Season Eleven Revisited (Part Four)

18. Days of Wine and D’ohses

  • All the garbage scavenging stuff is just to kill time until Homer ends up at Moe’s and the plot actually starts. A few gags work (Cletus and Brandine, CBG shooing nerds away from his trash bins), but then we get to Homer and his fire-breathing Talky Tiki, who flees the scene as the fire spreads too quickly. We see the fire traveling back through the shoddily rerouted gas line back into the house, and Homer just runs off to a bar as his wife and kids stand there aghast right before their house could fucking blow up and kill them.
  • In a season filled with unnecessary series changes, this feels the most unnecessary of all. Barney’s entire character is being the drunk at the bar, that’s his primary function. If you’re going to make him sober, you’d better have an actual story in mind to tell, and give the character something new to be their thing that’s interesting and makes sense. Neither of those things happen here. Barney goes to AA to get sober and he learns to fly a helicopter. That’s it. We learn nothing else about him, and between a B-plot and Homer monopolizing almost every single scene, Barney doesn’t feel like he has a lot to do in his own episode. 
  • Case in point, the first thing Barney does in act two is ask Homer for help. I’d say this is somewhat better than Apu and Ned Flanders coming to him for guidance since Barney used to be Homer’s best friend, but that role has basically been completely diminished at this point, so it just feels arbitrary. Homer takes Barney to AAA by mistake to make a joke, he sits in on Barney’s AA meeting and does his little stand-up routine as Barney just stands there… like I said before, this season is filled with “When Homer’s not on screen, everyone should say, ‘Where’s Homer?’”
  • The B-plot of Bart and Lisa trying to win the phone book picture contest is pretty dull. You’d think that an episode featuring a major life change regarding one of the oldest, most iconic characters on the series would warrant an entire episode about him, but I guess not.
  • Act two ends when Homer acts like a petulant child to Barney and runs off crying, which is fucking annoying. Barney talks about how he values his memories at Moe’s, but “I don’t want to do that stuff anymore.” Well, what do you want to do, Barney? Now that you’re sober, what life do you want to lead? New job? New hobbies? Anything? He learns to fly, maybe he decides he wants to be a pilot? Something, anything I can latch onto here as an actual plot.
  • The two plots merge at the end where Barney has to pilot the helicopter to save Bart and Lisa from a forest fire, but so much of it makes no sense at all. Bart and Lisa were walking away before the fire started, how did they get trapped? Barney is nervous about flying, but then lands his copter on a bridge with expert ease? Also, just like in “Faith Off,” we have Homer getting completely wasted, then sobering up when the need calls for it. He drinks an entire six pack in seconds, getting totally fucked up, then when a bear tries to climb up the rescue ladder, he’s totally cogent as he cuts the ropes, then immediately afterwards he’s wasted again as he walks out of the helicopter, hooking his leg on the rail and flipping it around in a circle, with no real consequence.
  • Barney trading one addiction for another with coffee is an amusing idea, but again, if this episode were actually about Barney, maybe it would have been interesting to actually put into the story, like that he’s got an addictive personality or something. But it’s all a completely pointless exercise anyway. Giving Apu kids and killing off Maude didn’t change much, but they were changes that the writers had to address in some way. With Barney, despite his lamenting his wasted years at Moe’s, we’d still see him perched at that bar stool for seasons to come, only with a coffee mug in his hand in place of a beer stein. Then in season 14, they did a joke about him relapsing, because why the hell not. Absolutely pointless.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:It’s great to finally see an episode with a logical story. This episode had a nice, believable storyline and a nice Bart and Lisa sub-plot. It was a good experience to see an episode that revolved around Barney for the first time. I liked the many good alcoholic jokes in this episode and the entire beginning sequence was nice. It’s good to see an episode where the story works nicely. The Simpsons writers need to continue writing episodes of this quality.

19. Kill the Alligator and Run

  • I honestly wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud at the very start of this episode, but I forgot all about Homer’s Montana Militia money (“It’ll be real soon enough…”)
  • Here we see the “great” brief running joke to come out of Maude’s death: Homer repeatedly forgetting she’s dead. Just like Frank Grimes, he has a very short memory when it comes to the people he’s inadvertently killed.
  • Re-watching “Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” I forgot they had inched Homer’s age up even further from 38 to 39, with Marge telling Homer his birthday was coming up, and now this episode “confirms” his new canonical age is 39. I know this was the result of the aging writing staff feeling horrified that they were becoming as old or older as the originally 34-year-old Homer, but I don’t like that he’s that old. Marge found out she was pregnant when the two of them were directionless young adults, turning their carefree lives upside-down, but now Bart would have been born when Homer was pushing 30.
  • Mr. Burns acting nervous around the health inspector and giving him kiss-ass compliments feels incredibly wrong. The real Burns would have insulted him while stuffing bribe money in his jacket pockets by now.
  • Structurally, this episode is a humongous mess. Homer is an anxious mess fearing death, then he instantly becomes a spring break party animal, then the family become fugitives, and temporarily adapt to being country folk. There’s nothing to hold onto. Right after Homer’s insomnia is miraculously cured after they arrive in Florida at the end of act one, George Meyer pipes up on the commentary, ”You’re usually in trouble in a story when you don’t take your own premise seriously.” Well, shit, that statement applies to the majority of episodes nowadays.
  • Kid Rock just performs what I assume is a typical concert for him, in another boringly normal guest appearance. Even his schtick with pouring a gigantic 40-gallon on a curb they wheel onto the stage doesn’t feel ridiculous enough. “Homerpalooza” featured some pretty big-name bands who all brought their own quirks to the party, while here, it’s just a Kid Rock concert played straight.
  • I really like the idea of the local sheriff being paid off to look the other way during spring break, I wish it had worked its way into a more effective joke than him just bluntly saying it aloud.
  • Falling asleep in the car being dragged by a train, working at a diner in the middle of the woods, catering a fancy dinner party in shackles… they really had no fucking idea what to do in the third act and decided to just throw everything and the kitchen sink in.
  • The magical whipping man thwarts the Simpsons’ escape by trapping them in a ring of fire, and their response is to applaud, impressed. Then a few seconds later, the fire is just gone. This is a great episode.
  • As someone who lived in Florida for five years, the biggest sin this episode commits is completely wasting their shot to rip apart what an awful state it is. Large portions of act three made it just seem like they were in the deep South, while Florida folk are like a whole other breed of Southern maniacs. Months after this episode aired, the 2000 election would result in Florida becoming a national punchline, but they could have beat them to the punch, but per usual in this era, they didn’t even try as far as satire is concerned.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:This episode is so crazy, it’s SUPERCRAZY! I mean, Homer has yet ANOTHER mid-life crisis, so he goes to see the plant shrink. Shrink tells him to go to Florida with his family. Then it starts getting funny. Very funny. The humor went a bit south in Act 3, but it’s no big deal. Heck, I think ALL 233+ episodes are funny, and I’m not going to sugarcoat that thought for the sake of sounding like a critic. In that wise, my grade for BABF16 is A+!”

