364. The Italian Bob

(originally aired December 11, 2005)
Poor Sideshow Bob. After redeeming his character and given a suitable farewell in season 8, Mike Scully and Al Jean dragged him back out and whitewashed him to be a generic evil villain, wanting to kill the Simpsons because he’s eeevvil. It’s the Mr. Burns complex: motivations are out the window, this character’s a bad guy so he does bad guy things. But this isn’t only a Bob show, it’s another travel show. The Simpsons are going to Italy! Burns buys himself a sharp new European car, and needs someone to go overseas to ship it back to him. Not only does he choose Homer, he allows the entire family to go, for some reason. After the obligatory sight-seeing gags, the family ends up at a small Tuscan village, and is shocked to find the mayor to be Sideshow Bob. The story of how Bob got there is actually pretty satisfying: he went to Europe to get a fresh start, and ended up being the toast of the town during wine season, able to crush a multitude of grapes with his gargantuan feet. Utilizing established character lore to comic effect? I’m shocked.

Bob’s got a great new life in Italy, a lovely wife and kid, and in exchange for not exposing his criminal past, welcomes the Simpsons to his village with open arms, and fixes their car for them. You really feel good for Bob’s new lot in life, and are almost dreading the inevitable moment it comes crashing down and he reverts back to his boring murderous default. A drunk Lisa spills the beans about Bob’s past, and is further clinched when she stumbles and rips off his suit, revealing his Springfield Prison orange jumpsuit. Why in the ever loving fuck would he be wearing that? Does it even matter? It’s times like these I feel the writers hold the audience in such contempt; they must realize how dumb this stuff is, but decide it’s good enough to air anyway. Bob swears revenge on the family, and inexplicably, his wife and son are on board too. The Simpsons hide out at the Coliseum where Krusty is performing Pagliacci. Bob and family move in for the kill, but Krusty drives away with the Simpsons and everything’s fine. How boring. I think there’s a lot of potential for Bob’s character, but if they’re just going to do the same old evil murder schtick, then why even fucking bother. Classic Simpsons acknowledged when things were growing stale and put them to bed. New Simpsons then goes and jostles them awake to do the same old song and dance in place of new ideas.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Mr. Burns’ car breaks down in front of the school, and the kids taunt him. He then gets out an old timey camera to take their pictures to remember them by for vengeance purposes, then falls asleep under the curtain. It’s funny because he’s old! Later we see Cletus and Brandine, where she comments how Cletus is the most wonderful husband and son she’s ever had. It’s funny because they’re inbred! I know I’ve mentioned this many times, but it’s such a bummer that secondary characters have been reduced to one type of joke. Once they’re on screen, you can pretty much call the gag immediately.
– Li’l Liberal Lisa arrives in Italy with a Canadian flag on her backpack (“Some people in Europe have the impression that America has made some stupid choices over the past… five years…”) There’s something in Smith’s delivery that feels self-righteous, beyond Lisa’s character. Bush has been in office five years, get it? We’re saying his presidency is terrible, without actually saying it! Again, I’ll say this show is toothless for making these sort-of kind-of rips on the sitting President, where in the past the show had no problem with any target.
– My lord, Bob’s wife’s voice is sexy. I mean, just look at her voice actress. Hachi machi. But unfortunately with that, we have Tress MacNeille as Bob’s son, who is so goddamn annoying I want to strangle that little fucker.
– I actually enjoy most of the second act. Bob’s new life is interesting and believable within his character, and it’s nice to see the high-minded, genteel side of him, as well as his buffoonish show business side when he clowns around playing soccer with the kids. The fact that it’s ruined at the end of the act when Bob must be forced back to villainy is so disheartening, and that it’s handled so stupidly and unbelievably is like pouring salt on the festering wound. Not even the American Dad ‘Plagiarismo Di Plagiarismo’ bit can quell my great annoyance. It’s the lesser of three MacFarlane evils, the only one remotely watchable, and I’d much rather be watching it than this show.
– “I don’t wish to brag, but he’s evil at an eighth grade level.” Not only has Bob become a cartoonish villain, but he acknowledges himself as one.
– Another show with no ending. Krusty drives in for no reason to save the Simpsons, and Bob and family just walk home, while we hear Tress MacNeille continually screeching as that damn kid.

