Category Archives: Season 13

284. Blame It On Lisa

(originally aired March 31, 2002)
Vacation episodes have pretty much gone to hell at this point; they’re more or less just an excuse to string together unrelated scenes of the Simpsons exploring their new environment and how wacky things are overseas. Oh, and sometimes there’s a plot in there too. Well unlike “Simpson Safari” or “Kill the Alligator and Run,” this show actually does have a story, and despite there being a fair amount of crap here, I actually like how they resolve the main plot and how it’s set up through the episode. So a $400 phone bill forces Lisa to fess up that she’s been sponsoring a poor little orphan boy named Ronaldo in Brazil. When she stopped receiving letters back from him, she tried calling the orphanage but they didn’t know where he was either. Upon seeing video of the precious little scamp, the Simpson family agrees they have to go to Brazil and find him. This is more or less as flimsy as a catalyst as “The Bart Wants What It Wants,” and how the family is able to afford to travel is basically hand waved. But whatever, the Simpsons are going to Brazil!

Act two is basically just them searching the town for this kid, which gives us all of our Brazil jokes. A fair amount of them actually are funny, like the risque children’s show (“Bert and Ernie left it to your imagination,”) the Brazilian relative of the “Yeesss!” guy, Homer and Bart on the beach, and the samba school, hard at work on their new dance, the Penetrada (“It will make sex look like church!”) But these are just isolated bits, the through-line of finding Ronaldo really doesn’t matter. The plot could have been anything; it’s just an excuse to get them to a foreign country. Now this kind of thing worked in “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo,” but the joke ratio was much higher there, so it got away with it. Here we also have some randomly jerky things by Homer like jumping on a nun’s back, commanding her to fly, and admitting to taking off his wedding ring whilst on vacation. We also have Bart inexplicably pointing out famous Brazilian landmarks (“It’s Copacabana Beach!” “It’s Carnivale!”) This happened in “Safari” too, it’s like they can’t figure out what to do with Bart in these vacation episodes, so they just throw him random lines.

Let’s get what I like about act three out of the way. It’s revealed that Ronaldo got a job puppeteering a giant flamingo in the kid’s show we saw earlier. It’s not exactly like you could figure out the “mystery,” but between that, and also earlier showing the dancing shoes he was able to buy with Lisa’s donations, it was subtly set up so the payoff is satisfying. It’s surprisingly competent in a season of such shit writing, that’s for sure. But most of the act revolves around Homer getting kidnapped, which is just very dull and silly. What I find is that when characters don’t treat a situation seriously, then there’s no reason we should. Bart very casually mentions the horrifying situation to Marge, Homer seems nonplussed by everything, as do the kidnappers at some point. Why even have this story if you’re not going to treat it seriously in any way. Why should we care? Ronaldo gives them the ransom money, they do the drop high in the sky on cable cars, Homer leaps onto the family’s car, causing it to plummet down a mountain side in a horrible wreck, but they’re totally fine and unbruised. And Bart gets eaten by a snake. And then that’s the end. I was surprised at how much I actually liked here, but the real lack of an interesting story and ridiculous third act keep me from giving this one just an ‘eh’ on average. Eh.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Some quick bits at the phone company pad the episode. I guess sentient robot switchboard operators exist in this universe. And though it was an easy joke, I like the telemarketer taking it gravely personal when he gets hung up on.
– Man, the writers fucking love Lindsay Naegle, and apparently now she’s both an alcoholic and a sexual predator.
– Homer getting shocked up the telephone pole is like the perfect scene showing the comedic leanings of later seasons: Homer gets hurt and is dumb and is funny. I remember way back when the show was up for Emmy consideration, this was the clip they used. …or maybe it was the Kids Choice Awards. One of the two, I always get them mixed up.
– Ronaldo kind of looks like a grown-up Pepi from “Brother From the Same Planet.”
– This episode is kind of notorious in that Brazil got really pissed at the representation of their country, mostly in relying on inaccurate stereotypes, like having characters speak in Spanish accents and mixing up their culture with other Latin American countries. I don’t blame them, really. If you’re going to parody something, at least do it right. But like most ignorant Americans, I don’t know jack spit about Brazil, so I didn’t notice.
– I like the two pilots (“The local temperature in Rio de Janeiro is hot, hot, hot, with a hundred percent chance of passion!” “Ronaldo, you make that joke every time!” “It was that joke that made you fall in love with me.”)
– Homer kicking his suitcase yelling, “Look at me, I’m Brazilian!” echoes “Look at me, I’m a scientist!” from “Simpson Safari.” Neither are funny.
– 13-year-old me really loved those Teleboobies segments. I’d love to see an entire show of that… for research purposes.
– The only bit with the kidnappers I like is when Homer’s trying to get the money. With the $1200 the family can scrounge up, Homer runs off a chart of what they’ll get (“That’ll buy you one of my legs, or something they call a Mystery Bag!”) He calls up Burns, who, high on sheep embryos, is willing to pay him if he can work it off. Homer promptly hangs up. A call with Moe only gets Homer owing fifty more grand, and a call to Flanders asking for a hundred grand gets him nowhere (“Well I don’t really have that much, but if you need it that bad, you’ll be in my prayers.” “Go suck a Bible!”) The quick pacing of the calls makes it even funnier.
– I don’t quite understand why Marge and the kids are standing right in the middle of the Carnivale parade, or why the fuck they’re just standing there dancing while Homer could be dead at the bottom of the Amazon.
– Ironic that Marge comments how a music cue is making light of the tense situation, when meanwhile the episode has done nothing but make light of the kidnapping “subplot.”
– The ending is very bizarre. After the cable car crash lands and no one even has a scratch on them, Homer gives the moral lesson of the episode… I guess? (“I learned that no matter how bad I screw up, you’ll always bail me out.”) Where did this come from? And this is a good lesson? Homer can be as ignorant and careless as he wants because the family will clean up the mess for him. It’s so out of left field I can’t even be mad at it. And I don’t even have time to settle before we see Bart eaten by a snake. I then remembered we’d seen this before to comic effect in “‘Round Springfield,” but there it’s actually funny.

