565. Walking Big & Tall

Original airdate: February 8, 2015

The premise:
Homer is empowered by a fat acceptance group to be proud of his size, much to Marge’s chagrin. In an unrelated opening act, Bart and Lisa write a new Springfield town anthem.

The reaction: I feel slightly redundant harping on the exposition laden dialogue at this point, but it’s got to be the series’ biggest fatal flaw at this point. When over half of your script is literally explaining what’s happening and what characters feel about the story repeatedly, what room is left for the actual story to actually happen? This episode is a pretty flagrant offender of this. Roughly nine minutes in, our story actually begins: Homer seeks out a weight loss group, but ends up attending a weight empowerment group instead, and is inspired by their charismatic scooter-bound leader to love himself for who he is. Hearing this, Marge, of course, is not pleased. Homer comes home and reiterates everything we already learned in the previous scene about the group. Later, when Marge attempts to bail Homer out of jail, they have the same conversation and espouse their same feelings on the matter. Then they do it again towards the end before the “climax,” if it can so be called. We’re left with a story about Homer feeling fat and proud of it, consisting of him just repeating that point over and over, but never actually seeing it. There’s one scene of him apologizing to the bathroom scale, but that’s really about it. Because of this, it doesn’t matter how many times we hear Homer repeat the same lines about “wide pride,” or talk about how awesome his new leader is, when we barely see or understand anything that’s being done, or know anything about this new character. It just ends up being a broken down mess of a story where everyone just talks in circles. On top of that, the subject of obesity in America is a rich one; scorn and ridicule of the overweight is a real issue, so the subject matter of this show could really have meant something. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t, but in capable hands, it could. But it’s just a series of never-ending first draft, base level fat jokes. Rubbery sound effects when all the fatties are crammed in a jail cell. The leader slurps up his fries with a straw. When he dies (spoiler alert), the funeral director repeatedly walks in with more and more urns of his remains. There’s nothing more to these jokes than “laugh at the fatties! LAUGH AT THEM!” In the classic years, we saw plenty of gags at the expense of Homer’s and others’ weight, but there was always something more to them, more layers of humor on top, and they never felt scornful. But now, just like “jokes” aimed at gays or other religions, the social satire that this show was once known for now feels very petty and small.

Three items of note:
– The opening act feels completely removed from the actual plot. It almost felt like a throwback to the 2000s when that was more common practice for the show. In a flashback, we see a young, strapping Mayor Hans Moleman present a town song, which is later revealed was a melody sold to many towns the nation over. I guess we’re supposed to be charmed to see him and the Old Jewish Man in their younger days, or smaller goofs like a younger Krusty in a Thriller jacket, but really, who cares? In the present, Lisa volunteers to write a new town song (after turning down Pharrell Williams in his three-second cameo), and she teams up with Bart to write it (following an awkward reminiscence to “Stark Raving Dad”). The episode begins with the old anthem, and this orphaned plot ends with Bart, Lisa and the other kids performing the new one, and both are just terrible and unfunny. What was the last song this show did that was actually memorable? When Weird Al guest starred? They attempt to bring the plot back when Marge begs her children to write a song to sway Homer back to getting healthy, but that just leads to them bickering and complaining about being one-hit wonders or something. It was a really awkward scene.
– I know I just harped on about the expository dialogue, but it really affects every aspect of these episodes. As pervasive as it is, sometimes certain moments annoy me more than others. The kids’ new anthem gets a standing ovation, we see everyone is on their feet in thunderous applause… except Homer, who is firmly lodged in his seat. We saw before the performance he had to squeeze himself into the tight seat, and now we see him struggling to get up, so if you’re watching the screen and have one working brain cell, you understand what’s happening. But lo, here comes Marge to fucking explain it for you (“Homer, it’s a standing ovation! Get up! Our kids just did something amazing! Get up!”) I CAN SEE, MARGE. I CAN SEE.
– There’s a pretty egregious time eating scene of Homer at Moe’s reading off a list of insulting “fat” names he would no longer like to be called. It just goes on and on and on, for forty long seconds. I’m sure that some of them might be halfway amusing, but a lot of them are not, and some not even really jokes (Wide Load, Fatso, Lard Ass, Pudgy Wudgy). Just got to pad this out to make air time, any way they can.

One good line/moment: Maggie and Abe feeding each other “Baby’s First Peaches” and “Senior’s Last Peaches” was a cut one-off joke.

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11 responses to “565. Walking Big & Tall

  1. What frustrates me the most when I read about modern episodes (since god knows I’ve been done watching new ones for years now) is that there’s almost always a germ of a good idea at the center of it, and it could’ve been legitimately entertaining if the writers just gave a shit about executing it properly. But the main overarching theme of The Simpsons nowadays seems to be that this show has no idea how to be a show. Like they’ll take these plots, do them badly, and that’s supposed to be the joke, I guess? That this show isn’t funny, but it knows it’s not funny?

