293. How I Spent My Strummer Vacation

(originally aired November 10, 2002)
Now this is truly a historic show… as in it’s the last one Mike Scully ever wrote. He had last season’s premiere episode, which was garbage, and wouldn’t you know it, this one ain’t much better. I have a lot to talk about with show, but let’s get something out of the way first. This episode is about Homer attending “Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp,” a one week program held right outside of Springfield where adults receive superstar training from the Rolling Stones and other infamous artists. To complain that this story makes no sense is an absolute fool’s errand. Why even bother waste my time complaining about it? The reality of this series has already been shattered, so this doesn’t even feel that egregious to me. I guess when you have such huge guest stars, you feel the need to really showcase them and put them on a mantle, but look back at “Stark Raving Dad,” where the show took the biggest celebrity in the world and made him a hulking, bald, ugly mental patient. Now we have the Rolling Stones on and Homer fawning how awesome they are (well, most of them.) But whatever, when I gave up on the story, all I was hoping was that characterization made sense and that it was funny. I got neither.

Let’s rewind a bit and highlight this episode’s fatal flaw. Homer ends up so wasted that not only can he not remember how he got home one night, but he also spaced that he was filmed on a show “Taxicab Confessions.” He and his family watch as he drunkenly admits that he could have had a rock star life if it weren’t for his goddamn wife and annoying kids, which the other Simpsons take to heart. So what happens after this? They send Homer to the camp, and not only that, empathize with him (“Even though what you said about us was incredibly thoughtless and hurtful, you had a point.”) So in honor of him going to work and actually being a decent father… sometimes, they blow their vacation fund on this camp. Then Homer acts like a loudmouth party rocker during the camp for some reason. Since when is it his dream to be a rock star? It’s more of the kinetic high-energy Homer of later seasons; what happened to the lazy son-of-a-bitch I know and love? So then when camp is over, he’s crestfallen. The whole first minute of act three is him whining and sobbing like a four-year-old; I don’t think I’ve thought this before, but Homer is absolutely pathetic here. Not a good quality for your lead to have.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richards basically feel sorry for Homer and allow him to be a guest at their benefit concert the following night. Homer manages to welch a bunch of front-row tickets for his family and friends, and is all ready to rock out on stage! Except the musicians just want him to do the mic check. Why the fuck did Homer think he would be performing? The whole ending makes absolutely no sense, we get the sad music as Homer walks on stage to the crowd cheering, but we feel absolutely no sympathy because Homer is completely deluded, yearning for a dream that we never knew he fucking had, and makes no sense for him to have. Then he does the mic check, and the crowd is disappointed, for some reason, even Marge for some reason, who I thought would be smart enough to realize that Homer was not going to perform (“Why is he performing the duties of a roadie?”) Then the Stones prove to be just as moronic; rather than pull Homer off stage, they drive a giant fucking Satan head around the stage and end up crashing into the audience. Then they have to apologize to Homer. That’s what this whole show is: Homer being an inconsiderate, hyperactive moron, and everyone else having to apologize to him. I wasn’t as pissed off as I was with “Parent Rap,” but this episode is just abysmal, and a real uncreative waste of such high profile guest stars.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Sympathetic Moe of later years can go two ways for me. I kind of like showing his crushing desire to be accepted in certain situations, but feeling bad for not giving Homer a beer without paying? And then offering him a free beer? The man who would even give one to Iranian hostages? I don’t think so.
– Homer arrives home, only to find that it’s dinner time. He’s quite confused (“Wait, was last night the night we set the clock ahead eight hours?”)
– I don’t know what I feel about the Disco Stu bit. Him admitting he hates disco is sort of like the jokes we’ve had with ancillary characters in the past (“Yarrr, I hate the sea and everything in it,”) but I dunno. I just feel kind of bummed that Disco Stu is apparently really depressed in his lot in life, and I know how fucked up that is for me to be concerned with the well-being of a tertiary character, but I love Disco Stu. I just want him to be happy! Is that so wrong?
