Category Archives: Season 13

291. Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge

(originally aired May 22, 2002)
A serviceable set-up and overall premise gets squandered when the show gets to its third act realizing it really has nowhere to go, so throws on a “climactic” ending and calls it quits. But I actually didn’t mind everything that preceded it; most of it isn’t fantastic, but it certainly is a lot better than a lot of the shit we’ve seen this season. A massive heat wave strikes Springfield, giving us a series of gags, a fair amount of them hitting their marks. Homer of course plugs in one thing too many, causing a town-wide blackout, which of course results in a massive riot, filled with looting and destruction. The police force, of course, are of absolutely no help. Among those affected is Lisa, whose Malibu Stacey dolls are stolen, and Homer vows to get them back. Him standing up for Lisa kind of feels like “Hungry, Hungry Homer,” except it works better here because it fits in with the story more cohesively, and returning stolen items makes more sense than getting one stupid piece from a Blocko set that is purposely left out of each set.

Feeling the rush of doing good, Homer decides to start his own home security company SpringShield, with Lenny and Carl as his fellow officers. Unqualified and ignorant? But of course, but they soon become the most trusted protectors in Springfield. How? I’m not entirely sure. We don’t really have any scenes of the three working or doing anything. Homer returns the items he stole from Flanders, we see their commercial, then we see them basking in the town’s glory. It’s like there are scenes missing of them actually doing their job and earning their accolades. So much material left unfulfilled, of them getting tip-offs and information, working the beat, scoping out crimes… instead we just skip ahead to Quimby outing Wiggum and handing over the precinct to SpringShield. After one last bust, Springfield is declared crime-free. How did Homer do all this? Later he comments how he actually wasn’t lazy and incompetent for once in his life, but we never really see why or how. The story could have had more resonance if we saw something like Homer’s passion for assisting the downtrodden made him really good at his job, but even then that seems so alien to the lazy oafish Homer we love, but it would have been something, at least.

Said last bust was Fat Tony and his associates, who for some reason are trying to pass off ferrets as poodles with cotton balls. Though he had been taken to jail the scene before, Tony announces over the radio that he intends to mow down Homer the next day, and calls in his fellow mobsters from Jersey to assist. You can see where this is going: a Sopranos parody! This marks a first for the show: “parodying” a currently popular show/movie/whatever. And when I say “parody,” I mean just duplicate. They have Tony driving to the Simpson house a la the Sopranos opening, with the same music and everything… but it’s not really a parody. It’s just them doing the Sopranos opening, there’s no commentary on it or satire, it’s just a reference. Something I vehemently decry a show like Family Guy doing, this show has been doing quite a lot of for the most recent decade or so. So Homer faces down seven armed gangsters, how does he get out of it? A random gunman disarms them all! Who was it? Sweet little Maggie, armed with a rifled up in her bedroom. A pretty sorry deus ex machina, but honestly, after the fiasco ending of “The Frying Game,” anything looks logical in comparison. As ridiculous of a premise as it was, I still think this one could have worked, but it just kind of fell apart as it went along.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Because FOX is very silly, I remember they dubbed “Frying Game” as the season finale, then aired this one on Wednesday as a special “bonus” episode. Might as well have aired them on the same night.
– After so many instances in a row seeing him weak and wimpy, it’s a breath of fresh air to get a classic Burns line, when Quimby asks him if his plant can handle the recent surge in power use (“We’ve siphoned off extra power from the orphanage. Who are they going to complain to? Their parents?”)
– I always laugh at Homer’s panicked “Jingle Bell what?!” when the power goes out and the Santa robot stops his song mid-verse.
– I like the bit of Lenny and Carl talking on the phones to each other and colliding their cars, but then it’s dampened by them just getting out with no reaction and resolving to just up and start stealing shit.
– I love the Kent Brockman/Arnie Pye feud (“This city has exploded in a fireball of pent up rage!” “I think what the viewers want to know, Arnie, is my house okay?” “You mean is your giant castle okay, Kent?!” “Don’t hate me because I bought at the right time, Arnie!” “When’s my right time, Kent? When’s my right time?!”)
– At the wake of the riot, Quimby announces the formation of a blue ribbon committee, which immediately placates the crowd and they all leave. I guess that’s the joke, since the committee is never heard of or mentioned again, but maybe like a contented smirk from Quimby at the end would have sold it better.
– There’s a shocking amount of classic Homer here, with him actually acknowledging that he did something wrong and wanting to do something about it. I love his back-and-forth with the Wooly Bully owner (“You sell hats?” “Yeah.” “To people?” “Maybe.” “People with heads?” “Sometimes.”) Then Jimbo walks right into his clutches in the most convenient of ways (“You’re going to juvie.” “But I just got out of juvie!” “Good, because I need directions.”)
– Classic bit with Apu’s silent alarm (“SILENT ALARM ACTIVATED!”)
– Homer plows through a long list of his previous occupations as a goof, and of course about eighty percent of them are from the last five seasons.
– The commercial’s got some good lines in it (“Have no fear! SpringShield’s present!” “Monster put in wallet.”) I also like Homer and Marge’s commentary after it (“You know, the old lady’s apartment was actually Lenny’s. We just used a different duvet cover.” “Well they’re both lovely.”)
– Homer pleading for help at the church, Lenny and Carl locking themselves in jail, the whole third act just feels very haphazard. It just doesn’t feel right, I dunno…
– As dumb as it is, part of me kind of likes Maggie shooting the mobsters. For one thing, it’s a large callback to when Homer leaves his gun in Maggie’s crib from “Mom and Pop Art,” though if that episode hadn’t existed, it wouldn’t affect this one at all. I also like Homer’s comment “She’s just like Clark Kent. When there’s lots of excitement, she’s nowhere to be found.”