20. Last Tap Dance in Springfield

  • Homer screams his lungs out getting laser eye surgery, just as he did with the leprosy treatments earlier this season. I recall a later episode where he screams while going to the dentist. Anytime they can get Dan Castellaneta to yell himself hoarse, it’s comedy gold to the writers, I guess.
  • “Tango de la Muerte” is pretty excellent, both as a piece in itself and Lisa’s adorably childlike enthusiasm watching it. Even something ridiculous like Mexican Milhouse is pretty funny. This exchange always makes me laugh (“Only one man was crazy enough to dance that dance, and he is dead! “My twin brother, Freduardo. But where he died, I shall live… in his apartment.”
  • This episode is held up on the shoulders of Little Vicki, who is really a very funny and entertaining character. I feel like I grumble a lot at Tress MacNeille’s overuse on this series, but she’s obviously an incredibly talented voice artist, and she’s just fantastic as Vicki. Almost all of her jokes land, and her discouragement-with-a-smiling-face to Lisa is great throughout (“You’ve just got to turn that frown upside-down! …that’s a smile, not an upside-down frown. Work on that, too!”)
  • The Little Vicki sign of her rotating finger against her cheek scraping against the metal is fantastic too.
  • The mall subplot is some light fun. Bart and Milhouse clowning around the mall at night feels similar to them messing around the abandoned factory in “Homer’s Enemy.” I’m not completely clear on the timeline though; the cops are called after their first night trashing the mall, then they stick around while the mall is closed and the police are bumbling around? Why wouldn’t they just leave since the heat was on? The mountain lion chase and Lou thinking the yarn in his mouth is the giant rat’s tail is kind of a whimper of an ending, but everything leading up to it was mostly enjoyable. Even Wiggum getting slammed with the ACME anvil got a laugh out of me.
  • Homer and Marge unknowingly pressuring Lisa to keep dancing even though she hates it still feels pretty contrived, like they needed a reason to explain why Lisa just doesn’t quit but didn’t bother weaving it into the story.
  • I feel like I’ve used “This plot is hard enough to follow as it is!” a number of times when I’ve had friends over to watch a stupid movie and they talk over it.
  • Even a simple story about Lisa taking up dance of course needs an over-the-top climax where her self-tapping shoes go out of control and she freaks out the audience. It’s certainly not bad by Scully era standards to be fair, and I like how it’s resolved by Homer just effortlessly tripping her, so that’s good. But then we get our actual ending where he gets shocked by Frink’s weasel ball and screams in agony. Man, those writers love to hear that man scream!
  • Looking back at my season 11 recap, why in the hell did I leave this out of the top 5 in favor of “Pygmoelian”? Did I hit my head or something?
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “This is a lousy episode disguised as a neo-classic, using the formula of giving ATSers what they keep saying they want (more Lisa, less Jerkass Homer, Baby Gerald, etc.) to hide the fact that the writing is lazy and the script is a schizophrenic hydra spliced together by committee writers. Vicki is inconsistent and unlikable and the plot follows the road most traveled by. ‘Tap Dance’ reminded me of that old Alaska Airlines commercial where cheerful stewardesses on a competitor’s airline serve hungry passengers a measly bag of peanuts surrounded by plastic garnish. Bon appetit, my fellow Lisa lovers.”

21. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge

  • Otto’s engagement to Becky is pretty solid: the flashback to Woodstock ‘99, Otto’s skull ring, and the kids cheerily wildly out the windows as the STOP sign waves back and forth. The first three minutes of this episode are actually pretty good… until it isn’t.
  • Who is Becky? Does she have any family? Any friends? She appears to have no family present at the wedding, and is reliant on this family of strangers to take her in. She’s an absolute nothing of a character, an amorphous figure in the Simpson house to drive Marge off the deep end for no discernible reason. It’s not Parker Posey’s fault; at least she got to be in a much better Futurama episode around the same time.
  • Act two opens with a joke about Moe leaving Otto’s wedding. You remember all those great Moe-Otto scenes of seasons past? Man, those two work great off each other.
  • Why does Marge believe Patty and Selma’s bullshit about Becky wanting to kill her and steal Homer? The whole second act is this increasing build-up of Marge’s paranoia, but it honestly feels like we’re supposed to feel a bit uncertain about it too, with Marge’s cut brakes not going explained until the end by Homer. We do see him working on the car earlier, so it does connect, but maybe instead of making sure their bullshit mystery all connects, they could have focused on making Becky an actual character.
  • Wiggum is this episode’s MVP, with all of his appearances being genuinely funny, from when Marge first comes to her and refuses to help (“How about this: just show me the knife… in your back. Not too deep, but it should be able to stand by itself,”) to later when he apprehends her (“I thought you said the law was powerless.” “Powerless to help you, not punish you.”)
  • The third act is so bizarre, with Marge getting declared insane and her going on the run within like a minute of screen time. While she’s on her own journey to dig up dirt on Becky, we cut back to the Simpsons twice just sitting on the couch doing fuck all to try and find or help Marge. Bart and Homer talk about schoolyard rumors about Marge, and Krusty does a whole sketch about her, so how many days have passed that they’re just sitting on their asses not giving a shit about Marge’s safety and innocence?
  • The bait-and-switch-then-bait-again ending is so fucking terrible. The Simpson living room gets transformed into a dungeon… somehow. Where’d they get all those props? Complete with wallpaper that looks like cobblestone, I guess. Also, Marge would have been staring right at Lisa, who is revealed to be holding a video camera. But hey, I’m glad we paid off the running plot of Bart finding just the right thing to film for his school project. It’s so shitty that I can’t even muster energy to care about the reveal that Becky was planning on killing Marge. Like, who gives a shit?
  • And the final moment of the last “canon” episode of this re-watch is Homer tranquilizing his wife, who’s been on the run and missing for multiple days. And so ends another episode I will be glad to never watch again.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:Talk about a perfect Marge episode. I have not seen anything like this since Marge went on the Lam. The way that Marge got in trouble is great, but including Patty and Selma, by having them make Marge paranoid, is classic. Becky’s upstaging of Marge at dinner, Marge being the victim of a cut brake line, how Marge stopped the wedding of Otto and Becky, and the Video tape project in Bart’s class, all happen to be Highlights of this episode which gets a perfect A+++ from me.

22. Behind the Laughter

  • I really wish this episode had no opening title sequence and just went straight to the Jim Forbes opening. You even have a fake out where you start with the Simpsons clouds and then it goes into the beginning of the documentary, it would have worked so much better if it didn’t start like a normal episode.
  • Jim Forbes just absolutely sells this episode, taking the gig as seriously as any other Behind the Music episode and performing his role to a T. Referring to Homer as a “penniless peckinpah,” his insistence on “figurative” storm clouds, there’s so many small little moments throughout the episode that he just nails. 
  • I love all the different lower third identifiers for each interviewee (Krusty: Embittered Comedy Legend, Moe: Local Hothead, Abe: Coot)
  • Simpsons Boogie obviously refers to “Simpsons Sing the Blues,” and I have to say, despite my lifelong obsession with the series and my engagement of all sorts of related media, I’ve never listened to that album. I randomly found “The Yellow Album” at a Best Buy and listened to that, being very confused as to why Homer and Linda Rondstadt were singing a ballad. I can’t imagine how much better “Blues” is compared to that. I’ve heard “Do the Bartman” and “Deep, Deep Trouble” thanks to the inclusion of their music videos on the season 2 DVD. “Trouble” is actually pretty damn catchy, it’s got a great hook, I guess thanks to DJ Jazzy Jeff. 
  • “I want to set the record straight: I thought the cop was a prostitute.” I feel like there are a number of ways you can interpret this joke, and none of them come out well for Homer.
  • The joke about Lenny and Carl being paid to kiss is okay, but Jim Forbes coming in afterward referring to the Simpsons’ “reckless spending and interracial homoerotica” made me laugh out loud hard. I tell you, Forbes just killed it here.
  • The only big wince I give this episode is the Homer getting hurt split screen, with the narration about how his addiction to painkillers “was the only way he could perform the bone-cracking physical comedy that made him a star.” The clips shown are all post-season 9, and I don’t recall much bone-cracking physical comedy out of the first few seasons, do you? It’s all terrible recent shit of Homer screaming in pain like an annoying asshole. Funnily enough, when we cut back to Homer talking, the clips we see on the TV are of older seasons (Homer clung to the wrecking ball in “Sideshow Bob Roberts,” Homer hit by the chair in the tub in “A Milhouse Divided.”) Now why are those bits so funny and the other clips suck? Why indeed.
  • Marge’s scolding, personalized diaphragms is definitely a gag I did not understand watching as a kid.
  • Ah, the “gimmicky premises and nonsensical plots” bit. Really sticking it to Oakley, Weistein and Ken Keller, just shouting at them “fuck you” for that Armin Tamzarian episode. In what must be a purposeful joke, I like how the “trendy guest stars” list includes the likes of Butch Patrick and Tom Kite. We also get our second instance of reusing Gary Coleman’s karate noises (or Sir Gary Coleman as he’s credited). 
  • They reference a Simpsons newspaper comic at the end that Homer allegedly writes, which I guess is just a joke, but a few years after this episode, Bongo Comics actually did syndicate a Sunday comic strip that lasted I think barely a year. I remember seeing it advertised in their Simpsons comics but it never made it to my local paper, sadly.
  • “This’ll be the last season.” If only, Homer, my friend. If only.
  • This episode is still great, especially given the season it’s in, but as a gimmick episode, I feel like it’s slightly diminishing returns each time I watch it. I remember when I was younger, I just loved this episode because of how unique and high concept it was, but now, I just see it as a pretty solid and entertaining experimental episode that would have made a damn good series finale.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “What the hell was that? Why do they expect us to take them seriously when they no longer do so themselves? As a parody of the documentaries about old TV which is now the rage, this was passable, but as a canonical episode of OFF this was an abomination. When has it ever been suggested that the Simpsons are actors playing themselves on TV? This treatment of the Simpsons cast is not faithful to the dramatic context. I give it an F.”

