Category Archives: Season 10

219. Make Room For Lisa

(originally aired February 28, 1999)
Waaaay back in the before time, in the episode “Lisa the Greek,” there’s a rather cruel moment where Homer has Lisa sit on the other end of the couch while watching a football game. It’s supposed to establish the distance between the two characters before they start bonding throughout the show, but it still feels pretty harsh, and is only saved by the fact that the rest of the episode is so fantastic. This episode feels like that uncomfortable moment for the entire twenty-two minutes. At some point the writers apparently felt it was hilarious to have Homer act like an insensitive dick, because he’s basically in flaming asshole mode from start to finish, made even more disconcerting that a majority of it is aimed toward his daughter. This has been a present problem in the Scully years, but seems even more accelerated and hateful here. Didn’t anyone notice how absolutely unlikeable Homer is when he’s abusing Lisa like this? That and there’s pretty much no story and no jokes. That also hurts the episode.

After Homer desecrates the Bill of Rights at a Smithsonian exhibit, he ends up striking a deal to repay the damage with phone company/governmental parent OmniTouch by installing a cellular tower on their roof. Homer ends up clearing out everything out of Lisa’s room to turn it into the operating station for the tower. Now, really, Homer’s an idiot, but this is just incredible. Why would he think this is a good idea? And where are all of Lisa’s possessions? It’s absolutely horrible, and the worst thing is is that Homer doesn’t realize how upset his daughter is. That’s what makes these shows work: Homer does something grossly awful to Lisa, then bends over backwards to fix the problem. And usually it’s smaller stuff; in “Lisa’s Pony,” he didn’t get her saxophone reed to her on time for her performance. Here he’s ripped her entire room apart with absolutely no sense of why she would be upset. Instead he acts as an absolute irritant toward Lisa, providing no answers to her questions and concerns and being a raging dick (“Dad, why did you have to take away my room?” “Maybe you’d feel better if we watched some TV together.” “I just want to study!” “That’s no fun!” “It is to me.” “No it’s not!”) After an exchange like that, you just want to punch Homer in the fucking face.

From all the stress at home, Lisa starts to fall ill. Yep, so now Homer’s behavior is physically damaging her daughter as well as emotionally, and he remains as thoughtless and callous as ever. It takes her daughter to flat out tell him that they’re drifting apart for him to actually become conscious of the situation. The two go to a new age shop for some holistic medicine, and end up taking part in a bizarre sensory deprivation session, where they’re put in water-filled tubes to clear their minds and meditate. While Lisa has some deep introspection, Homer ends up hijacking the show when repo men raid the store and take his tank. It falls out of their truck on the road, and Homer is sent on an exaggeratingly cartoonish roller coaster ride as the tube is sent down cliffs, buried, rushed through pipes and tubes and eventually spit out on shore, where it’s returned by Chief Wiggum. It’s over-the-top and stupid, and it makes no sense why the tank never opened, or that Homer should still be alive after all that abuse. The shit kicker is that in the end Lisa apologizes to her father; she has an out-of-body experience as him, and realizes he should be thankful for all the places Homer takes her that he hates. Well, that could make sense, except at the beginning of the show we see Homer whining and moaning about having to take Lisa out and that Marge basically forces him to do it. The point is that Homer is absolutely reprehensible for the entire episode and gets no comeuppance and learns nothing, and we’re given an ending of them reconciled and supposed to go “aww” on cue like Homer-Lisa shows in the past. Well those endings only worked when they were earned, and this time, it is absolutely not earned. Fuck this shit.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I guess everyone must have their own threshold of how stupid Homer can possibly be, everyone’s limit is different. The beginning of the episode, a radio program makes a napping Homer believe he’s gone back in time. Yeah, too far. Really, it’s just like the writers are saying, hey, he’s supposed to be dumb, we can do this joke. But there’s a difference between dumb and brain dead.
– Homer’s cruelty starts immediately when he whines like a baby at the prospect of doing something for her daughter, but there’s a few glimmers of humor to be had before the horribleness starts (“You agreed to spend one Saturday a month doing something with the kids.” “Quit complaining. It’s half the work of a divorced dad.” Yeah, but it’s twice as much as a deadbeat dad.”) Also the bit about Homer against book fairs (“I’m not falling for that again. If it doesn’t have Siamese twins in a jar, it’s not a fair.”)
– The beginning actually has some good things about it: I like that OmniTouch owns the historical artifacts, and that the government sold them off to save funding for what’s really important (“Anti-tobacco programs, pro-tobacco programs, killing wild donkeys, and Israel.”) Also great is that Lincoln’s stovepipe hat is just sitting out in the open, while Fonzie’s jacket is under laser-protected glass with armed guards, right next to the Bill of Rights. Then Homer breaks in and starts reading it and everything goes to hell.
– Couldn’t Lisa have just moved into Maggie’s room? Or better yet, gut her room and move her crib into Lisa’s room. In that case you’d have no real episode, but… well, that would be a good thing, so yeah. It’s just they open the Bart-Lisa angle with having her in Bart’s room, then drop it almost immediately. I feel like they could have done something interesting with it, other than have Homer and Bart do clicky pen wars.
– I love that as horrible as Homer is in the show, they pepper smaller bits of him being horrible in just to intensify it more, like Lisa mentioning her father taping over her favorite movie, “The Little Mermaid.” This is moments after the reveal of her room being destroyed. It’s just played off so sad. Like, this isn’t funny at all, this is like childhood trauma.
– There’s also a subplot where the cellular tower screws with Marge’s baby monitor, causing her to hear in on people’s cell phone conversations. It’s actually pretty amusing and a nice story, but honestly anything would have been a breath of fresh air compared to the A plot. I like Agnes’ disapproval of Skinner driving through tunnels (“I know what they represent!”) and Bart’s play acting as a killer apparently going to the house to trick his mother.
– Really, why didn’t that fucking tube open during Homer’s wild ride. Then at the end we see Lisa lifts it open with ease. The whole third act is a dead zone, apart from a few momentary smirks from the repo men (“The crystal says your baby shall be a girl!” “Hey, shut up!”) and Chief Wiggum (“I am so sick of companies dumping their crud in our ocean without a permit! It’s not like those permits are hard to get!”)