Season 13 Final Thoughts
So after slogging through some of the worst episodes to come out of the Scully tenure, we move onto Al Jean’s reign, and any hope that he might elevate the series in quality a bit was pretty much dashed instantaneously. In fact, the show may have even shifted down a bit. As bad as Scully shows were, at least they had a distinct tone and feel to them. The Jean episodes all feel like a wash of attempted sentiment, self-reference and characters being yammering joke boxes. The cast continues to feel less like real people and more as caricatures, spewing lines that feel written instead of natural, the comedy is more broad and punchy, and the stories are completely lazy, and worse disregarded altogether at times. I was shocked at the sloppy nature of a lot of these episodes, I mean these people should be professionals writing this show, but there will not only be gaping plot holes, but openly pointing out the plot holes and laughing at the audience about it. I’ve basically given up any hope of a return to form; at the very least when I expect from these seven seasons left is for an average level of humor, but even that I’m feeling I’m asking too much.

The Best
“Half-Decent Proposal,” “Tales From the Public Domain,” “I Am Furious (Yellow)”

The Worst
“The Parent Rap,” “Homer the Moe,” “A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love,” “Brawl in the Family,” “The Frying Game” I guess I’ll also give “Gump Roast” a (dis)honorable mention as well.

290. The Frying Game

(originally aired May 19, 2002)
As of late, this show has seemed to be very unconcerned whether its stories contain little things like logic, or sense, or cohesion, or reason. Certain elements or plot turns of recent episodes are so baffling that the writers couldn’t have not noticed them; they must have figured they were funny and wanted you to laugh at them. But this is the grand motherfucking daddy of them all, the ultimate batshit insane episode, with a plot that is so convoluted and ridiculous, all leading up to the most insulting cop-out ending I’ve ever seen. So let’s jump right into this fuck fest. Homer buys Marge a koi pond, which ends up being the chosen habitat for an annoying little creature called the screamapillar (three guesses what it does.) An EPA agent informs the family they have to care for it, as it is an endangered species. How does he show up? He just appears out from behind a far-too-thin tree. This has happened previously with Fat Tony in “Grift of the Magi,” but at least there, it worked a little since Tony is a shady character waiting for opportunity to rear its head. The EPA agent just shows up in the backyard, and then again landing with a giant fucking helicopter in the middle of the night. Who is this guy? What is happening?

Homer accidentally crushes the annoying bug, and ends up serving community service, specifically Meals on Wheels. On the job, he builds a report with a nice old lady Mrs. Bellamy, who ends up being an emotionally manipulative woman who turns Homer and Marge into her servants. This turn… makes no sense, and is so totally sudden since there’s so much shit to cram into this show. She calls Homer at work for a favor, then the next scene we see he’s been run ragged, Marge goes to talk with her and she exposes her true colors. Then all of a sudden Homer and Marge are in fucking maid outfits in her house. Why? They initially don’t want to be rude to this nice old lady, but it soon became very clear that she’s a using bitch, so what’s keeping them there? One night, Mrs. Bellamy is stabbed, and Homer and Marge witness the killer escaping. But with her will recently being changed to leave them her inheritance, they are quickly made top suspects. After killing time with Homer abusing the fact that people think he’s a murderer, police search the Simpson house, and after finding Mrs. Bellamy’s diamond necklace, Homer and Marge are arrested.

So here’s the thing. As far as this episode goes with this, the audience knows Homer and Marge won’t be put to death, or get life in prison, nothing bad will happen. We know this, but on the same coin, the character don’t. Think back to “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish,” where Homer was going to die, and it’s treated with a tone to match, but still managed to be hilarious and fantastic. Here, Homer doesn’t seem the least bit worried about anything, since he’s being his wacky cartoon self. The only point in which he gets saddened is on the walk to the electric chair, though really only because they wanted to do a Green Mile parody. The foreman of the jury cracks a joke with Judge Snyder, the Catholic priest and Lovejoy have a fist fight, Homer pressures his wife to have sex between prison bars… the story isn’t treated with a lick of seriousness or care whatsoever. If none of the characters care about their situation, then why should we? But here comes the ending… Homer’s in the chair, the switch is thrown… and it turns out it was all a ruse, the whole thing was being filmed for a wacky FOX reality show, “Frame-Up.” And nobody knew about it. The questions are endless: how did no one notice any cameras? What kind of magic full-body suit did Carmen Electra wear to make her look like an old woman? Did they infiltrate the police force and the jury system to get the desired results for their program? And on top of that, wouldn’t Homer, Marge and everyone else have to sign agreements allowing FOX to use their likenesses on television? After this whole charade, you think anyone would be receptive to that? They’d have shot all that footage, wasted all that time, all for shit they can’t use. But maybe it could have worked. The episode would have been just as insulting, but they could have had Homer decry the producers for manipulating with people’s lives like he does here, then when one of them shoves a contract under his nose saying he’ll be on TV, he signs up immediately. They do it kind of with Wiggum, but in the capacity of explaining how bullshit the ending was and try to sweep it under the rug. But with Homer it would work since he was the most affected. Instead we’ll just have him stare at Electra’s breasts. Hysterical. Mind-numbingly awful from start to finish, I hereby dub thee the newest worst episode ever.

