291. Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge

(originally aired May 22, 2002)
A serviceable set-up and overall premise gets squandered when the show gets to its third act realizing it really has nowhere to go, so throws on a “climactic” ending and calls it quits. But I actually didn’t mind everything that preceded it; most of it isn’t fantastic, but it certainly is a lot better than a lot of the shit we’ve seen this season. A massive heat wave strikes Springfield, giving us a series of gags, a fair amount of them hitting their marks. Homer of course plugs in one thing too many, causing a town-wide blackout, which of course results in a massive riot, filled with looting and destruction. The police force, of course, are of absolutely no help. Among those affected is Lisa, whose Malibu Stacey dolls are stolen, and Homer vows to get them back. Him standing up for Lisa kind of feels like “Hungry, Hungry Homer,” except it works better here because it fits in with the story more cohesively, and returning stolen items makes more sense than getting one stupid piece from a Blocko set that is purposely left out of each set.

Feeling the rush of doing good, Homer decides to start his own home security company SpringShield, with Lenny and Carl as his fellow officers. Unqualified and ignorant? But of course, but they soon become the most trusted protectors in Springfield. How? I’m not entirely sure. We don’t really have any scenes of the three working or doing anything. Homer returns the items he stole from Flanders, we see their commercial, then we see them basking in the town’s glory. It’s like there are scenes missing of them actually doing their job and earning their accolades. So much material left unfulfilled, of them getting tip-offs and information, working the beat, scoping out crimes… instead we just skip ahead to Quimby outing Wiggum and handing over the precinct to SpringShield. After one last bust, Springfield is declared crime-free. How did Homer do all this? Later he comments how he actually wasn’t lazy and incompetent for once in his life, but we never really see why or how. The story could have had more resonance if we saw something like Homer’s passion for assisting the downtrodden made him really good at his job, but even then that seems so alien to the lazy oafish Homer we love, but it would have been something, at least.

Said last bust was Fat Tony and his associates, who for some reason are trying to pass off ferrets as poodles with cotton balls. Though he had been taken to jail the scene before, Tony announces over the radio that he intends to mow down Homer the next day, and calls in his fellow mobsters from Jersey to assist. You can see where this is going: a Sopranos parody! This marks a first for the show: “parodying” a currently popular show/movie/whatever. And when I say “parody,” I mean just duplicate. They have Tony driving to the Simpson house a la the Sopranos opening, with the same music and everything… but it’s not really a parody. It’s just them doing the Sopranos opening, there’s no commentary on it or satire, it’s just a reference. Something I vehemently decry a show like Family Guy doing, this show has been doing quite a lot of for the most recent decade or so. So Homer faces down seven armed gangsters, how does he get out of it? A random gunman disarms them all! Who was it? Sweet little Maggie, armed with a rifled up in her bedroom. A pretty sorry deus ex machina, but honestly, after the fiasco ending of “The Frying Game,” anything looks logical in comparison. As ridiculous of a premise as it was, I still think this one could have worked, but it just kind of fell apart as it went along.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Because FOX is very silly, I remember they dubbed “Frying Game” as the season finale, then aired this one on Wednesday as a special “bonus” episode. Might as well have aired them on the same night.
– After so many instances in a row seeing him weak and wimpy, it’s a breath of fresh air to get a classic Burns line, when Quimby asks him if his plant can handle the recent surge in power use (“We’ve siphoned off extra power from the orphanage. Who are they going to complain to? Their parents?”)
– I always laugh at Homer’s panicked “Jingle Bell what?!” when the power goes out and the Santa robot stops his song mid-verse.
– I like the bit of Lenny and Carl talking on the phones to each other and colliding their cars, but then it’s dampened by them just getting out with no reaction and resolving to just up and start stealing shit.
– I love the Kent Brockman/Arnie Pye feud (“This city has exploded in a fireball of pent up rage!” “I think what the viewers want to know, Arnie, is my house okay?” “You mean is your giant castle okay, Kent?!” “Don’t hate me because I bought at the right time, Arnie!” “When’s my right time, Kent? When’s my right time?!”)
– At the wake of the riot, Quimby announces the formation of a blue ribbon committee, which immediately placates the crowd and they all leave. I guess that’s the joke, since the committee is never heard of or mentioned again, but maybe like a contented smirk from Quimby at the end would have sold it better.
– There’s a shocking amount of classic Homer here, with him actually acknowledging that he did something wrong and wanting to do something about it. I love his back-and-forth with the Wooly Bully owner (“You sell hats?” “Yeah.” “To people?” “Maybe.” “People with heads?” “Sometimes.”) Then Jimbo walks right into his clutches in the most convenient of ways (“You’re going to juvie.” “But I just got out of juvie!” “Good, because I need directions.”)
– Classic bit with Apu’s silent alarm (“SILENT ALARM ACTIVATED!”)
– Homer plows through a long list of his previous occupations as a goof, and of course about eighty percent of them are from the last five seasons.
– The commercial’s got some good lines in it (“Have no fear! SpringShield’s present!” “Monster put in wallet.”) I also like Homer and Marge’s commentary after it (“You know, the old lady’s apartment was actually Lenny’s. We just used a different duvet cover.” “Well they’re both lovely.”)
– Homer pleading for help at the church, Lenny and Carl locking themselves in jail, the whole third act just feels very haphazard. It just doesn’t feel right, I dunno…
– As dumb as it is, part of me kind of likes Maggie shooting the mobsters. For one thing, it’s a large callback to when Homer leaves his gun in Maggie’s crib from “Mom and Pop Art,” though if that episode hadn’t existed, it wouldn’t affect this one at all. I also like Homer’s comment “She’s just like Clark Kent. When there’s lots of excitement, she’s nowhere to be found.”

