Category Archives: Season 26

560. Covercraft

Original airdate: November 23, 2014

The premise:
Homer teams up with the other neighborhood bands to form a small town cover band, with Apu as the lead singer, who uncannily channels the sound of 80s crap rock. It isn’t long before the washed up band Sungazer shows up to tap Apu to join them on their new tour.

The reaction: Boring… so boring… When you’re getting flashbacks to “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation,” that’s not the best sign. We’ve got Homer, Lovejoy, Kirk Van Houten and Dr. Hibbert together in a dude band… okay. These are four personalities I don’t see gelling, but of course, the latter three don’t exhibit any real character or really do anything except stand in the background and occasionally say a line about how great things are going (“Guys, are you feeling this? Are you feeling this?” “I’m feeling it.” “I’m definitely feeling it.” “I felt something earlier but I was afraid to bring it up.” “I think we all felt something.” ACTUAL DIALOGUE) The real highlight of the band is Apu, who sings in a completely different voice that’s not Hank Azaria’s (I think) due to some bullshit about 80s wuss rock bleeding into his brain after years of all-night Kwik-E-Mart shifts. So now it’s like “Strummer” meets “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet,” except a drunken Barney being discovered lying on the bathroom floor singing in an angelic voice is actually funny, and this shit isn’t. They sing covers from the fake 80s band Stargazer, and like we’ve seen with style “parodies” this show has attempted over the last few years, they more or less just replicate shitty songs, not actually write jokes and make fun of them. Later, Stargazer shows up, and despite being a fictional band, Kirk names off all four members individually when they first appear as if they were actual celebrities that they always namedrop all the time. They want Apu to replace their dead band member, and he agrees, but Homer gets jealous about his friend’s newfound fame. The writing is so fucking bad… here’s how this goes. Apu gets on the tour bus, and we get this exchange from Kirk and Homer (“Gotta say, I’m kind of jealous of Apu getting a break like that.” “Not me. I’m nothing but happy that our friend is heading for fame and fortune.”) Then Apu flies away in a helicopter, that I guess was on top of the tour bus that nobody noticed, shouting how they’re gonna play Las Vegas. Homer then breaks (“I want his fame and fortune so much!”) The whole episode is this, and for the thousandth time, is nothing new: characters just explaining what they’re feeling and what’s happening. Every fucking episode is like this now. In the end, Homer’s anger subsides when he finds Apu is being held against his will by a contract, they scheme and get Sungazer sick, and Apu gets his buddies back together to play to thunderous applause at a packed house in Springfield. So it’s like the ending of “Strummer,” except not as bad, considering it’s a fake 80s band that Homer and company are replacing and not the Rolling Stones, and I also could give less of a shit. Ugh.

Three items of note:
– Our opening features Moe getting into a back-alley fight with his neighbor, King Toot himself, played by Will Forte (I guess ownership has changed hands since “Lisa’s Pony.”) So many super talented guest stars have been completely and utterly wasted over the past decade-plus of shows, and now Forte joins them. Occasionally we see guest stars put in extra effort on their end, like Willem DeFoe did last show, but they have absolutely zero material to work with. The Last Man on Earth, created by and starring Forte, would premiere on FOX a few months later, and is such a wonderfully cringey and dark series, and he is masterful in it. Shit like this is beneath him. MacGruber is smarter than this. …it’s actually a surprisingly funny movie, go watch it.
– There’s a line early on that really annoyed me. Homer first plays his bass in the garage attracting the attention of the other Simpsons. Lisa comments, “It’s so cool to have another musician in the family!” Let’s ponder this. Lisa is smart enough to be able to see right through her dad that he isn’t truly serious about being a great musician. He bought it on a whim, thinking it would be easy, or he was suckered into it. Which is what happened. It happened at the same store that Lisa was in. She was there when, over the course of what must have been a couple hours, he was suckered into buying the bass and a whole bunch of other musical equipment. But this show has the memory of a mayfly, so I guess they forgot Lisa was in that scene. But again, the line makes no sense if Lisa was there or not. It’s just empty, meaningless dialogue that pushes the story forward; it doesn’t matter who says it, as long as we explain what’s happening. And in the end, Covercraft is a big local hit, so I guess Homer and company were instantly great, just like every other character that tries a new skill. Wonderful.
– The stupid story with Apu, besides the thing with his voice, is that he only feels comfortable singing at the Kwik-E-Mart, so Homer has him wear his uniform under his clothes so he’ll feel comfortable. Later, he attempts to sabotage him by stealing the uniform back when he’s on stage with Sungazer. This feels so fucking thin, like the plot of a shitty tween sitcom or something. And I guess we’re just forgetting about Homer and Apu playing around the world as the BeSharps then. I don’t care that much about continuity at this point, but it doesn’t help when they put a framed picture of the BeSharps on Apu’s dressing room wall for the sake of fan service. So they remember the episode enough to throw in a reference to it, but not enough to realize that it makes their flimsy premise completely fall apart.