Season 11 episodes I wouldn’t kick out of bed in the morning: “Brother’s Little Helper,” “Treehouse of Horror X,” “E-I-E-I-D’oh!,” “Grift of the Magi,” “Last Tap Dance in Springfield,” “Behind the Laughter”

Season Eleven Revisited (Part Three)

12. The Mansion Family

  • This episode came out at the height of Britney Spears’ popularity, and they just gave her normal lines to read, in a tremendous display of a total lack of creativity. Why in the living hell is one of the biggest pop artists of the time hosting an awards show in a small town?
  • Probably this episode’s only significant cultural export is this frame grab of Lenny.
  • Why is Mr. Burns even at the Springfield Pride Awards? I kind of thought it was weird he was at the Chuck Garabadian seminar in “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo,” but it makes a little sense if you don’t think about it too long. But here, it makes no sense at all.
  • “Who’s that fellow who always screws up and creates havoc?” “Homer Simpson, sir?” “Yes! The way I see it, he’s due for a good performance!” And just like that, reality is broken. The show has done meta commentary about how all relevant events of Springfielders lives seem to always come back to the Simpsons, but this is just the writers throwing their hands up and going fuck it, we don’t care if it makes sense, we just want to write a story where Homer pretends to be a rich guy. Also, why does Burns even need house sitters at all? The Simpsons don’t have any specific duties to tend to during their stay. How many days does he need to just go to the Mayo Clinic and back? And why are Burns and Smithers taking a normal taxi? Aaaaaagggggggh.
  • There’s no story to be had whatsoever in this episode. Homer wants to be a high-rolling rich guy, pretends to be one, then some crazy shit happens, and then he’s back home lamenting he’s not rich. That’s it. His international waters boat party is just a crazy random thing that happens in our third act, as a crowd of recognizable faces joins him to hoot and holler. Moe, Apu, Krusty… it’s like the Super Bowl mob in “Sunday, Cruddy Sunday” all over again.
  • The only scene I like in this episode is Burns’ diagnosis of having every disease ever, but them all existing in “perfect balance.” It’s a bit of a silly conclusion, but it’s a humorous explanation of why a decrepit old skeleton like Burns is still alive.
  • We got pirates as our ending. And one of them has four shoulder parrots. They capture everybody in a giant net ball, plummet them into the ocean where we see shark fins, then the sharks are gone as the net ball magically floats and over two-thirds of the people drowned, I guess. I can’t wait to never watch this episode again.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:More proof OFF’s writers still have it. Except for a few ludicrous moments during the last act (the ‘net in the water’ gag, for example), nothing was horribly wrong. Both of the ‘in-jokes’ were excellent. I liked both Homer’s gang in international waters, and Burns at the Mayo Clinic. Even Britney Spears’s appearance was pretty cool.”

13. Saddlesore Galactica

  • I like the brief bits we see of Mr. Largo at the beginning and his startling lack of imagination (“I thought for once we could play a song that wasn’t written by Sousa.” ”You mean something just arranged by Sousa?”)
  • At least the state fair is kind of fun, right before the episode starts to plummet off a cliff. OmniGogs and the punchline with Lenny is good, and Homer yelling at BTO to play their two hit songs is alright.
  • Why does Bart care so much about Duncan right away? They tried to pepper in a few moments of him encouraging and bonding with the horse, but it doesn’t play at all. But I guess his quick plea is enough to convince Marge to take the damn horse with them. Why not? We also have the meta Comic Book Guy scene, which honestly, isn’t really that necessary. The two episodes are about the Simpsons getting horses, but the set-ups and executions are so wildly different, I may not have even put the connection together if the writers hadn’t shone a big spotlight onto the fans of their show and told them to shut the fuck up. It certainly feels like the first big moment (of many) trying to excuse their shoddy writing by highlighting it as a “joke.”
  • Act two ends with a sad beat after Duncan loses his first race, and I’m wondering why exactly I should give a shit. There’s zero investment to be had in Homer and Bart’s racehorse plan, other than I guess it’s like a Honeymooners-esque get rich quick scheme. But to what end?
  • Furious D acting like a human sucks. There have been a few times where Matt Groening’s “animals should only act like animals” rule has been broken that have been funny (the pets attempting to speak in “Bart Gets an Elephant.”) This is not one of them.
  • The fucking elves. The fucking elves. Jockeys are short, so they’re elves who live in a Keebler treehouse. They keep themselves secret until they fire a cannon in broad daylight and chase Homer and Bart through town. Then they’re sprayed with water, shoved into a trash bag and left on the curb. What more could I possibly add?
  • I kind of liked how peeved Lisa was at the Ogdenville band’s glow stick-assisted win, but the President Clinton ending is just terrible. Also, his final lesson he gives to Lisa (”If things don’t go your way, just keep complaining until your dreams come true”) aged like milk considering the stolen 2000 election nine months after this aired.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:Coming just days after a Salon article outlining the growing rift between the show’s writers and many internet fans is a rather blatant attack on this newsgroup. The show responded to criticism that the show is no longer realistic with one of the most outrageous episodes ever. And to be honest, I laughed so hard through most of it — especially the frequent appearances by the Comic Book Guy — that I really don’t mind having been slagged in this manner. Say what you like about the character development and outrageous plots of late, but the show has rarely been this funny.”

14. Alone Again, Natura-Diddly

  • Marge is a-OK with her and the family crossing a busy racetrack, and with Bart riding along with a racecar driver whose car just flipped over and burst into flames. Cool.
  • Before he inadvertently causes Maude’s death, Homer gets the pit crew to work on his car before booking it, causing a big pileup of cars on the track. What a wonderful man.
  • It’s pretty sad that the impetus of this entire episode was FOX being too cheap to keep paying Maggie Roswell. At the time, she was commuting from Denver to Los Angeles to record her lines and asked for a couple grand per episode raise, and FOX countered with a measly $150. But Roswell leaving resulted in the unceremonious killing off of Maude in the bluntest way possible. It’s honestly pretty awful how she just gets flung off the bleachers, it feels so tonally improper for this show.
  • The funeral filled with meta references about Maude’s role on the show and the few “permanent” changes the series has made like Apu’s kids and Kirk and Luann’s divorce is early proof that the show doesn’t give a shit about treating this serious in-universe event with any sort of realism. This show has done so many wonderful, touching and poignant episodes about death, with this one feeling like the drooling, inbred stepchild of the bunch.
  • In an episode ostensibly about Maude’s death, it really isn’t dealt with at all. To be fair, we really barely knew anything about Ned and Maude’s relationship, so you can dive too deep into specifics, but if that’s the case, then just don’t bother doing the episode. Rod and Todd disappear after the wake until the very end, we don’t even see Ned talking to his boys about their dead mom. 
  • “Do you even have a job anymore?” “I think it’s pretty obvious that I don’t.” Great writing, guys. Again, this is an episode about a significant character’s death, and Homer’s having a giddy old time shooting and editing a videotape and hiding in mailboxes.
  • We see that Lisa is the one who edited Ned’s dating tape, so I guess that means Homer had his daughter review footage of Ned naked in the shower with his enormous schlong. Now that’s parenting!
  • I forgot that one of the women Ned goes on a date with is Edna, so I guess Nedna was planned all along! Or maybe it’s because this show has incredibly few women characters, and even fewer single ones. They had to invent a new third woman; if this episode had aired a few seasons later, they would have had Ned go to dinner with the Crazy Cat Lady.
  • The back half of this episode has shades of “Viva Ned Flanders” where Ned keeps going to Homer to find out what the next part of the episode is. Again, where are his children? Who’s watching those boys during his father’s dates? It would take almost two decades to get to an episode where one of the Flanders boys deals with their mother’s death, and it was goddamn fucking horrible.
  • Rachel Jordan’s song is so long and so boring. She would return the following season and then never again, leaving Ned more or less a permanent bachelor until Nedna twelve years later, except for that one episode where he dated not-Marisa Tomei. Like all the “permanent” changes this show executed during this era, the series didn’t change at all. Neither Ned nor his sons acted any differently after this, and as I’ve mentioned before several times, killing off Maude completely ruins Ned as the subject of Homer’s envy for the perfect family. It’s an episode pretending to be emotional and serious, but if you look closely at it, you’ll clearly see that it’s actually a steaming pile of horse shit.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “This was a surprise. I think this episode is comparable to season 2: mostly realistic, emphasizing character, and disappointingly short on laugh-out-loud humor.  Flanders is portrayed more like a real person than in any previous episode centering around him, while Homer is a well-meaning schemer who (gasp!) actually helps Ned out. The first two minutes were weak and the last two minutes were rushed, making it seem as if Rachel Jordan will return (most likely she’ll be voiced by Tress Macneille).  Rachel seems much more interesting as a character than the relatively bland Maude, and I hope we shall see her again. It was also wonderful that they didn’t have a cheesy scene where Maude reappears to Ned as a ghost. I didn’t think they could pull this episode off with dignity and maturity, but they did!”

