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

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Dog of Death

I never had a dog. This was probably the right choice: my Dad traveled a lot and by extension, his family did too, so it wouldn't be fair to the dog. But I did have pets. My first real pet was a Guinea pig named Fluffy. It was an unoriginal name but man did it live up to it. He died while a friend was taking care of him while I was in Thailand (there are conflicting accounts about the nature of his death but it sounds like he overheated from being in the sun too long). Then I had a hamster named Timmy, due to him being timid. I woke up one day to find him dead of natural causes. Then I had one named Asimov (a true poseur, I'd never actually read any Asimov and when I finally did, I didn't feel any strong feelings toward his work). When he died, he went slow. It was heartbreaking and it lasted for a week. I had one pet after that and its a bit of an odd story, so maybe it will wait for another day but the plan was never to have another pet after that. It hurt a little too much and the freedom from low level responsibility made me feel a bit better. But it does hurt to lose a pet. And as funny as this episode is, the show doesn't shy away from the emotional weight of the stakes.

In this episode, Springfield has lotto fever and Homer wastes a lot of the family money on tickets. As you might imagine, the Simpsons don't win. But on top of that, Santa's Little Helper turns out to have a serious medical condition and the Simpsons don't have a lot of money to spend on their dog. The Simpsons manage to pull the cash together and the dog is saved but their joy is turned to grumbling when they have to live in a penny pinching household. The dog runs away from home and the family is desperate to get him back, unaware that after a series of adventures, the dog has fallen into the hands of Mr. Burns, who turns it into an attack dog.

The Simpson pets are interesting in that they pop in and out of the series as needed. They live with them and they do show up in the background from time to time but I'm confident there are quite a few episodes where they don't appear at all. Frankly, I don't want to do the fact checking on that statement: maybe they are more present than I realize but are simply unacknowledged so I don't even notice. But it certainly tracks with this episode, where in the first act the dog is ignored, in the second he is loved and then not-so-loved and finally missed and praised.

So the Simpsons aren't the best owners. But man, Bart loves his dog. Santa's Little Helper episodes tend to be Bart episodes and this one is no exception. Watching Marge and Homer's pained expression as they try to find a way to let Bart know that they won't pay for Santa's operation feels surprisingly tense (before Homer goes into describing Dog Heaven, which is hilarious) I'm not sure if there's a larger message than "dogs are great and are sources of frustration, heartbreak and joy". In later episodes, Santa's Little Helper is sometimes overtly anthropomorphized (fitting in with a sillier reality) but here its a gormless but loving dummy. But the show lets him have more emotions here than in "Bart's Dog Gets an F". I wouldn't call it real depth but its enough to make you feel even more for him. The family has all kinds of wants but all the dog wants is love and care. Maybe that's the point. The episode starts with the lottery and these ridiculous dreams of wanton greed. Then we get the weight of both money and the need for our loved ones. The Simpsons make the noble sacrifice of comfort for a loved one but with danger gone, their mood turns to resentment. I guess I'm talking myself into this being about the push and pull of the very human desires for comfort (often in the form of things that can be bought) and for love and friendship.

So maybe that's what its about? It doesn't FEEL as deep as I'm describing it, I'll admit. It largely feels like a mix of social satire about greed and a pretty simple lost dog story. But the pathos in an otherwise silly episode is effective and I imagine it would be moreso if I was a dog owner with a specific dog to project onto Santa's Little Helper. I also imagine it might make me uncomfortable watching the kind of cruelty Mr. Burns puts him through. I have no doubt that John Swartzwelder is a dog owner and that this episode probably drew from his love, his fears and his experiences, both good and bad. Or maybe he just watched enough dog movies to get it. Same diff.

Jokes I missed before:
Mr. Burns lives on the corner of Croesus and Mammon.

Other Great Bits:

All of Homer's description of dog heaven and his assumption that evil people have evil dogs.

"Oh, I know what it is. You're the biggest man in the world. And you're all covered in gold."

This is also the first time Homer throws a book in the fire place. Its a great gag when Homer throws away Shirley Jackson's The Lottery (also, that's a short story. What else is filling that big book?), then latter we see a bunch of books in the fireplace, including his Bill Cosby book from Saturdays of Thunder (good call, Homer).

"Uh, tragic mix up today in Cleveland. Many people killed... good night!"

Grandpa does a lot with his short appearance. This one sort of straddles the line between his portrayal as a mean old man and an old kook.

The stuff with the vet is also great. "Well, the parrots can."

"We saved your gamecock. But he'll never fight again." "YOU'LL SEE! HE'LL FIGHT AND HE'LL WIN!" (Again, more cock than expected this season. Though this feels coincidental).

"Your llama just bit Ted Kennedy." "Good." I feel like the show's used a similar joke rhythm with "good" before and since and it always works on me. Like, I feel like the brevity of it is perfect.
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
The Simpson pets are interesting in that they pop in and out of the series as needed. They live with them and they do show up in the background from time to time but I'm confident there are quite a few episodes where they don't appear at all. Frankly, I don't want to do the fact checking on that statement: maybe they are more present than I realize but are simply unacknowledged so I don't even notice.
Got it in one. The pets basically just don't appear unless they're required for a gag, a plotline, or both; especially Snowball II, who appears in less than eighty episodes and that's if you consolidate both the original Snowball II and the 2004-and-onwards Snowball V (aka Snowball II) into one character
 

MetManMas

DNM-123
(He, him)
The Simpsons ain't even the only cartoon to do this. Look at most cartoons featuring pets (but not starring them) for too long and you start to notice they're usually MIA unless there's a joke or plot to do with them.
 

