(originally aired February 24, 2002)
It’s important when you’re writing a TV show, a movie, a song, anything, that you should… care about it. Or at the very least come across like you do. This has been a problem of recent years, but there are a few parts in this episode in particular that are really jarring to me; the show is so aimless and lackadaisical, and when the writers point out how stuff makes no sense, it just illuminates the laziness even more. This episode is kind of a first in that it literally has no story. There have been thin shows in the past, but this is the first one where I really couldn’t tell you what this episode is about. We open with an angry dog chasing Bart across town, who seems to only have an out for him. And that’s not just the first scene, that’s the entire first act. It’s almost like the Bart digging a hole thing at the start of “Homer the Moe,” except that was half the length, and was bizarrely intriguing; this is just empty, vacuous time-killing, a clear indication that the episode has nowhere to go.
Bart ends up meeting veteran Western actor Buck McCoy, voiced by Dennis Weaver, and develops a shining for him and cowboys in general. That’s basically act two. This episode feels really strange, they centered the whole show around Buck, as if he were a big star they had to cater to, and while Weaver is a known celebrity, it’s not like he’s big currently. The writers seem to find Buck a lot more interesting and entertaining than we do; some of the bits are amusing, but a lot of it feels very dry and boring. And again, there is no story to be had. There’s an odd runner of Homer feeling betrayed that Bart idolizes Buck instead of him, which feels kind of bizarre. It’s like a throwback to the very early seasons where Homer wanted his son’s respect more than anything, but after the complete desecration and tarnishing of his character up to this point, it doesn’t really make any sense. It’s just to grasp at anything to try and trick the audience into thinking something is happening.
So the closest I can grasp at a story here happens at the end of the second fucking act when Buck goes on Krusty’s show drunk and reveals he’s an alcoholic. Then Homer and Marge try to get him to sober up… for some reason. It kind of makes sense for Homer to step up to restore his son’s hero, but through this whole episode Marge has sat on the sidelines spouting hollow, expository lines (“I think Westerns are due for a comeback!”) The scene that really sticks out to me is when Buck leaves the rehab center, and says this to Marge: “Look, I worked long and hard, got rich and now I’m retired. Why shouldn’t I be able to drink all I want?” Excellent point. Buck’s not some sadsack old man desperate to reclaim his fame; he’s just an old actor who lived in the limelight and now is living a comfortable retirement. Marge responds, “Well, I don’t know. I just naturally assumed it was some of my business.” So, to translate, when asked what the point of this story is, the writers say, “We don’t know.” At that point what does any of this matter? I don’t even hate this episode; it’s like being mad at a kid who didn’t even bother writing answers on his test paper. I’m just disappointed.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The dog opening is astounding. Like, that’s really what you’re going to draw six minutes of material out of? And then they bring it back at the very very end for absolutely no reason? It’s hands down the worst first act of the series.
– “Little Grampa Simpson” on Abe’s childhood badge bothers me. It’s just a gag, but it always bugs me in the show when characters outside the family call Abe “Grampa.”
– There are some Buck bits I actually chuckled at: riding the horse the short distance to the laundry room, touting his films as good wholesome family entertainment (“No drugs, no nudity, no cussin’, just drinkin’, fightin’, and trippin’ horses with wires,”) getting excited about refried whiskey, and his in-show endorsement of Drunken Cowboy Whiskey (“I’m not sure I approve of selling whiskey to children.” “Well that was aimed at children who were already heavy drinkers.”)
– When we get to Brockman’s pathetic newscast and Apu’s singalong, I’m just exhausted. I can’t stress enough how this episode literally has no story. It’s twenty two minutes of filler, and no amount of them referencing their many flaws excuses them of that.
– Krusty and Buck have a momentary smalltalk before the show. Buck comments how much things have changed since his day, to which Krusty gruffly responds, “I don’t care…” My sentiments exactly.
– So Buck gets drunk and shoots Krusty in the stomach on stage. Does he get put up on charges? Arrested? Indited in any way. Nope! (“This is horrible! All my spit takes have blood in them!”)
– Homer’s Farrah Fawcett poster… my God. Any attempt at making this pathetic runner of Homer wanting to be his son’s hero genuine in any way plummets to the earth.
– The ending with the robbery makes absolutely no sense and is stupid in every which way, but it gives us the only two great lines in the show. First when the criminals attempt to thwart Buck (“I’m shooting at the lasso, but the bullets just go right through the middle!!” “It’s the ultimate weapon!”) Castalleneta’s read on the first guy is so panicked and shocked, it’s great. Then we get Buck’s outtro (“Goodbye, Bart! Never bother me again!”) It gets the idea across that Buck’s this old guy who never wanted to be bugged by this stupid kid, and makes him, and Homer and Marge, seem more like irritants to intruded on his life and tried to change him. If the episode commented on this at all or made that more of the point of the show, it would kind of work, but instead we get this uninspired schlock. Way to go, writers.