332. Simple Simpson

(originally aired May 2, 2004)
All I can say up front is that this episode could have been a whole lot worse. Homer the superhero? It’s a laughably looney plot that could have ended up so ridiculous and improbable, but at least it stays relatively restrained. There’s even a nugget of a Homer/Lisa story underneath the silliness, but it’s pretty much buried under a bunch of other crap within the episode. Homer’s crime-fighting begins at the county fair, where the Rich Texan is incessantly berating Lisa’s entry for the place setting contest. A bunch of “why”s crop up here: why is Lisa in a place setting contest, and what the hell is such a thing, and why is the Rich Texan judging it, and ripping apart this eight-year-old’s work for no apparent reason, and why is everyone else just standing there not doing anything, including Marge and Bart? But… whatever. Not wanting to get another assault on his record, Homer adheres a pastry tin onto his face and doles out some justice incognito, via a pie to the Rich Texan’s kisser, rendering him humiliating. Thus begins Homer’s crusade as the Pie Man, standing up for downtrodden citizens everywhere.

It’s a plot that sounds unwatchable, but it manages to ride the line of wackiness to be mildly entertaining. Mildly. Why Homer’s doing this makes no sense, nor why the police view him as such a humungous threat, enough to use firearms on him. It starts to venture into dumber territory when we see Homer jumping from buildings onto fire escapes in an unusually nimble fashion, and Marge randomly in attendance at the closed orphanage-now plastic surgery clinic just so they can do a tired Spider-Man upside-down kiss thing. Also a much bothersome part of this show is how apparently people can’t figure out that Homer is Pie Man. Lisa and Marge later comment how you’d have to be a moron not to realize it was Homer, but we see earlier rather smart folks like Apu and Sideshow Mel refuting that fact. It might have been interesting if everyone knew it was Homer and were just humoring him as Homer did his insane antics, but then they start to get out of hand and they have to drag him back into reality. As we’ve seen recently in movies like Kick-Ass and Super, anyone who would become superheroes in real life would most likely be a bit touched in the head, so why not run with that? Nah, let’s milk the gag that no one can figure out it’s Homer with a fucking pie tin on his face, something that’s been a staple in comic books for decades.

The third act involves Mr. Burns unmasking Homer and forcing him to perform dastardly deeds for him under threat of being publicly outed. This is a cartoonishly evil Burns episode, as he forces Homer to throw a pie at a girl scout, and apparently is breeding feral gophers and hamsters to do his… bidding? Why would Burns want Homer to do any of this for him? Is this more of that prank monkey garbage? Whatever. His biggest assignment entails Homer besmirching the Dalai Lama, who is coming to perform a speech in Springfield. Having promised Lisa he would give up pieing, and that he’s a highly respected figure to her, Homer is in a crisis. What do you think is gonna happen? Homer unmasks himself to the crowd, and no one believes that he’s the real deal, which I guess automatically exonerates Homer in Wiggum’s eyes. There’s been a lot this season of Simpsons avoiding jail time for really stupid reasons… Lisa urging his father to quit before he gets killed and sitting down with him for some pie is a sweet moment, but there’s way too much crazy junk around it to really resonate. But as I said, I feel it could have been a lot worse, so I’ll give it an incredibly minor pass. That’s the best I can do.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening bit of FOX’s “Promiscuous Idiots Island” is pretty excellent; the title and lead-in is a bit on the nose, but the big reveal is great: it wasn’t an island at all…. it was a peninsula (“I just want to get on that boat and go home!” “Well, you don’t need a boat, because you can walk.”)
– Some of the stuff at the fair is pretty good: the world’s biggest pile of mashed potatoes and the world’s biggest ribbon. The ultra-jingoistic country singer is alright too (“If you don’t buy my records, then Al-Queda wins!”) but it pales in comparison to Randy Jackson in the “Ladder to Heaven” episode of South Park.
– Homer looks at Lisa drawing a picture of the Pie Man, and his immediate thought is that his eight-year-old daughter didn’t draw his package large enough. A tad bit creepy…
– Great comics CBG peddles onto Bart: Richie Rich Incorporates in Delaware, Supergirl vs. the Glass Ceiling… and then of course instead of the Fantastic Four, Fantastic Floor.
– Why would Krusty be affected by a pie in the face? Also Homer’s decree of his crimes (“This is for your show’s slight decline in quality over the years!”) is pretty ballsy coming from this show. If you replace “slight” with “devastatingly sharp,” of course.
– Wiggum and Lou bickering between gunshots is basically a retread of the same bit from “The Fat and the Furriest.” It wasn’t funny then, and it’s not funny now.
– Burns whips his employees and sells their clothes while they’re in the showers. Later he shows up dressed like a baby in a carriage wheeled by Smithers to give Homer an assignment. I guess the writers feel this is appropriate material for him. Sad, really.
– Homer’s pie hallucinations are pretty amusing, with the crusty old Phyllis Diller pie, and the smooth gangster complete with cigar.
– Homer bemoans the possibility of having to do community service if exposed (“I can’t stand helping others!”) Just like the ten zillion jokes about Homer freaking out about supporting charity, I don’t get these gags. Is it funny that Homer is a self-serving, uncaring asshole? And as a superhero, wasn’t his mission to help others in the first fucking place?
– The Dalai Lama leaves even though he had only just given his introduction. And he flies away. …whatever.