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283. Tales From the Public Domain

(originally aired March 17, 2002)
Whelp, here’s another three-story episode. Hands down it’s my favorite of the three so far, and I’d even say I really liked the episode, despite my usually blaze feeling about these types of shows. Most of the jokes hit their marks and each story had an interesting twist to me, either by their casting or a mild subversion to the classic tale. Homer uncovers a long overdue library book of classic stories for children, and decides now is as good a time as any to read to his kids. First is Homer’s Odyssey, starring… Homer. I like it right off the bat, since I love the original story. Brave soldier Odysseus must get back to his beloved wife after the Trojan War, but must traverse through a number of dangerous islands and frightening creatures. I’d have been fine if this were the entire episode, since the story is so rich with set pieces. They condensed it well enough with just having them visit Circe, so they did the best they could with the six minutes they had. A funny, clever segment based on one of my favorite stories, a very good start, I’d say.

Next is probably my favorite of the three, with Lisa as Joan of Arc, leading the French army to victory during the Hundred Year Way. There’s a real silliness to all of it, with the handling of God, the ridiculous tactics of the army before Joan shows up, the unfazed attitude of the British army, but then you also have some choice brutal moments like King Milhouse having court jester Krusty boiled in oil (“What, so no 10:30 show?”) The best part comes at the end where God is summoned into court to testify for Lisa, but then Brit Willie speaks up saying that the Almighty told him to lead the English to victory. Caught in his own web, God gets flustered and leaves. I just love that idea; in all wars, each side believes they have God on their side and they’re on the righteous path, so maybe it’s like God doesn’t want to play favorites, but here he actually gets caught. Last is the story of Hamlet, starring Bart as he plans to avenge the death of his father by offing his killer, his uncle Claudius (Moe) who has taken the throne and married his mother. Moe is truly the star of this one, a completely lecherous despicable man, who doesn’t even try to hide his sleaziness. Especially at the end when he dummy proofs his final battle with Hamlet by painting poison on everything in the room. It’s all just so silly. Usually I can’t think of much to say about these shows, but this is definitely the funniest episode this season. Maybe these three-story shows have potential after all…

Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer inexplicably has photos in the living room of O.J. Simpson and his rental minivan. Kind of bizarre.
– Flanders as the King of Troy is great, coy and not wanting to offend (“We hope you don’t have a horse!” “Well… I don’t have one from you.”) Then we get the great line: “Now throughout history, when people get wood, they’ll think of Trojans!” This works as a good dirty joke, similar to Kent Brockman’s “golden showers” line, where the character is unaware of the double meaning of his saying. It gets stepped on a little bit with cutting back to Homer giggling, almost poking the audience in case they missed it, but I do like how childish Homer is about it.
– Captain McAllister as Poseideon is basically perfect (“Yarrr, I’ll send him far! …off course.”)
– Nice drunken chit chat on the boat (“Greece is the word!” “Is it vase (vey-se) or vase (vah-se)?” “You gonna be asking that the whole trip?”)
– Discus Stu hitting on Bart is also an acceptable dirty joke, since we all know how Ancient Greeks felt about their little boys…
– The River Styx bit seems like a bit of an easy joke, but I still laughed. The best is a skeleton in the background taking off its shirt, flashing its non existent chest on some poor schmuck’s shoulders.
– Wonderful bit with Helen of Troy, played by Agnes Skinner, who’s doing Phyllis Diller (“This is the face that launched a thousand ships… the other way!”)
– More easy jokes, but hey, they still work (“God wants you to lead the French army to what?” “Victory.” “Victory? We’re French! We don’t even have a word for it!”)
– I’m all for an episode with a little girl repeatedly stabbing soldiers. And Lisa’s war helmet customized to the spikes on her head is just adorable.
– Great line from Lisa (“Let us kill the English! Their concept of individual rights could undermine the power of our beloved tyrants!”) Basically undercuts the entire story, but that’s what makes it great.
– God appears on the witness stand… somehow, then Willie calls him a “two-timing spot of light.” Then when he leaves, his angelic music runs backwards and the ceiling hatch shuts behind him. I don’t know if I’ve laughed harder at a beam of light leaving a building.
– Bart tries to perform a soliloquy, but Moe ends up hearing him and decides to do one of his own (“Note to self: kill that kid.”)
– The “poison” in this episode being a unidentified green substance is great, especially at the end when Moe’s just painting it on everything, including Rosencrantz (Carl) and Guildenstern (Lenny). When Moe’s representative in the ring Ralph stabs himself with his first shot (“Boy, did I bet on the wrong horse,”) he tries to fall back on the poison (“You sure you don’t want a nice piece of fish, or to finger the drapes a little?”)
– There’s only one thing I hate about this episode: the ending. What… in… God’s name was that. They must have had nothing for the longest time, and then eventually slapped that on there. But it makes absolutely no sense, why would Homer gets Ghostbusters out of that story? It had Homer’s ghost going through the wall like Slimer, but that’s such a small joke in the episode, and wouldn’t have come through in the actual story he was reading. There are plenty of ways this episode could have ended, and I’m sure a room full of writers could have come up with something… anything besides whatever the fuck this ending was. But a good episode with a bad thirty-second ending is a lot better than the reverse.