One good line/moment: Guitar Central (Where Dreams Become Purchases) was a decent set piece; the conceit of the salesman preying on mid-life crises and over-complimenting them into buying as much as possible was good, not perfect, but there were some alright lines (“Usually it takes years to learn such neck confidence!”)

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559. Blazed and Confused

Original airdate: November 16, 2014

The premise:
Bart’s new teacher is a bonafide sadist out to humiliate and injure him, so he plans to humiliate him at the local “Blazing Guy” festival. The whole family is invited too, saving Homer’s skin from Marge after forgetting to reserve their big camping trip.

The reaction: Were people clamoring for the Simpsons to take on Burning Man? …oh, sorry, Blazing Guy? Since Mapple, this show has been doing this all the time, so this is nothing new, but they drive the knife further in toward the end of the show when a woman slips and says “Burning Man” before correcting herself. They realize this isn’t satire, right? This is like material straight from the trash bins of MAD Magazine. But before we get into all this, let’s address our set-up. Willem DeFoe returns to the show after nearly two decades to play Bart’s new psychopathic teacher. This reminded me of Tina Fey as Lisa’s bitch teacher from a season or two back, where they can just get away with openly torturing a student, but even worse in that Mr. Lessen not only humiliates Bart by shaving his head, but also purposely electrocutes the child as well. He’s a complete maniac, and I don’t entirely know what we’re supposed to feel about this. But Bart wants his revenge, and eventually discovers that Lessen is going to play a pivotal role at the upcoming Blazing Guy festival. That seems kind of odd; is this a set-up to some kind of joke how people of all kinds might enjoy such a festival and let their hair down? How looks or first impressions might be deceiving? Nope. There’s no discussion or explanation whatsoever as to why Lessen is there in the first place. Eventually, the Simpsons haul ass to Blazing Guy, and when we get there, there’s no material to be had. The only joke is, over and over, boy, aren’t these festival people weird and crazy? They’re so weird! And crazy! You get it? Oh, and we’ll have Marge drink some drug-laced tea and hallucinate! That’ll be funny, right? In the end, Bart’s plan to cut Lesson down a peg succeeds, and he’s fired, and that’s it. No twist, no examination of what’s wrong with this psycho; the Tina Fey episode gave a disposable bullshit last-minute reasoning for her actions, but at least it was there. With any of these episodes, rarely does it feel like there’s ever a purpose or a real meaning toward these characters’ actions, but that of course won’t stop them from expositing what they’re doing every step of the way. Another stagnant outing for the pile.

Three items of note:
– Bart’s plan to learn more about Lessen seems unnecessarily convoluted. Through a secret camera in the teacher’s lounge, he catches him sweet-talking Miss Hoover. After that, he creates a fake online profile for her that he friend requests, therefore giving him access to Lessen’s Facebook. Good thing Lessen friended the fake Hoover instead of the real one. Then, to find out what Blazing Guy is, Milhouse scrolls to a video labeled, “Blazing Guy: An Explanation.” “That’s convenient,” he comments. It sure is, buddy.
– I keep having to dock my expectations for these episodes lower and lower as these storylines seems to have so little ambition. One such moment was when Lisa eagerly ran into a drum circle to jam on her sax, and then proceeds to be joined by a few other musicians playing crazy instruments, which seems to be creating a bit of a musical discord. At least to me it seemed like it. I thought maybe Lisa would feel uncomfortable to have these other people step on her toes or overshadow her or be annoyed by their music, or something. Anything. But no, absolutely not. Later on, we see Lisa is still jamming with them and everything’s fine. Despite it being the entire back half of the episodes, there’s no jokes made about Burning Man at all, it just seems like a fun cool place that you should definitely go to. It’s less of a parody and more of a commercial, bizarrely enough.
– After spending two scenes re-explaining his intention to humiliate Lessen, Bart comes across an emergency services tent with big barrels of fire retardant. It says what they are on the cans, but that won’t stop Bart from reading it out loud and saying he’ll use them to enact his plan. Jeez, I’m surprised Milhouse didn’t run in with an iPad and start playing a “Fire Retardant: An Explanation” video. Then Bart douses the gigantic Blazing Guy statue with retardant and not a single person seems to notice. Sigh.

