Season Eleven Revisited (Part One)

1. Beyond Blunderdome

  • For the longest time, I never understood what the hell the title meant. I’ve never seen the original Mad Max movies, so I didn’t know about Beyond the Thunderdome. But then why isn’t the title “Beyond THE Blunderdome”?
  • Just a few minutes in, the Simpsons have driven an electric car into the ocean, floating along the sea bottom completely submerged, and electrocute a bunch of mermaids. With Loch Ness and Godzilla showing up at the end of last season, any semblance of realism left in this series is fading fast.
  • Rewatching this Mel Gibson asskissing session felt awkward in 2012, and it feels pretty much the same way. But even if you put aside all of Gibson’s controversies, there’s no joke with him except that he’s a perfect, beloved movie star, no different than Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger before him. It’s just so wild that an episode of TV exists depicting Mel Gibson as a universally revered celebrity and Robert Downey, Jr. being shot down by police.
  • I’d say there’s not even any commentary about test screenings and revising movies based on audience reaction, but we all know what this crew thinks about those kinds of things after The Simpsons Movie
  • When washed up baseball player Flash Baylor all but propositioned Marge to come to his motel room, Homer was impressed and was playful with her about it (“Wow! Flash Baylor came onto my wife!”) Here, Mel Gibson kissing Marge’s hand throws him into a rage, later confronting him and flaunting her wedding ring in his face (“You see this? It symbolizes that she’s my property, and I own her!”) Which portrayal sounds more likeable to you?
  • Homer hates Mel Gibson’s guts until he needs his help, then they’re the best of buddies. He’s not so much a character anymore as he is just a utility persona that can be changed and molded into whichever new profession or scenario they need him to fit into. But why exactly does Gibson need Homer anyway? Homer’s comment card complaining about the lack of violence mirrors exactly what Gibson wanted, it gave him the excuse to validate his feelings through a regular audience member to the studio execs. Why couldn’t he just fix the movie himself? He’s a fucking film director, and he needs some random dumbass to help him?
  • The only thing I like in the new Mr. Smith ending is Gibson slapping his face and making Curly noises. There’s a shot that’s always stuck out to me when Homer and Gibson give each other finger guns in the screening room where Homer’s grin is turned downward for some reason. He’s clearly not smiling, they couldn’t go back and fix that?
  • This episode is like an unholy blend of “When You Dish Upon a Star” with its toothless celebrity worship and “Viva Ned Flanders” where instead of Ned Flanders being Homer’s unquestioning sidekick, now it’s mega  celebrity Mel Gibson who continuously follows Homer’s lead for some reason, no matter how ridiculous or idiotic his suggestions are.
  • I guess there’s something to be said about the death of the brainless action pictures of yesteryear… but I can’t even pretend to say there’s anything close to satire here. Why does everyone at the Springfield premiere hate the new ending when they’re the kind of slack-jawed idiots that would eat up a brainless, violent spectacle like that? How did Gibson get the movie released at all? Last we saw in Hollywood, the executives lodged their car into Homer’s ass.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:This was a hilarious ep. The self-parody and the swipes at the Hollywood establishment were quite funny. It was a typical ep which starts with something completely unrelated, but as usual the show’s endings are the best on TV. It’s also funny Mel Gibson was willing to go along with all of that.”

