Category Archives: Season 26

569. Waiting For Duffman

Original airdate: March 15, 2015

The premise:
Homer is chosen to be the new Duffman. At first he is shocked to find that he’s not allowed to drink in his new title, but after seeing the detriments of alcohol abuse sober, he crusades to get people to quit drinking.

The reaction: Pretty surprised it took them this long to do this idea. I feel like it was already done in the comics years ago. So following an injury, the old Duffman is forcibly retired, and Duff is on the hunt for a replacement. So Homer is among a bunch of finalists for So You Think You Can Duff?, a competition reality show thing, because those parodies aren’t completely played out at this point. We also get the reappearance of Stacy Keach as the Duff CEO from “Hungry, Hungry Homer,” an episode I recall being one of the only bright spots in a dismal twelfth season. He’s fine here, but as with any guest voice, he has very, very little to work with. When Homer is picked, he is devastated to learn he can’t drink on the job (and suicidal in a “hilarious” sequence involving him repeatedly trying to kill himself after learning the news), and then later crusades against drinking when he realizes how much damage alcohol addiction creates. So the last half is kind of like if you mashed “Duffless” and “Lisa the Beauty Queen” together, made them more incoherent and added a bunch of bullshit on top. There’s a kernel of an idea here about the Duff company being surprised that as a big fat guy, Homer is a more relatable Duffman to their consumer base, but it’s just one line that comes up fifteen minutes in. We see Homer at a ribbon cutting and in a commercial, but because the reality show crap took up so much time, we barely have enough time to see how Homer feels about his new position before we have to pivot to his anti-drinking crusade, which is squeezed into the final minutes. He incites a riot at a racetrack, where they flip over the car he’s in, but then they literally just stand around and watch as the Duff boss recaps what’s happening (“Homer, now listen to me, you’re in a stadium surrounded by people who want to kill you. There’s one way out of your hell: prove you still love beer.”) Homer then drinks himself stupid, and then we cut to him at Moe’s being proud of being a has-been. So I guess even though he did as asked, he still got fired? There wasn’t even a scene explaining what happened, or why Homer all of a sudden switched gears to drinking again. This seems to happen a lot, where these stories just sort of stop with no clear resolution. Surely the writers must notice they have no ending, right? …right?

Three items of note:
– Marge is a bigger doormat than usual this show. She astutely points out that Homer only wants to be Duffman to get blasted, but then he fires back with some bullshit about wanting to be remembered for more than just being a husband and father. You’d think Marge would be slightly hurt by that statement, but instead she gives Homer permission to try out for Duffman, like a mom allowing her kid to go out and play. Later, Marge seems completely won over by Homer’s bullshit lies about wanting to be Duffman for the responsibilities and social good he can do. Or whatever. At the climax, when Homer is deciding whether or not to drink, from the crowd, Marge reassures him (“Whatever you do, you’ll be my hero.”) Someone should do a supercut of all of the times in the last fifteen years Marge has said “I’m so proud of you,” or “You’re my hero,” without any rhyme or reason as to why she would say that. It’s just empty sweet nothings that don’t mean anything; why would she be proud of Homer in this situation?
– Our second act begins with them recreating the Game of Thrones opening again, like they had done previously for a couch gag, except this time it’s for a commercial advertising Homer as the new Duffman. Again, there’s nothing parody about this, it’s just recreating elements of the show, but with Duff wallpaper over it. Afterwards, Homer gets sworn in as Duffman and has to take an oath inside a church. It’s a dramatic recitation that takes almost a minute and is completely joke-free. Later, we get a glimpse of an old-time 50s Duff commercial, featuring not-Yogi Bear soothing his bear trap-snared leg with a cool refreshing Duff, and later joining a bunch of other animal heads on the wall. How bland and boring. Compare that to the commercial in “Duffless” with the doctor’s recommendation and Duff being proud sponsor of The Amos ‘N’ Andy Show. That bit was actually saying something, and being funny all at the same time. This new commercial, I guess it’s funny because the cartoon bear got killed. It’s like what the show thinks Itchy & Scratchy is now, violence for its own sake is good enough!
– More bizarre fan service: Bart and Lisa dig into Homer’s Duff swag and are playing with T-shirt cannons, leading Homer to comment, no one’s ever been killed with one of those! Now, I’ll be honest, if it was just left there, that actually is a clever, if somewhat ghastly, in-joke. But let’s go one further. A T-shirt gets lodged through Ned’s bedroom window, smacks right into a picture frame of Maude, causing it to break and fall off the wall. Then Ned looks to the camera for a second or two before we cut. Now, why exactly is this scene here? If you’re a fan of the show, surely you’ve made the T-shirt cannon connection. This show once prided itself on rewarding viewers for paying attention, with its sign gags and quick multi-layered jokes. Now, everything is so over-explained and labored over, as well as just milked and elongated to make the show longer, the show just repeatedly saying, “DO YOU GET IT? DO YOU? DO YOU?!” Also, how fucking sad for Ned, especially at this point being a double widower; what exactly is funny about him being specifically reminded of his first wife’s death?