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18 responses to “332. Simple Simpson

  1. This is the final episode directed by Jim Reardon. He will be missed.

  2. Does Matt Groening even have a say in this show anymore? I also wonder if he still draws it, but anyway good, witty and spot on review of this episode Mike!

    • Apparently he still polices the animation to make sure there aren’t any crazy facial expressions.

    • Matt Groening doesn’t even WATCH the show anymore. There are plenty of episodes he’s never seen, or at least that seems to be the case, since I’ve listened to random commentaries from the past few seasons where I get to hear him say “ohhh, I’ve never seen this one!” or “hmm. Don’t remember this one at all.” on a couple episodes.

  3. The reveal is taken wholesale from Monster Island (it’s just a name)

  4. As you mentioned, it’s not a horrible episode (certainly not as bad as the string that preceded it), but I also can’t say it does much for me. I also had a hard time suspending my disbelief that nobody in town would recognize Homer underneath a crude mask. I know this is meant to be a parody of superhero tropes, but come ON.

  5. Like Catch Em, I thought it was a really great episode. It has a nice story between Homer and Lisa, and it is a super hero story. I think the problem is, when they do spoofs like this, you need to think of the source material they are spoofing. Sure, the spoofs of movies in the classic years are superior, but movies change throughout the years, and thus, the spoofs of the movies are going to change as well.

    • I don’t understand what you mean. Movie spoofs change because as time goes on there are more movies to spoof? The quality and sharpness of the parody should be just as good regardless if it’s 1990 or 2010. This episode is an amalgam of superhero stuff, but the most specific bit was the Spider-Man thing. Pie Man kisses Marge upside-down in the rain, which isn’t really a parody, just them redoing that scene from the movie. You’re supposed to laugh, I guess, because you acknowledge the reference, not because they had some comedic slant to it. That’s Family Guy shit.

      • …not to mention that the Spider-Man upside down kiss had already been parodied about a zillion times by the time this episode aired.
        Marcus’s post really makes no sense. Is he saying movies aren’t as good as they were in the 90s? Even if that’s true, theoretically that should make them easier to parody, since there’s more to make fun of. And of course there’s nothing stopping them from parodying older movies. There sure wasn’t anything stopping The Simpsons from parodying Citizen Kane, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Godfather, The Music Man, The Shining… if I tried, I could maybe come up with 100 movies they parodied that were decades old at the time.

      • Meh, I was trying to type with only 4 hours of sleep (same with the other one). I just thought the episode was actually pretty well done as I was laughing a lot during this episode. Between this and the previous episodes, I did not get that much laughs out of an episode since Trilogy of Error. It doesn’t mean this episode is any good compared to the older stuff, but as for everything from 13-15, I thought this was pretty good.

      • *Casablanca For Seniors plays*
        {[audio from movie]:-Frankly my dear, I don’t give a- I love you! Let’s get married!}

        Old woman: Oh, it is wonderful!
        Hans Moleman: …..didn’t this movie used to have a war in it?
        Sercurity Guard: You’ve been warned! Come with us!

    • When it comes to The Simpsons spoofing super hero movies, I’d rather watch “Radioactive Man” or “Homer the Whopper.”

  6. For whatever reason, most of the folks at No Homers regarded this episode as the best of Season 15, to the point where they put it on par with the classic era. Which is weird, because when the episode was announced in advance, everyone was crowing on and on about how much it would suck. But I guess it didn’t suck as badly as they thought it would, and when it comes to Zombie Simpsons, that’s really the best you can hope for.

    I do remember thinking this premise was horribly stupid, and that none of the characters’ actions made any sense whatsoever. I gotta say, your suggestion of making the episode about everyone in Springfield humoring Homer’s delusion would make for much better viewing, but I think that’s more clever than the writers care to be.

  7. I seem to remember finding the joke about Homer trying to convince Marge that Santa’s Little Helper was Pie Man funny when I was younger.

  8. Pieman. Everyman. Max Power (UH OH SPAGHETTIOS!). Angry Dad. Mr. X…. oh, and Stonecutter, talk show host (x2), boxer, mascot, astronaut, imitation Krusty, baby-proofer, trucker, hippie, plow-driver, food critic, conceptual artist, grease salesman, carny, mayor, grifter, bodyguard for the mayor, guy on disability, bowling alley clerk, country western manager, garbage commissioner, alien spotter, stalker, mountain climber, undercover reporter, Tomacco farmer, inventor, Smithers, roofer, Poochie, celebrity assistant, writer of hit songs, King Kong, car inventor, rock star, semi-professional bowler, power plant worker, fortune cookie writer, food critic, beer baron, Kwik-E-Mart clerk, homophobe, missionary, cop, trash politician.

    I’m leaving out some and I jumped ahead in time a wee bit but that’s up to and including 90% of the jobs Homer’s had since season 15 and just a couple beyond. Jesus christ. Feel free to add some more, btw.

    Anyway, this episode is more entertaining and watchable than any other episode this season. Probably the best since I AM FURIOUS YELLOW. Not saying much, but it is up there with the 10 best zombie episodes. (probably around # 10, mind you). Aaaaaaaaand… it still isn’t that great, of course. But it’ll do.

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