2. Brother’s Little Helper

  • Bart feels believably obnoxious at the fire safety fair. We also get our first and only appearance of the gigantic gymnasium that is its own separate building from the school that for sure has always existed. 
  • I really like Skinner punching the giant clown inflatable in his office before beginning his meeting with Homer and Marge. He may be a giant rigid nerd, but Skinner also has some untapped rage, and it’s great to actually see it before he eventually devolved into a sniveling wuss.
  • Homer’s drug freakout is an excuse for some silly David Silverman poses, but ultimately not that funny (especially to repeat twice), however, I do like Ned instructing Rod to get his “exorcism tongs.”
  • Bart’s oranges/enlarged testicles is a great gag, made even better by Lisa’s disgust at Marge dropping them back into their lunches, with her responding with a dismissive, “Oh, grow up.”
  • Krusty’s skit resulting in almost being strangled by his automated bowtie is pretty excellent, as is him throttling his producer offstage (“Sorry, Krusty, I choked.” “You choked? YOU CHOKED?!”)
  • “My career has kind of lost momentum.” “I think it’s the bright blue pants. I mean, you’re not on a golf course.” “Well, I have been thinking about making them into cutoffs.” I like that when we cut to the next scene at the power plant with Homer’s crudely severed pants, they’re never explicitly addressed, and on top of that, we get a joke on top of it with Homer’s digital planner (Buy sunscreen for legs). I’m kind of surprised how much of this episode I’m enjoying so far, and surprised to look back and see it didn’t make my season 11 top 5.
  • With this episode airing at the end of 1999, it seems a little late to be taking shots at 1995’s Showgirls. It pretty much could have been a fake R-rated movie and there would have been no difference. 
  • I’m a bit mixed about Bart’s freakout. There’s definitely too many suspenseful moments in the second half of the episode, but I like Bart’s subtle change in demeanor, how focused and direct he is. I like his casual greeting to Marge when she steps in front of the tank (“Hey, Mom, thanks for coming out!”) 
  • There’s not much plot progression to be had in the third act, but there’s really a lot of good jokes: Homer reading the Focusyn side effects (“Erratic behavior, paranoia, diarrhea…” “I don’t think he has diarrhea.” “But how do we know, Marge? How do we know?!”), Comic Book Guy deliberating which hero could best the tank, and the sad tragedy that is Sir Wide-Bottom’s deflated bottom (“I know I’m alive, but why…”) Of all, my favorite bit is the showering soldiers (“I can’t believe that Sarge said we’re the worst bunch he’s ever seen.” “See, I have to believe he’s seen worse bunches than us. He was just trying to motivate us.” “Well, it ruined the whole hike!”)
  • The MLB conspiracy twist at the end is okay. It definitely feels like something that could have been strengthened with a more creative explanation, but compared to later absolute bullshit endings, I give this one a pass, especially with the ending joke with the surveillance bat Mark McGwire gives the Simpsons.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “A horrible episode even by last year’s standard. The plot made very little sense, and the conspiracy theory was just some filler material to make the episode long enough for viewing. Plus, the social commentary on the “over-drugged” society was too weak for the Simpsons. I guess Fox is trying to make the show appeal to the non-intellectuals and ‘non-nerds.’”

3. Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?

  • The incredibly random scene of Homer screaming bleeped expletives at an ambulance and his impromptu song about eating feel very much like evidence about how Homer is basically a completely malleable character who can say and do whatever the writers want regardless if it makes sense for the story or his characterization within a scene.
  • The Springfield Shopper isn’t a bad set piece with a fair share of good gags (the preserved Ann Landers and Dear Abby, the “recycled” trees) along with the excellent line, “If he’s so smart, how come he’s dead?”
  • Making Homer a food critic seems like a no-brainer of an idea, the man likes to eat. But it suffers from the problem nearly all Homer-gets-a-job episodes have, where it doesn’t even seem like Homer particularly seems to care about his joke. He gives a toss-off line about his excitement (“Can you believe it, Marge? This job is the greatest. They’re paying me to eat!”), but he never seems that invested in his job. Maybe that’s because everything’s getting filtered through Lisa’s words, and that’s really the core of the episode, but I dunno, there felt like a disconnect between what Homer actually cared about and what he was doing, which is fairly typical for this era of episodes.
  • “Wow, my first published article … although someone else’s name is on it.” “Welcome to the humiliating world of professional writing.” Speaking of malleable, Homer just gives this punchline about professional writers despite there being absolutely no reason for him to say this. The writers wrote it (clearly speaking from experience) and gave it to Homer because why not.
  • The cane “from” Citizen Kane at Planet Springfield is a great gag, and also gave us a whole slew of shitposts based on the template.
  • This episode wasn’t too bad until the midpoint, then things start going downhill. Why does Homer care about what the other critics think of him? He should be getting no pressure from the Shopper itself, since his positive reviews have been great for business for the restaurants, but why would Homer give any kind of shit about these snobby critics who we haven’t seen before or since their only scene? As the episode goes on, Homer smugly pisses on every bit of food he eats, and I don’t understand what pleasure he’s getting out of it and why he’s doing it.
  • Homer’s newspaper profile is a really funny drawing, the man is clearly very inebriated.
  • The restaurateurs of Springfield being a-OK with murder feels like a bridge too far for me. There’s some good banter to be had (“I’m surprised he doesn’t just give it up and go for sweatpants.” “He says the crotch wears out too fast.” “Yarrr! That’s going to replace the whale in my nightmares!”) but it feels like an unnecessarily crazy ending. Since they set it up, it should have been some kind of emotional reconciliation Homer makes to Lisa, but instead, the invincible Super-Homer gets no comeuppance, as he puts it. We also get a very telling line from an exasperated Marge when he finds out about the plan to poison Homer (“Only your father could take a part time job at a small town paper and wind up the target of international assassins.”) If that’s not an admission from the writers that this show has become a coo-coo-bananas wacky cartoon with almost no connection to reality, I don’t know what is.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: Three episodes into the eleventh season and I am not pleased. The episode started off groin-grabbingly good, but the quality descended. The episode was only sorta good, not excellent. Well, I think it’s safe to say that the UN has done its job. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders. Screw Flanders.

