662. Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion

Original airdate: May 12, 2019

The premise: Desperate to find the kids health coverage, Marge’s last resort is crystal healing from some weirdo new age store. When the crystals seemingly work wonders on Bart’s ADD, Marge takes a greater interest in the newly defunct business, opening her own new age healing store out of the garage.

The reaction: Marge starts a new business, taking on new age medicine, Bart feels bad for lying to his mother… all of this ground we’ve trodden over before, making for a real thud of a season finale. Our plot goes into motion with Mr. Burns eliminating children’s health plans from his employee benefits, and Marge needing to find an affordable alternative to Bart’s Focusyn ADD medication. I guess they worked out the kinks of that drug over twenty years time. I get that it’s implied that Bart is a rambunctious scamp that needs to be drugged to contain himself, but the fact that we never see such a thing makes any contrast the show seek to create not as effective. Out of options, Marge wanders into a new age healing store, where she’s informed of the magical power of crystals. Wearing one around his neck, Bart comes home with an A paper, winning Marge over on this kooky new treatment. Eventually, she comes upon the healing store’s inventory when the owner joins a cult (Marge seems relatively nonplussed by this), and eventually opens up her own shop to sell to her eager-to-buy friends. When she eventually expands her marketplace to the likes of fairy traps, moon potion and brain powder, it’s unclear exactly how much of this Marge believes to not be a big fake scam. She had a moment of internal conflict when she initially picks up the business, questioning how much these products actually do work, but after that, she’s just selling this shit happily with no real qualms about it. Meanwhile, Lisa discovers Bart’s been using the crystal to help him cheat on his tests by convoluted means, and eventually forces him to tell Marge the truth. At the exact same time, angry customers come at her wanting refunds, revealing the crap never worked after all (at this point, weeks must have gone by, what took them so long?), Marge closes up shop and that’s it. Last episode featured her wanting some excitement in her life starting a business, and I commented it would have been better if we actually saw some of that instead of her just telling us. I guess I got my wish. She was proud of what she accomplished, but rather than show any actual reflection about it, or any kind of satisfying wrap-up to whatever the hell we just watched, instead our final scene features Homer in a leotard working out to a women’s exercise tape. Sigh. This is the second episode written by new writer Megan Amram; after seeing “Bart vs. Itchy & Scratchy,” I wrote that I was interested in seeing what her next show would be. Well… there it was. Fuck me for trying to find a hope spot, I guess. Her first show felt like it had a little personal identity to it, but this one is just like all the rest, written and rewritten and rewritten in the writer’s room until it’s just like a bowl of flavorless mush.

