277. Sweets and Sour Marge

(originally aired January 20, 2002)
I think I need some medication or something, every episode this season so far has infuriated me in some regard. I’ve got to calm down if I’m going to make it through eight (!) more of these. These few Jean episodes are just as bad as Scully’s, if not worse in some respects, but I can’t entirely place why. Maybe because it feels like they’re trying harder to be actual meaningful episodes with a point, but couldn’t have failed more at it. Despite having a through-line plot, this episode felt like an endless string of sketches that happened to have a story around it. By the end, I just felt like I had watched nothing at all. We start at a library book sale where Homer comes upon the Duff Book of World Records. After exhausting everyone with his record retellings, he decides he want to make his own record, but finds out they will only accept those done as a group. So Homer gets the entire town of Springfield together, somehow, to all participate in the world’s largest human pyramid. Okay, sure, it’s a sizable stretch, but that Springfield is filled with a bunch of rubes like Homer that would love to have a record to their name makes it kind of work. Then the pyramid collapses, and the entire town forms a gigantic human rolling ball that careens down the street. I… honestly am not even going to comment; I already had my aneurysm for the day, I’m not going to trigger it again.

The Springfield ball lands on a truck weigh station scale, where the record people do some quick calculations and laud them with a record: the World’s Fattest Town. Everyone is pretty psyched about this, save Marge, who is upset about the state of health in Springfield. She pays a visit to Garth Motherloving, owner of the large sugar manufacturer in town, to plead with him to rethink his business, but he’ll have none of it. Garth is voiced by Ben Stiller, and I’m glad they gave him an interesting comic character to play. Oh wait, never mind, he’s just a generic evil corporate head who does things because he’s evil. Another celebrity wasted. So Marge gathers signatures in order to file a class action suit against the company. Things appear to maybe get interesting when Professor Frink gives Marge a tip-off, and then testifies in court about the addictiveness of his top-secret sugar plan for Motherloving… but then that’s it. No interesting twist. I would’ve even gone for something stupid at this point. In the end, Judge Snyder rules in favor of Marge, and has all sugar products banned from the town.

It doesn’t take long before the entire town goes through sugar withdrawal, one of the worst being Homer. Eventually he falls into a secret group consisting of Mr. Burns, Motherloving, Apu and Count Fudgula, scheming to get sugar back to Springfield. Even though they could easily smuggle it from across the town borders, instead they have to go off shore to the island of San Glucose. Maybe it’s because they got it free of charge (“Okay, man, here’s the sugar. Now you give us the money.” “That wasn’t part of the deal!” “…he’s right. Who wrote this thing?”) Then it becomes wacky Homer antics as he goes with them on the boat, falling back off the boat and completing the deal. Why did they need him for this? Couldn’t Apu have done this himself? Or maybe Count Fudgula could have bitten them, because apparently he’s a real vampire. Or at least a deranged man who thinks he is. I want to see an episode about him. But, not really. Anyway, this whole third act is essentially Homer going behind Marge’s back and breaking the law to pull this con, but it’s never addressed. He ends up dumping the sugar to appease her, but the fact that he betrayed her in the first place is never brought up. He just reassures her with a paltry line, they kiss, Snyder gives a quick status quo reverting, and that’s the end. It just all felt so empty and meaningless, traits that would carry through the Jean years for many seasons. At least the Scully episodes evoked some kind of response.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Some of the library stuff is alright: CBG buys Leonard Nimoy’s books, Dr. Nick’s complete shock at a real medical book, and Cletus feeding his pigs torn up and unsold books. Then Marge shows Homer the Duff record book. When Bart asks why Duff would put out a book at all, Lisa pipes in, “It was originally published to settle arguments in taverns.” Now, why would she know that? How would she know that? It’s a small line, but feels telling to me, how now Lisa is just the know-it-all; any time we need something explained or narrated, we have Lisa say it, regardless if it makes sense.
– Seeing Homer do that wacky dance before the Duff judges is absolutely painful. Then he grabs a banjo and cobra that he’s seemingly brought with him. He couldn’t be more removed from reality at this point. Might as well rename him Captain Wacky.
– I like Homer’s blueprints for the human pyramid: just a big triangle.
– The various products at the Kwik-E-Mart are great: Sugar, Free Donuts, Honey-Glazed Cauliflower, and Choco-Blasted Baby Aspirin. Also Dr. Hibbert just appears in the store; if they’d had him at the counter or somewhere to establish he was there, it’d feel not as crammed in. Then for some reason when he gives Apu his card, there’s voice-over of Apu reading, “911?” softly for some reason.
– “Why don’t you file a class-action suit?” “Oh, yeah, like Erin Brockovich.” “The prostitute with a heart of gold.” Similar to the Lisa thing earlier, how would Bart know who Erin Brockovich is? I don’t buy it.
– There’s some nice bits of Marge going door-to-door; best of all being Disco Stu, who proceeds to do lines of sugar before booging down to “More More More” on a sugar high. Would have been funnier if he actually inhaled the stuff, but no way they could get away with that.
– Garth snapping in court and claiming he’ll kill everybody feels like such a hollow, pathetic imitation of Freddy Quimby doing the same in “The Boy Who Knew Too Much.”
– After the sugar ban, the police burn all sweets in town. They try to throw in some Butterfingers, but they’re not even singed (“Even the fire doesn’t want them.”) Butterfinger ended their contract with the show in 2001, so I guess this was their shot back at them. This show has always bit the hand that feeds, but this kind of felt really petty. Plus Butterfingers are delicious, fuck all y’all.
– Act three really is just a tour-de-force of stupid Homer shit: consciously licking a puddle of blood and Vapo-Rub, landing backwards on the lower deck, then on a whale, trying to use reverse-psychology on a bird, and “marking” his share of the sugar. Then he has a high-speed boat chase with the police, which is not tense at all or funny. Oh yeah, and Bart’s there too for some reason. Not really sure why.
– “Now that I think of it, I wildly exceeded my authority, and I declare the sugar ban over.” That’s how we resolve the story. That little thought was put into it. It’s the writers basically saying, “Oops,” and throwing that line in to fix the problem.