15. Missionary: Impossible

  • “Do Shut Up,” the PBS drive (with prizes like a tote bag and an umbrella with a picture of the tote bag), the Pledge Enforcement Van, all of that stuff is alright, if not stretched out a bit too much. Then we get the PBS mob with Yo-Yo Ma and Big Bird swooping in like a hawk and I start thinking of those damn jockey elves again. It’s all just a big pointless time sink because they only had two acts of material for the missionary plot (and could barely even fit that).
  • This episode is almost entirely disposable, but it did give us “Jebus.” I guess we can be thankful for that.
  • So much of this episode, we’re stuck with annoying Homer on the island on his own with no one to challenge or rebuff him in any way. Over the ham radio, Marge mentions that Ned is jealous of Homer’s mission work. Why couldn’t he and Homer have gone to the island together and have butted heads on how best to help the natives? Instead, it’s just Homer let loose to lick toads and kill pelicans by pouring cement down their throats.
  • Bart posing as Homer at work and at home is another joke that’s kind of cute in concept, but just serves to further destroy the reality of the series.
  • This is gonna be my shortest write-up yet, because I really don’t have a lot to say on this one. Like I said, with Homer functioning solo on the island, it doesn’t feel like a whole lot happens. He introduces sin to the natives, makes good by building the chapel, and then we get our cop-out ending. I feel like in a much, much better episode, they could get away with this kind of meta slap-in-the-face, but based on the crap I just watched, Rupert Murdoch working the FOX telethon isn’t enough to redeem this mess.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:I was really impressed with this one. It had satire, cultural references, and an overall feeling that was reminiscent of the best seasons of the show. It also incorporated the silliness of recent seasons, but in an interesting way that I did not find disagreeable. I loved the way the writers played with the conventions of the television industry, especially the Fox telethon cutting off the Homer plot. Anyway, by adding up all of the positive points, and subtracting a couple for the gratuitous and relatively unfunny chase scene, my final grade for this episode is an A.

16. Pygmoelian

  • I don’t care for Homer’s fake fire alarm getting us to Duff Days, but there’s some pretty good bits while we’re there: Marge stuck in the Designated Driver Fun Zone (“When I get home, there’s gonna be a lot of open pickle jars,”) the drunk simulator (Milhouse’s dizzy “This is the guy…” always cracks me up), and the grand return of Duffman, who hasn’t worn out his welcome yet. Moe’s two opponents are also great bartender stereotypes, and I absolutely buy Duffman as the type who would sleep with a woman and walk back on his promise to help her win (“Duffman says a lot of things! Oh yeah!!”) 
  • The first act break with Carl talking to camera (“See, this is why I don’t talk much,”) is strange. Aside from the fourth wall breaking which I usually always hate, Carl has never come off as soft-spoken to me. He and Lenny seem to talk just as regularly, so the joke that Carl usually keeps his hurtful opinions to himself doesn’t make sense. On top of that, immediately into act two, everybody makes hurtful remarks and observations about Moe, so everyone is just as mean as him. 
  • “There’s too much emphasis on looks these days. That’s why they won’t let Bill Maher on TV before midnight.” Goddamn, I forgot how fucking long Bill Maher has been allowed on TV. Can he just go away already? 
  • The elephant balloon “subplot” is so strange, since we introduce the balloon at the end of act one and then it gets two scenes to conclude in act two. It’s more of a runner than a story, and is pretty transparent filler. By the time Moe gets his plastic surgery, there’s only eight minutes of show left; it’s literally the plot of the episode, and they couldn’t even fill time for half a show? The punchline with the gay Republicans is fine, I guess, but it felt like a long, unnecessary road to get there.
  • After the surgery, Homer basically becomes attached to Moe, be it gleefully attempting to commit arson or just hanging out backstage with Moe at the soap opera for whatever reason. It’s literally, “When Homer’s not on screen, everyone should ask, ‘Where’s Homer?’” On that note, Moe gets on the soap opera by just wandering onto the set with the good fortune of arriving just when another actor was about to be fired, and then he just gets hired on the spot. It’s all just so slapdash and random. We never really get into why Moe likes acting or what he gets out of it, he just does it because that’s the plot that they wrote.
  • I’m sure I bitched about this last time, but they’re apparently shooting the fucking soap opera live and the producer just lets Homer keep running his mouth instead of cutting the feed, despite her horror at spoiling a whole year’s worth of storylines. Is this really the best fucking conclusion they could come up with? I mean, considering they didn’t even bother writing how Moe got his old face back and decided to just comment on how nonsensical it was instead, I guess they just didn’t care about any of it.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:A little extreme wackiness is occasionally a good thing, but it’s always good to come back to a solid plot-line with good quasi-reality-based humor. I saw this solid performance in ‘Pygmoelian,’ and it made me happy. There were several laugh-out-loud moments, such as the return of Duff Man and Moe’s liquor license. However, I do have one complaint. Where did the balloon subplot go? I would’ve liked to have seen the balloon show up in the later scenes back at home. Anyway, keep ’em coming. Season 11’s turning out all right!”

17. Bart to the Future

  • “Hey, an Indian casino!” Why bother trying to write set-ups in your script when you can just have a character announce a location and they just go to it?
  • I feel a little bad that this awful episode has the unceremonious return (and only reappearance, I think?) of Arthur Crandall and Gabbo. It makes total sense that the two are washed up has-beens playing small venues, though. And why Gabbo did display some degree of “sentience” in “Krusty Gets Kancelled,” it’s still weird that Crandall reacts to Bart like Gabbo’s turned human.
  • Future Bart and his 10-year-old voice sucks. I’ve said all this stuff before, but I don’t like future visions of Bart as a childish loser, it feels less creative and believable than him either straightening his act together, or just being a blue-collar slob. He also lives with Ralph, because why not, I guess, whose voice is also the same. 
  • The biggest “Lisa’s Wedding” contrast I can make is that while almost all of the future gags in “Wedding” were mostly believable and achievable technological and societal advances, the future gags here are all goofs that would be rejected from Futurama scripts (virtual fudge, BrainVision News, etc.) There’s also a couple meta gags about how characters seem aware that they’re in “the future,” which tears at the reality as well.
  • Obligatory President Trump mention. He really invested in our nation’s children, didn’t he? It’s also not an “accurate” prediction since Lisa mentions she’s the first “straight female President,” implying a lesbian or bi President before her. That almost ties into the “Gay President in 2084” joke from the last episode, which sadly still feels like too generous of a prediction. And speaking of predictions, they might have accidentally hit on Trump, but the Chastity Bono shout-out turned out to be a big swing and a miss.
  • The Lincoln’s gold subplot is just complete boring filler, as the episode itself even acknowledges.
  • There’s no emotional narrative to latch onto considering that Bart is a directionless mooch who’s just kind of floating around Lisa’s orbit and ruining everything for the latter half of the episode. The Secret Service can’t lock that guy in a closet while Lisa’s doing her address to the nation? Then we’re supposed to feel bad when Bart’s at Camp David, and his “redemption” is that he buys Lisa maybe a day’s worth of time to repay America’s debts. And that’s the happy ending, I guess. As bad as this episode is, I would most definitely watch it over the recent future episode “Mother and Child Reunion.” Of the eight future episodes so far, this one probably falls in the lower-middle somewhere, as sad as that may be.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “When you compare this episode with ‘Lisa’s Wedding,’ this episode was a little better for me. Despite a so-so first act, the episode really picked up when Lisa became president. Bart’s behavior during Lisa’s speech was very funny. I liked the way Bart uncovered her lie so very much. Another highlight was the search for Lincoln’s Gold, and how Bart got the foreign leaders to think that America paid its bills.”

