271. The Parent Rap

(originally aired November 11, 2001)
This is almost like Mike Scully’s last hurrah: the last episode of his production run, and he co-wrote it. His last show was also a premiere, “Beyond Blunderdome,” and it was garbage, and hey, so is this one! It’s just one insultingly stupid plot turn one after another, which cranks it up to eleven at the third act when absolutely nothing makes sense, and worst of all, none of it is funny. Things start out fair enough when Bart and Milhouse end up accidentally taking off with a police car. They end up in court, but thankfully Judge Snyder is a big ol’ softie pushover, with his classic writ of “boys will be boys.” The bit with the Simpsons talking about how court time is quality family time since they’re there so often is a bit conflicting to me: they’re clearly not an average American family anymore, but to be fair, how can they be after twelve years on the air? I’m on board with the episode until Judge Constance Harm takes the stand, a boring Judge Judy-type no-nonsense judge who doles out unique punishments, in this case ordering Bart and Homer being tethered together, citing Homer’s negligent parenting as a source for Bart’s behavior.

This plot immediately makes no sense. How is Bart expected to go to school, Homer go to work, change clothes, do normal everyday functions, anything? But all of this can be hand waved if there’s humor about, but all we get is Homer screaming about night terror cobras or some shit. I’m shocked that they actually addressed that Homer works nights thanks to this new arrangement, but then does nothing interesting with it. Things come to a head when Marge and Homer are about to make love with Bart in the room, but Marge reconsiders. Why… was she considering in the first place? This leads to a fight between Homer and Bart, and Marge, at her wit’s end, cuts the tether. But not so fast… Homer looks at the loose end and sees a live video of Harm “through the magic of fiber optics.” Okay, let’s just say that Marge cut the rope right where the video screen was, that’d be dumb enough, but this is a live video, where she can both hear and see what’s happening, and her anger can set the rope on fire. The dumbness is off the charts. Severing the tether could have triggered some kind of alarm for Harm and she could have phoned them, sent police to their house, anything but this unbelievably stupid thing.

Harm now has Marge in her sights, believing that she is a bad parent. When Marge refuses to admit to that fact, Harm has both her and Homer put in portable stocks, which is even more dumb and inconvenient. They manage to break free in order to enact revenge on the judge, coming in the form of a giant banner labeled “BIG MEANIE.” I’m not entirely sure what the purpose of this is… I suppose it’s Marge’s softball vengeance, but this is our third act, there should be something big going on. It’s as lame as George Bush’s “Two Bad Neighbors” banner. They do the deed on Harm’s houseboat, only to be stalled by Harm’s freaking guard seal. Then Homer chucks a cider block, attempting to hit Harm, but ends up plowing right through the hull of the boat, sinking her house. So let’s see, Homer basically has an attempted murder charge, destruction of property, and I’m sure many, many other serious offenses here. But let’s hand wave all that, because Bart has a random, poorly set-up speech to make about how his parents are good and how everything is his fault. But then Snyder reappears so we can end the episode with no consequences. When your characters can do anything and get away with it, and weird impossible stuff can happen without much of an explanation, it makes your show… kinda stupid.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Wiggum has a Miranda Rights Teleprompter on his dash (“You have the right to remain silent.” [punch in the belly]) He uses it later upon arresting Bart and Milhouse (“You have the right to remain… silent? That doesn’t sound right…”)
– I really like the pathetic song-and-dance Bart puts on, with his cross and innocence routine, played against the old softie Snyder. Knowing it’s basically a done deal, Homer is anxious to get out (“I’ll bring the car around.”)
– Jane Kaczmarek is Judge Harm, who is basically doing her own voice (or at least as Malcolm’s mom from Malcolm in the Middle), which is basically like Judge Judy. And it’s really not that funny. But I guess the writers thought different as she kind of became the new permanent judge from this point out. I’m sure we must have seen Snyder come back, but I was surprised (and disappointed) the next few times we see a court scene and she’s there.
– All the Homer/Bart stuff in the second act is boring and stupid, and to top it off, dialogue that explains the story (“We’re sure learning a lot about each other!” “Yeah, this tether has some pluses!”) Then the Moe’s scene, which has a lame, now incredibly dated, Bush reference, Homer keeping his son outside in the cold for hours on end, and Moe inexplicably robbing Homer at gun point. Hi-larious!
– Lisa mentions that the tethering actually has been quite beneficial, in that Bart might get to be on the honor roll. Really? Well it would have been nice to see that, give an interesting twist to this plot that the unusual punishment is actually working. Instead it’s all just dumb unfunny jokes.
– At the beginning of act three, we see Lisa confront Bart about feeling remorse for their parents being punished for what he did, but it’s so quick and meaningless that it still makes his turn at the end feel incredibly random and like a cop out.
– To escape the stocks, Homer and Marge use Flanders’ buzz saw. Of course now, Homer’s whole arms fit through the stocks, when before it was his hands. But whatever, who cares, fuck you.
– Such a lame, uninspired joke where you see ‘BI’ on the banner, then it’s revealed as ‘BIG MEANIE.’ Oh my God, it’s gonna say ‘Bitch’! They can’t do that, can they?! Come on.
– Honestly, this really is one of the worst endings we’ve seen thus far. If that cinder block had hit, Harm could have basically been killed. Whether Homer had intended that or not doesn’t matter, and in the end, he still ended up destroying Harm’s house. And what happens in the end? Absolutely fucking nothing.