24 responses to “364. The Italian Bob

  1. This one just confused me, because it was strangely watchable and almost good at times but the little baby was the most annoying thing since the dead body episode where Homer screamed for 10 minutes straight. I like the MacFarlane disses, though as you said, American Dad is more watchable, funny, and clever (and I don’t even like it at all!) than the Simpsons sooooo it feels a bit… off. Or very off.

    So I dunno. I thought there were some good jokes, the storyline was interesting for a bit, and it’s always good to hear Boss/Frasier/Gary the Rat (!!!!!). But eh.

  2. krusty’s the only funny thing in this ep.

    TWO acts!?

  3. This is the one with the kid who keeps screaming “Vendetta!! Vendetta!!!” over and over again, right? Someone kill the little shit for me, please.

  4. Kelsey Grammer singing – worth it.

  5. Next to “The Bob Next Door”, this is the worst Sideshow Bob episode. While Bob trying to conceal his criminal past to the Italian village is nice, that’s about the only good I can say about it. Nearly all the jokes bomb and it doesn’t have any sense of mood/tone that the classic Sideshow Bob episodes had.

    Two nitpicks in particular:
    -Homer mentions to Bob that he never went to college. Uh, what about “Homer Goes to College”? Did… did that even come up in the writer’s room? Obviously not.
    -The scene where the family is driving and has to avoid the cheeses falling out of the truck while Lisa shouts the type of each one. More unnatural dialog. If a vehicle in front of me was spilling its contents, I wouldn’t take time to announce each of the objects falling from it.

    • Eh, regarding the college thing… remember that episode where Homer says he can’t read, too? Even though we see him read many many times. That’s one problem with the show, especially as it got older. Used to, the disconnected/noncontinuity stuff was used for humor and was easy to dismiss, but then they started keeping continuity on CERTAIN elements (Apu’s 8 kids; Maude being dead) and a kinda on-again/off-again continuity (Barney’s sometimes a drunk, sometimes a coffee addict). It’s kinda confusing but Matt Groening himself said not to worry about it since he never did. Eh.

      Still, saying he never went to college automatically brings to mine one of the best episodes of any show, ever, so that really wasn’t a good idea on their part, was it?

  6. This is another one of those cases where I think they came up with the title first. Some writer had probably just watched The Italian Job (or, more likely, seen a commercial for it on TV) and realized “Hey, ‘The Italian Bob’ would be a great name for a Sideshow Bob episode! Now, we need to come up with an interesting reason for the Simpsons to go to Italy…ah, screw it, we’ll just hang a lampshade on everything. Admitting your own flaws without fixing them is funny, right?”

  7. At least we had a great Family Guy and American Dad slam joke.

    • True, but this is one of those “people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones” deals, because, as bad as Family Guy and American Dad can be (and Family Guy does go there, if complaints about “Not All Dogs Go to Heaven” are to be believed, but the DVD commentary to that episode at least had a good explanation for the religion vs. atheism argument. If The Simpsons did an episode like it, there’d be nothing to talk about), it’s got nothing on how low The Simpsons has sunk.

  8. This is a strong contender for my least favorite episode of the whole series, purely because it contains tons of examples of my least-favorite Simpsons joke – characters overexplaining things. Homer’s rant about Italy’s history, Lisa describing the cheeses, and ESPECIALLY “Dad, you’re driving on an aqueduct!” “Well, what are they for? Transporting water to distant urban centers?” Fuck these jokes. They are terrible.

  9. This is truly one of the most forgettable episodes of the series. Only watched this crap just a few weeks ago and literally remember nothing from it apart from his stupid “land a knife on a globe” plot.

    • That’s one tough ass globe there wouldn’t doing that just cause the globe to shatter into pieces after like 2 stabs or so???

  10. Gotta love how the whole point of the episode is binned as soon as they end up in Rome so they go back to America, what did Mr Burns do to Homer? and speaking of Burns how in the fuck can he be old fucking fashioned seeing as he runs a freakin’ nuclear plant GOD DAMN IT!

  11. Another terrible episode.

  12. Just watched this and there was a joke I didn’t get. When the cop flips through his criminal book, he flips to a page with Peter Griffin and he’s labeled a plagiarist. Fair enough, Peter’s been called a Homer clone since day one and it’s a cute joke. Then the cop flips the page again and it shows Stan Smith with the crime of plagiarizing the plagiarist. What? For one, Stan isn’t a copy of any character that I’m aware of. Secondly, American Dad was so much better than The Simpsons at this point that they have no right to point fingers.