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218. Marge Simpson in “Screaming Yellow Honkers”

(originally aired February 21, 1999)
Marge is a demure, subdued person holding back a lot of passion, so episodes like this where she unleashes some untapped emotion are always interesting to see. But this is season 10 we’re talking about, so it’s not quite as developed or impacting as something like “Marge on the Lam” or “$pringfield.” The show seems to be on fast-forward, moving past all moments of emotional resonance, all so we can get to the absolutely dumb action set piece ending that’s oh-so necessary. We start on an intolerable set piece of the faculty of Springfield Elementary doing a talent show. Is this for a charity of some kind? They don’t say, so apparently they’re just doing it for… whatever. These are people who bolt out of the school at the last bell faster than the students; they hate their jobs, but now they’re just permanently tethered to the school just so they can do something wacky for wackynesses sake. When the crowd rushes out mid-show, Homer spots Krusty in his behemoth of a vehicle the Canyonero. So why is Krusty at a school talent show? Was he a judge? More cramming in characters wherever. This may seem like nitpicking, but this is the kind of stuff the show usually put a lot of thought into. Now it’s just whoever we need at whatever time we need them.

Homer impulsively buys a Canyonero, but is mortified to find he’s accidentally gotten the F-Series for women (Lenny points out that instead of a cigarette lighter, it has a lipstick holder.) Not wanting to be seen driving a girl’s car, Homer takes Marge’s, leaving her to drive the beastly SUV. She slowly becomes warmed up to it, with its extra space for groceries and polite GPS system, and before long she ends up with a severe case of road rage. The problem is we don’t really spend that much time on Marge’s condition. Bart encourages her to cut through a field to get out of gridlock, then we see her obsessing over the car at home, then next scene we see her full blown raging while driving. Then Wiggum pulls her over and assigns her to the anger management class in ten seconds. It’s like a switch just turned on in her brain or something; if we got a scene or two more of her increasing frustration on the road that made sense for Marge, I would buy it. Also missing is the family’s response to this behavior: compare with “$pringfield” and the family’s, particularly Homer’s, views on Marge’s gambling, it’s a major part of the episode. Here, road rage isn’t even mentioned once by the family.

