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America's Favorite Non-prehistoric Cartoon Family - The Simpsons Thread


(He, him)

For being in all of three episodes* that guy from Estonia sure has had quite a few acting gigs.

* I stopped watching regularly around Season 12 and altogether around Season 16 so if he's been in more episodes since I haven't seen 'em.


Arm Candy

Aside from taking on the nature of fame, the episode is also a parody of Hollywood excess, with a production where everything seems to go wrong, thanks to the director and producer's wrongheadedness and the town gouging the Hell out of the company. There's a knowing wink in here because more likely the case is that while a town like Springfield would benefit financially from a big production, these things can have other costs. The best example of this is Homer proclaiming that they get $50 a day for the movie to be shot in their house and immediately the company begins tearing shit down. Seriously, this reflects the reality I've heard that while you might be well paid, companies might do shit without asking that can be compensated financially but also might ruin things.

This is pretty much the thesis of the third part of Lindsay Ellis's video essay on the Hobbit films. New Zealand lawmakers essentially gutted protections for native actors and film crew in an effort to keep the studio from taking production elsewhere.

Ghost from Spelunker

Gag I loved:
Dr. S telling us about the decline in Spirograph activity being linked to the rise in gang activity.

One thing I wanted to talk about, this episode was the one that I remember being when The Simpsons began doing more fake-out jokes. If that's even the right term. Like when the movie director says "You're our new Fallout Boy!!!...is what I would say if you were one inch taller." A few jokes a season I can take, but later seasons would do so many of these jokes that I built up an immunity, which is just one reason I stopped enjoying them.

But maybe I just don't like those jokes as much as other people, I'd like to hear what others say.

Johnny Unusual

Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodly

Its hard to be a good parent. Despite that, I feel like the good ones outnumber the bad. Its not a miracle that good parenting happens but its amazing there's so much. But no parent is perfect. Childcare isn't an exact and perfect science and people are weak and make mistakes. Some of these mistakes can be discouraging and make you question your abilities. I'm not a parent myself but as someone who cares for kids, I've experienced this and have seen my sister and her partner do the same. Sometimes I'm having a hard day and I don't handle things the best. But I don't think occasional lapses and errors make you a bad parent. But I feel like a parental fear is that the wrong set of circumstances can reveal you as a negligent or terrible parent.

In this episode, Homer takes Marge out for a morning at the spa while the kids are at school and Grandpa watches the kids. But an unfortunate set of circumstances lead social services to the family's door and makes them look like bad parents. Until Homer and Marge can prove they are fit parents, the kids have to stay with the Flanders. Bart and Lisa find their new living situation unsettling, though Maggie seems to like it. Meanwhile, Homer and Marge take some classes to teach them to be better parents. They graduate but at the same time, Flanders learns the Simpson kids aren't baptized and decides to do it himself. Homer arrives in time to stop the baptism but it seems like Maggie accepts the Flanders... until she sees their mother and the family is reunited.

This episode feels like a common nightmare for parents, where someone takes an unexpected peek into your life and judges you inadequate in your care for your kids. Though Homer is no stranger to bad parenting decisions, the show is pretty quick to show that everything that damns them is unfortunate happenstance. Being seen as villains, they are treated with absolute disdain and when they are sacrificing their pride at parenting skills classes, they are condescended to in a humiliating fashion (for Marge, at least). I was actually a bit surprised at how emotionally effecting this one is this time around, with its most emotional moments in the middle. That said, there's also some poignant stuff in the climax, but said climax is also a ridiculous jokefest of silliness.

But lets get to the climax, which I think is great. In the last act, Flanders, who claims not to be judging Marge and Homer, is horrified to find that the kids are not baptized and Flanders feels compelled to do the deed himself and induct the kids into his family spiritually. Its the first time Flanders actually takes on a villain role. I feel like this is his first step towards Flanderization, where he becomes something of a zealot (compared to his early episodes where he's basically a friendly yuppie) but this turn really works in this episode. Flanders really means no harm but the act of trying to baptize the kids is kind of unsettling and its no wonder Homer and Marge are scared and pissed off (interesting its Homer who is scared and Marge who is pissed off). Like, its not malevolent but it definitely feels like a violation on the kids end to be inducted into a family against their will and on the kids end to see your kids claimed on a religious level by someone else.

