Category Archives: Season 23

501. Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart

2315Original airdate: March 4, 2012

The premise:
Bart vents his frustration with his father through tagging a series of unflattering representations of him throughout the city. This creative spree comes to the attention of other street artists, who help arrange a solo show for Bart’s work.

The reaction: This episode almost feels like a checklist of a lot of the problems plaguing the show now. We start out with a couch gag themed after Game of Thrones, meaning they just re-did the Game of Thrones opening title sequence but with Springfield. That’s not a parody. It’s a re-creation. It’s an extended tribute to this show that the staff loves. Referencing something does not make it entertaining or funny. That’s some Friedberg/Seltzer shit. This leads right into our opening set piece, set at Springfield’s very own Trader Joe’s named… Swapper Jack’s. I guess we’re supposed to laugh because we recognize what it is? Again, it’s just a re-creation. Those poor background artists work so hard on these elaborate new settings, all for the purpose of nothing, aside from a few pithy comments that don’t even come close to actual satire. It also rings as more SoCal-izing of Springfield; I know Trader Joe’s has spread nationwide, but I had never heard of one before coming to LA. But as for the actual story, Homer gets mad at Bart and forces him to sleep in a rabbit’s cage (don’t really feel like going into that further), and in retaliation, he makes a bunch of stencils to enact his revenge, a parody of the Andre the Giant “OBEY” image, but with Homer’s face reading “DOPE.” Then, a montage, where we see the image is everywhere: coast guard flags, billboards, airplanes… two ten-year-olds manage to accomplish all this, somehow. Bart also apparently has some untapped art skills, as he also throws some Banksy-esque graffiti pieces into the mix. This calls the attention of some of the most famous street artists, who immediately offer to host a gallery show of his work. So, it’s another “Simpson is an instant success” story; once a normal rambunctious kid with an “El Barto” street tag, now Bart is an extremely skilled and talented artist. By the end of the show, Homer feels humiliated, and Bart makes it up to him by spray painting his car, exponentially increasing its value. So the conflict of the show was solved by Bart’s exorbitant wealth and success! This show feels more like wish fulfillment than satire.

Three items of note:
– As evidenced by the title, there is an Apu story in here, which is barely even a plot, as it lasts all of three scenes. The first as at the Swapper Jack’s when Apu is offended overhearing Homer saying he’s going to do all his shopping here from now on. But Springfield has a grocery store; the Kwik-E-Mart has usually been when the Simpsons need to pick up stuff quick. This ultimately leads to Homer and Apu having a little fight with toothpick swords. The “joke” is that it’s treated super seriously and goes through the motions of a typical movie sword fight. But, really, what’s going on in the minds of our characters? Why are they doing this? Once Apu gets Homer pinned, then what? He’s going to stab him multiple times with that little sword? Eight minutes later is our next scene, where a disheveled Apu attempts to rob the store, and new employee Snake talks him down. Clearly, this role-reversal is the only reason they did this. It might have been clever if it was set up at all. We don’t see the Kwik-E-Mart in financial crisis, or return to Swapper Jack’s at all since the opening, so it’s random and unexpected to just return there to continue this “plot.” Three minutes after that is our final scene: Apu is boarding up the Kwik-E-Mart when Manjula arrives to tell him Swapper Jack’s is going out of business for selling monkey meat. We don’t see that either. This “plot” is all just characters telling us things that happened. I’d say this story sounds way more interesting than the street art shit, but I’m sure if they devoted more screen time to it, I’d probably hate it just as much.
– So, we up our guest star count some more with the street artists: Kenny Scharf, Robbie Conal, Ron English, and, given the biggest role, Shepard Fairy. They show up, introduce themselves, talk about how cool street art is, and praise Bart for his work and offer him a show. Where’s the humor in all this? I loved Exit Through the Gift Shop, and honestly, if you’re a comedy writer and you can’t think of some solid jokes about the business and culture of street artists after watching that movie, you should probably be considering a new career. But as is the case with most guest stars now, their role is not to be mocked, or poke fun, or anything of any substance, just show up because we love you and the work you do, and say a few lines that sort of kind of mildly rib you a little but not really. I was stunned that they actually influenced the plot slightly in having Shepard be an undercover cop, but they over-explained the joke, and it was a joke they basically made in his first scene about him being hypocritical. Also infuriating is Bart not knowing who Shepard is, despite his “DOPE” piece being a riff off his “OBEY” piece, which he cites by name in his introduction.
– Through the whole show, Homer is painfully oblivious to the fact that it’s his face all over town. This is the sort of thing you’d play for laughs in one scene, let alone through the whole episode. They just keep stretching it out, to the point that Homer silences his own brain with beer to prevent him from hearing the truth. Then, with four or so minutes to go, Bart is awoke from a dream by his father strangling him, who has figured it out off-screen apparently. Then he’s just sad that Bart doesn’t respect him, and the two have a limp make-up at the end. It’s more of the show just going through the motions of these emotional beats just start and stop with no build up or motivation. Homer’s angry, and then he just switches to sad.