One good line/moment: David Silverman makes a cameo at Blazing Guy performing his trademark flaming tuba, which was pretty sweet to see. But then in the climax, Lessen steals his instrument to shoot flames at Bart, which was much less sweet.

558. Simpsorama

Original airdate: November 9, 2014

The premise:
The Simpsons are visited by a lovable robotic sociopath and his 31st century pals, trying to prevent them from inadvertently being the direct cause for destroying their future.

The reaction: It’s probably no surprise that Futurama is very near and dear to me, probably as much as The Simpsons. And I’m incredibly pleased that in its multiple revivals, even though it lost a bit of its luster in its Comedy Central run, the series was still mostly very entertaining and inventive up until the very end. Then, one year after the show’s fourth and final (for now) cancellation, we get this, the crossover that apparently somebody asked for. First, let me get my nerdlinger shit out of the way: exactly how does this crossover make sense? Did they cure jaundice over a thousand years? Was Fry considered an albino having lived in the 20th century in the Simpsons world? They could have had the characters arrive from another dimension, that would have solved it. But nitpicky stuff aside, this story just don’t make no sense. New New York City is under siege by a ravenous race of unidentifiable creatures, whose biological origins trace back to 21st century Springfield, so Bender is sent back in time to kill their ancestor, Homer Simpson. Halfway through the show, we see what happen; they’re a result of a toxic stew created in a time capsule buried at Town Hall, a combination of a lucky rabbit’s foot, Bart’s mucus when he blew his nose into a sandwich (which Skinner and Chalmers just let him put in the trunk for some reason), and a healthy pool of toxic waste that appeared when they dug the hole, and then just plopped the time capsule in the ground anyway without question. By the third act, the Simpsons are transported to New New York, and help gather the creatures into Madison Cube Garden and shoot them into space, solving our conflict incredibly simply in less than a minute of screen time. But the show isn’t about that, it’s mashing these two worlds and their characters together, just like you always wanted, right? Except, they barely even do that. Bender and Homer bond over the first act, which is kind of cute, I guess, but the rest of the show just amounts to Futurama characters showing up to say lines and make fan service references. Does Fry make any sort of comment about him returning back to his own time? Or Leela scoffing at the primitive ways of the past? Nah. Similarly, the Simpsons don’t seem to have much to say when they’re transported a thousand years into the future, they just behave as normal, for the most part. The episode opens with a Futurama title, with the chyron “A Show Out of Ideas Teams Up With a Show Out of Episodes,” and that’s pretty much what it is. There’s no real desire to explore how the characters react or interact to the personalities and world of the other show, this episode was just to cram as many Futurama references in as possible, regardless if there’s actually any humor to speak of. Which there wasn’t much of.