Its interesting because in the broad sense of things, the stakes are not truly high in the literal sense. So the kids get splashed with water? They will go home soon anyway. But of course, the issue is Flanders symbolic claiming of the Simpsons kids, And that gives what could be small stakes some real weight. I'm truly invested in this climax thanks to the nature of the story so far, which has largely been vignettes of the kids feeling out of place and Marge and Homer missing the kids/taking those classes. Perhaps it effects me more because after my niece was born, my great aunt was upset she wasn't baptized and suggested to Mom that she secretly baptize her while my sister and her partner weren't around. My sister reasonably responded "I mean, its just water so if that makes her happy." but mom didn't want to, understandably. But frankly, that just pissed me off, as there would be so much symbolic unpleasantness in that action. I'm not religious and don't believe in the life hereafter but I consider having a spiritual side and, more importantly, put a lot of weight into symbolism and it just makes me enraged to think about. But I suspect even without this specific story, this climax works for most people. It helps that it is also very funny, treating the baptism with life or death seriousness and thriller level suspense.

Jokes I missed before:
A book on Flanders' shelf called "Who Begat Whom"
Other great jokes:
"Marge, there's a spider near my car keys."
"You did the right thing by telling me."
The specificity of these words is great. Though it probably feels like less of a gag in Australia where dangerous spiders are a for real deal.

"EEEE! Don't do that!"
"Don't do that!"

Child welfare as Batman. I feel like the last few seasons had an obsession with the old Adam West series.

"Stupid babies need the most attention."

The act break reveal of the kids foster home is a perfect Simpsons joke.

"I don't judge Homer and Marge. That's for a vengeful God to do."

"Don't worry little girl. We'll get you some nice county dentures."
I don't even know what those are but I feel safe saying "ew!"

"Is your source on this reliable?"

"Why? Why? My only son!"

"I think I see Lisa, but it might be a starfish."


"I kept screeching and screeching at him..."

"Todd smells? I already knew that."

"I miss the way Bart would say something and then say 'dude'."

Flanders saying biblical things is good.
"The Bridal Feast of Beth Chadruharazzeb?"

"Ned, have you thought about any of the other major religions? They're all pretty much the same."

"Do you reject Satan and all his empty promises?"

"HAHAHA! Old painty can Ned!"

Other notes:

Hey, the guy who tried to beat up the Simpsons in Moe's bar can be a parent again. YAY!

I didn't find a spot for it in the main review, but I love the Simpsons remembering and recognizing specific things about each other. Things that aren't jokes but are silly and idiosyncratic like "microwaving underwear" and "Bart's ring". Its great at reminding us that its the specific things that matter to each other.

Johnny Unusual

One thing I wanted to talk about, this episode was the one that I remember being when The Simpsons began doing more fake-out jokes. If that's even the right term. Like when the movie director says "You're our new Fallout Boy!!!...is what I would say if you were one inch taller." A few jokes a season I can take, but later seasons would do so many of these jokes that I built up an immunity, which is just one reason I stopped enjoying them.

But maybe I just don't like those jokes as much as other people, I'd like to hear what others say.
Well, I don't know if there's a specific word for "fake out" jokes. I mean, its a pretty common trope and the verb used in describing them is misdirect. Though many of them are not "anti-comedy", they are in the same ballpark. Anti-comedy is a form of comedy based on subverting conventional comedy. This is subverting hoary old tropes rather than jokes. Anyway, for me its not the formula so much as the volume and execution. One of the many reasons that I don't like newer episodes is that a lot of it feels like it is one cruise control: certain jokes, fresh at the time, now are played out. I don't even mean conventional catchphrases, more a re-use joke that feels there to fill dead air. Like Homer responding indifferently "yeah, but what are ya gonna do" for the millionth time,

Not quite the same but I feel the Simpsons went a little overboard with its irony. To put things in perspective, when Bart says he is familiar with the works of Pablo Naruda, its funny because it is surprisingly divergent from Bart's character, who we have no reason to believe he would be interested in this man's works. But when it happens all the time and the characters are always behaving ironically opposed to who we expect them to be, its hard to completely grasp who they are anymore and it loses its effect. Don't get me wrong, I still maintain there are surprisingly strong episodes in later seasons, but its really "diamond in the rough" stuff. If you want me to cherry pick, I like "Holidays of Future Passed", "A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again", the Halloween episode that ISN'T an anthology (with Nick Kroll) and some of the guest-written episodes.


There's a very particular brand of Simpsons fake-out based around subverting cliches, like all of the sexually suggestive images in Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy turning out to be a stock footage festival. I think that type of gag feels more old hat now that dissecting pop culture tropes has basically become its own genre of humor, but the Simpsons really pioneered it.


(He, him)
I'm curious if you found this episode as weird looking as I did? I can totally see if either you didn't notice anything or it didn't bother you.
Back on this subject...Yeah, I noticed. It looks like the black lines have kind of a shine to them with the digital paint job.