One good line/moment: The art show turned out to be a police sting. Lou appears as a centaur pointing a bow and arrow at Bart, which is weird. But then as the scene progresses, we see that Eddie was the horse end, and he detaches to handcuff Bart. The fact that it just happened unmentioned was a nice little background joke.


500. At Long Last Leave

2314Original airdate: February 19, 2012

The premise:
Sick of their decades of obnoxious and costly escapades, the town of Springfield collectively agrees to banish the Simpson family, who find themselves a new home in the lawless outskirts known as the Outlands.

The reaction: As we pass by more and more meaningless milestones, it only becomes more of a bummer that the percentage of actually decent episodes of the series as a whole shrinks more and more. These tentpole shows are doubly saddening in that they sort of reflect the scope of what the show thinks it is, and it’s always extremely divergent from the classic series we once knew. A clear example is the impetus for this story, wherein the citizens of Springfield hold a secret meeting to discuss throwing the Simpson family out of town. Their reasoning? Homer’s drunken escapades and Bart’s pranks have cost them all a fortune, and they just can’t take it anymore. So, multiple issues here. First, Springfield has always been a mob mentality town. They’re all mush-brained idiots who we’ve seen many, many times previous have their opinions swayed and cause mass destruction and chaos. There are alcoholic maniacs in town who are much more dangerous than Homer, and we’ve seen shenanigans the local bullies pull that are much worse than what Bart would do. But none of that matters. We’ve seen over the years that the Simpson family, particularly Homer, have gone from normal residents of this jerkwater berg, to being town-wide hated pariahs. What possible reason would Cookie Kwan have to viciously hate this family? Or Sideshow Mel? Or Rabbi freaking Krustofski? But whatever. The Simpsons stumble upon the Outlands by way of a dirty insane man pulling a gun on them, and they decide to move there… for some reason. We barely really see the Outlands to actually get a sense of what exactly the space is and why the family loves it there, because we get alternating jokes of them riding ATVs and motorbikes, and talking about coyotes stealing children and Maggie getting involved in knife fights. But the Outlands is so goddamn cool and popular, that eventually all of Springfield decides to move there… for some reason. Again, we don’t even know what the fuck this place is; by the end of the episode, Springfield is being rebuilt there. I dare say, this is a hundred times dumber than the ending of “Trash of the Titans”; as stupid as that was, at least it has a story and character motivation you could mostly follow. Like all episodes of this show now, this was a bunch of incomprehensible noise masquerading as a plot. And they end with a self-congratulatory card telling viewers to go outside for once before complaining on the Internet. Will do, guys, I already had my morning walk. Now that I’m back, I can say this episode was a piece of shit.