John

(he/him)
I just started watching an episode on Disney Plus, and their compression algorithm is horrible. They fixed the aspect ratio, but they applied smoothing that removes all the line art detail. It may look better in the newer episodes, but the hand drawn animation is a smeary mess.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Colonel Homer

I used to be one of those kids who was pretty snotty about country music. Its still not my preferred genre, but I've definitely come around on it over the years and enjoy the music of Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash and Dolly Parton. My tastes do tend to be more old school, granted. Now most of the mainstream country that appears on country radio stations isn't for me, having a sound I don't find engaging and subjects such as pick up trucks and... uh, miscellaneous that doesn't speak to me. "ike I'll borrow random CDs from the library and whenever I pick up a modern country one, way too many songs contain pick up trucks. I get that those things are pretty big in a lot of people's lives but it feels like the degree to which they are used is very pander-y. But I've learned to love a lot of the country sound, and respect that there's a lot going on. And rewatching this episode, I was surprised how great the songs in this episode are.

In this episode, Homer gets angry after Marge yells at him in the theatre and Homer drives off to blow off steam. Eventually he ends up in a redneck bar where he sees Lurleen Lumpkin, the bar's waitress, perform. The song speaks to Homer and he can't get it out of his head. While he gets her to record a version for him, she's discovered and slowly becomes a superstar thanks to her talent and makes Homer her manager. Homer loves the chance to make Lurleen the star she deserves to be but the new arrangement drives a wedge between Homer and Marge, who is upset that Homer is spending most of his free time with another woman. And she should be, as Homer is very slow to realize Lurleen is in love with him. Soon Homer must make a choice between supporting Lurleen and returning to his family.

Man, this is a good episode. This is yet another episode that completely hits all the bases: emotionally strong, well-told and very funny. And its clear while it is taking the piss out of the country music scene, it is clear there's a love for the genre and tropes. Interestingly, this is the only episode Matt Groening has written solo but after watching it, it is a shame he didn't write more. According the wikipedia, the episode started with the germ of "Homer must choose between fame and fortune and his family", which is a good plot (and one that will happen in episodes like Homerpalooza) but that's not what this episode ended up being and I think its stronger for it.

The struggle between Homer and Marge is an interesting one in this episode. Marge is understandably annoyed while Homer obnoxiously won't shut up during a dull-looking Tom Clancy thriller and ends up blowing up at him to cheers from the rest of the audience. When Homer reveals he's helping Lurleen, Marge is understandably upset that he's both fixated on her (even though for most of the episode its platonic from his end) and that he's spending so much time with her. Meanwhile Homer sees this sweet, humble girl who seems unappreciated who wrote a song that makes him appreciated and he wants to share her with the world. He never thinks of her romantically (which leads to some good comedic beats based on his obliviousness that makes the often jerky Homer seem really sweet) but the fact that he continues the arrangement even after Marge states outright "I don't like this and what it means in our marriage", which is also in its own way selfish. There's no wholly bad motive in the episode and even the increasingly romantically aggressive Lurleen is never anything less than sympathetic and likable. Its really about Homer learning to walk away from something that means a lot to him for the sake of his family. It isn't fame and fortune, its his relationship with Lurleen and all the rewards that brings emotionally.

And holy shit, I forgot how good Beverly D'Angelo is in this. I would put her in the top 10 guests on the show easily after this rewatch. There's something in the writing too, but the show has to sell that she would fall in love with Homer and make it feel less like a plot point and more organic. But I feel Beverly makes her more than "lady who moons over Homer", even though that's a lot of what she has to do in the episode. She's sweet and really turns on the charm, whether that charm be romantic or simply as a performer. Apparently the staff worked really hard to make her sexy by Simpsons standards (partially by removing the classic overbite) but Beverly also makes her feel lived in and her singing is incredible. The "Bunk With Me Tonight" section truly is a great romantic moment.

As for Homer, I also think the episode does a good job balancing his genuine good intentions with some of the thoughtless stuff he does. His motives are pure: he simply is moved by some music and wants to share it with the world. Its only once he finally figures out how she feels about him does he have his doubts and he *mostly* never entertains anything else (though he can't help being curious when he walks out the door. Can't blame him.) Though the big kiss in the climax he's embracing her before he pushes her away, which is an interesting choice considering their relationship everywhere else in the episode. One of my favourite elements of his oblivious is this tiny bit of body language: Homer is still oblivious but he's polite.


Though its clear when the fog in his brain is lifted and he realizes how Lurleen feels, its clear he's certainly not unresponsive to her affections but for most of the episode, the purity of his motives make his actions in the episode pretty forgivable, especially when it gives a woman a chance to become a star. Apparently the other writers and crew were worried that Homer would seem like too much of a jerk in this episode but I feel this is one where he seems less jerky than usual, even if he is unwittingly neglecting his marriage. I also love that Homer is someone so used to being dumped on, there are two jokes in the episode where Homer's response show's he's incredulous that he's being complimented.

"Oh, Homer, you're just a big old sack of sugar."
"Thanks. You did say sugar, right?"

"Homer, you're as smart as you are handsome."
"HEY! Oh, you meant that as a compliment."

