(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.