(originally aired May 18, 2003)
I’m trying to keep my level of exasperation down, but with episodes like these, it’s really hard. You have to wonder exactly what the writers and producers are thinking when they’re color screening these shows, that despite almost every single scene having a glaring issue, be it clunky dialogue, questionable characterization, or stupid plot turns, they deem it good enough to air as a Simpsons episode. I’d like to say that there’s a decent premise buried here, but that’s me being really generous. Bart and Milhouse get into some massive hijinks, in this case breaking into Flanders’ house and destroying his secret room of Beatles memorabilia. Why it had to be the Beatles is irrelevant and this is just the quick set-up to our story, except it takes the entire first act, so you realize that the writers were scrambling to bring this one to length. The two kids end up in separate youth groups: the Pre-Teen Braves, led by Homer, then later Marge, and the Calvary Kids, led by Kirk Van Houten.
The kids are in youth groups, which perform community service and promote wellness and responsibility amongst children. A kid like Bart is going to have no interest in something like this. Homer starts off as a predictably incompetent leader, but Marge soon takes the helm and shows the kids the wonders of the Indian peoples, winning them over immediately by showing them a smoke signal. From that point we hand-wave any contention the kids might have and they’re all super-psyched about spending their sunny weekends picking up litter. Bart’s fellow members are Nelson, Ralph and Database, and Milhouse’s are Jimbo, Martin and Cosine, one of the Superfriends. Nelson gets a few lines, and Ralph is literally used as a prop, but none of them feel like anything but utilities for this pathetic story. The older bully Jimbo in a community-minded organization with two big nerds? Doesn’t matter, just throw whoever in there. We’re at the point where the same faces get recycled over and over regardless of it makes sense; why waste time making new designs when you can regurgitate the old ones?
So the two groups have a tiff over who gets to clean up some Godforsaken field, which immediately creates their rivalry, instigated by Marge, of all people. At that point, it’s just a tired exercise of the two teams one-upping each other, until eventually they make amends in a grand fashion. Let’s just skip to the end: the Pre-Teen Braves impersonate the Calvary Kids, singing a botched National Anthem at Springfield Stadium, incising the crowd. The real Calvary Kids show up and a fight breaks out. Then for no apparent reason everyone in the crowd starts fighting each other. I know the town loves a good mob, but goddamn, there’s no impetus for this. Marge laments she just wanted to teach the kids good citizenship, despite the fact she went along with their petty rivalry, and starts crying. A cameraman turns and shoots her, for no reason, which ends up on the Jumbotron. Then Homer says the worst line of dialogue ever (“Oh my God, that’s my wife! And she’s crying!”) The crowd sings the Canadian national anthem and takes another crack at America, and the episode ends. I can’t even feel mad about this one, it’s just so pathetic and inept in all aspects. Like… whatever.
Tidbits and Quotes
– I guess in response to their “shot” at them, the show tackles South Park, except here, I’m not exactly sure what the parody is. They show the series has fart humor, and violence, and features celebrities, except they’re dated celebrities like Calista Flockhart and O.J. Simpson. I don’t quite understand what they were going for with this. The “Simpsons Already Did It” episode of South Park was so brilliant, and this is just a sad follow-up.
– I want to get to the point where I stop complaining about characterization, but they keep throwing shit at me. Flanders chastises his son for feeling good for doing charity (“Sin of pride, Roddy!”) then for apologizing (“Sin of regret,”) freaks the fuck out when he finds the house is busted up and goes to the padlocked panic room, then freaks the fuck out of his children as he posits the possibility of a killer using a blowtorch and getting in to slay them through song. It’s just as disconcerting as it sounds. Secondly, we get this brilliant piece of dialogue, when Homer tells Ned he never knew he was a Beatles fan (“Of course I am, they were bigger than Jesus!”) Now, current caricatured Ned, the psycho-Christian, you’d think he would have completely vilified the Beatles for such a statement. But I guess a line like that is supposed to be funny because it contrasts with the exaggerated character that Flanders currently has? I guess? But ultimately it doesn’t matter, since the Beatles stuff is nothing short of random, just killing time with stupid bullshit because there’s no story to be had here. All the time the artists must have spent laying out and designing that Beatles room for no point at all.
– This is the first show where we see Nelson’s emotional crippling due to his father having left him, even though we’ve seen him in the past in “Bart Star.” It’s nice that the show treats the devastating sadness and mania of a young child so callously and as a big goof. The second time it happens, Marge comments, “For God’s sakes, I can see why he left.” How wildly inappropriate and out-of-character.
– “What are we gonna do to that field!” “Clean it!” “And why are we gonna clean it?” “Liberal guilt!” CHECK OUT OUR BITING COMMENTARY, YOU GUYS!!
– “Those Calvary Kids are bigger credit hogs than the Red Cross!” AREN’T WE EDGY? WE CAN BE EDGY TOO!!
– Ralph, an eight-year-old, gets thrown through a window with a note taped on him, spouting a one-liner. At this point I declare his de-evolution complete, from slightly challenged youngster to brain dead one-liner-spouting prop.
– So did Homer inject each and every candy bar with laxatives? There were dozens and dozens of boxes? How did he do that? Oh, who gives a fuck…
– The only chuckle I got from this show was from the Junior Dandies (“Oh, the indignity!”)
– “Well, Bart, we’ve learned that war is never the answer.” “Except to all of America’s problems.” “Amen.” BITING COMMENTARY, GUYS!!