337. All’s Fair in Oven War

(originally aired November 14, 2004)
Poor, poor Marge. Why is it so hard to write episodes for you? Wacky antics and boyish pranks from Homer and Bart are easier to come up with than a story involving the emotional and mindful Simpson women. I love Marge and feel there’s so much you could explore with her character, but I don’t have much hope with a bland and boring episode like this that they’ll ever give this woman her due. Homer and Marge attend the open house next door (I guess the Powers are officially gone for good now), where Marge is enraptured by their lavish, modern kitchen. Hearing his wife’s concerns regarding their own crap shack, Homer gets to work remodeling their kitchen, just so we can have some wacky physical comedy of him getting electrocuted and mindlessly smashing through walls with a sledgehammer. Eventually Marge hires a professional, and the result is an absolutely gorgeous, high-end kitchen, one that we will never, ever see again ever. It doesn’t even look like it belongs in the Simpson house, it’s so large that it seems like it would take up two-thirds of their bottom floor. Couldn’t they have just used the regular kitchen as a base model and just made it more flashy and nicer? Plus it has a $100,000 price tag, which I guess Homer can afford and Marge was a-OK with spending. All these small bits just eat away at me; the show used to champion itself in its attention to detail, now it’s just whatever we need, throw it in.

The new kitchen inspires Marge’s cooking mojo, enough to enter into a big bake-off competition. Once in, however, she finds her fellow contestants are not so cordial, and proceed to sabotage her dish during the contest. It’s all very random and strange how everyone immediately pounces on Marge specifically and flat-out ruins her entry with no consideration or repercussion. Discouraged, but incensed, Marge sets out her revenge by dousing the other entries with baby ear medicine, cinching herself and Brandine (whose entry she thought was garbage) as finalists. However, Lisa witnessed her mother’s misdeeds and confronts her about it, in the most melodramatic and heavy-handed manner possible. Think back to “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” where she had a similar disillusionment to a parent: her childlike demeanor and innocent, but incredibly mindful questioning of her father’s actions were believable, and enough to eat away at Homer until he relented in the end. Here, Lisa completely vilifies her mother and corners her in a harshly direct fashion. No longer a child, now just an insanely moralistic rabble rouser.

At the finals, Marge sets out to cheat once more, even though it’s done before a live audience and surely she could whip up something better than whatever gutter trash Brandine is making, but admits to her misdeeds and wins Lisa back. Yawn. There’s a B-story here too, one that I’m having some trouble understanding. Marge uncovers Homer’s old Playdude magazines, and calls her husband’s bluff that he only kept them for the articles and cuts out all of the centerfolds. Bart and Milhouse uncover the edited nudie magazines, and decide they want to adopt the Playdude lifestyle, like suave bachelors from the 60s, wearing cushy robes and listening to smooth jazz. It’s that weird thing where they write Bart (and Lisa) so adult in recent years, it feels like whiplash slamming him back into an infantile mindset, talking ignorantly about orgies and “getting some” without having any concept of sex. I really don’t know what to make of it, and I’m thinking that the writers probably didn’t either, just figuring that Bart talking about Norman Mailer and James Caan randomly appearing was funny. Another lousy, but ultimately innocuous episode to throw on the pile. And this was their premiere? Wow-wee.

Tidbits and Quotes
– “Blacula Meets Black Dracula” isn’t bad; “You mean a honky rink!” and their little strut is pretty great, but I still prefer “The Blunchblack of Blotre Blame.”
– The Playdude Cover “The Girls of Kent State: Four Nude in Ohio” is wonderfully tasteless.
– Homer flips around from being braindead and an asshole this show: plastering the kitchen ceiling two feet above the ground, then chucking items and screaming at the contractor Marge ends up hiring.
– Thomas Pynchon is at the church pot luck for some reason, spouting a bunch of joke references to things I don’t know about. I guess they had some extra time after they recorded him for “Diatribe of a Mad Housewife” and scribbled down a part for him in this show real fast.
– Flanders encourages Marge to enter the bake-off (“Up against you, I wouldn’t have a Hindu’s chance in heaven!”) Odd of him to say with Apu a short distance away. Plus I guess Apu hates his family and wants to ditch them now.
– Walking into the bake-off, competitors have nameplates, but some just read “Lunchlady Doris” and “Jasper” for some reason. Also Ruth Powers is there. Maybe she moved to another house in town or something.
– James Caan is just there in Bart’s treehouse. No explanation, just there. In “$pringfield,” not only did Bart opening his own casino tie into the main story and make sense for a kid to do, we got a great bit of how he got Robert Goulet to perform there (“Hi. You from the casino?” “I’m from casino.” “Good enough, let’s go.”) Here, it’s just like “We’re The Simpsons. We can get celebrities. Here’s a celebrity.”
– Marge prides herself for feeding her family on twelve dollars a week, meanwhile she just let her husband spend a hundred grand on a new kitchen. The family can either be rich or they can be poor, you’ve got to choose one, guys.
– The dream sequence of Homer meeting all the food mascots is pretty good (“Blood for cream!”) but it could’ve been shortened a bit. I also hate Homer calling out the mascots (“The Koobler Dwarves! Snip, Crinkle and Poof!”) It’s just like the real ones, but tweaked a bit! No different than Sprawl-Mart or Mapple.
– Lisa’s card is so pathetically saccharine; one scene she’s scornful and passive-aggressive like an adult, now she’s been reduced to child level again.
– We end with James Caan getting horribly killed in a similar fashion as his character from The Godfather. It’s just the toll booth scene redone note for note, so it’s not exactly a parody at all. Remember “Mr. Plow” when they actually did a parody involving Bart getting pelted with snowballs instead of bullets? It’s funny there because Bart is reacting with such effort as if he was getting shot. Even something like Marge beating up the mugger in “Strong Arms of the Ma” is better than this, it’s just as much of a non-parody, but at least it works as a payoff to our main story. Here, it’s just this random bizarre tag where we kill off our guest star. Very strange. And not funny.