Season Eleven Revisited (Part Two)

6. Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder

  • How did Krusty manage to swing getting “Where’s Waldo?” on the back of his cereal boxes? That seems like quite the get. The kitchen scene at the beginning is one of three muted attempts to set up the Homer-Maggie bonding plot turn, but they’re spread out so far apart and don’t feel like they’re meaningful whatsoever, so it still feels completely abrupt when we get to the third act. It doesn’t help that all three acts feel like three completely different stories to begin with.
  • Mr. Burns just stands motionless as Homer repeatedly gropes his face and yanks out his dentures (causing new ones to regenerate with a cash register noise). Then Homer is forced to eat dozens of barrels worth of toxic waste. What a stupid wacky cartoon this show has turned into.
  • Homer starts to bowl a perfect game out of his hatred of Mr. Burns, and serving as a catharsis at the end of such a bad day, but that never really feels like the case. He overslept for an entire day, was late for work, and ran away screaming from his boss. It’s not like Bart’s bad day at the beginning of “Bart the Murderer” where we have any kind of sympathy for his misfortunes. Homer used to be the king of bad luck and unfortunate circumstance, but now he’s a raving lunatic who more often than not creates his own problems, so I don’t really care about anything that happens to him as a result.
  • Homer the celebrity sucks. I feel like Homer bowling a perfect game making him a town hero is a plot that might have worked in like season 2, but at this point, the man’s toured with rock stars, won a Grammy, and been into outer space, why would anyone give that much of a shit about this? Homer spends all of act two acting self-important and trying to pathetically hold onto his minor level of fame, and it all sucks.
  • The celebrities on Springfield Squares are an odd bunch: Krusty, Sideshow Mel, Rainier Wolfcastle, and Bumblebee Man all check out. Princess Kashmir is an odd get, but I guess maybe she’s the most famous nightclub dancer in town? Capital City Goofball is a weird inclusion, being the mascot of a rival city’s baseball team. Then we have Itchy & Scratchy, who appear to be real? It’s not like they’re on a TV screen as animations, they’re actually on the set reacting in real time. It’s very odd.
  • This episode is bursting at the seams with pointless guest stars, none more pointless than Pat O’Brien and Nancy O’Dell, who are inexplicably hosting Access Springfield for some reason. But at least it made me remember the infamous Pat O’Brien tapes of him calling a woman he wanted to fuck and do coke with, which in turn made me think of the Howard Stern show prank call where they called a sex line using O’Brien’s voice, resulting in them eventually hanging up. Funny stuff.
  • I’m sure I talked about last time how dumb and abrupt Homer’s suicide attempt is. The organized line of jumpers at the top of the building feels a bit too grim of a joke… although I guess the escalator to nowhere is no different in concept.
  • A new story begins in act three where Homer tries to give his life meaning by being a good father, but quickly gives up on his first two kids to focus exclusively on Maggie. Up to this point, we’ve seen Maggie is sad that Homer is neglecting her, missing her tea party and being sad she wouldn’t help feed her, but in act three, all she does is try to get away from him, so it doesn’t make sense at all. It’s odd that Marge doesn’t appear at all until the very end, this plot would definitely have felt more substantial if she had checked in on Homer and gave him some advice or guidance or fucking something that might resemble plot progression or any kind of cohesion to the entire episode. Instead, Homer almost drowns and Maggie becomes Super-Baby to drag a 250+ pound man to shore. Awesome.
  • Looking back at my Season 11 final thoughts, I’m shocked that this episode didn’t make the bottom five. To be fair, I’ve got a lot of season left to watch, but this sticks out as one of the worst of the Scully era. Episodes like “Kill the Alligator and Run” and “Saddlesore Galactica” stand out more for their more absurd, reality-breaking elements, but this episode not only also has a bunch of that shit (eating toxic waste, real-life Itchy & Scratchy, CHUDs and mole people), but desperately attempts to be an emotional family episode at the very end (which makes sense since he wrote it). Al Jean’s solo scripts really took such a tumble; “Lisa’s Sax” and “Mom and Pop Art” are quite good, but then in barely a season’s time, we get this, “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?” and “Day of the Jackanapes.” Then he takes over the show as executive producer, and a decade plus later, every season or so, we get an episode he wrote, and they’re all pretty notably bad (“I Won’t Be Home for Christmas” and “Daddicus Finch” being especially terrible). All five of my previous “worst” picks are garbage, but this is such a train wreck, it’s gotta be bottom three, easy.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:Well, now THIS was a great breath of fresh air! Hardly any wackiness (Maggie saving Homer was a spoof on an urban legend, so I don’t count that as wacky), a GREAT use of the townspeople, quick celebrity cameos rather than basing an entire episode around them, great gags, and a non-jerkarse Homer, and one who CARES about his family to boot! Man, if all of season 11 is going to be like this, I’ll be a happy Simpsonite. The most enjoyable ep since ‘Miracle on Evergreen Terrace,’ IMO.”

7. Eight Misbehavin’

  • Were IKEA stores recently expanding in the 90s that prompted this SHOP opening scene? It really makes me crave IKEA breakfast and Swedish meatballs. The IKEA in Burbank is the largest in the US, and it’s pretty dang neato.
  • Since “I’m With Cupid” established the writers have no particular interest in exploring Apu and Manjula’s relationship, I guess they figured why the hell not give them some kids, that’ll eat up an episode. I mean, Manjula should really have at least one distinct character trait other than nagging wife, right? Whatever. At least their scenes leading up to the pregnancy have some good jokes (“All that sex for nothing!” “Well, that is a pretty grim assessment,” the pregnancy tests with slot machine symbols)
  • Apu enlists his best pal Homer to help him conceive, because of course he does. Remember his brother Sanjay? Maybe he could talk with him about it? Instead, Homer tears the roof off of Apu’s car and leers at Apu and Manjula making out like a creepy pervert. What a guy!
  • This episode keeps reminding me of “Octomom,” but that was like a decade after this episode aired. I guess mothers with six+ kids were common topics on daytime TV, so that’s what this is kind of a riff on, but all of the media circus and bizarre zoo third act come at the expense of any sort of emotional element from Apu and Manjula. In a way, it’s kind of the opposite of this season’s “The Dad-Feeling Limited.” That episode sucked, but at least they gave Comic Book Guy a believable reason why he would even consider having children and why he would like it. That’s more than can be said here.
  • Hank Azaria is pretty funny as an exhausted Apu; his line reading after going off with Larry Kidkill is especially great (“But you don’t know who he is!” “Who cares, there’s only one of him!”)
  • The zoo plot is incredibly strange. Why would Octopia be such a big draw? A mother having eight babies is a peculiar human interest story for like a day, but they’re made out to be this big attraction at the zoo, the majority of the time being eight babies in a nursery, where we see zoo attendants enraptured and pressed up against the glass. They’re just babies, literally any other animal is more fascinating to watch than them. Again, the writers had no real interest in a real Apu/Manjula story. This show could have been about the Lovejoys having octuplets and there would’ve been no difference.
  • Chief Wiggum gets a pretty good scene, clearly being paid off by the zoo in peanuts and giving Apu his blessing to take the law into his own hands (“Y’know, a lot of people are doing that these days”)
  • The episode ends with Octopia being replaced by Homer and Butch Patrick riding a unicycle through a stage full of cobras. Why bother trying to make sense of it? Are they doing this multiple times a day? How much venom is getting pumped through Homer before he drops dead? Who gives a fuck, as long as we have him scream over the end credits, the audience will laugh their asses off, right?
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:Season 11 continues with a roar, of laughter that is, with the second best episode of the Scully era after ‘Natural Born Kissers.’ Matt Selman shows yet again that he alone among the newer writers fully under- stands the show. Exaggeration of our modern-day idiosyncrasies replaces all-out zaniness, thorough character interaction stands in for formulaic subplots, and laughs are enhanced by a story that brings out meaningful emotion, not aimed at ripping our care for the characters to shreds.

