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

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Old Man and the Lisa

Capitalism is terrifying. We live in a time of celebrity millionaires with mythologies of self-made alternative thinking super geniuses. I feel like it was only five years ago, Elon Musk was on all the talk shows being praised for his forward thinking plans and super train or whatever the fuck he was trying to do. I seriously just heard a BBC documentary that was all but singing the praises of Jeff Bezos for his concerns about the future (I really should stop listening to that podcast. There was an upsetting amount of episodes last year where "but what do Trump voters think?" Like, a weird amount, even with "but their stories don't match up with reality" codas.). I think there's a weird desire to see the one "good" billionaire who can use their resources and knowhow to save people like a Batman or Iron Man when they are mostly the same. I'm sure some feel they have good intentions but the fact is pretty much all of them are, at best, misguided and blind to their own moral business failings and at worst, megalomaniacal. Because what these people are good at is capitalism and that means being a good predator. And even if a predator has a genuine fondness for you don't mean they won't feed on you.

In this episode, Mr. Burns loses everything due to poor decision making and non-advice from his feckless henchmen. Burns ends up staying with Smithers and after a shopping misadventure, Burns ends up being thrown into the old folks home. While there, Burns meets Lisa and realizes her ability to challenge Mr. Burns is what he needs to put himself back on top. Burns begins a recycling business, taking each advice from Lisa to heart and working well within the moral guidelines Lisa set out. Lisa is impressed and despite her earlier suspicions becomes Burns' biggest booster. However, it is at the opening of Burns' recycling center, Burns shows off a terrifying sea harvesting device inspired by Lisa's advice. Burns sells the plant to get back his plant and to thank Lisa, Burns offers Lisa 10% of his earnings, which is more money the family would earn in their lifetime. Lisa is tempted but denies the money out of ethics.

Its interesting that this is a very apt and clever take on the relentless and inhuman nature of capitalism from someone who is openly libertarian and declared himself in the writers room as anti-environmentalist. It seems he was asked to run with the idea and he made a really interesting look into Mr. Burns. Again, we get to see him as vulnerable but the strength of the episode is finding a new way for him to be evil. One of my favourite quotes from the episode is Lisa realizing that Burns somehow becomes "more evil" when he tries to be good. But while Burns has had a fairly pro-evil stance before, this is Burns being evil without being malicious. He doesn't care about hurting anyone or revenge. He wants to get back on top. And he's willing to follow the rules. And I think that's what's brilliant about the episode; following moral rules doesn't mean you aren't evil. Here, Burns evil isn't actively trying to do bad, it is a complete absence of good. Burns even wants to be liked somewhat by the girl who got him back on top. But he doesn't understand good. He doesn't even care too. He's just willing to follow the "good" rules to get what he wants out of it.

Somehow, this is Burns at his creepiest. Obviously, the creepiest is still played for laughs. Burns revealing his plan to use recycling to scrape life out of the ocean is very funny. But this isn't a parody of a Bond villain. If anything, this is a Twilight Zone where the twist is being dropped (it even sounds that way in the music, which is pretty good this episode), Burns took Lisa's pure desire to help the planet and tainted it into something all consuming rather than nurturing. Capitalism is a big maw that needs to get fed and that's what Lisa realizes too late she's made a deal with. Its not the devil, this time, its a malignant unthinking force of nature that squeezes in wherever opportunity will let it. I feel like there's an argument to be made that Lisa could have done something with the money to make up for what had happened. She probably would. But to choose not to profit is the really hard decision. She's not like Burns. Not everything is a resource to be exploited for the end game. We need principles.

