371. Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife

(originally aired March 26, 2006)
If there’s any series more in desperate need of some fresh creative blood, it’s this one. Writers come and go, but with Al Jean entering his twelfth year at the helm, the series seems to be in an endless stagnation. This couldn’t be more evident in this episode, “written” by Ricky Gervais. I use quotes because thanks to massive rewrites, the show to his name feels as innocuous and identity-less as any other episode. The only evidence of his involvement comes from the character he plays, which is more or less another version of his normal role, a dogged, flustered man who attempts to make humor, but fails to recognize his audience. His humor style of awkward pauses and long silences doesn’t exactly gel well with modern Simpsons’ joke-every-twenty-seconds mentality. This couldn’t be clearer in one scene where Gervais’ character Charles tells Marge a slightly offensive joke. In one of his shows, it would be told uninterrupted, and the comedy would come from the recipient’s offense and Gervais’ endless backpedaling to cover himself. Here, Charles is interrupted many times by Marge’s inane commentary (“That’s just the set-up!” “Well, you’ve set me up for laughs down the road!”) Any attempts at alternate types or rhythms of humor are trampled upon.

Another episode with basically no story: to get the money for a flat screen TV, the Simpsons go on a reality show where two families swap wives, in this case with a British couple with a frosty marriage. Homer is stuck with a cold English harpy, while Marge lives with Charles, who becomes instantly smitten with her kindness. There’s barely any reality TV commentary here (wasn’t “Helter Shelter” enough?), so most of the show is just seeing the families new lives. English wife Verity makes the Simpsons write reports and do chores, which is boring, and Charles attempts to woo Marge, having seemingly fallen in love with her based upon… she’s nice? That and Marge is apparently a total dummy (“I wrote this song for a woman: you.” “What an odd thing for a man who’s not interested in me to do!”) She’s always been naive to certain things, but I think she’d be able to pick up on this guy’s intentions. There’s a handful of other things to whine about, but largely this show is shockingly empty. I’d love to see whatever Gervais’ first draft was, and see just how much they tore it down to size to fit in with the rest of the slop this season.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Lenny holds a party at his apartment. The guest list? Skinner, Krabappel, Sideshow Mel, Ned Flanders, Dr. Nick, the Van Houtens, the Hibberts, Professor Frink… basically all of your Springfield regulars. How do they all know Lenny? It’s more of that “everybody-knows-everybody” thing of later seasons that I hate so much.
– Why the fuck would Lenny allow Homer to live for days on his couch? I get maybe he doesn’t want to be mean, but I can’t imagine this would go on more than a day before he would kick him the fuck out.
– In an irrelevant, out-of-nowhere joke, Homer completes collecting fifty years of The Family Circus, then throws the scrapbook in the fireplace. I’m quite confused, but mostly at the fact that he’s gluing a comic into the book, then we see in the next shot that it’s taped in. Is anyone watching this shit?
– Gervais has already tackled exploitative reality shows on the Extras finale, which was a bit bloated at ninty minutes, but is still well done, and has an alternatively scathing and heartbreaking finale. It won’t be quite as powerful if you don’t know the context, but here it is. He’s hit or miss at times, but Gervais is a very strong writer, but in this episode, none of it is allowed to come through.
– Not big on Homer and Bart openly mooning the camera crew and this family they’ve just met, but it’s partially saved by this exchange (“Ugh! We better pixellate those.” “There aren’t enough pixels in the world!”) The cameraman’s panicked read on that is great. But in the spirit of ruining good jokes, they add on one too many (“Yeah, just cover it with Ryan Seacrest’s head.”) Oh snap!
– The only clever moment in the show is Homer’s summation of Charlie: “You take forever to say nothing.” It’s a great read of how one might see his kind of rambling humor.
– This show is just filled with awful, awful Marge lines. Again, it appears that no one knows how to write her as a normal human being anymore (“I don’t choose the committee as such, but I choose where they meet. This year, I’m thinking of Conference Room C.” “Oooh! That leaves A and B available for overflow!”)
– My only other laugh came from the quick bit of Itchy & Scratchy. They’re in old English garb, Scratchy is thrown into a guillotine… then Itchy shoots away at him with a Tommy gun.
– I’m sure Gervais’ song went untouched, but I’ve never been a fan of any of the comic songs he’s done. Save of course when he’s serenading Elmo. The sequence goes on foreeeeeeever, and it couldn’t be less funny. And then they extend it over the credits!
– On top of it all, the show gets a Homer-Marge slant at the end. Marge says she misses Homer, and Charlie randomly says he does too, despite the fact that they met once. Marge explains why she loves him: “He’s loved me ever since the first moment he saw me, and he’s never stopped, and whatever it takes to make me happy, he’ll do it, even if it kills him.” Cut to when she returns home to find Homer with slices of pizza strapped to his bare legs. In the best moment of the show, she comes in with such joy, then sees the state her husband is in, and completely deflates (“…put your pants back on.”) It’s so unbelievably sad; her delusions of her husband are completely swept away as she instantly realizes she’s once again stuck to this sloven ape-like man who whines about having to spend time with their children. The end of the episode features Homer finally having got his stupid TV and singing about it, while Marge is clasping her pillow on her head trying to get some sleep. In the past you’d understand why these two are together. But now, I just don’t get it. I feel so bad for Marge in some of these shows.
– And on top of that we have our great finale: Varity has hooked up with Patty, joined by their mutual hatred of Homer! And Patty’s in a plaid shirt and jeans, dressed like a man! Because she’s a lesbian!

