Category Archives: Season 15

335. Fraudcast News

(originally aired May 23, 2004)
Ho-hum, a rather boring Burns episode to close out our season, with plenty of ridiculous and stupid moments peppered in, along with the continued watered down characterization of the twisted, heartless billionaire. The first part of the show is pretty indicative of the spastic nature of this show. All of the town has gathered to the natural land formation known as Geezer Rock, as it is to be decreed a national landmark. Lisa notices that there’s a tree growing out of its eye, which might eventually grow to damage the monument. So what happens? Homer climbs up the goddamn thing, yanks it out, and wouldn’t you know it, the whole thing crumbles. Let’s put aside the fact that Homer would actually give a shit enough to do this, or even have the energy to. He’s right behind the stage where there’s a big crowd to honor the rock he’s currently climbing; no one saw him and thought to say anything? Then he basically destroys the landmark, which I’m sure would have been a boon for Springfield and created tourist revenue. Any repercussions? Nope. No one mentions Homer’s actions whatsoever, and the whole Geezer Rock thing is ultimately forgotten. During the Simpsons drive home, the gear shift of the plot couldn’t be more sudden.

Though I’m not entirely sure how, Mr. Burns gets crushed by the falling rubble from Geezer Rock, but manages to survive because he’s a cartoon character now, slithering through rock gaps like a snake, eating bugs and suckling on mole teats. He turns on the news hoping to hear a heartfelt eulogy for him, but finds the exact opposite. He muses, “I don’t have a friend in the world.” So this is like “Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” again; why does Burns give a shit what anyone thinks, especially lower-class commoners, which would be pretty much everybody below his income bracket. To counteract this, he sets out to buy every media outlet in town, a plot point he reiterates before and after he does it, just in case you weren’t paying attention. Now, like a lot of these plots, part of me feels this could have worked, but with a different angle. Make it like “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish,” where Burns commands a media conglomerate in order to assert and promote nuclear power as being safe and efficient. They touch on this a bit with the pro-nuclear Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, but like most latter-day bits, it goes too long and goes too far to get the simple joke across.

Meanwhile Lisa has started her own newspaper, and it’s pretty much as boring as it sounds. And for some reason she has Ralph on as a feature columnist. Soon she’s in Burns’ sights, as her paper is the only piece of media he doesn’t have his bony claws on. Of course Lisa can’t be bought, so Burns must resort to more drastic measures… for some reason. Good God, this is boring. He gets dirt on Lisa from an unwitting Homer, which eventually becomes her undoing, making her alleged romance with Milhouse front page news, and as a projection onto the moon. Instead of this silliness, why doesn’t Burns threaten to fire Homer unless he gets his daughter to stop? With no source of income, the Simpson family will wither and die, right? Instead, Lisa gives up, causing Homer to write an op-ed piece of his own, which admittedly is a touching bit (“All my daughter even did was to tell people to think for themselves. I may be her father, but when I grow up, I want to be just like her.”) Then everyone has their own papers and Burns randomly and for no reason decides to give up his conglomerate. I don’t even have much to say, really, it’s about as innocuous an episode if I’ve ever seen one. Perfect for a show-stopping season finale. Should have switched this one with “Bart-Mangled Banner,” would have been a great F-U to the fans.

Tidbits and Quotes
– “Carved by centuries of wind and rain, Geezer Rock will soon be more than a place for teens to have sex and commit suicide.” I just talked in the comments about the differences of this show dealing with crass topics opposed to a show like South Park, and this is a perfect example. We see the Pimply Faced Teen is killing himself for a stupid reason (“Why did they cancel Futurama?”) then land on another kid in a car, presumably crushing and killing him. Then his girlfriend proceeds to make out with him. What exactly is the point of this? What is going on? I haven’t a clue, and arguably neither does this show.
– We see Geezer Rock is faaaaaar into the distance from the stage where everyone is standing by. Then when it starts to collapse, all of a sudden it’s directly underneath them, leaving them in danger. And then all of a sudden, Burns is apparently standing directly underneath it, since the rocks rain over him from straight up. Related note, so did no one realize Burns got crushed until later? There’s no mention of the Simpsons about Burns’ apparent death, except for one stupid bit where Homer, Lenny and Carl were going to dance on his grave.
– My God, I fucking hate the scene with Burns surviving under the rubble. I fucking hate it. It’s got to be one of the worst scenes of the entire series. And even worse, the act break is Burns suckling on a mole’s teat. It’s like the show actively is coming up with new ways to sink lower and lower.
– Lisa ponders the possibility of printing a second issue of her paper. Bart comes in with an unusually stilted line reading from Cartwright (“You better! I’ve already sold a bunch of subscriptions. How do you think I got these swell prizes?”) Pan over a collection of swell swag ranging from bikes, canoes and telescopes, complete with a harp sound. So, what is this gag? Is it like when kids sell magazine subscriptions to adults to support a cause or whatever? Within a day not only did Bart sell a bunch of subscriptions, but apparently enough to get him a whole mess of prizes? I shouldn’t be thinking this fucking hard about a simple joke, why can’t you just be funny, guys?
– The Itchy & Scratchy cartoon is alright, as I mentioned, it would be a lot better if Burns pushing nuclear power was the plot. Bald eagle Burns coming in as an insert at the very end is a fine way to close, but they just have to keep compounding the jokes (“Don’t end up like me! Vote Republican!” “God bless America! This cartoon was made in Korea.”) Don’t try to bite off more than you can chew, guys.
– Burns makes it his mission to crush this eight-year-old girl, having hired goons try to ram the Simpson car off the road, so they’re seemingly aim to kill, or at least seriously maim. Smithers can just be bothered enough to meekly suggest Burns try a non-violent approach. At this point, Smithers isn’t really a character anymore, just someone to stand next to Burns and give him someone to assist in his evil schemes. And of course to be gaaaaaaaaaaayyyyy.
– Skinner has another Vietnam flashback, this time we get a helpful time card (Vietnam – 1968) just in case we were confused. Here’s the scene: Skinner is using a mimeograph, then is taken hostage by enemy soldiers, then we see he was printing a for sale sign for a chair. …what’s the gag?
– Burns being unimaginably weak has always been one of his classic traits, but how the show deals with it then and now are completely different. Here, Burns can’t even squash an ant; he wears himself out and collapses, telling the insect to take his money and leave him alone. He’s made to be a sad, pathetic character there. Contrast with an earlier show where he struggles to crush a paper cup. He finally manages to do so, and is oh-so satisfied at his abilities. That confidence keeps Burns a strong-willed character even when showing his physical frailness.
– How dare they use the wonderful montage music from “Last Exit to Springfield” over the shopping photos at the very end. And surprise surprise, it’s completely misused. It was funny then because it came right after Burns callously mentioning that he and Smithers could easily run the plant themselves, so the wistful, happy music is representative of how much of a cinch Burns thinks the job is, at least until his robot workers rebel against him. Here, it’s just Burns have a grand old time shopping. It’s not happy-time music, it’s more than that. Also Burns is shopping at a regular mall, eating burgers at a food court? What? What… whatever.