Johnny Unusual

Bart Sells His Soul

Sometime when I was 12 or 13, I came to the conclusion that there was no God or afterlife. It was pretty hard for me to take after years of churchgoing but I never really discussed these feelings with my family and even continued to go to catechism and such while I stayed awake at night in mortal terror over my own mortality. It kind of messed me up for years before I felt ready to truly accept it as best I could. But while I am an atheist, I do have a spiritual side. I don't believe in a literal afterlife but I do feel that the intangibles and symbols play a key role in our lives. I don't believe in the Secret-style magical thinking that putting something out in the universe will get you the success you want but I do feel like having a healthy inner life and sharing good feelings and thoughts can spread in a way that is not quantifiable in any conventional fashion. Maybe there's no life after but maybe there is a great beyond, a world or worlds beyond all that we are in tune with, even if just in a symbolic fashion. Because perhaps even the unreal is as unreal as the real, just as nothing is, in fact, something. But man, would I feel a little more comfortable if I were going to a forever happy party in the clouds with a toga beard man named God.

In this episode, Bart has an argument with Milhouse over the existence of the soul and Bart decides to prove the ridiculousness of the belief by selling his own soul for five dollars. Bart sells his soul and feels like he's got the better deal but soon Bart starts noticing weird coincidences that make him feel like he's incomplete as a human. Bart soon becomes nervous and eventually desperate tries to get his soul back from Milhouse. After a cross-town quest, Bart finally finds Milhouse who reveals he sold it to Comic Book Guy for pogs. The next morning, Bart learns Comic Book Guy sold it to an anonymous party and goes home to pray for his souls return. It is then Lisa gives Bart his soul, having bought it the previous day. Meanwhile, Moe converts his family into a family restaurant, only to find that despite his promising business, his own nature isn't family friendly.

Bart Sells His Soul is a great episode of existential dread that is also unrelentingly silly. I feel in exploring Bart's feelings of fear, the writers felt embolden to do a lot of weird sci-fi/horror bits in an episode that is at its heart is an emotionally grounded, philosophical episode about the nature of the soul. In the episode, Bart sees the souls as a fantasy for dummies to control people and Milhouse thinks its your all-purpose perfect ghost. But as the episode goes on, for Bart he finds it being an integral part of him that he didn't know he missed. The writers have a lot of fun with literal interpretations of this: being unable to be detected by automatic doors, missing breath and eventually cat-like eyes. Even before the episode's main plot starts, there's hints at the weirdness, such as Milhouse being freaked out by a raven. But the world becomes increasingly off-kilter. I'm not even talking about Bart being a monster but just things like the weird ET riff when Bart goes to Milhouse's place.

In all honesty, these literal things should take away from what I feel like the message is: that the soul is more than some literal ghost. But it all works because while working with the increasingly elastic nature of the Simpsons' world, Bart's pain and fear is played seriously. I think some of Nancy Cartwright's best work is a pained prayer to God for the return of a piece of paper. Bart wandering the street, suffering and fearing for his existence is powerful stuff, even if its a series of goofy vignettes. I also love Bart trying to coerce Ralph into selling his soul because while it is very funny, it is also genuinely sort of creepy and made in a way that takes the best from horror film direction without feeling like a specific parody. Obviously, the show never comes up with a specific understanding of how a soul works but the kids seem to believe it is something and it is important, whether it be literal or metaphor. I also love the idea that Lisa discusses the former at the end, suggesting Bart forged his soul that night while Bart is so literal, he's eating the piece of paper that says "Bart Simpson's soul" to put it back into his body.

Also in the episode is a b-plot that is very different but also kind of similar. Moe doesn't sell his soul but he tries to do something that clearly isn't him because it will make more money. Moe's restaurant actually is pretty great and people seem to genuinely like it. Moe puts on the happy-go-lucky persona of "Uncle Moe" but in the end, Moe is going to be Moe, no matter how much money is at stake. In the end, Moe gets an unhappy ending, where he's stuck at square one but also lost a lot of money while Bart gets a happier one, realizing that the intangible parts of him are important to him. Bart can be a brat but I feel like episodes like these show us what makes Bart a character who we can truly root for despite his mischief. Bart's occasional vulnerability gives the character so much more weight and strength and makes the wacky catchphrase machine that he was sold as in the early years as something so much more.

Jokes I missed before:

There's a scene cut for syndication I think where Homer won't stop bugging Moe about his failed business.

Other great jokes:

"If I withhold the truth may I go straight to Hell where I will eat not but burning hot coals and drink not but burning hot cola."

Milhouse describing what the soul can do is great. Especially his smug pride when he says "Oh, it can swim."

"Anytime, chummmmmmmm...P."

The Texas Cheesecake Despository

"Ah, no, its dripping funny smelling water all over me!"

"Thank you, door!"