8. Take My Wife, Sleaze

  • The disclaimer at the end of the Greser’s Cafe commercial, “where it’s 1955 every day of the year,” is pretty good (“Actual year may vary. Consult calendar for current year.”)
  • Having Jay North, the original Dennis the Menace, on the show feels like a good idea in concept. I remember hearing Matt Groening say how disappointed he was in the original TV show as a kid that Dennis wasn’t anywhere near the rambunctious hellion he was billed as, which subconsciously led to him creating Bart decades later. Having TV’s original “bad boy” meet his match feels like something that should have happened about five or six seasons back, at this point, Bart’s no longer the flavor of the month and his character has been pretty defanged, so it just feels meaningless. 
  • I don’t really get the joke where after Homer tosses Marge up and out of the cafe (just ignore the logic behind that) and she walks back in, why does she act like an amnesiac and act like she’s never been in the building before (“Wow, a 50’s nostalgic cafe!”) Did she slam her head into the pavement outside and lose her memory?
  • Why the hell does Homer want the motorcycle at all? This is another great example of the new Homer who lives for crazy, exciting adventures, not the Homer that loves sleeping in and snacking on the couch. When he forms his pathetic biker gang which everyone really wants to be in for some reason, it all feels really sad and annoying. Why the fuck do Moe and Ned want to pretend to be a greaser tossing pennies at the wall of the Kwik-E-Mart? 
  • Submitting Marge’s bedroom photo to be this month’s “Cycle Slut” is probably one of the scummiest things Homer’s ever done.
  • The real Hell’s Satans trash and take over the Simpson house, and at that point I give up wondering what the hell the point of the episode is. What an absolute waste of the great John Goodman and Henry Winkler, who give their all to the characters (their loud, boisterous laugh at a nervous Marge is pretty great), but the characters are just way too exaggerated to feel even the slightest bit believable, and they don’t even keep that consistent. They’re self-processed lowlives who smash eggs into toasters and think that yelling at bloodstains will clean their clothes, but later they have a discussion about how both pronunciations of “resume” are correct. So are they violent morons or do they have hidden depths? Who cares.
  • Speaking of inconsistency, Marge is discouraged that none of the bikers find her attractive and wants to gangrape her (in a very in-character and tasteful scene), but later are discouraged they can’t take Marge to an orgy. If none of them want to bang her, then were they going to use her as sexual currency? What a wonderful episode this is.
  • Speaking of tastefulness, Homer tells his children that if he can’t get their mother back to call and get him a Korean love bride. Flipping to the commentary real quick, after laughing at Bart and Lisa’s uncomfortable reaction, Mike Scully chimes in, “His heart’s the right place.” Is it?
  • I mentioned this in my original review, but the idea of Marge domesticating the bikers and them being physically unable to defend themselves against a raging Homer would have made a decent ending, and the episode might have even worked if it had builded up to that point where we see Homer getting increasingly unhinged and the bikers embracing their pacifist ways for a reason. Instead, despite Meathook wanting to solve the conflict with words, for no reason, we end up at the Circle of Death, and as the cherry on the shit sundae, we get the motorcycle swordfight. What more can I say? This episode sucks ass.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “All the wit, subtlety, clever dialogue, and charming characters The Simpsons is known and loved for are absent from this loud, raucous, obnoxious, hollow, confusing, painfully dumb, predictable, freakishly unfunny script. The attempt at comedy here seems founded on the idea of driving motorcycles indoors and flat, unexamined biker movie stereotypes, peppered with warped retreads of classic Simpsons scenes. The season 10 trends of wildly inconsistent quality and all-time worst episodes written by long-time writer John Swartzwelder return. His drafts are rumored to be rewritten by staff only now, and seem shamefully filled with the least inspired bits deemed not good enough for their own scripts.”

9. Grift of the Magi

  • Bart and Milhouse being bored at home is a fine opening. Milhouse being chased by the killer sun beam is a little silly, but I was okay with it. But whose wigs were those?
  • Fat Tony and his instant ramp operation ultimately feels pretty unnecessary. It’s all too goofy, with the ramps spiraling around the building like a Dr. Seuss drawing, and the reveal that they were made of breadsticks. You don’t really need to manufacture an excuse why the school has run out of funding, the place is always portrayed as a poor dump. At least we get some good lines out of Fat Tony (“Look, you’re getting a little philosophical for me.” “I suppose so. They say it happens in the autumn years.”)
  • The school is flat broke but the emergency meeting has fancy catering with attendants carving a turkey and manning an omelette bar? And why is Moe there? It’s for a quick gag, but is yet another “insert-character-here” moment.
  • Mr. Burns would have never let Skinner and the kids into his house for any reason whatsoever, let alone sit there quietly like a senile old man reacting aghast at the poor production.
  • It’s interesting that on Bumblebee Man’s daytime court show, his wife is the one suing, apparently having been sold an inoperable Ford Escort.
  • This episode’s biggest success is the plot itself: greedy capitalists using and manipulating children to their own gain and to further exploit them and their families. If that’s not a pessimistic yet completely accurate social commentary The Simpsons would tackle in its heyday, I don’t know what is. The scenes in the school in act two all work, with the teachers not-so-subtly getting focus group information out of the kids; I especially love Milhouse’s frenzied response to what the perfect toy should have (“Its eyes should be telescopes! No, periscopes! No, microscopes! Can you come back to me?”)
  • Gary Coleman being security guard for Kid First really feels like “insert-guest-star-here,” there’s no reason that I can think of why it’s specifically him. Regardless, it’s still a memorable appearance, in the ever-shrinking number of guest stars willing to actually ridicule themselves. Although I never understood why at least three other episodes would have Coleman show up as a cameo and reuse his karate sounds. Would they have to pay him again for that? I think in some of those episodes he was credited at the end, so maybe so.
  • “They must have programmed it to eliminate the competition.” “You mean like Microsoft?” “Exactly.” Just like the Homer line about professional writers in “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner,” it makes absolutely no sense why Bart would have any knowledge about Microsoft’s business practices, but they wanted to make that scathing joke so they stuck it into the script.
  • I guess the Funzo toys were only released in Springfield for the holidays as a test market, which is the only way Bart and Lisa’s plan to steal all the toys in town makes sense. It would be nice if there was a line addressing that, but whatever.
  • The ending speeding through other classic Christmas stories befalling other characters is a nice idea, as well as a good last-minute conclusion to the actual plot with Burns’ tuxedo pants money. Why they all go to the Simpson house is unclear, but whatever. I’m still a sucker for “Whatchu talkin’ ‘bout everyone!”
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “After a promising start, it looks like this season is already going down the tubes. ‘Grift of the Magi’ was full of satire, but satire that was misguided and obvious. The idea of a sinister toy company never quite clicked with me, especially when it did things that toy companies probably never do in reality. Not very funny, and not very interesting.”