17 responses to “271. The Parent Rap

  1. Awful, just awful. Just reading about this episode fills me with rage.

  2. Easily one of the worst of all time. All the plot holes and laziness that Mike pointed out here drove me nuts. I’ve only watch this episode once or twice; I don’t think I could stomach anymore. Jane Ka…whatever is just atrocious. She, as an actress, seems to have two settings: “Shrill” and “OFF”. Ugh.

    • That’s why Jane Kazmerack (spelling may be off, but that is her last name) hasn’t been in anything since “Malcolm in the Middle” (that and the fact that she didn’t want to be typecast as a shrill, overworked mom). In fact, the only MITM cast member who made it big was Bryan Cranston (the guy who played Hal) thanks to “Breaking Bad”

  3. “Such a lame, uninspired joke where you see ‘BI’ on the banner, then it’s revealed as ‘BIG MEANIE.’ Oh my God, it’s gonna say ‘Bitch’! They can’t do that, can they?! Come on.”

    Yeah, especially considering the show has used the word “bitch” several times both before and after this episode. There’s no real shock value when it’s a word that’s been uttered on your show already.

    Terrible episode, but “The clown is down” is a decent line to use out of context.

  4. Guy Incognito

    For some reason I always though Season 13 was Scully and Season 14 was the begining of the Jean era.

    • The Scully episodes in season 13 were leftovers from season 12. The Jean episodes from this season feel Scully-esque, but Scully wasn’t showrunner.

      • Captain Wacky

        (Same guy) Don’t understand how Jean could look at all the aspects Scully did wrong and think “Yeah this is okay, lets just leave the show and characters like this”.

  5. Little Thin Man Accused in Robbery

    Judge Harm is maybe the worst of all the recurring characters introduced in later series, or at least the most annoying for me, and there’s a lot of competition there.

    • Lindsay Nagle makes my mass want to collapse into itself and become nothing but a screaming wailing point of energy/

      • Little Thin Man Accused in Robbery

        Yeah, she’s awful, and Cookie Kwan’s pretty bad too. Actually, throw in the Crazy Cat Lady and they’ve introduced a lot of bad female characters. Nagle in particular almost seems to say a lot more about the writers than she does about whatever archetype she’s meant to be a parody of.

      • Really. Smug stuck up bitch does not equal enjoyable recurring character. Send this memo to all people playing siblings on sitcoms and every recurring sketch on SNL.

  6. Season 13 was when my Simpsons-mania really swung into high gear, so episodes from this season are kinda significant for me, since I saw and recorded most of them on their original broadcasts. But despite any nostalgia associated with these episodes, I’ve come round to the opinion in recent years that this season is crushingly lame. Even once we get past the last of Mike Scully’s stuff (which contain some of his all-time worst, and that’s really saying something), we get on board Al Jean’s bus to Dullsville, where he promised to fix all the problems with the show but made everything a million times worse instead. I’m looking back at some of Jean’s first solo episodes and wondering why in God’s name I used to think they were good.

    The scene where Bart drags Homer around the baseball diamond always sticks out in my mind whenever I think of this episode. Mainly because of that horrifying shot of Homer covered in bloody lacerations and broken glass. This was, as you mentioned, Scully’s last episode as showrunner, and he seemed to be determined to go out the door with as much blood and gore as he could. See also the jukebox scene from “Homer the Moe” and the rotted decomposing corpse in “The Blunder Years”. Somebody tell this guy that this shit isn’t funny.

  7. Yeah, I never liked this one, you summed up all my feelings here. I’m slowly catching up with this blog and you continue to do great work!

  8. I barely enjoyed any episodes from the double digits seasons, but this is one of those “oh, fuck this noise!” episodes that took huge chunks out of my patience. This one, the one with the elves and the fucking Africa episode were huge contributing factors in me finally throwing in the towel with a show I had watched religiously for most of my life up until that point.

    The fibre optic cable part was nearly enough for me to just quit watching there and then.

  9. From the screengrab I thought this was the one where Bart failed to hit a home run or something and they replayed the game a million times until he got it and felt better or some crap.
    I’d completely forgotten this piece of shit

  10. I believe watching this episode today was the third time i had ever seen and good god is it so damn boring. The whole concept is just retarded to begin with, but it’s not even remotely funny. I think the only time I laughed was at the end of the episode where Snake asks, “Did she just say she was originally a dude?”

    The plot makes no sense whatsoever. Also, I hate the new judge. Such a stupid ass character, but I guess the writers figured since they had done Judge Snyder so much over the first 12 seasons that it was time for a change. Not sure why they had to go with Judge Judy though. I guess because that was the only judge on TV that people knew so that makes it funny?

  11. TRIVIA: According to the commentary, Hank Azaria actually fought to have the Moe robbing Homer scene removed, but failed to do so. He later grew to accept it, though, according to his Reddit.

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