282. The Old Man and the Key

(originally aired March 10, 2002)
I normally don’t like to directly compare to old episodes, since it’s pretty unfair to compare a piece of crap to a bar of gold, but if you’re going to retread old ground story wise, I’m going to be reminded of the goods times of memory’s past. Grampa has a retirement home romance, so of course I’m going to think of “Old Money,” and goddamn is there ever a stark difference. But let’s get one thing out of the way first. We need to get the Simpsons to visit Grampa, so how can we do it? Have them think he’s dead. It’s something that we the audience know can’t be true, but the thing is that the characters do, and scenes must be treated as such. It’s fine that the home has people informed of their father’s death by recorded message (“He died from… complications of a medical nature. The nursing home was not responsible,”) that’s funny. But what happens next could not feel more disingenous. Marge tells Homer his father is dead, and what does he do? Scream and wail uncontrollably on a dime, then spout out a joke (“And he never even lived to be a vegetable!”) I know Homer is impulsive and emotionally unbalanced, but even he can’t go zero-to-sixty on news this mind-shattering. Think of other characters’ reactions to death: Abe in “Old Money” and Lisa in “‘Round Springfield,” they’re very quieted and internally devastated, it feels more real. Here, Homer’s reaction is treated as a complete joke; Grampa may not be dead, and the writers know we know that, but the point is the characters don’t, and they should treat it as such.

It turns out another resident actually kicked the bucket, leaving his room open for new resident Zelda, whom Grampa is immediately smitten with. Now, let’s compare, shall we? Bea is a demure, sweet grandmotherly type, who bonds over Abe over their respective health disorders, family, and an incredibly disturbing sequence of them seductively downing their pills. She doesn’t even live past act one, yet her character is completely cemented in the few scenes she’s in. Who is Zelda? She’s the love of Grampa’s life, apparently. How many lines does she have? Guess. …six. Six lines, only two of which are actually in the same scene. The two don’t even have a fucking back-and-forth conversation; why make an episode about a romance when you don’t even have the two fucking talking to each other? Well the “idea” of the episode I suppose is Grampa acting like a teenager, borrowing his father Homer’s car, acting belligerent, and ignoring his advice. Zelda is obviously just a user, only wanting someone who’s got a sweet ride. The fact that Grampa can’t see that and keeps chasing her makes him out to be a sad, horny old man, and that just isn’t him. As senile and scatterbrained as he can get, Grampa has always been feisty and strong-willed, but I’ve never thought of him as pathetic… until this episode.