Season 15 Final Thoughts
Yeah. Honestly, there’s not much more I can say about this season than I already did about the last one. It’s the same corral of shit stories, shit characterization and shit jokes with the extremely rare and elusive bit of actual humor and cleverness buried within. Characters I used to love are now getting on my nerves, or have become depressingly pathetic, parodies have now become uninspired references, and stories remain disjointed and aimless as ever.  Since the start of the Al Jean era, the show is now trapped in a limbo of awfulness, neither rising or falling in quality. Prove me wrong, later seasons; I’m assuming season 16 will be no different, and if that’s the case, I’ll just post a link to this post in my final thoughts just to prove my point.

The Best
“Treehouse of Horror XIV,” “I, D’oh-bot.” Of twenty-two episodes, I can honestly say I only enjoyed two of them. Not so good news.

The Worst
“The Regina Monologues,” “Smart and Smarter,” “Co-Dependent’s Day,” “My Big Fat Geek Wedding,” “Catch ‘Em If You Can”

334. Bart-Mangled Banner

(originally aired May 16, 2004)
People hate this episode. They hate it. Even at the eternally apologetic No Homers they ripped this show apart. Certainly for good reason: its absurdity and unrealistic shenanigans are through the stratosphere, it’s a rather piss poor satire on the then-jingoistic American landscape, and none of the elements and scenes of the show fit together or work on their own at all. It’s a flaming hot mess… but I don’t hate it. Episodes like “My Big Fat Geek Wedding” and “Co-Dependent’s Day” want you to think they have an emotional purpose, but ultimately betray and tarnish our beloved characters in an insulting, denigrating way. This show is absolutely bonkers from beginning to end; right from the start, there’s no mistaking this is going to be a ride far removed from reality. The Simpson kids go in for shots, but Bart remains elusive, leading to a montage sequence of Dr. Hibbert stalking him with needles at the ready at school, piloting a plane a la North by Northwest, and at a carnival. No punches are being pulled here to trick you into thinking this might all make sense, it’s complete insanity straight away.

Bart’s inoculation ends up rendering him temporarily deaf, right before the school’s donkey basketball game, which I guess is actually a thing. Does anyone know about this, or better yet have been to one? Anyway, Bart teases a donkey and ends up having his shorts ripped off, just as an American flag is being unfurled behind him, resulting in a photo that appears to have him mooning Old Glory. I don’t entirely understand why they needed to get Bart deaf for this inopportune situation; he just kind of stands there slightly crouched over as Martin takes a picture. Said photo is reprinted and aggrandized in the paper, and the Simpson family become town pariahs. To clear their names, they appear on an aggressive FOX News-type show which only serves to make things worse. This scene is the only inspired part of the show, the host is written perfectly (“Coming up after this commercial, I will be talking even louder! Don’t miss it!!“) Springfield does damage control and the town gets an ultra American makeover, but the Simpsons are arrested by the government for their “crimes” and sent to Alcatraz for American re-education. They escape, go off to France, then return to America as new citizens.