"I am familiar with the work of Pablo Neruda."

"Street signs? Indoors? Whatever!"

"Please take the fries off my head, kid, the basket is extremely hot."

"When Milhouse left, did you notice if he was carrying a piece of paper?"
"Oh, yeah, you don't forget a thing like that."

"Ow, my freakin' ears."

"I expect that kind of language at Denny's but not here!"

Love the deranged street cleaner. Also, I guess Springfield has a subway.

"You dial 91 and when I say so, dial 1 again."

"It contains a very rare Mary Worth in which she has advised a friend to commit suicide."

Other notes:

Why is Selma at the party. Is this a twin solidarity thing?

Pamela Hayden also kills it this episode. Unhinged Milhouse in the backyard is stellar.


Arm Candy
"Uh, Milhouse, give him back his soul; I've got work tomorrow," is one of my favourite lines in the show.


dirtbag lesbian
The street sweeper is one of the perfect jokes in the series
The street sweeper is the perfect example of why The Simpsons wouldn't work in any other medium. It's got like four or five jokes crammed into maybe ten or fifteen seconds of screentime.


Arm Candy
The street sweeper is the perfect example of why The Simpsons wouldn't work in any other medium. It's got like four or five jokes crammed into maybe ten or fifteen seconds of screentime.
And the jokes build on each other brilliantly.

Johnny Unusual

Lisa the Vegetarian

I don't think I'll ever be able to give up meat. Don't get me wrong, there are countless wonderful meat alternatives. I was a picky eater as a kid but now I like to try all sorts of different things and novelty and weirdness that I would have turned up my nose at as a youth is now enticing. But there are also so many yummy meats to try and endless variations to try them in. But there's no getting around that the meat industry is kind of horrifying all around. Frankly, I get the choice to be a vegetarian, whether it is for ethical purposes or simply because the idea of eating an animal bothers you.

In this episode, the Simpsons go to a petting zoo and there Lisa plays with a cute little lamb. That evening, as the family is eating a lambchop dinner, it dawns on her that eating meat is upsetting to her and decides there and then to become a vegetarian. But soon she finds her family and her school doesn't understand her and is increasingly irritated by everyone's inability to try. Eventually, things come to ahead at Homer's huge BBQ and Lisa steals and disposes of Homer's roast pig. Lisa wanders Springfield upset with her meat obsessed society where she meets Apu, who shows her his private garden and special guest stars Paul and Linda McCartney. Lisa learns that Apu objects to some of Lisa's eating habits, like cheese, Apu teaches her that lashing out at everyone else does little to change the world. She finds Homer, apologizes and the two reconcile.

Watching the episode, I felt like "Oh, writer David S. (later X.) Cohen must be or have been a vegetarian" and sure enough, yep, he was at the time of writing the episode. Its not just because its about a vegetarian but it views the world of meat-eating. The episode isn't trying to shame anyone as Lisa tries to do but it does present the world that vegetarians face: one where (certainly during the 90s) there aren't a lot of decent options for people and having to live in a world where something they consider problematic or even horrifying is the norm. Lisa's journey is that she gets so frustrated by that, she becomes dismissive and condescending towards her family and she doesn't get to get re-oriented until she meets some like-minded people to confide in and amongst them learns there are difference and different ethical lines but that's OK and we can still care for each other.

Its an interesting lesson because in watching it, I was thought "this lesson is actually pretty good but it actually doesn't extend much further than what it is literally about." Like, differing religious beliefs, sure, but not so much differing political beliefs or bigger ethical deals because we are seeing there are times to get angry with people, regardless of what they say about the "discourse." It can extend mostly well to what we consume: maybe accepting that someone can still enjoy media or culture that is problematic or has problematic connections. But that's also differing in a lot of ways, such as the nature of the food industry being a very different animal in how is can be problematic in comparison to how entertainment can be problematic. But I think the message isn't "don't bother people" (even though Apu literally describing what Lisa does as "badgering") so much as "vilifying people who don't choose your beliefs isn't helping." It does sound in itself dismissive but I think that the show really is on Lisa's side for most of the episode, despite her mistake.

But I do feel like this episode is one of the first major changes to Lisa. I feel like as the show goes on, the writer's take pleasure in dunking on Lisa in her preachiness. A few years ago, politician and astounding piece of shit Ted Cruz was making some stupid Simpsons/USA analogy and framed Lisa as the joykiller as opposed to show's moral compass. But with later seasons, I actually understand why someone like Ted Cruz might view things this way due to how they present Lisa. Like "isn't it funny that she's TOO woke?" I think the show is still more on her side than it isn't, but I did find it weird that they try to make her more of the preachy one. There are episodes that make this work like Lisa the Skeptic but I feel like this and that episode pave a bit of an unfortunate road for her down the line from writers who make choices I don't agree with. But this Lisa, despite some failings, is still sympathetic and good-hearted, just the way I like her.

