Category Archives: Season 28

618. Dogtown

Original airdate: May 21, 2017

The premise:
Mayor Quimby passes dog-friendly legislation to attract tourists to Springfield, but these ultra-lenient laws result in all the dogs in town eventually turning feral.

The reaction: Regarding the premise, I find myself reminded of the Otto line, “What were you guys smoking when you came up with that?” Seeing as the writers are presumably big Rick & Morty fans, this feels like their version of “Lawnmower Dog,” except exponentially worse. As with some episodes (although fewer and farther between nowadays), there’s a good idea buried in there somewhere. The plot kicks off in a court case after Homer hits Gil with his car in an alley. His excuse was his brakes failed, and ultimately he had to hit either Gil or Santa’s Little Helper. Homer is let off thanks to the jury, and everyone else’s immediate sympathy toward the situation and undying love for dogs (and Gil’s hatred of the animals). That people would care more about a lovable mutt than a pathetic schmuck eating out of garbage, and then let dogs get away with anything because they’re so darn cute, that idea I think has potential. But it’s not as developed as it could be, in favor of having character reiterate things again and again, much like how I make this point in every single review. Do they think the audience has fucking Alzheimer’s that we need to reinforce what the plot is three or four times a show? So all of Springfield’s dogs are just wandering around, and eventually without having to respond to their human masters, they all turn feral and start attacking people. So now it’s like “Night of the Dolphin” from Treehouse of Horror XI, except this is a “real” episode. In an act of redemption, Gil proposes he’ll save the day, but in the end, he doesn’t. It’s like they just forget about him, but not in a way where it was purposeful. Just… whatever. Not to say this premise couldn’t work in a somewhat grounded fashion, but they certainly don’t have the ability to pull it off here. It’s like a Saturday morning cartoon premise. Or that of a popular adult animated comedy they just lifted it from.

Three items of note:
– There’s a pretty astounding joke that happens midway through that boggled my mind a bit. Santa’s Little Helper crawls halfway through the doggie door, exhausted from his new unchained life. This prompts Homer to hold up Snowball II and attempt to get the cat to grab onto its collar, despite her struggles and attacking him, as Bart and Lisa look on. This goes on for literally fifteen seconds, and I was really confused. I couldn’t tell what was happening, and why we were devoting so much time to this. Eventually, Homer succeeds in his mission, all so he can smugly proclaim, “Well, well, well, look what the cat dragged in.” Bart and Lisa comment, dead-eyed, “Worth it.” “Totally worth it.” I can’t tell if they’re being sarcastic or not. But in case there were any niggling doubts, no. No, it was not worth it.
– Despite Santa’s Little Helper being featured throughout, Bart isn’t really that involved in this episode. You’d think there’d be a scene of him being grateful his dad didn’t hit him, or he would have more screen time worried about SLH and where he is and how they’re disconnected now, but not so much. The ending involves he and Lisa going out after dark to look for him, and ending up being cornered by a feral pack. They’re saved by Marge, who becomes the alpha dog by standing up to the crowd of mutts, and drop-kicking their leader chihuahua clear out of the dog park. She just straight up kicks the shit out of that dog. It’s not even framed like the dog was in real danger of hurting the kids so her motherly protection instincts kicked in, she just sort of stared the dog down, growled at it, and then knocked it the fuck out. This reminds me of a Thanksgiving episode of Bob’s Burgers with a similar ending, featuring the town being overrun by turkeys, and Linda becoming the alpha by headbutting their leader, which was infinitely more enjoyable, and made me fiancée almost pee herself with laughter.
– I guess Michael York had time to kill on the FOX lot, because this is the third time we’ve seen his veterinarian character this season, in addition to playing that creepy fuck Nigel in this episode. He’s got a good voice, and I feel like I would really enjoy his performance in a totally different show with a script that actually has jokes and is well written. Is that asking a lot?

One good line/moment: Hey, not BLANK! At an emergency meeting at City Hall, all of the townspeople are fed up with their dog-infested town. Sideshow Mel addresses the crowd, and we see that his hair is sans bone. And, this is the shocker, he never acknowledges it. They just let a sight gag go by without explicitly pointing it out or anything! It’s a freakin’ miracle!

And there it is. Every episode has been covered… at least for now. It’s pretty incredible timing that I finished just in time for the dawn of season 29. So, will I be continuing on to covering new episodes? Well, I’ve gone this far, so I guess I can’t stop now. Yes, so much of this ground has been covered, yes, I find I end up repeating the same points several times over, and yes, this is basically self-inflicted torture at this point, but a tiny sliver of me is still interested in how much lower this show can possibly go. I’ve been especially stunned by this past season, containing episodes I can honestly say are the absolute worst, maybe even some of the worst narrative television I’ve ever seen (“Friends and Family,” “There Will Be Buds,” “Dad Behavior,” “Fatzcarraldo,” “Kamp Krustier,” “The Caper Chase,” “Moho House”)

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617. Moho House

Original airdate: May 7, 2017

The premise:
Nigel, an old colleague of Burns and creepy British weirdo, seeks to win a bet by breaking up Homer and Marge, making Moe in charge of a new upscale bar in order to win over Marge.

