(originally aired May 1, 2005)
The season’s almost over, but surprise, finally an episode that I can say I enjoyed overall. It’s got problems to be sure, but it’s a simple enough story packed with enough gags, and one of the greatest guest stars returning for another go definitely boosts it a lot in the third act. New vending machines crammed with terribly unhealthy snacks arrive at Springfield Elementary, and no one eats them up more, literally, than Bart. It isn’t long before he becomes rather obese, and ends up suffering from a heart attack. Now for Bart to get this fat, you’d think Marge would have said something, rather than just relent and give in like she did earlier in the show, but I’m sure she must have done something. The second act shows her efforts to get Bart to eat right, but then we see he’s got junk stashed in his room, and he disposes of his healthy food in favor of snacks at school, it all works and makes sense for the characters. Eventually the family holds an intervention, and when that proves to be a bust, carts Bart off to fat camp.
Said camp is run by Tab Spangler, Marine Corps retiree, and voiced by Albert Brooks, the first character he’s voiced in eight years, and goddamn did I miss him. Sure, Spangler isn’t really as memorable as Jacques or Hank Scorpio, but he’s just as insane and hilarious as you’d expect a Brooks character to be; almost every line of his completely works (“Son, I’m gonna tell you a story, about a young man who came here and failed. Well, that is the story. I shouldn’t call a sentence a story. Anyway, it’s you!”) To pay for Bart’s treatments, the family opens up the house to a youth hostel, where they’re quickly overrun and run ragged by pushy German backpackers. It’s kind of an odd, but works when Spangler takes Bart there to show him the cost of his actions. To make things right, Bart returns to the school, destroys all the vending machines and takes the money that comes out home to the family. And Marge just takes the money, no questions asked. But honestly, even though it’s not played up as big, I can see her putting her morals aside for a moment just to get those backpackers out of her hair. Then we end on some great ad-libbing with Brooks and Castellaneta. So finally, a good show from season 16, and with only five left to go! Just under the wire…
Tidbits and Quotes
– The show starts with some good old fashioned Skinner ass-kissing (“It’s not my birthday, Seymour, you know I’m a Sagittarius.” “Really? I’m a Libra. There’s a lot of compatibility there.” “Skinner, be gay on your own time.”)
– Scammer & Z-Dog are great representations of what marketing executives think is hip and that kids will identify with. And it works, because Springfieldians are a manipulative bunch (“And a subsonic neuro-jammer disrupts the child’s judgement center!”)
– The writers seem to acknowledge Lisa’s new role on the show by having her yell into a “Li’l Agitator” megaphone to protest about the unhealthy snacks. Of course this doesn’t excuse it, but at least they’ve finally lampshaded it.
– Homer’s daydream of Marge being a killer robot is really bizarre, but it’s saved when we’re back to reality (“I repeat, no one is getting replaced by a machine, until all the kinks are worked out.”)
– I love the three weeks later montage, recreating the opening titles except with a fat Bart, whose skateboard cracks the concrete, he bends the lightpole he swings around and knocks everyone on the sidewalk down. The pauses as the music waits for Bart to continue are great, when it pans outside the school, and then when the family rushes onto the couch and wait for Bart to stumble in. Also it seems like they got Brooks to do a line for Jacques, yelling, “Careful!” when Bart runs over his foot.
– I liked Homer crying for his son to do the Bartman as he seemingly just had a heart attack. It’s a joke, but it also works as concern of a father wanting his stricken son to get up and move. It makes more sense that Homer wailing about Thanksgiving for no apparent reason after thinking his son had been kidnapped.
– Great appearance by Dr. Hibbert, unlike last episode (“Bart had a heart attack, and it’s his own damn fault! These dark spots in his pulmonary arteries are malted milk balls!” “His liver looks healthy.” “That’s a wad of Laffy Taffy.”)
– The Itchy & Scratchy cartoon is way too long for too little payoff. I do love Krusty and his chest zipper though; seeing him bleed profusely on stage weeping while Sideshow Mel stands there unsure of what to do is fantastic.
– Bart’s stash of snacks and the scene of him tossing them in the air and them raining down on him is a parody of The Shawshank Redemption, which is one of those movies that has been on my list to watch forever. Someone comment whether this parody was good, it looked like it was.
– I just noticed when Bart gets off the bus, one car’s license plate reads ‘MANH8TR.’ Whose car could that be? Hmmmmm…
– The chariot that they’re pulled Spangler on is labeled “Chubby Chaser.” Excellent.
– Every Brooks line is amazing; I won’t quote them all, but here’s a few (“You’re lucky this is just a youth hostel. We had one family that had to take in dry cleaning. The chemicals killed their dog! Well, that’s what they told us in the lawsuit. I don’t see a dog living past fourteen anyway, do you?” “Strudel-sucking globbenheimer. You need to think about that. That’s what the human race thinks of you.”) And of course, the ending with Homer (“We got a long road ahead. You wanna pull off a hotel? We’ll split a room.” “Where will I sleep?” “We can worry about that when we’re standing naked before the bed! My goodness, no wonder you eat!”)