The episode just gets crazier and crazier as it goes; that’s why I can’t get mad at this show, it’s like some kind of mad drug trip. The first two acts don’t make much sense, where the ultra patriotic Springfield completely whitewashes the town’s complete hatred for the Simpsons. Then we get to act three and everything goes ape shit. I get what they were going for here with satirizing the Patriot Act (the Government Knows Best Act line is pretty good), but the government interning children for months on end with fellow prisoners Bill Clinton and Elmo is just far too absurd. It’s a conceit that feels more out of South Park than this show. By the time we get to the end with the family dining inside the Eiffel Tower, then coming to Ellis Island by boat dressed as old time immigrants, I’m completely beside myself. It’s like this show is just so far gone, it’s essentially bullet proof. What can I take umbrage with here? That it makes no sense? Of course it doesn’t, the entire episode is completely bananas. This show is so insane that a part of me perversely admires it. It’s by no means good, but I definitely wasn’t offended like I was with other shows this season. I’ll definitely say it’s the fucking craziest episode of the entire series that I can think of. Anyone else have one nuttier, feel free to mention it.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The dramatic locking of the car doors, as well as the air conditioner flaps, was a nice quick gag.
– I broke pretty quickly into this one, where no more than three minutes in we get the crazy Hibbert montage, which ends with him tricking Bart by having Barney dress up like him in an incredibly realistic costume and facial prosthetic, then emerges from a rail thin tree with a gigantic grin on his face brandishing a needle. I just had to laugh, it’s just so insane.
– Not only are Patty and Selma in the crowd booing Bart, but so is Jacqueline Bouvier. So much for a grandmother’s love.
– I kind of liked the bit with Homer on the phone (“Appear on your TV show? Tell our side of the story? You’ll see us there? Goodbye? Dial tone?”)
– In the green room at the talk show, Homer instills some crazy advice to Bart (“To stay out of trouble, just say nothing. Don’t rock the boat. Don’t even get in the boat. Just buy some ice cream and walk around the pier. But don’t go into the bathrooms, they’re filthy.”) Then later Marge cites the “don’t rock the boat” part as actual advice Homer gave that they could have heeded to avoid getting thrown in jail. What?
– The Libertyville bits are kind of amusing, with the red, white and blue traffic lights and Apu blatantly referring to the current witch hunt.
– Good thing everyone’s cells are labeled with prisoner’s names, otherwise I wouldn’t be able to recognize obscure faces like Michael Moore or Elmo.
– The insane prisoner that helps the Simpsons escape is basically that Cookie guy from “Dude, Where’s My Ranch?” If any character deserved a second appearance, it definitely… is not him. Also he died in that episode, didn’t he? Who cares.

333. The Way We Weren’t

(originally aired May 9, 2004)
I feel like so much more can be done with these flashback shows. These characters have all lived rich full lives on their own, there’s so many avenues you can explore of seeing how their personalities grew and what events changed them. But because that’s too hard, now in every flashback we see that everybody knew everybody as a kid. This might as well be Simpsons Babies. This show takes that lazy concept to the nth degree as it’s revealed that Homer and Marge had their first kiss as kids without even realizing it. But let’s get the bare basics of the story out of the way first. Homer and Marge both retell their stories from their point of view: li’l Homer gets dumped off at camp by his father, only to be put to work at the kitchen of the girl’s cabins. Li’l Marge is there to learn proper etiquette and lady-like decorum. The two “meet” when Homer retrieves Marge’s retainer through the tray return, and they agree to meet each other for a date without seeing one another. Mishaps lead to Homer wearing an eye patch and Marge being a brunette, but the sparks still fly regardless as the two youngsters share their first smooch.

I don’t like this idea. I really don’t. “The Way We Was” was perfect, where Homer first lays his eyes on Marge, he’s completely bowled over at this vision of beauty he’s never seen before. Social circles are weird like that, you go through high school and flip through your old yearbook and you see people you have no fucking idea were in your class. But in these new flashbacks, Homer has been friends with Lenny, Carl and Moe from the beginning, and Marge hangs out with the three female characters the series has. And now we see that the two met long, long before that fateful afternoon in detention. Great effort was made to obscure things so that neither would remember the other’s identity. Homer makes up a fake name to impress Marge, but on the flip side, why does he never ask her her name? That’s normally the first thing you’d ask a girl you like, right? There’s also this weird thing going on in insisting that Homer and Marge have never kissed or been with anyone else, which ultimately I have to agree with. Homer is a loser and Marge is a prude, I don’t think either of them had many relationships before they crossed paths.

Via some wacky happenings, Homer ends up trapped at fat camp, keeping him from his second date with Marge, leaving her crestfallen. Patty and Selma fuel the disappointed flames, leaving her disillusioned about boys. Homer manages to escape, but ends up being too late. This is a terrible memory Marge has harbored for a long time, and as she explains, one that won’t just up and go away. But, two things. One, she seems a bit too cold toward Homer about all of this; after hearing the explanation, she could at least express some relief, even if that doesn’t quell her years of repressed feelings, which nothing really could. And second, we’ve got a minute of screen time left, so like “Geek Wedding,” we have to remedy the situation fast. But at least here we see that a few days have passed, and that Homer is trying to make things right. So Homer produces Marge with a blast from the past: half of the special rock he gave her as kids. She still has the other, and two pieces become one… in more ways than one. Like “Simple Simpson,” this show’s got nothing on the holocaust of episodes last week, but ultimately is unremarkable and boring. It’s just so uninspired in these flashback shows that we have to see all familiar faces. When Homer arrives at fat camp, I could already guess Wiggum and Comic Book Guy would be there. It’s just too predictable.