The reaction: Thankfully marriage crisis episodes have become further and far apart than they used to back in seasons 15-18 or so, but they’re definitely a lot more painful to me, just because of how much poorer the writing has become. This is a pretty bonkers episode and I really have no clue what to make of it. We’re introduced to Nigel, an old schoolyard chum of Mr. Burns. He’s married to a young-looking woman who’s an eccentric, sporting a pull-string veil, and later inflatable tentacles (???) He mentions she’s cheating on him, which leads to Burns championing true love, for some reason? Nigel formulates a bet: he’ll break up Homer and Marge, or give up five million dollars. So he drags Homer to Moe’s, but finds him seemingly unresponsive to the idea of other women. But, he finds out that Moe has a crush on Marge, so he gives him control of a fancy rooftop bar atop a huge hundred-story tower that he has a helicopter drop right into Springfield… this is one of those episodes I feel like I don’t even need to comment on. Just read the synopsis. This is real. This is happening. Marge is upset with Homer per usual, but still agrees to come to Moe’s new bar. Neither of them, or anyone else, asks Moe about what the hell is going on and how he got the bar, mind you, I guess it’s not that important. Moe talks up Marge and has a dance with her, and she is fairly receptive to it all. Meanwhile, Nigel and Burns are like these perverse busybodies watching all this unfold, with Nigel upping his bet to his entire fortune versus Burns giving him Smithers, which he accepts. In the end, Moe can’t bring himself to bang Marge, so he gets the two back together, because Homer shows Marge a flip book he drew in crayon as “Close to You” plays, as “The Way We Was” spins violently in its grave. This episode is really bizarre, and I’m kind of at a loss for words in discussing it as a whole, but it really felt like one of the worst of the entire series.

Three items of note:
– In the last five years or so, Homer/Marge episodes have shifted more from “Homer does something stupid and has to make amends” to “Homer is all around a horrible, irredeemable life partner.” Marge is a beaten down husk of a woman as our story begins, her and the kids waiting at the dinner table for the drunken patriarch to return. Homer slams into the drive, catapulting Flanders’ mailbox through the window. Maggie then climbs out of the mailbox, and she tosses it onto a pile of Flanders lawn signs and ornaments in the corner of the room. I’m not quite sure what this is about, how did this happen? What was she doing in the mailbox? I don’t understand this joke, but regardless, Homer effectively almost killed his own infant daughter, and Marge is so dead inside she doesn’t bat an eye. Homer drunkenly stumbles inside, having gotten loaded on not-St. Patrick’s Day, and the scene ends with Marge sadly going upstairs. Later, Marge surprises Homer at work with a picnic basket, wanting to give things one last shot. So things seem to be just fine, until Nigel keeps Homer from going home, leaving Marge disappointed once more. Homer returns home, but Marge is unmoved by her excuses (“I just have to accept that you’re never going to change.”) We then fast-forward through the night of Homer sleeping like a log and Marge crying her eyes out for hours. By morning, Homer happily awakens and asks Marge how her night was. Emotionless, she responds, “The usual.” And that’s our act break! Our hilarious jokey joke going into commercial is this sad, beleaguered woman who thinks her marriage is dead. And it basically is. She’s right, Homer will never change because nothing in this show does. Nothing holds any weight, nothing has any meaning. For the last fifteen-plus years, the series has just been like watching a bunch of broken wind-up toys stumble about for twenty minutes. The same old routine, giving you nothing but waste your time.
– Toward the end, there’s a meta joke where Marge finally calls Moe out on calling her ‘Midge’ (“First of all, it’s ‘Marge.'” “No, I know, I don’t know what my deal is with that.”) This is the problem with the show’s slavish devotion to the past. As I’ve mentioned numerous times before, Moe is a gross, depraved man who primarily sees Homer as an ATM he can serve cheap swill to. He really only knows Marge from afar, the two sharing just a handful of scenes in the first ten seasons or so, thus him not knowing the names of Homer’s family. Surely Homer’s mused about them a bunch of times at the bar, but Moe could care less. On the flip side, Marge harbors a deep seeded resentment toward Moe, his establishment being the reason her husband doesn’t come home most nights (as clearly explained in the wonderful line from “Lisa on Ice”: “You caught me at a real bad time, Moe. I hope you understand I’m too tense to pretend I like you.”) But now, we’ve seen a multitude of episodes where Moe seems to be like a close family friend to the Simpsons. Marge has acted as his life coach of sorts several times, and they’ve shared many cordial moments together. That being the case, Moe not knowing her name now makes no sense. So why does “Midge” still exist? Because that’s what Moe used to do, so we have to keep doing it. And now, we get a lampshading of it, and even that they can’t do properly. Moe doesn’t even give a joke explanation, he’s just like, eh, whatever, who cares. I’m guessing the writers broke early for lunch and just left that space blank or something.
– As Homer and Marge kiss at the end, Burns and Nigel are looking down on them, as the latter writes out a check. But Smithers comes in from behind asking him who he’s talking to. He convinces Burns that there is no Nigel, getting him to rip up the check (thinking it’s a yogurt coupon) and storm off. This was Smithers’ way of sticking it to Burns for agreeing to put him up as collateral for the bet, but for a good twenty seconds or so, I really thought they were going to pull this for real, that Nigel, despite having interacted with Homer, Moe, and setting the entire plot in motion, was a figment of Burns’ imagination. But when it’s shown to be a fake-out, it still feels just as bad, because a) it’s another shining moment of pathetic, easily manipulated weak Burns, and b) an insult to the audience for even implying that all of this was just a weird fantasy. The scene ends with Nigel coming back in and kissing Smithers, as there had been allusions to him being gay and interested in him the entire episode. Too bad it doesn’t actually mean anything.

