(originally aired December 1, 2002
There are times writing about certain episodes when words start to escape me, because I just have no idea what the fuck is happening in certain scenes. Or, in cases like this, entire acts. The show had taken some obligatory pot shots at reality TV recently, but here is their full episode of it, and it couldn’t be more bizarre and ridiculous… in the worst way possible, definitely in one of the worst episodes of the series. We start with our mostly tangential opening with the Simpsons getting sky box tickets at a hockey game in exchange for Homer not suing the power plant for getting injured on the job. The box is so incredibly opulent, why focus on the game when you can get a massage or dip in the jacuzzi. So Homer and Bart begin to act pompous and holier-than-thou, which I guess is funny because the environment changes their entire demeanor? This kind of “joke” will occur later, but I just don’t get it. Homer acts like he is rich and earned this right to be above commoners, but he can’t actually think that, can he? So is he play-acting? I haven’t a clue, really.
After helping a player make a shot (using her hockey knowledge from “Lisa on Ice,” a nice callback), a Russian player gives Lisa his hockey stick, which gets mounted on her wall. Unfortunately, the stick was filled with dangerous termites, which start eating away at the house. It will take six months to exterminate the whole house, leaving the Simpsons homeless, and with every hotel in town booked to boot. So where do they end up? At a TV studio looking to be on a brand new show, where a family gets to live in a house, but must live like it’s 1895. Yep, that’s their only option. Why not live with Flanders? Patty and Selma? Not ideal options for Homer, but hey, that could provide some comedy. So whatever, the family are in this 1895 house, and everything about it is not funny. Plus, I don’t quite understand why people would like watching this show. Reality TV is all about sensationalism, quick cuts, music stings, what’s hip and new. Would modern viewers care about a family living in an old-timey house? It’s like a reality show on the History Channel.
After suffering for a bit, the family gets used to living like the olden days, and starts to speak and act like they were back then too, for no reason. The network needs to spice up the show, so they bring in David Lander, aka Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley to live in the house and taze people. Was this a thing on reality TV where they’d bring in washed up celebrities to be on shows with regular people? I dunno, but one scene later, they airlift the entire house off the foundations and dump it into a river. And the house floats perfectly straight up somehow and survives mostly intact down a waterfall. Then it collapse upon stopping at a bank. So what is happening? Where the fuck are they? The Simpsons just resign themselves to wandering around, not knowing where they are or what’s happening. I guess the show now is just a family lost and confused. Then they run into some other people, victims of a Survivor clone who were lost and never recovered, wanting revenge on the network heads that stranded them there. One of them says they’re in the Amazon, so I guess we finally know where we are. So they flew that goddamn house all the way to South America? Anyway, they revolt against the crew, and then they’re back home. I really don’t even know how to comment, because I don’t understand what exactly happened in this third act. Was there a point to this that I missed? I find it hard to believe that there is, but if someone can enlighten me, please do. But what I did understand from this show I absolutely hated. Complete garbage.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The sky box luxuries are exaggerated enough, then they have Larry Holmes there for no apparent reason. And it’s just ridiculous since Bart off-handedly mentions him, then he appears immediately.
– Moe, Barney and Otto notice Homer up in the sky box, and logically decide to get on each others shoulders to reach him. Bart and Homer comment from above like pompous arrogant assholes for some reason (“Heads up, dad. Here comes the scum.” “Why can’t they just be happy for my success?”) Homer then dumps scalding hot fudge on them, something that certainly would give them horrific burns, and would get him kicked out of the arena. But, nope.
– I don’t like that it’s Raphael, the sarcastic guy, who’s the terrible exterminator who gnaws at a table like a termite. Normally he’s competent at his jobs, they could have just made this some other guy.
– They recreate the King of the Hill opening, but it’s just like the Sopranos bit a few episodes ago, where it’s not really a parody, as it’s just them recreating something note for note.
– I get them the family not wanting to live with the noise at Lenny’s, but they could have stayed with Comic Book Guy given they had no other options. I’d love to see that episode. I also like that CBG has some kind of meta awareness, referring to the Simpsons as “our favorite family.”
– “I’m Mitch Hardwell, creator of the 1895 Challenge, and by ‘creator,’ I mean I saw it on Dutch television, and tweaked the title.” So yeah, network executives steal other peoples’ ideas. But don’t worry, if you missed that joke, they’re going to repeat it again… twice.
– Bill Cosby auditions for the show, who is not nearly as funny as the bit from “Children From a Lesser Clod.” One executive comments, “We need a family that hasn’t been on TV forever. Let’s try the Simpsons.” They’re thrilled with them having a tiff at the dinner table (“They go to pieces over nothing! They’re perfect for reality TV!”) In the shot we see Marge and Lisa glaring at each other. What? For what reason? That’s the thing, this series has been marketed as a dysfunctional family, but it really isn’t. The only nutty cog is Homer, everyone else is generally normal. It makes no sense to me.
– To judge whether the show is doing good or bad, we cut to the residents of the retirement home watching, which makes sense that they’d like it since it’s all old timey. But is this the show’s demographic? Geriatrics? I guess it must be.
– Homer walks outside one morning, only to step into a big river. The other members of the family rush out to see what’s happening (“Lisa! Explain!” “I guess the network made our show more exciting by dumping the house in a river!”) Right, that’s a conclusion I would come to immediately. I think other thoughts would strike me first. Like, “What the fuck is happening?” “Holy shit, the house is in a fucking river!” “How did we not notice that the house was lifted into the sky and brought here?” And so forth. Homer then goes back in the house and has a dialogue with the network exec through the confessional camera, even though it’s seemingly just a one-way feed. But whatever.
– I still don’t know what to say about the third act. What aggravated me most is that we’ve never told what’s going on; we don’t know where the family is. They could be just outside of town, and therefore, could just up and leave if they wanted. If the network exec told them they dumped them in the Amazon, or explained whatever new show they were planning to do with them, then I could understand. But instead it’s like… whatever. Bart makes an off-the-cuff comment, “Is it just me, or are you guys getting sick of crazy adventures?” It isn’t just you, Bart. It isn’t just you.