4. Treehouse of Horror X

  • I never understood the Sugar Crisp joke at the start of the first segment. First off, when I watched it when I was younger, I didn’t get it since Sugar Crisp has been known as Golden Crisp for almost my entire lifetime. Also, Homer singing the jingle after recovering the cereal from an unseen vampire adventure, is this supposed to be a specific reference to a commercial or something? Or is it just a silly non sequitur?
  • Homer manipulating Ned’s corpse on the roof is pretty wonderfully macabre. It stands in stark contrast to only two seasons later where they would puppet Burns’ body like a marionette in the medical marijuana episode.
  • Moe calling the recent widow Maude Flanders to make his move feels very on-brand for him.
  • Milhouse’s awful Radioactive Man costume is a perfect representation of those bizarre old school costumes where it would just be a mask and a smock with the character’s face and name on it. What was with those?
  • Everything about the second segment works so well. Bart and Lisa act very true to themselves if they were to have super powers (Bart fucking with Skinner, stretching into the adult section), Comic Book Guy makes an excellent villain, with almost every line of his being excellent, and Lucy Lawless gives a stellar performance, both as herself and when she goes into Xena mode. Two lines stand out: her “Oh dear God!” upon hearing CBG’s plans to make her his bride is just perfect, the perfect mix of shock and disgust, like this is the devastating natural conclusion of all of the mouth-breathing nerds she’s had to put up with at conventions. And damn, does that woman sell the hell out of “Xena needs xex!” CBG is right, it would have made even Stan Lee blush.
  • The third segment is a true time capsule, but I remember how unnecessarily freaks out people were about Y2K and this feels like an appropriate in-the-moment rip on that. I really like the ominous rendition of “Auld Lang Syne” when everything goes to shit after the New Year’s countdown.
  • Speaking of time capsule, the ending with all of the “bad” celebrities sort of feels like that, although the joke still feels like it plays and doesn’t feel too obscure even in 2021 (I’m not sure why Spike Lee is there, though). It also gives way to a truly horrific ending with Homer and Bart’s heads exploding in the vacuum of space. It’s off-screen and has a cartoony balloon popping sound effect, but it’s also mixed with a light matter squishing noise, which makes it pretty gross, but that makes it even better.
  • My overall feelings on this special is it’s got an absolutely stellar middle section sandwiched by two alright sections. Of the Scully Halloween specials, I put this first, then IX, then VIII, then XI.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “I Know What You Diddily-Iddly-Did: Lame. Homer’s characterization was absolutely abysmal, and Flanders’s unnecessary ‘diddily’s’ were tiresome. I can’t think of anything positive about this one. Desperately Xeeking Xena: The worst of the three Halloween installments. Absolutely ridiculous storyline, and despite that it’s supposed to be a parody of superhero cartoons, it completely falls flat. Life’s a Glitch, Then You Die: Probably the best of the three, but that’s really not saying much. The celebrity cameos were embarrassing, and Homer’s stupidity has reached a new low. The ending felt rushed, as well. Overall, absolutely pointless. One of the worst, if not the worst, THoHs in recent years.”

