430. Take My Life, Please

Take My Life, Please(originally aired February 15, 2009)
So the show finally makes its leap into high-definition widescreen, and wouldn’t you know, it’s just as shitty as ever. I’m gonna save my comments on the new opening and format for down below and focus on the actual episode for now. Springfield honors successful businessman Vance Connor, and Homer recalls how he was their class president in high school, back in… 1974. I was willing to accept a floating timeline for that goddamn ’90s show last season, now their past is in the ’70s again. Come on, you guys, what the fuck? So it’s about how Homer bemoans having lost class president to him, which I guess he wanted. What? Homer was a lazy smoking slacker in high school, why would he want to run in the first place? Anyway, turns out Principal Dondelinger rigged the election, and Homer actually did win. He had Lenny and Carl bury the ballot box, instead of just… throwing it out. Turns out it was to protect Homer, as the jocks did a mass vote for him so they could ridicule him. But even after hearing that, Homer still believes his life would have been amazing if he had been class president. Why?

Turns out there is a way to see what could have been… by way of some weirdo Italian cook at Luigi’s, who can show you alternate futures in his special sauce… okay, this totally makes sense and is completely believable. We see that Homer would be a great class president and go to prom with the head cheerleader, but drop her the instant he laid his eyes on Marge, who is basically falling over herself to be with Homer. So much more romantic and satisfying than “The Way We Was,” huh? Mr. Burns gives him a high-ranking plant job due to his position, and now he lives in a gigantic mansion with no children. What? How the fuck could he afford that? Oh whatever, it’s just a pasta sauce hallucination. So Homer bemoans his current life and his family, and the others try to cheer him up and reward him in spite of his selfishness. Hey, it’s happened before. He said awful things about his wife and kids, they send him to go play with the Rolling Stones at rock ‘n’ roll camp. Here he wishes his kids were never born, we install a plaque for him on the wall of fame, and apparently pay some father and son to take a picture of him, because that’s the only reason that makes sense. The first episode in HD and this is the slop you start off with? How embarrassing.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Okay, so here it is: the show is finally in HD, and it’s as stiff and lifeless as ever. High-definition worked for the movie because it had a budget, and David Silverman directing, so it actually looked pretty sharp for the most part. Now, the clarity makes the un-detailed backgrounds, unmoving extras and short-cutted drawings stand out even more. There’s also the matter of the new opening. I could dissect it scene by scene, but why even bother? My thoughts can effectively be summed up in this heavily passed around gif. Just look at the old version. The arc in Marge’s hair as she turns, and her look of relief that her baby is safe. The stretching of the cashier’s arms, bounce of the bag and how Maggie pops out, all of it so visually appealing. And look at it now. Marge rotates her head at a perfect angle, and smiles. Maggie emerges from the bag and shakes her fist at Gerald in a manner so empty and soulless it defies description. There’s also a blog post by an animator who worked on several shots, and his frustration of having being told repeatedly to tone his work down and make it “less cartoony.” Astonishing. The only connection the show used to have to its classic era was the opening titles, and now that’s long gone too. I remember after seeing the new opening and this episode, it was the first time I seriously started reconsidering watching the show. I just felt so bewildered about the whole thing, and figured I’d give it until the end of the season to decide. The show’s new HD beginning was the beginning of my end…
– And also, we have the new four act “structure.” I hate it. Act one, act two, act three. It’s a natural order of storytelling, used in every film ever made ever. Now everything’s all mixed up.
– The episode is immediately annoying from the start with the Springfield Wall of Fame, which honors Hank Scorpio, who isn’t from Springfield, Poochie, widely reviled cartoon, and Lisa’s dance instructor, Chazz Busby. Who for some reason is now in the opening titles. Who the fuck cares about that guy?
– Al Gore is at Moe’s bar. And no one acknowledges a fucking ex-Vice President sitting there until he opens his trap. This is the world this show exists in now.
– Homer announces his revenge on Dondelinger (“I know what he did last summer… twenty-two years ago!”) From 2009, that would make Homer’s senior year 1987. Which we see it’s not. Come on, you guys. What the fuck.
– We see teenage Maude asking Homer out in high school, despite a few shows ago we see her and Ned as adults picking up a twenty-something Homer and Marge. Oh, whatever. Also, I’m shocked at the attention to minute continuity with showing us Debbie Pinson, who Homer got a call from in “Homer to the Max.”
– The alternate future of everyone loving Homer and him being amazing makes no sense whatsoever. Suddenly Patty and Selma are taken by him, and we get this gem (“Who’s that side of beef munching on our sister?” “I don’t know, but in this reality, I am not gay! Hubba hubba!”) Ugh.
– My God, I fucking hate the ending (“Dad, do you think I could be elected class president?” “Well, we can’t all be Homer Simpsons, son.”) Where did this father and son come from? It’s so pathetically saccharine with no attempt at irony or jokes or anything. This show used to tear this kind of cloyingly phony material apart, now it’s what we settle for an ending.