Jokes I missed before:

Other great jokes:

"...That was good, but not great."
This is one of those line formula's I think gets overused but it works here. Also love how even Marge is disappointed.

The faulty sound on Mother Bear is spot on.

"Charmed... a-googily doogily."

"And after I painted those cool stripes all over your car."
I fucking love the one "good" thing Homer does for Flanders is this. Its something a four year old would think of.

"Oh, yeah, right, Lisa. A wonderful, magical animal."

"Why does it talk like a lamb?"

I love that the self-cannibalism build up NEVER factors into Scratchy's death.

This is so brilliant stem to stern, so to speak. Like, I feel like the entire best jokes list could be every line and moment of this. I guess I'll do some quick highlights: "Billy!" "Jimmy!", "Its not really a floor", the term "sluice through", food chain, scientician, ape v shark, EVERYONE YOU CARE ABOUT!, you're hurting me.

"BART NO!" "What?" "Sorry, force of habit. LISA NO!"

Great punchline used three times in three ways that are funny as individual jokes and great as a tapestry.

"SHE ADMITTED IT!" "She's going to marry a carrot!"

The bait and switch gag with Paul McCartney offering Lisa a song is very funny. Like, its been done before its still problematic because its punchline partially rooted in Apu having a "funny accent" but the fact that Apu flat out sucks as a singer and Paul and Linda are SUPER fucking into his rendition (he also makes some weird pronoun choices in i.e. "I hope I will enjoy my show") still makes me laugh.

Other notes:

Lisa, there are so many great vegetarian dishes that even in the 90s I feel you could have sold people on. Like falafel. Falafel is great. Gazpacho deserved to bomb as much as it did. You brought the most anti-BBQ thing to the BBQ.

I was actually asked to dissect a fetal pig but I objected, less for moral reasons and more because I found it too upsetting.

For some reason, I really could go for a lentil soup right now.


(Fem or Gender Neutral)
The flying pig visual at the end of the episode and the joke with Mr. Burns and Smithers related to said flying pig are images I will still be chuckling about when I'm in the nursing home.

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Johnny Unusual

Treehouse of Terror VI

Computer generated animation has come a long way. We now live in an era where it is a norm for TV and computer generated movies outnumber traditionally animated ones. I remember the 90s when some of the first CG shows appeared, including Reboot and Beast Wars (strangely called "Beasties" in Canada, despite sounding like the most British or maybe Australian name possible), which I was a big fan of. Generally, I liked the shows animated by Mainframe but as time went on the quality of the programs seemed increasingly bad, with good shows like the aforementioned ones giving way to far worse shows like Weird-Ohs (their attempt to do a Big Daddy Roth-inspired splat and squish cartoon) and the rather dull Action Man. Last time I checked, whatever remains of Mainframe Entertainment was doing direct to video Barbie films in the mid-2000s. Shame, because that must have been the last time I had any interest in Canadian animation, save for Hilda, which is a British co-production. But in the 90s, it seemed like much more of a novelty, meaning a lot of attempts to get in on it aged poorly. Where does that leave The Simpsons' first dive into the medium?

Another Halloween anthology. In the first story, advertising mascots are brought to life and reek havoc on downtown Springfield until they are defeated by a counter-campaign. Then, in the second story, Willie is accidentally killed by Springfield's parents, so Willie's ghost begins attacking their kids in their dreams. And in the final story, Homer finds the door to an alternate universe in the house and finds himself trapped in a slowly disappearing world.

This is a pretty good collection of stories. All are funny but they also have other strengths throughout. The first, Attack of the 50 ft. Eyesores, is not quite a specific parody but is more of a pastiche of 50s monster movies. But really, its a parody of the nature of advertising, with the reveal that the monsters are sustained by the attention people give them. The ending has Lisa defeating the monsters with an advertising earworm. Its a fun, simple tale that's mostly an excuse for various visual gags involving the advertising monsters though the concept of a world destroying monster fueled by public attention is eerily relevant.

The second segment is a spoof of A Nightmare on Elm Street and being about nightmares that come to life has a lot of great visuals, though its other strength is its quips and one liners. While it's not remotely "scary", I think it does get cinematic in moments and a few camera angels. Willie works well in the Freddy role, dropping quips that, unlike the actual Freddy, are actually clever, if not laugh out loud funny. Its funny because Freddy is thought of as the quipping villain of the 80s but that really didn't happen in the first and almost only good one. Part 3 is full of them and is a half-way good movie with some impressive visuals compared to the rather dull Part 2, which is interesting due to it becoming an iconic gay film but misses the cool visuals of what a nightmare-based horror movie should be. But despite him being the most famous version of that character, I kind of don't like quipping Freddy. I don't find him funny and his sadism gets boring to me pretty quick. I much prefer the Freddy of the first movie who definitely says weird, threatening and mocking shit but they aren't really supposed to be taken as funny.