Three items of note:
– Bongo Comics actually did two Simpsons/Futurama crossover comics that were way more entertaining and creative. The first involved the Planet Express crew being transported into Fry’s Simpsons comic book by the Brain Spawn, and the second had the town of Springfield in New New York, and the Professor proposing that since they are fictional characters, they can be used for slave labor. The dual references, the character moments (Leela and Lisa bonding over being social oddballs was kinda sweet), the jokes, they were all done incredibly well. That’s why I could care less about this garbage, I already got a clever and smart crossover in comic-form over a decade prior. You can find that hardcover edition for pretty cheap used on Amazon, I highly recommend it.
– No one seems to give that much of a shit that Bender the magical robot is walking around Springfield, most of all Lisa, who for whatever reason disdainfully asserts she doesn’t believe he’s from the future (“Robotic technology today is very advanced!”) Advanced to the point that a walking, talking, swearing, alcoholic robot that belches fire is something you don’t even bat an eye at? What? Well, I guess this is the same world that last season featured Professor Frink developing perfect clones of Homer in our canonical present, so maybe she’s onto something. But, again, between her blase attitude and the Simpsons not seeming to care much when they’re in New New York, what’s the point of crossing these two over if the characters don’t seem to even care about it themselves?
– So the show is littered with fan service moments: speaking appearances from most of the major Futurama cast, cameos by Hedonismbot and the Hypno Toad, Lisa using a holophoner saxophone, and so on. It’s transparent pandering, yes, but it’s done with almost no attempt at a joke. The biggest example of this is when walking about town, Homer, Fry, Leela and Bender walk past Panucci’s Pizza with poor little doggy Seymour sitting there, complete with a somber musical sting after they pass. Now, let’s just forget about how it makes no fucking sense for Panucci’s to be in Springfield, that doesn’t matter, even though it irks me anyway. But there’s no joke to it. None at all. It’s not even that the dog acknowledges Fry and yips for him and he doesn’t notice, like Fry loved that dog so much and didn’t even notice he was there, like play it off as dark humor. But there’s none of that. There’s nothing. It’s not even a reference to laugh at, were they just trying to emotionally manipulate fans that lose their shit thinking about “Jurassic Bark”? Is that it? Or are they supposed to feel good because, hey, I recognize that thing on the screen. Well, for the thousandth time on this show, a reference is not a joke or a parody. It is merely a reference.

One good line/moment: Hearing the Futurama cast again is always a treat, even when they have no real material to work with. The Professor probably comes off the best in terms of actually having some decent lines, particularly his sheer disdain toward Frink (“Maybe if we teamed up, we could figure something out.” “Okay, but remember, to me, you’re incredibly stupid.”)

557. Opposites A-Frack

Original airdate: November 2, 2014

The premise:
Discovering Mr. Burns’ kinda secret fracking operation, Lisa calls in a liberal-minded assemblywoman to put an end to it, but she and Burns end up in a secret torrid love affair.

The reaction: I don’t typically like doing direct compare and contrasts just because how unfair they are, but it’s hard in instances like this or “Super Franchise Me” when they’re so obvious. Burns’ actions here, and those in “Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part One” with his oil drill feel so completely separated from each other. Lisa discovers a flimsily disguised warehouse literally right down the block from her house that I guess she never noticed was there, and she and Bart just walk inside, and of course, in case you can’t figure out what’s going on with your eyeballs, she helpfully explains it to you (“This whole building is just a facade for a drilling operation!”) Then Burns appears and just starts explaining his whole plan to this eight-year-old girl. Later on, he needs to buy the mineral rights from the landowners to continue fracking, and he enlists Homer to help sell the idea to all the local dullards. Why would he do this, and why would he trust Homer to do a complete and thorough job? Also, Burns keeps talking about the land below Evergreen Terrace, but Homer seems to talk to all the residents of Springfield. The worst of all is right when the fracking is about the resume, Burns has gotten exactly what he wanted, he stops everything when he magically surmises there’s one signature missing in his giant stack. I can’t think of a more un-Burns thing to do. Can you imagine classic Burns doing shit like this? Flipping to “Who Shot Mr. Burns,” not only did Burns tap the oil well before Springfield Elementary could, he did so with utter glee and contempt for the lowly wretched citizens he holds in sheer contempt. Burns is absolutely ruthless, and he doesn’t care who he has to bribe or screw over to get what he wants. This episode featured neutered Burns, who has been around for over a decade, a withered, flimsy husk of a man who occasionally appears to have some teeth, like when he barrels down the door of the assemblywoman early on, but it’s all a facade. The love story I don’t even know what to say about it. Burns consults Homer about his affair, and takes away that he must harden his heart to keep the relationship casual… what the fuck am I writing? If I wrote the basic framework of this story, would it sound anything like Burns? Also, I don’t even know if I can lay this plot out in a coherent manner that makes sense, because it barely did watching the finished product. What a pile of trash.