Tidbits and Quotes
– When Lenny and Carl ask him for advice on marriage, Homer rattles off some joke answers off the top of his head (“Surprise her with a pasta salad! Put a mini beret on your wang!”) And now that’s all I can picture… Goddammit.
– All the screamapillar stuff is so annoying… I mean, outside the screaming. It’s such a convoluted and stupid way to get Homer doing community service. But then you think about the ending and think, well, did FOX plant the screamapillar there to get the ball rolling? At what point did this whole plot begin? Then I stop thinking about it because my head hurts. Then the bug appears in court with a neck brace, and again at Homer’s execution, laughing hysterically. Because of course bugs can do that. Fuck. I did like Homer being charged with “attempted insecticide and aggravated buggery,” a nice subtly dirty joke for once.
– Homer’s stuck doing Meals on Wheels. First up, the home of Crazy Old Man. Except he lives in the Retirement Castle, right? Well why should we come up with a new old character to use in a twenty second scene when we can use one of our regulars? Nobody will notice. Or care. And if you do, then you can suck it.
– The first act break is the biggest fucking cheat. Homer hides in the closet and finds a skeleton there. An actual, physical skeleton. Then after the break, Bellamy reveals it’s just a costume, like it’s a fully shirt and pants with a skeleton just painted on. But it was an actual fucking skeleton. We just saw it. People watch this shit before they put it on the air, right? And Bellamy using a gigantic axe to cut through her steak is just absolutely insulting. What about a big knife? Just… whatever.
– Mrs. Bellamy is voiced by Cloris Leachman, and then later is exposed to be Carmen Electra, who not only is wearing the world’s most convincing prosthetics, but deserves an Emmy (in-universe) for her work here. She sounds just like that old lady! Now, here’s a thought: why don’t we get an actress, who can be well-known, but who can do a convincing old lady voice. That way when you do your ridiculous reveal, at least I can meet you halfway. But no, that’s too much work, let’s just do more stunt casting
– The scene where Homer gets Burns to cover for him is just dreadful. Burns as a character is essentially dead to me. Who was once a convincing and compelling villain is now just a cheap joke, much like every other character now.
– Even the simple jokes don’t make sense anymore. Marge informs Homer of the chores he hasn’t finished, like filling up the aquarium. We see the fish tanks is overflowing with a fish clinging on for dear life. So… no one could have just turned off that hose? Ridiculous.
– So Mrs. Bellamy has some guests over for an old lady get-together: Agnes Skinner, Mrs. Glick and the wealthy dowager. Again, we’ll just use all the old ladies we have at our disposal, regardless of what sense it makes. Bellamy is openly a mean old witch at this point. Agnes makes sense to be there, and maybe even the dowager, but kindly old Mrs. Glick laughing derisively at Skinner? I don’t see it.
– Exposing Wiggum’s pathetic attempts at interrogation, Homer contently says, “Book ’em, Lou!” So Lou puts Wiggum in handcuffs and leads him out. This is fucking crap, Lou’s supposed to be the competent cop, why is this happening? If it were the reverse, maybe I would buy it, but this crap don’t work.
– Every scene here makes no sense. Here’s a perfect example. At Moe’s, everyone is talking about how shocked they are at Homer being a murderer. Homer walks in, haphazardly saying he’d “kill” for a beer. Seeing Moe quickly and nervously give him one, he decides to abuse this privilege and get more stuff out of fear. Now this is an alright set-up, albeit a little dickish from Homer, but it works because it comes from the characters acting somewhat genuine. Then we have this (“Give me some peanuts!” “Ah, ah! You didn’t say you’d kill me!”) Now that the writers have made the characters acknowledge the bit, the scene is ruined, since it’s not real anymore. This happens all the time. Is it that hard to understand?
– Wiggum personally searches through all of Marge’s underwear, so I guess he’s a pervert now. I don’t like that.
– I briefly mentioned all the shit leading up to the ending, and the ending itself, and I really don’t feel like talking about it anymore. It’s really the biggest middle finger the writers have ever given to the audience, like “The Great Money Caper” times a thousand. But before that, we have the only good bit in the entire episode, where Wiggum tells a scared Homer who’s strapped in the electric chair (“Chin up, Homer. We gotta put an electrode there to ground the brain stem. Thank you.”) The only laugh I got this whole show. One small pearl in a sea of shit, I guess.

289. Little Girl in the Big Ten

(originally aired May 12, 2002)
There seemed to be potential in this premise… but ultimately it went unfulfilled, thanks to some lapses in logic and an unusually irrelevant third act. And a filled B “plot” didn’t help either. In order to not fail gym, Lisa must take classes with an outside coach. Here we get the return of Coach Lugash, who is hands-down the best thing in this episode. I love Castallaneta’s loud, boisterous read as he’s screaming at little girls that they’re going to be killed by poisonous snakes. I’m all for yelling at children, it’s comedic gold. So Lisa is in class with two other girls, who she discovers have intellectual hobbies, and then after that discovers are in college. Now, Lisa’s eight years old, let’s say she’s around four foot. These other girls are maybe about a foot taller than her, so I guess they could pass for extremely petite adults. But them mistaking Lisa, a child, as a college student? I just don’t see it. Plus, in the class, Lisa asks Lugash if she’ll be able to pass gym with the girls standing right there. The fact that she is in elementary school had to come up at some point during all of this. It’s a big leap, but strangely not the worst of this show’s issues.