The final segment is probably meant to be the show stopper but its probably the weakest. Oh, its still pretty good. And the animation, certainly compared to a lot of programs of the era, haven't aged too badly. Yeah, it looks noticeably... 90s. And who needed to see Bart say "cool, man"... IN 3D! Seriously, it feels like it is a moment done for the promo and feels weirdly unnatural. But it looks good. This one is actually based on an old Twilight Zone called "Little Girl Lost" with a very similar premise: a child is lost in the walls of a house that turns out to be a path to another dimension. This take on it is clearly predicated on the excitement of Homer in 3D but its strongest bits are a lot of jokes animated within the Simpson house itself, with the 3D providing a bunch of eye candy and math references (which would be done better later in Futurama). Seriously, the non-CGI bits are largely gold and extremely quotable but what is intended as the meat of the segment feels like filler.

Jokes I missed before:

Not being a "sports guy" I missed the joke of Krusty's bizarre backwards explanation for a "forward pass".

Other great jokes:

"Good morning everyone. Panic is gripping downtown Springfield..."

"But what new product could justify such carnage? A cleanser? A fat free fudge cake that doesn't let you down in the flavor department like so many others--"

"He came to life. Good for him."

"OK, if it'll end horror."

"Don't you ever get tired of being wrong all the time?"

"These monsters are destroying everything and everyone we hold dear... and you kids should have jackets on."

"Guarantee void in Tennessee."

"Remember the story; we're newlyweds on our way to Earth Capital."

"Bart, is that you?"
"Take out the garbage."

"Now lets have no more curiosity of this bizarre cover-up."

"Not into the kindergarten!"

"Lousy Smarch weather."
"Do not touch Willie. Good advice."
That's a Hell of a one-two punch of great jokes

"Bart, do you realize what this means? The next time we fall asleep, we could die!"
"Eh, welcome to my world."

"There's a volcano waiting to erupt in the Pacific rim. Its name? Medium-term convertible debentures."
This show is so good about making something specific and boring.

"I'm somewhere where I don't know where I am?"
"Do you see towels? If you see towels you are probably in the linen closet again."

"Here is an ordinary square..."
"Whoa whoa whoa slow down, egghead."

"Take that, ya lousy dimension."

"There could be cubes in there the size of gorillas."

"Well, we hit a little snag when the universe collapsed in on itself..."

Johnny Unusual

King-Sized Homer

Its been a long road for me. In 2018, my parents asked me to get a blood test for cholesterol, as my dad had an issue they worried could be genetic. The good news was that wasn't an issue. Unfortunately, they also mentioned I was prediabetic. This was something of a scare for me, who was used to being overweight. After 3 months of a super spartan diet, I kept to a more reasonable one and eventually lost 60 pounds over the course of a year and a half. I'm still slightly overweight but I am within spitting distance of what is considered to be my ideal weight range (I've gained some back in the last few months due to a mix of being stuck inside and a mix of holiday eating and political stress eating). Last I talked to my doctor, he told me I wasn't near diabetic. It made me happy and made healthy living seem obtainable. Losing all that weight makes me happy and people were genuinely surprised how lean I looked compared to before. Frankly, as someone who loves to eat more than anything, it isn't always easy but it can be done (so far. We'll see what happens when my metabolism goes into decline).

In this episode, Homer decides to try to get on disability to work from home. After learning hyper-obesity is a disability, Homer becomes determined to gain enough weight to achieve his goal. He does but this puts him at odds with Marge and Lisa, who are worried about his health. Homer enjoys working from home at first but soon finds the work monotonous and simplistic, even for him and is constantly looking for distractions. He soon becomes a laughing stock amongst people, much to his chagrin. During an outing, Homer discovers he's endangered the plant and it will soon explode. Homer rushes to the plant and manages to save it in time with his girth. Homer then asks Mr. Burns to make him thin in return.

This is kind of a weird one. The episode has a lot of jokes about Homer's new weight but it is also clear that it is trying to say something more serious about obesity and also something about working from home, I guess. As someone trying to be less ableist, its interesting to look at. Yep, lot of fat jokes in this one but it is also trying to make the point that Homer intentionally trying to give himself a disability is rather upsetting. The episode seems genuine about wanting to have sympathy for Homer when Lisa defends him or when Homer is upset after a crowd of people mock him. Lisa knows that Homer is doing damage to himself but she thinks Homer being mocked is unfair and cruel and is upset by the prejudice of others. But then each time its followed up with a fat joke. Yeah, I feel like the 90s weren't ready to handle this one. Its far from the most offensive take on this but its not super great in that regard.