– The editing of the family watching Taxicab Confessions is so sporadic, we cut back and forth way too many goddamn times. We cut back twice to have the family laud Homer for being so nice, then like four more times when things start to go sour. You really only need half of those cuts to get the message across, instead it just lays it on way too thick. The family loves Homer! Now the family hates Homer! Yeah, we get it.
– The family acts evil and laughs maniacally when Homer gets in the car for no real reason. The fake-out is drawn out so long and handled so clumsily.
– Here’s the only complaint I’ll give about the fantasy camp. All the other campers are known faces of course. Here’s the line-up: Otto, Barney, Apu, Wiggum, Herman, Louie, Kirk Van Houten, Dr. Hibbert, Frink and Gil. Now let’s put aside the notion that a lot of those characters have seemingly no inclination towards rock ‘n’ roll. A one-week instructional course taught by the Rolling Stones has to cost a pretty penny. I’d say even more than the Simpsons can afford, but let’s say the vacation money covers it. I would be generous in saying maybe half of the people there could afford it. But completely broke characters like Otto, Kirk and Gil? Homer’s band at the end consists of only the first four characters, so you don’t even need the others. They have no lines anyway. And the others have barely any. What a bunch of crap.
– There are a few choice lines here I laughed at, first one from Mick Jagger (“Remember, rule number one: there are no rules! Rule number two: no outside food.”)
– The bit with drugged up insane Homer in the morning may be the most awkward scene in the series’ history. It’s so completely bizarre, out-of-character and unfunny, combined with we’re just as uncomfortable during the scene as the other characters.
– My favorite bit in the whole show is definitely Elvis Costello’s twinging eyebrow, and his shock when Homer rips off his hat and glasses (“My image!”)
– Really, they filled the camp with recognizable faces, but Homer gets 85% of the lines. Why include them at all if you’re not going to have them talk?
– I like the musicians have to get home to do menial chores (“My lawn’s not going to mow itself!” “And I’ve got to put up the storm windows. Winter’s coming!”)
– “I was so close to being a rock star that now there’s a chance it might not happen!” Homer is truly a lunatic in this; why should we feel sympathy for a character this deluded?
– Mike Scully, and two other characters who look like they could be staff, appears waiting on line for the men’s room at the concert.
– Homer escorts his family to their front-row seats. Marge comments, “I’m so proud of you, Homie!” Proud of him? You were there when you saw your husband cry like a little bitch until he got what he wanted. What the fuck is there to be proud of? Why does everyone assume Homer’s going to get on stage and be a rock star? Wouldn’t they care more about seeing the Rolling fucking Stones perform than this fat idiot?
– I hate everything about this ending… except (“Test one, test two, test three, test four, you test me like the water in El Salvador!” “Wooo! El Salvador!”)
– Actually, the biggest laugh I got was at the end when Richards takes a drag off his cigarette while Jaggar is talking. He blows out smoke, then it just holds on his open mouth. So while the scene goes on for another three more seconds, Richards is just standing there wall-eyed with his mouth open. It’s kind of telling when my favorite part of the episode is an animation mistake.


20 responses to “293. How I Spent My Strummer Vacation

  1. I’ve always been a little off-put by Homer’s drunken confession. It’s been shown in the past that Homer is not pleased with his lot in life, stuck in a dead-end job he doesn’t really care about and providing for kids who don’t respect him, but he’s never out-and-out hated his family, for fuck’s sake. If anything, the fact that he keeps up his job at the power plant proves that he’s willing to do what it takes to provide for them, no matter what. Here, he says his wife and kids are a burden to him, and they all roll over and say “Good point, Captain Wacky! Here, spend a week living it up with big-name rock stars! We won’t stand in your way!”

    Mike Scully’s name is listed as executive producer on this one. I’m guessing he volunteered to do one extra at the end of the production run, as it often happens on this show, and you can totally tell this is one of his. Jerkass Homer, tons of pointless guest stars, a crazy action ending…this would fit right into Season 11 or 12.

