(originally aired March 25, 2007)
Jeez… it’s been a while since I’ve actually had to… praise an episode. While it falls into Homer-gets-a-job territory as randomly as any other of its ilk, the humor in this show is surprisingly sharp and consistently funny throughout the whole thing. I suppose the reason could lie with writer J. Stewart Burns, who also wrote many a good Futurama, but his name is also on garbage like “There’s Something About Marrying” and “The Monkey Suit.” But for whatever the reason, I can certainly say this is the best episode I’ve seen in two or three seasons. Through ridiculous circumstances, Homer ends up with a tabloid photographer, and begins to harass Springfield celebrities. In retaliation, they send their own paparazzi to tarnish his image, which since it’s Homer, doesn’t take long. Embittered, Homer cuts them down to size one more time, but vows he won’t release the photos if they abide his wishes for celebrities to not be so cold and indifferent toward the little people. It’s a respectable message, and the episode was never really about that, but Homer’s animosity toward celebrities is more enjoyable than his fawning like in “When You Dish Upon a Star.”
I don’t really care about the plot here: it’s pretty bare bones, and we get from point A to point B in a logical, sensible manner, which at this point in the series is the best I can hope for. What shocked me most is the competence of a lot of the jokes here, in that I laughed a lot and there were several honestly clever bits here. There would be gags that would normally just hang there on their own and lie flat, but were followed up by jokes that made them funny. Like Krusty blending the dollar bills and drinking it, usually for the show, that would be it, but amp it up with him yelling at the bartender (“You call this a drink?!” “…no, I never called it a drink.”) Or when Homer meets with his editor (again J.K. Simmons doing J. Jonah Jameson) and gets chewed out, they cut back to him at the kitchen table sadly recounting the story, repeating the last joke line he said, which actually makes it funny. I guess I’ll save this stuff for the quotes section, but really this episode works because it’s actually funny and I laughed; sounds simple enough, but it’s something the show hasn’t done for me in a good long while.
Tidbits and Quotes
– The show starts with the Simpson family storing their prized possessions in a safe in case of a fire. Each pick really feels in character: Marge picks the family photo album, Homer picks the cologne he wore on his first date with Marge (Scent of a Wookie from Star Wars, not Cosmic Wars), and Bart picks a talking stand-up Krusty doll (“Where do the kids today get these band names? The Kinks? The Stones? Sounds like my last physical!” “Hah hah, references!”) Also, know-it-all Lisa gets cut down a peg; at first she talks about how she couldn’t decide one thing, so made up a decision tree graph “which in and of itself is worthy of preservation,” capped with a smug self-satisfied giggle. But Homer’ll have none of this (“Tick-tock, sweetie.”) Then Lisa snaps back into actual kid mode and saves her Malibu Stacy convertible (“It runs on her old makeup and out-of-style shoes!”) For once, I’m applauding Homer for being callous, in that it managed to get Lisa to act like a kid for once.
– The photo album is destroyed in a silly fashion, and the only recourse is for Marge to retake all the old pictures. It’s kind of dumb, but again, it works because the gags work. I like the fake-out where Marge trips with the developed photos and Homer runs them over with the mower, then Marge announces she has duplicates. Also, this joke (“Here I am on the space shuttle orbiting Earth.” “It sure was nice of NASA to send you up again.”)
– I feel like some of these jokes could completely fail in other episodes, but something about them here works… Marge is the one that suggests Homer sell their mistaken snapshot to the tabloids, so they can pay for the fire damage to the house. She holds up the two flyers: “We Pay $$$ for Celebrity Photos” and “Repair Estimate: $$$” See? They’re the same amount. Later, she beseeches Homer to tone down his vicious paparazzi ways, but as she is a busybody housewife, she just can’t keep the tabloid down. It keeps her out of Homer’s hair in a believable, in-character way.
– More jokes that work: Homer’s dreams of being moderately wealthy (“I can rent anything I want!”), Krusty slamming his limo door into a kid’s head and yelling at him (“Jerks like you oughta be shot!”), Homer’s shock at the upscale grocery store (“The clown on this cereal box is just a person!”)
– I don’t know if I like that they literally made it Maria Shriver marrying our Schwarzenegger surrogate Rainier Wolfcastle, but the wedding scene is amusing enough, so whatever (“Is that horrible man gone yet?” “Yes, mother, barring some kind of pendulum effect.”)
– Jon Lovitz returns as Enrico Irritazio, the photographer who slanders Homer’s image. Unfortunately he’s really only in one scene. But shockingly, the things we see Homer do aren’t incredibly awful, especially considering the shit we’ve seen him up to over the last six years. Him hanging Maggie on the dash while his TV Guide is in the car seat is pretty bad, but seeing her hang there happily giggling is so damn cute that I don’t mind.
– The show only has so many regular celebrities: it’s rather weird seeing Sideshow Mel at the lavish A-list bash with his arm around Princess Kashmir and eating the American flag. Also we see Lurleen Lumpkin about too, who I guess pulled herself up out of the gutter. Except not really, but let’s save that for next season.