Monthly Archives: August 2012

321. Marge vs. Singles, Seniors, Childless Couples and Teens and Gays

(originally aired January 4, 2004)
Stories are getting thinner and thinner nowadays, but it’s an entirely different case when I have no idea what’s going on. This episode concerns two lobbied initiatives getting on the town ballot, except we’re never really told what exactly they are and how they affect anything. Everything is kept absurdly vague to make room for forced and lame gags about self-righteous anti-motherhood women and mudracking ads. But first, our dumb opening. Maggie becomes absolutely obsessed with children’s musician Roofi (see, like Raffi, but spelled differently!) and Marge takes her to his concert in Springfield, a completely packed affair taking place in Cletus’ backyard. It’s a veritable infant Woodstock, with babies dancing around naked, passing around laced pacifiers and suckling on any breast in sight. It was more than a little disconcerting to me. A sudden storm causes all the babies to throw a tantrum, resulting in Roofi cancelling the show. They then cause wonton destruction, destroying the stage and Cletus’ home, with a reported one million dollar price tag. Forget exactly how two year olds managed to wreck so much havoc with their mothers present, but a million dollars for Cletus’ crap shack? Come on.

Despite the fact that Springfield has had many mob-related incidents concerning adults, this latest one just tears it. Quimby sides with Lindsay Naegle, who forms an anti-youth group hellbent on making families lives difficult, from cancelling school bus service, burning all children’s toys, and ordering police to lightly taze kids acting up in public. This all sounds like insanely vindictive and cruel behavior… because it is. The most disappointing thing is that there’s a shred of a good topic within this episode, on how many laws cater to the safety and well being of children to the annoyance and possible detriment of adults, and Marge coming to the defense for the sake of her family. But this episode doesn’t have a brain in its head, and is much more content with silly absurd montages than crafting a thoughtful story.

Marge enacts her own initiative to be put on the upcoming ballot. What is it for? I’ve no clue, but I’m guessing it’s for the opposite of Naegle’s. But what is her’s? The problem is that everything’s been made so jokey and unrealistic that I don’t understand what the stakes are. Marge is really all in on this and is emotionally invested in her cause, except I don’t know what exactly she’s fighting for or what the ramifications are if she loses. Will people be banned from procreating? Will all people under eighteen be banned from Springfield? Those are extreme examples, but at least I can be on board for the story if I know the risks. The ending is just as bewildering, as Bart and Lisa enact a plan for the kids of Springfield to hug dissenting voters on the way to the polls, causing all of the child-less citizens to collapse to the ground in a diseased fit. Lisa comments that all the single people had no immunity toward the love of children. So what, is this like the dumb ending to “Bye Bye Nerdy,” that kid germs are toxic to people who hate kids? Is that why, it’s chemical? I don’t know if that’s it, and frankly I don’t care. Another episode I just can’t hate because I’m just confused by it. The writing on this show continues to fall apart.

Tidbits and Quotes
– We open with a parody of Steve Irwin, and all I could think of is how much better South Park dealt with him on an episode five years prior (“So what I’m gonna do is sneak up on it, and jam my thumb it its butthole! This should really piss it off! Oh, yeah, that pissed it off alright!”)
– Flipping through channels, we hear a bit of King of the Hill (“Bobby, I got propane in my urethra.”) Hank Azaria does Hank, a pretty shoddy impression to be honest, but it’s kind of a hard voice to do.
– The entire first act of the episode focuses on Maggie, who then disappears for the rest of the show. Couldn’t she have been involved somehow? Like maybe her cuteness ultimately melts the hearts of those cold, soulless single people and changes their minds? Anything? Wait, she does appear later; she throws up in Marge’s handbag, which causes Naegle to scoff at her more. Wonderful.
– The baby riot is just way too fucking silly: the news chirons (Babies to Mayor: ‘Wah Wah,’) Kent on the phone with their “leader,” it’s too fucking stupid to take seriously at all, in what’s supposed to the catalyst for our story.
– Smithers holds up the banner at the end, representing the ‘gay,’ of course. I mean, honestly, just come out and say he’s gay. Don’t keep feeding us this bullshit, it’s clear they just want him to be their gay stereotype now, just be fucking honest about it.
– The whole anti-kid thing makes no sense how they present it: instead of listing off some real problems, Luigi complains about having to give out children’s menus, and Sideshow Mel gripes about the quality of the school plays, which he doesn’t have to pay for, or go to at all because he has no kids.
– I chuckled at Pimply Faced Teen joining the mob, his voice finally lowering (“It’s time to throw away childish things… and become a man.”)
– The gag with everyone disappearing from Luigi’s is alright too: everyone but Marge bolts when she announces her campaign needs money, then Marge bolts when Luigi tells her she’s stuck with the bill, then Luigi bolts when the Department of Immigration arrives with a few questions.
– Dreadful bit with the devil shyster from big tobacco wanting to sign Marge’s initiative. This show has done impossible, fantastical gags in the past, so it’s not like I can bitch about that, but every gag has its context and rhythm, and if it works, I laugh, and if it doesn’t, I don’t. But here, the man handing over a pen with human souls in it, and literally descending into the depths of hell right in front of Marge was just too much. Reminds me of The Critic when a sickeningly saccharine replacement critic for Roger Ebert is revealed to be Satan, but it works within that show.
– Burns ends up signing Marge’s petition, in support of children’s organs (“Oh, unfenced backyard pools, where would I be without you?”) This for some reason causes other people to sign up, thinking that if rich people support something, then it must be good. But rich, diabolically evil people? Whatever.
– I like Homer standing up for Marge (“No one messes with my Mrs. I’ll come down on those guys like the garage door on Bart’s bike!”) but his commercial is pretty laugh-free and kinda stupid (“Visit our web site: We’re not affiliated, we’re just piggy-backing on their message board.”)