    • Yeah. Stan Smith, according to Seth MacFarlane, is more like those announcers from those 1950s short films about how America shouldn’t take its freedom for granted, because Communists could come in and take it away (with a little bit of Archie Bunker, considering that Stan has politically conservative views and Hayley has politically liberal views, and Seth MacFarlane has always wanted to do an “All in the Family”-type show that tackles social/political issues, like The Simpsons used to do. He tried with “Family Guy,” but somewhere along the way, it got caught up in cutaway and non sequitur humor). Those “behind-the-scenes” DVD specials can teach you a lot (not The Simpsons ones, though).

  13. Status quo did indeed kill what could’ve been an interesting ending for Bob, though Martin and nelson taunting Burns’ car at the start was a nice bit of actually acting like kids when Martin (trying to be one of the crowd), suggests Burns get “an Oldsmobile”, nobody laughs and Nelson then just says in a wonderfully crass bully line “burns’ car sucks!”

    Nice to see Nelson not being a pathetic poor loser for once.

  14. Really like this episode.

    As for the voice actress of Sideshow Bob’s wife… wow. Just wow.

  15. Reading this the episode was sounding really good, the idea of Bob ending up in this little Italian village and settling down and all that sounded great.
    But of course at this point Bob is just evil so we need him to go back to being evil because the writers have no idea who these characters are or what motivates them.

    I don’t understand how they keep ending up at these ridiculous non-endings though.
    I mean, the show takes what, 6 months to produce? The show we are watching might have three minutes to wrap everything up in a neat little bow (don’t forget to restore the status quo!) but that has absolutely no bearing on how the story gets to three minutes of screen time left and needing to wrap it all up.

    And as others have said numerous times, pointing out that your dumb stupid ending is dumb and stupid doesn’t make it better, it just shows how little they care.
    It’s not even like self-deprecation, which can be very funny, it’s just sheer bloody laziness.

  16. I’m italian, and that say enough about how much ive been annoyed(and bored at the same time, which is amazing) by this show. They even got the wonderful Maria Grazia Cucinotta to do the voice and she practically said nothing(shes barely a character).
    Boring useless episode, but thats nothing new

  17. When did Bob have time to go to Italy, meet a woman, and have a kid all within the same year since Bart is still 10?

    Anyway, this episode is such a mixed bag between garbage and dog shit. The first act does have a funny moment when Bart calls Burns the Cryptkeeper and the insults followed are pretty funny. However, why Burns has Homer go to Italy to get his car is beyond me. What’s worse is why he is okay with the rest of his family going too.

    Moving on, I do like the explanation that Bob went to Italy to escape his criminal life, especially the bit when he stabs the globe randomly and Florida was the first stop. His reaction is priceless. It all goes downhill from there though.

    This episode should have been like the end of evil Bob (for real this time) and him moving on to a new life for good. Give him a happy send off and call it good. The reasons behind his reveal are so god damn retarded and the last act is just awful. I agree, there is no actual ending, the episode just stops. There is no resolution, no climax, but you know what, it still makes far more sense than him becoming a mutant.

  18. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention I did like that Lisa at least understood what the lady said, making use of the Italian SHE JUST LEARNED!!! It would have been nice if she had actually had a full conversation with someone in Italian.

  19. Unfortunately, American Dad ended up going the same route and even faster (I could only follow it until the third season before losing interest).
    As for the episode, yeah, not only they got Bob to revert to type too fast, they also roped his new family in with him, just so the Simpsons could have antagonists. It would be better if they had retired Bob after “Brother from Another Series” (which, ironically, was the first Sideshow Bob episode I saw) – I mean, they retired Dr. Monroe and Maude Flanders with their VAs still being part of the cast, so why not Bob, who isn’t even voiced by a cast regular? -, or if his descent back into villainy here was a bait-and-switch with someone else targeting at least one member of the family, like the aforementioned “Brother” or “The Great Louse Detective”, or maybe trying to expose some political rival who wants to rub Bob out, but those pesky Americans are in the way, hell, there are other ways to handle this than turning Bob back into a homicidal maniac. See, just in this space I’m trying harder than the people FOX pays big bucks to write this dreck.

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