Three items of note:
– Two thirds into the show, Marge is confronted by Piper (Jenny Slate, another great comedian wasted), owner and proprietor of a new age kiosk at the Shelbyville Mall, pissed that Marge’s store is cutting into her business. So are Shelbyvillians driving to the neighboring town to get their holistic bullcrap? The only clientele we’ve seen thus far are familiar faces (Cookie Kwan, Sarah Wiggum, Helen Lovejoy, etc), so whatever. Heated up by her newfound success in business, Marge decides to take Piper head on by opening her own kisok across from hers. In Shelbyville. Why didn’t they just make this at the Springfield Mall? And haven’t there been a handful of episodes from the past fifteen years re-framing Shelbyville as an affluent, high-class well-to-do city who mock their hick neighbors? Oh, who cares. Right as Marge is reigning supreme over Piper, Bart admits his lie, and then the likes of Luann and Nelson’s mom show up to complain that her shit don’t work (driving all the way to Shelbyville to complain, I guess. Did they carpool?) Blegh.
– Ned walks next door with one of Bart’s A papers to compliment Marge on the success of her “pagan hogwash.” For a moment, I was wondering why the hell he would know about Bart’s grades, but then I remembered that one year ago, they officially made him the new fourth grade teacher. We even get a small scene with him later before Lisa exposes Bart’s cheating plan. Now, I’m a freak who still watches this garbage show and obsesses over details way too much, and I forgot that Ned was the new teacher. They haven’t mentioned or shown it once for this entire season. The school has always been primary set piece for this series, and a new teacher for Bart is a mighty big role, let alone it being a major secondary character we’ve known since the show’s beginning. This is a tremendous change in the dynamics of this show, and it hasn’t been explored at all. How does Ned differ from Mrs. Krabappel, his dead wife? How does he feel about filling her shoes? What is his dynamic with Bart, Nelson, or the other students? How does he get along with Skinner or Willie or Miss Hoover, his new co-workers? These are all very rich questions a writer would hypothetically be interested in exploring. But why the fuck bother? We’ll just keep writing the same shit, and only mention Ned as the teacher if we absolutely have to. What kind of mentality is that?
– Bart initially balks at Lisa demanding he tell Marge the truth. She rebuffs, “You don’t realize how bad this is, do you? You betrayed the one person who still believes in you.” Just when I thought they were going to actually have a nice Bart-Lisa moment where he reflects and processes what he’s done, we go into a silly, upbeat montage set to The Intruders’ “I’ll Always Love My Mama” featuring Homer tossing Bart into a lion’s den and Marge fending them off, and Marge helping Bart write his chalkboard punishment. Following that, Bart is aghast (“Oh my God! She’s shown me nothing but love! How do I make this guilt go away?”) Terrible. I think back to the great writing from shows like “Marge Be Not Proud” where Bart and Lisa talk about how Marge’s anger and disappointment is manifesting in a different way (“Her heart won’t just wipe clean like this bathroom countertop. It absorbs everything that touches it, like this bathroom rug.”) And then when Bart asks how he can fix it, Lisa shrugs. Because she’s an eight year old kid. What beautiful, realistic, and funny writing. It’s a true rarity when characters on this show actually talk or react in a fashion that feels like they’re believable people, rather than just joke-spewing automatons jittering about for twenty minutes until they run out of juice.
– So this show has already mined material out of new age hippy stores almost twenty years ago, with some of the only good material from “Make Room for Lisa” (“Namaste.” “And an ooga-booga to you too!”) But more of this show reminded me of one ofΒ South Park‘s best earlier episodes “Cherokee Hair Tampons,” where the gullible morons of South Park are tricked into buying the expensive wares of holistic medicine by “native” Americans in a shop run by Miss Information. A sick Kyle needs a kidney transplant, and this new age bullshit makes his parents feel like they’re actually doing something, but it’s really just making it worse. When Stan asserts that a doctor at the hospital told him that Kyle needs an operation or he’ll die, Miss Information retorts, “Well, of course the doctor told you that, because he wants to make money!” Then she turns to charge Kyle’s mother hundreds of dollars for some more crap. It’s a pretty great episode that actually has something to say about this topic, as well as telling a personal story with the main characters (the only person in town with Kyle’s blood type is Cartman, and he isn’t going to give up his kidney quietly). None of this, of course, is present in this whimper of an episode.

One good line/moment: There were a handful of smirk/light chuckle-worthy moments. I did enjoy that Marge’s makeshift store was called “MURMUR.”

And so ends the momentous 30th season. Thankfully it seems like season 28 is still the absolute low point of the series thus far, with the two seasons following it seeming like the attempted scraping and clawing out of the deep, dark hole they’ve been plummeting down since the year 2000. It’s hard to really rank these seasons how little I enjoy any of this shit anymore, but I given season 30 a bit more credit over season 29 for containing a couple of interesting ideas and concepts that unfortunately were completely squandered (“Krusty the Clown,” “The Clown Stays in the Picture”) and for “Bart vs. Itchy & Scratchy,” an episode that wasn’t perfect, but I could at least feel like there was a ghost of a new, authentic voice behind it. As this season wraps up, The Simpsons is now officially a Disney property. They’ll be exclusively streaming on Disney+, airing on Freeform, and our favorite family’s faces will likely be plastered all over many a Disney corporate event. The show is still signed on for two more seasons, and at this point, I really don’t see any end in sight at this point. What else will Disney attempt to squeeze from this withered husk of a series? How long can the show possibly go? Tune in this fall for the soul-shriveling continuation of Me Blog Write Good! As usual, thanks so much for reading. I’m glad you guys enjoy reading this thing, and as long as this show refuses to die, then neither will this goddamn stupid blog. Bring it on, season 31.

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31 responses to “662. Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion

  1. Well, congratulations on completing this dreadful season. You deserve a vacation. We all know you thought “Bart vs. Itchy & Scratchy” was the best episode, (I guess “Werking Mom” could be considered a runner-up) but which ones did you think were the worst? As for my thoughts on this episode… ehhh don’t give a fuuuuuuck I’m just happy we’re done.

    • The worst ones are harder to stand out when you watch them over the course of nine months… going back through them, it looks like “Daddicus Finch” and “The Girl on the Bus” particularly pissed me off, but I barely remember them. I’ll say “I’m Just A Girl Who Can’t Say D’oh” is the worst of the season for being a fucking awful mirror image to “A Streetcar Named Marge,” one of my favorite episodes ever.

    • It took me forever to finally comment on this blog, but for me the worst episodes have to be Bart vs. Itchy and Scratchy/No Good Read Goes Unpunished–and not because I’m an “anti-SJW” or whatever.