So Lisa starts passing herself off as a college student to keep her new friends, sneaking off during school to ingraciate herself on campus. She also seems to sit in during lectures, which also is possible. But then they make jokes that the one girl cheated off Lisa’s test and that she got sixteen credits, how is that possible? She’s not registered for any classes, she wouldn’t be able to do that. Maybe since I’m sure Springfield University isn’t so well functioning, she managed to trick some teachers into getting her name on their attendance sheets or something. But that would have been interesting and amusing to see! Instead we have time filler with Bart in a plastic bubble, a temporary health measure when he contracts panda virus from a Chinese mosquito. Then it just becomes a cartoon, with various over-the-top gags involving the bubble. Bart is apprehensive and embarassed by the bubble in the first scene, but then after that he’s as cocky as ever, and even has developed a catch phrase for himself as new savior for nerds on the playground. All in all, it’s more time I wish we had devoted to the Lisa story, as it actually had… y’know, a purpose.

Milhouse notices Lisa sneaking out during recess, and he, Martin and Database go follow her. They find her in a lecture hall, and call her out on being a kid, exposing her charade to everyone, including Lisa’s new friends. This is the end of act two. Alright, to me, this feels like “Summer at 4 Ft. 2,” where Lisa gets new friends pretending like she’s someone she’s not, and in the end must be true to herself, and that’s what her friends liked about her in the first place. Do we see the two girls in the third act? Nope. Doesn’t really matter, since they’re not even characters. But one scene of them maybe still being bitter and not wanting to hang out with a kid would have been worth it. Does Lisa feel vindictive toward Milhouse for ruining her ruse? Nope. So what is the third act? Lisa feels ostracized from the other kids at school and wants to fit in again. Now… when did she fit in to begin with? Lisa’s an outcast from everyone else, that’s her role in the show. She never was accepted before. So Bart lends Lisa his bubble to play a prank on Skinner, and she’s celebrated by the kids, and everything is alright. What? Now, this might have worked if actually set up right. Maybe it’s like “Lard of the Dance” where Lisa realizes she has so many short years to stay a kid and decides to indulge in childish pranks and hold off on college for a while, and then the ending makes sense. But instead it’s all from Lisa’s sadness of kids mocking her for being smart, which they already did anyway. This episode could have been worthwhile, but ultimately ended up kind of… shit.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I’m not sure if we saw Mrs. Pommelhorst before this, but I kind of like the character, a burly, butch, no nonsense gym teacher with a Tress MacNeille voice I can stomach. Later the writers thought it would be hysterical to make multiple jokes about how she was getting a sex change. Get it? Because if you’re a woman and you seem really masculine, that means you want to get a sex change!
– To convince her to take Lugash’s class, Lisa has a hallucination of meeting President Kennedy, convincing her that athletics are just as important as academics. It’s a very confusing and pointless sequence, with the only joke being that Kennedy is in hell, I guess. Biting.
– I love the design on the Krusty poster in the Chinese sweat shop. The sweat shop itself is a bit of an easy joke though.
– Lugash’s explanation of Lisa’s aerodynamic qualities is great (“God give you greatest gift: big head! Like beach ball made of bone! Gives you perfect balance! See you tomorrow! Rest your giant head!”)
– Robert Pinsky guest stars, and does a fine job. Though I think I like the material of the emcee introducing him better (“Now open your minds for the Coltrane of the quatrain, the Tony Danza of the AB stanza!”)
– Lisa comes to campus to find it completely deserted. Turns out everyone’s taking Anthro 101: Passive Analysis of Visual Iconography. The class just watches Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, and projects bullshit messages and meanings to them (“It show show the depletion of our natural resources has pitted our small farmers against each other.” “Yes… and birds go tweet. What else?”)
– I’m surprised they brought back Lisa’s gymnast skills to get her up the tree, and that they even merged the two stories at all in the end. And it all might have worked if they set it up in a way that made sense for Lisa.
– In the end, we get this golden gem from Ralph (“Look! It’s Lisa! And she’s winning us back!”) I can’t express how much I hate this line. Combined with the nonsensical third act turn, it being Ralph saying it, and the complete written nature of the line… it’s fucking awful. It may be my least favorite line in the whole series, though there are probably others that are worse. What’s your least favorite line ever? Send me a message at idontgiveacrap@whocaresyoustupiddipshitasshole.net. Just kidding. Just post a comment.

288. The Sweetest Apu

(originally aired May 5, 2002)
Funny how we got two John Swartzwelder shows in a row; the last one being surprisingly sharp, and this one being… well, the exact opposite. The series has handled the idea of infidelity before in such great episodes as “Life in the Fast Lane” and “The Last Temptation of Homer,” but in this show, Apu actually does commit and have an affair; it’s not so much about the emotional connections Homer and Marge had with others as it is Apu getting his rocks off. It’s a different kind of story, but with serious ground to cover. However, this show is not interested in any of that; the story is treated as callously as possible to make stupid jokes and wrap itself up in a nice status quo bow as clumsily and illogically as possible. There’s a lot I hate about this episode… so let’s begin. One late night, Homer witnesses a shocking sight: Apu canoodling with the Squishee machine vendor after hours in the back room. Marge eventually gets the information out of him, and tells Homer he needs to tell Apu what he saw. Eventually Manjula finds out, and files for divorce soon after.