320. ‘Tis the Fifteenth Season

(originally aired December 14, 2003)
I still remain bewildered as to why the writers seem content in writing Homer as an asshole. But it’s not even like his character is consistently dicky, from scene to scene he can run the gambit of being insensitive, callous, ignorant, infantile… now, these are traits that classic Homer also inhabits, but the key difference here is the lack of a human soul. Homer may fuck shit up at home, or allow horrible things to happen due to his inattentiveness, but he’ll work tooth and nail to get it fixed for the good of his family. He may go about it the entirely incorrect way, but his heart is always in the right place, fueled by his love for his wife and kids. Look no further than the very first episode “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” where we see Homer do everything within his power to provide a perfect Christmas for his family. That Homer is long dead, as now we have selfish Homer, who upon falling into a bunch of money, splurges it on an extravagant, worthless gift for himself. When Lisa asks why he did it, he responds, “If I’m happy, I’m less abusive to the rest of you!” He’s less of a patriarch and more like the family’s jerkoff housemate at this point.

An iteration of “A Christmas Carol” convinces Homer to change his selfish ways, so he vows to be the nicest guy in town, doing good deeds everywhere he can, which sparks some jealous from Flanders. So, basically it’s a low rent version of “Homer Loves Flanders.” None of Homer’s actions feel genuine whatsoever, it seems it’s more of obligation to save his own ass from scorn. He engages dueling collection plates at mass with Flanders, collecting a much bigger till, and has the smuggest fucking look on his face when he walks off arms crossed with Lovejoy. This couldn’t pale more in comparison; Homer unintentionally stealing Flanders’ thunder and it slowly eating away at him is much more interesting than this. Here, Homer is Mr. Wonderful and succeeds at all his charitable efforts because the story demands it, even going so far as building a fucking ice rink in his backyard. Homer had two dollars to spend on a Christmas tree, now he has the money to build that?

There’s really not much story to be had, as a lot of this show is filled with TV parodies and lengthening music montages, none of which are particularly funny. As a final charitable effort, Flanders gets gifts for everyone in town, and misconstruing Lisa’s words, Homer decides to steal all the gifts so the people can enjoy a non-commerical Christmas, basically just an excuse for them to do a Grinch parody. So despite having committed hundreds of burglaries, Homer gets off scot-free in the end of course. The town is out for his blood, Flanders defends him, claiming he’s partially responsible, which I’ll buy because he’s Flanders, then Homer distracts the crowd with a bright shining star in the sky, Flanders reads from the Bible, they get their presents back, and that’s the end. I really don’t understand the ending. Or most of the episode, for that matter. Homer was once a character you truly cared about, who felt real and you hoped would succeed. Then he started to do stupid, reckless shit and you started to hate him. But now we’re at the point where a lot of what he does just plain confuses me. He’s just this anything-goes character they can have do whatever they need for whatever scene. But none of this is new information. At some point these reviews are going to become somewhat redundant, because all this shit’s going to start running together.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Comic Book Guy dumping out his entire register for the Joe DiMaggio card is not nearly as funny as the backpedaling of his excitement about Mrs. Prince’s box of priceless Star Wars memorabilia from “Worst Episode Ever.”
– Lots of claymation in this episode, with the Jimmy Stewart Xmas special and the California Prunes commercial. The ending of lifting prune baby Jesus in the air, complete with cool shades reaching towards the heavens made me smile.
– You really don’t like Homer for his actions in act one, don’t believe his strive for redemption in act two, and are just flabbergasted by his criminal behavior in act three. In the end, I’m just left very confused.
– Instead of her star suit, Maggie is wearing a white jumper with a little ear nub, sort of like Bongo the rabbit from Life in Hell.
– Homer is swayed by Mr. McGrew’s Christmas Carol, where they basically just do Mr. Magoo straight, with no subversion or twist. And we spend a while on Homer watching the thing, it all feels like time killing. I like the Star Trek version of an Xmas Carol though (“Mr. Scott, fire photon torpedoes!” “It’s no use, captain! He’s showing visions of me future! God, I’m so fat!”)
– Homer gets Lenny a photo cube with rounded off corners, then proceeds to jab his eye with it repeatedly, because I guess now, eye injury is a “thing” with Lenny.
– The only laugh I got from the episode was the retouched photo of Homer used on the news, of him looking like a maniac lunging at Marge and Lisa, with a bouquet of flowers in his clasped hands. Now that I look at it again, I guess they blurred out Bart where he’s strangling, but I always envisioned that he was holding a knife or a gun or something.
– Another joke about Nelson missing his father. And another joke about Moe committing suicide. Any topic can be made funny, but the show really misses the mark when it comes to these two topics. The former is presented as far too sad, and the latter plays off the serious subject so callously that it’s almost offensive. Merry Christmas, everybody.