10. Little Big Mom

  • Itchy & Scratchy episodes would proceed to get longer in later seasons, making these glorious quick bursts of incredible violence kind of a slog. The opening short really could have been done in half the time. The only notably long I & S I can think of in the classic era is the one where Scratchy is holed up in a wall for decades and rescued, then tortured by the future Itchys with giant brains. That was certainly more interesting for its timeframe than just “let’s clone Scratchy.”
  • The Mount Embolism stuff is okay, not great; “Mountain of Madness” wasn’t a stellar episode, but definitely outshines this. A lot of it is just Homer screaming and getting hurt. “Stupid sexy Flanders” is a classic line in its own right, but it’s soured a bit since it’s followed by Homer getting hit in the dick with snow piles like twenty times.
  • Disco Stu may be a joke character, but the idea of him picking up single women at a ski lodge feels very appropriate.
  • Lisa the Mom feels like it should be a promising plotline, but it felt like it wasn’t clicking for me watching it again. I know some people have issues with “My Sister, My Sitter” in Lisa being left alone with Bart and Maggie, but the episode laid enough groundwork to make me accept it, at least to me. Here, even though grown adult Homer is still there, positioning Lisa as the guardian, cooking their meals, and ultimately being driven to her wits end by a cackling Homer and Bart ultimately feels weird to me. I dunno, it’s hard to say exactly why, but a big reason is from act two on Homer and Bart are rambunctious buddies, which I always hate to see. The two can bond over shared infantile interests, and I understand Homer is supposed to be the second “kid” Lisa has to tend to, but it just feels like they dumb down Homer way too much whenever they want to do these Homer-Bart stories.
  • I’ve noticed some pretty weird visual quirks these last two seasons regarding the cel animation, the most glaring being a lot of obvious cel shadows. One scene in this episode had the largest shadows of all, it looks pretty rough. I’ve heard the show eventually had to move to digital ink & paint because there were fewer and fewer artists who did it, as basically every animated show transitioned to digital sometime during the 2000s. Maybe these last few cel-painted seasons look rougher because they were more short-staffed and overworked?

  • Sweet Emotions cereal must have killed in the writers room to get a glory shot in the episode, but it feels like such a non-joke. It’s not even a pun, so what is it? Some cereals are sweet?– Did we really need the literal spirit of Lucille Ball to appear to Lisa to give us our ridiculous third act twist? I don’t know how the hell this came about in the writer’s room. We’ll do a crazy sitcom-esque scenario, but we’ll lampshade it so that’ll be part of the joke!
  • Leprosy! Are those “sores” pasted on their bodies with superglue? It’s fucking oatmeal and poster paint, how did they never come off? It’s so, so silly.
  • The Flanders family are the MVPs of the episode. In addition to “stupid sexy Flanders,” we also get a wonderful but brief bit of bickering between Ned and Maude (“Remember those scary lepers in Ben Hur?” “You saw Ben Hur without me?” “We were broken up then!”), Ned’s mustache getting ripped off, and Rod and Todd’s imaginary Christmas.
  • Another spectacular example of characters spouting jokes instead of reacting like humans: Marge arrives home, and Lisa tells her Homer and Bart are missing and that she tricked them into thinking they have leprosy. Marge corrects her, “Hansen’s disease. Like the terrible cream soda.” I guess one of the writers has a big vendetta against Hansen’s. But instead of gasping or being worried or shocked about her husband and son, or wanting to get more information out of Lisa, Marge instead corrects Lisa with the medical term for leprosy and gets in a dig at a soda brand.
  • We end the episode in Hawaii, and who cares. Couldn’t the medical staff tell right away that Homer and Bart aren’t sick, and their sores are actually painted goddamn oatmeal? Whatever. As long as we have Homer screaming his lungs out over the end credits, people will still laugh!
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:I’ve said this about several episodes, but my opinions usually change on them, but this was by far the worst episode in the history of The Simpsons. I don’t think any other program will be able to top this one. Lisa’s irresponsibility is glaring, and the story focuses too much on stupid and tasteless jokes, making it very unlikable. I actually feel sorry for myself, instead of Lisa. This is perhaps the single most tasteless, cruel, cold-blooded moment in OFF’s history. The Marge hospital-massage subplot was pointless and unfunny, as well. Let’s hope this one is played few times in syndication, and buried as a ‘Lost Episode.’

11. Faith Off

  • The opening inevitably feels like a hollow retreading over “Homer Goes to College.” The contextual through-line of Homer believing he’s living in a college movie is gone, so here we have an actual evil Dean (named Peterson, despite not being the same character from “College”), and “normal” Homer proposing a wacky prank, and it doesn’t work as well.
  • Hibbert conveniently has three hilarious trauma victims lined up against a brick wall in the room next to his office. Where the hell is this, and what are they doing there? Showing Homer pictures of them maybe would have made more sense, but here, it just feels ridiculous.
  • Brother Faith doesn’t have a whole lot to do, but Don Cheadle commendably gives it his all. His muted asides when he falters his boisterous persona are particularly funny (responding to Bart’s plan of a lifetime of sin and repenting on his deathbed, “Wow, that’s a good angle…”)
  • Why is Homer making a homecoming float at all? They don’t even set it up. I imagine current students are responsible for homecoming affairs, not dumbbells who only took one course five years ago. Later we see the actual Springfield University floats before Homer rolls up in his, so I guess he just made it on his own? Why?
  • One big piece missing from this episode is a town wide reverie of Bart being a miracle child. A bunch of Springfield regulars are present when Bart lifts the bucket off Homer’s head, but there’s never any significant mention of it after that. When Bart gets up in church and talks about how faith can be powerful, and randomly does Tae-Bo, all the other churchgoers go nuts for some reason. Couldn’t they have had Moe or somebody stand up and establish they all know about his “powers”? Instead, when we see Bart’s backyard “church” tent with everybody in Springfield in attendance, it doesn’t feel very motivated. They’re all there because Bart did some kicks in the aisle at church and they thought it was cool, I guess.
  • “Testify” is an alright song, probably the best original song done in the Scully era. Following the first two soundtrack albums that I listened to to death as a kid, they put out a third one titled “Testify,” containing songs from seasons 9-16 or so. I was already in college by the time it came out, and I remember listening to it once and never again. How could that be? With great, memorable tracks like “You’re a Bunch of Stuff” and “What Do I Think of the Pie?”
  • There’s a weird awkward hold after Lenny delivers his line at the bar before we cut to the stadium. It’s weird, was this episode like three seconds short?
  • Homer drunkenly drives his float onto the field and crushes the star player’s leg, and of course there’s absolutely no repercussions for this. Not only that, he’s immediately sober when confronted by Fat Tony, because fuck you.
  • The flying leg really is so stupid, and it doesn’t even make any sense in regards to how it caught up to the ball at all. So I guess Homer is basically responsible for making that guy an amputee, and again, nobody cares.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:I am speechless beyond speech. This didn’t feel like a Season 11 episode. This felt like a Season *5* episode. I can’t remember the last time I saw as many clever spoofs of clichés in one show — I think it was sometime in 1995. The characterization of Bart and Homer was so good it was frightening (except for the latter’s sowing salt). The only real fault was that the satire could have been more incisive. I may not have faith in god like Bart does, but I have had my own revival of faith in the writing staff.

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.”

248. Behind the Laughter

(originally aired May 21, 2000)
Somewhere out there, there must be a parallel universe in which this exists as the show’s series finale. What a world that would be, huh? The show acknowledging the well had gone dry and decided to go out with an insanely meta episode that put that realization at the forefront. Not only does it send up itself, but it also deftly parodies all the tropes and cliches of the “rise-and-fall” story of so many bands featured in “Behind the Music.” They even have Jim Forbes do the narration to authenticate it. The idea itself is so strange, in revealing that this is a “real” show and the Simpsons are actors, but actually still a real family. Kind of like when Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd would talk about their contracts with Warner Brothers and address the audience. I remember absolutely loving this episode when it first aired, and while I don’t think it’s quite as funny or clever as I used to, it definitely stands out; the concept alone makes it a landmark episode.

