Category Archives: Season 17

371. Homer Simpson, This Is Your Wife

(originally aired March 26, 2006)
If there’s any series more in desperate need of some fresh creative blood, it’s this one. Writers come and go, but with Al Jean entering his twelfth year at the helm, the series seems to be in an endless stagnation. This couldn’t be more evident in this episode, “written” by Ricky Gervais. I use quotes because thanks to massive rewrites, the show to his name feels as innocuous and identity-less as any other episode. The only evidence of his involvement comes from the character he plays, which is more or less another version of his normal role, a dogged, flustered man who attempts to make humor, but¬†fails to recognize his audience. His humor style of awkward pauses and long silences doesn’t exactly gel well with modern Simpsons’ joke-every-twenty-seconds mentality. This couldn’t be clearer in one scene where Gervais’ character Charles tells Marge a slightly offensive joke. In one of his shows, it would be told uninterrupted, and the comedy would come from the recipient’s offense and Gervais’ endless backpedaling to cover himself. Here, Charles is interrupted many times by Marge’s inane commentary (“That’s just the set-up!” “Well, you’ve set me up for laughs down the road!”) Any attempts at alternate types or rhythms of humor are trampled upon.

Another episode with basically no story: to get the money for a flat screen TV, the Simpsons go on a reality show where two families swap wives, in this case with a British couple with a frosty marriage. Homer is stuck with a cold English harpy, while Marge lives with Charles, who becomes instantly smitten with her kindness. There’s barely any reality TV commentary here (wasn’t “Helter Shelter” enough?), so most of the show is just seeing the families new lives. English wife Verity makes the Simpsons write reports and do chores, which is boring, and Charles attempts to woo Marge, having seemingly fallen in love with her based upon… she’s nice? That and Marge is apparently a total dummy (“I wrote this song for a woman: you.” “What an odd thing for a man who’s not interested in me to do!”) She’s always been naive to certain things, but I think she’d be able to pick up on this guy’s intentions. There’s a handful of other things to whine about, but largely this show is shockingly empty. I’d love to see whatever Gervais’ first draft was, and see just how much they tore it down to size to fit in with the rest of the slop this season.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Lenny holds a party at his apartment. The guest list? Skinner, Krabappel, Sideshow Mel, Ned Flanders, Dr. Nick, the Van Houtens, the Hibberts, Professor Frink… basically all of your Springfield regulars. How do they all know Lenny? It’s more of that “everybody-knows-everybody” thing of later seasons that I hate so much.
– Why the fuck would Lenny allow Homer to live for days on his couch? I get maybe he doesn’t want to be mean, but I can’t imagine this would go on more than a day before he would kick him the fuck out.
– In an irrelevant, out-of-nowhere joke, Homer completes collecting fifty years of The Family Circus, then throws the scrapbook in the fireplace. I’m quite confused, but mostly at the fact that he’s gluing a comic into the book, then we see in the next shot that it’s taped in. Is anyone watching this shit?
– Gervais has already tackled exploitative reality shows on the Extras finale, which was a bit bloated at ninty minutes, but is still well done, and has an alternatively scathing and heartbreaking finale. It won’t be quite as powerful if you don’t know the context, but here it is. He’s hit or miss at times, but Gervais is a very strong writer, but in this episode, none of it is allowed to come through.
– Not big on Homer and Bart openly mooning the camera crew and this family they’ve just met, but it’s partially saved by this exchange (“Ugh! We better pixellate those.” “There aren’t enough pixels in the world!”) The cameraman’s panicked read on that is great. But in the spirit of ruining good jokes, they add on one too many (“Yeah, just cover it with Ryan Seacrest’s head.”) Oh snap!
– The only clever moment in the show is Homer’s summation of Charlie: “You take forever to say nothing.” It’s a great read of how one might see his kind of rambling humor.
– This show is just filled with awful, awful Marge lines. Again, it appears that no one knows how to write her as a normal human being anymore (“I don’t choose the committee as such, but I choose where they meet. This year, I’m thinking of Conference Room C.” “Oooh! That leaves A and B available for overflow!”)
– My only other laugh came from the quick bit of Itchy & Scratchy. They’re in old English garb, Scratchy is thrown into a guillotine… then Itchy shoots away at him with a Tommy gun.
– I’m sure Gervais’ song went untouched, but I’ve never been a fan of any of the comic songs he’s done. Save of course when he’s serenading Elmo. The sequence goes on foreeeeeeever, and it couldn’t be less funny. And then they extend it over the credits!
– On top of it all, the show gets a Homer-Marge slant at the end. Marge says she misses Homer, and Charlie randomly says he does too, despite the fact that they met once. Marge explains why she loves him: “He’s loved me ever since the first moment he saw me, and he’s never stopped, and whatever it takes to make me happy, he’ll do it, even if it kills him.” Cut to when she returns home to find Homer with slices of pizza strapped to his bare legs. In the best moment of the show, she comes in with such joy, then sees the state her husband is in, and completely deflates (“…put your pants back on.”) It’s so unbelievably sad; her delusions of her husband are completely swept away as she instantly realizes she’s once again stuck to this sloven ape-like man who whines about having to spend time with their children. The end of the episode features Homer finally having got his stupid TV and singing about it, while Marge is clasping her pillow on her head trying to get some sleep. In the past you’d understand why these two are together. But now, I just don’t get it. I feel so bad for Marge in some of these shows.
– And on top of that we have our great finale: Varity has hooked up with Patty, joined by their mutual hatred of Homer! And Patty’s in a plaid shirt and jeans, dressed like a man! Because she’s a lesbian!