One good line/moment: Airing a week after his death, the show ends with a small little tribute to Sam Simon, with a clip of him talking about how much he loved what he was working on. Reading up on the history of the show, as well as John Ortved’s unauthorized history book, it’s clear just how much of the foundation of the world of the show really came from Sam, and without him, the show would definitely not have been as amazing as it was. He of course left the show after the fourth season, and while I could ruminate on that, or make some snarky comment about how he probably hates how the show is now, but I don’t wanna. Between being a driving force on the greatest show of all time and his charitable efforts over the past few decades, from all accounts, he just sounded like one helluva guy. We Simpsons fans can’t thank you enough, Sam. Peace and chicken grease.

568. Sky Police

Original airdate: March 8, 2015

The premise:
When the church is destroyed by a freak accident, Marge and the other churchies raise the money to rebuild by counting cards at the local casino, under the tutelage of their learned accomplice Apu.

The reaction: Uggh, these are kind of the worst kinds of episodes, the ones that think they’re making a point about something, but they’re just as inept as any other show. Religious commentary and satire used to be a firm strong point for this series, so seeing something like this is pretty pathetic. So the church gets destroyed by stupidity, and for whatever reason, Apu offers up a solution to Marge, that they play the casino for cash to pay the reconstruction costs. So theoretically, the show is about a crisis of conscious if what they’re doing is morally right; counting cards is not technically cheating, but gambling is a sin, I think, so that’s an issue, I suppose. There’s also the fact that Marge has a past gambling addiction, which I thought was going to crop up at some point, like Marge would get too obsessed and end up losing all their money, but that never happens. Anyway, they pray before and after every big score, so they’re relying on staying in God’s good graces, but when Homer is kidnapped by the casino, Marge rebukes this reliance on miracles, and vows to take matters into her own hands to save the day. But… isn’t this whole casino scheme them taking charge of their own fate and raising the money themselves? If the “point” is supposed to be them going from passive to proactive, this doesn’t make any sense, they were already embroiled in a huge plan in the first place. So Marge goes to the casino, gets down on her knees and prays, which gets the attention of everyone around her. There’s an inner monologue about the function of prayer and what it means, which I guess is supposed to be the “meaningful” part of the episode, but it’s so empty and hamfisted. Again, this show used to be the king of injecting thoughtful, poignant messages without interrupting the comedy; now if they try to do something similar, not only is it poorly written, you can hear the gears screeching to a halt when we get a scene like this. We end with the Simpsons looking out at the rebuilt church at sundown (“Homie, after all this, do you still believe in God?” “On a beautiful night like tonight, how could I not?”) Just terrible. This show has gone long past the point of having its cake and eating it too, we’re down to microscopic crumbs now.

Three items of note:
– Here’s my biggest gripe though, why the hell is this episode entitled “Sky Police”? The church is destroyed by a mishap by Chief Wiggum and his fancy new jet pack, after an opening involving him as “Sky Police,” but that’s over four minutes in. Toward the climax, Marge makes an off-handed remark about God not being like a sky police and they can’t rely on him, so that seemed like a feeble way to actually tie that back around.
– There’s a lot of small moments in this episode that reminded me of classic shows. Apu talking about his past attending MIT (the Mombai Institute for Tantric Sex) is like “Much Apu About Nothing” with CalTech in Calcutta. But why is it a sex school? Is it funny because Kama Sutra = Indian = big laughs? Homer running around the casino desperately looking for Marge was just like the end of “$pringfield,” except without the actual emotional investment or the jokes (no Homer randomly hanging up some guy’s pay phone, “Can’t talk now!”) And Marge thanking the casino ceiling camera as a higher power was like the gag from “Viva Ned Flanders” (“Keep gaming. It means gambling. Keep gaming.”) Repeating types of jokes is fine, but when you do, it helps to make them actually funny, or different from what you did before.
– The Lovejoys grow attached to their costumes, and start using it for roleplay sex, which Marge catches them in the middle of. Hearing a woman at the door, Helen calls from inside to invite her in, which causes Marge to vomit on their doorstep. But she recovers instantaneously so she can continue repeating exposition to Timothy. Maybe it was just a dry heave. Or just like a little throw up. Just some light spittle.

