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.