Three items of note:
– The opening features Patty and Selma staying at the house, and when they promise not to smoke, Homer tries to catch them by installing smoke detectors all over the house. It even conveniently starts raining so they can’t go outside to smoke. But, thankfully, the basement door has magically transformed into a new bathroom, and for whatever reason, Homer didn’t install smoke detectors in there. Maybe he didn’t realize he had a new room in his house either. This serves as our lead-in to the main story when the water from the sink catches on fire, and Patty and Selma cause a huge explosion. Homer throws the two out on their ass, and they’re never referred to again. I guess Marge could give a shit about her two visibly damaged sisters, but lo, there are mere plot utilities here.
– Through the second half of the episode, after Homer works for Burns to get the fracking approved, Marge is in direct opposition, her signature being the one Burns needlessly points out is missing. To everything Homer throws at her to get her to relent her position, she just repeats, “Our water was on fire.” Over and over. By the very ending, by the sixth time she says it, Homer has a grand realization (that he explains aloud, of course), so I guess this was supposed to be a build-up to a joke, that Homer finally understands, even though it’s the same thing she’s been saying the whole episode, or something? I guess? This happens sometimes where I can’t tell if the show is doing a joke or not because the writing is so terrible.
– Burns and Homer get pally at his manor and talk relationships when a wrecking ball crashes through, courtesy of the assemblywoman who wants to get even for being dumped, and is taking over his land… Man, this fucking episode… it’s especially terrible, worse than normal. I can’t even recap this shit because it’s so nonsensical and too laborious to explain. The best worst moment is toward the end when Burns resumes fracking, we see the earth being fractured and Evergreen Terrace starts rumbling. We get a few small jokes in the Simpson backyard, and the scene is capped by this exchange between Marge and Lisa (“Is one of the side effects of fracking earthquakes?” “Yes.”) Again, just in case you weren’t following what’s going on, let’s just tell you straight out. Between this and earlier when Lisa pulls up a Netflix documentary to explain to the audience what fracking is, it’s almost like a goddamn PSA.

One good line/moment: Nothing. This one was particularly godawful.

556. Treehouse of Horror XXV

Original airdate: October 19, 2014

The premise:
In “School in Hell,” Bart and Lisa are transported to a school of the damned, where the former greatly excels. “A Clockwork Yellow” is a  Clockwork Orange “parody.” In “The Others,” the Simpsons are surprised to find themselves haunted by their Tracey Ullman-era predecessors.

The reaction: Another season, another subpar Halloween. Though to be fair, “School” is actually the strongest segment I’ve seen in a while. It’s got some promising ideas, like the hell school being more supportive and nurturing to Bart than Springfield Elementary, and there’s something wonderfully disturbing about the idea of the ending, where Homer willfully lets Bart horrifically maim him for his graduation. But despite the promise, a lot of it goes unfulfilled, with our usual collection of expository dialogue and surface-level jokes. “Clockwork” I’m pretty much in the dark about, having not seen A Clockwork Orange. But of course, parodies on this show used to stand on their own; fellow Kubrick homage “The Shinning” worked just fine when I saw it as a young lad, having never seen the source material. I know the basics of the plot, but nothing here really stands out as doing anything beyond just recreating bits from the movie. By the end, it seems like the writers lost interest and just started cramming in references to other Kubrick films, then ending with the director himself throwing a red pen in the air, it hitting him in the head, and him staring at the camera for a few seconds before cutting to black. I guess this is a reference, but  it certainly wasn’t funny. “The Others” is the most unfortunate, as the Simpsons meeting their crudely drawn and primitively behaved doppelgangers is a potentially neat idea. But, there’s absolutely no story; ghost Marge takes a shining to Homer, then Marge kills herself to get back at him, then the kids kill themselves, and it turns into a Homer-Marge schmaltz ending… and Marvin Monroe is there too. What an absolute waste. Wouldn’t it have been neat for the old Simpsons to want to take back their house and try to kill the family or something? Why were they haunting them to begin with? Upon the ghosts’ first appearance, Lisa claims that their time has passed, ghost-Bart belches, and she retorts, “That was unmotivated!” The show in its heyday could have excellently compared and contrasted the show from its roots, but nowadays, it’s a joke in and of itself. Character motivation, and other elements of good writing, have been hard to come by in this last decade of episodes.