43 responses to “430. Take My Life, Please

  1. The only good thing about this episode is that it essentially retcons “That ’90s Show” out of existence.

    Another thing about the new opening: The first characters featured are -not- any of the Simpsons, but the bullies and Ralph. That just feels wrong.

  2. I was never sure when the 4-act structure came into the show until you said so and plus the wall on the grocery store is bland and orange too just to add. :/ ah well only 14 sterile hd eps to go stay stong mike 🙂

  3. Al Gore is at Moe’s bar. And no one acknowledges a fucking ex-Vice President sitting there until he opens his trap. This is the world this show exists in now.

    He must be desparate to want to be in a SEEDY mid-western small town bar full of bums and lowlifes but then again in ZS everyone goes to Moe’s even Mr Burns and Smithers now (instead of doing so to pander)

  4. My God, I fucking hate the ending (“Dad, do you think I could be elected class president?” “Well, we can’t all be Homer Simpsons, son.”) Where did this father and son come from? It’s so pathetically saccharine with no attempt at irony or jokes or anything. This show used to tear this kind of cloyingly phony material apart, now it’s what we settle for an ending.

    Talk about shitting all over Lisa’s Substitute like that grrrrr

  5. I am embarassed for them re: the HD intro. All these new jokes that don’t work and throw off the rhythm of the opening soundtrack — Unibrow baby! Otto eating the plutonium rod! Horn-honking awakens Grandpa! Homer busts through the door after getting hit by a car! The TV falls off the wall! … none of it works. (though I do find it weird that sometimes in the intro, the TV falls off, sometimes it stays put) Also, they re-colored Lisa’s blue sax. Now, I don’t know about anyone else, but I love her blue sax! Anyway… right from the start, this episode is annoying, and embarassing, just making me wish I was watching the Poochie or Scorpio episodes instead of seeing them on a stupid “wall of fame”. Good point that Scorpio isn’t even from Springfield, and everyone hated Poochie!… that also reminds me of the new “before-cloud gag” in each episode, where they frequently dredge up shit from classic seasons. This is a show running on nostalgia fumes. Sadly, with the new HD intro, the only thing this show has in common with the old show at this point IS the opening theme, and even it would be replaced by “Tik-Tok” for an episode soon enough. UGH.

    • Basically they should just pack it in and just end it already…. also they would be minted from the 1000 year syndication package anyway. 😉

    • Homer getting hit by the car is the stupidest fucking thing about the intro. It’s ironic, they tone down the cartoony animation but amp up the cartoony action.

      • “It’s ironic, they tone down the cartoony animation but amp up the cartoony action.”

        Never thought about that, that’s dead-on accurate. They cut down on the life of the show and made everything so cold and sterile and clinical and … wrong feeling … almost creepy in how dead they are. .. Adult Swim flash-animated shows have more life to them. .. yet they ramp up the “Homer getting fucking killed … but surviving” quotient… wow.

      • It’ll only get colder and even more sterile as the episodes go on luckily Mike won’t have to suffer much longer.

  6. The new intro is horrible. Should have gone the Family Guy/King of the Hill route and reanimate it in HD the same as it was.

    What’s with them choosing the most rubbish characters for it anyway? Who wants to see the Rich Texan or Crazy Cat Lady in the intro ffs?

    • To be fair I found it funny at first but seeing all that over and over wears so fast and yeah that would’ve been better but the updated Family Guy intro felt too stiff and creepy compared to the old bright one.

