309. Dude, Where’s My Ranch?

(originally aired April 27, 2003)
The episode began. A bunch of stuff happened. Then the episode ended. That’s pretty much as good of a review as any for a lot of these shows. Most of the time I can scrounge up a couple topics of conversation, but I’m really at a loss for a majority of this one. I can’t make heads or tails out of the opening alone: getting struck down from singing copyrighted Christmas carols, Homer takes a crack at writing his own, but ultimately ends up writing an up-beat hate ballad about Flanders. Incredibly random and silly, but hey, he’s still got some of that BeSharps talent left, so okay. Then David Byrne shows up out of nowhere and turns Homer’s song into a big sensation. We’re like four minutes into the episode and I’m seeing Homer’s record being mass-produced and him performing on stage with a celebrity to throngs of cheering fans. How is this happening? Why is this happening? Why has a song directly referring to a man from a small town become a nationwide phenomenon? Oh, whatever. The ultimate point of this is the Simpsons get tired of hearing the song over and over and want to get away for a while, so they decide to spend a weekend at a dude ranch. I guess this was the most logical way to get to this plot point.

At the dude ranch we get two stories. One involves Homer and Bart helping some Indians get back their land by destroying a beaver dam. I have absolutely nothing to say about this story. It plays out like a Saturday morning cartoon, with Homer’s sorted plans backfiring on him and him getting hurt from them. There’s no point to it whatsoever, so why bother commenting on it. The other involves Lisa, who initially is Little Miss Activist and is complaining how the ranch glorifies cruelty to animals and the taking of the Indians’ rightful land. So yeah, Lisa’s not a little girl anymore, she’s a priggish, socially minded killjoy. Her constant complaining and griping makes her unlikable, and if there’s one character in this fucking show who shouldn’t be unlikable, it’s little Lisa Simpson. When asked if she’d like to ride a pony, she responds, “I’m sure she’d be happier without someone sitting on her back all day.” What the fuck? Do the writers remember “Lisa’s Pony”? Or care? Instead of being an eight-year-old with girlish dreams and desires who happens to be intelligent as well, she crows on about her “animal equals” and screams about freeing Tibet. Which Lisa sounds more interesting to you?

Anyway, Lisa falls for thirteen-year-old Luke Stetson, a character whose name I had to look up because I couldn’t remember it, similar to Grady in the last show. Jonathan Taylor Thomas gives an alright performance, he just barely has anything to work with. Lisa is taken by his consciousness of animal rights and call to activism, similar to Jesse in “Lisa the Treehugger,” but here it’s done in a more exaggerated and knowing fashion so it just feels completely false. There’s a big hoedown coming up and Lisa overhears Luke talking to a girl named Clara on the phone, and believes that she’s his girlfriend. She’s devastated, but upon running into Clara on the trail out of town, she sends her down the wrong, dangerous path due to her jealousy. Totally sounds like something Lisa would do. What is this? Partway through the show, Marge comments how her kids are acting more and more like teenagers, which can definitely be said for all episodes nowadays, but this storyline of Lisa vs. this other girl for Luke’s affections feels way too mature for her. So Lisa saves Clara from drowning, Luke is disgusted by what she did, and the family high-tails it out of there. Then they come back. Who gives a shit. This episode sucks balls. Big, sweaty horse balls.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer is in the middle of banging out a new carol, then Flanders appears from nowhere in his own house, in an early instance of characters showing up randomly whenever they’re needed.
– For those who loved the joke about Homer taunting Ned about his dead wife last episode, we get another one here! One of the lyrics has Homer singing in a condescending manner, “Don’t yell at Ned! His wife is dead!” How fucking tasteless can this show get?
– David Byrne sings and dances on the hood of his car, which stays in motion for some reason. Then he slips, falls into Moe’s car behind him, and is then kidnapped since Moe is a creepy weirdo, and possible celebrity killer. Or something.
– The Lazy “I” Ranch sign is alright (“Formerly Wandering “I” Nudist Colony.”)
– Andy Serkis is wasted with a stupid and pathetic Gollum joke. Why even bother getting these guest stars if you’re not going to make good use of them?
– Marge is with Homer and Bart and the Indians in one scene, then in the next when Lisa and Luke are riding off somewhere far away, she’s hiding behind a cactus with her arms outstretched. What?
– The only laugh I got from this episode came from good ol’ JTT. After diverting Lisa’s eyes away from a bucket of cow tongues and Cookie about to shoot a chicken tied to a stump, he directs her gaze to the clouds. A cloud shaped like a cute little lamb… who then gets its head cut off by a cloud axe. “Aw, dammit!” He gave the exclamation a real intensity, and in that accent to boot.
– Maggie dances to Britney Spears in a Spears-type baby outfit for some Godforsaken reason, but what the fuck’s that radio doing there? Didn’t they come to the dude ranch because it was cut off from the media where they could hear Homer’s song? Also, the first joke we get at the dude ranch is the Rich Texan telling Comic Book Guy he could get Internet connection there. Why have the setup if you don’t even give a shit about it?
– Why did they bother with the weird bit with showing Clara’s name all over her necklace, her ring, her saddle… she could have just introduced herself, instead of appearing like some crazy person with her name inscribed on everything she owns.
– The action sequence of saving Clara is really bizarre. The music keeps building and gets more intense when nothing is happening. Bart gets the beavers to cut the tree down, and that’s basically it, since Clara can easily walk over it to safety, which she does quickly. But the music is still present and intense you think something else is going to happen… then it doesn’t. What a bunch of fucking shit.
– Lisa mourns over Luke, calling him her “first crush” (“All it did was make me do terrible things, and then break my heart.” “Lisa, welcome to love.”) The ending feels so cynical, then attempts to backpedal, but fails. I guess we’ve forgotten all about Mr. Bergstrom, Nelson, even her obsession with that punk kid from the library made more sense and was more entertaining than this fucking episode. All of these were back from when Lisa was a real character, and stories made sense. Now we get an episode where Homer drives off with his car lifting on its back wheels like a horse.