Three items of note:
– Flanders is the only person who arrives to come to the Simpsons’ defense. Quimby anticipated this would happen, so his rebuttal is to swing a gigantic wooden log down the aisle, hurtling the poor man out of the building and embedding him on a parked car outside. First off, if Quimby expected this, why not air the phony emergency warning at the Flanders house too? And where is Krabappel, Rod and Todd. And second, they’re throwing the Simpsons out for being violent and destructive, but it’s fine for the mayor to viciously attack an innocent man like that?
– WikiLeaks founder and piece of human garbage Julian Assange shows up in the Outlands, because why develop the people and culture at this awesome place that everyone ends up moving to when we could just insert another celebrity guest? He’s easily one of the worst performances we’ve seen from a guest star, but I guess I can’t blame him for that.
– There’s no funny scene or explanation of how Homer gets Marge into Springfield near the end, they’re just there, and we end with them having sex in their old bed. But the bullies show up to squat in the abandoned house, who then just disappear when Chief Wiggum and the entire town inexplicably show up. When Homer shouts that the Outlands is filled with “non-jerks,” everyone gasps, and Quimby mournfully admits that they are jerks. Apropos of absolutely nothing. Marge claims their new home is full of people who accept them, which we never saw, and she and Homer leave. Then all of the townspeople want to move to the Outlands for some reason. Homer rents a plane with a banner advertising it as “a great place to take drugs and shoot things.” Then we see they’re rebuilding Springfield there. There’s no connective logical tissue to any of this. Lisa, who previously enjoyed the serene quiet of being close to nature, now is frothing at the mouth to plug in her laptop and read her liberal op-eds. We then end on Skinner being the only one left in old Springfield, and Bart picking him up. “Come on, man, we wouldn’t leave you behind!” he calls to his best buddy. Sure, he runs him into a few buildings from a dangling rope, but this is the boy who envisioned snapping his principal in half with gigantic robot ants.

One good line/moment: As pictured above, they re-do the opening title with “The Outlands,” which to me, just plays as a hollow mimicry of “Cape Feare,” but the button at the end of it got a smirk out of me (“Ehh, I’m sick of watching fox.”)

499. The Daughter Also Rises

2313Original airdate: February 12, 2012

The premise:
Lisa falls for a boy named Nick, who seems to share her cultural and intellectual interests, until for some reason, he doesn’t. Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse pull their own Mythbusters-esques experiments on urban legends from the schoolyard.

The reaction: Is this season getting worse? These last few episodes have just been absolutely abysmal, and now we see they can’t even handle a simple childhood romance without bungling it. Lisa has a random run-in with a boy at a restaurant in a self-declarative “meet-cute,” but of course, just because you are self-acknowledging isn’t an excuse for hacky writing. Nick, who I don’t believe gets a name until about halfway through, looks and feels a lot like Colin from the movie, but with even less personality. He constantly makes reference to Hemingway, he wears suits, and speaks and acts like a faux-intellectual thirty-year-old man, so he’s the perfect complement to modern day Lisa: boring, pretentious, unfunny. There’s two major shit elements of this show to discuss, so let’s start with the Nick character. We don’t see a whole lot of him, but for the first two-thirds, he’s Mr. Suave, super cool and collected. But then, apropos of nothing, when Lisa takes him off to a romantic spot, he becomes nervous and unsure of himself. I complain a lot about things happening for no reason, but this has got to be the worst example yet. There is literally no explanation given for this change in personality. They could have easily played it off as this kid talking a big game, but the moment the girl takes any initiative, he becomes super shy. But it’s not even that; the goodbye line they give Nick makes no sense whatsoever (“Lisa, I’m sorry that God gave me this gift of lying to girls… for a little while. I’ll see yah.”) What the fuck does that mean? Whatever. Going from baffling to aggravating is Marge’s behavior in the episode. From moment one we see her incredibly uncomfortable with Lisa liking a boy, because in this show, she’s a co-dependent maniac who can’t let her children be happy. That’s not subtext, it’s just text (“I don’t want you to spend so much time with this boy! If you do, it’ll mean you’re a separate person from me!”) The end of the episode features Marge hellbent on ruining Lisa’s attempt of her first kiss, then when Nick inexplicably leaves, gives her daughter a limp-wristed apology. They then turn it into an incredibly unearned sweet ending; Lisa wanted her kiss under a mulberry tree, because it’s supposed to connect the two people for life, so Marge kisses her forehead. So Marge gets what she wants despite her misguided and hurtful behavior throughout the episode. It’s like “The Food Wife” where her jealousy nearly got Homer killed and she learned nothing. I feel like this, “D’oh-cial Network” and “Rags to Riches” are like a unholy trifecta, three shit episodes in a row.