319. Today, I Am A Clown

(originally aired December 7, 2003)
In a similar fashion as “My Mother the Carjacker,” this episode drags back a classic guest star for a repeat performance, without any of the emotional resonance or sensibility that made them great in the first place. This instance might be worse, actually; “Carjacker” just repeated the beats of the previous episode, whereas here, Krustofski is pretty much absent the second half of the episode in favor of a completely nonsensical and ridiculous B-“plot.” There’s a beginning involving getting rid of Santa’s Little Helper’s bastard puppies, but it’s inconsequential to the story completely; Krusty gets one and we never see it after act one. Krusty finds himself absent from the Jewish Walk of Fame, and discovers he is ineligible due to having never had a bar mitzvah. He consults his father about it, who tells him he never had the ceremony out of fear that his son would make a mockery of it. Krusty vows to truly embrace his religion, and to finally, at long last, become a man.

Rabbi Krustofski was the most highly regarded holy man in the village, and his son was never bar mitzvahed? Krusty clowned about his whole life, but in “Like Father, Like Clown,” in a flashback we hear the rabbi gushing about how his son is at the top of his class, implying that as he got older, Krusty managed to keep his antics from his father’s prying eyes. At least that’s just the way I see it, so I don’t entirely buy this premise. So Krusty adheres to his long ignored customs, which ultimately costs him his show (more on that in a bit). Desperate, he pitches to FOX that they air his bar mitzvah live, a sacrilegious, sensationalist event featuring the Beach Boys Experience, Mr. T, and other glitz and glamor to undermine any shred of seriousness the ceremony might have. This segment of the episode is the only part that works, Krusty selling out his faith for the artificial televised thrill, with a spinning wheel Star of David and bad Jewish puns (“I can’t schmear you!”) Except earlier we see that Krusty’s old Jewish village is filled with puns too (L.L. Beanie, I Can’t Believe It’s Not Trayfe!”) So context doesn’t matter here. As “Regina” featured nonstop easy British jokes, here we have the same with Jew jokes.

Now that he observes the Sabbath, Krusty can’t record a show on Saturday, so he needs a replacement host. Who will it be? Homer, of course. Why? Because he was right there when Krusty was talking about it. The crowds cheer as the curtains open to reveal.. Homer, Moe, Lenny and Carl sitting around a table, talking about stupid topics like tight seats on airplanes and tired oldies stations. Surely this audience of kids don’t give a shit about this show, but apparently adults do, and within one minute Homer’s show is the headline of fucking Variety magazine. Why is his show a big success? Why do they like it? The plot is just fast-tracked: Lisa urges Homer to use his newfound power to talk about real issues, which of course gets him swiftly cancelled. Too bad none of the story works whatsoever, and moreover, it completely takes over Krusty’s plot. We go right to the crazy bar mitzvah without any word in edgewise from Rabbi Krustofski. It would make perfect sense to have scenes of Krusty planning all the sacrilegious stuff and the rabbi urging him not to, leaving Krusty to have to choose between his fame and his faith. Instead, we get whatever the fuck that Homer story was. It’s the worst B-plot we’ve ever seen, and completely kills an episode that wasn’t holding up too well to start with.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Not sure how I feel about the gag of Lisa consulting the Simpsons Complete Guide. I like it, and I also don’t like it. So I guess in the end I feel nothing about it. Much like most of the series now.
– Santa’s Little Helper’s last night on the town of animal porn theaters and doggie prostitutes… is so uncomfortable and disturbing. Really, this show is just not the place for this type of humor. At least done in such a brash manner. In the end, Homer doesn’t have SLH neutered, so he effectively caused the problem, and should be the one to fix it. Instead, he strangles the dog, and Marge forces Bart and Lisa to give away the puppies. So Homer’s completely off the hook again! God bless that man!
– I like how Krusty’s lax Judiasm is summed up early on, scoffing at Sandy Koufax (“I lost ten grand when he wouldn’t pitch on Yom Kippur. I did five shows that night!”)
– Because Schwarzenegger running for governor at the time was being accused of being an anti-Semite, that means Rainier Wolfcastle is one too!
– Know-it-all Lisa is an expert on the Jewish faith and the inner wordings of the Torah. Why? Some bullshit explanation about having a Jewish imaginary friend. Solid writing, guys.
– The Itchy and Scratchy is pretty boring, but I did chuckle at “Mouse-el tov!”
– I don’t even want to talk about the Homer plot anymore, because I just can’t make heads or tails of it. If anyone would like to posit about it themselves, be my guest. All I know is not only do we get no explanation why Homer isn’t at work, Lisa and Bart apparently skip school to work as production assistants and engineers.
– Krustofski dictates the rules of Judaism to Krusty, basically what everyone knows about them not mixing meat and milk and not eating pork. He also includes that all Jews must eat Chinese food on Christmas Day. What a hilarious stereotype! It really is like the England episode, the cheapest and easiest Jew jokes they could come up with in an afternoon.
– Mr. T is pretty enjoyable in the show as Krusty’s beleaguered special guest. Stuck on the spinning wheel of David, he bemoans, “I wish I had invested my money better…”