      It’s because without context, those episodes will be extremely dated in the future and come off as an old man trying to hone in on a then-existing anger to stay relevant–like how people j’accuse South Park of trying to stay culturally “with it” after 20 years, except with less of an effort.

  2. Thanks for keeping up with these reviews, they’ve always been a great read. Here’s to the next season of garbage!

  3. Big John's Breakfast Log

    Oh, look, the show forgot it’s own internal structure when Bart’s teacher congratulated Marge on Bart’s accomplishment. Whouda thunk?

    Sounds like a nothing episode. Marge gets a new job/the job fails. The end. Man, if only we had, like, another character we could spend an episode looking at that wasn’t a Simpson just once? That’s a revolutionary thought!

    After Season 31 goes through its holdover episodes, we’ll see just how uncreative the “synergy” gets once the Disney Era of The Simpsons begins, because now that they’re all part of this massive entity and even reunited with Star Wars, will they attempt to continue their half-assed parody titles or just go the Family Guy route?

    • Kaiju no Kami

      Considering each season takes 2 years to develop, it’s not going to be until Season 33 that we would see any effects of Disney on the show.

  4. Osaka Seafood Concern

    Haven’t seen this one, but is it just me or are there like 5 episodes in the last couple of seasons about trying to provide a family member with health coverage?

  5. Thank you so much for keeping these up, but god is this show bad now. I guess it makes sense that a show that achieved such unprecedented levels of success would also experience an unprecedented decline.

    Anyway, see ya in the fall.

    • I never know how because there are so many reasons for The Simpsons’s decline (The Simpsons did these plots better before, the characters are worse than they used to be, the humor is not multi-layered anymore) and many debates on when it happened, but for the most part I never found The Simpsons today borderline unwatchable.

  6. Thanks for another season, Mike.

  7. Respect for getting through this. You saved me a lot of wasted hours with this garbage but respect for going through it.
    But aren’t you ready to retire. Maybe move on to better shows like South Park and Futurama- even if Futurama did lose its way a little towards the end.

  8. Oh I didn’t know Simpsons would start airing on Freeform. Something about that feels kind of wrong for some reason. The Simpsons not on a Fox network? It’s so strange.

    But whatever, I ain’t watchin’ it anyways. The Disney Simpsons won’t even appear until maybe season 32 so idc. I just like reading this blog.

  9. “We’ll just keep writing the same shit, and only mention Ned as the teacher if we absolutely have to. What kind of mentality is that?”

    It’s the mentality of trying to maintain the same status quo for 30+ years.

    • What a terrible admission of laziness! This is why a long-running series should not be afraid to shake up the status quo and write different s**t, and get out of its rut instead of flanderizing characters to be too unlikable and do nothing else and go stale forever. They should not be afraid to make The Simpsons more creative and as interesting as it used to be and do some new things with the characters, like Dark Knight Court did with Mr. Burns or what Halloween of Horror did with Lisa Simpson. Those were both legitimately funny episodes.

  10. Bet the Halloween special next year will be the fourth to air, since that would make it the 666th episode.

    • Kaiju no Kami

      Well they already stated that the THoH episode was going to be episode 666.

    • That’s the only reason I could conceive the show going for one more season, really (especially when you take into account that it’ll be THOH XXX). But considering THOH’s track record for the last 20 years, I’m not really holding my breath.

  11. Kaiju no Kami

    Had the Stark Raving Dad fiasco not occurred, I would have finished out this season. Based on your reviews, I didn’t miss much, but part of me really really wants to finish the season out no matter what. However, I just can’t. I want nothing to do with the episodes airing from this point forward until they apologize for what they said about SRD. Hell, I haven’t even been able to bring myself to watch even my top favorite episodes of the show since then.

    Anyway, from the half of the season I did watch, the worst episode of the season goes to The Girl on the Bus. It was the one episode I sat there trying to figure out what the hell I was watching and then after a while, the credits rolled and I still had no idea what was happened.

    As for a good episode from this season, it’s hard as this season did give me legitimate laughs, I just don’t remember from which ones. I think it was Werking Mom that I liked the best though. The Xmas episode was enjoyable for the most part too. Oh, and I guess the self driving car one was not bad.

    I find it funny that you are already saying you will be continuing this blog for as long as the show runs even though in the earlier seasons you kept talking about how you were going to quit right where you stopped watching the show and that was going to be it. Of course, I always kept saying, “Well, maybe I’m going to stop with this season,” only to find myself still watching the show, at least until now. We’ll see what happens with the next one. Either way, I will be reading your reviews on the next season whether I watch it or not.