One good line/mo… oh forget it, you know this is gonna be BLANK.

616. Looking for Mr. Goodbart

Original airdate: April 30, 2017

The premise:
Bart whores himself out to the elderly women of Springfield in need of a grandson to spoil. Meanwhile, the rest of the town is addicted to the phone game… *sigh*… Peekimon Get.

The reaction: Bart easily seems to be the hardest Simpson to write for over the last fifteen years, which I’ve talked about many times over. When they’re not throwing him in situations better suited for a teenage boy or older, they turn him into a sniveling wuss who seems to care less about causing mischief and acting like a normal rambunctious ten-year-old. This episode kind of covers both, at least when we get to the second half where the “real” “story” seems to actually start. Bart is tasked with walking Agnes to the bus stop, and for some reason, she poses as her grandson to show up Martin’s grandmother. They don’t even try to make it like he’s trying to play mind games with Skinner, or that Agnes has some sob story that he feels bad about, he just attaches to her. After the fact, she mentions that she can get him some free candy if he helps her again, and then after that, the story kind of begins, where Bart fulfills the emotional needs of all the neglected old biddies in town. The trade-off is that he’s spoiled rotten and gets lots of gifts, but we don’t really see much of any of that. He’s got a pocketful of candy, we see him watching Itchy & Scratchy at an old woman’s house (he can’t do that at home?); a lot of the first half’s screen time is devoted to the B-plot (which we’ll get to later). So a lot of the “humor” comes from Bart acting like a gigolo to these women; I feel like the concept could have actually been amusing, but underdeveloped as it is, it just feels weird and strange. Without really seeing Bart swimming in his selfish rewards, it just feels like he genuinely wants to hang out with these old ladies. So that brings us to Phoebe, an older woman who’s immediately wise to Bart’s charade, but pays him anyway to accompany her in her nature photography. After bequeathing him with his camera after a few days, and a not-so-cryptic monologue she gives about a dying deer, Bart comes to the conclusion that she might be planning on killing herself. This is a character who we’ve seen for under two minutes of screen time, and had no real connection or kindred relation with Bart, but despite that, I guess we’re supposed to feel bad? Or worried? It feels completely disingenuous, and that’s not even considering the multitude of tasteless suicide gags with Moe they’ve done for shock value over the years. But in the end, Phoebe is alive, and thankfully, she exposits aloud why, in one of the worst pieces of dialogues in the entire series (“I admit, I had some dark thoughts, and I used you to escape from the home. But once I got out here by myself, completely free, I realized there’s so much to live for, and I want my camera back.”) This show has hinged on quickie plot resolutions with characters explicitly stating aloud what’s happening and what they’re feeling for years now, but to do so with a supposedly suicidal woman talking about her change of heart feels like a whole other level of not giving a flying fuck.