Three items of note:
– I don’t have much to say about the B-plot. It’s literally just Bart and Milhouse watching Mythbusters on TV (with a different name, but still guest starring the two guys) and recreating it on the playground. I was trying to think, has an episode done something like this before, based a plot around the kids emulating a specific movie or TV show like this? It feels like crappy cross-promotion, because they certainly don’t do anything close to actually parodying Mythbusters at all.
– So many scenes I could bitch about, but there’s one that really stands out, one of the most torturous, laborious jokes in recent memory. We pan past Lard Lad Donuts and the Try-N-Save to this quaint looking French corner cafe. Lisa comments, “This place is great! If I cover my peripheral vision, I feel like I’m in France!” So, we already get the joke. We see all these commercial garbage establishments, and we also see the buildings behind Lisa are in slight disrepair, so we can see it’s a nice restaurant in a crappy, low-class area. But oh no, we can’t quit now, we could milk this for screen time. So we have a POV from Lisa where we see her hands covering the sides of her vision, so she’s staring right at Nick. We then pan left, back to center, right, back to center, left, center, right, center again, as we see violence and vagrancy going on on the side and alleyway of the restaurant. This whole thing is a very, very, very long twenty-five seconds, and wholly unnecessary given we got the joke before the bit even started. So, so fucking terrible.
– The impetus for Lisa to run away for her grand romantic gesture is weird. Inspired by her granddaughter’s love for whatever reason, Grampa tells her the old Greek tale of Pyramus and Thisbe, which Romeo & Juliet was partially based on, about two star-crossed lovers whose parents didn’t approve of their union. One odd note is we see two looming shadows over Lisa and Nick, but they’re of Homer and Flanders. First, it’s weird it’s not Marge, but through the episode, Lisa seems more concerned about Homer making her look foolish, and doesn’t really regard her mother’s horrible attitude much. Also, we never see Nick’s parents; he seemed to be at the restaurant at the beginning all by himself. Is he a pod person? It would make his behavior make a bit more sense. Also, the fantasy sequence depicts the two of them older, like pre-teen age, and seeing them make out at the end felt uncomfortable. Chalk this one up as another example of the writers wanting to write these characters older.

One good line/moment: I’m stretching hard here. I liked the beginning with Homer and Bart at the fun zone, playing games and enjoying each other’s company. I like seeing those two get along in a believable, father-son way.

498. Moe Goes From Rags to Riches

2312Original airdate: January 29, 2012

The premise:
Moe’s bar rag (voiced by Jeremy Irons) waxes nostalgic on his past experiences throughout major events in history all around the world. Meanwhile, Milhouse breaks up with Bart for no reason.

The reaction: There’s been a lot of garbage nonsense this season, but this has got to be the most baffling of them all. I honestly don’t have a problem with the talking bar rag on its own, but the plot they do with it goes nowhere and has no real point. The rag tells stories of the past: part of a tapestry created for a ruthless tyrant, used by Michelangelo while painting the Sistine Chapel, used as rag soup during the Great Depression? But at least half of the stories barely feature the rag, and some don’t even at all. The segments feel like cutting room floor material from one of those three/four-story episode, with Springfield residents filling in for historical characters (or fantasy characters, like the Arabian Nights segment. Real, fake, who cares?) Oh, and also a Treehouse of Horror-level of violence featuring hangings and beheadings. And what’s the point of all this? The bar rag feels abused and mistreated, and that’s about it. Moe laments that the rag is his only friend, until the very end where we see that Marge inexplicably took the rag when he was sleeping in the backroom of the bar (how she got in, why Moe was sleeping there… who knows) and washed it for him. See, he’s got friends! Moe is the creepy pervy bartender who has made countless untoward advances on her and who runs a bar that keeps her husband away from her and their children for days at a time, but it’s cool! It makes total sense for Marge to just steal and wash Moe’s filthy bar rag! Whatever. Then we have the Bart/Milhouse B-story, which is easily the most painful plot I’ve seen in a long time. Every word out of each character’s mouth feels so alien and out-of-character, and especially does not feel like dialogue coming from ten-year-olds. Their banter means nothing because the conflict arose from nothing. Each scene is just start and stop, and ends with Milhouse inexplicably summoning Drederick Tatum punching Bart in the arm off screen and the plot is over. Worse even still, the two plots don’t connect whatsoever, which feels especially jarring when we cut from the fantasy stuff back to the present over and over. And surely this could have tried to connect thematically? Maybe the bar rag was lamenting relationships it had had in the past and lost, and how precious true friendship really is, and that affecting Bart and Milhouse’s squabbles? But perhaps I’m asking way too much. This has got to be one of the worst episodes so far; with most shows I can at least strain to see the most basic story elements and the razor thing connective tissue feebly holding them together. I can’t see any of that here; I just can’t make sense of any of this fucking junk.