Though this isn't the first rando new job Homer has gotten, this does make it feel like he could get a new job any episode when the writers felt like it. But it also is one of the episode's that endangers the Homer and Marge marriage with romantic rival for Marge. It would be a well the show would return to more than once, particularly with the hilarious "The Last Temptation of Homer" but this might be the strongest thanks in no small part to the character of Lurleen. They would return to the character but like a lot of the later season returns, the impact would never be as strong as it is here.


Jokes I missed before:

Later in the episode

Other great bits:



Homer giving WAY too long time to consider Lurleen appearing on the radio.

Also the first appearance of the "Homer's boyhood dream" bit. I know there was more than one in the formula of Homer claiming something is his boyhood dream and Marge pointing to a previously claimed boyhood dream that he'd actually accomplished.

"You bitter?"
"Yep. Bit him too."
"HAHAHAHAHAHA-- *with sudden reverence and seriousness* And now, once again, Lurleen"
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
I had forgotten about this episode. It's a good one. Also, I never knew that was who voiced Lurleen.

“I’m from Rebel Yell Records, a division of Tokusagi Corporation.”
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Black Widower

As I've grown older, I've become a big fan of thrillers, suspense stories and mysteries. It is often disappointing how some thrillers that are set up as battles of wits between the hero and villain will turn into a fist fight in lesser films (Harrison Ford's unfortunate Firewall comes to mind). Its in the better ones where we have cleverer set pieces and/or heroes really using their wits to win. I also love a well put together mystery. I feel it must be really hard to do and to piece out clues properly through a story (though I feel once you've figured out the details, finding clever ways to sprinkle stuff in must be fun) and not make it feel clunky. In a good mystery, you should feel like, even if you don't put it altogether yourself, you should have the fun of picking up on clues. A good mystery isn't JUST a story, its also a bit of a game. And today's episode is a fun, funny one.

In this episode, Selma reveals she's been dating Sideshow Bob, recently released from prison following the events of "Krusty Gets Busted". Bob quickly wins over the family with his pathos and wit, except Bart, who only sees him as the man who tried to destroy his hero. Bob proposes to Selma and she accepts and while the relationship is not without its hiccups, soon the wedding goes off. But as the couple are spending their honeymoon in neighboring Shelbyville, Bart finally figures out Bob's real plan... murder!

Black Widower is the episode that really cements Bob as a recurring figure and he becomes a great fixture in the show. The tone of the show is becoming less traditionally sitcomy at this point and feels it can expand more into other genres. I mean, this isn't the first time (Bob's first appearance is also a bit of a mystery story) but this feels like a full on love letter to the mysteries of the ABC Mystery Movies of the 70s (again, like Krusty Gets Busted, there's a lot of Columbo DNA in this one as a slob outwits a snob) and the films of Alfred Hitchcock. Whenever Bob appears, the writers can flex their love of writing more thrilling genre stories, whether it be political thrillers in "Sideshow Bob Roberts" or just a full on Cape Fear parody in... well, "Cape Feare".

And its a complete blast to watch. There's no real lesson except "be skeptical", I suppose (and, uh, people don't change, I guess? They do put hang a lampshade on that lesson at the end), its just the game of seeing the mystery's points get parsed out to both Bart AND Bob (who clearly is piecing together a plan as he gets information about Selma) as the episode goes on. The other side of the game is watching how Bob wins everyone over using his wits and charm, even Krusty (though I feel like forgetting is a big part of working in show business). And Bob is charming in no small part thanks to Kelsey Grammer, who even in the lesser episodes always does good work as Bob but its especially notable in these earlier episodes. The writers give him some great dialogue to chew on whether he's being sinister, charming or even seemingly vulnerable.

And every major clue comes embedded in a great comedy bit and for the most part doesn't seem to be stopping the action to get it in. It does have Bart give a look of interest to clue the audience in that "this is a clue" but its not clunky about it. In addition, one clue is entirely about Selma's love of MacGyver and it just works as a good comedy piece as even as part of his plan Bob can't bring himself to praise middlebrow culture ("Even that car chase felt tacked on!"). Weirdly, the episode has TWO act two breaks: the actual one is Bob revealing his evil to the audience (which is the actual commercial break) and the second is Bart realizing Bob's plan and announcing "AUNT SELMA HAS ONE HOUR TO LIVE!" The latter even fades out as if it were going to commercial.

Now the episode isn't TOP TIER BRILLIANT MYSTERY but the way it mixes with top tier quality makes it a Hell of a lot of fun to watch. Whenever I watch Scooby Doo, my biggest beef isn't with the dumb jokes or cliches. I just always feel the mysteries aren't all that good or fun to play along with. This one easily is and its fun to see Bart not only get his parlor scene but also mix it in with a lot of great jokes, the best being Bart desperately trying to explain the plot to Homer four times, give up, explain it to Marge and "we were on our way." There are a lot of great comedy mystery shows. Though ostensibly a work place comedy with a tiny scrap of cop procedural, Brooklyn Nine-Nine (COMING SOON TO QUEBEC!) does a lot of detective show reveals and while they are often satisfying but only a few feel like its the game of a mystery story as it is often antics and plot-centric and is more low key about parceling out its clues, making it feel like the mystery isn't the focus and therefore I'm rarely focusing on that element. But I love a mystery where I am laughing and delighted throughout while still trying to catch up and figure things out.

Jokes I missed before:

The reference to psycho in the end reveal.



A little less cool that the subtle joke in there is "Selma is playing the part of a man in a dress".