So there’s not much story here, but that’s fine because it’s dealing with a serious issue that has a lot of avenues to explore between the two characters involved… oh wait, we gotta cram the Simpsons into every frame, right. They’re all over Apu and Manjula’s lives. Where the hell is Sanjay? But surprisingly, I was more annoyed with Marge here than Homer, who spends the whole episode meddling and manipulating to get things to go the way she sees fit. I reminded me of Buck McCoy in “Lastest Gun” when she injected herself into his affairs. It’s a bit different here since the couple are friends of theirs, but her actions go from normal concern to abrasively rude and pushy, for reasons that escape me. When Kirk and Luanne got divorced, at her own party, no less, Marge lamented and stood by Luanne as a “friend” like a normal human being. Here, she’s made it her life’s mission to get Apu and Manjula back together. She randomly appears in their apartment, having trained the octuplets to plead for their father back, which is a one-off gag but has some severely creepy undertones to it. She also has her kids dressed in a crude Ganesh costume commanding them to get back together, which she refers to as “this thing.” How unbelievably offensive must that be to them? I can see Homer dressing up like him and being a buffoon at their wedding, but for Marge to do this? She should have more sense.

Characters continue to act bizarre and alien, and combined with callous jokes about suicide and sex puns, really detract from any serious intentions this episode ever even thought about covering about adultery. I have no idea if they wanted this to be treated with any kind of seriousness whatsoever, because the episode is completely aloof from beginning to end. The biggest indicator is the ending: to come back home and be “forgiven,” Apu must perform a list of tasks for Manjula, which are all jokes, like changing his name to “Slime Q. Slimedog,” and performing “My Fair Lady” with the octuplets. Why should I even bother? But that also presents us with a telltale scene. I’m sure there are others just like it, but it rung completely false and awful with me, and indicative of problems we’ve seen and problems we will continue to see as seasons go on. After the performance of “Lady,” we have this exchange between Homer, Lisa and Bart (“It was magic. He took a cockney flower girl and turned her into My Fair Lady!” “I liked all the roles filled by minority actors.” “Why, I didn’t even notice!”) Those three would never say these lines. These are lines that were written, and then just given to the characters. Even if they were saying it all jokingly, it wouldn’t play right. But that’s what this show is now, characters aren’t really speaking lines that feel true, they’re just spewing jokes and one-liners that don’t feel the least bit natural. And when you’re doing an episode about a dour subject like infidelity, dialogue like that really stands out, especially when the whole episode is full of it. This episode sucks, big time.

Tidbits and Quotes
– This is a nice exchange, and kind of classic bonehead Homer (“Are you sure you don’t want to come, Apu? In a Civil War re-enactment, we need a lot of Indians to shoot!” “…I don’t know which part of that sentence to correct first, but I cannot come.”)
– The Squishee Lady is voiced by… go on, guess! …Tress MacNeille. Is she the only voice actress on the planet now?
– The Civil War re-enactment doesn’t really have any laughs, though I kind of like how they comment how absurd it is in concept (“The Second Battle of Springfield was fought by the North, the South, and the East, to keep Springfield in, out of, and next to the Union respectively.”)
– The end of the first act with Homer walking backwards stunned goes on for faaaaar too long. Then they do it again at the very end with Homer on the ladder, after he had just been spying on Apu and Manjula having sex. When did he become a creepy stalker? First Flanders, now Apu? What a lovable perverted scamp that Homer is.
– The bit during badminton with the repeated sex slang terms might have been amusing, except they bash you over the head with setting it up and pointing at it. Marge comments how they have their game the next day, and very directly points out, “Oh, I hope no one makes any double entendres!” Thanks for setting that up, Marge! Then after every line, they cut to Homer and Marge doing the Charles Nelson Reilly collar tug. Couldn’t they have just let it play? Or do we think the audience is stupid and won’t notice unless we illuminate it with a big sign?
– I’m really not sure why Marge cares for goddamn much about this situation, to the point that she’s sitting on the couch crying watching Apu and Manjula’s wedding tape. She must have known other couples who have broken up in the past, who acts like this other than a crazy person?
– I don’t understand the gag with Homer wanting to involve Krusty in everything. More bizarre, out-of-character “jokes.”
– I guess instead of giving her any semblance of a personality, the Squishee Lady is just a whore. I guess that’s okay for what she represents for the story though. The “Do Me” licorice thing was kind of dumb and crass.
– My favorite bit in the show is Apu’s poorly disguised cover when Manjula asks if he’s hiding anything in bed; it’s just a great performance by Azaria (“How can you even accuse me of repeated infidelity! I’m so angry I could just fall asleep!”) Then he fakes sleeping, with “Completely innocent” muttered under his breath. But then later on the convenience tape, it’s played too far, with Apu during sex doing a Johnny Carson “Mmmm, that’s good adultery!” That’s just kind of… weird.
– The Inside the Actor’s Studio bit with James Lipton is pretty good, except feels like complete padding.
– Why the fuck would Homer and Marge need to tell the kids about Apu and Manjula’s separation? Why would they need to know? Or care? It’s just another desperate excuse to try to shoehorn the Simpsons into this story of which they don’t belong.
– Oh, and an overused Homer quote that I’m tired of, is when he goes into his low voice after a proclamation and goes, “And if they [blank]…” “Yeah! ‘Cause if they don’t…” “How much sex will be involved? ‘Cause if it’s some…” Enough already…
– I get the feeling that the writers don’t like lawyers. Not sure why… Maybe it’s the grossly cartoony lawyer at the start of act three that tipped me off, who laughs maniacally and dances atop his desk in devilish glee. What a pathetic attempt at “commentary.”
– I guess Marge is a pervert now too, wanting desperately to go to a strip club with Manjula. Like husband, like wife, I guess…
– Manjula walks in on Apu with a noose around his neck. Her response? “Oh, Apu, you’re such a drama queen.” That’s right folks, people with suicidal tendencies? They’re just being dramatic. What a bunch of whiners, amiright?
– The whole third act is garbage. Apu completes Manjula’s stupid inane tasks, he moves back in, the two of them are fine, the end. It couldn’t feel any less sincere or meaningful. Or funny.