One good line/moment: I actually kind of enjoyed the opening with Wiggum’s jet pack shenanigans. It’s ridiculous and crazy, but I almost prefer stuff like that at this point, especially compared to the rest of the show attempting to have a message and failing miserably. Plus there’s a kernel of satire there of police forces being given military armament and technology; there’s not really much satire there, but it still added another layer to it. And seeing “Sky Police” return over the credits was a welcome surprise. Really, I’d have preferred to have a whole episode of just that, “Chief Wiggum, P.I.” style.

567. The Princess Guide

Original airdate: March 1, 2015

The premise:
While Mr. Burns makes a deal with a Nigerian king for his uranium, Homer is tasked with watching over the royal daughter. Wanting to experience America firsthand, the princess ends up forming an unusual kinship with a smitten Moe.

The reaction: As simplistic and transparent as this show has become, sometimes there comes an episode where I really am not sure what the point of it is. This one is about Moe finding love, except not really, because she’s not attracted to him, so he’s comforted that he found kindness in a platonic friend? I guess? Again, not really sure. We start off with Take Your Daughter To Work Day at the plant (does that even still exist?), featuring Lisa going to the plant, which only makes me desperately yearn for the sweetness of “Bart on the Road.” She’s effectively used as a prop so Burns can pick Homer to watch after the king’s daughter after scanning the monitors and seeing him hugging his own kin. So Burns has Homer watch the princess (I have forgotten her name, don’t think that matters much) at her hotel. She convinces him to take her out, so they go to Moe’s, where Moe proceeds to repeatedly say strange, awkward, but mostly innocent things, and the princess laughs and finds it all charming. But while Homer and Moe talk about stupid shit in the back room, the princess leaves, Homer follows to find her and is conveniently arrested, then the princess returns, so I guess that was the best way they figured they could get rid of Homer for the time being. The princess hangs out, tolerating Moe, and then later in the evening falls asleep in the back room; surely this woman wants to see more things than this gargoyle’s disgusting bar. Now we get sad pathetic lonely Moe as he goes to sleep on the bar and does a weird “Goodnight Moon” thing (“Goodnight beer, goodnight mice, goodnight princess who treats me nice.”) The princess had gotten up to leave, but then decides to stay upon hearing this. Ehhhhhh, let’s skip to the end. When all parties finally meet back up, Moe is shocked to learn the princess doesn’t have the hots for him, but just enjoyed his company, which he later seems to be fine with. And that’s it, I guess. Our happy ending is a flash forward to old future Moe, who reflects back on his one comforting memory of a woman actually being kind to him. Or feeling sorry for him, one or the other. Whatever.

Three items of note:
– In the first act, there was a pretty solid string of crazy Family Guy-esque cutaway gags one after another: one featuring a line-up of frozen Burns clones, showing Richard Branson is Burns’ neighbor, and then Smithers fantasizing about being in an island paradise with Burns. This last one turned out to be plot relevant and recurring, as Smithers goes along with having Homer watch the princess hoping he’ll fail, and Burns will run away with him. The Nigerian deal being critical to keep him from financial ruin after Elon Musk fucked him over; really, really weird to see this being a running reference, mentioned here and in “My Fare Lady.” At the very end, we see a despondent Smithers walk out of Moe’s and come upon a couple of the escaped Burns clones and he feels happy again. Or something. Whatever.
– They had Jon Lovitz play a paparazzi guy who takes a photo of the princess kissing Moe on the forehead, and he has one line. Plus, it’s not even the same guy he voiced in “Homerazzi.” So, did they just forget who that character was? Or is it just a big coincidence?
– The ending is just awful. Everyone is gathered around Burns’ office, including the Simpsons for no reason, as we painfully go through the plot beats with characters just openly saying what they feel and what they’re going to do… standard procedure at this point. I honestly can’t get over how terrible the writing on this show is sometimes (“I am not convinced.” “Because you want them to grow?” “Still not convinced.” “Because you can’t strangle a girl.” “That makes sense. Come here, daughter.”)