This is an episode I always liked but I feel like I really appreciate how well the main conceit is constructed, with Burns completely perverting what Lisa stands for with absolutely no ill-intent. The man just wanted to make money and he wanted to do it to her specifications, She tried to teach Mr. Burns the actions to take to be good but she only gave him a new set of rules to navigate and exploit. Again, Shearer gives a wonderful vulnerability to the evilest man in town and act two ends on a sad note of humbling for him (and a cameo from Bret Hart where... he doesn't really get any good lines) and we feel for him in his new state. And he is warm and friendly to Lisa. But I like that he's someone you can sympathize with but even if he likes you and wants only good things for you, you can't trust him to be anyone but him. The strongest bits are definitely the climax with its sci-fi horror twist and the now humbled Burns trying to live like the average person, only to get completely lost. And its probably not a coincidence that when he's lost, its in a home of consumerism.

Jokes I missed before:
"And now the thrilling conclusion of Col. Dracula joins the navy."
"Uh, Colonel?"
"BLEH!"

Other great jokes:


"The first thing we have to do is move you out of the bank's house."

"Dad, you found a candy bar?"
"Son, sit right back and I'll tell you a tale."

"Well Lenny's reign of terror is over" Seriously, the very small Lenny runner through the episode is gold.

"I am riding on a bus." is technically not a joke, but why I always be quoting it?

"Aren't you that guy everybody hates?"
"Oh, no, no. I'm Monty Burns."

"Ketchup... Catsup... I'm in way over my head."

"Come on Mr. Burns. join the fun."
*stares*
"That's theuhh,,, spirit."

"I'm so sorry my grocer committed you. We'll never shop there again."


"Remember millionaire C. Montgomery Burns, the man who blocked out our sun, ran over a local boy and stole Christmas from 1981-1985? Well guess whose flat broke and picking up trash for a living?"
"Please be Flanders. Please be Flanders. Please be Flanders."


Other notes:

Swartzwelder's real feeling comes out in how recycling is represented: he described it in the script as "a hippy surrounded by garbage."\

Alf Clausen's doing good stuff in the climax, from the arch-Twilight Zone type music to the horror movie style spine tingling music in Lisa's "all is lost" moment.

 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
In Marge We Trust

Until our family moved to Thailand, I remember we went to church most Sundays. Despite the presence of church in my life, even as a kid, I never got anything out of organized religion. God is good, Jesus is good, be good and go to heaven. Church was just something you had to sit through. I HATED it. It was a chore. Catechism was a bit better but I never related much to the religion I was raised in. My experience was it all seemed like a completely separate world from the world outside of the church and that they never impacted each other. I was just a kid but even then I felt like I was supposed to be living as if I was in some idealistic world that ignored the reality that I was living in.

In this episode, Marge is disappointed that her family is completely disinterested in church. Rather than complain to her family again, she instead goes to the church to suggest to Reverend Lovejoy to find a way to reach out more to the community, only to find Lovejoy completely checked out. Marge volunteers to help out around the church and eventually gets a reputation for giving people in need great advice. As Marge gains a reputation as the Listen Lady, Lovejoy begins to realize he's no longer seen as a spiritual leader by his parishioners. As Lovejoy falls into despair, Marge gives some advice to Ned that ends up getting him in serious trouble. Lovejoy and the Simpsons track Ned down to a baboon pit at the zoo and Lovejoy risks his life to save him, inspiring his congregation once more.

The Simpsons is actually an unusual show in that at the time there were actually very few TV families we saw going to church or any sort of house of worship. I can see why after the initial controversy of the show died down, I remember stories of priests using the show as the basis of sermons. The Simpsons, in its first decade, can be cynical but it is also a deeply moral show and one where more often than note the family's love and humanity trumps their bad behaviour, so it makes sense. I was young when I was still going to church but my impression always felt like Lovejoy in act one: being told of virtues but not really given a realistic idea of how to employ it in life except some lessons in catechism that were no different than an episode of some insipid cartoon. This episode makes me think the writer went through something similar.

Here, the show is about how its one thing to tell people that a certain set of rules can help you but its another to connect with a person to help them out. Emotional burn-out is a real actual thing that happens to the brain. There was a really good BBC doc about it for nurses in the time of covid where they horrify themselves by finding themselves just literally being unable to care by the day's end. In Lovejoy's case, he's burnt out on the far less scary but still very exhausting neediness of Ned Flanders. I like that despite the fact that we've seen Marge give advice that's correct but genericly motherly before, here her stuff is a mix of being moral and practical. Its not some abstract concept, its a problem in front of her and she tries to give the best advice she can. I actually think its fitting that the two times she gives bad advice, the second one is the kind of bad advice she gives Bart on how to beat bullies in other episodes.