318. The Fat and the Furriest

(originally aired November 30, 2003)
Homer fights a bear… okay. Here’s an episode that’s just a complete wash: it started, I watched it, it ended. Nothing memorable, nothing interesting, nothing uniquely offensive. We start on Mother’s Day as Homer and the kids do some last minute shopping for a gift that Homer takes full credit for. They run into Patty and Selma, who suggest they get her a Kitchen Carnival, a machine that makes carnival confections at home. Marge loves the gift, for some reason. Isn’t she normally the conscientious mother who rode a crusade against sugar? Now she’s happy as a clam letting her infant daughter eat caramel apples and cotton candy until she gets baby diabetes. In a maddening fit, Homer uses all the ingredients to make a gigantic sugar ball, which he nurses like a new wife. It’s rather disturbing, and makes me pine for the days of him and his giant sandwich from “Selma’s Choice.”

Marge finally forces Homer to take the ball to the dump, at which point he is attacked by a bear. For some reason, this makes him the laughing stock of the town, with people calling him a cowardly wimp. I’m not entirely sure why this is… if I’m cornered and there’s a gigantic bear is swiping its claws into my flesh, I’m going to be pretty terrified. But Homer has to restore his manliness I guess, so he creates a rusty protective suit and vows to go off into the woods to fight the bear, and at this point I’m shaking my head since it’s clear that this really is the plot of this episode. Marge forbids her husband to go, but of course he goes anyway with Lenny, Carl and Bart, where he is accosted by the bear again sans suit. Marge enlist the help of the most rugged hunter alive Grant Connor (Charles Napier doing the best he can with the material), and Homer discovers the bear is only irritable due to a tracking tag Connor placed on him.