Three items of note:
– Nothing’s better than a reference than you have to laboriously explain. In the hell segment, Bart pulls Hot Stuff out of a portal, an old Harvey Comics character from the creator of Richie Rich. As soon as he showed up, I was surprised, since he’s a pretty obscure character. But then he immediately talks about how lame his comic was, pulls out an issue and explains how bad it is. If you need to spend this much time explaining who this character is and why the joke is funny, wouldn’t it be better to just toss it and think of something else? I guess not.
– They use the famous Clockwork eye clamps to make a jab at how awful FOX is. How edgy. Not only have there been dozens of better digs at the network in the past, there have been plenty in classic Halloween shows alone. Plus, with stuff like “Empire,” “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” and “The Last Man on Earth,” there’s plenty on this network that are leaps and bounds above anything this show is churning out nowadays. Speaking of, there was another terrible FOX joke in the last episode too. So, so bad.
– The very ending is pretty cringe-worthy, when a parade of other Simpson families from other dimensions show up, in the style of Adventure Time, South Park, Archer, and others, including… [shudder]… the Minions. This show has inserted references to popular current shows and movies for the sake of just being references before, but this feels like the ultimate example, the most transparent instance of them trying to generate some light Internet buzz. Look, here’s a clip of Simpsons Minions! Homer as the Ice King! These are things that people like now! We can be like that too! Why isn’t anyone paying attention to us?

One good line/moment: Like I said, the hell segment has some good stuff in it. The designs of the creatures and the school are pretty neat, and there were some good jokes sprinkled throughout, like the hell chalkboard gag (Eternal Torment Is The Only Just Punishment for the Unbaptized) and the portal back from Hell being in Burns’ office.

555. Super Franchise Me

Original airdate: October 12, 2014

The premise:
In need of some extra income, Marge is talked into opening her own sandwich franchise, but soon finds she needs to employ the entire family to help tend to the restaurant to keep it afloat.

The reaction: Ah, the latest classic episode to be horribly rehashed, “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson,” where Marge starts up her own culinary business to hilarious results. Well, I guess just “results” in this case. We start with her making a bunch of sandwiches, Bart and Lisa take them to school to share with the other kids, then we’re at the playground where Marge is accosted by a sandwich shop franchiser to convince her to join her chain. Why are these two at the school? Where did this woman come from? Maybe they could have made her the parent of a kid who can’t stop talking about how much they love Marge’s food, but why try to write in any connective narrative tissue when you can just keep the plot barrelling forward. So Marge is boss of her own newly built Mother Hubbard’s Sandwich Shop, and she’s thrilled to have a domain to call her own. However, she immediately frets about the business floundering, and can’t find any employees better than Gil or… [shudder] Shauna, all of whom she fires. Soon, she ends up employing Homer and the kids to work the restaurant. Now… a couple things here. First, I guess we quickly dropped the angle of Marge cooing about the restaurant being all hers since now it’s a family affair. Second, the point of her wanting to go into business in the first place was to build up the family’s savings, and now I guess she’s perfectly fine with her husband skipping work to help her out. And force her children to work as well. Are they missing school? I guess so. More conflict arises when a second Mother Hubbard’s opens across the street, run by Cletus and his family, and steals all of Marge’s customers. We see an ad on TV about their signature roadkill hillbilly eats, so why wouldn’t it be the toast of the town? Why the hell would anyone eat there? And through all of this, there’s virtually no satire or commentary on franchise chains; there’s plenty to joke about corporations screwing their own franchise locations, or giving a blind eye to child labor laws, material like that, but they don’t even bother. Instead, the family pulls off a lamebrain scheme to the big boss to get out of their contract and return Marge’s initial investment, and it works like a charm! And nothing of value was lost! Or gained.

Three items of note:
– The plot kicks off when Ned takes back his giant freezer from Homer, who has been keeping a bunch of meat in it. To let it not go to waste, Marge ends up making a gigantic laundry basket full of sandwiches. So, where are all those going to be stored? Thankfully, Ned returns after that to return the freezer for no reason (“I felt a little guilty for taking back what belonged to me.”) I don’t think I’ve ever seen an instance where within the first act they retconned their own impetus for the plot beginning in the first place. Pretty wild stuff.
– There’s a helluva lot of time killing in this episode. We get two montages, the first of which is Homer pacing and waiting for Marge to make her sandwiches, where literally nothing happens for thirty seconds. We also have an end tag featuring caveman Homer slowly chasing a giant sloth, resulting in the first sandwich, because that’s an idea, I guess. But the more egregious padding to me is a joke from Homer, where he mentions how a free-refill policy on drinks resulted in him bankrupting a Pizza Hut. Alright, got it. But then we get a thought bubble and we see the scene where that’s happening, we see him at the drink dispenser and a manager behind him looking worried. Fifteen seconds of that. We already got the joke, but gotta rack up those precious seconds to get it to air time somehow.
– God, I hate Shauna. I fucking hate this character. She keeps coming back again and again and I just don’t understand it. Everyone in the cast is awful now, but she’s got to be one of the worst. And I was baffled with her and Gil, why Marge didn’t just hire the Pimply Faced Teen. But then, he randomly appears when she goes to fire Shauna, and then he quits in solidarity with her, thinking he’s got a chance to score with her. Oh, poor, sweet Pimply Faced Teen. You deserve so much better than that poorly written trollop.

