343. Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass

(originally aired February 6, 2005)
Sometimes episodes strike just the right level of batshit crazy that keep me from hating them, like “A Tale of Two Springfields,” to a much lesser extent, “Bart-Mangled Banner,” and now this one. Lots of times the show does ridiculous, insane shit, but still wants to be tethered to some kind of grounded emotional story element, causing it to fail miserably. This episode begins bizarre right off the bat, where we see Homer beat his son at a carnival game, do an elaborate and endless celebratory dance routine, and the crowd around him applaud and cheer him on. It sets you up for this kind of episode perfectly, and is almost bulletproof. Should I complain that Homer is acting out-of-character? Why bother? For brainless maniac Homer, the plot here actually makes some sense. His crazy video goes viral online, leading him to be approached by professional athletes for tips on how to showboat at games so their clips get shown on sports center highlight reels. Ridiculous? Of course. But it’s a good shot at the media semi-intentionally glorifying rowdy behavior, and uses nutjob Homer in a logical fashion: coaching others to be nutjobs.

Where I can bizarrely go with the Homer story, I hate the one running alongside it involving Flanders. Displeased by the state of sacrilegious TV and film, he decides to shoot his own Biblical films, depicting all the violence and gore the Good Book has to offer, soon getting financial backing from Mr. Burns to make bigger and bloodier pictures. Clearly this is aping off of the success of the extremely graphic Passion of the Christ, and more of Flanders being the show’s outlet for wacko ultra-Christian gags. I don’t think Flanders would approve of the over-the-top violence in Passion, let alone make a film where one of his sons stabs the other to death with obscene amounts of blood. The two stories converge when Homer is called upon to direct the Super Bowl half time show, and with no ideas, collaborates with Flanders to do a grandiose recreation of the story of Noah’s Ark. Their efforts are all for naught, as the show is universally reviled for being blatantly non-secular, in an admittedly excellent twist. I found myself going along with a lot in this episode, but there was just as much stuff there that annoyed me as well. But in such an aggressively bland season, this one stands out as somewhat of a good effort. Kinda.

Tidbits and Quotes
– This episode reveals Comic Book Guy’s real name: Jeff Albertson. In an interview, Al Jean said that they did this deliberately to annoy fans, and chose to do it in this episode specifically, which aired after the Super Bowl with a highly inflated number of viewers. It’s great to hear that the writers are intentionally trying to piss off their loyal fans. It really doesn’t matter to me, though; did they think that hardcore fans would be enraged that they tell us what CBG’s name is? Who gives a shit?
– The joke was kind of labored and dumb, but I like the Donkey Kong bit with Homer throwing trash cans at Mario.
– Rod and Todd ask their father questions about the Bible, that if Cain and Abel were Adam’s only children, how did humanity continue? Flanders disregards them completely. It’s making jokes about analyzing the Bible, and hardcore Christian types side-stepping any and all logical fallacies within… but this is Flanders we’re talking about. He’s an admirable character, one we’re not supposed to harbor any negative feelings toward. Also he’s got Rod using a cardboard knife, meanwhile his final film features a huge stack of burning animals, realistic blood splatter and part of his face melting off.
– I laughed at Homer using a pathetic crippled kid to garner the football player’s sympathy enough to stomp the opposing team’s mascot into the dirt, who is just a single mother in a costume. It’s so ridiculous in so many ways, I couldn’t be offended by it. Same with all the end zone dances; when you’ve got him pulling a hibachi from nowhere to grill up the football, or ripping up the astroturf to take a nap (complete with Homer’s clipboard diagram of the play), I just had to go along with the absurdity.
– All the guest stars wear conveniently labeled hoodies so they can be easily identified, and none of them really stand out. It’s just a random assortment of sports stars they cobbled together. The only line of any of theirs I laughed at came from Tom Brady (“You guys think Homer’s mad at me? I waved at him in the parking lot and he stared right through me!”) Between that and his “Give all your love to Tom!” showboat, it makes it seem like Brady has an inferiority complex. It strikes me the days the show would make characters out of its celebrities, instead of just having them show up and be living in the Simpson house for some reason.
– Nice wordplay intro to the sports show (“Tonight on the Jock Center: Clipper and the stripper, a Jones that’s chipper, and did Joe Torre shoot Flipper?”) The drawing of an irritated Torre shooting the dolphin in mid-air is pretty funny.
– Homer watches a history of half time shows, from the very first featuring just one man and his tuba, to the marriage of Mr. and Mrs. Pac-Man, following by them and the ghosts dancing to “Let’s Get Physical.”
– Harry Shearer does Vin Scully at the Super Bowl, getting in some good lines (“This brand new, $300 million stadium was completed just one short week ago, and is scheduled for demolition early next month. America’s priorities are a joke! Now here’s the kickoff!” “Don’t stop watching in the second half, points count double!”)
– The Noah’s Ark show is a lot more in character for Ned then those gore fest movies; I like his modest “Thank you” after he reads the concluding passage. And I honestly love the twist at the end with people being pissed about the religious half time show (“You try to raise your kids as secular humanists but these showbiz types keep shoving religion down our throats!” “Mommy, why wasn’t I baptized?” “You see? You see?”) It’s extremely rare I’d call something in this show to be clever… but I gotta say, it’s pretty clever.