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370. Bart Has Two Mommies

(originally aired March 19, 2006)
Man alive… not only is this episode boring, confusing and dumb, but it’s got a message. This show has integrated morals and characters learning lessons before, I guess, but here it’s so obvious and ham-fisted, like something out of a Saturday morning cartoon. There’s very little story here, so it’ll be quick to burn through. Marge starts to babysit Rod and Todd Flanders, and is surprised to find they’re even more milquetoast and namby-pamby than their father. She tries to open their eyes to more “daring” things like using a see-saw and playing Clue, which worries a paranoid Flanders. Now, Ned has always been somewhat cautionary, but never to this extent: he forces his kids to crawl up the stairs after he finds Todd had cut himself, and his idea of a fun activity is staring at bread. There’s a slightly saddening explanation that Ned has become especially protective because since Maude passed away, the kids are all he has, but the seriousness of that is just buried under a barrage of stupid jokes that are ridiculous. Vilifying Uno and bubble wrapping trees? Come on.

A B-story gives us our episode name, which is definitely one of the more bizarre titles of the whole series, and I don’t entirely understand why they chose it. Is it like a gay thing, like he has lesbian parents? Anyway, Bart is kidnapped by a mother ape at the zoo, who is yearning for her actual son, who turns out to be Mr. Teeny. Both stories come to a head when the monkey takes Bart to the top of the newly constructed church steeple, and someone needs to swap him with Teeny. Having climbed a rock wall earlier at a kid fun zone, Rod opts to go, and now Ned must learn to encourage his son and tell him to believe in himself. Excuse me while I go vomit all over myself. It even has a pathetic music cue to go with it as Ned brings himself to let his son go. It feels so goddamn forced, and when the episode ends with Rod ignorantly screaming that he’s gay, the tonal shift couldn’t be more stark. This show used to reign supreme in terms of expertly balancing emotional moments with snark, but nowadays, they’re woefully lost on that point. In the end, this episode’s as disposable as they come.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The church fair at the beginning is a mixed bag. I like Lenny and Carl’s bluntness (“Ah, it’s all a big scam.” “This booth?” “No, religion in general,”) but the hell mirror is just dumb. Lovejoy’s fundraiser to build a bigger steeple to one-up the neighboring Unitarian church works, but then they ruin it by having to explain it further as Lovejoy mutters that it compensates for his “sense of smallness.” The duck race is boring, and just another excuse to put Homer through as much laugh-less pain as possible.
– I like Bart and Lisa’s reckless indoor jousting, if only that it shows Lisa being a fun-loving kid again, for once.
– Rod and Todd being so safe and lame feels weird to me, it’s just played up to as ridiculous a level as Ned’s paranoia is. We don’t know the kids as well as him so I can’t exactly pinpoint why it seems so wrong, but it just feels too exaggerated.
– I don’t exactly know how Homer covered for Bart’s absence for so long, save for the endless scene where he goes on a sarcastic tirade. “Help me, Lisa! I have serious mental problems!” No shit. Also, wouldn’t the ape have to sleep at one point and then Bart could make his escape? Or better yet, just tranquilize it and it’s a done deal. The plot could be over within a few minutes. Also Homer has a peach full of antifreeze, which he holds onto instead of rolling into her cage, and sure enough she would probably eat it. Instead he eats the poisoned fruit, and later accidentally inhales his own tranquilizer dart. Homer in pain = funny!!
– Lovejoy tries to comfort Marge by showing her the plaque they’ve made for the new steeple “just in case”: Bart Simpson Memorial Steeple. What a horrible thing for him to do, and how the fuck did he have time to print a plaque based on something that had just happened?
– During Teeny and his mother’s reunion, for some reason we get a quick flashback to Homer cuddling his rubber duck. What’s that about? Whatever. This is one of the most boring shows ever. Right next to that astronomy episode.

