The reaction: This show has grown and changed so much over the years (all for the worse, of course, as exhaustively covered here), but the worst sin of all is something this episode seems to exemplify. From the outset, the series’ primary goal was to take the piss out of the most popular television at the time: the sitcoms of the 1980s; to twist all of the hollow, vacuous tropes and conventions of these insipid time wasters, to subvert audience expectation in a magnificent display of creative, subversive storytelling. But as time marched on, and the TV landscape changed, The Simpsons ended up changing with it. As we’ve seen, this show has many a time embraced many different sitcom conventions it used to make fun of. Episodes are peppered with attempted bait-and-switch gags or the occasional “edgy” joke, but stories and the characterization fueling them have now become incredibly and transparently simplistic, with easily illuminated plot turns and conclusions (if any). This episode feels like the ultimate example; with a little bit of space added for a laugh track, this script could easily be turned into a live action CBS “comedy.” Here we have Homer being paired with insufferable dweeb Kirk, who introduces the concept of lacrosse to Springfield. Everyone, including the kids, are totally on board with this; Bart and Lisa are super psyched about this new sport, and look up to their beloved “Coach K” through the whole show. Homer, meanwhile, isn’t so taken with Kirk’s penchant for rice sandwiches or Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, and it doesn’t take long before his secret resentment gets out. So Kirk goes missing, and it’s the championship game! The kids need their coach, and time is running out! The kids and the townspeople chant “Save Coach K!” as sappy music plays, all completely irony free. The “joke” on top of this is that Kirk is at a strip club, so I guess that’s the show thinking they’re still being subversive (more on that later). Homer makes amends with Kirk and the kids win the game… like, wow, everything about the third act feels completely anti-Simpsons. Bart and Lisa act like over excitable teevee children, Homer gives an inspirational speech to Kirk played completely straight, and they make their triumphant return to the field like something out of a TV sports movie for kids. A lot of the tent poles of this show have turned to mush, and a lot of these problems have been present for a while now, but for some reason, this episode really exemplifies the state of this show now. It’s an overused quote, but it kind of fits: you either die the hero, or you live long enough to become the villain. The Simpsons is just another limp-wristed, safe, predictable, nondescript sitcom, not much different than the ones the show was born in retaliation of. And if you ask me, that’s pretty motherfucking depressing.
Three items of note:
– Whenever the show introduces a “new” idea, it always ends up feeling like an advertisement for it. Kirk spends a good minute playing up lacrosse and talking about how it’s played… Is it that radical a concept? My high school had a lacrosse team, it’s not like it’s a brand new sport. And it’s not even that the joke is Springfielders are a bunch of dense hicks. They’re won over almost immediately, but unlike previous iterations, there’s no real reason for them to be. Why do all of these people, many of whom are childless, give a shit about little league sports? It reminded me of that awful “Boys of Bummer” where the whole town was out for blood when Bart bungled a game, but at least there, I could tell there was an attempt (and failure) of satire. Here, it’s just played straight. No jokes, no additional layers, no irony. It’s just a normal story. How sad.
– I guess this episode is supposed to examine Kirk’s character a little more, and what I’ve learned is that he’s a bit of creep. Driving the minivan of kids, Kirk offers Homer a vape pen, and then asks him what’s the weirdest place he’s ever fucked Marge, with their kids well in earshot. Then later he invites him to come with him to a strip club. So this kind of muddies the waters of the story: Homer’s gripe is that Kirk is a big lamewad, but then there’s this skeevier stuff where Homer is clearly uncomfortable with Kirk’s behavior. So then we get to the very end, after this build-up of Kirk being into strippers, but it turns out he just pays to just talk to the dancers. So if the point is that he just needed someone to talk to, and that someone he thought was Homer, why would he be pushing him to come with him, and why wouldn’t he just say why? Also, what’s the story with him and Luann? The writers spent almost ten seasons loving writing material for pathetic loser single Kirk, and even now that they reunited him with Luann, it’s like they just can’t stop. He can’t have a conversation with his wife but he pays to talk to strippers? That’s pretty fucking pathetic and gross.
– This show was written by Matt Selman, who has acted as show runner on occasion for a handful of years now. I’m not entirely sure what the deal is with his standing, but I guess they just have him supervise one show a season? Going on seventeen years, Al Jean’s been show runner longer than the entirety of all the other show runners, and you can really feel that stagnation. Why not have Selman supervise over a third of the season? I don’t get why it’s just like one or two. I can’t seem to look up anything about this in my very, very brief attempt at research, but it doesn’t really matter. I feel like I’ve seen some folks at No Homers praise the Selman shows, but while they might have a slightly different feel to it, it’s all the same pile of shit at this point. Along with this dumpster fire, Selman’s penned such classics as “The Food Wife,” “Husbands and Knives,” and everybody’s favorite, “That 90’s Show,” so you can draw your own allegiances.
One good line/moment: I hated this episode. Really hated it. I feel like retiring this section; initially it was like a sign of good faith that deep within the shit, there was some good in each episode, no matter how small or fleeting. And that may be true in some cases, but really, what does it matter? A choice smirk or brief chuckle is meaningless in the face of twenty minutes of putrid junk. If I get a surprise laugh or enjoyment out of something that really catches me off guard, I’ll put it here, but if not, I’m just leaving it blank.