Three items of note:
– The episode opens sans opening title, but with a snippet from the original Tracey Ullman short “Good Night,” in honor of the show’s 30th anniversary. How nice. Then we get a recreation of the Big Bang Theory opening to commemorate 600+ episodes and how fucking long this shit has been on the air. Not nice. I really wish I didn’t recognize the reference; I’ve been fortunate enough to only see a very limited amount of that horrid show, and I wish to keep it that way. Anyway, more of the show trying to glom on to another show’s success. What season is Big Bang on? Season 10? Timely as ever.
– Bart’s transgression to get him in trouble to start is to sing “joke” lyrics during a grandparent’s day serenade (“Grandma, grandpa, you’re the best,” “Now you can be laid to rest!”) Even Skinner is aware of the laziness (“Simpson, those lyrics are unapproved and not that funny!”) During the song, Chalmers texts “SKINNNER!” because after over twenty years, the writers literally can’t think of any other joke for these two other than have him scream his name. This scene also illuminates how they seemingly don’t want to give Bart a new teacher, nor do they seem to care to. I thought Mrs. Krabappel’s absence would create a decent sized hole in the cast they would need to fill, but I guess they just as easily wallpapered over it. A classroom without a teacher and “SKINNNER!” are symptoms of the same problem: this is a show that has been slavishly attached to the world created in the classic years, and just will not budge even one inch. Why create new characters, new running gags, new shades of old characters, when you can just regurgitate the same old schtick over and over and over again and get paid either way? So really, there’s no need to make a new fourth grade teacher when they can get away with scenarios like this. It’s clearer a non-issue for the writers.
– Let’s get into that B-story. Pokemon Go released in July 2016 and was a red hot pop culture obsession for about a month or two. The popularity died down pretty quickly going into the fall, and by the time this episode aired, the game was pretty much irrelevant. In just about nine months, this is literally as fast as this show can go given its production schedule to capitalize on a current trend, and this is the biggest example of why they should never try to do it. Not only are they incredibly late to the party, but every single joke here had already been made a million times online when the game was fresh and relevant. People wandering around stores and graveyards not paying attention to where they’re going, thinking a real animal on the phone is a Pokemon, as usual, the writers operate on an obvious, base level of satire and don’t bother to reach any higher. The two plots tie together when Bart gets all the Peekimon players to help him look for Susan, and then we get a montage set inside the game with a parody of the Pokemon theme! We’re hip and with it, right, kids? It just felt incredibly embarrassing. The sequence is like a pastiche of Japanese and anime references; Pokemon’s been around for twenty years now, surely there’s a couple people on staff who are somewhat familiar with it, rather than what feels like a bunch of old writers who have no idea what they’re writing a parody of other than articles they read about the game.

One good line/moment: BLANK.

615. The Caper Chase

Original airdate: April 2, 2017

The premise:
Discouraged by the softness of his alma mater Yale, Mr. Burns opens up his own for-profit college and employing the plant staff as teachers. Before long, Homer, the most popular teacher, is poached by another university head for a top secret assignment.

The reaction: Boy, what a train wreck this was. I remember hearing about this Trump University episode (and how it was a miserable failure), but it really barely feels focused on that. First off, when Burns returns to Yale looking to fund a nuclear engineer program for his own benefit, he’s horrified to find a faculty and student body obsessed with diversity quotas, safe spaces and language policing. A lot of time is spent on this segment mocking this progressive PC rhetoric, and it also serves as the basis of the final conflict resolution. I understand that Burns would be completely turned off by all of this, but the jokes played out here were to such a degree that it felt less like an informed parody and more like I was reading an Internet comments section of imbeciles screaming about how SJWs are ruining everything (if you are one of these people, please stop reading this blog.) “That word is cis-gender normative, okay? You’re worse than Hitler!” one student balks. That’s literally a quote I would expect to find in an MS Paint comic showing how “insane” people are for wanting to use proper pronouns. Asking politely to use a certain identifier when addressing them is conflated into an angry demand in some people’s minds, a heinous act of censorship for sad men to whine and cry about online. But let’s steer away from this controversial cesspool and get back to the episode. Burns starts his own college to make money off of, then hires workers from the plant to be teachers because he seems to have immediately lost interest in his idea (“Just pull them off one by one until the power stops working, we’ll be fine.”) Seven minutes in and now we shift focus to Homer the teacher, with him feeling out of his element and the family encouraging him. Lisa’s solution is to have him watching movies the likes of Dead Poets Society and Stand and Deliver, and when he starts emulating those teachers and randomly quoting them in class, he becomes super popular and well-liked. He gets the class to chant the different chair settings as he demonstrates for some reason, and that catches the attention of this other rich guy we saw earlier, a Yale alum who has his own line of colleges and wants to hire Homer. Homer is dropped off at a mysterious secluded house with the likes of Neil deGrasse Tyson, Ken Jennings and Robert McKee; Rich Guy has gathered the world’s greatest teachers (including Homer, I guess) for a special assignment: to see if they can teach his army of robots! At this point, what story am I watching anymore? We’ve flipped through three so far with no resolutions or any sort of sense of progression whatsoever. Burns opened the college, and then that was it. Homer’s a teacher, then he inexplicably becomes a good teacher. Now he’s going to stand around while other smart people teach a classroom of robots… and that’s not even the dumb ending yet! You can read about that doozy below. The show’s been in bad shape for so long now, but if the writers can’t even make mincemeat out of a topic like Trump University, they really should be pretty embarrassed. That’s like being handed a punchline on a plate.