Tidbits and Quotes
– A spin-the-bottle mishap causes Milhouse and Homer to kiss. Milhouse fawns for some reason over his first kiss, which of course it’s not (there’s an episode called “Bart’s Friend Falls in Love,”) and for some reason hangs around being a weirdo later on (“He’s the kind who kisses and leaves you!”)
– Moe gets some new characterization, in that he was abandoned by his parents at the camp and sleeps under their canoes. More sad, pathetic Moe; I’m fine with him being a little sympathetic, but they push things way too far.
– They do their best, but Marge’s voice is not easy to disguise. I’ll say Julie Kavner does a pretty good job making her voice higher and less scratchy for Li’l Marge, and Dan Castellaneta is as good as ever as Li’l Homer.
– Lenny gives Homer some “protection” for his date, a switchblade. He looks right at it and gets stabbed in the eye, which is why he has the eye patch. It’s a pretty loud stab, wouldn’t he need to go to the emergency room for something like that? I’m getting creeped out just thinking about it.
– Homer decides whether he should take a rowboat or swim to the girl’s camp (“Hmm… I guess it’s row vs. wade, and it’s my right to choose!”) What an unbelievably lame joke. It’s one of those things you hear and you can feel your brain throb out of annoyance.
– I think this show has had its fill with Katherine Hepburn parodies. We had the old beach biddies from “Catch ‘Em If You Can” and now here two shows later. Sure parodies of the actress date back to the amazing “Lisa’s Pony,” but they were a lot better written back then.
– Why does Helen Lovejoy have graying hair as a little kid? It’s like they just shrunk down some of these characters. Also Cookie Kwan is there too. I’m surprised they didn’t have Li’l Lindsey Naegle with a candy cell phone or some shit.
– The only bit of the show I really liked was Homer “inventing” the clever move of yawning and stretching to put his arm around Marge, but her misinterpreting it that she’s boring him.
– Walking no more than ten steps from where he had been sitting with Marge, Homer unwittingly falls down a incredibly steep cliff into the lake. Now he had just gotten to a shore there by boat, was the camp built on the steepest incline ever? Where is this gigantic cliff and why is it so close to a camp with a bunch of ten-year-olds who could easily fall down it like Homer did?
– Homer is stuck at fat camp… for some reason. Surely he wouldn’t appear on a camp roster, and surely they wouldn’t waste their time working him if they weren’t being paid for it. I guess they’re just a bunch of masochistic slave drivers.
– Homer cites the things he’s done that are far worse than the incident in the past: when he hid a gun from her (Scully show), suing the church (Jean show), ruining Lisa’s wedding in the future… huh? That never happened; can you imagine “Lisa’s Wedding” being done now, with insane, jerkass Homer doing some wacky antics at the wedding? It’s a small line, but it’s almost like rewriting the past to make it like Homer’s been this crazy asshole for the entire series. His character has changed dramatically, to the point where they literally feel like two different people, and that the writers don’t seem to address or acknowledge this is worrying to me.

332. Simple Simpson

(originally aired May 2, 2004)
All I can say up front is that this episode could have been a whole lot worse. Homer the superhero? It’s a laughably looney plot that could have ended up so ridiculous and improbable, but at least it stays relatively restrained. There’s even a nugget of a Homer/Lisa story underneath the silliness, but it’s pretty much buried under a bunch of other crap within the episode. Homer’s crime-fighting begins at the county fair, where the Rich Texan is incessantly berating Lisa’s entry for the place setting contest. A bunch of “why”s crop up here: why is Lisa in a place setting contest, and what the hell is such a thing, and why is the Rich Texan judging it, and ripping apart this eight-year-old’s work for no apparent reason, and why is everyone else just standing there not doing anything, including Marge and Bart? But… whatever. Not wanting to get another assault on his record, Homer adheres a pastry tin onto his face and doles out some justice incognito, via a pie to the Rich Texan’s kisser, rendering him humiliating. Thus begins Homer’s crusade as the Pie Man, standing up for downtrodden citizens everywhere.

It’s a plot that sounds unwatchable, but it manages to ride the line of wackiness to be mildly entertaining. Mildly. Why Homer’s doing this makes no sense, nor why the police view him as such a humungous threat, enough to use firearms on him. It starts to venture into dumber territory when we see Homer jumping from buildings onto fire escapes in an unusually nimble fashion, and Marge randomly in attendance at the closed orphanage-now plastic surgery clinic just so they can do a tired Spider-Man upside-down kiss thing. Also a much bothersome part of this show is how apparently people can’t figure out that Homer is Pie Man. Lisa and Marge later comment how you’d have to be a moron not to realize it was Homer, but we see earlier rather smart folks like Apu and Sideshow Mel refuting that fact. It might have been interesting if everyone knew it was Homer and were just humoring him as Homer did his insane antics, but then they start to get out of hand and they have to drag him back into reality. As we’ve seen recently in movies like Kick-Ass and Super, anyone who would become superheroes in real life would most likely be a bit touched in the head, so why not run with that? Nah, let’s milk the gag that no one can figure out it’s Homer with a fucking pie tin on his face, something that’s been a staple in comic books for decades.

