Original airdate: May 2, 2010
The premise: When an incident of typical Springfieldian idiocy is mistaken for an act of terrorism, an English security consultant is hired, who proceeds to install cameras around the entire town. Citizens are hired to monitor them all, and none takes to it more than Ned Flanders, who revels in being able to correct the misdeeds and sinful acts across the entirety of Springfield.
The reaction: Another unfocused episode that feels all over the place. We start leading up to the national security incident, which involves Smithers sneaking nuclear material into Homer’s duffel bag for some reason. Then Springfield can apparently afford to hire an outside British consultant to help with their security problems and install cameras everywhere. So it’s an episode about the slippery slope of protecting one’s freedoms by invading their privacy and infringing on people’s liberties? This show can still do satire, right? Like that great episode “Bart-Mangled Banner”? Doesn’t matter, the show then ends up focusing on Flanders, who finds his dream job amongst the hundreds of surveillance screens, tsk tsking his way across town on whatever he deems inappropriate (read: everything). So more turning Flanders into the ultra-conservative mega-prude antagonist, lumbering along to a limp wristed “twist” ending, where the show once again shoots for nostalgia points with Prince Charles quoting a season 6 Ralph line. Same with the Shary Bobbins cameo… who turns into a Terminator for some reason. Oh, there’s also an unnecessary and empty B-story with Lisa’s discouragement that people joke about blondes being dumb. Le sigh.
Three items of note:
– This episode is semi-notorious for its opening; in lieu of the regular title sequence, we get a new segment of everyone lip syncing to Kesha’s “Tik Tok,” which seemed to have infuriated nerds all across the Internet when it aired. Apparently it was a mandate from FOX, who was holding “FOX Rocks Week,” “encouraging” all their shows to include some kind of musical element. So how can we read “encouraging”? That they were forced to do this? Or the Simpsons staff just rolled over and slapped this together? Regardless, even if they did cave, you’d think they could come up with something more original, or even something that poked fun at the network mandate to begin with. But no, it’s just like a straight music video with little softball gags thrown in that tie into the song’s lyrics. Once again the show proves depressing in how amazingly uncreative it is.
– It really is so sad hearing Tress MacNeille voicing Doris. They retired the character and left her silent for a good decade, before bringing her back on a rare occasion. It’s almost as if they were waiting for the old fans to drop off, and the casual ones to not remember or not be bothered by it. Usually she’s given a token line, but here where she has a back and forth bit with Milhouse in complete sentences, it feel so, so wrong. It doesn’t even sound remotely like Grau. Why oh why didn’t they just create a new cafeteria worker? Because that would mean creating a new regular character, which the show clearly isn’t interested in. Who’s the last reoccurring secondary… hell, tertiary character they introduced that you can think of? The best I can come up with is Crazy Cat Lady from season 9.
– Almost as horrible as the bit of Smithers leaving and re-entering the bar to overhear Homer, Lenny and Carl badmouthing him, we have Marge finding the wild party in her backyard and muttering to herself in the front yard so Flanders can overhear her exposition (“I don’t want to get Homer in trouble, but it’s just plain wrong to use that blind spot to turn our backyard into a mecca of misdemeanors!”) Flanders then calls Rod to hold a mirror out the window so he can see. Also, it seems that guy’s at the surveillance HQ 24/7, what’s happening with Rod and Todd? Doesn’t matter, all characters are just props now and appear and disappear when needed.
One good line/moment: The opening with Duffman and the cheerleaders appearing at Moe’s, the direction at the start feels almost exactly like his first appearance in “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.” So basically I was pleased thinking about that episode. I guess the show’s nostalgia fumes work every once and a while.