One good line/moment: Homer makes Lisa a replacement lunch out of a montage of increasingly elaborate trades in the plant cafeteria. It’s kind of dumb, but also kind of sweet seeing him do something nice for Lisa.

566. My Fare Lady

Original airdate: February 15, 2015

The premise:
After accidentally getting the bar completely wrecked, Homer, Lenny and Carl gets Moe a job at the nuclear plant, but tensions rise when he is quickly promoted. Meanwhile, Marge becomes a driver for a ride sharing service, which ends up running her ragged.

The reaction: Two bland tastes taste bland together… bleh. So Marge is convinced to becoming a not-Lyft driver considering she drives around doing chores all day. Nothing really comes of this plot whatsoever. Very quickly, she finds herself exhausted from doing it, but it’s not even like they set up that she needs the money, or that she wants to do something different with her life. She just randomly meets another driver, he asks if she wants to be one too, and she says yes. Meanwhile, Moe has the regular gang watch the bar when he goes to see some old Hollywood dame perform, who after looking it up I guess is an Elaine Stritch parody, and somehow he is about to score with her? Unfortunately, the guys’ ladies night scheme to drum up business for the bar fails when the ladies start a destructive bar brawl for some reason, trashing the bar and ruining Moe’s shot at getting laid. This making sense so far? At this point, thanks to an extended opening and the Marge story, we’re halfway through the show, so we quickly get Moe into the power plant, where as a janitor he manages to shoo away some safety inspectors, and Burns promotes him to supervisor. This is all condensed in the last few minutes of the show, so I’m not exactly sure what Moe’s new job entails or why he would like it, but when his old customers shun him in the cafeteria, he just wants to go back to the bar. Marge picks him up for a ride, crossing the two plots over, where we get some weird song interlude where someone sings their dialogue and stage direction for them (I have no idea what this is supposed to be a reference to), and the two decide to give up their new jobs. Or rather, Marge says that verbatim. Two “someone-gets-a-job” shows for the price of one! What fun! Or lack thereof.

Three items of note:
– Even though an extended opening sequence killed almost two minutes (see below), we follow that up with even more padding, a recreation of The Jetsons opening theme. The pay-off of space Homer going to work under glass in a public display labeled “Why Humans Failed” is kind of cute, but everything else was just boring, just flatly recreating the original source material, tweaking a few small elements and putting in sign gags. Compare this to “Marge vs. The Monorail” and their Flintstones opening with Homer jumping into his car seat, breaking the window in the process, and his jubilant song about himself ending in totaling his car on a chestnut tree. Actually doing something creative with the material vs. just playing it straight and hope people slap their fins together because it’s funny when one pop culture thing meets another pop culture thing!
– Once again, I have to bitch about the exposition shit. Carl has the idea to promote a ladies night at Moe’s and hangs a sign up. But, I guess in case you don’t know what a “ladies night” is, and I don’t see how any mentally capable adult wouldn’t, Lenny and Carl helpfully explain it thoroughly to you, the audience (“How does Moe make money if ladies drink free?” “That’s the beauty part. This place is about to be filled with guys buying beers hoping to meet ladies!” “Brilliant! And thanks for telling me what the beauty part of it was.”) It’s like I’m listening to a bar owners instructional tape.
– Surely they could have written some better jokes about ride sharing, there’s so much comedic potential to be had. Instead, once Marge starts driving, the Moe story takes almost all of the screen time. We see the cab drivers of the city are annoyed with Marge in particular for whatever reason, complete with awful, awful dialogue! (“We used to get Uber amounts of work giving people Lyfts!” Yah get it?) We also have Christopher Lloyd, I guess playing his character from Taxi, but I’m too young to have any appreciation for that. For me, he’ll forever be Doc Brown. The two plots intersect at the end when the cab drivers corner Marge to beat the shit out of her, I suppose, and Moe scares them off with a shotgun. I guess that’s one way to connect the two.

One good line/moment: An entire guest opening title this time, a pixelated visual masterpiece animated by two fans. The timeline on this was pretty quick too; the video was posted February 1st, it took the Internet by storm, and just two weeks later, it actually got used by the show itself. That’s pretty fantastic, those two should be very proud of themselves. Not only is it incredibly inventive and uses fan service appropriately (nothing past season 10, of course), even using pixel art, the animation is more fluid and lively than what we see in the show itself. If you haven’t seen it (though I can’t imagine if you’re reading a blog like this that you haven’t), it’s well worth your time.