Another joke I missed was Lisa imagining Selma dating John Merrick, the Elephant Man.


Other great bits:

"Ah, Mr. Simpson, you are forgetting the two noble truths of the Buddha."
"I AM NOT!"

"Now for the highlight of the evening, best film to video transfer."

"Who used my chapstick?"
"Oh, I did. Here you go."
"I don't want it."

"I share an apartment with my sister. Enclosed is a photo of us on a tandem bike. I forget which one I am."

Other notes:

Homer... actually gives really good advice in the episode when he suggests Bob take a walk whenever McGyver is on.

I love Lisa's bitterness over not being made ring bearer.
 
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Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
“All thanks to a little boy who never lost his distrust” is one of the best callback jokes in the series
 

Issun

Could be a fren
I've started watching The Simpsons (I'm going through season 11, I think? I was told that the season finale makes for a good series finale as well), and I'm only 3 episodes in, but the first season is actually not that bad. There's some genuinely funny stuff in it.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I've started watching The Simpsons (I'm going through season 11, I think? I was told that the season finale makes for a good series finale as well), and I'm only 3 episodes in, but the first season is actually not that bad. There's some genuinely funny stuff in it.
Behind the Laughter which finishes off 11 is a personal favourite.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Otto Show

When I was in my teens, I noticed everyone else in my family was playing an instrument. I guess I thought I should, too and I floated the idea of playing the drums. My dad talked me down a bit, as a drum set is expensive and maybe start with something smaller, like bongos. Cut to several months later at Christmas time. My dad and mother got me a drum. It was a very thoughtful gift but I had lost interest by then in part from Dad talking me down. I did try it though, but I never really got into it, so I ended up having a drum sitting in my room doing nothing. I do sort of regret one of those opportunities to learn something new but it was one of the many things I thought I'd do before I realized putting in effort takes... effort.

In this episode of the Simpsons, Bart gets a guitar after attending a rock show but finds it hard to learn. After Otto uses it to impress a bus full of kids, he is late for school and crashes it trying to get it in on time. The police get involved and Otto is forced to reveal he doesn't have a licence. Suspended without pay, Otto is evicted and finds himself living in a dumpster. Bart invites Otto to live with the Simpsons and becomes an irritating mooch to Homer.

This is a funny episode but I feel like unlike "Flaming Moe's", this doesn't make Otto into a much richer character with a lot of story potential. Heck, this is the only Otto-focused episode I can remember. I think part of it there's something timeless about Moe and I feel like Otto's stoner rock fan persona feels very much an 80s and 90s archetype. He's still a good utility player but I feel like there's not a lot beyond that. There's hints of a troubled relationship with his father, "The Admiral", but Otto never really rises above good natured pest in this episode. Meanwhile, Moe is sleazy and deceitful, but there's a sadness underneath him that allows him to carry an episode. Otto has things to contend with in life, but I found it never amounts to a strong arc.

I'm not sure I could say what the episode is about in terms of clear theme, but there is a definite parallel between Bart and Otto in this episode. Bart really wants to play guitar but soon quits because it is too hard. Meanwhile, Otto too has trouble motivating himself to keep fighting to get his job back, one that he's kind of bad at but also one that Skinner is thankful he can do. But Bart's stakes are pretty low while Otto is fighting for his self-respect, something he doesn't seem to even realize when he becomes angry Homer called him a "sponge". Of course, Otto's real skill he reveals isn't driving but knowing how to press the right buttons with Patty in digging up hilarious embarrassing dirt about Homer. I feel like the episode touches on a much more cynical but insightful idea that I wish it dug into more in this episode. After all, Homer, like Otto, is not really fit for his job. Maybe the real lesson is getting into job positions is less about actual skill and more about presentation and performance (not job performance, but like, you know, a performance), something even Homer can can pull off the barest minimal of... somehow.

The b-plot is much more insightful: how many of us have quit potential hobbies or eyed hobbies and not bothered because we don't want to put in the effort. We can romanticize hard work in movies but the actual practicing a skill is often humbling, monotonous and sometimes demoralizing before you find your breakthroughs. That's why when I'm teaching, I make sure to make a big deal at every little hint at progress. Because knowing you've gotten better at something feels really nice, as does someone recognizing it. I am embarrassed to say I've been in Bart's quittin' shoes many times and I feel like there might have been more meat on a small stakes comedy about someone who tries to learn a skill and just gives up at the end, subverting the usual arc.

All the same, the Otto Show, while not one of the best of the season, is still full of top notch jokes and in its Golden Age, even a lesser Simpsons is a pretty strong Simpsons. You get a fantastic first act with Spinal Tap, for example. Tap's more low key comedy and the Simpson's absurdist comedy manage to go together very well, including some hilarious backstage banter with Bill and Marty (I like how their integrity demands they would not assume "No one rocks harder than Bill and Marty" but there's no shame in "Rockadoodle-doo, you're listening to Bill and Marty"). But watching it again, it feels like one of the more unsuccessful attempts to build more of a well-rounded character out of a minor figure.

Jokes I missed before:
OK, I certainly learned this in my late teens, but as a 10 year old watching, I didn't know who Spinal Tap was or that it was a comedy group. And I sure didn't know Michael McKean would be one of my favourite actors. He's just amazing in Better Call Saul as a character who is so well-realized and also just a complete jerk. Even McKean can't seem to say anything nice about the character in interviews, yet in his acting give him so much humanity despite his actions.