Grampa ends up wrecking Homer’s car in a drag race, and with no car, Zelda drops him like a sack of hot rocks. Finding out her and her new beau have headed off to Branson, Missouri, he hot wires Marge’s car and takes off to get her, with the Simpsons following suit. The only good part in the whole episode is the Branson musical “That’s Familiar,” which basically can just be the actual theme song of the real place, a depository for Z-list celebrities (“They took Nick-at-Nite, and made it a town!”) Grampa interrupts the show to call out Zelda from the audience, call her on stage and… tell her they’re through and she’s a hootchie. Where did this come from? Homer and Marge told him this once earlier in the episode, and he ignored them; where’s the scene where Grampa had the realization that Zelda never loved him? This ending couldn’t be more random and knee-jerk; they knew they didn’t want to bring Zelda back but couldn’t cram in any realization scenes with Grampa, so just put the ending on anyway. They could have cut the completely worthless scene of Grampa pointing out hobo carvings for Bart talking to Grampa about his new girlfriend, and Grampa being unable to explain a good reason why she left him. That’s all you need. One scene. But the writers couldn’t even be bothered to do that. Whelp.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The “Grampa is dead” opening stops on a dime when the real story starts; Homer is relieved that his father is alive and promises he’ll do more things with him. Grampa of course is pleased to hear that, to which Homer immediately back pedals (“Yeah, yeah, we’ll call you, or send you some fruit.”) Again, completely disingenuous. Homer just thought his father was dead a minute ago, what a complete dickhead.
– I do like Grampa’s pick-up line to Zelda (“Now that you’re here, I’m changing my instructions to do resuscitate!”)
– The bit where Grampa pretends to be dead to get what he wants is the scene that really strikes me as being pathetic. And feels especially wrong considering the episode opened with the family thinking he was dead.
– A side note, I absolutely hate it when adults call Abe “Grampa.” Like Marge will refer to him as “Grampa” to other people when the kids aren’t around. Adults don’t do that, why would they do that? His name is Abe.
– The scene is kind of dumb, but I like Grampa’s dapper zoot suit at the start of the second act (“You don’t trust your old man? You ungrateful milkshake…”)
– There’s so much screen time where Zelda is silent; it’s like they only had Olympia Dukakis in for ten minutes and had to rap it up. She doesn’t say one word during the drive-in scene, and in many of her other longer scenes she has one line of dialogue. One.
– Grampa needs to use Viagra! And one of his top hairs becomes erect! Dear Christ do I miss “Old Money” right now…
– This one bit makes my mind explode. So Grampa returns with the car and Homer is furious. The entire scene is very clearly that Grampa is like the irresponsible teenager and Homer the demanding parent. This couldn’t be more clear. Grampa throws a tantrum and runs up to his “room,” plays his rebellious music (old time swing music), and Homer bangs on the door to get him to turn down that “racket.” Marge suggests he give him another chance, to which Homer responds, “No. He’s got to learn, Marge. The way my dad made me learn.” Now that line works, it caps off the running joke, end scene. But what’s this? “He is your dad.” NO, REALLY? THANK YOU FOR EXPLAINING THE INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS JOKE. It’s like programming for dummies. Then they have no way to end the scene and have Homer say, “Cosmic…” What? Absolute shit.
– Nothing about the drag race is funny. And we get the return of Gloria, still Snake’s girlfriend, dressed in a sexy tube top. And really, I was being generous when I said she was 40 at the oldest. Look at her in that shot, she has to be in her early 30s or younger. Which makes that other episode even more creepy and wrong. I do like the second act break where Grampa smashes the car into a tree, revealed to be the Simpson backyard, and the tree where Homer is lying down in a hammock in. But when he registers that his car has been completely destroyed, his reaction? Flustered, and slightly annoyed. Homer’s reaction to hearing Abe died is an overreaction, this is an underreaction. When the beach kids glued seashells and starfish on his car in “Summer at 4 Ft. 2,” what was his reaction? “Sweet merciful crap! My car!!” Here, the car is absolutely wrecked, and he doesn’t seem all too upset.
– The Itchy & Scratchy old time radio program goes on sooooo long. I’m sure the animators loved that (“We’re going to have this minute long sequence of them listening to the radio.” “So… what should we have them do?” “I dunno, you figure it out.”) It’s clear they want to rush through it since they cut it at the very end, but there’s so much you could have done to condense it. Cut the opening theme, cut the joke about the sponsor, just get to the cartoon with the sound effects. It could have been half the length and still worked as a joke.
– The Branson bus pulling up in front of the house is an absolutely lazy joke. But then we get the best gag in the whole show, maybe the whole season, where they wind up in Bronson, where everyone inexplicably looks and acts like Charles Bronson. It’s so absurd that I love it (“Hey ma! How ’bout some cookies!” “No dice.” “This ain’t over.”)
– “That’s Familiar” is great in its brutal honestly, something the show has basically all but lost. Having Charo be all wrinkly, opening referring to the stars as washed up and pathetic, it’s great. And of course the big finish: Yakov Smirnoff. I love at the end where he seems almost pissed that the show was interrupted (“In Russia, stage is for performers only!”) Then we get Grampa recognizing Tennessee Ernie Ford backstage, knowing he’s dead because he clipped his obituary. Upon realizing this, Ford dissolves into a pile of ashes. Even as a kid, I remember thinking, “What the fuck was that?”
– Despite being family-friendly, the glitz of Branson makes Marge gambling crazy, to which she goes nuts and grabs on Lisa’s arm (“Mom! You’re hurting me!”) Hysterical! And it’s never referred to again; her gambling problem which was once treated with severity is now just a gag.
– I really feel they called Zelda a hootchie earlier so they could set up the Charo gag at the end. I wouldn’t put it past them.

281. The Lastest Gun in the West

(originally aired February 24, 2002)
It’s important when you’re writing a TV show, a movie, a song, anything, that you should… care about it. Or at the very least come across like you do. This has been a problem of recent years, but there are a few parts in this episode in particular that are really jarring to me; the show is so aimless and lackadaisical, and when the writers point out how stuff makes no sense, it just illuminates the laziness even more. This episode is kind of a first in that it literally has no story. There have been thin shows in the past, but this is the first one where I really couldn’t tell you what this episode is about. We open with an angry dog chasing Bart across town, who seems to only have an out for him. And that’s not just the first scene, that’s the entire first act. It’s almost like the Bart digging a hole thing at the start of “Homer the Moe,” except that was half the length, and was bizarrely intriguing; this is just empty, vacuous time-killing, a clear indication that the episode has nowhere to go.

Bart ends up meeting veteran Western actor Buck McCoy, voiced by Dennis Weaver, and develops a shining for him and cowboys in general. That’s basically act two. This episode feels really strange, they centered the whole show around Buck, as if he were a big star they had to cater to, and while Weaver is a known celebrity, it’s not like he’s big currently. The writers seem to find Buck a lot more interesting and entertaining than we do; some of the bits are amusing, but a lot of it feels very dry and boring. And again, there is no story to be had. There’s an odd runner of Homer feeling betrayed that Bart idolizes Buck instead of him, which feels kind of bizarre. It’s like a throwback to the very early seasons where Homer wanted his son’s respect more than anything, but after the complete desecration and tarnishing of his character up to this point, it doesn’t really make any sense. It’s just to grasp at anything to try and trick the audience into thinking something is happening.