    • That is why I need to get James L. Brooks and the rest of FOX to apologize for removing Stark Raving Dad, or as he calls it, “removing a chapter from their book” because I get why you can’t watch your top most favorite episodes anymore. Any episode, old or new, could get removed from syndication at any time due to modern sensitivity for arbitrary reasons.

  12. Ohhh, I really hope that the 700th episode (Season 32, Episode 16) does something really special and good. I know they are working on Season 32 now as Season 31 airs, so I can’t do anything I want for the 700th episode, but I can try to write 5-10 amazing episodes as good as the 1990s that may give Kumiko Nakamura and Mary Spuckler more character if that appeases you. I will also think of something really exciting to do with Pie Man, Bartman, Fruit Batman, and Sky Police vs. Sideshow Bob and Hank Scorpio.

    • I’m always a bit amazed when someone shows up and loves modern Simpsons.

      • There’s always a few new episodes worth as much as the old episodes-beyond being a parody of something else. If I ever write several really good episodes for future seasons of The Simpsons, I hope they don’t keep getting rewritten in the writer’s room. I actually have no way to verify if Mike Amito is telling the truth about that, but it still taught me to not trust “story editors.”

      • Well…I am not sure if I love modern Simpsons in general. Only the very best modern The Simpsons episodes that you can call good no matter what season it’s in!

      • Well…I am not sure if I love all modern Simpsons. Only the very best modern The Simpsons episodes that you can call good no matter what season it’s in! Whichever ones are too good to be identified as Zombie Simpsons, with good writing you can appreciate no matter how much you dislike the HD animation. I know you expected better HD, but what better HD did you expect?

      • That’s because I have uncertain plans to write really good episodes to make modern The Simpsons good by myself! Gump Roast gave it to us straight; They’ll never stop The Simpsons, and they’ve got stories for years.

  13. Season 31 of The Simpsons could be a lot more interesting if the writers decided they actually did want to explore the new dynamics between Ned Flanders and the other teachers and students of the elementary school. They should also find more stuff to do with Comic Book Guy and Kumiko’s marriage. Springfield Splendor was the most they did with it so far that I can remember, and that wasn’t really such a bad episode. The conflict between Marge and Lisa was believable, and I liked it when Marge fixed the Sad Girl play to make Lisa happy.

  14. I never imagined it would go on this long and be associated with Disney. Here’s my pitch for how the series could end (but it won’t): a half-hour version of ‘Goodnight Simpsons’. The episode spans one evening in Springfield, as everyone wraps up a story line or a joke and goes to bed. Homer clocks out at the plant, Bart wraps up his day with Milhouse, Marge puts away the house, Lisa finishes band practice and Maggie is dropped off by Grampa, all of their stories resolving at Evergreen Terrace. We’d see many cutaway scenes to familiar characters during the night. Smithers reads Burns a bedtime story. Moe meets Krabapple at late night coffee and she goes home with him. Nelson sings in the shower to Andy Williams music, slips and hits his head as his mom says “ha-hah”. The Simpsons family all end up in the parental bed as in 1989, so it ends as it began. The last scene is the following morning, Maggie is the only one awake. She climbs out of bed and walks to the TV set and turns it on. Itchy & Scratchy plays. It’s just her on the couch alone. She speaks, “I wuv you teevee!”, sucks on a juice bottle and belches like Homer would. Fade out.

  15. That sounds like a nice, calm finale. Whoa, are you the same Wes Archer who directed Bart the Daredevil, I Love Lisa, and Bart vs. Australia? Cool! πŸ™‚ You rock.

  16. You can’t prove Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion was rewritten by the story editors into a bowl of sterile mush! Maybe Megan Amram was just having an off day, and the directors and producers are the kind of people that accept all of her ideas, good or bad. If Megan Amram is a good writer who grew up with The Simpsons that could write episodes for modern-day The Simpsons as good as classic-day The Simpsons, then I have the utmost confidence that she can come up with some really good material for Season 31 and Season 32 if she has better ideas than this episode. Bring it on, Megan!

    If the story editors and staff writers are smart, and they want good new The Simpsons, they won’t turn more of Megan’s episodes into being almost as soulless and sterile as The Emoji Movie, because why go through extra effort to be cheap?

  17. After 10 seasons, it is a breath of fresh air to see that there were 4 episodes in this era you actually enjoyed or approved: Halloween of Horror, Friend With Benefit, Lisa Gets the Blues, and Bart vs. Itchy and Scratchy. I have the utmost confidence that it won’t be long before you find 1 more good new episode!

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