Marge goes to anger management, but ultimately ends up getting her license taken from her. So the stage is set for the ending, something where she sees the dangers of reckless driving and learns her lesson? No, let’s do the opposite, but in the most ridiculous way possible. At the zoo, Homer thoughtlessly causes an animal chain reaction that lets some incensed rhinos loose, ending in leaving him and the kids stuck atop the roof of their car. Wiggum seeks out Marge’s help, under the thought that she’s the only one ruthless enough to corral the animals back into their pen. Makes no sense, yeah, but it does make sense as Wiggum logic. So Marge drives the Canyonero and puts the rhino back. But then there’s one more left who takes Homer off through the town. Then Homer breaks free. But then the rhino attacks him in the porta-john. Then Marge saves the day. Then I fall asleep. Such an overindulgent ending. When did they feel like they had to end every episode with a big action set piece? This would have worked a lot better as a smaller, more emotionally driven story. Instead it feels like they got stuck and just went with whatever they felt fit. Great work.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The talent show opens with them singing, “We’re proud to be teachers…” Yet we see Willie and Lunchlady Doris; you’d think this event would be just for teachers, like faces the parents would recognize. I was shocked that there were one or two extras there, but I’m sure only because they didn’t have enough characters to complete the human pyramid. Anyway, the show has zero laughs in-universe and out; the only thing I smirked at was Chalmers muttering under his breath calling Skinner a “sexless freak” as he stormed off stage.
– Gil makes a good appearance; I love his absolute shock, then delight at Homer’s eagerness to buy a car, then his sale is swiped by a more savvy salesman. He then has to make a sorry call to his wife on a rotary cell phone (“Honey, you should have seen me with my last customer, I… no, but I came so close. This guy was… Whose voice is that? Is that Fred? Aw, you said it was over! No, don’t put him on- Hello, Fred, hi!”)
– Marge refuses to give Homer her keys, so he hot wires her car in two seconds and takes off with it. Yeah, so more of Homer being an asshole, and doing wacky things which totally make sense that he can do. The man can barely function a toaster, he’s gonna hot wire a car?
– Marge tests out her high-intensity halogen headlights, which seemingly can pierce through the walls of the house into the kitchen. Then more likeable Homer as he goes to scold Bart for rummaging through Marge’s purse, then proceeds to join him.
– Always took umbrage with Marge’s “Oh for God’s sakes, go back to New Jersey!” being a Jersey native myself. I take even more umbrage now living in Florida, where it’s ten times worse being on the road than in Jersey.
– Wiggum’s “Can the sweet talk, Thelma and Louise!” made me really wish I was watching “Marge on the Lam” right now…
– So the film “Road Rage: Death Flips the Finger.” Right off the bat, you feel Phil Hartman’s absence, replaced by a gruff cop voiced by Tress MacNeille. But it’s actually the highlight of the episode, full of great bits like the crazy astronaut driver and the sergeant final message (“Anger is what makes America great, but you must find a proper outlet for your rage. Fire a weapon at your television screen. Pick a fight with someone weaker than you. Or, write a threatening letter to a celebrity. So when you go out for a drive, remember to leave your murderous anger where it belongs: at home.”)
– Nice bit with Eddie as Curtis E. Bear, the courtesy bear, where the students can release their anger unto him via complimentary 2x4s (“Can I at least shield my crotch?” “Bears can’t talk, Eddie.”)
– Wiggum can’t tear up Marge’s license since it’s laminated, so hands it to Marge to do it, who then tears it up into little pieces like it was paper. Is this too nit-picky? I dunno, I just noticed it.
– So yeah, if the ending isn’t stupid enough, it’s of course started by Homer being a jerk and slingshotting a sleeping lemur against his daughter’s protests (“Daddy will fix that broken animal!”) Brain cells are dropping rapidly…
– There’s an shot of people running out of the zoo from the rhinos that looked kinda weird, like the characters seemed too specifically detailed. It didn’t quite sit well with me. The commentary reveals it was Mike Scully, his wife and his kids. Scully comments, “Take that, No Homers.” Ugh.
– From the moment they threw Homer into the porta-john, I knew that after the rhino was subdued, they’d have a joke where he proceeded to use the facilities. Sometimes you can see a joke coming a mile away, but it’s still funny, but this… is not one of those times. And sure enough, they did it.
– I don’t know what to think about the whole NBC ending. It feels kind of strange and random, but it’s partially saved by the voice-over on the credits (“I’d like to read the following statement, but I do so under… [gun cock] …my own free will. It has come to my attention that NBC sucks. I apologize for misleading you and urge you to watch as many FOX shows as possible. So in summary, NBC: bad, FOX: good. CBS great.” [multiple gun shots, body hitting the floor])

217. I’m With Cupid

(originally aired February 14, 1999)
I feel this episode is kind of similar to “Max” in that it also has a plot that does feel like it could work, but somehow it doesn’t. I’ll say it’s more on point story-wise, but said story proves to be not entirely that funny, and soon devolves into a ridiculous stupid ending and making our characters unlikeable. But I’d be hesitant to say either episode is terrible, but I also couldn’t choose which I thought was best: they’re both kinda… okay. We get our first look at Apu and Manjula’s marriage since their wedding last season, and find there’s trouble in paradise when Manjula finds out that eighteen-hour work days are not an American standard. The beginning certainly works with them inviting Homer and Marge to dinner, with some nice character stuff and things quickly becoming awkward when the marital spat ensues, with Marge thinking they should leave and Homer attempting to eavesdrop. This is a smaller, more intimate show, and when it stays grounded, it works.

To make it up to his wife, Apu puts together a week’s worth of romantic surprises all leading up to the main event on Valentine’s Day. Training a bird to sing, tickets to the opera, encasing himself in chocolate, he spares no expense for his beloved, and inadvertently ends up making the other husbands of Springfield look bad. This results in a collective of them, spearheaded by Homer, to spend their Valentine’s stalking Apu to try to sabotage his last big romantic gesture. They’re misguided and stupid, I get it, but it really does make you sort of root against Homer when he’s trying to thwart the earnest actions of one of his good friends. Also we have more roping in characters into scenarios for no real logical reason. Wiggum and Hibbert I can buy, but Flanders? The man who sung a sanitized Rod Stewart song in a heart costume to his wife? Ned acts as Homer’s polar opposite, his marriage is perfect; even with his constant insistence against their mission, he should not be in that car. Also Moe is there. Just ’cause. This is when characters stop feeling like characters and more like utilities for whatever jokes or flimsy premise needs to be held up.