Three items of note:
– Homer’s nuclear technician class is of course filled with regular faces: Comic Book Guy, Otto, Gil, Cookie Kwan… what are these people doing here? “Secrets of a Successful Marriage” featured Homer teaching a bunch of town regulars, but being lovelorn losers hoping to hear some helpful romance tips, it made sense for them to be there, and we even heard some of them explain why they were. Here, none of that matters at all. They’re there because we wanted Otto to say a joke, and there he is. And then at the end, they all love him so much they spell “GOODBYE MR. S” in human letters as Homer flies off in Rich Guy’s helicopter. But why? He launched himself out the window from his chair and rambled on about how the Hulk got his powers. Teacher of the yeeeaaaar…
– Many times this show has come close to actually telling a competent joke, but then completely stomp out those chances by overexplaining it or having it run too long, or both. Two particularly egregious incidents here. Smithers snickers at Burns University’s slogan (“You’ll get the full monty!”) Burns is puzzled (“What are you laughing at? Does ‘the full monty’ have some sort of naughty double meaning?”) Honestly, the joke would have worked just fine without that second sentence, a quick throwaway gag. But this show is no longer about blink-and-you’ll-miss-it jokes, it’s drawing things out as long as possible to get this shit to run time. So, we get Smithers envisioning Burns dancing naked with a hat over his dick to “You Sexy Thing,” which I’m guessing was a song used in The Full Monty. Hilarious. That Smithers sure is gay. Another scene is just ten seconds long, where Homer is sad at Moe’s, and we get this exchange between Carl and Moe (“Homer’s just not cut out to be a pedagogue.” “That’s easy, you just gotta register, stay away from playgrounds… oh, you said pedagogue.”) Again, without that last bit, the joke would have been okay, but we gotta spell everything out for the audience. Overexplain everything! Jokes are always funnier when you explain why they’re funny in the joke! Comedy 101!
– Our big dumb ending starts when it’s revealed that Rich Guy is training his robots to attend the colleges he owns, funneling him with billions in taxpayer money. I… don’t quite see how this would make sense, but I may not be thinking about it hard enough. It also feels like they breezed right by a goldmine of material with mocking how brutal student loans are, but I guess making fun of kids for being “too sensitive” was the better way to go. Homer becomes the hero when he infiltrates the gang of robots at Yale, then dons a cardboard box head and acts like a robot (beep boop bop). The Robo-Student cry foul (“Micro-aggression!” “Cultural appropriation!” “Offensive!”) and they all short circuit and explode. Again, I don’t really get why they’re so hung up about making fun of college kids this way. I’ve read countless stories about frat and sorority parties with white kids wearing blackface, dressed up in grossly stereotypical ethnic costumes, and that’s not even touching on actual physical and verbal harassment. But, from the lens of this joke, stuff like this are these students’ downfall, a silly obsession that proves to be their undoing. It rings as a bunch of out-of-touch older writers who think their kids need to lighten up and not be so sensitive. That’s not to say that you can’t have fun with this topic, but as I mentioned before, this material really feels like it came right out of a 4chan thread. The character of PC Principal on South Park I thought was an astounding way to approach this topic, taking the term ‘PC Police’ literally, with a white male character constantly policing other people’s language and acting socially righteous just to get girls and “crush puss.” He also stands in a meta sense as standing in opposition of the show itself, and how South Park can best survive in a more socially conscious society. None of that kind of thinking was implemented here. But I don’t think much of any kind of thinking is used when writing scripts anymore.

One good line/moment: In the secret Skull & Bones underground lair or whatever, there’s a bunch of presidential portraits hanging on the wall in the background, including that looks like Obama, but he appears white (or yellow, as it were.) Again, I don’t know if this were intentional, or just a mistake, but it’s an amusing sight gag for its context.

614. A Father’s Watch

Original airdate: March 19, 2017

The premise:
The mush-headed parents of Springfield are easily swayed by “experts” advice on how to build their kids’ self-esteem. Bart’s is lifted thanks to Abe handing down a precious family heirloom, one that Homer’s had his eyes on for years.