5. E-I-E-I-D’oh!

  • The Simpsons at the movies is full of good jokes: the Milk Duds swimming in butter, the Zorro movies where he inexplicably fights the Man in the Iron Mask, and the king screaming he’s a coward and fleeing.
  • Homer’s glove slapping never feels too dickish to me, there’s a degree of innocence to it that he’s just emulating something cool he saw in a movie. Plus we get the great B-52s cover, which, although a direct parody, is one of the last great songs this series ever did. 
  • Two very random callbacks: the design of Homer’s headstone looks a lot like the one Patty and Selma “got” him in “Mother Simpson” (although without the ‘Beloved By All’ inscription, of course), and the family stops near the outskirts of town at Donny’s Discount Gas, last seen in “In Marge We Trust.”
  • I’m okay with Jimmy Carter’s random appearance, but it’s yet another celebrity appearance where a character will just shout out, “Hey look, it’s [blank]!” I can only think of a few times that happened in the classic era, and usually always with some kind of self-awareness to it, while here, it’s almost every time a celebrity shows up, it happens.
  • I know everybody loves Sneed’s Feed & Seed, but it seems like it’s way too dirty for this show, even as a blink-or-you’ll-miss-it joke. Although there’s another great dirty joke that feels almost as gross later (“Maybe it needs more fertilizer.” “I’m only one man, Marge.”) Is it just me, or is the gag that he was going to jerk off over the entire plot of land?
  • Boy, they sure thought Homer getting pinned by that tractor was hysterical, huh? It happens four damn times, one of which was thankfully cut in syndication. I’ll say at least it’s much more bearable than other instances in the Scully era of Homer getting hurt, mostly thanks to him not screaming in pain during any of it.
  • I like that Homer has some kind of sense of responsibility in trying to grow food for his family, and a resulting sense of shame when the family reminds him this whole situation is his dumb fault (“Oh, you’re right! I’m a coward.  I made such a mess of things!”) Moments where Homer actually acts like a human are getting fewer and fewer to find, so I appreciate moments like this. But then there’s the runner where Lisa tells Homer to get rid of the last tomacco plant and he keeps talking about how he can’t do anything as only one man and it’s just terrible.
  • The concept of tomacco and the tobacco industry wanting their hands on it as a loophole to get kids addicted are both excellent. I’ll even give them that the animals getting addicted and going nuts being an alright idea, albeit pushed a little too far in the ending. But it’s way too much to cram into the last five or six minutes of the episode. Act two probably should have ended with the discovery of a crop growing, not the night before with the irradiated field.
  • This, “Mom and Pop Art,” and “Maximum Homerdrive” are like the Zombie Homer trilogy for me, where they’re episodes filled with crazy, unhinged Homer moments, but I find myself still able to get on board and enjoy myself for whatever reason. A lot of it is just the strength of the jokes, which up until now has been a big saving grace for the Scully era, but things are gonna be slipping real fast from here.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Was this a Halloween special? I’ve seen FAR more plausible things happen in those episodes than this one. Lessee… sheep and goats stoned on drugs, tobacco flavored tomatoes, radioactive waste being licked and chewed on. What is this? I’ve never been so appalled at a Simpsons episode… really. I can’t wait to see what the Maxtone-Graham apologists have to say about this one. ‘duh, homerz so kewl cuz he’s WACKY, you’re just a looser with no life.’ It’s sad, this show is no longer aimed at people with an IQ over 50. ‘The Simpsons’ today is like a close relative I once loved being slowly destroyed by Alzheimer’s disease. No offense to anyone who this has actually happened to.”

17 thoughts on “Season Eleven Revisited (Part One)

  1. “Is it just me, or is the gag that he was going to jerk off over the entire plot of land?”

    I had another bodily function in mind entirely.

  2. I don’t get why Homer being a malleable character is a problem for you. Like when you reviewed “Bart After Dark” years ago, you said that was one of the show’s strengths. The fact that the characters were malleable meant that you could plug them into any situation and make it work. But the real issue here is that Homer’s character is being plugged into situations that either aren’t entertaining, or he doesn’t act consistently from scene to scene so the whole thing feels like a mess.

    I also want to believe that the show became crazier and stupider on purpose. Whenever a new showrunner came along, their goal was to always “bring the show back to the family.” They feel like the previous season made things too weird and they want to go back to something more grounded and realistic. They try that method for the first couple episodes, then they get bored and by the end of the first year, the stories become weird again. Scully also wanted to do that, and you can see it as the show goes through season nine and season ten. In the beginning, you get episodes like “Bart Star” and “The Two Nahasapeemapetilons,” stories that could happen in real life. By the time season ten comes around, Homer has already had a drawbridge closed on his head, invaded a U2 concert to promote his election, and now, he’s getting his eye bulging out of the socket. You really can’t try and be realistic and grounded after that.

  3. Season 11 remains one of the worst seasons in show history, in spite of the decline in quality of the series as time has marched on, thanks to what a stark contrast it presents from previous years. I mean, Season 10 has some very obvious turkeys like “When You Dish Upon a Star”, “Kidney Trouble”, and “Make Room for Lisa”, but when you saw a good episode, there was a good episode.

    Here, a good episode only passes for “meh” as by now, the writing staff is more focused on outside projects or getting stuff done so they can be home for dinner. It bears repeating that I am aware that the climate the earlier seasons had wasn’t the most healthy, physically or mentally, but the system that replaced it emphasized a more lackadaisical approach to developing stories and writing material. Rather than focusing on the show as a concept, writers began to use their scripts and the cast of characters as vessels for their personal ideas and what they believed comedy was about, and the show became more of a bad sitcom than anything else. And bad sitcoms often featured things like gladhanding guest stars, jokes that demanded a laugh track behind it, and characters speaking decades behind the times.