369. The Seemingly Never-Ending Story

(originally aired March 12, 2006)
A story within a story within a story… I bet the writers thought they were real clever when they came up with this conceit. Not a bad idea, if only the stories themselves were interesting or funny at all, which unfortunately they are not. The Simpsons get trapped in an uncharted cavern, and while the others search for a way out, Lisa keeps a stuck Homer company and tells him a story of when she was trapped with Mr. Burns after being terrorized by a vicious ram. Burns then tells a tale of his losing his fortune and having to work at Moe’s. This leads to another story of Moe’s past love affair with Mrs. Krabappel, and how he came upon a sack of priceless gold. All of this comes to a head when the gold is revealed to be hidden in the caverns, and all the parties involved show up to claim it as theirs. I feel I should give the writers a little credit for setting up all the stories and having them come together; the characters mostly work in their roles and the motivations are fine. I guess.

Each story has so much weird stuff going on, and altogether, that really hurts the show. Lisa gets into Burns’ mansion, then she and Burns manage to continuously outrun this swift enraged animal, in a sequence that just goes on and on. The youthful Lisa, maybe, but old decrepit Burns? He and the Rich Texan’s scavenger hunt is just bizarre to me, and it feels weird and random that he’d end up at Moe’s. The Moe story was a bit better, but not by much. I believe Krabappel being with Moe about as much as I bought her being with Comic Book Guy, even less so actually, since she’s fresh off the bus you’d think she’d have higher standards than the modern day despondent Krabappel does. We also get an unnecessary and dumb introduction to Snake, filled with stupid hackneyed dialogue (“I’ve been robbed! I’ll take my revenge on society, by which I mean convenience stores!”) Everyone has a showdown for the gold, Marge tosses it off a cliff and everyone is grateful for it for some reason. Whatever. Given the potential of such an interesting story format, I think the episode just comes up short.

Tidbits and Quotes
– This episode won the Emmy for that year, which is fine, I guess, mostly because nothing can infuriate me more than the fact that “Three Gays of the Condo” won one too. Its only real competition was South Park‘s “Trapped in the Closet,” which I guess they nominated because of its controversy, though I feel there were better episodes they could have submitted, like “Cartoon Wars” or “Manbearpig.”
– We’re at the point I can predict jokes now. When Bart goes nuts playing with the water bottle, I knew it would end with Marge saying, “He’s gonna sleep well tonight!” Mostly because they’ve done this joke before.
– Burns inputs his place of birth in a gate code: Pangaea. It’s funny because he’s old!
– Not a fan of the “Dream on, bitch!” Burns line.
– How exactly did Moe manage a relationship with Krabappel so long without her finding out about the tavern? It’s called Moe’s, for Pete’s sake.
– The bit with Bart and Krabappel in the classroom is very odd to me. At first it struck me as echoing “Bart Gets An F,” but at this point in the series it feels so alien for Bart to appear actually giving a shit about his education. Then later they pull the rug out where Bart reveals he was just distracting Krabappel while Nelson stole shit. So I guess those two are randomly in cahoots. It just seemed strange, and making that connection just makes me remember how “F” is a thousand times more enjoyable in every respect than anything I’ve seen in many a season.
– Burns risking his life to save Lisa? Fuck that. Just a few episodes ago he took money from a children’s hospital to increase his own lifespan by mere minutes.
– The only joke I laughed at was Moe stepping out from the shadows with a bat, only to be surprised that Burns and the Rich Texan have guns, so he sheepishly steps back and pretends he has one too. Nice performance by Azaria.