287. I Am Furious (Yellow)

(originally aired April 28, 2002
Within the first ten seconds of this episode, Skinner introduces Kirk Van Houten as “Bart’s friend’s dad,” and I immediately became annoyed. The writers are in a tough situation: thirteen years on the air is a long time, and these characters, settings, themes and situations are growing long in the tooth. It’s a real challenge to try and keep this show innovative and funny, one I’m not even sure is possible to succeed at. What the writers have loved doing lately is lines like I just mentioned, throwaway, self-referential lines of characters being aware of their place in the show, but they come at a cost of realism. Self-parody works when it’s handled correctly, and actually that’s the main reason I think this episode is mostly a success. This may be just the way I’m reading it, but it’s like they realized how absurd the show had gotten over the years, and written an episode focused around highlighting that point. Even when it goes apeshit in the end, it still feels very aware, and ultimately has a ridiculous, yet satisfying conclusion.

Acclaimed animator Jeff Jinkins (reference to Doug creator Jim Jinkins?) does a speech at the school that get the kids psyched for cartoons, basically making animation sound like a complete children’s fantasy (“This is the easiest job in the world! I spend most of my time eating candy and going to R-rated movies!”) I feel this is the perception of people who work in animation, completely unaware how much fucking work goes into making these damn cartoons. The next day, everyone’s drawing cartoons, basically all rip-offs of Jinkins’ Danger Dog, including Bart. Told he needs to come up with his own character, he draws inspiration for a real-life cartoon: his father. Dubbed ‘Angry Dad,’ the comic goes from playground legend to Internet sensation when Bart is approached to bring Angry Dad to the online cartoon world. The office environment at that business, BetterThanTV.com, is more as Jinkins described, but makes sense there since all those companies went belly-up, for good reason (“How is your company going to make money? Do you have a business model?” “How many shares of stock will it take to end this conversation?” “Two million.” “It is done.”)

But onto the meat of the matter. Homer is completely out of control this episode, screaming like a wild man, gnawing on the arm of the couch like an animal, sporadically catching on fire… The difference is here, it’s all purposeful. More than any other character, Homer has transformed into a complete cartoon of himself, and Bart can think of no one better to model a sloppy drawing of. It’s a pretty smart idea, though again, I’m not sure whether this reading was intended or not. Even when we get to the end with Homer’s anger neck lumps, I find myself not minding, especially with the payoff at the very end. Oh, that reminds me, guest star Stan Lee is great in this, a self-promoting man with a bit of a screw loose. The Incredible Hulk ending only work with him to follow it up and try desperately to transform himself (“Oh please. You couldn’t even turn into Bill Bixby.”) By taking a hard look at the show itself, and also at fucking terrible early Flash cartoons of the day, the series manages to turn out a pretty excellent episode, definitely the best of the season.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Not quite sure why Lisa is with Skinner and Krabappel talking about school business. At some point she just became a de facto faculty member of sorts. It’s different than in “Lard of the Dance” when it was done as a gag, but here it’s just Lisa’s there and we should accept it, since she’s a brainy know-it-all.
– Love the Mr. Blackwell vs. Mr. T bit (“Oh please, I’ve seen nicer chains on a set of snow tires!” “I pity the fool who derives self-esteem out of mocking other people’s clothes!” “I hate myself.”)
– I always love how shitty cartoons are made to look in the Simpsons universe. At times they give Itchy & Scratchy a bit more fluid look, which makes sense given they’re emulating early Tom & Jerry, but Danger Dog just looks like shit. But that’s why it’s great.
– The Q & A with Jinkins is great (“Why does Danger Dog mean more to me than school or church?” “Because those things suck.”) Foreseeing a dangerous outcome, Skinner ends it by pulling the fire alarm, but is still forlorn (“I won’t stand by while you’re glamorizing sass. Now those youngsters will throw their lives away, drawing things that never were.”)
– I like how Marge throws out Little Dot, a comic so lame, that of course she would have loved reading it as a kid. The premise was literally a girl who loved dots. That’s it. And it ran for hundreds of issues. Things were simpler back then…
– It bothers me more than it should that when we see Bart’s notepad, his drawings are all in color, when all he has is a pencil. Couldn’t they have left a note on those shots, “Don’t color this”?
– I love the stupidness of “When Dinosaurs Get Drunk.” Like, what kind of show is this? But it’s interrupted for the wonderfully titled “The Boring World of Niels Bohr.”
– Classic scene of Stan Lee ramming the Thing through Database’s Batmobile (“You broke my Batmobile!” “Broke? Or made it better?”)
– “Bin Laden in a Blender” isn’t as much of a parody of Joe Cartoon, but basically an example of what their cartoons were.
– Why the fuck are Burns and Smithers right next to Lenny and Carl watching Angry Dad in the employee break room? They don’t even speak, no one addresses it, they’re just standing there laughing. Something does not compute here.
– My favorite line from the show comes from one of the Angry Dad cartoons, after reading the newspaper headline, “You Suck, Angry Dad” (“That’s opinion! Not news!!“)
– I’m not so big on the third act turn of Homer mellowing out, but I do like that he does so with the help of horse tranquilizers (Churchill Downers is a fantastic product name.)
– The Hulk ending works because of Stan Lee’s appearance, but beyond that, also as representation of who the character has become at this point, an unpredictable, emotionally unstable monster who used to be a dim and dogged everyman. I’m not entirely sure how he caused ten million dollars in damage, considering we only saw Homer punch a parking meter and a lamp post. Ten million from what? It’s not like he actually had fucking superpowers.