  2. i remember when the 300th episode aired, entertainment weekly posted their best 25 episodes of all-time list, and since they clearly felt obligated to have at least one modern episode, stuck this piece of shit alongside the likes of “rosebud”, “marge vs. the monorail” and “who shot mr. burns”

    • Yeah, when it comes to post-classic era episodes in those “best episodes” lists in EW or TV Guide, they tend to confuse “best” with “had the most guest stars”.

  3. You know that terrible webcomic Control, Alt, Delete? This show reminds me A LOT of it. The main character (Ethan) is a petulant manbaby who gets into idiotic and CRAAAAZY predicaments. The side characters (his friend and his wife) always bend over backwards for him and clean up his oopsies. They never once yell at him for being a stupid, dangerous asshole who doesn’t care about anybody but himself. Ethan/Homer acts more pouty and childish when he doesn’t get his way and in the end his friends all apologize to him for some reason.

    Now if only they had a Very Special Episode where Marge has a miscarriage…

  4. Elvis Costello’s bits were my favorite thing in this episode too. Even as a 12 year old when I just barely knoew who he was, the “My image” line got a big laugh out of me. Everything else is a big waste of time.

    I’m not sure how a guy who wrote episodes like Lisa’s Rival and Lisa on Ice ended up turning out crap like this. The funny thing is since then he’s written a few episodes of Parks and Recreation, and they’ve all been pretty good. He had to become part of another show to gain back his writing skills.

  5. I really hate how bland the celebrity character designs have gotten over time. Look at the Stones up there and compare them with Ringo Starr’s design in “Brush With Greatness.”

  6. “Why the fuck did Homer think he would be performing?”

    I love this. It’s not so much a plot hole as it is a plot chasm. Homer can’t play an instrument, he certainly can’t play Rolling Stones songs, he’s never rehearsed with the band…yet he thinks he’s going to play! “Then he does the mic check, and the crowd is disappointed, for some reason” Yeah, why would a crowd that no doubt paid a pretty penny to see the Rolling Stones be disappointed that some fat idiot who can’t play a fucking instrument didn’t get to play? There is no thought put into these episodes anymore. Good luck getting through the rest of this series.

  7. Guy Incognito

    Still can’t believe Scully was the one who came up with the brilliant “See My Vest” song yet wrote crap like this.

  8. I sometimes see this one cited as one of the better post-classic episodes, and I really don’t understand why. I think those people really only remember it for the second act, which is at least a somewhat fun sequence of okay jokes about Homer annoying rock stars. The first and third acts are just dreadful, though.

  9. Is it just me, or did they really cram the guest stars in this episode?

    • It seemed to start a trend in the post-classic era where the writers thought “Hey, more guest stars equals more ratings!” They’ve pulled the same stunt numerous times since – I still remember Season 16’s abominable “Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass”, which shoehorned Tom Brady, Warren Sapp, Yao Ming, Michelle Kwan, and LeBron James into the plot for absolutely no reason at all.

  10. Ah yes, I just watched that episode last Friday.

  11. Loved Mick Jagger yelling like Mr. Spacely when Homer’s guitar smashes through his window: “SIMP-SONNNNNN!!!!”

  12. The storyline in this is awful, and Homer’s “testin’ my love!” song is cringeworthy. But it does contain a few really good lines:
    – “Cheer up, Homer, it’s only rock ‘n’ roll camp”/”But I like it!”
    – “There’s lots of other fun instruments, like bass!”

  13. What the fuck is Flanders doing at a Rolling Stones gig?? Their songs are about fornication and having sympathy for the devil!

    • Yeah, i recall Flanders encouraging Rod and Todd to play football because it would keep their minds off of such evils as rock music and girls.

  14. Terrible episode, start to finish.

  15. Dreadful episode, plot and characters make no sense whatsoever.
    I only liked Costello, and that cheesy Mick Jagger yell “Simp-soooon!”.

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