368. My Fair Laddy

(originally aired February 26, 2006)
Previously in “The President Wore Pearls,” the show tried to tackle an Evita parody, but came up short because they weren’t mindful of their characters, just shoving them in this situation to match the musical even when it didn’t make sense. This is another musical parody, and it works a thousand times better because the borrowed story and songs still work within the context of the show and its cast. Taking off of My Fair Lady,¬†Lisa attempts to turn slovenly drunkard Willie into a proper gentleman as her entry into the science fair. Well… that aspect doesn’t entirely make sense, but it doesn’t really matter. When Willie’s shack is destroyed, he stays the night at the Simpsons, and he resolves that he would like to better his lot in life. With some effort, Lisa completely transforms Willie to be completely refined, eventually becoming maitre ‘d at the Gilded Truffle. But like everyone in Springfield, he finds that where he was the happiest was right back where he started, so Willie gives up his proper trimmings for his life in festering squalor.

As I said before, this parody works because it fits the characters: Lisa was shoehorned into the role of Eva Peron, but Willie as Eliza Doolittle makes more sense. The songs are also quite good, and all serve to move the story along. The first one kicks the plot off, then another during Willie’s teachings, then another when he’s completely reformed, and then a final one as he is forlorn for the life he once had. They’re all riffs on songs from My Fair Lady, which helps to make them more memorable, but I definitely think they stand out on their own. Also great is Castellaneta as Willie, giving a heartfelt performance as Willie proper, and also proper Willie, altering his voice to sound more dignified, but still maintaining the character. There are a fair amount of bits that don’t work, and a mostly uninteresting B-plot about Homer’s pants, but this is a pretty good episode, with great music and ultimately a great character study. After “Pearls” and so many other examples, I thought the show had forgotten how to properly do parody, but I guess I was wrong. Though I’m sure it won’t take long to be proven right once again.

Tidbits and Quotes
– We haven’t seen Mrs. Pommelhorst, the gym teacher that often. She dates all the way back to “The PTA Disbands,” unseen but mentioned by the girl stuck on the handlebars (“Hellloo! Mrs. Pommelhorst! I’d like to get down now!”) She was in “Little Girl in the Big Ten,” and I’m sure a couple other ones. But here we start with the big joke: this masculine, tough woman is going to get a sex change and be Mr. Pommelhorst! Hilarious, right? It just feels too obvious.
– Bombardment, bombardment, bombardment… boy, that dodgeball schtick grew old instantly, and it’s the only joke for the first four minutes of the show. And it just feels cruel to a point too, this grown man viciously pummeling children in the face with dodgeballs. They then attempt a Full Metal Jacket parody with Bart brandishing an evil grin holding the iced ball with the teacher screaming, “What is your major malfunction!” That ball could easily have killed him, but I guess I can overlook it since Bart probably isn’t smart enough to have thought that through.
– I like the false start to the first song, showing Willie’s low expectations for life (“All I want is a place somewhere…” [beat] “And?” “That’s it.”)
– Nice flashback of Willie’s father yelling and screaming at him minutes after he’d exited the wound. The reveal was pretty obvious, but it was still funny (“Would you like to cut the cord?” “Let him cut it himself! It’s time he learned life ain’t one big party!”) Baby Willie with his shaggy unibrow is pretty adorable too.
– The bullies enact their own parody of Around the World in Eighty Days. For some reason. Chalk them up as characters the writers have absolutely no clue how to write for anymore.
– “The rain in Spain falls mainly on the plain” has become “What flows from the nose should not get on my clothes.” Willie swinging Bart and Lisa around by their nostrils is a wonderfully gross sequence, and Lisa singing her next line all nasally is pretty great.
– I actually felt for Willie in the episode. The final number “The Shack Where I Lived” leading up until the end I thought were very sweet. The shack is rebuilt with one final touch, a “Home Sweet Home” picture frame Lisa put up. Willie appears touched, but when Lisa leaves, he rips it down in disgust (“I liked it the way it was!”) A sweet ending with an amusing capper to end the episode? I’m shocked how competent most of this show is.

