(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.