One good line/moment: A good visual gag of the giant Mayo truck pulling up to the store, and the workers having the squeeze the tanker like it’s a bottle to pump the mayo out.

554. The Wreck of the Relationship

Original airdate: October 5, 2014

The premise:
Homer and Bart are forced into a conflict-resolution cruise to mend their strained relationship. Meanwhile, Marge takes over her husband’s fantasy football league, striving to win in order to put an end to trash talk.

The reaction: Alright, a father-son episode! Surely this won’t be a repetitive, nonsensical affair bereft of characters acting like human beings. Homer is upset that Bart disobeys him and his parental orders, and the two get into a stalemate regarding Bart eating a piece of broccoli at dinner. I like seeing these two so childishly obstinate about something so small, but they just drag it on and on and on. Fed up by this nonsense, Marge surmises there’s only one course of action left: she has her husband and son kidnapped in the middle of the night (why? Your guess is as good as mine) and hauled off onto a conflict resolution cruise called the Relation Ship. From that point, we got a montage, Bart grows an affinity to the sailor’s life, all the way up to being christened superior office, much to Homer’s chagrin. It really feels like we’re going nowhere fast, because, as usual, every scene is just the characters explaining what’s happening and what they’re feeling (“You’re my son and you will hate what I hate.”, “I like being a sailor.” / “He can’t order me around. I’m his father!” “He’s your superior officer, so he can and will order you around.”) For our big dumb ending, a storm comes out of nowhere, and Homer and Bart butt heads on how they should proceed (Homer is really adamant about dropping the anchor, for whatever reason.) Bart then presents a broccoli and eats it as a sign of peace with his father, which really surprised me that they actually tried to tie this nonsense back to the beginning, but it doesn’t really amount to much. What is the point? Everything felt completely empty to me, not that that’s anything new, though.

Three items of note:
– The B-plot is just as inert. Marge takes over Homer’s fantasy football team, and spends the first half of her story gasping repeatedly every time someone emails her some trash talk. Then she vows to beat the men at their own game, and then, over a montage with a sports announcer, she does. And then that’s it. It’s just shameless filler, complete with a tiny sprinkling of fan service with Marge wearing Tom Landry’s hat from “You Only Move Twice” atop her beehive ‘do.
– The other families on the boat don’t fucking matter, they’re just set decoration. We’ve got Ned, Rod and Todd, Cletus and one of his kids (these two groups are the only ones with lines), Apu and an octuplet, Lewis and his dad, and… Arnie Pye and his teenage son? Boy, they must have been really desperate. Nameless extras are seemingly verboten in this series now. Seeing this line-up gave me flashbacks to “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation” with the crowd of familiar faces who paid a pretty penny to be a rock star, regardless of it makes sense for these characters to be there. How much strife could Apu possibly have with just one of his eight children, who is still a toddler? How could Cletus afford to be on such a cruise? Wouldn’t Chief Wiggum and Ralph be a more logical space-filler than Arnie Pye and his offspring we’ll never, ever see again?
– Nick Offerman plays the captain in an absolute waste of his talents. Giving him a character with a personality or some jokes I guess was too difficult. Also, he’s put out of commission in the last act after being tempted by some rum, where he desperately monologues just like Lionel Hutz back in the day, taken by the siren song of the brownest of the brown… what’s that? You want me to drink you? But I’m in the middle of a trial! …yeah, much more well done back then.

One good line/moment:
– I did like some of the sections of the broccoli stand-off; I found myself enjoying Castellaneta and Cartwright’s interplay through most of it, especially when they were taunting each other to forfeit.