The reaction: Once again I find myself truly bewildered at the level of writing on display in these shows. For years now, the plots, and conceits for said plots, have been pretty razor thin, but more egregiously, with poor motivation for the characters, to the point where it seems they’ll just start and stop doing and feeling things just ’cause. As such, it’d be up to the viewer to better connect that dots, ie: do the writer’s job for them, but it’s becoming harder and harder to actually do that any make sense of all of this. This episode features Bart having trouble at school in need of an ego boost. Homer and Marge’s solution is to shower him with meaningless trophies to raise his spirits, which the former turns into a business for gullible parents. Past being given the first trophy, we later see Bart in the back room helping Homer make the trophies he’s selling. So why does he feel better now? Because he feels like he’s working hard? Does he see through the empty charade he’s participating in? Why is he helping Homer with this? It seems like it doesn’t matter, it’s like he’s a blank slate character. He overhears Homer explicitly saying how much of a useless dumm-dumm he is, which leaves Bart crestfallen. He visits Abe, who bestows him with a pocket watch, a prized family possession (since 1982). Upon receiving it, Bart gets a sense of pride, which makes him do better at school and be a better person. Meanwhile, Homer is extremely jealous of him, having wanted the watch from his father for his whole life. I feel like I can feebly make out what they’re trying to get at here: the Simpson family is just a chain of fathers abusing their sons (as we saw in a sepia tone memory of Abe’s father), but a simple kindness can change a son’s outlook. But they don’t really set that up with Homer and Bart early on (except for Homer’s expository outburst) to contrast with Abe. Bart randomly loses the watch at the end of a montage, and then Homer comes into possession of it. On his way to gloat, he sees Bart sobbing in his room (“Grampa was the only person who believed in me! But when he finds out I lost the watch, even he’ll give up!”) I guess Bart is as pathetic as Burns now. Who is this wussie? Like Burns, Bart crying used to hold a lot of weight, but this feels completely unearned. And boy oh boy, what a great satirical ending, a sweet photo of Bart on his grandfather’s knee holding the watch for a magazine! Where’s the asshole Eurotrash guy to drive by and call them gay when you need him?

Three items of note:
– The opening features a look at Frog Heaven, where one frog is telling another about his death was meaningful if it meant a budding young scientific mind could learn something from his dissection. Cut to Bart messing around in science class, not taking the assignment seriously at all. If this was a quick punchline and they moved on, it might have actually worked, it’s a funny concept. But instead, we cut back and forth to the frogs like four more times, milking this shit for all it’s worth. We gotta get to that running time! Draaaaaaaaag it out! What are we gonna do, write more material? Actually develop the story and character motivations? Forget it, what show do you think we’re working on here?
– The plot kicks in when Marge brings in a speaker to talk about positive reinforcement, which gives her the idea of pushing participation trophies. As mentioned above, Homer turns this into a business venture, turning his garage into a one-stop trophy shop. Later in the episode, another speaker shows up preaching the exact opposite, how tough love will make your kids stronger. There’s really no point to it other than it puts Homer out of business, which doesn’t really mean anything to the main story. All of this reminded me of “Bart’s Inner Child” and how easily Brad Goodman played the gullible suckers of Springfield. But all the nuance has long departed; at both seminars, parents gasp, cheer, or scream out their feelings in the audience after every line the speaker says (“Trophies! So that’s the easy answer!” “He’s got a word made out of other words!”) But really, this whole participation trophy “satire” feels so poorly executed, especially how it ties into Bart’s story. I could complain more about how terrible it is, or I could talk about a wonderful moment from a classic episode it reminded me of. “Dead Putting Society” features a moment of Bart staring at his shelf of “accomplishments,” filled with participant and runner-up awards, including an “Everybody Gets a Trophy” trophy. He groans in sorrow. That four-second moment right there says more about this subject matter and Bart’s viewpoint on it than twenty minutes of this show twenty-six years later. Bart’s a smart kid, he knows what those trophies really mean. But, I’ll say again, I’m not entirely sure what Bart thinks of them this episode, they don’t even really address it. Again, it’s up to the viewer to make sense of this shit.
– I know the timeline thing doesn’t matter, but it still gets me thinking either way. Abe mentions he’s had the watch since 1982, and Homer claims he’s been yearning for it all his life. Homer’s 38 (sometimes), so in 2017, that would make him born in 1979. So forgot the “Goodbye, Yellow Brick Road” prom, he wasn’t even alive when that happened. I really don’t care about that kind of continuity, but when it comes to showing Abe as a WWII vet, and Skinner a Vietnam vet, that’s when things start to get hazy. When did Seymour serve, as an infant?

One good line/moment: BLANK.

613. 22 for 30

Original airdate: March 12, 2017

The premise:
In a mock sports documentary, we see Bart’s meteoric rise as star of the school basketball team, but troubles arise when he butts heads with new coach Homer, and he strikes a deal with Fat Tony to get back at him.