Three items of note:
– I suppose I should be thankful the episode abandoned reality right from the start, when a town hall meeting at Moe’s turned into a spontaneous dance party to Lionel Richie, with the artist himself actually there himself. And then Homer walks and dances on the ceiling. I guess this is funny because it’s like “Dancing on the Ceiling”? Ugh.
– No matter how hard I strain, I just can’t find any kind of thematic thread with the historical stories. The first involves peasant Marge being possessed by demon wool (?) to work years on an elaborate tapestry, only to be burned alive in her home by King Burns, who then ends up being hung by said tapestry. Then there’s the Arabian Knights one where Sultan Nelson gets beheaded by his harem of girls. Then more death, despair, death, and lastly Homer climbing Everest with the cloth as a flag, which is stolen off his body by a Moe-faced yeti who gives it to his Moe-faced child. So, is the bar rag extremely jaded by the life its led that sopping up booze and blood at a bar isn’t so bad? Again, I wouldn’t have a problem with a talking raga as a concept if I even came close to understanding what the fuck the point of it was.
– The Bart/Milhouse story is so, so, so bad. The writing is awful enough, but it feels like it was recut and rewritten as well. The timing of their initial squabble feels weird. Bart makes a dig at Milhouse, and Milhouse laughs at it, and then he just stops and is immediately angry, beginning a long sequence of very un-Milhouse lines (“Not anymore. Friendship over.”) That line, and several others from these scenes, were definitely rewritten in post because the lip sync doesn’t match. I can’t even imagine how poor these scenes must have been before they scrambled to rewrite it. And again, Drederick Tatum just shows out of nowhere at the very end, willing to punch a child on Milhouse’s beck and call. Brilliant storytelling. Just brilliant.

One good line/moment: I got nothing for this one. Just wholly confusing and unpleasant from start to finish.

497. The D’oh-cial Network

2311Original airdate: January 15, 2012

The premise:
In an attempt to gain some actual friends, Lisa creates an online social network called SpringFace, but as its popularity spreads and it ends up addicting the entire town, serious problems begin to arise.

The reaction: Wherein the writers really loved The Social Network and decided just to do that story. Mark Zuckerberg was on the show last season, so we once again have another Star Wars/Cosmic Wars scenario. But whatever, Facebook doesn’t exist, except for the times when it does. So we get a framing device of Lisa on trial for her actions causing devastation to the whole town, I guess mirroring the deposition in the actual film. Surely this will all make sense when we get to the end. Except, of course it doesn’t. It isn’t until the nine minute mark that the story actually kicks in. Lisa is on Springfield Elementary’s online chat room or something, and, not knowing what to say, types in innocuous phrases like “Do you like ice cream?” of which she immediately gets four responses. Desperate for friends, Lisa uses this social meeting site as inspiration to create… another social meeting site? After the act break, we see her and the other Super Friends in the computer lab creating the website. So… does she not consider them her friends? Or does she just want non-nerd friends? They could have even made a joke about that, if they had, you know, put some thought into it. So SpringFace launches and Lisa is stunned that even adults are using it. The episode then turns into a social commentary of everyone staring at their phones and not interacting with each other, which is a really softball satirical target, and even this the show manages to bungle. We barely see what people are so engrossed with on their phones, which could have created amusing juxtaposition to what they’re actually doing, or could be doing, in real life. It never extends farther than just seeing people staring at their smartphones, which ultimately leads to calamity of people texting while driving causing car wrecks, and in no time at all, the town is in ruins, somehow. It’s not clear why there’s this widespread of a disaster, and why Lisa shutting down SpringFace will fix anything. People still have smartphones they can use to text and use this Internet, what difference will this make? Trying to satirize a popular film and a social media obsessed culture, this show spectacularly fails at both.