The third act involves Mr. Burns unmasking Homer and forcing him to perform dastardly deeds for him under threat of being publicly outed. This is a cartoonishly evil Burns episode, as he forces Homer to throw a pie at a girl scout, and apparently is breeding feral gophers and hamsters to do his… bidding? Why would Burns want Homer to do any of this for him? Is this more of that prank monkey garbage? Whatever. His biggest assignment entails Homer besmirching the Dalai Lama, who is coming to perform a speech in Springfield. Having promised Lisa he would give up pieing, and that he’s a highly respected figure to her, Homer is in a crisis. What do you think is gonna happen? Homer unmasks himself to the crowd, and no one believes that he’s the real deal, which I guess automatically exonerates Homer in Wiggum’s eyes. There’s been a lot this season of Simpsons avoiding jail time for really stupid reasons… Lisa urging his father to quit before he gets killed and sitting down with him for some pie is a sweet moment, but there’s way too much crazy junk around it to really resonate. But as I said, I feel it could have been a lot worse, so I’ll give it an incredibly minor pass. That’s the best I can do.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The opening bit of FOX’s “Promiscuous Idiots Island” is pretty excellent; the title and lead-in is a bit on the nose, but the big reveal is great: it wasn’t an island at all…. it was a peninsula (“I just want to get on that boat and go home!” “Well, you don’t need a boat, because you can walk.”)
– Some of the stuff at the fair is pretty good: the world’s biggest pile of mashed potatoes and the world’s biggest ribbon. The ultra-jingoistic country singer is alright too (“If you don’t buy my records, then Al-Queda wins!”) but it pales in comparison to Randy Jackson in the “Ladder to Heaven” episode of South Park.
– Homer looks at Lisa drawing a picture of the Pie Man, and his immediate thought is that his eight-year-old daughter didn’t draw his package large enough. A tad bit creepy…
– Great comics CBG peddles onto Bart: Richie Rich Incorporates in Delaware, Supergirl vs. the Glass Ceiling… and then of course instead of the Fantastic Four, Fantastic Floor.
– Why would Krusty be affected by a pie in the face? Also Homer’s decree of his crimes (“This is for your show’s slight decline in quality over the years!”) is pretty ballsy coming from this show. If you replace “slight” with “devastatingly sharp,” of course.
– Wiggum and Lou bickering between gunshots is basically a retread of the same bit from “The Fat and the Furriest.” It wasn’t funny then, and it’s not funny now.
– Burns whips his employees and sells their clothes while they’re in the showers. Later he shows up dressed like a baby in a carriage wheeled by Smithers to give Homer an assignment. I guess the writers feel this is appropriate material for him. Sad, really.
– Homer’s pie hallucinations are pretty amusing, with the crusty old Phyllis Diller pie, and the smooth gangster complete with cigar.
– Homer bemoans the possibility of having to do community service if exposed (“I can’t stand helping others!”) Just like the ten zillion jokes about Homer freaking out about supporting charity, I don’t get these gags. Is it funny that Homer is a self-serving, uncaring asshole? And as a superhero, wasn’t his mission to help others in the first fucking place?
– The Dalai Lama leaves even though he had only just given his introduction. And he flies away. …whatever.

331. Catch ‘Em If You Can

(originally aired April 25, 2004)
This season has been pretty terrible, but none of the episodes were really particularly aggravating me and bringing my ire up. Then we get to this week and it’s like one mind-numbingly awful show after another, culminating with this one, an episode filled with bitterness and recrimination amidst the previously loving Simpson family. Of all the caricaturization of the main cast, the one who hurts the most is Marge, who is mostly a doormat and endless apologist for Homer’s insane antics, as seen in “Co-Dependent’s Day.” But this episode just brings her, and Homer to an extent, to a whole new level, as they seem to harbor a deep resentment toward their own children. Bart and Lisa get out having to go to a great uncle’s funeral in Dayton, Ohio, and in exchange Marge demands that they all do something together as a family. They rent Love Story, because kids love tragic romantic films, then when Bart makes snarky commentary and Lisa soapboxes about the illogical love affair (because she’s apparently a jaded thirty-something now and not a little kid), Marge chastizes them for ruining she and Homer’s romantic moment. Wasn’t it her insistence that they watch the video as a family? It’s like the writers just forgot.

On a spur of the moment decision, Homer and Marge blow off Dayton and catch a flight to Miami Beach to have a second honeymoon. Marge gleefully announces that she’s ditching their kids, toasts to a life without them, and she and Homer laugh uproariously at starry-eyed newlyweds who can’t wait to bear fruit. It’s so, so uncomfortably how hateful this episode is. Would Marge ever, ever speak bad about her children? Never. In the past, we’ve seen her get annoyed with them, even in a similar situation; in “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy,” she hurriedly tries to calm Bart’s nerves so she can get back to screwing her husband. Here, she and Homer openly criticize them for nothing except for some childish horseplay in the first act. Bart and Lisa discover where they really are, and for some reason have a new mission (“We’re going to follow them across this great land, making sure they don’t have one moment of fun!”) That’s Lisa saying that, by the way. They write her so adult you’d think she would be mindful of her parents wanting to get away, but in this show she’s brought down to Bart’s mentality so the “story” can “work.”