The reaction: Well color me shocked, this show was actually okay. The biggest thing going for it was its format; being framed as a documentary meant it didn’t need to take itself too seriously and it could be more focus more on its gags than its story. A plot like Fat Tony cleaning up with bets made on grade school sports feels like something I’d be annoyed with in a regular show, but in this framework that’s already a big joke, it’s fine by me. Also, with a narrator explaining what’s going on every step of the ways, that means the characters don’t have to exposit and re-explain everything every thirty seconds, they could actually deliver, y’know, dialogue. The plot is simple enough, to start: Bart joins the basketball team, quickly becoming the star player, and he lets fame go to his head. Homer becomes the new coach and the two get cross with each other thanks to Bart’s ego. It felt like a weaker version of the Homer-Lisa conflict from “Marge Gamer,” but I still bought it. After that, Fat Tony cuts a deal with Bart that he near-wins each game so he can rake in a lot of bets by ruining the spread… it’s called point shaving or something… I’m not a sports guy, nor have I ever seen 30 For 30, so I don’t really have any concept of what this is about. But later, Bart finds that Tony is making a lot more off his back betting against him, he requests him to throw a game for some reason, and Bart defies him by winning. I’m not quite clear if this story makes sense or not, but it’s not like it matters much. In the latter half, unfortunately, the expository dialogue returns (“Dad, this is supposed to be about us getting together.”) Not to say the Homer-Bart stuff was expertly done, but what was there was serviceable enough. I don’t know if you can tell, but it’s kind of difficult writing about this one. The format gives it a different feel that’s hard to surmise, and also it’s not a typical huge dumpster fire for me to rant and rave over. I could mostly follow the story, characters were bearable, and there were a handful of jokes I actually thought worked. This is like this season’s “Friend With Benefit,” I can’t say I like it, but I certainly don’t viciously hate it like its brethren.

Three items of note:
– We start with another guest couch gag from Bill Plympton. What is this, his fifth one? They’re getting less and less unique, going from that one where Homer fucks the couch and gets it pregnant, to now where a squiggle version family sits on the couch, and we pan up to a chain of each family member drawing each other. We also hear each Simpson humming to themselves as we pan by, which kind of steps on the nice score that’s playing. That’s something I’ve noticed, for some reason, they’ve been cramming couch gags full of unnecessary ADR of characters just umming and aahhing for no reason. The segment ends with Homer bloodily stabbing himself in the eye with his pencil, because 85% of couch gags now have to involve Homer getting injured or killed. These guest segments used to be the only creative bright spot in this entire series, I hope this isn’t a sign that they’re gonna ruin these too.
– The show opens with what I assume is a recreation masked as a parody of the 30 For 30 opening, which features a flurry of videos from past sports episodes playing in the background. Seeing the likes of “Homer at the Bat,” “Lisa on Ice”… even the clip of the footballer’s leg flying off from “Faith Off,” as dumb as that was, that at least had some genuine shock value to it. After all this, I bet if I go back and watch season 11 or 12, it would be like reaching an oasis after being stranded in a desert.
– The ending reveals the narrator as being Nelson’s dad, which was sort of set up earlier in the episode. Nelson and his mom show up in the recording booth for a tearful reunion, where Dad bestows upon his son the best gift of all: sleeves for his ripped vest (“You look just like a parole officer!”) It was actually surprisingly sweet, which is a term I don’t think I’ve used on this show for years. But status quo is God, so they of course end with mentioning how Dad left again. I guess the writers love those sad Nelson jokes. I’d much rather see the return of Mr. Muntz we saw in “Bart Star.” I’d also much rather see this series cancelled.

One good line/moment: There are some pretty solid gags peppered throughout, some of which probably wouldn’t translate writing them out and describing them as they’re made funny because of how they’re edited, quickly cut and so forth. The one bit that actually made me audibly laugh was a funny drawing of Homer nervously watching the game, sweating profusely with a towel shoved in his mouth. This by itself is amusing, but the joke is added onto with two quick talking heads by Marge and Homer (“I don’t know how, but Homer gained twelve pounds chewing towels.” “I put jelly on ’em.”)

612. Kamp Krustier

Original airdate: March 5, 2017

The premise:
In a direct sequel to “Kamp Krusty,” Bart and Lisa are scarred from their traumatic camp experience and seek to face their demons. Meanwhile, Homer becomes a more productive worker with the kids back, leaving Marge sexually pent up.