Three items of note:
– This episode was extremely short, so not only do we get lots of padding within the actual show, but also at the start and end of it. First is the lengthy couch gag starring David Letterman. Remember the old couch gag where he just turns around in his chair and that was it? A short but sweet simple tribute. Here, I guess it’s an extended parody of the actual Late Show opening? I don’t even remember it, and it just drags on and on. Like I mentioned earlier, the SpringFace plot doesn’t start until nine minutes in, and that wraps up at eighteen minutes, so the actual plot of the episode is just nine minutes long. After some final joke title cards, we get a bizarre ending bit involving Patty and Selma competing against the Winklevoss twins (voiced by Armie Hammer, who played them in the film) in rowing at the Olympics. I guess this just figured, we want to take that part of the movie, and Patty and Selma are twins, so that will make it Simpson-y. Then before the very end, they stop rowing and start making out with each other, because the only thing funnier than two dudes kissing, is if they’re related. Incest is hilarious! But no, we’re still not done. We get a self-acknowledged “Show’s Too Short” story; Dan Castellaneta as Vincent Price narrates a prank from Bart that goes wrong, done in an gothic cross-hatching visual style. Despite the oddity of its existence in the first place, it’s easily the best thing in the entire episode. It’s just really surprising to me that considering how much needless padding that’s in nearly every episode at this point, they couldn’t squeeze in just a few minutes more.
– In recent years, the show has definitely slipped away from Springfield being America’s Crud Bucket to being suspicious similar to southern California. This episode’s opening set piece involves the Simpsons visiting the fancy new outdoor mall. The architecture and layout of some of the buildings, the trolly car, the expensive condos, the specific stores (American Girl), it’s literally the Grove in Los Angeles. Halfway through the set piece, Marge whips out a bunch of gift cards she has, even though these are supposed to be more high-end stores, so who knows how she got these. But nowadays, the family doesn’t seem to be struggling, they’re having a grand old time at the mall, ending in Homer buying the latest Apple laptop. They’re doing just fine financially. Except when an episode dictates they need to be poor, and then they’re poor. Flexible reality!
– The ending really, honestly, makes no damn sense. In the framing device, Lisa laments that SpringFace was being used in ways she hadn’t intended. First we see her spying on Bart, Milhouse and the bullies playing an ultra violent video game, having somehow used SpringFace to trade weapons from their accounts. What? How? Either this video game was made exclusively for SpringFace, like a Facebook game, or the company apparently struck a deal with CEO Lisa to share content through the social media site. Either way, violent video games wasn’t a problem Lisa created, and shutting the site down won’t solve it. And what’s the problem anyway? Rather than beating them senseless, the bullies are willfully playing this game with Bart and Milhouse and having a great time. That’s a positive from my perspective. Then we see Homer driving and texting, with Marge riding shotgun, also texting. Marge looks worried as she stares at her husband, but doesn’t say a word until he’s done saying his full joke line. There’s even a weird second pause after he stops talking before she says, “Watch the road!” They could have made it a point that the allure of smartphones is so strong that even the always responsible Marge has gotten completely addicted, but instead here, it makes no sense that it takes her forever to tell her husband to put down the goddamn phone. So it results in a giant car pile-up, and then we see the entire town is like one big car wreck up in flames. So, video games and texting are the demons SpringFace created, two things that can be done on smartphones without a social media app. But whatever, Lisa shuts down the site, and everyone throws away their devices. Why? Did they do nothing but SpringFace? Parts of this episode feel like they were written by old men who don’t understand this new technology, but the writing staff must all use smartphones and get why this makes no sense, right? Or maybe they just don’t care. That may be it.