Best Bits:
"We're very good in Bulgaria. And what's his name, the other garia. Hungaria."

"How many hungarios can say that?"

"We salute you, our half-inflated Dark Lord!"

Any time Bart imagines a terrible, nihilistic fate for himself and thinks its cool is some solid cognitive dissonance.

"Good show last night."
"Yeah, quite good."
*Spinal Tap dies*

Less good bits:

Boy am I already getting tired of Patty and Selma getting compared, overtly or covertly, to men or as happens in this episode, assumed to be trans. At least Otto is trying to be "open minded" and not mean about it but it doesn't make the "joke" noticeably less uncool.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Otto getting furious that Homer called him a sponge (instead of the more noble Bum) is memorable.

The Spinal Tap thing was easily the best part of the episode, and the jokes work even when you don't know anything about the band (and works even better if you do)
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Bart's Friend Falls in Love

If there's a character within the Simpsons family I relate to most, its probably Homer. I love to eat and rot my brain with dumb culture. I'm an intellectual, but I'm not really Lisa-level smart (the approximate intelligence of a writer's room), my tastes are kinda basic but I'm definitely not Marge level basic and I'm far too afraid to break rules to be a Bart. Outside of the immediate family, the most me-like character is probably Milhouse, Bart's perpetually unfortunate sidekick and life's punching bag. Thankfully, my parents never went through a messy divorce but as a kid I would cry at the drop of a hat and was pretty embarrassing. I think in the last decade I've liked Milhouse a little less, partially when the writers try to pair him with Lisa as an actual maybe couple, which is dumb because it makes Lisa look like she's settling for someone purely because he's interested and it tends to make Milhouse look like a jerk, too. But sweet little Milhouse in the Golden Age proves to have a Moe-level of richness in his friendship with Bart.

In this episode, a new kid comes to school, Samantha Stanky, and Milhouse falls head over heels for her. The feeling is reciprocated and it isn't long before Bart begins to have third wheel feels about the whole thing. Eventually, a heart-broken Bart reveals to Samantha's worrying father about her relationship and allows him to end it, but with Milhouse in a break-up funk, Bart begins to feel guilty. Meanwhile, Homer tries to subliminally lose weight but instead learns vocabulary words.

This one is very much a classic coming of age story for both characters, with Milhouse's new love causing him to neglect his friend and Bart's jealousy resulting in him hurting his friend. Feelings are hurt but by the episode's end the boys make peace and order is restored. Milhouse has gotten a prominent role before in Three Men and a Comic Book and gets pretty well-defined there. But this is the best use of Milhouse thus far and gets to what I liked about him and Bart's friendship in Homer Defined. These guys need each other. Bart is kind of popular in school but while he is something of a social butterfly on the surface, Milhouse is his only real friend (which sounds sad but that's still one more than Lisa has). I'm not sure what it says about the character: he knows how to entertain and amuse the other kids and seems to be well-liked but he's also sort of apart from them. Bart vulnerable is often my favourite mode of Bart, which is why when he starts crying after talking tough about losing Milhouse's friendship, it is effective.

I'll also say as quick as Bart is to be upset by the appearance of Samantha in his life, he does give her a chance. But it becomes quickly clear that a balance has shifted and there's a line between him and Milhouse. Bart is getting left behind and its scary and sad. Once again, Bart tries to solve his problems with meddling and mischief and makes things worse for poor Milhouse. Again, we see Bart is willing to sink low but he's still a moral and loving person so when someone he cares for hurts, he hurts.

This is also a greatly funny episode. It starts wiith a solid Indiana Jones homage for no reason (the episode begins with Bart stealing a jar of pennies from Homer... and it never comes up again, even as a segueway to the main plot. But who cares, its very well done. Then the kids watch a sex-ed tape that is full of gold from beginning to end, thanks to Troy McClure narration. "Then came the Honeymoon" is a weird joke, not only because it implies the children were just shown a fairly explicit cartoon but also Troy McClure is WAY too knowing in this quote. Of course, Mrs. Krabappel loudly claiming "She's faking it" to a room full of 10 year olds is the icing on the cake. But beyond that, we are told they had 14 kids, then with extreme grimness, informed us that "8 survived".

Homer's b-plot is fun as well, beginning with a grim assessment of Homer's health before moving on to a silly bit where Homer can't lose weight but is now super eloquent to a level that no one can understand him. Of course, it ends with Homer being unable to articulate the word spoon (its eerie how much I can relate to that), because how else could it end. But this one speaks to me cause I like big words. Also, rich creamery butter.

The episode ends happily. Milhouse's romance is over but he gets a romantic goodbye with gummi worms and French Canadian nuns. Order is restored and the kids have grown a little, but in a way that will be imperceptible to us, the viewer, going forward cause this isn't exactly a serial we are dealing with. And the writer's begin to really exploit both the dramatic and comedic potential of Milhouse, that one little wiener kid birthed from a Butterfingers commercial.


Yep, Bart's signature catchphrase "It's neato".

Jokes I missed before:

Less a joke than foreshadowing: the comic Bart borrows from Lisa that mirrors the kissing Milhouse and Samantha are doing is "Doomed Romance".

Best jokes:

Skinner turning to the window, reminiscing about Vietnam horrors.

"Please say hello to Samantha Stinky."
"It's Stanky."
"How embarrassing for you. Goodbye!"

"Taken together, that could fill the Grand Canyon 2/5 of the way up. That may not sound impressive but keep in mind it is a very big canyon."