So Homer and the bear are friends now and he now wants to help him to the wildlife sanctuary off in the woods. The sanctuary is pristine, rainbow covered sacred land, but they have to get past an entire line of hunters hiding in bushes to get there. Homer stuffs the bear into his protective suit, a really shoddy disguise that Marge initially falls for (“It’s Homer! Don’t shoot!”) They then realize it’s the bear and start shooting at it; as tense music plays, the bear runs down a straight line, with every bullet hitting the armor, despite the fact there are plenty of openings in it, until he gets to the sanctuary. Victory! This is one of the saddest endings of any show in just how pathetic it is. I don’t give a shit about this bear, or anyone involved in this story, and this resolution is so fabricated and phony, with the sanctuary in the center of the map surrounded by “kill zones.” Characters spew lines out of obligation, lots of time-killing sequences, and everything just barely crawling into nineteen minutes. But there’s nothing to get upset about here, really. It’s another episode that feels so inept and pointless that I can’t even get mad. It really is just pathetic.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The dichotomy here between new and old really is striking. The first act is Homer getting Marge a present that she really wouldn’t want or need, like the opening of “Life in the Fast Lane.” In that show, she’s understandably upset. Here, she thanks Homer for his graciousness and off she goes like a Stepford wife.
– First appearance of SPRAWL-MART. Hey, is that anything like WAL-MART? It sure looks like it, and hey, Grampa works there as a greeter! Just like how WAL-MART was hiring old people to do that! Get it? Aren’t we so goddamn clever?
– Bart, a ten-year-old, knows who Jaclyn Smith is. Another example of how the writers don’t know how the hell to write for Bart anymore. I looked up the joke about her selling axe heads because I didn’t get it; apparently she pioneered the concept of celebrities developing their own products instead of just endorsing them in the 80s. Oh, now I get it. Heh heh.
– “Marge, you’re gonna love my present. It is so thoughtful, it makes the kids’ gifts look like crap!” Nice to say, Homer, considering the kids tried to help you get a gift, and basically Lisa is the one who got Patty and Selma to recommend the gift. You did no work, and hog all the credit. Our loveable protagonist, folks!
– “That’s it, kids… Suckle Daddy’s sugar ball.” The most disturbing thing ever said or shown on the show ever. Ever.
– Homer is smacked down into a ditch at the dump and sees a giant bear ready to fucking maul him (“Oh my God, I’m gonna be killed by a bear! Well I guess I don’t have to worry anymore about the dangers of smoking.”) He then takes out a pipe and calmly smokes it. How does one come up with this joke? Not only does it evaporate any tension the scene had, it’s completely out of left field for Homer to have the pipe at all. It’s just another example of the show’s need to cram in gags everywhere, regardless if they’re funny or make sense whatsoever.
– I did kind of like Smithers and Burns pranking Homer with the giant bear from his office. I’m not big on Burns laughing amongst his lowlife employees, but it was nice use of resources since we’ve seen that bear throughout the series (“What a delightful practically-based joke!”)
– Homer’s crazy bear hallucination is alright too (“Are you a Care Bear?” “I’m an Intensive Care Bear.”)
– Grant Connor and his penchant for killing and eating every animal on the planet is so over the top I actually kind of like him. Also Charles Napier gives a good performance as always (“The bold grizzly is seven feet tall, weighs more than a Mazda Miata, and can tear through a tree like a Jewish mother through self-esteem.”)
– Homer electrocutes himself with the bear tag twice, because seeing him scream his head off and run around like a maniac is always funny.
– Homer inadvetently kills a lake of fish and a scuba diver, volunteers to castrate the bear, Marge instantly forgives her husband despite the fact that he almost got himself killed for a idiotic reason… whatever. I’ll say the best thing in the whole episode is when Marge and Connor are talking, you can see Lenny, Carl, Bart and Lisa chicken fighting in the background. It’s a really cute moment that I’m sure some bored animator thought up as he was contemplating getting another job on a better show.

317. The Regina Monologues

(originally November 23, 2003)
I’ve touched on the de-evolution of travel episodes in the past, but just to quickly recap, what once were shows that revolved around a story that was present and made sense for the family to go overseas and contain some biting satire are now replaced with shows that just want to get from tired set piece to tired set piece utilizing the most bargain basement stereotypes imaginable. A premise, or God forbid a heart, is lingering there somewhere, but both are pretty much abandoned the moment the family lands in Europe. But before that, our stupid ass first act, where Bart comes across a thousand dollar bill. What does he do with it? Start a museum in his treehouse, of course, the Museum of Modern Bart. The scene with Hibbert talking to Marge about joining the “Friends of Bart” program at the “gift shop” with MoMB shirts on the wall particularly struck me that this show has departed from any semblance of reality. Of course that line has already been crossed many a time and shit upon, and it’s something I really shouldn’t get so upset over anymore, but when the show feels it can just do anything regardless of its universe and whether it makes any sense, it just becomes groan-inducing, even when it comes to a dumb joke like that. The owner of the bill, Mr. Burns reclaims his lost currency, but Bart has made a good three thousand from the museum, and decides to spend it on Marge for a nice family vacation.

Why Great Britain? Grampa recalls having spent a wonderful night with an English girl before getting shipped off during World War II, so the Simpsons propose they go find her. They get to England, check in their hotel room, then Grampa is left behind. We don’t see him again until the very end of the episode, at which point we pathetically close off this “plot.” The moment Homer shuts that door, the episode is without a purpose, just jumping from tired bit after tired bit. New Britain is high tech and advanced, like James Bond! Fish and chips, effeminate rich fops, double decker buses… None of this is particularly funny or original, and it all acts as killing time before we can get to the stupidness of act three. Plus, pile on the guest stars! Tony Blair, J.K. Rowling, Ian McKellan… all of their scenes start exactly the same way: Lisa introduces them and says what they do, then some mild ribbing and off they go. Even the motherfucking Joe Millionaire guy gets a single line; I’d look up his name, but I really don’t give a shit.

