The reaction: I continue to be amazed as we near the 600-episode mark, how surprised I am that this show continues to get worse. You’d think I would be numb to it at this point, but as bad as this show has gotten, it feels like as the seasons go on, these episodes get flimsier and flimsier. A lot of defenders cry hyperbole when people complain about how low the show has sunk, but I feel like people aren’t nearly harsh enough. The fact that these shows make it to air, that the people making them watch them and think they’re good enough, is baffling to me. So this episode features Homer wanting to make Marge (and later his kids) happy, and then they are. To afford to go on Marge’s dream vacation to Paris, he agrees to deliver a secret package while he’s there. At the airport, Homer encounters his clients: Caesar and Uglion, Bart’s abusive captors from “The Crepes of Wrath.” Fan service? Also the briefcase contains a rare blue snake which the two crooks want to turn into a belt. Based on a cutaway joke, I guess they’ve expanded their operation from tainted wine to a whole animal cruelty factory. Lisa wants to save the snake, so she and Homer take off, being pursued by them a few times through the show. But there’s never any tension; when the two crooks show up, they end up distracting themselves, look away, and Homer and Lisa are gone. At a point, they’re looking for a place to hide, Lisa points out a local jazz district she wants to check out, and then they just go and watch music. I’m not expecting high action drama, but it’s important if your story has… y’know, stakes. Lisa ends up playing on stage, and her inner monologue narrates, “I’ve never been happier!” Bart thinks the same line when he sneaks into a fashion show and baits the skinny models with a sausage on a fishing line. And later, Marge comments the same when she’s on a romantic night walk with Homer. So, as usual, it’s tell, not show. Caesar and Uglion end up having the police ransack the Simpsons’ hotel, they find nothing, and Homer surmises it was the best trip ever. And the snake was in Marge’s hair. And then that’s it. What was the point? Just so they could cross off another country on the “Simpsons are going to…” map? There aren’t even a lot of French jokes, it’s mostly a lot of surface level stuff, like Lisa inexplicably dressed like Madeline and them sight seeing with no real gags attached. What was the significance of the blue snake? To appeal to Lisa? Except it wasn’t even about that. And they didn’t even bother to write an ending about what they did with it. These episodes are just a bunch of disconnected nonsense with something partially resembling a story going on around it. But none of this is new. I feel like so many of these points I end up repeating again and again. But I can’t just stop after I’ve gotten this far. It’d be like walking out in the middle of an autopsy. That would be rude.
Three items of note:
– Things start off aggravating as the Simpsons clean out the garage. They move the old Olmec head out of the corner, which now is like half the size that it used to be, and they uncover a classic roadstar under a sheet that apparently belonged to the old tenants. Now, the family has had this house for over eight years, and they never noticed this? And it was covered by the Olmec head, an item they acquired since they lived there. The car is there for Homer to hop in, have a fun little song about, and be emblematic of his wacky, carefree adventures that Marge envies. So where do we go from here? Have Jay Leno show up at the door, of course! You see, Jay loves old cars, so much so that there’s a whole TV show devoted to his collection, because what better way to spend your time than watch a millionaire show off all his cool stuff? So Jay wants to buy Homer’s car, pays in cash and takes it away. Homer goes back inside, proposes to Marge they go on a trip, and then the doorbell rings again. Jay’s back and he doesn’t want Homer’s car anymore. Plus, he tried to register it, found out it wasn’t Homer’s, and the police repossessed it. All within the span of… ten, fifteen seconds? There’s just so much about all of this I hate. As the “payoff” of the “bit,” Jay wants to rescind the deal because he discovered how convenient new modern cars are. So all of this just feels like him gleefully taking the piss out of his rich celebrity hobby. Remember when Jay Leno gave Krusty advice about joking about everyday life stuff? Me neither.
– Marge comments how she for once she wants to have a great vacation, echoing her sentiment from “Itchy & Scratchy Land.” She then runs down a list of all of the places/countries they’ve been to over the years, walking off and reappearing in the background still talking. Lisa takes her place in the foreground to talk a bunch of exposition with her father. As they talk, a man being hoisted by balloons floats by and ends up having them all popped by the floating house from Up. What is that doing there? Were the writers bored of their own story and felt they needed another Pixar love letter to fill the space?
– Sometimes when an episode seems particularly awful to me, I check the review thread on No Homers to see what the commentary is like. Reviews were mixed; positives seemed to rely on people liked seeing Caesar and Uglion again (so I guess transparent fan service does work) and they enjoyed seeing famous French landmarks animated. So… watch a travel special? They should just make the show a travelogue, these guys would love it! But I also came about a bunch of posts debating whether or not the end tag featuring caveman Matt Groening carving the final scene on the wall was “canon,” as well as Marge mentioning “outer space” as a vacation destination from “The Man Who Came to Be Dinner,” so I don’t know what that says about that caliber of fans. Like, who gives a shit?
One good line/moment: The one smirk I got was from when Marge wanted to indulge in plenty of pâté while her guilt-tripping daughter is away, so the waiter recommends she pick from the Extra Cruelty menu (“We have a coq Au vin made from an old rooster who was kicked to death in front of his wife and children. Very nice.”)