Season 13 Final Thoughts
So after slogging through some of the worst episodes to come out of the Scully tenure, we move onto Al Jean’s reign, and any hope that he might elevate the series in quality a bit was pretty much dashed instantaneously. In fact, the show may have even shifted down a bit. As bad as Scully shows were, at least they had a distinct tone and feel to them. The Jean episodes all feel like a wash of attempted sentiment, self-reference and characters being yammering joke boxes. The cast continues to feel less like real people and more as caricatures, spewing lines that feel written instead of natural, the comedy is more broad and punchy, and the stories are completely lazy, and worse disregarded altogether at times. I was shocked at the sloppy nature of a lot of these episodes, I mean these people should be professionals writing this show, but there will not only be gaping plot holes, but openly pointing out the plot holes and laughing at the audience about it. I’ve basically given up any hope of a return to form; at the very least when I expect from these seven seasons left is for an average level of humor, but even that I’m feeling I’m asking too much.

The Best
“Half-Decent Proposal,” “Tales From the Public Domain,” “I Am Furious (Yellow)”

The Worst
“The Parent Rap,” “Homer the Moe,” “A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love,” “Brawl in the Family,” “The Frying Game” I guess I’ll also give “Gump Roast” a (dis)honorable mention as well.

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18 responses to “291. Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge

  1. Oh yeah, this one has some good bits, actually. It doesn’t work as a whole but it has a lot of isolated funny bits like parts of the commercial and SILENT ALARM ACTIVATED.

  2. Guy Incognito

    I liked this episode better when it was named “Homer The Vigilante”.

    • Beaten. This feels like a horrendously inferior remake of that classic.

    • Holy shit, I was actually going to add another comment saying “does this episode remind anyone else of HOMER THE VIGILANTE?” Beatenx2.

    • Same here. In fact, the only episodes I liked from this season were Treehouse of Horror XII (next season’s Treehouse of Horror was when it went downhill for me, though some of the latter-day ones, like the one with the “Cat in the Hat” parody are kinda funny in a dumb, “Family Guy”-lite way) and I Am Furious (Yellow). I used to like “Latest Gun in the West,” the one with the sugar ban, “She of Little Faith,” and “Little Girl on the Big Ten,” but they’re the type of episodes that aren’t as funny upon repeat viewings.

  3. It only gets worse from here. I watched Seasons 15 and 16 this week and they were dreadful. Season 15 had 3 really good and 2 decent episodes, but 16 could only produce 1 decent episode in its entirety.

  4. “I guess I’ll also give “Gump Roast” a (dis)honorable mention as well.”

    So you CAN spell dishonorable without honorable.

  5. Does anyone else think this episode feels like it could have been the series finale? There’s a ton of quick appearances from minor characters and callbacks to previous episodes (most obviously, Homer’s laundry list of his previous jobs) that feel very much like the show preparing to sign off for good. Obviously, that didn’t happen, but it definitely has that air about it. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.

    Anyway, I generally have to agree – despite being largely derivative of “Homer the Vigilante”, this one’s got a lot of bright spots, but weakens in its third act. And I’ve never really liked this implication that Maggie is some kind of sharpshooter. It’s like they took the implied joke from the very end of “Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 2” and made it one of her primary character traits. We’ve seen her with weapons after this, too. I think it’s “The Monkey Suit” from Season 17 where she pulls a switchblade on Marge, a deplorable gag if I ever heard one.

    • Yeah, I was going to mention that. It almost feels like since it was “established” in the classic years, they feel they can get away with gags involving Maggie using weapons or being potentially violent. Except the point in “Who Shot Mr. Burns” was that it was a complete accident; since the gun went off in Maggie’s lap, she could technically be called the shooter, in a wonderfully brilliant twist. Now from that she has bloodlust, I guess. I don’t mind it here, but later gags will get more and more annoying, or even disturbing, like the one you mentioned.

      • There was also the bit at the end of “Itchy and Scratchy and Marge” where she shot the dart gun at the photo of Homer.

        Still, the joke only works if used sparingly and with a large dose of ambiguity as to whether or not it was total accident/coincidence.

        I really think the current crop of writers have no idea how comedy or plot structures work.

  6. At the time this aired, I also felt like this would make for a decent series finale. Not a great finale, of course. But a finale, nonetheless.

  7. Really, you liked the line “Monster put in wallet.”?

  8. forbidden donut

    This is probably one of my favorite Zombie Simpsons episodes, but the Maggie as shooter ending was one of the most hacky deux ex machina endings ever. This is an egregious Chekov’s Rule violation, you can’t just fire a gun in the 3rd act, without first putting the gun under the baby’s crib in the 1st act. They could have had a 5-second scene in the beginning where a looter breaks in and Maggie steals his gun or something (stil absurd, but better than nothing at all).

    I didn’t think of the Mom and Pop Art callback before, but it’s an episode from 3 years prior, and I’m not sure the writers even intended that continuity.

  9. I always loved Homer jamming out to Radar Love when Fat Tony requests it on the radio. There’s a nice little bit of animation with Maggie bopping along too which is really sweet.

  10. I forgot to mention, the long scene where Homer mentions all the ridiculous jobs he has is really sad, but strangely hilarious, to me.

  11. Fat Tony: Johnny Tightlips can you see the shooter?
    Johnny: I see a lot of things.
    Fat Tony: You know you could be more helpfull.

    Great!

  12. It is really stupid for nohomers to say that this season’s onwards are a return to form. In reality, it can’t be any worse

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