One good line/moment: The ending bit, the “Show’s Too Short” story. It’s nothing spectacular, but the different visual style and Castellaneta’s Vincent Price made it enjoyable, at least until the very ending where we see Skinner reading the story.

496. Politically Inept with Homer Simpson

2310Original airdate: January 8, 2012

The premise:
A viral video of Homer going nuts about mistreatment on an airplane gets him his own political talk show, where he blusters on about traditional values and small town American rights. His nonsensical, ill-informed rhetoric becomes so influential that he gets tapped to pick the Republican presidential nominee, famous rocker and insane person Ted Nugent.

The reaction: Boy, this is a real time capsule of an episode. Sort of. Some elements of it still feel depressingly relevant in our current dumpster fire of a political climate, but boy oh boy, Homer as Glenn Beck? Once again, despite Krusty’s cries two episodes ago about looking dated and hacky, the show doesn’t seem to care. And also once again, South Park beat them to the punch by two years. But let’s look into this a bit more. That episode featured Cartman becoming the new morning announcer at the school, and abusing his power by attacking the student body president because he doesn’t like her personally. He became a Glenn Beck expy, but all in a way that was in line with his character; Cartman loves attention and relishes being in a position of power, and he’s also a huge asshole. So what do we have from The Simpsons? Well, Homer goes nuts on an airplane, grabbing the intercom and spouting some nonsense about customer’s rights. He then goes on a cable news show and shouts that he speaks for the honest Joe American, which then leads to him getting his own show, where he becomes Glenn Beck Lite. Why is he doing this? He’s talking out his ass extolling good ol’ boy American values, but as Castellaneta marries his Homer voice with a Beck impression, I just don’t understand what Homer’s point is or his goal. Through the episode, he flip flops between his original impassioned airplane speech, then claiming he’s just playing a character, to an advocate for the little guy, to actually wanting to implement change, and the ending involves him not able to buy into his own bullshit anymore and giving up his fame. So much of this episode is nonsensical and unfunny, but the core of it absolutely does not work when I can’t figure out the main character’s motivation throughout the entire episode. They wanted to do a Glenn Beck parody, and they squeezed Homer into that box so they could do it. So topical. Except not.

Three items of note:
– The opening at the airport feels even more dated than the Glenn Beck plot line. Making fun of TSA regulations and security checks in 2012?
– The whole gravy boat thing I guess is referencing the Tea Party? Except the show doesn’t do anything with that. The show had some juicy material at their disposal lampooning that movement, or just the idea of a TV loudmouth holding that much influence and using it irresponsibly, but they reduce it to just one line that Lisa says to push the plot forward. The gravy movement thing is pretty much squandered, with screen time instead used for some elaborate fake dream to sway Homer back to reality. Bleh.
– I feel pretty stymied by this episode, it’s hard to come up with what to talk about. When we get to the point where Ted Nugent seems to be living at the Simpson house for some reason, I just don’t even know where to begin. Why is he here? What’s he promoting? He shoots an arrow into Flanders’ forehead, and then later shoots a bunch of kids into the air from his bow, and nobody bats an eye. I guess he’s just craaaaaayyy-zeeeeee so it’s fine? I dunno. This one was just really fucking confusing.

One good line/moment: Oh, I don’t know… Brockman’s headline for the gravy moment “Au Jus-tice For All!” was cute. …that’s all I got.

495. Holidays of Future Passed

2309Original airdate: December 11, 2011

The premise:
We get a glimpse into life during the holiday season thirty years into the future. A deadbeat Bart tries to reconnect to his kids while dealing with his wife remarrying, and Lisa struggles with how best to deal with her aloof, online addicted teenage daughter.

