Police? Just do it!”

  3. An overall bad show, but there are some jokes I like, for example Homer going “ahhh… Africa” on the bed.

  4. there was one thing i liked about this episode – when dr. bushwell just loses her shit and starts screaming “DIAMONDS!! DIAMONDS!!” and then immediately cutting after to homer happily saying, “what a nice lady.”

    insanely stupid, but at least it made me laugh. and that stood out all the more, what with how downright infuriatingly ridiculous and unfunny this episode is.

  5. “So the Simpsons are rich now, right? You can’t just end your episode with them carrying armfuls of diamonds and just do a reset. This isn’t that kind of cartoon. At least it used to not be…”
    Aww… the Denver broncos.

    • Hmmm. Well you got me there. But at least that ending was set up in the second act so it had a payoff. And was funny.

      • The difference is that the Hank Scorpio episode was actually funny, while this episode was a steaming pile of shit. Funny fixes everything, especially in a comedy.

        (That’s what this show still is meant to be, right? It’s tough to tell.)

    • You can’t just end your episode with them carrying armfuls of diamonds and just do a reset.

      -This show just did.

  6. I’m not necessarily saying I like this episode (don’t really remember it well enough) but I have to admit that I love the absurdity of the rhino joke.

    My friend and I quote “What did you just see?” on a weekly basis to this day.

  7. It’s funny that someone said they LIKED the bit where Dr Bushwell shouts “Diamonds! Diamonds!” manically. That was the moment in this show that really gave me the shits when I first saw it. I found it so poorly delivered, so out of left field, neither funny nor emotionally impactful…I cant pinpoint exactly why it creeped me out so much, but I knew I was no longer watching the same “Simpsons” I’d grown up with. Fuck this episode!

    • well yeah, that was kinda my point. it was so bizarre, and near-upsetting, only to be followed with a careless “what a nice lady.” the contrast made me laugh.

      and we’re well past the point of expecting anything emotionally impacting here, the best one can hope from the show at this point is a cheap laugh, and that was the only moment in this episode that gave me one; the rest was just so painfully dull. even with how absurd the plot was, it was still so boring.

      • Yeah, just so you know I wasn’t trying to say you’re stupid for liking that bit or something! It was just surprising to me that someone liked it, because it was the low point of the show for me. But clearly it worked on some level, because some people found it funny. I think in my young mind at the time, The Simpsons was still good. And when that scene came on I was like “huh?! This is not The Simpsons’ usual high calibre of joke-making. Something isn’t right here”. Made me feel sick or something…

  8. The only bit I remember liking was “Pepsi Presents New Zanzibar.” Other than that…yeah, fuck this episode.

  9. Guy Incognito

    I remember there was a deleted scene from this episode in the storyboards where Homer imagines he’s playing the shell game with the statue of liberty. Don’t know if there’s a finished version of it on the dvd as I don’t want to buy it.

  10. My least-favourite episode. What shit.

  11. I really really dislike this episode on many levels but it still disturbs me a bit how many jokes from it still hit. It’s like the package is tainted but there’s still metal on teh bone, or whatever metaphor you want to mangle.

    The bit with the plant kills me and still kills me, the presidents getting swapped out like lightbulbs. “Bloodless Coup; all smothering”.

    I still cant say i hate it. But It’s one of those episodes that I would never go out of my way to watch on my own, but I would probably watch if it were on tv.

  12. Yeah, this one’s shit. It feels like another Saddlesore Galactica, where they deliberately made a horrible episode that made no sense just to say “fuck you” to the fans who actually expect quality from this show. The disconnect between the fans and the writers is a mile wide here, and it only gets worse as the series goes on.

  13. Even though the bag boy strike is ridiculous (and makes no sense- you’re telling me the Springfield shoppers can’t bag their own groceries??), it’s the only good material in this episode. Anything and everything once the Simpsons reach Africa is just bottom of the barrel.

  14. Not that it matters, but I remember reading once the “bag boy strike” thing in this episode was based on an actual bag boy strike.. thing. Silly and who-gives-a-shit, so they threw it in the episode… which is also silly and who-gives-a-shit..

  15. I was never sure why everyone and their mum hated this episode so much. I mean, I know it’s not the best, but it doesn’t leave me disgruntled either. I dunno. Me and my brother still quote snippets of it in conversation.

    I do think the bit with the giant flower was kinda funny, though. Just the way Homer delivers that line – “It’s a *flower*.” haha!

  16. I’m not entirely sure how this episode is meant to be perceived? I guess it was a complete piss-take with things like flowers unable to eat people but it still comes across as far too confusing.

    I love the animation of Santa’s Little Helper biting at Homer’s leg. Reminds me of when Homer’s meatball fell on the floor and after a long dramatic face-off between Maggie and the pets, Homer just eats it 😛

  17. I know this probably falls into Jerkass Homer territory, but I always get a laugh out of how the luggage gets bobbled around, ends up on a giant spider web, a giant spider immediately liquifies it, and Homer just casually remarks, “Eh, bound to happen.” I also love the flower bit, and I get a chuckle out of Homer admiring the chimp scratching it’s ass on a tree.

    Otherwise, this episode is pretty much shit.

  18. God I hate this one! The only thing that made me laugh was one of the act breaks with the shaman saying “evil is coming” and then dumping his mask on the other guy and running for it when asked what to do.

  19. I like the bit at the end where Kitenge is revealed to be the new dictator, especially since his character just disappears about half-way through

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s