The climax ensues when the incensed husbands find out Apu’s plan: a love note in the sky done up by a skywriter. To thwart the mission, Homer hops aboard the skywriter’s old timey plane and engages in an all-out fist fight with him. It’s already boorish and stupid enough before the skywriter flies the plane upside down, smashing Homer’s head into lampposts, sides of bridges and other blunt object to try and kill him. Seeing a scene like this makes me think of instances of Homer getting hurt in the past, which seemed like a rarer occurrence than nowadays. The humor always seemed to come from something more than just the act of violence: Homer becomes too cocky while jumping over the Gorge so fate makes him fall down it twice, he tries to maintain a sense of bravery to his son whilst being pummeled by reindeer, Bart’s attempts to pin his father up against Milhouse’s mom’s new beau by randomly smashing a chair on him in the tub. What’s happening at the end of this show? Homer is a raving lunatic who purposely engages in a fight with this man and get brutally injured. And yet he still succeeds in the end when he does a perfect landing from the sky with roses for his wife. Homer famously succeeds despite himself, but it only really works if he tried at all to begin with. He spent all of Valentine’s Day trying to betray his friend and beat the crap out of an old man, but still wins. But anyway, the first two acts work well enough, and there’s some jokes to be had, but I’m still ambivalent about this one. Like I said, it’s alright, I guess. Just alright.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Apu is surprised when Marge mentions that all the other stores in town close so early (“At 11:30? But this is the peak hour for stoned teenagers buying shiny things!”) Cut to Jimbo marveling at a sheet of tin foil (“It’s like a living mirror!”)
– I love all the stuff at Apu’s: calling Manjula a “Ma-hot-mama,” the two wives compromising that they both feel ashamed of their respective houses, the stereotypical Indian music being the result of the record player being on the wrong speed, the meal of chickpeas, lentils and rice, and Homer attempting to translate Apu and Manjula arguing in Hindi (“I’m picking it up… ‘Sala’ seems to mean ‘jerk,’ and I think ‘Manjula’ means some kind of spaceship.”) Also great act break with Homer reading the Kama Sutra, complaining that they apparently stole one of he and Marge’s trademark sex positions.
– Marge and Manjula discuss Apu’s new romantic ways over badminton (“I can’t believe it; he covered your whole bed in wild flowers!” “Oh, I’m sure Homer has done that for you.” “Sometimes I find pickle slices in the sheets.”) I also love later when she’s discussing the bird incident to Homer in bed, who is immersed reading the back of a box of Krusty O’s (“Then the bird sang ‘I Love the Night Life’ with clever new lyrics.” “Yeah, I hate that song.” “I do too, but it was sweet.”)
– Best joke in the whole show is the Wiggums in bed: Clancy is confused as to why his dirty jokes aren’t turning his wife on, and Sarah comments how Manjula got opera tickets and shuts off the light. Clancy pleads with his despondent wife, then quietly comments, “Sarah, it’s ten dollars a pill.” Wiggum using Viagra? Makes sense to me.
– Another example of just throwing characters anywhere: Captain McAllister is amongst the bitter men at Moe’s griping about Apu, then the next day we see him happily accept the porn magazines from him aboard his ship.
– Elton John makes a pretty good appearance, and at least he ties the plot up. I like his surprised joy at Wiggum’s bullshit claims about “teaching us to love again” (“Really? I did that?”) and his displeasure at Apu’s self-satisfied laughs at quoting titles of his songs.
– The resolve of the story with “I LOVE YOU [BLOB]” kind of works, I guess, as every wife in Springfield sees what they want to see in it. I do like Edna’s extrapolation (“‘I Love you, Edna K.!’ It’s a little run together, but that’s what it says!”)

216. Homer to the Max

(originally aired February 7, 1999)
At least at this point in the run, there’s still a dwindling sense of vitality in the Scully run, with episodes that have elements and ideas within them that could actually work and be entertaining. Homer changing his name and getting wrapped up in the cultural elite? Farfetched, yes, but it’s possible. The problem here is that this episode is so lopsided that we spend two-thirds of the episode dwelling on the set-up, which is a lot less funny than the writers seem to think. The story begins with the family watching the new mid-season show “Police Cops” and being surprised to find the suave hotshot detective lead is named Homer Simpson. The entirety of act one is focused on Homer becoming a bizarre hometown celebrity, which he absolutely laps up, asserting that the fictional character was wholly based on himself. But the next episode, he’s shocked to find the character has been altered to be a bumbling idiot, leaving him to subject of constant mockery by the whole town. Unable to get the TV executives to change their show, Homer is left with one option: change his name to Max Power.

That short plot write-up is basically the entirety of the first two acts, and it plays as thinly as it seems. Not even in the town of Springfield do I buy that not only would people care so much about Homer sharing the name of a TV character that it would make the paper, but Moe and the barflies seem to believe Homer’s bullshit about the producers of the show using him as inspiration. The same basically applies in the second act except in reverse, where the townspeople are making Homer’s life a living hell, mocking him and trying to goad him into saying his TV catchphrase. So Homer changes his name to Max Power, a moniker that grabs the attention of fellow awesomely named Trent Steele, who invites him and Marge to an elegant garden party. Homer’s new name seems to have been enough to grant him access to Springfield’s cultural elite, something he takes full advantage of, until he gets himself stuck at their eco rally to save the town’s redwoods from loggers.