There’s not really a plot to describe, so to speak. We find the Simpsons show got its start when Homer filmed his own crude demo tape of his family after getting frustrated of never seeing families like his on TV, similar to the inception of the show in real life (“TV families were always hugging and tackling issues.”) Turned down by all the real networks, Homer must settle for FOX, who orders thirteen episodes, and the rest basically can write itself. The episode recreates the history of the Simpsons’ fame, but as if they were real characters. Bart Simpson T-shirts, cash-in records, and money by the truckload, the Simpsons were a national phenomenon. There’s so many great nods to Simpsons lore, like Bart’s insistence of never having said “cowabunga,” which reminded me of Matt Groening’s assurance that he never did, and for the first time actually addressing Homer’s strangling for what it really is (“And that horrible act of child abuse became one of our most beloved running gags.”)

As so many rock bands before them, the Simpsons are fast and loose with their cash, dwindling their savings to almost nothing before the IRS busts them on tax evasion. Things only go downhill from there until they have a huge falling out, a fence that can only be mended by one man: Willie Nelson. This episode’s patron saint is Jim Forbes, delivering all of his lines with such professionalism and seriousness (“That night, fate wore a cummerbund… of suspense.”) The new intro sequence, the phony “coming-up-next”s, it all authenticates the experience that you’re watching something different. In its decline segment, the series actually takes some harsh shots at itself for pandering guest stars and nonsensical plots, but in my opinion, not harsh enough. But the episode is ballsy, I’ll give it that. I feel there’s more to dissect in this one in sections than in an overall summary, so I think I’ll wrap it up. Once again I’ll reiterate how perfect this would have been as a series finale. After a season filled with over-the-top crazy cartoonish nonsense, the show just throws up its hands and forgoes its established universe entirely, going out with a show that not only exposes the entire series as being a fraud, but “reveals” where Springfield is in the last minute. Could’ve been a wonderful outro. Yep. Would’ve been sweet…

Tidbits and Quotes
– I don’t know why the opening title sequence is still on the episode. It should just start immediately, since this is technically a different show. Then the fake-out with going through the clouds to the still shot of the family on the couch would have worked.
– Part of me kind of wishes they had pushed the personalities of the characters in weirder directions, since these are technically just actors. Marge gets it a little when she tells Homer to shit or get off the pot, but it would have been fun to push it a bit more.
– Again, much love for Jim Forbes. Great bit of calling Homer a “penniless Peckinpah.”)
– Great take on doing a Beatles parody in having girls go mad over footage of Bart, then it’s revealed to be taking place in a hysteria ward.
– Nice swipe at the Bart Simpson T-shirts with the lifted slogans (“Life Begins at Conception, Man!”) Reminds me of the DVD commentary story of the Bart billboard on the FOX lot going from clever quips the writers would come up with to just announcing executive’s birthdays, and eventually “Increase Productivity, Man!”
– Love all the labels placed beneath each interviewee, calling Grampa a “coot,” Krusty as “disgruntled,” and Gloria Allred, of course, a “shrill feminist attorney.”
– Always loved this read from Moe (“Homer was spending money like a teenage Arab. He bought me a Rolex and, uh, Cashmere jeans. I felt kinda guilty ’cause I was always trying to score with his wife. So, when do we start filming? …oh.”)
– The explanation of why Homer had to do the gorge stunt is pretty amusing, as is the aftermath. But here’s where I take issue: “Somehow, Homer became addicted to painkillers. It was the only way he could perform the bone-cracking physical comedy that made him a star.” Homer becoming popular and a beloved character had nothing to do with him getting hurt in ridiculous ways. If you’ll notice, the quad-screen of clips shown during that bit are all from seasons 9-11, and are all horrible, especially listening to them all at once. Then later we see other clips while Homer is talking, all shorter, one from “Sideshow Bob Roberts” and the other from “A Milhouse Divided.” Moments of Homer getting hurt and screaming are few and far between in the first eight years, and that’s what made them so funny. One of the greatest moments of the series ever is Bart hitting Homer with the chair in “Divided,” it’s a perfect storm of funny, that it had a set-up, but also was totally random that he would do it in the tub. Castellaneta’s screams and wails are hysterical because it’s not just out of pain, but also shock and confusion of what the hell just happened and why. I love Homer for so many reasons, but his ability to take great amounts of pain is not one of them. But I guess the writers don’t agree.
– Somewhat disturbing image of seeing Marge’s scolding visage on a diaphragm. That’s easily a mood killer.
– I love how poorly Apu is obscured in the shadows as the anonymous tipster. You can see the Kwik-E-Mart behind him, he has no voice distortion, and you can see his hand when he gestures to the take-a-penny-leave-a-penny tray.
– I’ve always loved this exchange (“Dad, I want to go to bed. Aren’t there child labor laws?” “Who told you about those laws? Was it Marge?”)
– So the show takes a shot at itself using gimmicky premises and nonsensical plots, highlighting “The Principal and the Pauper.” Good, but better if they also mentioned fucking nonsense like “Saddlesore Galactica” and “Viva Ned Flanders.” Also they mention “trendy” guest stars like Butch Patrick, Tom Kite and Stephen Hawking. I guess the joke is that they’re not exactly what you’d call ratings-grabbing guest stars, but I still would rather see more brutal honesty and show such disposable and worthless celebrities like Mel Gibson or Britney Spears.
– My favorite bit of the show is when Forbes talk about the later Simpsons episodes resulting in yawns in the ratings. Clip of a guy yawning. “…angry yawns.” Clip of a guy yawning angrily. It happens so quick, and I had no idea how one yawned angrily before that point, but whatever that noise was, it completely nailed it.
– Love the family’s solo careers: Homer in “Rent II: Condo Fever” (“I literally chewed the scenery,”) Bart filling in for Lorenzo Lamas in “Renegade,” Marge’s dinner show (“So the next time you see a sheriff, shoot him… a smile!”) and Lisa’s tell-all book (“To prolong the run of the series, I was secretly given anti-growth hormones.” “That’s ridiculous. How could I even get all five necessary drops into her cereal?”)
– Kinda like that Hibbert was fraternity brothers with Willie Nelson (“I’d do anything for Kegmeister Julius.”)
– Revealing the Simpsons as living in northern Kentucky is amazing, since it’s not really a reveal since this is the location of the “real” Springfield. But it also explains why the town isn’t really anywhere, since it’s shown here as a fake show. Re-runs would switch back and forth between Kentucky and southern Missouri, but on the DVD, it’s just Kentucky. I love that they just threw it in at the end to blow minds.
– Bittersweet moment where Homer leans over to the editor and comments, “This’ll be the last season.” If only. Not only that, but the clip they’re editing was used in the next season’s finale “Simpsons Tall Tales,” so you think maybe they were right. But nope. Not even close.
– “Next week on ‘Behind the Laughter’: Huckleberry Hound.” “I was so gay. But I couldn’t tell anyone!”

Season 11 Final Thoughts
Hoo boy, well I’ll say this, even though there seemed to be a lot more shit in this season, the bar set at season 10 was pretty much kept still. Pretty much all the awfulness that occurred last season was confirmed to be here to stay in this one. The proficiency of storytelling has pretty much evaporated, replaced with whatever the hell the writers can come up with for unrelated set ups and ridiculous, out of left field climaxes. Characterization waxes and wanes depending on what cheap joke or plot turn they need to pull off. Humor is coming more from over-the-top physical comedy and dumb jokey jokes than actual satire or multi-layered gags. Homer is now completely brain dead, barely resembling a functioning human being anymore, and the rest of the cast has begun their process of caricaturization, turning in one-note shades of their former fleshed-out selves. Though there are a few glimmers of quality and brilliance, this season and the show’s future is pretty dark. The series has reached a low point, and there’s no telling how much lower it can possibly go. And I still have nine more seasons left. Holy macaroni…

With classic seasons, it was always so difficult to pick out the best episodes because there were so many, and the worst because there were basically none. From this season on… it’s pretty much going to be the reverse of that.

The Best
“Treehouse of Horror X,” “E-I-E-I-D’oh!,” “Grift of the Magi,” “Pygmoelian,” “Behind the Laughter”

The Worst
“Beyond Blunderdome,” “Saddlesore Galactica,” “Alone Again, Natura-Diddly,” “Bart to the Future,” “Kill the Alligator and Run”