601. Trust But Clarify

Original airdate: October 23, 2016

The premise:
Lisa discovers Krusty’s latest line of snack chips contain harmful toxins, and the only person who will hear her out is a recently fired Kent Brockman desperate for a scoop. Meanwhile, Homer buys a new suit in the hope of getting a promotion.

The reaction: Episodes nowadays barely have one story to hang on, so it’s weird to see an attempt to do three at once, and unsurprisingly none of them seem to really go anywhere. Our first scene features Krusty hawking his latest snack treats and Bart eating them up, literally. Scene two features Homer being jealous of co-worker Tibor’s promotion (seeing him makes the joke of his character far less funny.) Scene three is Kent Brockman on a talk show taking credit for heroics done in a combat zone in Iraq that he just made up. At this point, I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, and as the episode continues, we just flip-flop around between these three stories. Each scene feels like a completely different episode, and there just isn’t enough time to make any of the stories feel worthwhile. The most superfluous of the three is Homer’s ambition trip. He buys a suit, wears it to work, acts cool and confidant toward Burns, only to have it fail miserably. And that’s it! Meanwhile, Brockman looking for work and Lisa looking for someone to hear her out about the questionable Krusty kandy are completely disconnected up until the end, and it really just feels like waiting out the clock until we get to the predictable conclusion. Kent Brockman and his struggles to deal with new media could have been interesting, and despite it being the most focused story, still feels very scant and condensed, and like it was composed of scraps left over from “You Kent Always Get What You Want,” and his plot from “Four Regettings and a Funeral.” He even fields an offer from FOX News, a joke they already did. That’s not much to really say about this one, not a whole lot really happens in it. Mmmyep.

Three items of note:
– Harry Shearer is the credited writer here, which is a little odd, given the big hoopla from the previous year with him announcing he was leaving the show. That was a very interesting period; Jean was clear they were open to recasting, and I felt like new voices for Burns, Smithers and the rest would potentially be the last straw for those few diehard fans left. But I don’t even think that would be enough to get FOX to pull the plug. Maybe an option to write was part of Shearer’s new contract, though I imagine he had that allowance before. So I don’t know what the story is. But, of course, I’m sure whatever he wrote was ripped to shreds and pieced back together with cheap bubblegum like every other episode, so it doesn’t really matter at all.
– More empty satire comes in the form of The Late Late Late Show with Jimmy Jimmy, the talk show that Brockman goes on where his lies eventually get exposed. They both do a comedy bit, a self-described “pointless Internet sensation,” and then they just do a talk show segment where he asks Kent questions. So the jokes are that lots of late night hosts are named Jimmy, and that they’re kind of superfluous? There’s so much more you can mine from that territory, especially that fucking unfunny comedy black hole Jimmy Fallon, but as usual, they don’t even try. Also, curiously, the episode ends with Jimmy ruffling Brockman’s hair in similar fashion to Fallon and Donald Trump, which only happened a month before this aired. That feels even more aggravating to me, especially watching it in hindsight. That cutesy normalization of a dangerous, power-hungry narcissist, boiled down to an empty reference. Hey, I recognize that thing. Ugh.
– Bart and Lisa break into Krusty’s food manufacturing plant, only to surprised by a facility devoted to organic, clean growing. But when Bart hits a button labeled “Hit When Inspector’s Gone,” the scene before them is revealed to be just a curtain, opening to reveal the actual factory, which is as poor as you would expect. Jokes like these feel especially cheap, and there have been plenty of them over the last fifteen years or so. The show had never been firmly tied down to reality, and we’ve seen plenty of crazy “cartoony” jokes in the classic years, but never at the loss of the believably of the characters. When this gag happens, all I can think of is, Bart, and especially Lisa, seriously couldn’t tell they were looking at a painting on a curtain? From that point, I equate their intelligence level to Wile E. Coyote. This show is now littered with moments like this of characters falling for things, believing stuff for no reason, going along with things apropos of nothing, all which make them feel less like real people and more like malleable cartoon characters who will think and do what we tell them.

One good line/moment: I watched this episode almost a week ago, and I don’t feel like scanning through each scene to find one line that I slightly smirked at for this section. I hope you understand.

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6 responses to “601. Trust But Clarify

  1. “I watched this episode almost a week ago, and I don’t feel like scanning through each scene to find one line that I slightly smirked at for this section. I hope you understand.”

    I trust you since you clarified!

    Shame the Shearer episode turned out to be another forgettable outing to throw into the pile. Really wish that they allowed scripts to be less of a group effort, that they’d allow more of an unique voice to emerge. We’re nearing 30 seasons, what could the harm be?

  2. I think the episode performed the three plots well and had some funny jokes, and that alone makes Harry Shearer better than Dan Castellaneta (who wrote a awful episode (as usual) this season).

    • Doesn’t Dan serve as a consulting producer nowadays? I always wonder what the hell he seems to consult, because it can’t be anything good.

  3. I don’t get why this episode exists. All it did was rehash the plot from Season 18, but didn’t even do it well.

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