So the closest I can grasp at a story here happens at the end of the second fucking act when Buck goes on Krusty’s show drunk and reveals he’s an alcoholic. Then Homer and Marge try to get him to sober up… for some reason. It kind of makes sense for Homer to step up to restore his son’s hero, but through this whole episode Marge has sat on the sidelines spouting hollow, expository lines (“I think Westerns are due for a comeback!”) The scene that really sticks out to me is when Buck leaves the rehab center, and says this to Marge: “Look, I worked long and hard, got rich and now I’m retired. Why shouldn’t I be able to drink all I want?” Excellent point. Buck’s not some sadsack old man desperate to reclaim his fame; he’s just an old actor who lived in the limelight and now is living a comfortable retirement. Marge responds, “Well, I don’t know. I just naturally assumed it was some of my business.” So, to translate, when asked what the point of this story is, the writers say, “We don’t know.” At that point what does any of this matter? I don’t even hate this episode; it’s like being mad at a kid who didn’t even bother writing answers on his test paper. I’m just disappointed.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The dog opening is astounding. Like, that’s really what you’re going to draw six minutes of material out of? And then they bring it back at the very very end for absolutely no reason? It’s hands down the worst first act of the series.
– “Little Grampa Simpson” on Abe’s childhood badge bothers me. It’s just a gag, but it always bugs me in the show when characters outside the family call Abe “Grampa.”
– There are some Buck bits I actually chuckled at: riding the horse the short distance to the laundry room, touting his films as good wholesome family entertainment (“No drugs, no nudity, no cussin’, just drinkin’, fightin’, and trippin’ horses with wires,”) getting excited about refried whiskey, and his in-show endorsement of Drunken Cowboy Whiskey (“I’m not sure I approve of selling whiskey to children.” “Well that was aimed at children who were already heavy drinkers.”)
– When we get to Brockman’s pathetic newscast and Apu’s singalong, I’m just exhausted. I can’t stress enough how this episode literally has no story. It’s twenty two minutes of filler, and no amount of them referencing their many flaws excuses them of that.
– Krusty and Buck have a momentary smalltalk before the show. Buck comments how much things have changed since his day, to which Krusty gruffly responds, “I don’t care…” My sentiments exactly.
– So Buck gets drunk and shoots Krusty in the stomach on stage. Does he get put up on charges? Arrested? Indited in any way. Nope! (“This is horrible! All my spit takes have blood in them!”)
– Homer’s Farrah Fawcett poster… my God. Any attempt at making this pathetic runner of Homer wanting to be his son’s hero genuine in any way plummets to the earth.
– The ending with the robbery makes absolutely no sense and is stupid in every which way, but it gives us the only two great lines in the show. First when the criminals attempt to thwart Buck (“I’m shooting at the lasso, but the bullets just go right through the middle!!” “It’s the ultimate weapon!”) Castalleneta’s read on the first guy is so panicked and shocked, it’s great. Then we get Buck’s outtro (“Goodbye, Bart! Never bother me again!”) It gets the idea across that Buck’s this old guy who never wanted to be bugged by this stupid kid, and makes him, and Homer and Marge, seem more like irritants to intruded on his life and tried to change him. If the episode commented on this at all or made that more of the point of the show, it would kind of work, but instead we get this uninspired schlock. Way to go, writers.

280. The Bart Wants What It Wants

(originally aired February 17, 2002)
If you’re going to do an episode featuring a one-off romance, you need two important things: your love interest to be a distinct and interesting character, and for the relationship to have some kind of deeper purpose. Jessica Lovejoy was the devious daughter of the minister, the bad girl Bart was head over heels over, until he realized she was maybe too hardcore even for him. A prototypical Ralph was this sweet, naive, somewhat dim kid who attached himself to Lisa, while she had to figure out how to let him down gently. These stories not only feature entertaining characters and situations, but also because they involve kids, they are believable grade school stories. This episode is the first of many future “Bart-gets-a-celebrity-voiced-girlfriend” shows, and like the others, it features none of those three things. At least I can say this episode isn’t as bad as the others this season; nothing here genuinely infuriated me, I was more bored than anything.

So the girl here is Greta, voiced by Reese Witherspoon, daughter of Rainier Wolfcastle. Right there you’d think there would be some interesting connection between father and daughter, or that it play into the story, but no. Greta has no real discernible characteristics other than she’s sweet. That’s it. She’s just a sweet girl who’s head over heels with Bart. The plot, I guess, is that Bart is too naive to notice that this girl is falling for him, and when Lisa alerts him to this fact, he decides he has to break up with her. Then he’s shocked to find she’s then dating Milhouse, and realizes he may have made a huge mistake. Now moving on to my next point, that the writers seem to have forgotten that Bart is ten years old. When he talks about letting Greta go and that he may have lost “the one,” it just feels so, so strange. When you’re a kid, you don’t think of relationships like that; your “girlfriend” is just this girl you hang out with and occasionally you kiss. I guess the joke is supposed to be they’re treating it more seriously, but it just doesn’t feel right at all. Later iterations of those show would involve Bart and a pregnant girl, an arranged marriage, and other stories better suited for a teenager than a kid.