So it becomes a cross-country chase as the kids chase the parents from hotspot to hotspot, because this totally makes sense as something that can happen. The hand wave it with showing Homer having Flanders’ credit card, and I guess Marge is so horny she has no ethical qualms about it. This is told via an extended montage sequence “parodying” the opening credit sequence to the show’s namesake Catch Me If You Can. It doesn’t really count as a parody if you’re not… parodying anything: both sequences use the same style and music, and are about two people (or two and two people) chasing each other from place to place. Last stop is Niagra Falls where Bart and Lisa finally catch their parents; Marge yells at them to shut up (a painful moment), and Lisa doesn’t react to her mother’s resigned disappointment. At least not until the next morning where she tells Bart that they went too far and should give their parents some space. They go to a carnival, where Homer and Marge happen to be, who flee to a moon bounce, which ends up tipping over the falls while the two are having sex. While Bart and Lisa watch from binoculars and comment how everything worked out fine this week. Marge, the endlessly loving solid hunk of bedrock of the Simpson family, resents her children. The happy ending involves she and Homer finally having sex, and doesn’t involve apologizing to her kids for the horrible things she said, or for lying, or realizing how important they are to her. Everything about this show is unpleasant and uncomfortable, and I know I keep saying this, but I think we’ve ended the week on the worst one of all.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Bart and Lisa burst through the door fighting each other, knocking Maggie out of Marge’s hands. Her reaction? “Shame on you two creeps!” Creeps? She’d break them up and scold them for sure, but creeps?
– The only moment of authentic Marge in this episode involves her fawning over the wonderful attractions Dayton has to offer (“It’s got Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, and a zipper museum!”)
– I have to stress this again: Marge insisted they do something together as a family, end up renting a movie that her children would have no interest, then get annoyed when they interrupt her cuddling with Homer, and grumble about how kids “ruin everything” afterward. You sat two children in front of Love Story and expected them to watch and be quiet?
– Homer and Marge getting on a different plane is another of this logic gaps the show’s common for now, but the hand wave with the guy at the gate isn’t half bad (“Go ahead, what do I care? I’m getting laid off tomorrow.”)
– Oh yeah, there’s also a runner involving Grampa trying to hit up old widows on Miami Beach, but ending up the penthouse with an elderly gay guy for some reason. And that’s the end of that “plot,” Grampa’s stuck in Miami. Also, where the hell did Maggie go?
– Marge and Homer come back to their room only to find Bart and Lisa asleep outside their door. Marge’s response? “The kids tracked us down!” Not out of surprise, but disappointment. How the fuck did they get here, she might ask. They then quickly get the hell out of dodge, with packed suitcases even though they couldn’t get to their room, with Marge telling the taxi driver to “step on it!” She can’t get away from those fucking kids fast enough, I guess.
– Homer and Marge and Bart and Lisa end up on the same Ferris wheel after the kids decided to give them some space. Lisa attempts to explain her motives were good, but Marge cuts her off, “We understand perfectly well!” Seeing her yell at her daughter twice in one show… it’s so uncomfortable. Think back to “Scenes From the Class Struggle in Springfield,” all the events of the show have led up to a stress-harangued Marge trying to mend her dress for the umpteenth time, causing her to explode on her daughter, a moment treated with actual drama, since that’s so unlike her to do so. Here, she reams out her kids for her own selfish reasons since she just wants to get her rocks off. Which she does in the end in place of an actual apology for acting like a mean, deceitful bitch. I’m not even angry about she and Homer going over the falls without a scratch on them, this is all bullshit.

330. My Big Fat Geek Wedding

(originally aired April 18, 2004)
Equally as tragic as the caricaturization of our favorite family is what happened to the other denizens of Springfield. A lot of them would also have their most prominent character trait exaggerated that it would consume them, leaving them mere comedy props to give a joke in a scene and then leave. This episode brings that idea to a more depressing level: Skinner and Krabappel, once compelling and interesting characters, are now literally props in their own episode, unable to say or do anything without interference from the Simpsons for some unknown reason. The first scene Skinner announces his wedding to Krabappel over the intercom, then we get the respective bachelor/bachelorette parties. Edna’s is at the Simpson house with Marge, and the few other female characters we have. Skinner’s is at Moe’s with Homer, Lenny and Carl. Homer and Marge’s relationship with these two doesn’t extend outside of their kids going to their school, why are they all over each other like this? Well, there is a reason, but it’s a terrible one, but more on that in a bit.

Skinner drunkenly admits he’s dreading the wedding and has cold feet, and when Edna catches wind of this, she leaves him standing at the altar. I’m not entirely sure why Skinner feels this way, all he mentions is how Edna kept bothering him to set a nuptial date. That’s the biggest problem here, this whole episode is about their relationship, and there’s not one scene in this episode where Krabappel and Skinner have a conversation with each other. They’re both seemingly adults, but the closest we get is where Skinner calls to Edna’s window, with both of them being fed lines by Homer and Marge, which eventually turns into a big pissing match between the Simpsons. Then two very telling lines are uttered by Skinner, first, “If I could just speak to Edna for a moment…” Yeah, why not? Just go up and fucking talk to her then. Second, “Just why I am taking your advice?” This whole episode he’s been glued to Homer for no reason whatsoever, and it’s very bizarre. Yeah, why are you taking his advice? Why… why… fucking why…

The third act plot turn makes things even worse, as Krabappel goes on the rebound with Comic Book Guy. A random pairing to be sure, but anything can work with some quality writing. Unfortunately I haven’t seen any of that in quite a long time, so it doesn’t make sense here. After what couldn’t be more than a week, the two are to be wed at the local sci-fi convention, and Skinner must put a stop to it. Now, I rarely pontificate about how things should be written, but here’s a thought of what they could have done. If Skinner needed to have a ticking clock before losing Krabappel forever, why not bring in the never-before-seen Mr. Krabappel? He comes back to town and wants her back, and a weakened Edna goes to him, and Skinner must prove his love to her before it’s too late. That would actually be interesting and make sense, and shed some light on Krabappel’s past. Instead, we get Klingon Comic Book Guy and Skinner in a latex Catwoman suit pitifully fight each other, and Krabappel dumping both of them. It couldn’t be any less satisfying or logical.