    “Beyond Blunderdome” was meant to be a celebration of Mel Gibson, as well as pining about how movies aren’t the way they used to be. I find this hilarious considering I strongly believe PG-13 movies tend to be more violent than R-rated movies as producers try to push the envelope as much as possible to have the audience feel like the movie is action-packed, and despite being in a period where a pandemic wrecked traditional cinema experiences, the film industry still churns out mindless action explosion flicks. Except, back then, they were cop movies & now it’s superheroes. And this also goes without saying everything about Gibson’s political views, his antisemitism, those over-the-top attempts at making artsy-fartsy cinema (“The Passion of the Christ” everyone remembers, but what about “Apocalyptica”?), and so on. But, Scully really loved Gibson and even featured him on “The Complete Savages”, so this was about what a great guy Mel was. I mentioned how “Homer to the Max” low-key features Homer being anti-environmentalist, and the episode begins with him wanting to test drive an electric car only for a free gift. He just straight up abuses the vehicle, and when the car is driving underwater was I think the first time I genuinely thought it was too silly for the show, since I didn’t recall watching “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love”. He gets his gift, which was a pair of tickets to a film screening, and Homer just bitches and moans the whole time cause nobody shoots anyone. He was similarly annoying in “Colonel Homer”, but the difference there was we saw both Marge and the audience get irritated at him as time went on, and Marge actually got fed up with his nonsense, leading to the audience cheering for her in justification (though he took it poorly cause he was a man in the early 90s, and being talked down to by the wife was like getting your balls chopped off). All we see here is the ravings of a loudmouthed malcontent whine about a typecast celebrity try and go out of his comfort zone, much like how poorly he received “Paint Your Wagon”.

    And, that’s where the episode falls apart. Homer is somehow the one guy Mel wants to listen to, and devotes the entire film project to, despite Homer being a complete moron that’s only interested in boobs, bullets, and beer. In a more sensible world, we would ignore people like Homer Simpson, but we live in a world where we ended up getting Zack Snyder’s Justice League, where all it proved was that the idea sounded okay, but perhaps there was a reason why executives weren’t happy in the end. Mel, for the most part, rejects Homer’s dimwitted ideas, like fast-forwarding the intro, a hat montage, and the main villain being a shifty-eyed dog (a small meme that lives on from the Scully years), but Homer’s main beef regarding the filibuster scene is what finally gets Mel enough conviction that Homer likely knows what he’s talking about, thus turning the ending into a gorefest where Mr. Smith blows up the US Capitol and decapitates the president, saving random children. After a useless chase scene that’s all of act three, it has a predictable outcome. I get your criticism about them hating it, Mike, considering they are clearly the kind of townsfolk that would gobble up mindless junk, but perhaps what was lost in translation was that all of Homer’s other ideas were rejected, meaning it was kept as a straightforward political film that took a hard turn into action at the last second, thus creating a mood whiplash effect.

    Honestly, there aren’t really any good jokes in this episode, besides perhaps the employees pretending to be mannequins, and “Saving Irene Ryan” (which featured another real-life cameo of someone Scully knew just prior). Oh, and the evil dog, of course.

    I’m now on all sorts of prescription medications for depression, anxiety, muscle relaxers, and ADHD, so it’s all familiar to me, but back then, the whole concept of giving children prescription meds likely was a concerning topic. This also was one of the first times I feel the show tried to be “topical” where they reached for something they saw on the news and hoped the story would be relevant by the time they aired the episode, but it failed miserably. And it most certainly would not be the last. At least “Homer’s Phobia” remains timeless considering it contrasted society slowly accepting homosexuality while showing decades of being told gay people were both creeps and punchlines wasn’t going to go away overnight in the American consciousness, which stares in contrast with “Three Gays of the Condo”.

    I don’t particularly have much to say for “Brother’s Little Helper”. Season 10 massacred Bart’s character traits, meaning the staff had all but forgotten who Bart actually was, so when they had him do these shenanigans, it was more like what an outsider would assume a character like Bart would probably do, or a parody of Bart himself. They give him pills, and for a while they work, but then he goes off the deep end, and we have the usual Scully Third Act nonsense. Having watched the McGuire and Sosa “30 for 30” documentary last year, McGuire was surprisingly human, very candid about what he did, and admitted that he cheated, which was wrong, but at the time, there wasn’t much scrutiny about it. It’s a dumb ending, but it parlays into the show’s growing need to avoid complex resolutions.