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17 responses to “309. Dude, Where’s My Ranch?

  1. terrible episode

    i think the basis for this episode was the script of a rejected nickelodeon pilot

  2. I kinda like when Byrne pops up during the song and says “just hate Flanders to the disco beat.” That line is always in my head.

    Other than that, one of the most boring episodes ever.

  3. I swear up and down that there was a scene in the original FOX broadcast of this episode that’s not on the DVD. After Luke dumps Lisa, Marge says “Boy, a lot can happen when you’re looking the other way!” To which Homer replies “Tell me about it” and points at a headstone that says “Cookie: 1912-Today”. (It’s a horribly stupid joke, so I don’t miss it at all, but I still went “Hey, something’s missing here…”)

    Yeah, this episode is awful. I remember before it even aired, people on No Homers could tell just from the description that it was going to suck – there’s literally no way that post-classic Simpsons could take a premise like “The Simpsons go to a dude ranch and Homer fights beavers” and make it funny.

  4. I very very vaguely remember this one.

    The first crush thing is a kick in the teeth. There have been many many crushes. Even a brain dead tv watcher like me can remember that. Fuck this shit.

    • Langdon Alger is devastated. As are Nelson, Mr. Bergstrom, that guy on the poster with the 900 number (Corey?), the librarian kid, the level-9 vegan protestor guy, and probably a lot more I’m forgetting.

  5. Hands down, the worst episode of season 14 and probably in the top ten for worst of all time.

    The only joke I kinda like is the blue-haired lawyer saying Homer can’t sing in a particular key because it’s owned by Disney.

  6. This is so weird. For some reason I was under the impression that this was one of the good ones. Mind you, I only saw it when it originally aired and couldn’t remember much except for the Christmas carol set up and the JTT character. So I was hoping to be reminded that this was actually a late gem. Oh well, looks like I was wrong.

  7. one of the worst episodes ever.

  8. What is sad is most of Season 14 is a blur to me from when they first aired. I know I have seen them, because I have watched every episode on the day it aired since Season 5. However, when I watched this season a few weeks ago, I felt like I was watching the entire season for the first time because the only thing I remember out of the entire season was the 302 comment Marge made in Barting Over. And the only reason I remember that is because I was bitching up a storm back in 2003 when they announced that episode as the 300th episode.

    In fact, most of Seasons 11-17 felt like I had never watched them before when I went through them last month. That is how memorable these things are.

    BTW, if anyone is interested in my complete thoughts on the series as a whole, go here: http://archivaria.com/DrKain/TheSimpsons.html. I made this for fun so it isn’t all hightech and what not (and I believe I still missed some grammar and spelling errors, but it isn’t meant to professional), but you might like it if you are big Simpsons fans.

  9. This is one of those episodes that I absolutely hated the first time it aired, but at some point decided wasn’t that bad mainly owing to the fact that I find quite a few of the jokes to be amusing. You complain about some of them, but I think they’re better executed than you credit them with. Moe’s exchange with Byrne is great. “Every seen Misery?” “No.” “Then this will all be new to you.” The bit with the rich Texan and CBG is a good example of screwing with the audiences expectations that the show always did well in the classic years. And how can you complain about Homer lifting the car like a horse without mentioning Homer commenting on how “that can’t be good for the struts” which I think is a good payoff for a joke that would have just been silly without it.

  10. – “Andy Serkis is wasted with a stupid and pathetic Gollum joke. Why even bother getting these guest stars if you’re not going to make good use of them?”
    The DVD commentary is actually helpful for a change! They say that Serkis was just visiting the studio while they were recording the episode (I don’t think anyone states why Andy Serkis was there) and they convinced him to record the line. I guess you can’t really complain about them not fully using a guest star they didn’t know they’d have. Then again, Mel Brooks appeared in a similar situation and they managed to do more with him.

  11. I know I’m in the minority but “Everyone Hates Ned Flanders” is one of my favorite songs of The Simpsons.

  12. I don’t think I’ve ever seen this one.
    I also have no idea what a “dude” ranch is.

  13. Remember when every episode title wasn’t a really awful play on a song lyric or movie title?

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