638. Throw Grampa From The Dane

Original airdate: May 13, 2018

The premise:
When Abe is in need of an expensive operation, the Simpsons head off to Denmark to take advantage of their free healthcare, but Homer must make a big decision when the rest of the family wants to make the seemingly perfect country their new home.

The reaction: Wherein we find the show running out of countries for the family to visit. Will the Simpsons be going to Uzbekistan in season 35? The series only really had two international family excursions in the classic years, both with a different approach to thrusting the characters into a whole new environment: “Bart vs. Australia” had its fair share of Aussie jokes, but it was mostly focused on the absurd plot based on Bart’s unintentional international incident, and the horrible failures of US-Australia relations. Meanwhile, “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” didn’t really have much of a story, focusing on creating a bunch of humorous set pieces, which worked because they were mostly all funny. But travel shows now are just an excuse for the show to act as a travelogue, showing off famous landmarks and rattling off trivia about different countries. This might be the greatest offender, with many scenes featuring characters literally reading off Denmark facts off their phone, with a tepid little joke at the end not at all worth the preceding info dump. In the third act, a Danish woman comes onto Homer, and three times begins sentences with “We Danes” before saying some generality about Danish people. And really, who was asking for this? I dunno, call me an uncultured swine, but I don’t see an episode full of Danish jokes full of rich, comedic potential. I mean, it could work, if it came from a show that hasn’t had almost twenty years of shit writing behind it. Circling back, the impetus of the family’s Denmark journey is needing an affordable operation for Abe, to address an ailment he never explains. He says it’s “embarrassing” and won’t talk about it, but that point is never really emphasized that much, and I didn’t think anything of it. After spending x number of days in Denmark with Homer trying to get his father into a terrible accident to be eligible for free healthcare, Abe finally comes clean: what he really needs is a tattoo removal. He reveals a heart on his chest with the word “MONA,” wanting it gone since his wife hated him up until her death. It’s unclear exactly what Abe’s endgame for all this was; I guess he went along and flew halfway around the world because he just couldn’t tell his family about this, but then once he does admit it to Homer, they barely even discuss it. You’d think Homer would be affected by this reveal, but I guess he’s already made peace that his mother fucking hated his father after “Forgive and Regret,” so whatever. The writers try and make it tie together when Abe urges Homer not to make his same mistakes and mend fences with Marge after a squabble, but it feels so limp and meaningless. This is one of those episodes that just washed over me with not much of anything really registering, and when your twist features your main character’s father wanting to completely sever emotional ties from his dead mother, and that idea is just completely swept aside, I think that says a lot.

Three items of note:
– I didn’t even remember this until I saw it mentioned elsewhere, the show literally did this plot last year, where the Simpsons took Abe to Cuba to get cheap medical care. I guess I don’t blame them, I barely recall anything about it. I think it ended with Abe co-owning a night club or something? And of course, we already saw Abe needing desperate medical attention two episodes ago. Is the only plot left with this character is him having one foot in the grave? Impulsively, I responded to an episode preview post from Al Jean, asking why they didn’t just make an episode featuring Abe finally dying. His response, “You tell Grampa that!” Lulz.
– The Abe plot starts and stops completely at will when we do all the Denmark travel stuff, and also runs completely parallel to the B-story, where Marge and the kids love this new country and want to stay. Homer’s main gripe is that he’s losing weight and won’t eat as unhealthily as he does in America. I mean, I’m sure Denmark has no shortage of fatty foods he can gorge himself on ’til his heart’s content (or gives out, whatever comes first). It felt like they were halfway toward a decent conflict, then decided this was good enough and broke for lunch.
– Homer rushes from the airport to make up with Marge after their contrived conflict, and because the episode is almost over, they of course need to be okay with going back to Springfield. But her main points are absolutely ridiculous. First, she points out that in the confined bathroom, the toilet is in the shower. Surely that’s something that shouldn’t be surprising to her or worth specifically pointing out a week into their stay. She points out the washing machine is really small too, but these are two things they could easily amend in their own home should they choose to stay. Then she points out how dark it is outside (“It’s eleven in the morning!”) We then see the sun rise and set in about two seconds. I guess all those daytime scenes we saw were playing at 100x speed, we just didn’t notice! This quick plot resolution shit is nothing we haven’t seen before, but it still elicits a groan out of me when I know a superfluous wrap-up is coming, and it never fails to disappoint in how poor it ends up being. Bart’s complaint is that the schools are good here, and as for Lisa? “I want to stay, but no one ever listens to me.” Sigh.

One good line/moment: Dr. Nick’s office is named “Bleeders Sinai Medical Center.”