    There’s a lot to hate about “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?” There’s a very weird subplot about Uter having gone missing and Skinner refusing to acknowledge any wrongdoing which only has two scenes. Homer gets the food critic job on account that he’s a fat guy and he likes food, so congratulations, it’s another “Homer gets a job” episode. There are several instances of the writers inserting past experiences into the episode in not-so-subtle ways. And I especially hate the turn in the second act where, after meeting the other critics, Homer takes the advice and decides he should be a condescending douchebag about everything. Professional critiques and the general public have a hate/hate relationship (the public constantly yell about how critics are snobs/don’t get anything/are terrible at their job/etc., while the critics dread dealing with what they are often trained to perceive as “the unwashed masses”), yet Homer just does a complete 180 in this episode. He goes from being the darling of the town, loving everything he eats, to being in such contempt over everything, that other restaurant owners have to hire an assassin to kill him cause Homer is the literal definition of hubris. As much as I hated that episode, I found Homer’s convoluted review system and overall eagerness in “Krusty the Clown” to be more believable than whatever aloof erudite he’s pretending to be.

    Still… the episode gave us “Zero is a percent?”

    I don’t review Treehouse of Horror episodes, although this season’s was the first that genuinely scared me. It didn’t have my least-favorite segment, though. That’s next season’s with “Scary Tales Do Come True”.

    Everybody remembers “E-I-E-I-D’oh!” for tomacco, yet I don’t think it’s a good episode. Homer’s an asshole early on, randomly slapping people to get what he wants, and then when someone finally calls him out on it, he’s a total chickenshit about it. This is prime Jerkass Homer. It also made me very angry about continuity given that the farmhouse clearly burned down at the end of “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy”, yet it’s still standing like nothing happened. Out in the sticks, if something burns down or collapses, odds are, it’s staying that way for years.

    R/Simpsonsshitposting pretty much has the two farmers outside of Sneed’s Feed and Seed (Formerly Chuck’s) as their mascots. The scene where Homer acts like he knows what he’s doing should state right off the bat that he’s doomed, given that the soil around the farm is virtually alkaline, meaning in order to reduce it to a lower pH level, he would require large metallic compounds to increase the acidity levels in the ground, but that’s something which flies by most viewers. Yet, this being Homer, he literally thinks radioactive material will solve the growth problem.

    There is some surprisingly subtle and bright commentary about the tobacco industry wanting to backdoor their way and develop new addicts using this new crop, but I think it gets lost in Homer being dumb and greedy. It’s extremely aggravating to hear Homer constantly go “I’m just one man!” every time Lisa tells him to fucking destroy the plant by burning it or something. Plus, the whole animal sequence is just a bizarre “Night of the Living Dead” homage that feels out of place. At least the ending acknowledged that they didn’t abandon the opening act, something that would happen later on.

    There really aren’t any episodes worth saving this season, in my opinion.

  4. * First of all, the movie’s just called Beyond Thunderdome, not Beyond the Thunderdome. Not that it makes the pun in the title better. The episode hasn’t aged all that well, although I did like the Robert Downey Jr. joke and the jab at Hugh Grant. However, then we get the stupid Ellen Degeneres/Anne Heche “joke” that just amounts to them announcing that they’re lesbians. Oh, the ’90s. (“It was symbolism! He was mad!” is also a good line.)

    * “Brother’s Little Helper” is fine. There are plenty of good jokes throughout and a ridiculous action ending, but when you have the image of Bart singing “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow” while running a tank over mailboxes, all is forgiven.

    * I believe the vampire bit was just the show’s way of saying, “Hey, let’s have the characters tell the audience about this crazy adventure they went on that nobody saw!” I’m not sure how Sugar Crisp ties into it, but without it, we never would have gotten Homer responding to Marge’s question by singing “Guess I forgot to put the foglights in!”

    * I’ll always go to bat for “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner.” It’s only gotten funnier to me since I’ve worked at a newspaper, and Ed Asner is a particularly great guest star (“I wouldn’t want to be married to her. I mean, again.”) I also love the joke where the chef is injecting the pastry with butter, then poison, then an antidote which he has to hurriedly remove.

    * The Zorro parody isn’t bad. I like the end credits which credit Posh Spice as the wise nun and Meryl Streep as the stupid nun. I also love the colonel’s Yosemite Sam-inspired mudflap.

    Overall, not a terrible start to this season. Apart from Beyond Blunderdome, the real duds don’t start until 2000. It’s like the glitch that was supposed to wreak havoc on the new millennium only affected the Simpsons writers’ computers, bringing the show even further into decline.