The other thing I give a weird side eye to in the episode is its fear of someone taking advantage of workman's comp. I feel like this was a think I kept seeing in comedies like the Simpsons and Kids in the Hall. Was this concerned justified? I don't know enough about the subject but I suspect not. Despite that the writers of those comedies are largely liberal (with at least one libertarian in the mix), I feel like a paranoia about was being put out there by more conservative elements in the media, probably saying "workman's comp is bad because people will just try to get disabled to make money." Am I right? I mean, I'm just blue skying because while I feel like something was going on in the culture, I don't know what it really stemmed from. I feel like Lisa, however, does have the right attitude that the program exists to help others and that Homer's plot is despicable.

The episode does make Homer doing damage to his body joyous as Homer reaches his goal but having more genuine emotion when the show returns its focus to Marge. Marge telling Homer that his choice to gain weight has damaged her sexual attraction to him and it is not played for any sort of laugh, instead treating this element in their marriage with real gravity. This is the strongest part in the episode to me. I think the element of Homer becoming bored with working from home is somewhat interesting, too, though will also probably age weird too considering the current era. Of course, it isn't problematic at that angle, but I think a lot of people are finding working from home not so bad (though I have no doubt not being able to leave the house causes a number of frustrations. So I feel like this is a mixed bag and I should probably come back to it when I have a more clear-eyed and informed view of ableism, so for me, this is one that I still kind of like but with some definite caveats.

Jokes I missed before:

Other great jokes:

Homer's exchange with Burns after he slides into the room is good.

"I'll have no part of it."
"Can you recommend a doctor who will."

"Normally your father's crackpot schemes fizzle out after he finds something good on TV. But this season..."

"According to daddy's will, I inherit the entire plantation."
"I'll see to it that you won't get apricot one!"

"To obtain a special dialing wand..."

"Heck, I can't decide without the pictures."

Other notes:

A lot of the Homer on his computer gags are very cheesy but Castellaneta sells a lot of them. The "tab" joke is dumb but it works for me. Also, I love that he calls what he is doing "hacking".

Second appearance of Joan Kenley this season, the lady famous for being "the number you have reached..."


(He, him)

I feel like Ralph's ridiculously bad attempt at teasing Lisa for her dad being fat(ter) is a call back to the incident at the Sea Captain's all-you-can-eat buffet a few seasons back.

This is definitely not the most sensitive episode to the overweight (I mean, Homer breaks the car and there's Bart fantasy about being morbidly obese), but generally the fat humor here is pretty restrained compared to Fat Bart breaking everything in that opening redux farther down the line.

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
“Hollywood Upstairs Medical College” is a joke that sailed past me when I was young but is one of my favourite Dr. Nick jokes now

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
Also; knee deep in season 15 now, and the quality is on the upswing again. There’s been more hits than duds lately and most episodes had me genuinely laughing out loud at least once.

Unexpectedly, it’s Kent Brockman and Chief Wiggum who have been the best joke delivery systems

Johnny Unusual

Mother Simpson

I feel there are only three true event moments in the Simpsons: the first season sensation, Who Shot Mr. Burns? and the movie. But for me, this was a big deal when it aired. I remember I had an issue of the Simpsons comic where they explained this was going to be a plot this season in the letters page. The show didn't need to go into detail about who Homer's mother is but as a kid I always wanted to know about the blank spots in my favourite characters life, so I was pretty stoked for it. Frankly, it was worth it.

In this episode, Homer fakes his death to get out of work and while trying to clear the mess up, he finds the hall of records listed his mother as alive. After visiting her grave, he discovers it isn't her grave at all. There he meets his mother, alive and well. Homer takes her home and everyone is happy to have her and she grows close with the family. But Bart and Lisa start to realize there is something amiss with Mona Simpson and Marge and Homer want to know why she left. The family converges on her and she admits the truth: in the 60s, she was an activist and took part in sabotaging Mr. Burns biological weapons lab. Mona was seen by Burns and fearing for her family, she went on the run. The family understands Mona and forgives her but while it seems Mona is looking to stay, Burns in the modern day caught sight of Mona and has been having the police hunt for her. Eventually, the Simpsons are tipped off by Chief Wiggum, who Mona inadvertently helped in the past, and Mona returns to being on the run after a tearful and meaningful goodbye with her son.