367. We’re on the Road to D’oh-where

(originally aired January 29, 2006)
Hey, it’s another tepid episode! Although to be fair, aside from the terrible non-ending and the B-“plot,” this one actually isn’t too bad as a ramshackle Homer-Bart show. There are scenes between them that actually feel authentic as a father and son at odds, but there are also others that don’t work at all. A recent catastrophic prank by Bart leaves Skinner urging Homer and Marge to send the boy to a rigorous reformation camp in Oregon. When Bart is unable to fly by himself, Homer is forced to drive him there, making him miss his trip to Vegas with his bar buddies. A highlight here is where Homer reflects on his miserable stasis in life (“I’m 38 years old, driving a crappy car with a son who doesn’t respect me, and I’m one Snickers Pie away from losing my foot to diabetes!”) It’s said out of rage, but it’s so unbelievably refreshing to see Homer disillusioned by his poor lot in life, rather than just giddily laughing at everything and being so upbeat all the time. Blissfully ignorant Homer is fun, just not for the entire running time of a show.

Homer and Bart bond over mocking a more loving father and son, also a great, classic-feeling scene. But Bart tries to make his escape, leaving Homer to track him down, ending up almost plummeting off a cliff. This leads to a hysterical scene where Bart raises and lowers the fender of the car to mess with his dad, giving Homer mood whiplash, going from fawning and loving, to increasingly disturbing death threats (“I’m gonna double kill you! Then I’ll bury you in a shallow grave, dig you up and kill you again! That’s the beauty of a shallow grave!”) Homer dumps Bart at the camp, feels guilty for it, then takes him back and drives off. Whatever. Back home Marge holds a yard sale to unload her husband and son’s junk, but finds her biggest seller are expired pills. I could almost buy this if they kept up Marge’s naivety, but Snake out-and-out says he’s buying illegal drugs, and Marge couldn’t be more chipper to sell them to him. Very out-of-character. The ending features Lisa returning home to find her parents are both incarcerated, and muses how she always figured the family would whittle down to just her. Not only is it an unsatisfying, unfunny ending, but continues to paint the Simpson family as rickety and dysfunctional, where they used to be loving and close-knit despite their squabbles. This show’s got some surprisingly good scenes in it, but the stupid shit weighs it down.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Milhouse is also becoming a character impossible to write for. He’s sort of like Marge, where they can’t write dialogue for a meek, out-of-touch character (“We can’t leave here without turning one little valve!” “Yeah! It’d be like going to Amsterdam and not taking a walking tour of famous doors!”) That would be slightly odd for Marge to say, but even more out-of-place for a ten-year-old boy.
– There’s barely any story here, so there’s so many sequences and jokes stretched to fill out the running time. The steam filling up the school feels so long, and other gags like Flanders singing the colors of the dreamcoat and the aforementioned bit of Homer screaming at Bart just go on foreeeeeeeever.
– It’s sort of dumb as the explanation for why Bart is “no-fly,” but I do love the flashback of Bart’s egregious transgression: removing his seat belt before the light went off upon landing (“Thanks a lot, 33C! Now we all have to go back to Minneapolis! And I’m very tired!”)
– The scene of Homer and Bart at the diner is honestly the best I’ve seen in years. It was so charming seeing those two enjoy each other’s company believably, by mocking others. Like when the family mocked Flanders’ note in “Dead Putters Society,” or the ending of “Saturdays of Thunder.”
– Why would Marge be selling the Mr. Plow jacket? She loves that thing. Just seems like more cramming in old references without really understanding what they mean.
– Smithers is buying estrogen! It’s funny because he’s a gay man, that means he wants to buy female drugs (“It’s for a friend… who’s trapped in the body of another friend.”) Wait, does that mean he wants a sex change operation? What the fuck have they done to this character?
– Homer’s Vegas nightmare with the sexy Bart waitress is incredibly disturbing (“Hey Homer, you wanna eat my shorts?”) My genitals were very confused. Burt Bacharach turning into Bart Bartabart is a pretty good gag too.