When Bart finds out Greta is going with Milhouse to Canada on her father’s new film shoot, he is destined to go after her to win her back. So, the Simpsons are going to Canada! Just like that. Here’s what drives me nuts, when the show covers a stupid bullshit plot turn with a stupid bullshit joke. The family has no reason to pick up and rush to Canada so Bart can get his stupid girlfriend back. Maybe he could have conned Homer into driving him there; that I would buy. But not Marge and Lisa, there’s no way that this could work. So here’s the dialogue with Bart and Marge: (“This is for love, Dad. Someday, you’ll feel what I feel.” “It’s only fair. We went to Europe when Lisa lost her balloon.”) Brilliant. That’s how they hand-wave it. Again, if the writers could care less if this shit makes sense, then why should I? So we get a quick Canada montage, Bart and Milhouse fight, Greta breaks up with both of them, then the boys join the Canadian basketball team. Another crappy episode in the can. This episode’s greatest sin is being the predecessor to the aforementioned future Bart-girlfriend episodes, but on the whole it’s just very bland and inoffensive. Which is exactly what I want to think of what I think Simpsons.

Tidbits and Quotes
– More lazy, lazy writing. We start off with Homer being chased by a helicopter; he’s stolen the Olympic torch because he’s sick of his favorite shows getting pre-empted. Not a terrible conceit, but it still makes no sense. So after killing a minute and a half, we get this from Homer: “I’m bored. ……hey, a fair!” It’s as if he’s the writers, jumping from set piece to set piece, never focusing on one thing.
– At the Springfield prep school, we get more of characters just appearing in places they don’t belong. What’s Lenny and Carl doing there? And Flanders? And with him, we get another motherfucking joke where Homer moans loudly at the idea of the less fortunate getting money. Why do the writers think this is so goddamn funny?
– Rather than listen to Lisa’s request the school apply for a bond issue (which makes total sense for an eight-year-old to know), Skinner opts to just take off with as much stuff as he can swipe from the prep school (“Principal Skinner, you’re just stealing.” “Welcome to Dick Cheney’s America.”) OHHHH!! SICK BURN! SO EDGEEEEEEEEE!!
– Wolfgang Puck is at the prep school too. That’s it. Another worthless celebrity cameo out of the way…
– I like Homer’s adivce Bart gives about women (“Don’t give them nicknames like ‘Jumbo’ or ‘Boxcar,’ and always get receipts. Makes you look like a business guy.”)
– Though I feel they didn’t do nearly enough with him, Rainier’s got some great lines here (“Bart, your little tie makes me smile.” “Laughing time is over.” “Remember when I said I’d eat you last? I lied.”) Instead of developing his relationship with Greta and the boy she likes, we get a scene where Homer carts him to the bar with his new “best friend,” which has nothing to do with the main story and does nothing but kill time.
– Skinner tries out stand-up comedy at Floppy’s. This whole scene is awful. First, Krusty is the emcee. Why is Krusty, a world-renown celebrity, hosting open-mike night at a shitty dive? It’s not like he gives any jokes, he just plays off Captain McAllister and introduces Skinner. It could have been anyone. But it’s just more cramming in familiar faces for the audience. Second, Skinner is doing bad comedy, except it’s not funny to us. It’s not like Krusty bombing in “Last Temptation of Krust,” it’s just Skinner being pathetic and sad. But I guess the writers though it was a hoot, because we cut back to him on stage again at the very end. I guess they were trying to do a Seinfeld thing. Whatever.
– I kind of like the montage of Bart stalking Greta and Milhouse. The two lovebirds get caricatured on the boardwalk, and Bart gets caricatured creepily staring at them from behind a trash can.
– This is a really small moment, but it just really bugged me. On set of Rainier’s movie, he picks up an actor and impales him through another actor. This is all one take, it’s not like we’re seeing his done with dummy actors or visual effects. This is just him shoving one person right through another guy’s gut. It’s almost like they forgot they were in the context of a movie shoot, and just wrote a scene from an actual McBain movie, and figured fuck it, it works fine. I dunno.

279. Half-Decent Proposal

(originally aired February 10, 2002)
Well hands down, this is the best episode we’ve seen all season, in that I didn’t want to claw my eyes out while watching it. Apart from its sloppy ending, it’s actually pretty decent, thanks in no small part to the great Jon Lovitz. They bring back an old character in a somewhat interesting way, and although they didn’t explore him as much as I’d hoped, I welcome this modern day Artie Ziff with open arms. Following the infamous incident involving his busy hands, Artie became the fifth richest man in America, with a company manufacturing a plethora of bizarre but useful doo-dads. But through it all, he still harbors a deep, somewhat insanely obsessive yearning for the one that got away: Marge. Sparked by an email sent by a tipsy Marge (and punched up by her devious sisters), Artie pays Marge a visit, only to find she’s buckled down with a husband and kids. He offers she and Homer an unorthodox proposition: a million dollars to spend a weekend with Marge. Marge is initially resistant, but in dire need of cash to get a surgery to eliminate Homer’s snoring, she accepts.