Homer bursts through the gates of Buckingham Palace and rear-ends the Queen, getting him thrown in jail and facing a death sentence. It sounds serious, but the episode treats everything so callously and clumsily that it doesn’t even matter. The episode retains the same lame jokey tone from start to finish. Homer is being kept in the Tower of London for some fucking reason, then the rest of the family appears below his room at night, seemingly past all the guards, instructing him there’s a secret passage that will help him escape… right into the Queen’s bedroom. Homer bullshits his way out of trouble with the Queen and they all go home. But first we see that Grampa had an illegitimate child with his old flame and skedaddles. Whatever. The saddest parts of the episode revolve on the supposed “emotional” center, where Marge wishes for just one good family vacation, and Homer screws it up. “Itchy & Scratchy Land” this ain’t. Homer commits a heinous crime and is a loudmouth jackass in court, and Marge claims it’s partly her fault (“I’ve been nagging you so much on this trip, you couldn’t know which nags to focus on.”) Homer is an invincible asshole, always coming out on top with everyone loving him despite doing awful, awful, awful things. America embraces him, and now England does too. I’m so, so sorry, you guys.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Burns is a disoriented, weak pathetic old man, and Smithers is a homosexual. Those are their characters now. At this point I need to stop complaining, since nothing’s going to change from this point, but any time I see either of them on screen, I’m just really bummed out.
– The first act is basically terrible. Why the fuck are people like visiting Bart’s “museum”? Especially when it comes to folks like Krusty and Dr. Hibbert who I’m sure are very financially well-off. Between that and the aforementioned stupidity of the Museum of Modern Bart shit… it just sucks. We end the act with Homer standing at his gun cabinet that he apparently has deciding which to bring with him overseas. Because Homer is apparently a violent insane madman. I guess.
– I smirked at this bit with Grampa on the phone (“Did you spend an unforgettable night with a soldier from the US Army in 1944? You did? Was he from the first infantry division? He was? And was he a gentle, caring lover? He was? Sorry I bothered you…”)
– Marge mentions that she nagged Homer a lot during the trip. We get that in one scene, where she “nags” him about punching out three people on the street. Really, when did the writers decide it okay that Homer is impulsively violent and destructive like this? There’s nothing that excuses this kind of behavior.
– The sweets freakout is a horse of a different color, but just pales in comparison to the brilliant Squishee bender from “Boy Scoutz N the Hood.”
– The end of act two really doesn’t make any sense. They get caught in a roundabout, then Homer veers off across three lanes of traffic. Cut to Marge and the kids screaming. Homer smashes through the palace gates. Cut to Marge and the kids screaming again, the exact same animation. What, was Homer unable to hit the brakes during that long sequence? It just felt very clumsily directed.
– The only emotion I buy in this episode is Marge’s exasperation at her husband’s assholery (“Why did you let him be his own barrister?” “What difference could it make? He hit the frigging Queen!”) Of course next scene we see her apologize to Homer for some reason and everything’s right as rain, so it doesn’t matter.
– The Queen, who at the trial demanded Homer be locked up forever and ever, is swayed by Homer’s speech, which consists of calling Canada gay as swelling music plays in the background. She accepts in exchange of Homer returning Madonna to America, which he does so in a giant duffel bag. Then Grampa’s old lover shows up with a daughter that looks and acts just like Homer. The joke could not possibly be more obvious, but then we get this exchange (“This is my daughter, Abby. She’s fifty-eight years this month.” “Fifty-eight? Well, fifty-nine years ago, your mother and I were ha… oh.”) This episode fucking sucks.

316. The President Wore Pearls

(originally aired November 16, 2003)
This show has had its fair share of memorable tunes, but only one episode I could categorically call a musical, “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D’oh!-cious.” Along with “Pearls,” they’re both musical parodies, with their stories and general melodies lifted and modified. The great difference here is contextual adaption. This episode tries to tackle “Evita,” with Lisa subbing for Eva Peron and their rises and falls from positions of power. Now, I have not seen “Evita,” but I know the generalities of the story, that she was a spiritual leader in Argentina, beloved by the people, but scorned by people of government for coming from the lower classes. Lisa, meanwhile, is a social outcast, with little to no friends; what people are going to adore her? She wins the election for student body president via musical number, then next scene Skinner worries about how the students of the school will follow her every word. What? No one has ever given two shits about Lisa in that school, now all of a sudden she’s their savior. It just doesn’t gel well.