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14 responses to “638. Throw Grampa From The Dane

  1. With most of the family continually saying how great Denmark is you’d think the whole episode was an advert for the place. Of course it’s not, which only makes the continuous dick-sucking more tiresome to watch.

    • All the travel episodes after season 12 were like that. “Simpsons Safari” is often regarded as one of the show’s worst (although I like it), but at least the family went on an adventure and it was interesting.

      That’s the thing with recent seasons…they’re so boring and forgettable. Even seasons 11-20 were interesting, and you remembered what happened after watching it.

      • Kaiju no Kami

        Seeing as how I don’t remember anything about Seasons 14-16 outside of a handful of episodes I just recently watched, I’d say those seasons are far more forgettable than the current stuff. Although, it is probably just because I have seen those ones more recently, but I usually can remember what the episode was at least about by its title. With 14-16 (and 17 until a few months ago), I could look at screen shots and still be lost.

  2. Guy Incognito

    Already did the “family visits a place and has to decide whether or not to stay there” crappy plot point a couple seasons ago when they went to Boston

  3. I don’t know about you, but I am totally 112% interested in The Simpsons going to…Denmark. Just think of all the crazy stuff that could happen in…Denmark. The possibilities are just endless!

  4. And yet, the Simpsons still haven’t been to New Zealand. I wonder how much longer they can keep ignoring it.

  5. This episode was so tedious. Every scene felt way too long. Everyone talks so damn much! I know this is a problem in Modern Simpsons, but it’s just so obvious here. Classic Simpsons was so tightly written and packed. An episode, especially seasons 1-5, felt so condensed and well-paced. An episode always felt way longer than it actually was, but in a good way! Here, they stall for time, and when it’s over, you forget all about it.

    Also, the way they describe Denmark as perfect in every way gets annoying fast, and clearly just read off Wikipedia of stuff about it.

    Also, it rips off episodes from RECENT seasons. Moving to another city because it’s so amazing? Done in Boston. And at least there, the reason they left was tied to the original reason why Homer hated Boston. This was just, “Oh yeah, some minor flaws we should have noticed as soon as we got here. Never mind.”

    Grandpa needing free healthcare? Done in Cuba. I remember so little about that one, but they also rattled off random studies in that episode. It’s not a good sign when your show starts sounding like a Vox article.

  6. A side note on Denmark vs. Boston: the reasons the family loved Boston was that each family member individually loved a specific aspect of Boston. Lisa loved the educational institutions (an 8-year old loving Doris Kearns Goodwin is weird, but Lisa has been a jaded 30-year old doctoral student trapped in an 8-year old for a while now), Marge loved the progressivism, Bart loved the Southies and how it was like the Departed (…okay, kind of odd for a 10-year old, but whatever), Homer loved…the bowling…okay, it wasn’t always good individual reasons, but they were at least THERE! The episode went out of their way to show how each member fell in love with Boston.

    In Denmark, it’s just a bunch of stuff ABOUT Denmark (often LITERALLY read off a website about them) as a whole that makes the family as a whole love it. There’s nothing specific that draws each family member in. It’s LITERALLY an advertisement for YOU, the viewer, to move to Denmark! The only really negative thing they say about it is that they joke at the end about how the country is broke. But it’s done in such a half-hearted, throw-away manner that it doesn’t even feel like a negative.

  7. Kaiju no Kami

    I didn’t hate this episode, but I didn’t like it either. It just kind of existed for a half hour on my TV the other night. There were some good jokes, but I felt like they started to insult Denmark because the jokes weren’t there for the last bit.

    It is funny to see the mermaid animated since one of my friends was in Denmark on a trip last year and brought back a photo of the statue (among 1000 other photos).

  8. Haven’t watched this one and don’t plan to, but just a few thoughts:

    -Yes, as you mention, Grandpa near death is being used repeatedly these days. I guess he’s nearly 100, given his age while serving in WW2, but we don’t talk about that anymore.

    -South Park did some pretty funny stuff with Denmark a few seasons ago, including some pretty obscure cultural references. Fuuuuck Denmark!

    -Re: Marge’s complaints – Yeah, brah! Women be doin’ laundry and spendin’ a ton of time in the bathroom, amirite! ::Fist-bumps writers and makes explosion gesture::

  9. Li’l Liberal Lisa hasn’t been quite as bad as in previous seasons, but she made her big return in this episode. Before everyone starts praising Denmark, Lisa is praising Socialism as a whole! No eight-year-old is that knowledgeable about government systems! Even worse, the only balance is at the very end where altering Abe’s tattoo ends up bankrupting the socialized parlor.

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