The end bit with affluent people being activists for self-obsessed reasons is really a rich topic for comedy, but it’s localized to the last three minutes. Meanwhile we spend half the episode with the stupid Police Cops shit. Why didn’t they just have the Homer Simpson character be a doofus to begin with? They could’ve gotten their jokes, like Homer commenting how the dumb idiot character is nothing like him, gotten his name changed by act two, and developed his relationship and feelings toward his new social group better. There really isn’t any need for any of the material in the first act, it’s inconsequential to what the main story is. This is an episode that I think really could have worked if there hadn’t been so much time wasted getting to Max Power. Homer developing this other self in distancing himself from his TV persona, then desperately having to back out when he gets in too deep, it could have been kind of interesting. But instead he screams and yells and causes every tree in Springfield to collapse like dominoes. Much better.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I would like to see a bit of “All in the Family 1999” (“Aw, jeez, they got me livin’ with an African-American, a Semite-American, and a woman American there, and I’m glad, I loves youse all! I love everybody! I wish I’d saved my money from the first show…”)
– I do like Homer’s enthusiasm for midseason TV, having written up a scorecard of two categories: Excellent Shows and Very Good Shows. But upon watching the first program “Admiral Baby,” Homer is stuck with a bizarre feeling (“I never thought I’d say this about a TV show, but this is kind of stupid.”)
– Great ending of “Police Cops,” with Homer saying, “Arrest that guy!” after having just flung a bullet through the crook’s heart, and the chyron revealing the blood used in the show is real, donated by the Red Cross.
– A trend in the Scully years is Homer consistently being happy and sure of himself, which there’s a lot of in the first act, with his cocky attitude towards his peon friends, and saying he’s available when his high school prom queen calls him, though I do like the callback to her later on (“This is our chance to rub elbows with Springfield’s young, hip power couples, like me and Debbie Pinson!”)
– All the scorn and mockery turns Homer into a crazy attic-dwelling hermit, for all of one scene. Again, not a lot of material here.
– At first I thought “Police Cops” was shot in Springfield, like Krusty’s show and other local productions are, but that wouldn’t make sense given that the producers probably wouldn’t have named the character after Homer if he was a local, semi-well known resident. So yeah, it seems Homer flew out to Hollywood somehow for a single scene. Whatever. At least it’s a funny scene, with the producers explaining how they came up with the idea of the show (“The thirteen of us began with a singular vision: ‘Titanic’ meets ‘Frasier.'” “But then we found out that ABC had a similar project in development.”) Also the original name: “Badge Patrol.” (“But the network idiots didn’t want a show about high- tech badges that shoot laser beams!” “So we asked ourselves, ‘Who’s behind the badge?'” “Police…” “Cops…” “‘Police Cops.'”) Brilliant minds at work.
– Homer’s alternate names for himself are pretty amazing (Hercules Rockefeller, Rembrandt Q. Einstein, Handsome B. Wonderful), as is Judge Snyder’s decree to only use the name that Homer spelled correctly.
– There’s a few good bits with the family finding out about Homer’s name change: Homer callously commenting there are acids to burn off Marge’s tattoo of his name on her nether regions, learning about the right way, the wrong way, and the Max Power way (also the wrong way, but faster), and this raw but still hilarious line (“Nobody snuggles with Max Power. You strap yourself in and feel the G’s!”)
– I like Homer’s innocent revelation that he got Max Power off a hair dryer. It totally makes sense that that’s where he got it from.
– More celebrity name dropping, but it makes sense coming from a starstruck Marge to point out Woody Harrleson and Ed Begley, Jr. by name. Begley isn’t given much, though I do like his personal go-kart powered by his sense of self-satisfaction.
– Great moments with President Clinton, mentioning he’s done it with pigs (“Really, no foolin’, pigs!”) and telling Marge if she’s near the White House, she can find him in his tool shed out back.
– Trent Steele addresses his guests about taking up their cause, while an obnoxious and irritating Homer makes loud comments after each sentence. And no one says a word about it for some reason.
– The ending is so fucking stupid and makes no sense. Homer running in circles with the chain around him for what couldn’t have been more than a few minutes cutting through an entire redwood? Which then of course causes a chain reaction and knocks over every tree. Uggghh…

215. Sunday, Cruddy Sunday

(originally aired January 21, 1999)
With a title that’s very much an omen, this episode is pretty bad. But I’ll be honest with you, I was expecting a lot worse. This is one of those episodes that stuck out to me as being absolutely atrocious, but it didn’t feel that level of terrible upon re-watch. Where shows like “Kidney Trouble” and “Viva Ned Flanders” were particularly offensive, this one was just kinda… whatever. Its lack of story and absolute squandering of its cast was disappointing, sure, but never to the point that I became upset. For its bombastic setting and cavalcade of guest stars, it was just very banal. The “fun” begins when Homer crosses paths with some schmuck named Wally Kogan, a travel agent with no real discernible personality who invites Homer and his buddies on his bus to Miami for the Super Bowl. Before long, a collection of notable secondary characters are on their way to the game. We see a lot of familiar faces who make sense as football fans, but also many who don’t. Sideshow Mel? Comic Book Guy? Reverend Lovejoy? Burns’ lawyer? Something’s not quite right with the whole line-up.