366. Homer’s Paternity Coot

(originally aired January 8, 2006)
You might have noticed that first acts in later years have been becoming increasingly more tangential, having absolutely nothing to do with the main story. While they do present the opportunity for some good jokes or satire (which there have been neither of lately anyway), as a viewer, you feel a bit like your time has been wasted, that the writers couldn’t come up with a full enough story so they bullshitted for six minutes and then kicked the plot off. This episode has, bar none, the worst tangential first act of the entire series. Marge is incensed that a toll has been put up on a much-traveled road, and instead opts to take the free alternative. To combat this, Quimby installs dividers on either side to block that route, which would basically be enough, but also puts in rows of tire spikes to lock everyone in. Why entire rows? You’re already boxed in. Marge freaks out and slams into reverse, which causes an entire row of cars behind her to get rear-ended. It’s like the stupid shit in “See Homer Run,” there’s randomly like twenty cars bumper-to-bumper. So all the popped tires get thrown on the tire fire, which causes a great level of smog, so much so that it melts the ice caps of a nearby frosted mountain, revealing a frozen postman. What was he doing up there? Was he fucking flash-frozen? How are his letters still intact and not soggy and unreadable? This is the catalyst for the plot to start: the Simpsons receive a long lost letter. There are a billion ways they could have started this story, and this is the one they landed on. It’s baffling.

The main story just bored me more than anything. The letter is from an old lover of Homer’s mother, who believes that her child is actually his, leading Homer to believe Abe might not be his real father. Homer tracks down the mystery man: wealthy treasure hunter Mason Fairbanks, voiced by Michael York. He’s a delightful old Brit who Homer immediately gloms onto, tossing Abe aside like a sack of hot rocks. It’s actually not as cruel as it sounds, so I wasn’t annoyed, it was just kind of uninteresting. We know that Fairbanks isn’t his father, so the episode is meant to posit how Homer’ life would be different had he been raised by another person. Except it doesn’t do that at all; it ends with an undersea treasure salvaging where Homer nearly dies. The only thing that aggravated me here is that he has visions of his father in the past, showing him as a great dad, which as we’ve seen, he wasn’t at all. Him playing around with Li’l Homer is fine and sweet, but the bit of him giving Homer all his money on his wedding day feels so phony (“I gave you everything, and it still wasn’t enough.”) Sure, this did actually happen in “Lisa’s First Word,” but emotionally it was handled so much more efficiently and they undercut it with a joke. Here, it’s just saccharine for saccharine’s sake. In the end, Abe reveals he’s the real father… God, whatever. How could an episode with such a startling in-universe conceit be so safe and boring?

Tidbits and Quotes
– Joe Frazier has a quick guest spot, which only makes me wish I was watching “Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?”
– “Voila! Which is French for ‘ta-da’!” “I’m trapped like the ‘L’ in a BLT!” These guys are really at a loss in writing dialogue for Marge. Every line makes me cringe a little bit.
– I can’t get over how fucking stupid the frozen mailman thing is. I could bitch about it for so much longer than I already did, but why bother. It’s one of the dumbest things ever done on this show.
– I definitely believe that Mona cheated on Abe, given the time period and how much of an ass he was, but it’s kind of uncomfortable to hear. I dunno, it’s like the bit from “D’oh-in’ in the Wind” where Seth and Munchie not-so-subtly admit they banged her to her own son.
– This episode would be remedied instantaneously by a DNA test. At first Grampa refuses to take one, then by the end of act two instantly agrees to one. Plus there’s the fact that Homer basically looks like a non-wrinkled Grampa, as he demonstrates to the audience. Of course they’re related, you dolts.
– The dream sequence of Li’l Homer playing catch with a question mark is kind of cute. Then they break a window and an exclamation point comes out shaking its fist.
– Marge warns Homer not to get too emotionally invested, they all seem very apprehensive about the whole thing. Next scene they’re all on Fairbanks’ boat yukking it up. Whatever.
– The treasure hunt is so uninteresting, like who cares? What is is supposed to mean, that Homer’s life would have been more exciting if this guy was his father? Is that what he wanted? I really don’t know.
– Homer’s new catchphrase seems to be a very looooong moan. They keep using the same one, but condense it when need be. It’s annoying every time. Every. Single. Time.

