Original airdate: March 15, 2015
The premise: Homer is chosen to be the new Duffman. At first he is shocked to find that he’s not allowed to drink in his new title, but after seeing the detriments of alcohol abuse sober, he crusades to get people to quit drinking.
The reaction: Pretty surprised it took them this long to do this idea. I feel like it was already done in the comics years ago. So following an injury, the old Duffman is forcibly retired, and Duff is on the hunt for a replacement. So Homer is among a bunch of finalists for So You Think You Can Duff?, a competition reality show thing, because those parodies aren’t completely played out at this point. We also get the reappearance of Stacy Keach as the Duff CEO from “Hungry, Hungry Homer,” an episode I recall being one of the only bright spots in a dismal twelfth season. He’s fine here, but as with any guest voice, he has very, very little to work with. When Homer is picked, he is devastated to learn he can’t drink on the job (and suicidal in a “hilarious” sequence involving him repeatedly trying to kill himself after learning the news), and then later crusades against drinking when he realizes how much damage alcohol addiction creates. So the last half is kind of like if you mashed “Duffless” and “Lisa the Beauty Queen” together, made them more incoherent and added a bunch of bullshit on top. There’s a kernel of an idea here about the Duff company being surprised that as a big fat guy, Homer is a more relatable Duffman to their consumer base, but it’s just one line that comes up fifteen minutes in. We see Homer at a ribbon cutting and in a commercial, but because the reality show crap took up so much time, we barely have enough time to see how Homer feels about his new position before we have to pivot to his anti-drinking crusade, which is squeezed into the final minutes. He incites a riot at a racetrack, where they flip over the car he’s in, but then they literally just stand around and watch as the Duff boss recaps what’s happening (“Homer, now listen to me, you’re in a stadium surrounded by people who want to kill you. There’s one way out of your hell: prove you still love beer.”) Homer then drinks himself stupid, and then we cut to him at Moe’s being proud of being a has-been. So I guess even though he did as asked, he still got fired? There wasn’t even a scene explaining what happened, or why Homer all of a sudden switched gears to drinking again. This seems to happen a lot, where these stories just sort of stop with no clear resolution. Surely the writers must notice they have no ending, right? …right?
Three items of note:
– Marge is a bigger doormat than usual this show. She astutely points out that Homer only wants to be Duffman to get blasted, but then he fires back with some bullshit about wanting to be remembered for more than just being a husband and father. You’d think Marge would be slightly hurt by that statement, but instead she gives Homer permission to try out for Duffman, like a mom allowing her kid to go out and play. Later, Marge seems completely won over by Homer’s bullshit lies about wanting to be Duffman for the responsibilities and social good he can do. Or whatever. At the climax, when Homer is deciding whether or not to drink, from the crowd, Marge reassures him (“Whatever you do, you’ll be my hero.”) Someone should do a supercut of all of the times in the last fifteen years Marge has said “I’m so proud of you,” or “You’re my hero,” without any rhyme or reason as to why she would say that. It’s just empty sweet nothings that don’t mean anything; why would she be proud of Homer in this situation?
– Our second act begins with them recreating the Game of Thrones opening again, like they had done previously for a couch gag, except this time it’s for a commercial advertising Homer as the new Duffman. Again, there’s nothing parody about this, it’s just recreating elements of the show, but with Duff wallpaper over it. Afterwards, Homer gets sworn in as Duffman and has to take an oath inside a church. It’s a dramatic recitation that takes almost a minute and is completely joke-free. Later, we get a glimpse of an old-time 50s Duff commercial, featuring not-Yogi Bear soothing his bear trap-snared leg with a cool refreshing Duff, and later joining a bunch of other animal heads on the wall. How bland and boring. Compare that to the commercial in “Duffless” with the doctor’s recommendation and Duff being proud sponsor of The Amos ‘N’ Andy Show. That bit was actually saying something, and being funny all at the same time. This new commercial, I guess it’s funny because the cartoon bear got killed. It’s like what the show thinks Itchy & Scratchy is now, violence for its own sake is good enough!
– More bizarre fan service: Bart and Lisa dig into Homer’s Duff swag and are playing with T-shirt cannons, leading Homer to comment, no one’s ever been killed with one of those! Now, I’ll be honest, if it was just left there, that actually is a clever, if somewhat ghastly, in-joke. But let’s go one further. A T-shirt gets lodged through Ned’s bedroom window, smacks right into a picture frame of Maude, causing it to break and fall off the wall. Then Ned looks to the camera for a second or two before we cut. Now, why exactly is this scene here? If you’re a fan of the show, surely you’ve made the T-shirt cannon connection. This show once prided itself on rewarding viewers for paying attention, with its sign gags and quick multi-layered jokes. Now, everything is so over-explained and labored over, as well as just milked and elongated to make the show longer, the show just repeatedly saying, “DO YOU GET IT? DO YOU? DO YOU?!” Also, how fucking sad for Ned, especially at this point being a double widower; what exactly is funny about him being specifically reminded of his first wife’s death?
One good line/moment: Airing a week after his death, the show ends with a small little tribute to Sam Simon, with a clip of him talking about how much he loved what he was working on. Reading up on the history of the show, as well as John Ortved’s unauthorized history book, it’s clear just how much of the foundation of the world of the show really came from Sam, and without him, the show would definitely not have been as amazing as it was. He of course left the show after the fourth season, and while I could ruminate on that, or make some snarky comment about how he probably hates how the show is now, but I don’t wanna. Between being a driving force on the greatest show of all time and his charitable efforts over the past few decades, from all accounts, he just sounded like one helluva guy. We Simpsons fans can’t thank you enough, Sam. Peace and chicken grease.