Running through the episode is another Homer/Marge marital strife plot. Marge tries to reaffirm the positivity of marriage to Edna, but finds that difficult given the bloated dumb asshole she’s wed to. She grows more and more cynical over the show over Homer’s insensitivity and moronic actions, except at this point, they’re really no different than how Homer normally acts. That’s the issue here: Homer is always a flaming asshole, but it’s a crapshoot as to whether Marge with either be a smiling Stepford wife, murmur and walk off exasperated, or be incredibly pissed off. Him whittling batteries in bed and talking about skipping his wedding ring at Lake Michigan can elicit any of these three responses at this point, it doesn’t matter anymore. With one minute left to go, Homer completely absolves the problem by shoving a grade school band in his bedroom closet and hiring a Klingon minister. It’s so unbelievably rushed, it’s like the writers had a minute left before they had to submit a final draft. For an episode about love and marriage, I can’t think of an episode more cold and soulless. For me, this is just as bad as “Co-Dependent’s Day,” if not a little worse.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Wiggum arrives at the Simpson house during the bachelorette party (“We got an anonymous tip about loud music and a strip-diddly-ipper.”) Flanders called and complained. We get the joke, right? Nope, Marge has to look out the window and see Ned looking out his and closing the curtains. Then the ladies get Wiggum to start stripping too, either they don’t know he’s a real cop, which is impossible, or they’re just fucking with him. But for some reason they all seem real psyched to see him take his shirt off and reveal his blubber gut.
– Skinner and Krabappel’s wedding is held in the school gym, Edna is brought in by Otto in the bus, the school band is playing… why does everything need to be tied to the school? They could have made it like Skinner was a penny-pincher and Edna grew tired of it. Instead, it’s just like, they work at the school, so they’ll get married at the school!
– “This is it, Edna. As I once said at the Battle of Khe Sanh, I surrender.” What a terrible thing to say to your future wife! What the fuck is happening?
– I just don’t understand a lot in this episode. This aftermath must be going on for a few weeks, Skinner and Krabappel work in the same building, and we don’t get one interaction between them. Skinner apparently doesn’t even talk to Edna before Homer coaches him into doing it. It’s like these two are children who have to be told what to do, literally.
– Krabappel meets Comic Book Guy to return the gift he brought to their wedding. Why was he there in the first place? And the climax involves saving Krabappel from him, but why? CBG treats her well, and he’s an alright guy. Skinner insults Edna at the altar and seems to have no feelings for her that he can communicate outside of being drunk. The only sweet thing he does is after what must be weeks past the lapsed wedding, he serenades Edna outside her apartment, except even that sounds insincere (“If you come home, I won’t die alone, and that’s what I’d prefer!”) It also causes my ears to bleed.
– Matt Groening voices himself in a completely random scene. Sadly, I guess it’s the highlight of the episode.
– “Why are you dressed as Catwoman?” “No, they told me it was Catman!” Really, Skinner, with breasts and heels you thought it was Catman? Do they think he’s an idiot?
– So Skinner and Krabappel are over just like that. Now they’re this weird on again off again sort of couple occasionally, I just remember she gave him a pity fuck on his birthday in one episode. She dumps CBG too for no real reason, not wanting to be tied down, or something. Except she was going to marry Skinner, I guess she made an emotional change that we never saw in this episode that was supposed to be about her and Skinner. As that whole scene “resolves,” Homer announces it must be time for the relationship reset (“Now that Krabappel’s made her decision, it’s time to whitewash over our problems.”) Marge then tells him that it won’t be so easy this time. But of course it will be, we’ve got a minute of show left. The ending is so mind-blowingly rushed, it’s staggering. Marge sits in bed musing how her marriage has been a sham and how Homer doesn’t give a shit about her. Homer walks in asking if she’s marry him one more time. Marge then immediately melts and doesn’t bat an eye when she sees twenty ten-year-olds stuffed in her closet being forced to play instruments. What a pile of shit show this is.