Anyway, Skinner is pissed because he’s got an evil scheme brewed up that he feels Lisa will interfere with, so the entire faculty dissuades her with getting her a flashy object and distract her with exclusive privileges like all-access to the study hall. Ultimately, she ends up signing and approving the removal of gym, music and art classes from the school without even knowing it, and when news of this gets out, she’s cut down a peg with her people. The entire faculty, the little of it we have at this school, is shown here, from Lunchlady Doris to Otto, all helping transform Lisa and assist Skinner. But why do these characters care? We’ve seen the entire faculty is as eager for the bell to ring as the students, they don’t want to be there at all. Without those extracurriculars, maybe it means they can get bigger paychecks? It’s just so sporadic, Krabappel is thrilled to get Nelson’s answer key to the real estate license exam (“My ticket to freedom!”) then later she’s helping Skinner with his plot. Next, there was no need for Lisa to sign the agreement of course, it was all just to discredit her in the eyes of the students. But what a backhanded and horrible thing for Skinner and the others to do, to vilify their top student, an innocent little eight-year-old, who barely has any friends to begin with? It really casts a dark shadow over Skinner, a character who has never been completely unfavorable before.

Outraged at her betrayal, Lisa calls for a student strike, one that escalates until the move is made to transfer her to another school, forcing her to leave her people behind. She’s supposedly devastated, but walks off the bus with a smile at Springfield Magnet School, a high-minded, intellectual institution. But then Homer drives up and says she can’t go, as he doesn’t feel like taking the forty-five minute trip to get there. It’s as abrupt as an ending as you can fucking get, and the “Evita” parody just screeches to a halt. Protesting her father about staying at Magnet, she cries, “But this is my dream!” Lisa never cared about her fellow students, she just wanted to go to a better school. That’s why this episode doesn’t work, because the parody doesn’t fit. “D’oh-cious” involved Mary Poppins coming in to make the Simpsons model citizens, and failing. There’s no bit of Homer being Dick Van Dyke and learning to be a better father, since that doesn’t fit; in the end, they acknowledge status quo is God, and they’re happy just as things are. Here, they crammed in the “Evita” stuff even though it didn’t fit the characters. Lisa is never popular and Skinner is not an pure-blood antagonist. It just doesn’t work.

Tidbits and Quotes
– It’s casino night at Springfield Elementary, which of course means another gag about Marge’s gambling. I fucking hate when they do this. In “$pringfield,” the fact that Marge becomes a gambling addict is not presented as funny, it’s everything around it that is. It was treated with a real severity, an uncomfortable issue with an open-ended non-solution. Now it’s just treated as a goof, where Marge going crazy on betting and splashing a drink in Ralph’s face is presented as comedy, instead of just being horrifying.
– Homer’s repeated D’ohs as the wheel spins is rather annoying. In fact, this whole episode he’s basically a humungous moron, prancing around the house with a tutu, making figures on two sets of stamps “make out,” musing about never having married a businessman… the Scully seasons had Jerkass Homer, now we have Braindead Homer.
– I could be wrong, but I think this is the first time we’ve seen Lunchlady Doris since her last appearance after Doris Grau’s death. Thankfully, they kept her silent, until a few seasons later she’d randomly appear with Tress MacNeille attempting her voice. Aside the fact that it’s kind of disrespectful to break her silence, I just think of how completely unnecessary it was. How difficult is it to design a new cafeteria worker? It’s not like she’s a major character, make a new disgruntled employee, have Hank or Tress do a voice and be done with it. Instead they stepped all over poor, poor Doris. But that’s not this episode.
– I do like the Lisa vs. Nelson conceit, that it’s all just a big popularity contest, because that’s exactly how school elections are. And to some extent, general elections. Zing!
– Superintendent Chalmers appears to reside at the school in this show. He’s always there, glued to Skinner’s side. Doesn’t he have other schools to attend to? Also they’re really abusing the “Skinner!!” gag at this point.
– Skinner tricks Lisa into signing his orders, but then she returns wanting to read what she signed. Skinner shuts the door on her. Lisa returns again to complain, then Skinner shuts and locks the door. Lisa opens the door with the skeleton key he gave her and he groans. Scene over. So, wouldn’t Lisa have gotten to read the form and be outraged at that point? At least end your scene properly, guys.
– Why in the holy mother of fuck does Bart care about gym, music and art being cut from the school? And how does he know that Skinner is using Lisa? He’s been absent almost this entire episode, he just kind of shows up and gets a few lines in some songs.
– Willie ripping the art room off the school building is as bad as Homer stealing Flanders’ guest room, but at least he’s hauling it off on a tracker here. With the kiln still running.
– The kids inexplicably have signs made at the protest that just started, Homer and Marge randomly appear at the school, the police show up on the drop of a dime ready to beat children, Michael Moore appears for a worthless cameo… the only thing in the third act I like is the title of Kent Brockman’s news segment “Alphabet Coup.” But the rest sucks. But at least it matches the rest of the episode.