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18 responses to “277. Sweets and Sour Marge

  1. We’ve gotten to the point where I absolutely cannot remember these episodes anymore, even though I’m sure I watched them.

    • Guy Incognito

      Hell, I’ve probably only seen half of this season. The ones I have seen I can’t remember a single piece of.

    • I held on to this show for way too long. By this point, all of the episodes run together in my mind, as they are all forgettable messes. I don’t remember the plots from most of these, but I know I’ve seen them because i usually recognize a joke or two that Mike mentions.

  2. “Similar to the Lisa thing earlier, how would Bart know who Erin Brockovich is?”

    Because the writers have these awesome lines that have to get into the episode, whether any character would actually say it or not. I think you’ll notice this becomes a recurring theme. How would we know that the writers know who Erin Brockovich is unless Bart said it here?

    • Um, I think the joke is that Bart doesn’t know who she is, since he confuses her with Julia Roberts’s character from “Pretty Woman.”

      • Wow. I guess this bit stuck in my head cos I was sure Erin Brockovich WAS a prostitute who ended up in a law firm.

      • Still, Bart would never know about a sentimental movie of Richard Gere and Julia Roberts. It would have been a good Homer line instead. But they just gave it to Bart cause he basically got no personality trait anymore: “Eh, Bart’s not talked for a while.. give it to Bart”.

  3. Another Scully hallmark that Jean carried over for some asinine reason: the wacky action sequence ending that’s played straight instead of for laughs. Ugh.

    So many of Jean’s early episodes feel distinctively fanservice-y, with literally dozens of supporting and one-time characters thrown in for absolutely no reason. Just observe all the random Springfielders that appear in the human pyramid, just so the audience can say “Hey, it’s that guy!” It’s a trend that continues to this day, much to my displeasure.

  4. “The Springfield ball lands on a truck weigh station scale, where the record people do some quick calculations and laud them with a record: the World’s Fattest Town.”

    I don’t know what’s most absurd about this; the fact that they rolled like a ball, the fact that they happened to land right on a truck weigh station scale, or the fact that apparently other towns have done this as well, otherwise there would be no way to know which one was truly World’s Fattest Town. In conclusion, this might be the most ridiculous moment on the show yet, and that’s saying something considering Scully’s four seasons.

  5. There are people out there who don’t like butterfingers?

  6. Scully: “Miss me Yet?”

  7. “It’s a small line, but feels telling to me, how now Lisa is just the know-it-all; any time we need something explained or narrated, we have Lisa say it, regardless if it makes sense.”

    It kind of reminds me of how I always wondered how Lisa knew about the Oliver North trial enough to notice the transcript filling up sections of Bart’s “autobiography” from Bart Gets Famous.

    • I completely remember watching this episode for the first time. I remember the episode pretty much just ending and me saying “Wait, that’s it?!” It seemed like there was only enough to carry half an episode. It’s a far cry from episodes TEN YEARS LATER where story bits that couldn’t even fill up an Itchy & Scratchy bit couldn’t even stretch to fill two-thirds of an entire episode.

  8. No comments about the stupid runner involving the Oompa-Loompa? Though I guess if jockeys can be elves, Oompa-Loompas existing isn’t too far a stretch.

  9. “Garth is voiced by Ben Stiller, and I’m glad they gave him an interesting comic character to play. Oh wait, never mind, he’s just a generic evil corporate head who does things because he’s evil. Another celebrity wasted.”

    Maybe so – but certainly not to the same extent as Kathy Griffin was in “Bye Bye Nerdie”.

    At least Motherloving speaks a considerable number of lines, whereas so little comes out of Francine’s mouth that she’d have been much better off being voiced by Tress or Nancy.

    • That said, I do agree that Motherloving threatening to kill everyone in the courtroom feels like a very poor imitation of Freddy Quimby.

  10. I really didn’t think this episode was all that bad, honestly. It wasn’t great, but it was at least tolerable. The animation of the ball was pretty neat, and there were a few good lines. It’s also interesting to note that this episode was dedicated to Ron Taylor.

  11. Oh yeah, and Bart’s there too for some reason. Not really sure why.

    Zombie Bart is WACKY HOMER’s spunky sidekick.

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