329. The Wandering Juvie

(originally aired March 28, 2004)
Though not as egregiously awful as the last two, this show has some pretty bad elements, but on the whole doesn’t really sway me one way or the other, it’s just another episode in an unforgettable sea of latter-day Simpsons. We start with a family outing to Costington’s, which is just one unfunny set piece after another. The last bit involves Bart creating a phony wedding registry and shooting a variety of items with a pricing gun. That somehow leads him to having dozens of printed out invitations on stationary that he can send out all over town. So people all over town will get this note informing them of the Bart Simpson-Lotta Cooties wedding, and they’ll either have two thoughts. One, I know Bart and he’s a ten-year-old, this is a prank or a mistake, or two, I don’t know a Bart Simpson, and they’ll throw it away. Instead, everyone shows up to an empty tent, including people like Dr. Hibbert, Willie, Flanders, even fucking Patty and Selma are there! They all corral in there until they notice that there’s clearly no wedding happening since it’s an empty tent, which Bart has zipped up from the outside. This leads to Moe announcing they’re trapped and starts breathing in as much air as possible. Is the tent glued to the ground or something? Couldn’t someone lift under and open the flap? Or just crawl out? Or tear the fucking tent open? No, everyone breathes in and out until they all pass out and the tent deflates. This prank is so fucking stupid, yet everyone in town falls for it. Springfield may be filled with morons, but this gives them way too little credit.

Bart’s latest escapade brings back everyone’s favorite, Judge Harm, who sentences Bart to six months in juvenile hall. Act two is just a bunch of sequences showing prison life, from a career fair for kids who don’t seem much older than thirteen to screening censored cartoons, a bit that was done a lot better in “The Old Man and the ‘C’ Student” (you know things aren’t going so hot when I’m using Scully episodes as positive examples). There’s a bit that goes absolutely nowhere where Homer becomes a prison guard to keep an eye on his son, which of course he can just up and do, and really is just for the sake of a single joke, and serves only to kill time since there’s no story. In the yard, Bart has a run-in with tough girl Gina, voiced by Sarah Michelle Gellar. During a mandated dance, the two are paired together (literally with handcuffs), and Gina sees an opportunity to escape and goes for it, with Bart involuntarily along for the ride.

Gina falls into the “Bart’s celebrity girlfriend” category by default, since she’s not really a girl Bart pursues in any way. Gellar does a good a job as she can with Gina, but there’s only so much you can do with the material. She’s got a slight amount of intrigue to her, but she ends up just being a generic bad girl since we have no insight as to who she is and why she’s rebellious; Jessica Lovejoy, she ain’t. She and Bart start off on bad terms, then have a single kind-of bonding scene, then after that they’re cordial to each other. Gina lies about having a family to run off to, but it’s found that she was making it up. Then the two of them are caught by the police, and are gonna be sent back to juvie, right? Wait, hang on. Gina confesses that the escape was all her idea, which is the truth, and surely eyewitnesses can confirm this. Wiggum tells Bart he’s free to go, even though there’s still time left in his sentence, he’s got no room in the squad car for him, so whatever. The writers really know how to keep stakes high; characters can get away with anything as long as we have cop-out endings and our lovable brain dead regulars to rely on! An at-times aggravating, but ultimately yawn-inducing episode.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Every Costington’s bit is groan-worthy in many different ways. Homer getting caught on the escalator is more unfunny Homer-getting hurt in an illogical fashion, with everyone getting off and stepping on him for some reason. Lisa finding the girls section to feature slutty clothing is an obvious gag hammered in over and over (“This is our ‘Li’l Hooker’ line. All the girls your age are wearing it, except the freakishly unpopular!”) Marge gets her pores examined and apparently there’s like some freaky green alien bug living on her face, which gets brutally killed with some lotion. I don’t even know what to make of that. Oh, and then Homer mistakes a changing room for a bathroom. So he walked into a small room with no toilet or urinal, dropped his pants and let ‘er rip.
– A Costington’s clerk sees Bart messing with the pricing gun, and instead of take it from him and tell the kid to not tamper with the merchandise, he explains exactly what it is and how to use it for no real reason. Why would he waste his time telling this kid what it is?
– Everyone “stuck” in the tent not knowing how to get out may be one of the worst scenes in the show’s history. Honestly, how fucking stupid are these people? It makes absolutely no sense to me.
– Charles Napier makes his final guest appearance as the warden, and as usual does a fantastic job, adding some small glimmers of life to this dead episode (“You two will dance and you’ll like it. Then you’ll have punch and you’ll drink it. Then your eyes will meet and it will be awkward, so help me God.“)
– Marge cries over her son being in jail, thinking she’s a horrible mother. Now, knowing how they write Homer now, I automatically expect him to say, “Of course you are” or something. But that isn’t nearly cruel or heartless enough (“It’s not all your fault. All these years I watched you turn our son into a time bomb and yet I did nothing. So in a way, I too am a victim… of you.”) Way to go, writers, for going above and beyond in making Homer into a royal, insensitive jackass.
– This is another Lauren MacMullen episode, and it’s got a few scenes that are visually well done, like Gina spotting her escape from the dance and the whole blacksmith sequence. It’s very rare we get any sort of life visually from this show, but she manages to make it happen.
– Props to Gellar for her performance during Gina’s fake sob story. You can tell she actually gave a shit about her part and gave it her all.
– Snake appears on TV with Kent Brockman to plug a book he wrote about committing successful crimes. Then we see he’s holding him at gunpoint and apparently will be on Conan O’Brien later in the week. Anyone want to explain this one to me?
– Amidst all the garbage that happens in the ending, Charles Napier swoops in with a good joke to end on (“Well, my shift’s over. I guess it’s back to my bachelor apartment, make a tuna sandwich, turn on Will & Grace, and cry myself to sleep.” “Would you like to join us?” “Didn’t you hear me, I’ve got an evening planned!”) Excellent read. We miss you, Mr. Napier.