      • Did you see last week’s Family Guy where they stop the intro early because one of the dancers is pregnant? Kinda dumb joke but kinda cool in how they interrupted the theme song … for all my negative feelings towards the show, them playing with convention and fucking with the audience is one of the reasons I still usually watch…

      • That must’ve been a re-run but I know what you’re on about tbh I preferred the outtake version where Peter falls down the stairs and the American Dad cop-out newspaper gag too.

  7. An appropriate title. It’s what most of the audience must have been thinking while watching this episode.

  8. Let’s say Homer was 39 in 2009. That would make him…4 in 1974. God writers, you aren’t even trying! Unless Homer and Marge are somehow in their early 50s…you know what? I’m going to stop before I get a massive headache.

    • The ages of Randy and Sharon from South Park are questionable too actually but South Park wouldn’t shart on continuity like ZS would and Homer should be about 35 not 39 and should we just say that this episode takes place in 199… oh wait we can’t due to the HD references and Al Gore…. my mistake… fuck this show!

      • Sometime around the late ’90s, the show decided Homer and Marge were 39 and 37 respectively. The sliding timeline doesn’t actually bother me, but I think it would have been better if they didn’t give a specific year.

    • Well, kudos to this episode to remembering that Homer and Marge were still the class of 1974 almost 2 decades ago. That 90s Show would have been way less frustrating to watch if it was set in the 1970s instead of the 1990s, even if the plot was exactly the same back then.

    • I don’t the year in which the episode came out should matter, especially in syndication. Homer and Marge were in the class of 1974 in the 1991 episode The Way We Was, so why do you think that should change in a 2009 episode?

  9. While I agree on the episode, I completely disagree on the opening. Just because Marge does not show worry about Maggie does not mean it is bad. If you notice, they are not doing everything exactly the same, which is the point of doing a new opening. Besides, more changes in the opening now besides Bart writing on the chalk board. The sign at the beginning of the show changes, sometimes the bust in the music class is different, Hell, for the show being in Season 20, it should have had a new opening long before then. In fact, it should have had a new opening the moment Al Jean first took over.

    • Makes you wonder how the theme would’ve looked if they updated it every season like they do on for example Friends.

    • I can’t understand if you are plain stupid, or just act like one. The problem is not WHAT happens in the opening, but that, aesthetically talking, THE HD FLASH ANIMATION IS THE WORST FUCKING THING EVER SEEN. Can’t you really see the difference between the animation of the hand drawn Marge’s scene, and the lifeless disgusting HD one? Are you blind or just a fucking troll?

  10. Sigh…. I wonder why Matt Groening never got to write more episodes, it just boggles my mind… Granted, the first 8 seasons were awesome with the writing teams in place and regular writers of the show that stayed for 3-4 seasons (in some cases, less I think) from the info I read on deadhomersocitey and just yesterday on that site they posted a daily quote that was quite good and someone commented that “Colonel Homer” or whatever was one of the best episodes ever, yeah I agree, and guess what? It was written my MG 🙂

    • I think I left that comment. It’s the only episode he wrote apparently by himself and it’s brilliant. I can think of a few collaborative episodes he did, and he apparently contributed to 22 Short Films… but other than that, silence. I mean, dude ain’t doing Life in Hell anymore and there’s no way Futurama takes up that much of his time. Do something, Matt!

      • D’oh, I didn’t leave the comment you’re referencing. I just saw the post you mentioned with all the replies. I’ve left similiar sentiments in the past however. Amazing episode.

      • Thanks for the correction Abra, well said, and I always enjoy your posts, Marcus, Mike’s ones, Ian’s, and the rest of the posters on here and deadhomers as well! You’re right though, it was one of MG’s best and since he’s not writing the other shows, comics, nor drawing them anymore (I wonder how much he draws of The Simpsons btw?) he should have been more involved in the writing process since day 1. He’s good at drawing, and writing. Maybe he just wants other people to do it while he collects his paychecks? Hehe…. 😉

      • I’m flattered, Rob. 🙂

        BTW, I’m going to be starting a blog somewhat similar to this one, only reviewing every Ren & Stimpy episode. I’ll probably post a link to it here in a later post, if that’s OK.

      • Ian, thanks man and awesome! Look forward to it 🙂

      • Thanks, Rob!

