514. A Tree Grows in Springfield

Original airdate: November 25, 2012

The premise:
An unwavering funk washes over Homer, one that is swayed when he wins a new myPad in a raffle. When the tablet breaks, he resumes his despair, until a mysterious message of hope appears in his own backyard.

The reaction: This has got to be the emptiest episode I’ve seen yet. If I squint charitably, I can kind of see a through-line plot or theme, but it’s pretty damn thin. The first six minutes is Homer feeling depressed. Nothing specific, just life has got him down. It’s like Bart in “A Totally Fun Thing,” but that episode at least highlighting his sense of ennui going through his repetitive dull life. Here, Homer’s just bummed for no real reason, which would be fine if the episode actually made a point about his listless nature. But everything changes when he gets his hands on a sweet, sweet myPad. There’s some actual ribbing of Steve Jobs and Apple, which I was surprised to see, especially given the love fest that was “MyPods and Boomsticks” (I guess since Jobs’ death, they feel less need to suck up?), but it’s largely overshadowed by four minutes worth of sketches of Homer showing off how cool his new toy is. It literally is like the framework of a commercial: Homer’s life sucked, but now it’s awesome because he got an iPad! I mean a myPad! The segments just kept going on and on, and reaching the halfway mark, I still had no clue what this episode was doing. When his beloved tablet breaks, Homer prays to God for… something? Which he receives in a seemingly holy message, “HOPE” written in sap on a tree in his backyard. From this, it almost turns into “Lisa the Skeptic” where the whole town is inspired and gathers around the miracle tree, except there still doesn’t feel like any real direction. The miracle turns out to be a hoax, Marge convinces Homer that his feelings of hope were still real, and then it’s revealed that Homer forged the HOPE message himself. So his subconscious believed in him all along? What am I to take away from this episode? I honestly don’t know.

Three items of note:
– At the school fundraiser, we see Ned and Edna in a little scene together, I guess just to remind you they’re still together. I’m curious how many of those we have left. We also have Skinner watching sadly from afar. I mean, for God’s sakes, at this point we’re almost a decade since the episode where he left her at the altar, how many more sad, pathetic Skinner jokes does this show have in it?
– There’s so little meaning in this episode; Homer has this spiritual awakening, but we’re never clear on what exactly is going on in his fucking mind, other than HOPE. He hijacks Lovejoy’ sermon just to keep shouting about hope, and then we get one of those The Lost Weekend parodies of Homer walking against black with signs around him, except they’re all things with the word “hope” in them. The Hope Diamond, Bob Hope Film Festival… so I guess Homer is just invested in the word “hope”? What the fuck is happening?
– Since this episode basically had no story, they ran short. So to fill the last three minutes, we have “Logomania,” a toothless photocopy of the Academy Award winning short film Logorama. As I say time and again, these segments don’t really count as parodies because they aren’t really riffing or subverting anything of the original source material. The thought process presumably went like this: the writers loved the short, they know the series has no shortage of fake brands, so they decided to just do their own version. It’s not even that creative; an underdog story of a shrimpy guy (Happy Little Elf) saving the damsel in distress (Malibu Stacey) from a monster (Funzo). And it especially suffers when you put it against the original short, which is just bursting at the seams with originality and creative uses for different brands and logos. If you haven’t seen it, you really should give it a watch. Part of me feels pretty depressed in thinking more people have probably seen this episode than the short film it was ripping off… sorry, paying homage to.

One good line/moment: The first minute or so of the rainy day I actually enjoyed. Homer’s nonsense dream was fun (“We’ll be right back after this word from oxygen, which Homer desperately needs to live!”). We also get a pretty fantastic gag of the church sign holding water and the letters floating, which I genuinely laughed out loud at.

3 responses to “514. A Tree Grows in Springfield

  1. Kelsey Grammer is in this episode as Sideshow Bob at the opening. I just don’t know why.

  2. This episode was clearly written the second Steve Jobs died, why they felt writing an episode for that was necessary is completely beyond me..

  3. Kaiju no Kami

    Unless I’ve got my episodes mixed up, I really loved the scene when Siri kept searching something for Homer every time he said something. I found that to be quite hilarioius.

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