The shot of Bart in the far away background running away from his playdate with Martin.

Other notable things:

I didn't realize Samantha was voiced by Kimmy Robertson, the actress I keep thinking is Victoria Jackson but is much better in every way. She was best known as the police secretary on Twin Peaks. For anyone who watched the last season, she eventually gives birth to Michael Cera, who gives a weird performance even for Michael Cera in a David Lynch production.

The Magic 8-Ball breaking as a symbol of the "spell" over the boys breaking... doesn't quite work for me in this outing? I'm fine with loaded symbolism and something had to happen to end the climactic fight but I feel like metaphor wasn't quite right within this part of the story. Curious if anyone disagrees. Or cares.

“My gastronomic capacity knows no satiety!” I wouldn't call it a funny line so much as the truest line ever spoken.
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
"Got any girl comics, like Bonnie Crane, Girl Attorney, Punkin and Dunkin the Twinkle Twins, or Lil' Kneesocks?"
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes

I like to think I'm good at forgiveness. Perhaps a little too good. There are certainly people I haven't "forgiven" but I can't even be bothered to feel angry about, like my previous employer who tried to stiff me for six months of work (took him to court and won, but that took over a year). And it sounds like I'm not the only person he treated poorly. But I feel like I can't make myself get that angry with him in the rear view. I'm more likely to get angry at myself for dumb, often inconsequential youthful mistakes. At least it guarantees I will try not to make them again. But there are definitely times I want to forgive people I shouldn't. Its not uncommon for me to hold some pretty petty grudges in the moment but I've been fortunate that I haven't had anything that stuck with me for a considerably long time. I feel like living with that would be akin to continually swallow poison in the hopes someone else will feel ill (I feel like I've heard that metaphor before but I don't know exactly where from. Stephen Colbert, maybe?)

In this episode, Mr. Burns discovers that the radiation from the plant has rendered Homer Simpson nearly sterile and tries to avoid a lawsuit by "awarding" him with $2,000. Homer asks if this award comes with a big ceremony and Mr. Burns obliges in order to avoid raising Homer's suspicion. The ceremony is such a big deal in Springfield that it catches the attention of Herb Powell, Homer's half-brother who was ruined thanks to Homer's disastrous attempt to design a car. Herb has a million dollar idea but needs capital and now must swallow his pride and ask Homer for the $2,000 to get his idea off of the ground.

I stand by my feeling that what happened to Herb in his previous appearance is more his fault than Homer's. Herb put faith in Homer, which is nice, but ignoring Homer's intellectual shortcomings, he was asking him to exceed in a field he knew nothing about after losing faith in the experts. That's... eerily timely, actually. So it is weird that everyone seems on board with the idea that it was all Homer's fault. I mean, I get that we can't dwell on it because we need to move the episode forward (which is ironic, because dwelling on it is pretty key). Apart from that very small nitpick, this is a top tier episode with great gags.

The greatest of which was the awards ceremony in the first act. The Simpson had already won two Emmy awards for Outstanding Primetime Animated Program (an award that actually started in the 70s and almost exclusively consisted of Specials until the Simpsons) and I have no doubt that several of the writers have worked on awards shows (as many mainstream comedy writers do) and their experiences waiting to win some themselves. The overblown musical number, Smokin' Joe Frazier defining excellence (the first of "Webster's defines" jokes) and a completely overblown ego stroking in order to blind a man to how he's being taken advantage of is a pitch perfect satire of the industry.

This episode is a weird one because while it is about forgiveness, its also kind of about materialism. Not about overcoming those feelings or looking on it with disdain: more how our wants for physical things can effect our mood. The Simpson's couch is destroyed in the beginning of the episode and Homer is devastated: it meant a lot to him. Its easy to SAY we shouldn't be materialistic but materials are... great. They literally touch our lives and as demonstrated in a great bit of humourous flashback, it is a touchstone for Homer, ironically one where he is passively watching history happen. As the Simpsons fantasize what to do with their meager award, Herb, a man who worked hard to live in comfort, now lives in squalor. I guess I have a hard time believing that a man with so many actual assets around the time of his bankruptcy would become a literal hobo but I don't mind, because it gets us into a pretty good story. Anyway, he finds that he needs to get in touch with someone he hates holds a grudge against in order to live a comfortable life again.

Homer takes a chance on his brother, hoping for forgiveness, but it doesn't seem forthcoming. In the end, though, Herb knows enough about Homer to start with giving him his gift for believing in him: forgiveness and then revealing that he also got him the chair. After all, Homer can be sweet but he's also pretty shallow and he knows that even though Homer has been hoping for reconciliation the whole episode, an actual physical gift is going to get more of a reaction than an intangible one, as big a move as it is for Herb. Of course, maybe its also because despite smarter, Herb is still probably as much of a materialist.

It is a shame Herb didn't come back but it sounded like Danny DeVito was willing to return, he was also pretty sheepish about it and though it didn't show in the performance, it apparently showed backstage. Its a shame because DeVito is really great as Herb. Still, even if DeVito was more invested, it could be narratively too convenient to have a rich relative popping in from time to time on a family that is supposed to be constantly struggling financially. Still, it seems there was stuff to do with him they never got around to. I mean, he never even met his own Dad. That feels like a whole episode where Grandpa's youthful indiscretion could be much more taken to task than it is in the episode where it is brought up. And there's a lot of the less savory parts of Grandpa in Herb, such as holding onto grudges. But Herb is a character who really is richly drawn and has both some humanity and a deep well of anger and resentment.