        Also, Ian, that sounds awesome, I can’t wait to see your blog. “Stimpy’s Fan Club” is my favorite episode, if only for the 3-minute mental breakdown Ren has. Though not much tops “Sven Hoek”..

  11. I don’t understand why they made a big deal of this episode being HD. Honestly, I think they meant to have Lisa the Drama Queen be the first HD episode.

    And the episodes are 3 acts in syndication, which means there’s a lot of awkward scene transitions.

  12. Flancrest Enterprises

    The episode is immediately annoying from the start with the Springfield Wall of Fame, which honors Hank Scorpio, who isn’t from Springfield,

    Dont forget he is a terroist to boot

  13. After quitting watching regularly a few episodes prior, I did catch this episode to see the show in HD. As soon as I came to the spaghetti sauce that shows alternate futures, the TV was immediately turned off. The 4-act structure is so off-putting and made it easier to not watch new episodes.

    This episode was particularly irksome in how it seemed to hold student government in complete reverence, something that classic Simpsons would mercilessly make fun of (for that matter, even the The President Wore Pearls at least made an effort at it).

  14. I got exactly one laugh out of this episode: Homer’s depressed and sitting in the kiddie pool in the backyard, and the family tells him to come inside. Smash cut to the living room, where Homer’s still sitting in the kiddie pool. I won’t lie, they timed that well.

    But everything else about this episode is just bleh. I hate the four-act structure, and the plot just goes in circles anyway and has no bearing on anything. Plus, I hate these overt meta-jokes they keep sprinkling throughout the flashback episodes now (“In this reality, I am not gay!”, Burns’s “the Lennys and Carls of the world” remark, etc.). They did that in the classic flashback episodes too, but there it was more subtle and believable, like things you’d expect people to say – Homer’s “Me working in a nuclear power plant?…Heh heh, KABOOM!” from “The Way We Was”, or Burns’ “Homer Simpson, eh? I’ll remember that name…” from “I Married Marge” come to mind. Nowadays, they just beat you over the head with this stuff and scream “GET IT?!”

    As for my thoughts on the hi-def opening sequence: it’s pretty much the same thing. Eighty bazillion in-jokes pounded over your skull to the point where you just want to shake your TV and scream “STOP IT!” And poorly animated, to boot.

  15. From the animator’s blog post listed above:
    “The reason why the show has stiffend up is because there was an era when fox would tell directors that we had to draw every pose we drew perfectly on model. No distorting of the forms of any kind.”

    What the hell?! Part of The Simpsons’ charm was how it would go off-model. Springfield is supposed be a crappy world where nothing works right, even down to how the characters look. Well, at least we know who to blame for the stiff, sterile look of the show for the past ten years or so.

    • Just because The Simpsons is in HD now doesn’t mean they can’t make the animation more lively. It looks good in still images, but that’s clearly not good enough for some people. It’s too…neat. If they had the budget for it, which they probably did, they should have re-animated Marge’s lively facial expressions and hair twirl from the original opening instead of doing that joke with Maggie and Gerald shaking their fists with each other. That would be the more preferable option when you complain about the animation being too on-model.

  16. The new opening is dreadful, it’s so lifeless and sterile.

  17. This episode contradicts everything we know about Homer and Marge from high school AND all of the stupid retcons/new history from the last few years. I know it’s nitpicky but i feel like it’s bullshit that the writers well basically say “to he’ll with continuity” whenever it suits them, then fallback on it to create false emotion in a story because they are incapable of doing so on their own.

  18. The new HD opening is the least of your problems with this and other episodes, so please excuse me if I have no beef with the new, cleaner, less cartoony animation of the new intro.

  19. This episode feels like a very poor retread from Springfield Up two seasons ago. Even being one of Season 18’s worst episodes, it was still pretty heartfelt for having various characters say what they like about Homer so he wouldn’t feel too bad about not having his life turn out the way he hoped it would 32 years ago. We don’t need a half-hearted rehash of that emotion in a slightly newer storyline about Homer losing the class president election. Springfield Up may have contradicted a few things about the characters’ pasts, but at least it gave a crab about emotion and not letting your lack of success meeting your initial expectations bring you down later in life.

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