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11 responses to “337. All’s Fair in Oven War

  1. Obviously Marge limits herself to spending $12 a week on necessities, and puts the rest of Homer’s million dollar salary into the family’s Emergency Plot Convenience Fund. You know it makes sense!

    • Yes, I realize your post is 3 years old and you may never see it. But just for fun:
      Well, let’s see. A quick search tells me that a Nuclear Safety Inspector makes about $51k a year. So besides that, he might even get:
      * Royalties from the B-Sharps
      * Royalties from Sadgasm (I pretend this episode never happened)
      * Royalties for the hit song “Everybody Hates Ned Flanders”

      He also has had a number of jobs that would give huge paydays:
      * He got what? 10% from Moe’s payday when he fought Drederick Tatum?
      * Herb Powell probably paid him a bunch of money when he worked for him
      * Likewise Hank Scorpio
      * A bunch of money for choreographing the Super Bowl Halftime
      * He made good money as both a bootlegger and a drug runner
      * Served as VP of the Power Plant
      * Made a lot of money when he invented tomacco
      * Produced a Mel Gibson movie
      * Stuff he stole as a firefighter
      * Made money stealing and selling grease
      * Was a wildly successful hairdresser
      * Owned and presumably sold the Denver Broncos
      * Paid for photos as a paparazzo
      * High-earning panhandler
      * Hosted a political TV show
      * Probably receives no royalties for Poochie because they likely don’t show him on TV.

      And all that doesn’t take into account the various jobs held by Bart, Lisa, and Marge.

      Not saying it makes sense, just saying I was bored. 🙂

      • Very excellent research. With all that scratch, surely the Simpsons should still be living in MC Hammer’s old house from “Behind the Laughter.”

  2. Yeah, there is not much to like here in Season 16. In fact, I cannot think of a single episode I enjoyed the entire season.

  3. The b-story was somewhat interesting, conceptually, and to me they’ve always SORTA written Bart as an adult (think back to $pringfield with Bart and gambling or Krusty Gets Kancelled with Hugh Hef.) but this was a bit much. It just wasn’t, again, FUNNY. The show used to be clever and funny. Now they’re lucky to be clever, and WE are VERY lucky if any gags induce even a grin.

    The a-story was boring, predictable, basically all summed up in the episode’s title. Like you said, THIS was their premiere? Yeck.

    • Hah, and duh at me, you of course mention $pringfield specifically in the tidbits, so I probably sound unclear like I’m disagreeing here, but I’m trying to say that it’s okay for him be a adult-like but … it just doesn’t really work here, does it?

      …Another thing, about the Simpsons being rich or poor, I dunno, I don’t think it’s so unrealistic to believe that they have been both rich and poor — personally, I’ve definitely been through stages where I was wealthy-ish and ALSO homelessness/broke at various points of my life, that’s just how things go… The root of the problem is moreso that it CAN be funny for Homer to just spend ridiculous amounts of money (like when he kept giving Bart thousands of dollars in The Day the Violence Died) — the joke to me, I guess, is that even when the Simpsons DO have money, they blow it on bullshit but when they need, you know, money for a simple home repair — or worse, an open heart surgery — they are in debt. Either way, $100,000 for a kitchen? …. o-kay…

  4. The major continuity fuck-up here is the “2 years later” tagline ok yes it’s a poke at contractors but it falls flat because well wtf did they do during that long ass time? how comes bart and millhouse’s not-playboy idea has only just developed and most of all how comes noone has aged at all??? UGH why not just put like 3 months later! and have bart and millhouses idea going downhill surely that would be better.

  5. While the James Caan shooting scene was basically a carbon copy of the scene from The Godfather, at least its context was set up somehow (it was due to Brandine running off with Caan, which pissed off Cletus). It’s not like the shooting happened out of nowhere; that would’ve been really lazy.

    …Yeah, I know, damning with faint praise. This episode isn’t that great, especially the A-story, which feels like well-worn territory.

  6. The only thing about this one that sticks out in my mind is Marge saying “B.F.D.” (which is a totally un-Marge thing to say but I guess that’s why we’re supposed to laugh at it), because I caught this episode twice and FOX bleeped it on the rerun. This was the season when they really started to crack down on censoring the show, it seemed.

  7. That Bart and Milhouse Playboy thing reminded me of the first seasons of South Park, with innocent kids acting like adults in all their genius misinterpretations. Oh i love those first seasons..
    Anyway, i dont know if Simpsons writers really copied SP here(they surely did in some other episodes), but since they already started to copy Family Guy at this point, i dont want to give them the benefit of the doubt.

  8. The $100,000 price tag on the kitchen remodel and similar details like that (the constant flying all over the country and across the world; Home never working; etc.) did a lot to ruin this series to me. The Simpsons were a down-on-their-luck struggling family who had to pawn the TV to afford a counseling session. They don’t have this kind of fucking money. And not only does the plot totally ring false whenever they spent exorbitant sums like that, but it also makes it impossible for me to take it seriously when the writers turn around and try to have a “the family needs ________ but can’t afford it” episode. I don’t fucking care; maybe they shouldn’t have flown to Hollywood so many times!

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