But really, none of that matters since every single character exhibits no real personality throughout the episode, they’re just mindless sheep in Homer’s insane Super Bowl mob. While I suppose the point is that they’re like revved up football fans psyched for the game, it still feels like such wasted potential. You have a show filled with so many great side characters and not give any of them their time to shine? Instead they’re identity-less, with each one saying a token line of expository dialogue here and there (“I can’t believe it! We’re actually in the winning locker room!” Thanks a lot, Ned, I didn’t notice.) It’s kind of amazing how much is in this episode, and yet how empty it feels. The whole second half of the show is Homer and co. running from set piece to set piece, with isolated guest appearances from the likes of Dolly Parton and Rupert Murdoch. Nothing that happens is particularly funny, or in the least bit interesting. It’s just like a bunch of random crap that happens. Like I said earlier, nothing I can get too angry about, it’s just a bunch of dead air.

There’s something about this episode that feels very ominous; a show filled to the brim with useless guest star appearances, with the hopes that they’ll be funny and eat up enough screen time that they don’t have to write as much story. But in the end, it all feels sort of empty. And it doesn’t kill enough time at all, so the writers have to cram in a sub”plot” involving Marge and Lisa coloring eggs. I barely have much to comment on the main story, so I got nothing for this one. It’s just inoffensive and dry, with only the ridiculousness of Castallaneta’s Vincent Price impersonation to help it along. The writers (all four of them!) then try to cover their asses by having Pat Summerall and John Madden comment on the absurd and nonsensical nature of the episode, but that only serves to make the show out to be even worse in retrospect. “What a way to treat the loyal fans who put up with so much nonsense from this franchise!” No kidding. It’s a pretty damn awful show, but some sporadically placed laughs help it slightly. Very slightly.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The post office opening is pretty much laugh-free. There’s also a pretty crass line where the postman assures them the days of disgruntled mailman shooting up the place are in the past, and Skinner comments, “Well, I’m just glad I work in an elementary school.” Now this episode aired a few months before the Colombine massacre, and what seemed to be a growing number of school shootings (not actually true, but from a media stand point anyway). I guess I can’t blame the writers for this being questionable in hindsight, but it’s a pretty distasteful joke nonetheless.
– I did laugh at Homer mistaking ‘colonic’ with ‘colada,’ and singing “Escape” to that effect.
– Wally Kogan is of course named after the classic era writing team Jay Kogan and Wally Waladorsky. I’m sure they must be honored to have one of the dullest characters in the history of the series named after him. And poor Fred Willard with absolutely nothing to work with.
– I get the bit with Homer, Wally and Moe holding the mugs up to their mouths while mentioning the team names, a meta joke about how they can just dub in whatever year’s teams with no concern about lip sync. But it kind of felt too meta, it was just too absurd and inside in practice than it probably was on paper.
– I love Shearer’s nondescript Lenny noises when Homer pleads with him to go to the Super Bowl (“Naaaaaaah…”)
– The bit with Marge coming in saying how glad she is Homer’s going to the Super Bowl feels kind of off, kind of like a sign of things to come where she’d become more and more enabling of her husband’s insane hijinks.
– Like how Jerry “Lightfoot” McGee seems to be Castellaneta doing his Grampa voice from Hey Arnold, a show created by Matt Groening’s brother-in-law.
– The only guest appearance here I like is Troy Aikman as a caricaturist; I love his bizarre insistence of drawing everyone on dune buggies because it’s so stupid and random (“Everyone likes dune buggies!”)
– The absurd Super Bowl ad for the Catholic Church got the show in a lot of trouble back then. The joke is so obvious though, but you know how uptight fundamentalist groups are about things like humor and fun. It’s a pretty good gag, especially Lisa’s confused, slightly disgusted reaction.
– Dolly Parton’s explosive make-up, the gang running out of Murdoch’s skybox Looney Tunes style, winding up in the locker room… the third act is absolute shit. The only bit I like in it is after they get out of jail, we get a montage of them running around like maniacs to “Song 2” by Blur, which is cut short by Moe stopping and saying, “We’ve been running around cheering for an hour! Where the hell’s the game?” It’s just really well timed and delivered.

214. Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken

(originally aired January 17, 1999)
Pretty much all the episodes of this season I either don’t remember that well, or just remember that they’re horrible. This fell into the former, and I was quite surprised at how much I really enjoyed it. It had a fairly solid premise and theme that played throughout, characterization was strong, lots of laughs throughout, satisfying conclusion… a pretty damn good episode, helped even more coming after the last couple of clunkers. We start on the baseball field where Homer mocks and berates the haggard hometown team the Isotopes, but is quick to jump on the bandwagon many months later when he finds they made it to the championship game (Moe casually comments, “That sniper at the all-star game was a blessing in disguise.”) Following the ‘Topes win, Homer and pals have an inebriated celebration, driving his car through the school and wrecking up the place. What I love most about this opening is that everything Homer does works: his petulant and childish demeanor regarding the game (“I’m gonna warm up the car.” “But there’s only been one pitch! “And it sucked”), his quick turn-around to supporting the team when everyone else does, and of course his drunk driving, and the spectacular sequence of his faulty memory regarding the night prior (SCENE MISSING).