315. My Mother the Carjacker

(originally aired November 9, 2003)
It’s undeniable that “Mother Simpson” is one of the most touching episodes of the entire series; to me it’s only second to “Lisa’s Wedding.” The question of what happened to Homer’s mother had really been untouched upon prior to that, and that episode illuminated her character, her backstory, and her heartbreaking relationship with her son. So now eight years later we have a followup with the return of Mona Simpson, an opportunity to tell another story and showcase a different side to her character. Or, we’ll just repeat the same beats. Things start on thin ice immediately with how Mona contacts Homer: desperately searching for a newspaper headline gaffe to win a T-shirt, Homer discovers a hidden message in an article by highlighting the first letter in each column, the note telling him to meet under a local overpass at midnight. This plan is absolutely asinine, the chances of Homer getting the paper, reading the article and decoding this bizarre puzzle are essentially slim to none. She had her friends at the “liberal media” (groan) pick an article about food to catch Homer’s eye, but I guess she also didn’t figure that her son is a complete dunce who could never figure this out unless by plot convenience.

Mona is still wanted for her attacks on Burns’ germ warfare plant decades ago, and it isn’t long before she’s caught and finally stands trial for her actions. The jury is touched by a blubbering testimony from Homer, and Mona is found not guilty, free to live and catch up with her family. The middle act serves as an indicator of how much the show has strayed, because invariably you have to compare it to “Mother Simpson.” Genuinely sweet moments like Homer and Mona chuckling about dresser drawers and Lisa connecting with her intellectually mindful grandmother are replaced with stupid shit like forcing Marge to recreate the birth of Bart and Homer somehow ripping the entire guest room from Flanders’ house to affix to his. When your show is filled with so many ridiculous and weird gags and set pieces, it’s hard to really get any emotional reaction from anything because whatever moments like that there are, they’re given no breathing room. Upon meeting his mother again, Homer has an internal dilemma about whether he should open up to the woman who left him twice. He then proceeds to hug her… then it’s revealed to be a bum. And Homer steals his wine. It basically obliterates any positive response I might have had.

Ever vindictive, Mr. Burns ends up getting Mona sent back to prison on a technical charge, and Homer can come up with no better plan than to bust her out by hijacking a prison bus. To save her son from facing a prison sentence himself, Mona pushes him from the vehicle and evades the police, before the bus careens off the road and into a lake. It then explodes, and is completely buried by an avalanche, all of which Homer sees with his own eyes. Yeah, we know she’s not dead, but this is fucking horrifying for Homer. During her funeral, Homer tearfully holds his mother’s casket, saying that at least now he’ll never lose her again. Then the casket rolls away down the hill. I guess this is supposed to be a gag, but it’s just so absolutely terrible and in bad taste. Then the episode ends with Homer frantically looking through articles to find another coded message, and the family humors him by agreeing that Mona is still alive. It’s a really unsettling ending that doesn’t feel handled that right way, considering how jokey and callous the show is now. But in summation, this episode is basically running on nostalgia fumes, since it essentially just retells the same stuff we saw in the first Mona show (on the run from the law from Burns), except much more clumsily and crassly. But it’s nothing compared to the third Mona show. My God… more on that dung heap later.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The Oops Patrol opening is basically an act-long extension of the “Ketchup Truck Hits Hamburger Stand, Three Dead” gag from “Lisa the Treehugger,” and the shot of Homer’s brain filled with black and white 30’s cartoon characters is straight from “Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D’oh!-cious.” Hooray for recycling!
– Honestly, Mona could have just showed up at the Simpson house in a simple disguise. But then again, Lou instantly recognizes her and Eddie has her wanted poster in the car for some reason. In “Mother Simpson,” it made sense since Burns saw the poster on the old post office bulletin board, but here, not so much.
– Homer crashes his car through the police station, but of course there’s no repercussions for it. Although later he admits he’s due back in court multiple times the day of his mother’s trial, so maybe that’s part of it. But then, again, Homer’s gone from everyman to a maniac with repeat felonies who damages property and torches blood banks (!)
– Nice 19th century woodcut of Burns preying on young children.
– I really like Judge Snyder, I don’t know why. I also like we find out about his taunting sister and that he just got divorced, there’s a lot more to learn about him. Except now his airtime’s been cut down since we got Judge Judy… I mean, Judge Harm. This is the first time we’ve seen him since that episode, actually.
– The “I’m not a man who’s good with words…” silence bit goes on soooo long. Which then is immediately followed by Homer’s sniveling plea to save his mother. The two bits don’t gel together at all.
– Mona signing her name as “Anita Bonghit” is kind of juvenile, but I can see her having a raw sense of humor and doing that as a young woman.
– The flipping though the highway warnings is another joke that goes on far too long. Know when to quit.
– “Mom, I’m gonna hide you where there’s no one around for miles: Disney’s California Adventure!” Shot number two! Scathing! Again, no one besides theme park geeks like me knows or gives a shit about California Adventure.
– Mona’s funeral consists of each Simpson family member saying a punchline, instead of it actually being, you know, a heartfelt scene with a deeper meaning.