The reaction: This episode first hit my radar when I heard the high praise attached to it, much higher than anything I had heard from the show in a good long while. And while this is easily the best show of the season, I certainly wouldn’t call it good. I don’t even think it’s better than the future episode before this, “Future-Drama.” We focus on the parental troubles of a grown up Bart and Lisa returning home for the holidays. First up is Bart, who living in the dilapidated elementary school and trying to look like a fun dad to his two estranged sons. I don’t really care for this constant characterization of future Bart that he’s never matured beyond his ten-year-old mentality (and literally says as such at the emotional climax). “Lisa’s Wedding” showed the most believable Future Bart to me, working in demolitions and promoting local tough man contests on the side; he was always a street-smart kid, so I can easily accept this future vision. But every other future show has him as a pathetic mooch who has done absolutely nothing with his life, which makes it hard to feel any kind of sympathy for him. His plot line features the kids getting along better with Homer, who proves to be a fun grandpa, which is a pretty adorable idea I wish they’d spent more time on, and he ends up sparking the resolution with Bart and his kids, which feels pretty empty and cloying. Meanwhile, we see Lisa has ended up marrying Milhouse, another future concept I hate, but as we saw last season, the writers just can’t step away from shipping those two. Her conflict and make-up with Marge and her daughter is a little more satisfying, but nothing super notable. Surrounding these stories is an endless parade of future jokes, many of which feel like stuff picked up off the Futurama writer’s room floor. There are some amusing moments, but so much of it just seems too goddamn fantastical for just thirty years into the future. Remember how sensational but pragmatic “Lisa’s Wedding” appeared, with picture phones, VR headsets, and the Rolling Stones still on tour? Here we get sentient talking trees, shrink rays, hyper-evolved dogs and cats, and Flanders marrying Maude’s ghost. All and all, is this one of the best episodes the show has had in the last decade? Oh yeah. Is that saying much? Nope.

Three items of note:
– Also coming home for Christmas is Maggie, who is now an international singing sensation. She also doesn’t speak in the episode, because of course she doesn’t. It was a joke played to perfection in “Lisa’s Wedding,” we hear from Homer that she’s a chatterbox, and Dr. Hibbert that she sings like an angel, but she is always interrupted before she gets to speak. Here, she gets a lot more screen time than in “Wedding,” and the contrived explanation of her staying mute is that she’s pregnant, and future women need to stay quiet for the health of their baby. What? So she ends up at the airport, and then later in Kearney’s cab when she goes into labor, and then checks into the hospital, all without saying a word? Isn’t she like a hardcore rock star? And we don’t get a peep out of her? When she walks in at the very end with her new baby, she still says nothing. It felt like the writers trying to continue the joke from “Wedding” without realizing the new context for Maggie not speaking makes absolutely no sense.
– We get to see a lot of Springfield residents and what they’re up to in the future, some of which feel kind of crow barred in. In “Wedding,” they felt a little more natural and relevant to the story, or surprising, like seeing Quimby driving a cab working for Otto. Cabdriver Kearney isn’t as interesting. Neither is an entire clone army of Ralph killing themselves, nor is Lenny and Carl switching brains, continuing the endless confusion about what the fuck their relationship is. The Bart and Lisa stories might have been more successful if they were a bit more developed, so devoting so much time to these character sidebars felt like a squandered opportunity.
– Lisa virtually enters the Internet to find her daughter, which arguably is one of the slightly more plausible future things we see here, but it’s incredibly reminiscent of the Internet we saw in Futurama. There’s also a throwaway gag about Martin Prince now being Marcia Princess, which feels very odd. There was a similar “joke” in the past Martin episode of his fantasy of being a buff basketball player with male and female groupies, and him taking a good long look at the former. Are we supposed to laugh at the idea of Martin being gay or transgender? You could make jokes about these subjects, but if the joke is just “he’s gay!” or “he’s now a she!” it just seems kind of shallow and gross.

One good line/moment: The scene of Bart and Lisa drinking up in their treehouse I thought was incredibly effective. The two felt very natural and believable as they bitched about their problems and reassured each other. It’s easily the most effectively human scene this show has done in years. Not even the talking tree bullshit that ends the scene could ruin it.