286. Gump Roast

(originally aired April 21, 2002)
Nobody likes clip shows. Nobody. And especially now, they’re such a relic of the past, from a time when not only home video or DVD didn’t exist, but no reruns either. A few short years back, The Office did a clip show, and I was quite confused why the hell they bothered, considering I could watch any past episode with the click of a mouse. So even here in 2002, having a clip show feels so unnecessary. This series has had varying success with them, the best being the very first, “So It’s Come To This,” which managed to stay entertaining and engaging despite itself. But in all of them, even at their clumsiest, they all felt focused and about something. The one about romance, the one with all of the songs, they all revolved around something and had a specific purpose in setting up clips, or at the very least made fun of themselves for the stupidity of the clip show. In this episode, it’s all very clumsy; Homer just randomly starts telling his life’s story to Wiggum on a bench, amongst other random anecdotes, and then is escorted to a roast being held in his honor. …wait, what?

I hate this episode. Even beyond being a clip show, which this is easily the worst, I hate what it represents. We have the entire town take part in this celebrity roast for Homer, yucking it up for the crowd in honoring this buffoon. The show had steadily been pushing the family from being just another household of the town to being the primary focus of all the townspeople, and this one just locks it in. Even if it’s not technically canon, it still emphasizes this point. Everyone from Krusty to Mr. Burns is honoring Homer for being a moronic, selfish, insane sociopath. And most of the clips are from recent seasons, so it’s not even worth watching for them. Then the show decides to get even more insane by adding Kang and Kodos, and at that point I’m just desperately waiting for it to end. Then we end with the only inspired point in the whole show, the “They’ll Never Stop the Simpsons” song, which listening to it now feels less like self-depricating and more like a threat. They’ll never stop this show. Ever. And that’s a harrowing thought to have after such a dismal clip show. At least they apologized for it. If only it were enough…

Tidbits and Quotes
– It’s pretty jarring when they jump from a season 2 clip to a season 11; there’s just so much difference, not just in the animation and look, but also in tone and quality. It’s like flipping back and forth between two different shows, which in a way, it kind of is…
– While reminiscing about the family car, Homer remembers the time he stole Moe’s car. I guess that’s just the general vehicular memories clip package. I guess nobody could be bothered to give a shit on this one.
– Krusty asks Homer, “Do you remember this voice?” Homer’s had barely any involvement with Krusty, it’s not like he’s his old friend. But that’s just it, Homer’s beloved by everybody in town for some reason. But why? Why? Oh, and another motherfucking joke about Homer hating giving money to charity. This is at least the fifth time they’ve done this “gag.” When will it end? And when will I stop using italics?
– This is probably the most painful episode I’ve had to sit through so far. And I did fast-forward through all the clips. They throw out lines as jokes (“A lot of people think our dad’s behavior has screwed us up. And it has!”) but, really, with some of the insane shit Homer’s pulled over the years, I’m sure it has emotionally scarred Bart and Lisa. And they’re honoring him. Same with Burns claiming how Homer’s ineptitude at work has endangered all their lives with great laughter from the crowd. That they would even make an episode like this, even in jest as a clip show like this, kind of trivializes the series and any seriousness it ever tried to have in the past.

Just a quick scheduling note, I’m trying to get a consistent posting routine going from this point out. Reviews will be up Monday through Friday, because usually when I get to five episodes in a row, I need a bit of a breather. Then Sunday I’ll have a new movie review up on my DreamWorks blog, this weekend The Road to El Dorado. I only threw this one together pretty quickly since there’s not much to say about it, and also because now I’ll be done with the season next week. One more down the drain!