365. Simpsons Christmas Stories

(originally aired December 18, 2005)
Oh boy, another anthology show, this time a holiday edition! It’s quite… boring. I usually find these shows that insert our characters into famous stories rather lazy and uninspired, and even though only one of the three here is an adaptation, I still get that feeling anyway. The first retells the story of the very first Christmas, with the birth of Jesus Christ, here played by an adorable baby Bart. Marge is Mary, Homer is Joseph, other characters are… other characters. And there are jokes made. These segments are honestly just so uninteresting to me; you know the story they’re telling, so you’re just waiting for them to go through the motions. Maybe if they had some interesting religious commentary, or subverted the tale in some manner, but that would be too risky. Why take a chance in comedy when you can take the safe route?

The second part is the best, in that it made me the least sleepy. Grampa spins a nonsense tale of being stuck on a deserted island with Mr. Burns after being shot down during WWII. They then accidentally shoot down Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, and must help him repair his sleigh. There’s a few lines here that are amusing, but just as many that aren’t. Moreover I enjoyed seeing a younger Abe and Burns, and hearing Castellaneta and Shearer off autopilot making their characters sound sixty years younger was also nice to hear. The third segment is just a series of vignettes set to the Nutcracker Suite, the most glaring of which is a joyful montage of Moe’s many failed attempts at suicide. I had just chastised the show for not being ballsy, but in this instance it’s completely misdirected. As I’ve mentioned previously, any taboo topic can be turned into comedy, but the fact that being suicidal has become nothing more than a quirky character trait for Moe that they can joke about, it ultimately feels so completely dour and offensive. And it’s the gag that closes our show: he curses that a tracker trailer didn’t hit and kill him! Merry Christmas, everybody! A thoroughly forgettable holiday show.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Baby Bart causing miracle nodding his head a la “I Dream of Jeannie,” Homer and Skinner acting like the Three Stooges, all the bits from the first segment really fall flat. There’s only one bit that comes close to being amusingly self aware. Eddie questions the moral rightness of going in and slaughtering a baby, to which Wiggum responds, “Don’t worry, boys. No one will ever speak or write of this again.” That joke works. It’s similar to the bit earlier where the Archangel Lisa appears to explain Bart/Jesus’ life story to the disillusioned baby, but this line feels more organic. But how do they unnecessarily cap off the joke? Matthew is standing by, scroll in hand! “What a boffo beginning for my book!” See, just in case you didn’t get it, if you’ve never heard of the fucking Bible, we’ll show the guy who wrote it! So see, the story will be written of, so what Wiggum said was funny! Get it! Get it?!
– The second segment has some chuckle-worthy bits in it, like the reindeer performing CPR on Santa, and a few good lines (“Donner! Blitzen!” “He’s German! That’s good eatin’!”)
– They lead into the singing in the third act by mentioning how the Nutcracker is in the public domain, so they don’t have to pay any royalties. Fair enough, but this show has utilized so many songs they’ve had to pay for at this point, a good share of them only for a few seconds. Hell, in the next episode they play Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” for what can’t be more than eight seconds; that must have cost them something, and added nothing to the episode.
– The final bit with Marge getting Homer a gift for him to give her is kind of sweet. I guess. I’ve been lulled into a tired stupor at this point, so I’ll take anything that isn’t Homer screaming or humiliating others.