The reaction: This show has mined nostalgia from the classic years for brownie points for years now, but this episode is on a different level: a sequel twenty-four years after the fact. That’s nearly a quarter of a century, how crazy is that? Watching this, it’s just impossible to not think about “Kamp Krusty” and foolish to even try not to, so it’s really weird the writers felt confident enough to do an episode like this. So the kids return home from camp all visibly shaken up and are all sent to counseling, with Homer, Marge and everyone else appear unclear about what exactly happened there. Marge in particular seems very aggressive in wanting to sweep her children’s trauma under the rug, believing them to be exaggerating and that they should just move on so she can continue getting her mack on (wonderful, more Marge being uncaring to her kids.) So I guess we’re retconning Kent Brockman’s report from Kamp Krusty, since no one seems to really care that much about what happened at camp, and Krusty gets off completely scot-free. Bart exaggerates his trauma to get out of school, but then he starts getting actual memories of a horrible incident he and Lisa were a part of, and the two return to camp to figure out what happened. The whole thing is treated like a serious mystery, as they finally recall that a kid they were kayaking with seemingly drowned and try to figure out what happened. “Kamp Krusty” was one of the show’s goofier episodes, back in the day when they could make anything funny and entertaining, even using and abusing children. So I don’t understand who this follow-up is supposed to appeal to, being such a wildly different tone. Who is this fan service aimed at? How can anyone who enjoyed “Kamp Krusty” and understood in even the slightest sense what made that show great, then watch this episode and not clearly notice the tremendous plummet in quality? Checking No Homers, it appears that even those folks weren’t impressed, with their lowest ratings ever: 2/5. I guess that counts for something. Maybe.

Three items of note:
– Marge is pretty awful in this episode. At first, she’s sympathetic of Bart’s crocodile tears and lets him take Homer’s place in bed (which I believe has happened before in a recent episode. Is this not weird to anybody?) This prompts Homer to go to work early, and ultimately leads him to being a model employee and husband, getting a big raise and tending to the house. The trade-off is that his hyper-efficient lifestyle leaves him uninterested in sex, which gets Marge frustrated (“First the kids are screwed up, now our marriage? We need therapy.”) They go to couples counseling, and now Marge seems to care less about her kids’ problems (which she never seemed all that concerned with to begin with, especially Lisa’s actual trauma) than her own selfish needs. It’d be a stretch for her character, but if that were kind of the point of the whole episode, I could buy it, but as usual, these shows have no mission statement or overall theme or anything like that. It’s just a bunch of nonsense stitched together by a threadbare premise. The therapist recommends they all go back to camp so the kids confront their demons. While driving, we get this inner monologue from Marge to recap everything for the third time (“My kids are a mess. Homer’s turned into the man I’ve always wanted, which I don’t really want. And for some reason, we’re going back to Kamp Krusty.”) “For some reason”? Did she black out when the therapist was talking? Once at camp, now an adult pleasure resort “Klub Krusty” (don’t ask), the kids run free to solve their mystery, and meanwhile, Marge repeatedly tries to seduce and fondle Homer until eventually he just gives in and they have outdoor sex. She could care less where the hell her children have run off to, as long as she gets fucked, who cares? Just incredible.
– When Homer and Marge are at therapy, Moe shows up as the next appointment behind the door, with some kind of robotic monstrosity… it’s like a woman’s head on a central vac with a bunch of bells and whistles on it (and wings?) Anyway, from behind the door, he causes it to make a whole bunch of building noises until it finally dings, at which point Moe utters, “Alright, I just finished. Deviant out.” What, did they just have a mutual climax? How fucking creepy and disturbing, this has got to be a new low.
– The ending is just horrid, one of the worst I’ve ever seen. So we surmise that the sole cause of Bart & Lisa’s trauma is their kayak flipping and the kid they were with supposedly drowning. Also, they were rowing in escape of Sideshow Mel’s performance of Phantom of the Opera. So are they making like Kamp Krusty was a joke, or are they treating it like they were actually abused, like what actually happened? Do they even care about the original episode at all? Well, they dragged in “Kamp Krusty” writer David M. Stern to do this one, but like Jeff Martin and David Mirkin before him, I’m sure they ripped apart his draft like every other episode to create this mess. So the Simpsons arrive to find the camp has been turned into some kind of posh swingers club. I’m not quite sure how much time has passed for that to have happened, but whatever. Security guard Raphael somehow knows about the missing kid, which makes no sense given I assume he was hired to work this new club. But he takes him to see “Charlie,” who is now working at the new massage parlor. Turns out he’s a little person, and a spy for Departures magazine (isn’t that for rich people travel and getaways, why would they want to cover a shitty kids summer camp?) The explanation of what happened is not only brief, but also aggressively snarky (“But you didn’t have your life vest!” “I’m a grown-up, I can swim!”) It’s like the writers saying, yeah, this is our ending, you think we give a flying shit? And clearly, they don’t; at the end we get a chyron promoting “Kamp Krustiest” coming in season 52. I’ll say it again, and again, and again and again and again, the writers all know how poor this show, and their work, is, and they just don’t care. No one can be this level of deluded to believe otherwise, not even in Hollywood.

One good line/moment: FUCKING BLANK.