565. Walking Big & Tall

Original airdate: February 8, 2015

The premise:
Homer is empowered by a fat acceptance group to be proud of his size, much to Marge’s chagrin. In an unrelated opening act, Bart and Lisa write a new Springfield town anthem.

The reaction: I feel slightly redundant harping on the exposition laden dialogue at this point, but it’s got to be the series’ biggest fatal flaw at this point. When over half of your script is literally explaining what’s happening and what characters feel about the story repeatedly, what room is left for the actual story to actually happen? This episode is a pretty flagrant offender of this. Roughly nine minutes in, our story actually begins: Homer seeks out a weight loss group, but ends up attending a weight empowerment group instead, and is inspired by their charismatic scooter-bound leader to love himself for who he is. Hearing this, Marge, of course, is not pleased. Homer comes home and reiterates everything we already learned in the previous scene about the group. Later, when Marge attempts to bail Homer out of jail, they have the same conversation and espouse their same feelings on the matter. Then they do it again towards the end before the “climax,” if it can so be called. We’re left with a story about Homer feeling fat and proud of it, consisting of him just repeating that point over and over, but never actually seeing it. There’s one scene of him apologizing to the bathroom scale, but that’s really about it. Because of this, it doesn’t matter how many times we hear Homer repeat the same lines about “wide pride,” or talk about how awesome his new leader is, when we barely see or understand anything that’s being done, or know anything about this new character. It just ends up being a broken down mess of a story where everyone just talks in circles. On top of that, the subject of obesity in America is a rich one; scorn and ridicule of the overweight is a real issue, so the subject matter of this show could really have meant something. I mean, I knew it wouldn’t, but in capable hands, it could. But it’s just a series of never-ending first draft, base level fat jokes. Rubbery sound effects when all the fatties are crammed in a jail cell. The leader slurps up his fries with a straw. When he dies (spoiler alert), the funeral director repeatedly walks in with more and more urns of his remains. There’s nothing more to these jokes than “laugh at the fatties! LAUGH AT THEM!” In the classic years, we saw plenty of gags at the expense of Homer’s and others’ weight, but there was always something more to them, more layers of humor on top, and they never felt scornful. But now, just like “jokes” aimed at gays or other religions, the social satire that this show was once known for now feels very petty and small.

Three items of note:
– The opening act feels completely removed from the actual plot. It almost felt like a throwback to the 2000s when that was more common practice for the show. In a flashback, we see a young, strapping Mayor Hans Moleman present a town song, which is later revealed was a melody sold to many towns the nation over. I guess we’re supposed to be charmed to see him and the Old Jewish Man in their younger days, or smaller goofs like a younger Krusty in a Thriller jacket, but really, who cares? In the present, Lisa volunteers to write a new town song (after turning down Pharrell Williams in his three-second cameo), and she teams up with Bart to write it (following an awkward reminiscence to “Stark Raving Dad”). The episode begins with the old anthem, and this orphaned plot ends with Bart, Lisa and the other kids performing the new one, and both are just terrible and unfunny. What was the last song this show did that was actually memorable? When Weird Al guest starred? They attempt to bring the plot back when Marge begs her children to write a song to sway Homer back to getting healthy, but that just leads to them bickering and complaining about being one-hit wonders or something. It was a really awkward scene.
– I know I just harped on about the expository dialogue, but it really affects every aspect of these episodes. As pervasive as it is, sometimes certain moments annoy me more than others. The kids’ new anthem gets a standing ovation, we see everyone is on their feet in thunderous applause… except Homer, who is firmly lodged in his seat. We saw before the performance he had to squeeze himself into the tight seat, and now we see him struggling to get up, so if you’re watching the screen and have one working brain cell, you understand what’s happening. But lo, here comes Marge to fucking explain it for you (“Homer, it’s a standing ovation! Get up! Our kids just did something amazing! Get up!”) I CAN SEE, MARGE. I CAN SEE.
– There’s a pretty egregious time eating scene of Homer at Moe’s reading off a list of insulting “fat” names he would no longer like to be called. It just goes on and on and on, for forty long seconds. I’m sure that some of them might be halfway amusing, but a lot of them are not, and some not even really jokes (Wide Load, Fatso, Lard Ass, Pudgy Wudgy). Just got to pad this out to make air time, any way they can.

One good line/moment: Maggie and Abe feeding each other “Baby’s First Peaches” and “Senior’s Last Peaches” was a cut one-off joke.