(originally aired May 4, 2003)
Another show I’m at a complete loss about, as it didn’t seem to be about anything. I guess I’ll go through the whole thing and comment as I go. Bart’s treehouse gets destroyed in an absurdist fashion, and Homer promises he’ll rebuild it. After some ridiculous and unfunny wacky Homer antics, Marge surmises that it’ll never get finished, so figures she has to call in some pros. Ringing a bell summons a troupe of Amish folk, who build the treehouse bigger and better than ever, because that totally makes sense. The new treehouse has a grand opening, and now seems to be as large as an upscale spacious loft. This is held by one tree, how the fuck is it so huge? And everyone in town is invited, and everyone knows everyone else, evidenced by Bart greeting Bumblebee Man and Hans Moleman like they’re old friends. I liked it better when it was a normal town where not everyone was best friends. The treehouse catches fire, leaving Homer stuck inside. Santa’s Little Helper flees, but Snowball II gets Homer to wake up and manage to escape.
Now Snowball II is a hero, for some reason, as Homer parades her around on a royal pillow as townspeople cheer for her, and Quimby holds a ceremony in her honor. Conversely, Homer disowns Santa’s Little Helper for his cowardice. So what’s the point of this episode? The dog has to get back in Homer’s good graces? Homer barely acknowledges the pets, they’re Bart and Lisa’s. You can’t do a Homer/SLH episode unless you establish a connection with them, since they really have none. But I guess they couldn’t get to this point without the treehouse first act, so whatever. By random chance, Dave Shutton, once seemingly a competent reporter, snaps a shot of Santa’s Little Helper drinking a beer can balanced on his nose, a photo that intrigued the Duff corporation, and Howard K. Duff in his second (disposable) appearance. Outing the lazy, loutish Duffman, Duff’s new mascot is Suds McDuff, party dog. This is of course an allusion to Spuds MacKenzie, Bull Terrier “spokesman” for Budweiser in the late 80s. Apparently it was quite controversial, some saying the cute dog was targeting children, and also the reveal that the actual dog was female, but marketed as male. Reading Spuds’ Wikipedia page for thirty seconds is much more interesting than anything in this episode; SLH as Spuds MacKenzie isn’t a parody, they just made SLH Spuds MacKenzie.
SLH is back in Homer’s good graces since he’s making him lots of money now, at least until the dog’s original owner returns to rake in his former mutt’s dough. You know, when SLH was No. 8 in “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire.” It feels so weird to hear them talking about stuff from the very first episode aired, since thinking back it feels like a completely different show… because it is. Even though surely the Simpsons have ownership papers for the dog at this point, the old owner, who isn’t even given a name, takes the dog on the spot. Now an elaborate scheme must be concocted: reveal SLH as a coward, have a disgraced Duffman redeem himself to get his job back, and the old owner will disown the dog, having lost his gravy train. The only interesting part of the whole show is seeing Barry Duffman, Duffman’s mild-mannered alter ego, teaching at the mission. He goes along with the stunt, SLH is shown to be afraid of water and the crowd boos and chastises the poor dog, Homer almost gets attacked by a shark, Duffman ultimately doesn’t get his job back but still has the costume, and the old owner gives SLH back, thinking it should be with a family that loves him, for reasons that escape me. This is another one of those shows I can’t even be mad at, because it doesn’t even feel like they’re trying. I can’t complain about how they fucked up because I don’t even understand what they’re trying to do. The storytelling has gone from ‘bad’ to just ‘inept.’
Tidbits and Quotes
– The clubhouse gang consists of Bart, Milhouse, Nelson, Martin and Database. Remember when Nelson was the bully the schoolyard feared? And Bart would be embarrassed to be hanging out with the nerds? But they’re recognizable faces, so just cram ’em in there. Just as egregious is Sherri and Terri hanging out with Lisa; they hate her, don’t they?
– Homer removes planks of wood from the railroad tracks, under the belief they’ve been out of use of years. Of course just then a train barrels down the track, which then causes every single train to flip over in midair multiple times and land perfectly fine back on the track and ride off. It’s like the ending of “Maximum Homerdrive,” except even worse that because in “Homerdrive,” they wrote themselves into a corner and that was their stupid excuse for a climax, but here, it’s just a ridiculous joke at the beginning that we’re supposed to accept is fine and move on.
– Some of the dialogue here is just insufferable (“Did Frank Lloyd Wright have to deal with people like you?” “Actually, Frank Lloyd Wright endured a lot of harsh criticisms.” “Look, I have no idea who Frank Lloyd Wright is.” “You said his name two second ago.” “I was just stringing words together.”) Stupid and drawn out, those are the best jokes.
– Not only do the Amish appear from nowhere, so do the Mennonites, who just show up in the next door driveway for a quick joke.
– They spend all this time setting up the treehouse, for it to appear for literally thirty seconds before it all burns down.
– Lisa reads over the Duff contract, because she’s the smart one, and an eight-year-old can read and understand an elaborately written legal agreement. Then we get a dream sequence of Homer on a private jet being horrified to find there’s no pilot. Simultaneously, I’m horrified to find there’s no joke.
– Why are there airing a Duff commercial on the ad break for a kid’s show?
– I’m surprised they even went back and bothered to match the voice for SLH’s old owner, but Hank Azaria done good.
– There’s a smidgeon of sentimentality here with Bart missing SLH, but you barely get any of it within all the wackiness. Instead of being the emotional crux of the show, it’s just yet another thing that’s happening in an episode where things happen.
– Nothing says an aimless, humorless episode like an aimless, humorless ending (“It was probably that stupid cat.” “That cat saved your life.” “What has he done for me lately?” “He woke you up when you stopped breathing last night.” “Yeah, but he ate the last can of tuna.” “Dad, you ate the last can of tuna.” “Everyone’s against me.”) Cut to black, cue theme, good work everyone! Also they keep referring to Snowball II as male, when she’s a female. I buy Homer not knowing, but Marge certainly should. Though I don’t know why I keep thinking the writers give a shit about this.