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11 responses to “343. Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass

  1. Once again, great review Mike. You’ve echoed some of my thoughts on this episode to a tee almost. I think these writers on the show really do hate their fans as well for sometimes pointing out the show’s flaws, weaknesses, plotholes, bad writing and inconsistency’s, etc.. Speaking of Al Jean btw, see here and please pass it on if possible to the Dead Homer Society:

    “Simpsons’ Al Jean On Season 24, ‘Treehouse’ and the Show’s End”

    http://spinoff.comicbookresources.com/2012/09/28/simpsons-vet-al-jean-on-season-24-treehouse-and-the-shows-end

  2. Sorry, this one does little for me.

    That said, I did like Ned’s over-the-top Christian film, a biting parody of The Passion of the Christ. Yes, it was out-of-character of him to make such a film, but the film itself was pretty funny in how needlessly over-the-top it was, especially (IIRC) Abraham chopping himself clean in half.

    Jeff Albertson was just a “who cares?” moment for me as well. Does giving CBG a real name change his character in any way? No. If the writers were trying to piss me off, they failed.

  3. I hate this episode. Too many worthless sports players crammed into it.

  4. When it comes to Steven Dean Moore/Tim Long episodes, everyone hates them except you.

  5. Almost everything about this episode faded from memory until reading this. I barely even remember the Super Bowl that year.

    I do like Homer’s comment after watching the lame halftime compilation: “Ohh, all these shows have one thing in common: they’ve all been good.”

  6. I remember being really uncomfortable watching this episode, Buried deep among the insane story of Homer coaching pro athletes in the art of showboating is the unsettling knowledge that this episode would not exist if the writers hadn’t turned Homer into an insane madman who does whatever he wants all the time. Can you imagine classic-era Homer doing any of the things that happen in this episode?

    Also, this was the one where I finally went “That’s it, Flanders is dead. They’ve condensed him down to a one-dimensional right-wing Christian wacko and he’s never coming back.” Seeing him dressed as the devil with bugs spilling from his mouth against a newspaper headlining the legalization of same-sex marriage just makes me shake my head and go “Whatever, writers.”

  7. This is probably my worst of the season actually. Some episodes around this time try to have a classic-era sensibility and fall largely flat (like Fraudcast News or Mommie Beerest), but I still prefer episodes like those over an aggressively awful episode like this or Tale of 2 Springfields.

    I agree the ending is pretty great though.

  8. THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST parodying stuff felt so sloppy and meaningless — just really, really bad. Really, they need to leave that kinda “topical” stuff to, eh, South Park, and.. oh… Family Guy… and, oh, let’s not say Moe…

    …The next episode, PRANKSTA RAP (that name — ugh) is actually probably the best episode of the season, funnily enough (well, I have a soft spot for SEVEN BEER SNITCH; both are undeniably weak as fuck but have their moments). For some reason, Barney Fife is in it; needless to say, his appearance isn’t as memorable as the Charles Bronson “emmit’s fix it shop” moment…

    Holy shit, this is going to be meaningless to almost everyone, but there’s this insane, surreal, weird-as-fuck underground horror film I’ve loved for years called KAMILLIONS (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kamillions) and I just found out that Simpsons director Mikel B. Anderson directed that movie. Strange!

  9. It was unrealistic for Burns to pull the movie just because Marge complained. That’s the worst part. The real Burns would never do that. Waste all that money and he liked having real whippings in it because “Pharaoh did not add the sound later”. That was the annoying part. I would have liked to see more of this gore movie, it was completely hilarious and I for one think that the sacrilege is the best part fo the Zombie Simpsons era. Everything from the church being rocketed and plastered with ads to Homer suing it, taking it over, and having idols worshipped in it, I think that kind of thing is the only thing that the Zombie era has that’s really better than the classic era.

  10. Maybe it’s that I find the hole American football thing goes over my head a little, (understandable me being English), but I hate this episode!

    the most blatant example of jerk ass homer being a jerkass and getting praised for it. The single mother bit is just plane nasty, and while I get it’s supposed to be intentionally nasty, the hole show is so nasty that it’s just like an extra sucker punch that makes me go “well what is the point?”

    As regards the twist of people hating Ned’s Noah’s arc thing, what is this supposed to mean? That the liberal media is eeevil and hates religion, or that to appreciate a cinematic bible story you have to be an ultra religious nutter.

    I’m quite in favour of parodying all equally, but I’m really not sure where this one was going, or at least I might have bought the premise on Ned just making an honest effort to make a good film about something he believed in if ned wasn’t painted as such a loony for most of the time and this episode in particular.

  11. Rod and Todd ask their father questions about the Bible, that if Cain and Abel were Adam’s only children, how did humanity continue? Flanders disregards them completely. It’s making jokes about analyzing the Bible, and hardcore Christian types side-stepping any and all logical fallacies within

    Umm…except that Genesis explicitly states that Adam and Eve had other sons and daughters, among them Seth, from whom the Jewish people are supposedly descended. So good job revealing your complete ignorance about those your mocking?

    Assholes.

    (I’m not at all religious, but biblical literacy is foundational to understanding much of Western art and literature, particularly pre-19th century. The ignorance displayed by so many supposedly intellectual types on that subject irks me to no end.)

    Anyway, not a fan of ZS whacko rightwing fundamentalist Ned. Less a fan of Al Jean’s active efforts to piss off long time fans. Like, seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? Many are already leaving in droves. Are you trying to alienate those ever-dwindling few still hanging on?

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