285. Weekend at Burnsie’s

(originally aired April 7, 2002)
While “Blame It On Lisa” got all the controversy, FOX executives were much more worried about this episode featuring Homer using medical marijuana. They were very dodgy at what they could and could not do, especially on the point that they couldn’t actually show Homer actually smoking, so I guess it wouldn’t be teaching kids exactly how¬†to do it. The episode kind of talks about the benefits of medicinal weed and the legalization of the drug; there are several different interesting avenues this show could have gone down regarding this topic. Not that I’m expecting any meaty, serious discussion on the matter, just an comedic perspective on the issue. Or we could just have Homer become a stereotypical stoner and make jokes off of that. A big chunk of this episode is basically the most hacky hack material one could write for a stoner character, and it couldn’t feel more lazy. Add on a truly bizarre third act that serves only to make the parody title make sense and you get a very strange episode.

Following our first act wherein Homer gets his eyes viciously attacked by crows, Dr. Hibbert prescribes him medical marijuana to cure what ails him. After some brief hesitation, Homer eventually tokes up and spends the entire second act high as a kite, with his pupils doubled in size and a permanently glazed look in his eyes. What shenanigans does he get up to? Listening to Lisa’s saxophone for hours, laughing at everything, watching the Three Stooges in the attic with fellow pothead Otto, it’s the easiest material you can possibly come up with. And it all just feels so removed from Homer, I began to stop thinking him as himself for the second half of the act, which would have worked as the point if the rest of the episode was truly focused on him going cold turkey and sticking with it. Homer springs into action when anti-marijuana legislation threatens to harsh his mellow, so he arranges a pot rally. And he got Phish to play at the benefit! How? Doesn’t matter. But here’s the kicker. Turns out the vote for the proposition was the day before! They were so stoned they forgot what day it was! What a hilarious twist! Of all the hacky, pathetic shit this episode, hell, this season, this is the most uninspired comedic “twist” I’ve ever seen. The lack of originality is staggering.

So with pot banned, Homer is stuck living clean and sober, relenting to Marge in promising the kids he’ll never do drugs again. There’s a disheartening undercurrent here though, similar to “Jaws Wired Shut,” where people yearn for the status quo for reasons that even they can’t justify (Lisa comments, “I want the old Dad back, the one who was yelling all the time, and… you know, I’m not really sure what I want…”) He may have been dodgy and slightly off, but stoned Homer is a lot more bearable than wild, out-of-control regular Homer. But anyway, his penchant for laughing at everything got him promoted by Burns, who needs someone to yuck it up at all his zingers during his upcoming investor’s meeting. However, without dope, Homer is unable to laugh on cue, and unable to smoke the stuff, he has Smithers do it instead. But the two lose track of time while Burns is in the tub, and find the old man lifeless. And the investor’s meeting is in twenty minutes! What to do? Pull a Weekend at Bernie’s, and have Smithers work a super complicated marionette routine with Burns’ corpse, which for some reason works flawlessly, and revives Burns in the end. Even though it’s set up in act two, the ending is so jarringly out of place; it has nothing to do with Homer redeeming himself in any way. But, whatever, I should be used to this shit making no sense by now. So yeah, uninspired and clumsy, and for a show about such a risque topic, it sure did play it safe.

Tidbits and Quotes
– As if marijuana wasn’t enough, the beginning of the show takes on genetically modified foods. With the joke being that the food has become sentient. Not bad, but it’s a joke that takes three times the length as it really should.
– The Pop-Up video stuff with all of the old Simpsons artifacts is kind of clever. Not to be detrimental, but that’s as high praise as I can give it.
– Homer and the crows is kind of bizarre. The only thing I like is this exchange with Marge (“I’m very uncomfortable having a gang of crows in our bedroom.” “It’s a murder, honey. A group of crows is called a ‘murder‘”)
– We get a flashback to Homer’s traumatic experience with pot. Hiding a toke from the cops in his underwear, a police dog sniffs it and bites his groin, whipping him back and forth. Hysterical.
– I like Lisa commenting the smoked up house smells like the art teacher’s office.
– Homer is slightly cruel to Lisa making her play until the wee hours of the morning, but at least he’s paying her. Better than when he forced her to cut lemons for his garage bar that he didn’t even use. Again, I’d much rather have stoned Homer than insane regular Homer.
– We have more strangely out-of-character Burns in this show. He self-admittedly pissed away $60 million? On what? Why? He’s a responsible business mogul, how does that happen? And he’s so concerned about his jokes going over big, where’s the heartless, humorless miser? Burns is now almost adorable, where he was once a compelling antagonist.
– The only Homer stoner line I laughed at was this bit (“I got news for you! I just got promoted and it’s all thanks to Yes-I-Cannabis! …we have a kitchen?!”)
– Phish is basically another in the long list of expendable guest stars, but I do enjoy their music, so I got no beef with them. And I like the guy initially misreading “pothead” in introducing Homer on stage.
– The police start a marijuana bonfire after the banning, but inadvertently creates an alluring smoke. They dump some barber hair on top to mask it. At home, Homer bemoans the situation (“I could have smoked that pot! And worn that hair!”)
– The scene at Moe’s, the bit at the dinner table, it’s obvious that the writers really had no material for Homer going cold turkey, so I guess that’s why they fell back on the Burns thing. I guess it’s like Homer having to brave through a situation without using drugs… except not, because Smithers came up with the Burns dummy idea. And do I even need to comment on how the Burns dummy rig makes no sense and how no way in hell Smithers could pull that off? But as ridiculous as it was, I do like Homer very nonchalantly pushing Burns’ head behind the curtain and playing him off Elvis-style (“Mr. Burns has left the building!”)