Chief Wiggum jumps to the conclusion that the damage at the school was caused by punk kids, thereby issuing a curfew for all minors to be indoors by sunset. The dynamic and building animosity between children and adults sets in at the start of act two with Bart and Lisa adamantly against this unfair punishment, with Homer and Marge being less than supportive. This mutual turmoil brings the kids of Springfield together as a collective in a way that makes sense. Together they agree to sneak out after dark to catch a drive-in screening of the new horror film “The Bloodening,” which is an amalgamation of scary movie tropes: a black-and-white picture allegedly unreleased to the public due to its content, and now showing with a registered nurse on staff (“trained in the treatment of terror.”) It features disturbingly soft-spoken little English kids using psychic powers to read the thoughts of the villagers, then brutally kill them. When the Springfield kids are caught by the police, they use the movie as their inspiration to enact revenge on the adults.

Through jury rigging the transmitter on the newly installed police billboard, the kids hijack the radio airwaves to put on a program revealing the dirty untold secrets of the people of Springfield. Even with Lisa in the group, this seems a little out there that they’d be able to do this, but it works so well within the story that I really don’t mind the improbability of it. The kids are caught, and it’s time for a big generational stand-off. By what means? Through song, of course. I’m not totally on board with this idea; the song isn’t terrible, but I feel there could’ve been a better means of resolving the plot. But it does bridge into the very ending that I love, where the seniors get everybody under curfew and “take back the streets.” So hey, while I can’t say this episode is perfect, it was really enjoyable, certainly at the top of the season 10 pile, though that’s not saying a whole lot. It at least proves that the writers still have some sense in them, but how much of it they can enact over a whole season seems to be questionable.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Useless cameo at the beginning by Cyndi Lauper. I guess the joke is that she sings the national anthem to the tune of her hit song. I guess? But I like the announcer’s comment after she leaves the field and most of the people in the mostly empty stands take her lead (“Thank you, Cyndi Lauper! Just to remind you, folks, we do have a baseball game today.”)
– The baseball game was a great sign for me as each scene had a joke that worked: the two players’ urine testing positive and them clinking their glasses, Marge’s mother’s advice to stick with your loser choices ’till the bitter end, the pitcher’s arm snapping (“That’s a rotator cuff, his career’s over!”), Babe Ruth the Fourth bunting, then getting tackled immediately, and Homer sitting outside in the car singing the childish edit of “Whistle While You Work,” with the middle cut out of course (“…now it doesn’t work!”)
– I like this exchange on the car ride home (“With a little middle relief, they might even make the playoffs!” “You’ll be in your cold, cold grave before that ever happens.” “Homer, would you please stop talking about the childrens’ graves?”)
– Not only does he immediately change into a ‘Topes fan at the drop of a hat, he becomes one of those boorish obnoxious super fans for Kent Brockman’s news cast. I love Castellaneta’s read for that bit (“It’s a great team, Kent! We never gave up hope! I wanna thank Jesus, and say hi to my special lady Marge. We did it, baby! Woo!”)
– Homer’s memory of what happened the night prior is fantastic, told in silent movie slides and everyone in old timey garb. He goes to Moe’s for a drink, SCENE MISSING, Homer dancing with some faeries around the may pole, SCENE MISSING, THE END. I love how the nice piano music comes to a loud end too.
– Homer has some great logic regarding blaming kids for everything (“If kids are so innocent, why is everything bad named after them? Acting childish, kidnapping, child abuse…” “What about adultery?” “Not until you’re older, son.”)
– Nelson gets a free pass from Wiggum with his fake ID as Dr. Hibbert. Cartwright does a hilarious job mimicking Shearer here.
– There’s a really sweet scene in the middle of the show with Bart and Lisa bored in the house keeping a kite afloat with a fan. They let go and it wafts into the kitchen and gets caught in Marge’s hair. Without looking up from his paper, Homer comments, “Marge, kite.” It’s such a charming, funny bit that feels so alien in this bombastic, over-the-top season, I love this stuff.
– Wiggum forces the kids to clean off the new police billboard, and leaves them with some great final words (“Let this be a lesson to you! Kids never learn!”)
– Lisa tunes the old radio past FDR’s war declaration speech after Pearl Harbor, and after a few seconds into the kids’ secret broadcast, Homer comments, “Boring! Go back to that infamy guy.”)
– Amazing bit where the kids reveal Luanne Van Houten has been cheating on Pyro with his brother Gyro. The two muscled men duke it out with giant cushioned sticks like true American Gladiators.
– Nice bit with another scandalous secret. “And guess who’s been practicing medicine without a license?” Hibbert looks worried. “That’s right: Homer Simpson!” A faint “D’oh!” is heard in the distance.
– I like the Crazy Old Man’s rantings running into the credits (“You wanna stop with the kicking? My pills are in that can! Good gravy, I don’t kick your things!”) All the way into the Gracie Films shush (“Don’t tell me to shush! You stupid lady!”)