One of the things I love about this era of the Simpsons is it can take a sweeps week-style plot and inject it great jokes and even some pathos. Its what separates this show from some of the more cringeworthy sweeps stuff from other shows of the era. The Simpsons didn't pander, generally, (some early catchphrase using aside) and you were more likely to be given not what you want but something much better. With Who Shot Mr. Burns, there's lots of time for the story to breathe and lots of mood. I compare that with, say, the Simpsons Stranger Things parody from a few years ago, which feels like it is listing off what needs to be done. In this episode, the Simpsons takes what could have been some attention grabbing plot and builds not only a strong story but an element of the Simpsons tapestry that adds more pathos into Simpsons backstory.

I also feel that the 60s revolutionary-inspired plot is something of a perfect metaphor for the show: its a very mainstream thing birthed from Matt Groening's upbringing. Groening grew up in a hippie college town that he describes as attracting weirdos and grew up on R. Crumb and Joseph Heller. The Simpsons where as much of a product of the 60s as a product of the 90s, particularly in its mistrust of authority and bringing that into Homer's formative backstory, even unknowingly, works. Of course, I think it is a bit easier to have a more cynical view of the 60s now, with self-congratulatory boomers patting each other on the back while we see either change never really happened the way we thought or we hit a backwards slide. But while this kind of attitude his unpleasant and a healthy mistrust of boomer's opinions should be encouraged, there were definitely some good things about the era. Maybe things were oversold but civil rights, more focus on women's rights and some great groundwork for how to properly protest is nothing to sneeze at. Still, even this episode is quick to make fun of what became of the generation, with Mona doing favours for her financially successful former revolutionaries.

So it allows the show to show the era and ideals that influenced it. But in the end, it is also a very funny, effective story about a mother and son, finally reunited. The show's gone emotional before and as much as I like this episode, I feel like its had even more powerful moments. But I think the episode's final decision after watching his mom drive off to not return home to wrap things up but instead have Homer staring into the night sky is powerful. No black out to the regular credits, not even the regular theme. I feel like Alf Clausen must have made this special theme for Mona but its a piece I don't think we hear again. It leaves us in a place of bittersweet happiness and contemplation for our oafish everyman. There really is something powerful about giving the metaphorical clown a bit of genuine pathos. I watched an amazing film on the Christmas break, The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, which loosely reimagines a comic mocking stodgy British militaristic and elitist views into a tale about a man out of time and who is naïve and a full of bluster but kind and with genuine reflection (even if he misses the point too often). I think knowing that the character is a fool enhanced the emotions of the story. And here, a character we usually laugh at and who began the episode faking his death (oh, I just got how that thematically tied in to the main plot. That's fucking good) for laze on a Saturday can be someone we can feel for as he takes a moment of his life not to rush home but to just sit and take in everything that's happened. Mona returns in too more episodes and neither are bad but its really hard to do a repeat performance of such as good episode.

Jokes I missed before:

A few. Notably, Mona listing off 60s icons who sold out and she helped for extra money. I actually don't even know these people, but from context its not hard to get the actual joke of it.

Other great jokes:

"I can't believe I'm spending my Saturday picking up garbage. I mean, half these bottles aren't even mine."

Even as Simpsons non-sequitors go, this is an odd one. I do like it, though.

Maude saying "I can see him" is some top tier condescension. Its also such a moody looking empty hammock.

"When I asked you if that dummy was to fake your own death, you told me no!"

"Isn't anyone in this dang-gum cemetery dead?"
"Well, I didn't want to cause a fuss, but now that you mention it."

"It's where I keep my shirts when I'm not wearing them."
"Oh, yes, right in the drawer."
*shared laughter*
"You remembered."

"There, now no one should be able to hear us."
"OK, we don't need the dryer."

They've done this before.

"Gee Joe, you haven't been the same since your son went crazy in Vietnam."
"Its a pain that never ends."

"I saw her. That is to say I've seen her."
"I've seen her. That is to say I saw her."

"Are you stalling or just senile."
"A little from column A and a little from column B."

Other notes:

This is writer Richard Appel's first episode and he'd write some REALLY good ones. This is his best, though. He would also go on to be showrunner for... uh, Family Guy and co-create... the Cleveland Show. Hmm. Oh, and this is neat, his wife was named Mona Simpson!

I love the genuine sweetness Mona gives to Homer after he "spoils the moment".

I like the colouring choice on the TV in the flashback, particularly in the "Kenny Brocklestein" segment, which looks appropriately harsh in the way TV did at the time.

This week in Low Key guest stars: the guy from Dragnet who wasn't Joe Friday. He does good work.


It's always time for burgers
Staff member
Outstanding episode. Chock full of hilarious lines and poignant too. And the show was never good again