20 responses to “371. Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife

  1. The Glory of Being a Clown

    I liked this episode despite its flaws. I could almost sympathize with poor Charles falling in love with the first woman showed him the smallest bit of kindness and I enjoyed his ridiculous serenade.

  2. Yeah, I share the sentiment/disappointment that for an episode written by a guest star, it really didn’t feel much different from the typical episode, save for Charles’s sections.

    I did like Homer’s book report on CSI Miami/Letterman and a few random jokes here and there (most from the first act), but once again, eh.

    No mention of the live action intro?

  3. Oh, yay. Homophobia. Original. Honestly, I don’t remember much of this one other than it being pretty awful. And that the song went on forever, despite being awful and not in a funny way.

  4. – Lenny holds a party at his apartment. The guest list? Skinner, Krabappel, Sideshow Mel, Ned Flanders, Dr. Nick, the Van Houtens, the Hibberts, Professor Frink… basically all of your Springfield regulars. How do they all know Lenny? It’s more of that “everybody-knows-everybody” thing of later seasons that I hate so much.

    Sums up Zombie Simpsons nicely.

  5. This is just a….. terrible mess of an episode.

  6. Massively unfunny episode.

    Re: writers… even Swartzwelder’s episodes turned to shit, as we all know.. Bill Odenkirk is a great writer but his scripts feel like typical zomiesodes… I dunno. They’re hard to distinguish. Whoever actually puts the episodes together — Jean and his merrymen I guess? — are the ones who have fucked this show up for so long that it doesn’t even make you excited to see who has actually ‘written’ an episode at this point. Another sad development.

    • BTW, Mike, you called this episode “shockingly empty.” which is actually probably the best thing you’ve written about any episode. It really totally completely sums up zombie simpsons. Every single review from now on could probably say “shockingly empty” or perhaps something like “shockingly empty (except for the overrated-but-interesting Banksy sequence)” but I’m glad you haven’t taken the easy way out on these reviews.

      • Yeah, I don’t think anyone would read this blog anymore if one were to keep saying every episode was “shockingly empty” and used those exact same words for every episode that they didn’t like. I’m sure that most of the other bad The Simpsons episode are not so shockingly empty if there are more things to criticize and talk about. Otherwise, what more can you say about an episode that has little substance at all to begin?

    • Bill Odenkirk a good writer? Where are you getting your information?

      • “How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back”
        “Insane in the Mainframe”
        “The Cyber House Rules”
        “Kif Gets Knocked Up a Notch”
        “The Farnsworth Parabox”
        (ps: produced “Luck of the Fryish” )

        oh and writer on Mr. Show, one of the best shows ever.

    • I’m not going to deny that executive meddling-in addition to the DIRECTOR-could have led to a lot of potentially good episodes getting ruined, but I still reject the notion that Al Jean is the sole cause responsible for ALL of the failings of The Simpsons since he was the showrunner, and sometimes the people who actually wrote the episodes (not this one since Ricky admitted he barely wrote any of it to begin) could be writing the episodes to be as bad as they are.

      To some brilliant writers like Seth Rogen or Judd Apatow, I guess writing cookie-cutter stories for The Simpsons with little to no character drive are so easy that even they can do it when they aren’t writing something else more interesting you would rather be watching. I still refuse to believe that almost every new The Simpsons episode is automatically terrible, or that their “stiff” HD look is the worst thing ever seen. It’s still miles better than Legends of Chamberlain Heights for starters.

  7. The only reason I do enjoy this episode is because of Gervais.

  8. “Matt Groening rang me up because he’d seen The Office on a flight, ages before it was shown in America. I did a very rough sketch and wrote a song. So the only things that were mine were the song, a couple of jokes and the Wife Swap idea, which was Jane’s anyway. So I mustn’t take too much credit – I said as much once, but they said no, no, that’s always the case. Whoever it says ‘wrote’ the episode goes through the same process. So that made me feel slightly less guilty.” – Ricky Gervais

    actual quote.

  9. I don’t find Gervais amazingly funny in general (maybe because I’m British and he’s a defector ;)), so it wouldn’t surprise me if the script was terrible to begin with. But maybe that’s just me being cruel.

  10. I really didn’t like this one, not only for all the stated reasons, but because I just don’t find Ricky Jervais funny.

    Oh lets all laugh at this desperately socially aukward man for how much of an inept loser he is? Too right he’d fall for the only kind person he’s ever met, but then of course this is zombie simpsons so he gets the brush off from Marge who returns to her equally nasty husband, and is of course left out, and this is funny because he’s a loser?

    this one just plane depresses me, really you can like nobody in this episode and laughing at people’s horrible emotional and social problems is just nasty.

  11. This episode was a complete waste of the genius that is Ricky Gervais. Good god is this episode terrible. I am not surprised if he really did only do a couple things as Abracadver posted but they decided to post the complete blame for the episode on him because they knew they could.

    His character also got a bit creepy. The worst part is, I thought the episode started out kind of funny in its first half.

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