The episode is much more broad than in his first appearance but there's still moments all around with some surprising emotion within the acting, even when what emotion is being applied to is silly. This doesn't just apply to DeVito. Harry Shearer's acting in a VERY funny scene where Mr. Burns goes back and forth on being disgusted with his lawyers to being a gracious host oscillates hilariously to being rather gentle and a level of angry that feels like a voice from Burns we usually only get in rare instances.


There are three yelling beats and each one ends so intensely that it feels like Shearer is either on the verge of breaking character or making Burns into something we having seen before. The dialogue is arch but the performance starts at arch and goes into... well, I begin to worry about Shearer's voice.

Now I'm not sure the episode is specifically saying something about materialism but it is well utilized in this episode to say about how Homer gives Herb a chance and Herb forgives Homer. Homer must be urged but he gives his brother a chance by sacrificing his material desire and Herb pays him back with "Why not both?" in his reward, which Homer didn't actually ask for. It actually is a good echo to a joke earlier in the episode, where Homer promises to give Herb a chance for forgiveness. Herb says "Nope." Then Homer says "OK, then give me the drinking bird." (This is actually a great evolution of John Swartzwelder's interpretation of the character as "Homer = Dog", which is definitely Homer at his most lovable AND obnoxious, being distracted by stupid stuff he can play with in the face of actual plot). Often the Simpsons don't come out ahead financially but gain something else. There are exceptions ("There's No Disgrace Like Home", where their dysfunction nets them family solidarity AND a new TV) but this is one of those rare "Mega-Happy" endings and it does work. We may never see Herb again, but at least he bought Homer a happy ending on his way out the door.

Jokes I missed before:

I love the hyper-specific branding of the Simpsons' Universe.

Other Great Bits:



"YEAH, I USED TO BE RICH. I OWNED MICKEY MOUSE MASSAGE PARLORS. THEN THOSE DISNEY SLEAZEBALLS SHUT ME DOWN. SAID, "I'LL CHANGE THE LOGO-- PUT MICKEY'S PANTS BACK ON." SOME GUYS YOU JUST CAN'T REASON WITH."

Simpsons begins to get more meta-y when Homer says "At least things can't get worse" (more or less), then waits impatiently for the other shoe to drop.

"Now I bet you're all wondering what lies under this sheet."
"Not really, we all peaked while you were in the john."

Marge's humouring "Oooooo" is also top notch acting from Kavner. Lots of actors on fire today. You'd think they'd be worn out by a season finale.

All of the baby talk translated by Herb. "I've soiled myself. How embarrassing."

Other notes:

I feel like its no coincidence that the man who represents the "Precious Baby Discount Stores" looks like an adult-sized baby.

 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I watch a lot of IASiP, and its kind of hard to reconcile Herb Powell and Frank Reynolds as being played by the same guy, but, at the same time, kind of sensible.

I'm midway through season 11 now, myself and... the show got more mileage out of homophobic jokes than I would deem acceptable.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
There are definitely some early on but because, ironically, they are less cavalier over up front discussing homosexuality, they don't really engage in it a lot so far. I do remember that there are some transphobic jokes in the teen seasons, particularly notably in the MENSA episode where the S-M word is used.

Arrested Development looks even worse in this regard as time goes on.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Kamp Krusty

I've only been to one "camp" in my life, but it wasn't the kind of rustic sleepaway camp like in the movies (like Sleepaway Camp). It was a science day camp for one week at university when I was in Junior High. Frankly, I'm not sure if I would have enjoyed the kind of camp that appears in the movie, as I was, in the words of David Hyde Pierce in Wet Hot American Summer, an "indoor kid". Frankly, my summers were all about TV, lazing about, playing video games and hanging out with my friend or friends. There's something beautiful about being non-productive and just enjoying it. Now I feel a little guilty if I just laze completely, even if "productivity" is read a book or play something. Really, consuming content is not productive but there is a sense of "I did it", I guess. But I miss those heady summer days of just letting the day pass me by.

In this episode of the Simpsons, its Summer break and Bart and Lisa are going to the Krustiest Place on Earth: Kamp Krusty. But when they get there, they discover that the place is cheap and run down, the camp councilors are bullies and that they are to be exploited for labor. The camp is a nightmare but Bart holds onto the camp's promise that there will be an appearance by Krusty the Klown. However, when the "Krusty" that appears turns out to be an even more out of it than usual Barney, Bart creates a revolution and overthrows the camp until Krusty himself arrives to make everything right by taking the kids to the happiest place on Earth.... Tiajuana!

This one definitely feels like it was intended to be a season closer rather than an opener. Part of it is just the level the show is going at. This episode, despite it being about Bart and Lisa suffering, is really just pure, unsentimental absurdist delight as the nightmare that is the camp keeps amping up in ridiculous ways. Its a blast from strong to finish and feels like a great victory lap for a strong season. I mean, something like this is also a good way to open a season two but obviously the Summer aspect makes this feel like it NEEDED to be released not even in Summer but right before Summer began. If it was a finale, it would have aired in late May but I feel like the Sunday before or the Sunday after (or were they still airing on Thursdays at this point?) Summer break started feels like the PERFECT time.

