Original airdate: November 16, 2014
The premise: Bart’s new teacher is a bonafide sadist out to humiliate and injure him, so he plans to humiliate him at the local “Blazing Guy” festival. The whole family is invited too, saving Homer’s skin from Marge after forgetting to reserve their big camping trip.
The reaction: Were people clamoring for the Simpsons to take on Burning Man? …oh, sorry, Blazing Guy? Since Mapple, this show has been doing this all the time, so this is nothing new, but they drive the knife further in toward the end of the show when a woman slips and says “Burning Man” before correcting herself. They realize this isn’t satire, right? This is like material straight from the trash bins of MAD Magazine. But before we get into all this, let’s address our set-up. Willem DeFoe returns to the show after nearly two decades to play Bart’s new psychopathic teacher. This reminded me of Tina Fey as Lisa’s bitch teacher from a season or two back, where they can just get away with openly torturing a student, but even worse in that Mr. Lessen not only humiliates Bart by shaving his head, but also purposely electrocutes the child as well. He’s a complete maniac, and I don’t entirely know what we’re supposed to feel about this. But Bart wants his revenge, and eventually discovers that Lessen is going to play a pivotal role at the upcoming Blazing Guy festival. That seems kind of odd; is this a set-up to some kind of joke how people of all kinds might enjoy such a festival and let their hair down? How looks or first impressions might be deceiving? Nope. There’s no discussion or explanation whatsoever as to why Lessen is there in the first place. Eventually, the Simpsons haul ass to Blazing Guy, and when we get there, there’s no material to be had. The only joke is, over and over, boy, aren’t these festival people weird and crazy? They’re so weird! And crazy! You get it? Oh, and we’ll have Marge drink some drug-laced tea and hallucinate! That’ll be funny, right? In the end, Bart’s plan to cut Lesson down a peg succeeds, and he’s fired, and that’s it. No twist, no examination of what’s wrong with this psycho; the Tina Fey episode gave a disposable bullshit last-minute reasoning for her actions, but at least it was there. With any of these episodes, rarely does it feel like there’s ever a purpose or a real meaning toward these characters’ actions, but that of course won’t stop them from expositing what they’re doing every step of the way. Another stagnant outing for the pile.
Three items of note:
– Bart’s plan to learn more about Lessen seems unnecessarily convoluted. Through a secret camera in the teacher’s lounge, he catches him sweet-talking Miss Hoover. After that, he creates a fake online profile for her that he friend requests, therefore giving him access to Lessen’s Facebook. Good thing Lessen friended the fake Hoover instead of the real one. Then, to find out what Blazing Guy is, Milhouse scrolls to a video labeled, “Blazing Guy: An Explanation.” “That’s convenient,” he comments. It sure is, buddy.
– I keep having to dock my expectations for these episodes lower and lower as these storylines seems to have so little ambition. One such moment was when Lisa eagerly ran into a drum circle to jam on her sax, and then proceeds to be joined by a few other musicians playing crazy instruments, which seems to be creating a bit of a musical discord. At least to me it seemed like it. I thought maybe Lisa would feel uncomfortable to have these other people step on her toes or overshadow her or be annoyed by their music, or something. Anything. But no, absolutely not. Later on, we see Lisa is still jamming with them and everything’s fine. Despite it being the entire back half of the episodes, there’s no jokes made about Burning Man at all, it just seems like a fun cool place that you should definitely go to. It’s less of a parody and more of a commercial, bizarrely enough.
– After spending two scenes re-explaining his intention to humiliate Lessen, Bart comes across an emergency services tent with big barrels of fire retardant. It says what they are on the cans, but that won’t stop Bart from reading it out loud and saying he’ll use them to enact his plan. Jeez, I’m surprised Milhouse didn’t run in with an iPad and start playing a “Fire Retardant: An Explanation” video. Then Bart douses the gigantic Blazing Guy statue with retardant and not a single person seems to notice. Sigh.
One good line/moment: David Silverman makes a cameo at Blazing Guy performing his trademark flaming tuba, which was pretty sweet to see. But then in the climax, Lessen steals his instrument to shoot flames at Bart, which was much less sweet.