    Because I can’t believe in my heart that professionally paid writers are making this many Writing 101 mistakes by accident. I feel like this is a perverted outgrowth of the precedent set by episodes like “Saddlesore Galactica” and “Simpson Safari” where the writers took all the things the fans were complaining about and ramped them up to eleven just to piss them off more. Now it’s trapped in this self-devouring cycle where that’s the only shtick it has left. Is that where the show is now? That it can only connect with its fans by making them hate it? It’s like a little kid who hits other kids on the playground just to get some kind of attention, whether it’s positive or negative. The Simpsons doesn’t care anymore if we love it or hate it, just so long as we give it some reason to exist.

    • “Because I can’t believe in my heart that professionally paid writers are making this many Writing 101 mistakes by accident.”

      I doubt it’s by accident. I assume they just don’t care that much about the quality of the material they produce. However, if they did care… well, they should win an award for managing to produce over a decade worth of shitty episodes without any signs of improvement. It’s pathetic really.

    • I think its because the show reached a point in franchise immortality that the writers and producers of the show realized they don’t need to put much effort in this show anymore and can just crank out cookie cutter scripts and call it a day before cashing in their million dollar salaries.

      The show is basically their retirement fund, and it is treated little more than that.

    • The writers make such basic mistakes with such consistency, usually the same types of mistakes, that i have to assume they are utterly inept. These are scripts that would get a C- in middle school creative writing. They are trash in a way that demonstrates a complete lack of understanding of the fundamentals of writing.

      Maybe the writers know that can hand in anything, literally anything, and stay on the air, so they’ve hired a bunch of kids from the internet to do the job, go out golfing or drinking or whatever, and just sign their names to whatever they’re handed. It makes a lot more sense than supposedly professional writers actually thinking something like this is coherent, never mind funny.

  2. When I read the synopsis of this episode for the first time I thought the Springfield anthem was the main plot.

    And, hey, Kumiko, the CBG’s wife shows up! And speak a line! How useful.

  3. I want to ask you all a question: Is Zombie Simpsons now the worst comedy show ever?

    To me is very simple. I mean, there are no good sitcoms on tv, actually a lot really really awful and infuriating, but no one manages to be so pathetically bad. Sure, the jokes in those sitcoms are random, the plots predictable, and characters are unlikable; still, I find ZS way more atrocious, and the writing totally unacceptable for any human being older than 11years old, let alone professional writers. And I can’t remember a show this bad in the past; probably because such a bad show would have not survived like ZS do by inertia (and money).

    • “The Simpsons” used to be one of the funniest shows on TV. Used to be. People often forget that most sitcoms in the early to mid ’90s were largely terrible, aside from a few exceptions like “Seinfeld”. So “The Simpsons” was a breath of fresh air: A fast-paced, witty, smart, satiric show that was highly influential to both comedy and animation.

      For well over a decade, however, there are lots of shows that are miles funnier and/or better-written. The stakes have been raised for TV comedies, and “The Simpsons” hasn’t kept up. The show’s ship of cultural relevance has sailed, and yet it just keeps going.

      • The Simpsons may be one of the most blatant cases of a series resting on its laurels and relying solely on its past glories. It is a franchise zombie in a sense, existing only to keep the IP thriving, though doing very little to keep it fresh.

        Also the classic Simpsons was a legitimately great show and holds up to this day, but he stakes are definitely higher now that the shackles of broadcast network TV have been broken and cable created serious competition.

        The show has been on a very slow, methodical decay for years now and it is obvious that the crew in general just doesn’t care very much about making the show good anymore, just a timekiller with barely any jokes that hit and very little of the spark the show used to have.

    • Zombie Simpsons, yes. It’s awful and really has no redeeming qualities at this point. It’s not funny. It’s not even competent. Any other show this bad would have been cancelled before the end of the first season. ZS has only survived because it deceptively looks like a great show from the 1990s (though arguably it barely even does that anymore).

  4. Kaiju no Kami

    I honestly still don’t think there are any comedy sitcoms out there that match even modern day Simpsons. Family Guy, Bob’s Burgers, Brooklyn 911, etc, they are all meh. They will occassionally have funny jokes, but I have no investment on those characers and have no desire to even bother. I have an investment in The Simpsons and despite how dumb the show can get, their jokes are still far superior to anything found in the other shows.

    • There are plenty of comedies today that are way funnier. I would direct your attention to Archer, Bojsck Horseman, and South Park, just to name a few off the top of my head. This show had been utter shit for over a decade. It hasn’t been good this century.

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