213. Viva Ned Flanders

(originally aired January 10, 1999)
One of the Scully years’ biggest crimes is making me hate Homer. Or rather, the exaggerated cartoon version of himself he had become. But another aspect that made it even worse is that no one seemed to comment that his behavior was anything unusual. As obnoxious, inconsiderate and downright brain dead as his comments and actions were, no one around him would call him out on what really is clinically insane behavior. There’s so much wrong with this episode, rotten almost to its core, but what baffled me the most is that it seemed to center around canonizing this new cray-go-nuts Homer, almost like a spiritual sequel to “Lost Our Lisa,” but instead of just the last three minutes, it’s the entire episode. But even before all of that, our episode begins where Flanders is goaded into a confession at church, revealing that he’s sixty years old, and has kept his youth by living a tame, risk-free life. This whole idea feels so silly, considering it steps on the idea he was raised by beatniks, but honestly, the episode gets so much worse from this point it’s the least of my worries.

Ned feels he’s squandered his life by playing it safe, so who does he turn to? Captain Wacky, of course, who all of a sudden has in place a program for living on the edge, and decides to take Ned to Las Vegas. Much of the back half of the episode consists of Homer doing something incredibly stupid and irresponsible, and Flanders either not reacting to it at all, or asking how he could be so stupid and irresponsible, not out of anger, but of reverent amazement. I was really just plain stunned more than anything watching Homer not even bat an eye as he makes reckless turns through town, gambles away all of Ned’s cash and credit cards, and inadvertently cause the death of Captain Lance Murdoch. He’s really beyond a cartoon character, because in a cartoon there are at least some clear motives for what someone is doing. Here, I really don’t understand what Homer is doing through parts of this show; he doesn’t act like anything closely resembling a human being. And again, no one seems to comment on this. Ned has become Homer’s sidekick, which is something that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

So our big third act climax is that during their wild Vegas night, Homer and Ned get remarried to two cocktail waitresses. Okay. Well considering they’re already married, then this new one is presumably not legally binding. So that’s it. They straighten it out and leave town. End of episode. Or we can have a big dumb chase sequence that makes absolutely no sense that ends with the two of them having to walk home through the desert. Yeah, that’ll work. I’m hard pressed to really add on or elaborate on anything; most of the entire episode as I’ve said is Homer doing some absolutely moronic and Ned acting as his lapdog lackey. From this, I assume that the writers think that Homer’s behavior in this episode was so hilarious that it could act as the crutch for the entire show. If that’s the case, then we are in big, big trouble from this point on. The throne for worst episode gets refilled and “Kidney Trouble” was only two shows ago. Oh dear.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I hate the beginning with blowing up Burns’ casino. The writers tried to cover their asses about how it makes no sense for it to still be there after they moved the town, but it just serves to remind how much it wouldn’t make sense for them to move it, and also how the ending of that episode made no fucking sense. It’s just like they were saying, remember how that made no sense, and neither does this? Well let’s remind you. And then for some reason Don Rickles was still in the building when they blew it up. Okay.
– Perhaps the only good line from the episode comes from Reverend Lovejoy (“And, once again, tithing is ten percent off the top. That’s gross income, not net, please people, don’t force us to audit.”)
– The craziness starts when Homer stands up in church to put Ned on trial about apparently lying about his age, making a humungous, overly dramatic speech which everyone in church just sits quietly for and listens to. And all gasp in unison when appropriate. Why is this happening?
– An episode about Ned wanting to live life more dangerously is feasible, but… it just doesn’t work here. I don’t buy his wanting to be more risky, and I certainly don’t like how he words it that he feels he’s wasted his life. That’s not the Ned I know and love.
– I guess Homer barbecuing a chicken over the chimney is something we expect is normal for him to do now. I don’t get it, when did he become Homer the Daredevil? When did this become normal behavior for him? If Homer wants a chicken, he whines for Marge to cook it for dinner. I don’t think he’d even have the energy to climb the ladder to the roof on his own volition.
– Homer talking to Ned in the car about living life impulsively pretty much mirrors the scene with him and Lisa in “Lost Our Lisa,” except it’s even more terrifying here since it’s happening with more than half of the episode left to go.
– Murdoch’s lovely assistant appears to be the replacement Lisa from “Spin-Off Showcase.” Just interesting to note.
– So during Murdoch’s stunt, Homer hilariously sits up from the ‘X’ to make sure Ned doesn’t spill his beer. Murdoch is startled and reacts, and ends up crashing his bike. His head is still encased with a safe, though probably a lightweight one to hold on his shoulders, but he flies off the bike and hits that wall so hard. Just from seeing it, and maybe it’s just me, but I think he’s dead. That impact felt so final to me, there’s no way he survived. And Homer walks away not giving a shit. At that point, my hatred towards him was seething.
– Alright, what’s left… Ned attempting suicide, wacky chase scene atop slot machines… oh, one last thing that was pointless was the Moody Blues cameo. Homer addresses them by name, and each band member gets one line each. In the coming seasons, we’ll be seeing that over and over and over again. Ugh…