The first act, despite Bart's own crisis of maybe not being able to go to camp because of bad grades, is all about the joy of that last day of school. Seriously, I can't speak to your experience but for me last day of school was the best. Yes, we still needed to go to school, but it felt climactic to say good bye. There are no more tests, lots of good byes and the last day was usually just movies or games. And it was all about anticipation, waiting for the moment of release. Ew. But true. Trew. And this episode captures that. The teachers are clearly mentally on vacation already, all parties are counting down the bell ringing and there's screaming and rioting and it turns out the US won World War II.

The second act is fun but outside of the parents, its not fun for the characters. Homer being free from Bart and Lisa (but mostly Bart) can now regain his hair and his jeux de vive and can lose some weight again. But the Simpsons kids find themselves in an increasingly hilarious horror show. Like, the second act is all just a series of bits about how shitty the camp is and it is great. Even act two doesn't end on a note of plot turning a corner, except we now know despite a warning the parents are obliviousness to the kid's pain.

The plot DOES turn in the third act when Bart incites a revolution. Bart loves a lot of people but there's only one man he truly consistently revers: Krusty the Klown. And the irony is that Krusty, despite being helped by him numerous times, even up to this point, couldn't give a crap about him. Bart puts up with a lot from Krusty despite even being aware of some of the klown's personal shortcomings ("Krusty's autobiography was self-serving with many glaring omissions") but this is the first time he's ever really truly felt betrayed by him in a way that really motivates him to act. Again, this is an exercise in silliness and nostalgia so its not an emotional scene but it is one that speaks to the character. He can only be pushed so far and it a forced to be reckoned with when he unites the equally betrayed kids.

The shoddiness of Krusty's products is a recurring joke but I feel like the episode is essentially about that and in the grander scheme of things, the difference between the promise of marketing to kids and the reality. When you are a kid, the things you want come with stronger, powerfuller yearnings and there's more excitement when you think you can get them. And sometimes they live up to it (my first few months with a Nintendo). But sometimes the excitement wears off and you are just happy with what you have or you are very disappointed that the thing you wanted wasn't worth the emotional investment of want. This is the kids getting the wake up call and rebelling against the people who gave them a shitty bait and switch and thought it could work because they are dumb kids.

This is embodied by Mr. Black, a mundane businessman who was in charge of "Euro-Krustyland... until it blew up." and is clearly just seeing a business opportunity. In all honesty, I can't decide if Euro-Krustyland blew up due to his criminal negligence or for the insurance money. Mr. Black becomes increasingly evil, down to saying "Gentlemen, to evil." as a toast and escaping the camp via hydrofoil (what kind of rivers do they have by Kamp Krusty?). The episode I feel is primarily about those youthful feels and wacky jokes but it is definitely taking aim at sleazy, cynical marketing that today seems to be embodied by those creepy youtube videos for kids with ugly computer animation. Summer's coming to an end and for many of us, its a Summer of lost opportunities in the wake of the pandemic, but at least we can live through the horrors of Bart and Lisa those magical times where shady capitalists tried to separate kids and their parents from their hard earned bucks.

Jokes I missed before:

There's two that I didn't remember that I think they cut out of syndication and I feel like they were time fillers. One is Krusty calling out "Choke! Choke!" during Wimbledon, which didn't work that well, and the other is a bit of business with Bart, Homer and a pickle, which is only kinda funny and needless but it does give a nice bonding moment with Homer and Bart.

"Well kids, I promised you a treat in lieu of dinner..."

Other great bits:
Bart's "last day of school" dream is fantastic.

"You know a D turns into a B so easily. You just got greedy."
Sometimes Homer has actual good advice.

"Lisa... you're... hurting me."

"Can I say crappy on TV?"
"On this network you can."

"Krusty this camp was terrible. They fed us gruel, they forced us to make wallets for export and one of the campers was eaten by a bear!"
"OH MY GOD!"
"Well, actually, the bear just ate his hat."
"Was it a nice hat?"
"Oh, yeah."
"OH MY GOD!"

Other notes:

I feel like there are two Ralph Wiggums in this episode that haven't been properly consolidated into one character yet.
 

jpfriction

You'll never take my hat away
That whole scene between Homer and Bart at the beginning is fantastic.

“You’ve got small hands, reach under there and grab that rollerskate. Pfft, nevermind.”
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
"I no longer fear Hell for I have been to Kamp Krusty."

the "Krusty" that appears turns out to be an even more out of it than usual Barney
"I am too Krunchy the Clown" *giant disgusting belch*

Homer being free from Bart and Lisa (but mostly Bart) can now regain his hair and his jeux de vive and can lose some weight again
Kent Brockman: I'm being told I can have an exclusive interview with the ringleader.
Homer's inner thoughts: Don't be the boy. Don't be the boy.
[It's the boy]
Homer: D'oh! [Instantly his hair falls off and his stomach expands]
 

Ludendorkk

(he/him)
This episode was intended to be the season finale, actually, but as often happened with cartoons back then the airing order got rearranged
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Also worth nothing, apparently Matt Groening read the script and thought if expanded, it would make a great plot for a Simpsons movie. But then the animators, on the other hand, found it hard to fill all 23 minutes of show.

Also, Mr. Black was going to be a recurring character but it never came to be. According to Al Jean "I guess the hydrofoil got Mr. Black out the show forever."
 

yama

the room is full of ghosts
There's a book called The Butterfly Revolution that inspired a movie called Summer Camp Nightmare that I believe inspired Kamp Krusty. If Kamp Krusty were run by Ned Flanders, anyway.
 
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