I’d be surprised if Lovitz did it consciously, but I can feel a difference between this Ziff and his past self from “The Way We Was.” Strangely it’s like an inverse of what you’d expect of a nerd: in high school he felt more cool and collected, but here he seems more awkward and desperate. This makes sense for each story point though: “Was” has Artie be the steady pining best friend that’s in Homer’s way, and here he’s a man who seems to have it all, but is still unsatisfied. His twenty-year-old obsession with Marge seems a bit over-the-top, but I still buy it, like people who spends years dwelling over mistakes they made in the past and can never get over them. He may be successful financially, but it will never make him truly happy if he doesn’t move on. And in the end, he doesn’t (“Now, Homer, if there’s one thing that you should’ve learned from all this… it’s that I’m rich, rich, rich!“) But that’s okay; he’s a small man with a big ego, and I love him for it.

Artie recreates their high school prom for Marge, but she of course is not won over. So he reverts to his old standard: trying to stick his tongue down her throat. Unfortunately Homer spies on this from afar, misconstrues it, and by the time Marge returns home, he’s gone. It’s here that the episode starts to get wacky. He enlists Lenny to leave home and never return, who immediately accepts, and the two end up on a dangerous oil rig in West Springfield. I’m for the ending where Marge enlists Ziff to save Homer, and Ziff assures him that he will never be able to buy his wife away from him, but it’s just way too silly and random that they’re on an oil rig up in flames. Lenny could care less where Homer drags him or even that he’s about to die; in the inferno he’s just standing there with a glazed look in his eyes. Bizarre. But for the large part, I found myself enjoying this one. Jon Lovitz is amazing as always, and it ties in with a classic episode while still standing on its own. For an episode this late into the series, that’s quite a feat.

Tidbits and Quotes
– All the snoring bits at the beginning are okay, nothing exceptional though. The only great thing is the paper Marge gets hit with when she resorts to sleeping out on the stoop (“Sleep important, study says.”)
– Nice Sex and the City parody, “Nookie in New York” (“It’s a cable show about four single women who act like gay men.”) and how Patty and Selma, like many women in America, so clearly identify with them (“This is so like our lives.” “It’s like they hid a camera in our apartment.”)
– No Jon Lovitz episode is complete without him singing, which we get twice here. First as part of his invention, a converter that changes the dial-up modem noise into easy-listening music. (“Hey, com-puter geek, you will be connected in no time.”) Then at the end as a wonderful conclusion to the snoring problem (“I traveled the worlds and the seven seas, I am watching you through a camera!”)
– Marge dictates her email to Artie, and Patty and Selma modify it accordingly (“Dear Artie…” “Dear Hottie…” “Congratulations on your recent TV appearance.” “I want to sex you up. Your love slave, Marge.”)
– I like Homer setting up the ground rules for the lost weekend (“Okay, Artie, you get her for the weekend, but no funny stuff. And by “funny stuff” I mean hand-holding, goo-goo eyes, misdirected woo, which is pretty much any John Woo film…”) Zing!
– Homer immediately becomes insecure about the illicit weekend at the bar, thinking Marge will definitely leave him for Artie (“I can’t get Artie out of my head. He’s like a spy in the House of Moe!”)
– I buy that the people of Springfield would pretend it’s the 70s for a thousand bucks. I mean, I would. And of course, Disco Stu is working pro bono. Also great is that Ziff also hired Principal Dondelinger (“You’re not on the guest list, Simpson. Orders of Prom King Ziff. And have you been drinking?” “Just for twenty-five years!”)
– The Baron VonKissalot cut-away… so incredibly bizarre. It feels like a Family Guy joke, I have no idea what it’s doing here.
– Another weird third act point is the further “development” of Lenny and Carl’s relationship; basically now they’re prospective gay lovers. Or maybe consummated, I don’t know. You don’t throw in stuff like Mount Carlmore without raising some questions (“I carved that one wonderful summer.” “What did Carl think?” “You know, we’ve never discussed it.”)
– The only bit I like on the oil rig is Homer’s aghast when the fire starts (“Oh no! This is how Faceless Joe lost his legs!”)

278. Jaws Wired Shut

(originally aired January 27, 2002)
These reviews are getting harder and harder to kick off; at some point I might just forgo trying to come up with an opening statement and just jump into the episode. It’s not like there are any overarching themes or interesting character stuff to talk about, these shows are just a bunch of stuff that happens. Here’s how this one starts: the Simpsons watch a gay pride parade. Then they go to a movie. That’s it. There’s literally no connection between the two; they leave the parade and show up at the theater without even mentioning it. It may not seem like a big deal, but it just makes me feel like the two minutes I just watched was worthless since they couldn’t have been bothered to connect it. It’s almost like it was lifted from another episode. Also the parade stuff itself is so unfunny and makes no sense. First, I don’t know any parades that go down a residential street. Second, Homer’s behavior. At first he’s very enthused by the parade, even giving a “Woo-hoo!” but then we see that he’s kind of nervous and uncomfortable by the floats. Characters have changed drastically from scene to scene before, but I can’t remember them changing mid-scene. It’s like they’re not even paying attention, or caring. And look, I blew this whole paragraph on the first fucking two minutes of the episode.

