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.

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12 responses to “320. ‘Tis the Fifteenth Season

  1. This episode made me wish a talking Astrolabe was real. Well, as long as it didn’t test its smoke alarm for three hours.

    Anyway, I love the Family Matters Christmas Carol parody:

    “Reform, Ebaneezer Urkel. You have alienated everyone who loved you.”
    “Did -I- do that??”

    Short but sweet. I also liked Lisa’s observation after the California Raisins parody: “This is offensive to Christians AND prunes.”

  2. I feel like this is another episode where they worked backwards. Someone probably drew a picture of Homer as the Grinch, then thought “Hey, that’s something we can parody! Now how do we get there?” “Eh, just throw in something with Flanders, nobody’ll care.”

    I remember the Christmas special parodies and “Unloved By Al”, but that’s pretty much it for my memories of this one. The visual of Homer’s blatantly photoshopped image on the news is pretty funny, though.

    • I think ‘Homer as the Grinch’ was how they advertised this episode. Maybe it’s just me, but ZS appears to have a habit of focusing on one unusual moment in an episode during the adverts. I know that “I Am Furious Yellow” was advertised primarily as “Homer turns into the Hulk”, anyways.

      • colonelcoward

        They’ve always had that. It’s not a Zombie Simpsons thing–the people creating and running the show have no say in what kind of advertisements are used. There were lots of Classic Simpsons episodes that got the same treatment.
        One example is “Homer at the Bat,” where the commercial was nothing but the scene where they’re filming Homer, and Marge goes “Kids, tell me when your father stops scratching himself.” (pause) “Kids?” “We’ll tell you, Mom.”
        I remember seeing that commercial over and over, to the point where I was sick of it. And I didn’t even know about all the MLB guest stars until I watched it! Apparently there was a 30-second version that told you about the players, but they hardly ever show those. For the 15-second version that they ran 100 times a day, apparently they decided the scratching scene was more important.
        Especially funny because on the commentary they say that they had to fight tooth and nail just to get the censors to allow that joke on the show.
        Another one I remember is “New Kid on the Block,” where the commercial was just “This week on The Simpsons! Bart gets a new girlfriend!” And then they showed the part where she rips his heart out of his chest.

  3. Re: Homer building an ice rink… obviously this is insane, expensive, and unrealistic… but I DO wonder how much money a nuclear power plant safety inspector makes in real life… I’m sure they make decent money, though Homer financially supports 4 other people, plus himself, and it doesn’t seem like he goes to work very often… shrug.

  4. Having re-watched this one (bought it off iTunes), I still enjoy it. The review left out a lot of legitimately funny moments:
    -The banal tidbits “learned” from the Magnum PI commentary (“Apparently, working in Hawaii WAS a pleasure!”)
    -“That describes Cathy in personell to a T.”
    -Bart suddenly realizing that the “blast the state capitol” game was educational
    -Homer’s tree catching on fire just by rubbing against it
    -Bum: “These pants smell worse than my old pants.”
    -Mr. Burns has no blood (“Yes, I’m old.”)
    -Nelson’s “haw haw!” remark to Ned
    -“This just in: Santa Claus is DEAD. (GASP!) Or he might as WELL be…”
    -Ned telling the picture of Jesus to calm down when he says he’s going to be the nicest man ever.
    -Agnes to Ned when he gives them a Christmas present: “What’s your angle, pervert?” I love how she just assumes the worst about him.
    -Drederick Tatum’s comment about the robbery: “Your behavior is, like, it’s not sanctioned by any governing body. You’re, like, wild!”
    -Moleman and the “rescue dogs” (feels like it’s been ages since Moleman appeared in this show)

    Besides the Nelson and Moe jokes, the only joke which I didn’t care for was Marge crying as she ate the pork chops. Just strange, and not really funny. At least Homer called attention to how her reaction freaked him out.

  5. Yeah, I liked the grinch stuff better when it was Mr Burns amazed at how everyone was fine without power in the episode with Lisa’s braces.

  6. Just to show how out of touch the writers were by this point, there’s an Urkel joke in this episode.

    By the time this episode aired, Family Matters had been off the air for FIVE YEARS.

  7. And I’m really surprised no one ever mentions Homer fucking CHLOROFORMING A CHILD in this episode

    what the everlasting fuck

  8. This episode was always really overrated for me. It’s shocking people consider it one of the best episodes of all-time, as it’s pretty much just a hybrid of “Homer Loves Flanders” and “Grift of the Magi”, both of which are far superior episodes in my opinion.

  9. The Christmas Carol parodies (especially the Star Trek one) and Homer prodding Burns for a bigger donation are about all I liked in this episode. Everything else was pretty meh.

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