  5. Fuck Beyond Blunderdome. That’s all I have to say about it.

    —–

    I’m afraid I have to disagree about Bart being “believably” obnoxious at the fire safety fair. Dare I say this… but it genuinely feels to me like Scully and co yelling to the viewers, “LOOK AT BART! LOOK AT HIM! LOOK HOW MISCHIEVOUS HE IS! LOOK AT HIS LATEST PRANK! LOOK HOW FUNNY IT IS! LOOK AT HIM! LOOK AT HIM! LOOK AT HIM!! LOOK!!! LOOK!!!!! LOOK!!!!!!!!”

    This isn’t the Bart who cherry-bombed the toilets, hijacked Willie’s tractor or sabotaged Skinner’s weather balloon. Heck, this isn’t even the Bart who caused massive city-wide damage by speaking into a chain of megaphones. No, this is the Bart who does and says whatever Scully and his team want him to do and say, and who gives a fuck if it’s way over the top?

    “*You* choked?! *YOU* CHOKED?!?!” certainly wouldn’t have looked out of place in the Classic Era, however.

    —–

    Homer: “The other critics told me to be mean and you should always give in to peer pressure.”
    Lisa: “But what if someone bad tells me to –”
    Homer: (adamant) “Always.”

    Well, he obviously doesn’t succeed in pleasing the other critics with his complete 180, because they’re in the angry mob chasing him and Lisa at the end.

    Also, when Lisa calls out to her father not to eat the poisoned éclair, she runs into the path of an old lady pushing a food trolley – and the old lady keeps on calmly pushing the trolley with Lisa on it. We never see above the old lady’s mouth – so are we supposed to believe that she can’t see very well (and probably can’t hear very well either, since Lisa runs into that trolley with a fair amount of force)?

    —–

    I’m afraid I still don’t have as much love for TOH X as others do – though I do agree it’s better than IX, and Lucy Lawless is awesome at just about everything she does.

    Although Scully was showrunner for four seasons, didn’t he do five TOHs, due to X and XI both being part of the eleventh production season (respective p-codes BABF01 and BABF21)?

    —–

    Funny, isn’t it, that for all the opprobrium Ian Maxtone-Graham gets, he has actually written some episodes that are more good than bad (“Burns, Baby Burns”, “Lisa Gets an ‘A'”, “E-I-E-I-D’oh!”), and even a really good one (“The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson”). Then again, he has also written some episodes that I don’t think anyone would want to pull out of a burning bus (“Alone Again, Natura-Diddily”, “Tennis the Menace”, “The Blunder Years”)…

    —–

    Finally, I know I’ve asked this before, and I’m pretty sure I already know the answer, but… Mike, are you *deliberately* selecting good Simpsons Archive reviews for episodes you hate, and bad reviews for episodes you like (and also so-so reviews for so-so episodes, like “Guess Who’s Coming…”)?

  6. In my opinion, the start of this season is not really that terrible. Yes, the Mel Gibson episode did not age well at all, but it stil has some jokes that can be funny.
    Despite how awful this season is, I would take it over the entire Al Jean solo era any day of the week. Even the awful episodes can have some jokes.
    Treehouse of Horror X is maybe the last decent one IMO. The CBG’s segment just cements my conclusion that is just a REALLY REALLY bad move from the HD era to make him a happily married man with a beautiful japanese trophy wife without real personallity. There was a lot more humor versatility with him being a bitter lonely loser.
    In one week or two my most hated episode will be revisited. Oh dear lord…

    1. Al Jean’s era is notorious for undoing a lot of things previous showrunners tried to do (Kirk & Luann got back together, albeit still unhappily, Barney went back to being a hapless drunk, Edna & Skinner did not marry cause Skinner has mommy issues, Manjula & the octuplets all but vanished, and Homer’s mother was killed off… only to be brought back far more times dead than alive), but the one thing that they did they seemed committed to was giving Comic Book Guy a hot wife.

      Wasn’t he the character that became the representation of all they hated about the fandom? Seems counterintuitive to reward that.

      I think the greatest line in the segment was about the working phaser. “It was fired only once, to keep William Shatner from making another album.”

      1. I personally HATED Edna and Skinner breaking up, not necessarily the concept itself, but how contrived it was… I know Skinner always had mother issues, but during the Golden Age we can see Skinner really how was sad with Agnes and there was moments about how much Seymour wanted another female in his life:

        “You know… I always thought I’d fall for a woman just like mother, even though I didn’t want to. And now that I haven’t, I’ve discovered what true happiness can be, Edna”.