Let’s skip to the plot. Homer makes a ruckus at the theater and is chased out by ushers. Now for some reason they continue chasing him even when they’ve gotten him out of the building, and Homer runs face-first into the fist of the newly christened statue of Drederick Tatum. His jaw busted, Homer must have it wired shut in order for it to heal, keeping him completely mute, and worst of all, unable to eat solid foods. Now, at this point I’m glad, because this looks to be an episode where Homer won’t be loud and screaming. Unable to speak, Homer ends up becoming a pretty good listener, much to the delight of the family. Marge even feels confident enough that they can go to the formal ball at the country club. Which they do, with people like Mr. Burns and the wealthy dowager there. What is this event? How did they get tickets? A past episode showed that the Simpsons were complete outsiders, financially and socially, from the high and mighty social elite at the country club, now all of a sudden they can get in with ease, and rub elbows with the elite. It’s like stuff like this doesn’t matter anymore, just whatever the story calls for, do it, regardless if it makes sense.

When Homer gets his wires removed, Marge fears he will revert back to his normal self, but he actually remains the same. They end up on a The View-style show somehow to talk about Homer’s transformation. Marge complains that old Homer was a complete glutton, and it’s not exactly addressed or explained why Homer doesn’t go back to eating a lot. But anyway, the weeks drag on and Marge finds herself completely bored without Homer causing some wacky, dangerous schemes for her to clean up. This whole conceit is very disturbing as it further clinches Homer’s new “character,” the reckless impulsive maniac as revealed in “Lost Our Lisa.” Here, we see he’s forgone entering the demolition derby. Why would Homer want to participate in the derby? Real Homer would be sitting on his ass, drinking beer, and whopping it up in the stands, not risking his life in the pit itself. So Marge enters the derby, wanting some excitement in her life, something she immediately regrets, and Homer has to save her by going back to his old reckless self! I guess. We end with Marge saying the family needs its live wire; of all the fucking things I’d call Homer, “live wire” is not one of them. Homer is a lazy, lazy, lazy man, not Captain Daredevil as the writers apparently think he is now.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The only good thing at the gay pride parade was this bit between the marchers and Lisa (“We’re here! We’re queer! Get used to it!” “You do this every year! We are used to it.” “Spoilsport!”) Then we have the bit with Smithers and Patty on a float hidden “in the closet.” The subtly for Smithers’ sexuality is basically gone at this point, but I guess Patty’s been officially outed. But what a total garbage way to do it. Go back to “Treehouse of Horror III,” where Homer runs naked through the kitchen, and Patty comments, “There goes the last lingering thread of my heterosexuality.” Classic.
– The movie jumble at the theater is pretty good (“Otm Shank. He is India’s answer to Brian Dennehy.”)
– I don’t know what to think about the Soccer Mummy trailer and the bit with him getting a boner. The joke is that this is a terrible gag from a bad movie… but the movie they’re presenting looks like a family film, since it’s about a downtrodden little kid (with an adult voice, for some reason) and this supernatural being who’s helping him achieve his dreams. So what’s a sex joke doing in there? Again, no thought put into this.
– Why do the ushers keep chasing Homer outside? I worked at a movie theater; believe me, no one gave that much of a shit. This show used to be a satire, and no fucking way a staff of unqualified teens is going to go above and beyond the call of duty like that. With giant Kit Kat batons. Hilarious.
– The “So Your Life Is Ruined” pamphlet is basically reused from “I Married Marge,” except it makes a whole lot more sense regarding a pregnancy than having ones jaw wired shut for a few weeks. And then there’s a conveniently labeled suicide machine in Hibbert’s office for some reason. Okay.
– The scene at the bar with Duffman is alright (“Newsweek said you died of liver failure.” “Duffman can never die, only the actors who play him!”) The quiz is so unbelievably stupid, but that’s kind of the point, so I don’t mind.
– Here’s a scene that bothers me: Homer listens to Lisa’s complaints. She talks about a tiff she had with Ralph playing four-square, and how he basically ignored the rules because he’s a moron. Considering how un-child-like smart the writers make Lisa, you’d think she’d know that he’s special needs and not get so upset, but whatever. What bothers me most is what Homer thinks when he hugs his daughter: “Maybe a hug will cork her cry-hole.” What an awful, awful thing to say. Er, think. There’s the classic line, “Just because I don’t care doesn’t mean I don’t understand,” which is a perfect Homer line that shows him being unintentionally offensive and misguided. Thinking “Maybe a hug will shut my daughter the fuck up” is different, it’s just mean.
– The only really funny line in the show comes from Grampa, following one of his long-winded stories (“Anyway, ‘long story short,’ is a phrase whose origins are complicated and rambling.”)
– We have Homer trying to tell Marge he’s horny, Moe on the phone with an escort wanting to be taken to “Orgasm-ville,” and Homer at the derby yelling, “Quit banging my wife!” These crass jokes just don’t belong on a show like this, and I guess they’re just trying to get laughs because of that fact. I guess.
– Homer and Marge go on “Afternoon Yak” to talk about Homer’s transformation. And they bring a clip with them. A clip of Homer making ostrich burgers, meaning he’s got ostriches in his backyard and he’s going to beat them to death to make burgers out of them. This bit kind of broke my brain; as if this show wasn’t further removed from reality, this shot it even more so. I can’t even be bothered to comment; who out there can tell me this bit, hell this episode, made any sense at all or was funny?
– Homer saves Marge a la Popeye, but at this point I don’t really care. Though there’s one exchange at the end that is so incredibly indicative of the writers’ outlook (“Isn’t it great to have the old Dad back?” “I thought you liked the new Dad.” “Whatever.”) There it is. If the writers can’t even be bothered to care about whether their show is good or makes sense, why should we?