Original airdate: November 20, 2016
The premise: Homer uses an app to outsource his fatherly responsibilities, leading Bart to bond with NFL quarterback Matt Leinart. Jealous, Homer bonds with Milhouse. Jealous again, Bart bonds with Kirk. Meanwhile, Abe knocks someone up and prepares for fatherhood, again.
The reaction: Our latest episode to be horribly and nonsensically remade is “Brother From The Same Planet,” where Homer and Bart gain new son/father figures. Homer discovers a Postmates/Grubhub-type app that allows him to hire people to do the jobs he would rather avoid, which ends up including hanging out with his son. Inexplicably, Bart is paired with Matt Leinart, a famous footballer who delivers lines and I don’t know if there are inside jokes I’m supposed to think are funny. When Homer sadly sees the two of them throwing the ball in the yard, we cut to him hiring a surly kid to do the same, and my mind immediately went to Tom and Pepi. We even get a scene of Bart being suspicious of where Homer’s going like a jilted lover, a role reversal from “Planet.” Only now, the absurdity is gone. Boundary-pushing jokes like Homer channeling Richard Burton or Bart equating him faking excitement on the swings to a woman faking an orgasm are replaced with Homer and Milhouse playing with car oil, and a bunch of vacuous dialogue explaining how characters are feeling. Homer watches Bart and Leinart and is sad and says he wants that. Bart watches Homer and Milhouse and is sad and says he wants that. It doesn’t get any deeper or more involved than that. Even though Bart bought him from the app, he’s discouraged when he learns Leinart is only being nice because he’s being paid to, so he just sort of disappears, and he wanders into Kirk’s garage and starts hanging out with him. There’s no explanation for why these characters like spending time with one another, what one provides the other emotionally like in “Planet;” again, this show is basically just “stuff happens for twenty minutes.” In the end, the Simpsons and Van Houtens make up because the episode is over! This season is just a fucking disaster. Every time it seems like the show hits bottom, it just keeps managing to burrow deeper. Dig up, stupid! Dig up!
Three items of note:
– We begin with a rather bizarre variation to our opening credits. Events break formation when Bart launches out of the school, lands on top of Barney covered in leaves, but then the drunk gets up and angrily breaks Bart’s skateboard in half. The other Simpsons fare even poorer: Homer gets the carbon rod lodged in his throat and he collapses, Lisa bangs her head against the door frame leaving the music room and knocks out cold, and Maggie ends up behind the wheel, driving the car into a river, sinking it, as Marge’s limp corpse surfaces. In the end, Bart sadly walks into the living room, wondering where everyone is, and arranges four family portraits of his fallen family members to sit on the couch with him. What is the tone here? Is this supposed to be funny, or sad, or what? This show certainly doesn’t have the chops to do dark humor anymore, if that’s what they were aiming for. If I wanted an opening where the family gets horribly killed, I’ll just watch “Treehouse of Horror IX” again.
– If any further proof was needed that this show no longer cares about its characters or maintaining any semblance of realism, Abe getting a woman pregnant is relegated to a scant B-plot. It’s revealed at the start of act two: Homer goes to visit his father to talk about Bart. It seemed like this show was going to be examining bad fathers, Abe to Homer begets Homer and Bart. But then Abe just throws out a humdinger (“I got a real problem here! I’m gonna be a father again! My girlfriend’s pregnant!”) Apparently through a senior dating app, Abe met a woman, fucked and impregnated her within the span of six months. Following this, this story is only worth two more scenes. Abe complains to Marge that he can’t be a father given how much he screwed up on Homer, then seeing his son and Milhouse (he thinks it’s Bart) fishing, he resolves that maybe he didn’t do such a bad job. Third scene he goes to the woman’s house, and she reveals the kid is actually Jasper’s, through a hilarious ultrasound of the infant with a giant beard. This woman has no name, by the way. But why should she? Nobody seems to give a shit about this situation. The only two lines Marge says during her scene set up jokes for Abe, and then later, Marge talks to her husband about why he was hanging out with a boy that’s not his own son, instead of his geriatric father about to have another kid. Although reading that back, both scenarios are pretty alarming. But if the characters in the story don’t care about what’s happening, then why in the hell should I?
– Act two opens with Kirk orchestrating some kind of prank for Milhouse to film for America’s Funniest Home Videos (is that still a thing?), which of course goes horribly wrong, ending with Luann running him over with her car. From there, we go to Homer visiting his dad, then back to Bart playing monopoly with Leinart. I really wasn’t sure what that orphaned Van Houten scene was doing there, it didn’t seem to connect with anything. But four minutes later, we finally get Homer and Milhouse bonding and I guess that’s what it was supposed to set up. But there’s no real logical lead-in to this; Milhouse didn’t seem all that discouraged by Kirk’s shenanigans, and there’s no real reason for Homer to take a shining to the kid. As usual, they just didn’t even bother.
One good line/moment: When Homer discovers the joys of ChoreMonkey, we get a quick montage of his army of helpers filling in for him set to a cover of Steely Dan’s “Dirty Work” sung by Homer. Points because I love that song, and it actually makes sense in context.