        And for plot convenience, during the Al Jean era Skinner puts his mother over Edna just because the writers wanted to break possibly the only relationship in the show outside the Simpsons family that was truly organic. I saw some people justifying that BS saying “There is more humor versatility with Skinner being a dumb loser, and Edna being a sad teacher!”, except there was no versatility with Seymour just being a sad sack and Edna treating him coldy, and there was ZERO HUMOR VERSATILITY with Ned and Edna getting together.

        What I disliked about Milhouse’s parents getting together again is that never made something really interesting about it… There was a chance for Milhouse getting a real character development, but no, let’s undo everything other showrunners did just because of it.

  7. Mel Gibson is an awful excuse for a human being but you’ve got to give him this: He got busloads of god fearing Christians to go see what was basically a torture porn movie.

  8. Just think…on Disney+ you can probably watched the Simpsons’ Mel Gibson episode AND the Family Guy one…

    1. I find it darkly ironic that they kept “Stark Raving Dad” off of Disney+ because of decades-old unsubstantiated allegations that Michael Jackson might have been a creep, yet we have indisputable proof that Mel Gibson is a monster and the episode where he plays himself and everyone showers him with praise is a-okay for all ages.

  9. I never understood why they removed “Stark Raving Dad” from syndication but the Mel Gibson episode is okay. Is Gibson not just as much of a controversial figure as Michael Jackson is?

    Actually, I do know the reason. “Stark Raving Dad” is a beloved, well-known episode whereas no one gives a shit about “Beyond Blunderdome”. Banning “Beyond Blunderdome” wouldn’t have given them the same amount of publicity. How pathetically transparent.

  10. Well, here it is. The last season you have to re-review.

    Yeah, “Blunderdome” is a terrible way to start off the season. While not as terrible as “When you Dish Upon a Star,” no doubt is this episode terrible. Just the show giving Gibson a yellow blowjob which would feel out of place considering what he would later become. Ugh!

    However, I like the next three episodes. “Brother’s Little Helper” one of the very gems in this terrible season in that despite the shaky plot and forced suspense, there’s a lot of funny and classic jokes to prove that like the last season, Season 11 can still have some classic moments despite its poor reputation. Plus, there’s some good commentary about medication and I actually really like the MLB twist in the end and how the residents of Springfield would rather have Big Mac hit some dingers than explain the truth. Much better use of a guest star than Gibson.

    “My overall feelings on this special is it’s got an absolutely stellar middle section sandwiched by two alright sections. Of the Scully Halloween specials, I put this first, then IX, then VIII, then XI.”

    I think you pretty much described what I think of the surprisingly good halloween special this year. The first and third sections are pretty good despite having problems and the second one feels like it belongs in Season 9. Of the Scully Halloween specials, not as good as VIII, but it comes in second followed by IX, and then XI.

    Here’s another re-review where you have a slightly more dismal tone at an otherwise alright episode. Yeah, this is another “Jerkass Homer Gets a Job Episode tm” and Homer is not exactly the most tolerable guy here, but like “Brother’s Little Helper,” there’s a surprisingly large amount of jokes that hit their mark. Maybe it isn’t fantastic but by Season 11 standards, it certainly ranks high amongst this cavalcade of crap.

    I know you like “E-I-E-I-D’oh,” but sadly, I don’t. It’s really annoying and jerkass Homer is just unbelievable here. But I will say, it is one of the lesser evils of this season and there’s some genuinely funny scenes like the Zorro movie (Love the gag credits) and Sneed’s Feed & Seed but unlike in “Criticize,” it does not excuse the Jerkass Homer freakshow.

    So yeah, like I said, Season 11 doesn’t start out too bad. In fact, I actually LIKE three of the five episodes here! So far, Season 11 looks better than Season 10. Of course, it all goes downhill from here. By part two, it’ll be as bad as Season 10; by part three, it will be waaaaaay worse than Season 10 would ever wish to be; by part four, you’re going to actually start missing Season 10. Good luck, Mike. You’ll need it.

    1. “Of the Scully Halloween specials, not as good as VIII, but it comes in second followed by IX, and then XI.”

      What about XII? Easy to forget but Scully *did* do five TOHs… 😉

      I too would put VIII at the top, followed by X and then IX. It’s pretty close at the bottom between XI and XII – but XII has that Harry Potter “parody”, wastes Matthew Perry, and doesn’t have scary names in the credits (whether you believe Ian Maxtone-Graham that this was because of 9/11, or Al Jean that this was because these names were too difficult to come up with, is up to you), so I would put XI *just* ahead.

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