Meanwhile, Lovejoy finds that after years of doing his work, he really hasn't accomplished anything of note to inspire the people of his church. They go because he's there and he's so bored he just tells Skinner to "consult his bible". Its not until the end when he's giving actual, practical help, going above and beyond for someone he cares for. In the end, we see the reverend winning back his congregation with a self-aggrandizing tale of victory but it really is a tale of being selfless and what it means to help someone. He's actually connecting with the people of his church, through story and through action. Its flash that get people interested but at the heart of the tale is a man who put himself in danger for his fellow man because it was right and he cared for him. Now that's religion.

Other great jokes:



"Oh, I don't see you volunteering to make things better."
"Ok then, I will volunteer."
"I wasn't prepared for that."

"She put cardboard on her half of the television. We rented Man Without a Face, I didn't even know he had a problem.

"Hi, its me again. I got another problem. This one's about my cat."
*loud meowing*
"YEAH SHUT UP, I'M ASKIN' HER."

"You're just lucky God isn't here."

"Come on kids, let's go home."
"We are home."
"That was fast."

"You've just got to accept it. You're gameboy is gone. Its at the bottom of the ocean."
"Aye... aye... aye..."



I like that they just didn't have a punchy name for the manatee habitat.


Other notes:
Though not as bad as a lot of the other takes on other cultures, the Mr, Sparkle subplot, once a big favourite, has aged poorly for me. Obviously, there are a lot of white people doing Asian accents and its not comfortable. But even beyond that, I feel like its point of view is "Japanese Commercials are weird", which, yeah, I guess, but at the same time, should America be throwing stones?


Still, there are specifics I still like, including Mr. Sparkle's speech being threatening.

I grew up catholic. Do protestants have pictures of dying saints everywhere? We had the stations of the cross, which is only one kind of morbid."
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I feel like its point of view is "Japanese Commercials are weird", which, yeah, I guess, but at the same time, should America be throwing stones?
Having lived through 90s Console Wars adverts, Mr. Sparkle feels pretty not so weird in comparison.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Oh... Oh, that's good. I feel silly for missing it. Its funny because at the bottom there's a shitty looking sign that just says "Elephant Cage" and I thought "It seems weird they did a 'someone stopped being creative' joke twice."
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Homer's Enemy

When done well, I love a good fan theory. Too many are "they were dead all the time" or "isn't the bad guy the real good guy"? But sometimes it is about explaining weird aspects in the media that makes sense in the moment but, when you step back into a larger picture, might look a bit stranger. Despite my second example, fan theories and examinations can reveal heroes to really be villainous or vice versa (there are right and wrong ways to do it, to be sure). Within the context of a show or movie but in reality things would come across differently removed from the structure and formula of storytelling. A lot of loveable characters would be completely awful to experience in real life. There are definitely a lot of great media that deconstruct not only their own genre, but the very show/movie series/book/etc. itself. For example, in The Invisibles, a sci-fi comic by Grant Morrison, we get the messy life story of a rando henchman who was murdered in one panel in the first issue, exploring him and both his awfulness and the fact that at some points in his life he was just a guy before "the hero" of the comic brutally murdered them. And in this episode of the Simpsons, we see that the reality of Homer would be far more intolerable than the fiction.

In this episode, the Plant gets a new employee in a self-made man named Frank Grimes. Grimes is immediately put-off by Homer Simpson's oafish and thoughtless behaviour. But it eventually goes from dislike to hate and horror when he realizes he's in charge of everyone's safety. Homer tries to win over Grimes but his plans to invite him for dinner backfire when Grimes realizes Homer has stumbled his way to the top of the middle class and hates him even moreso. Homer tries to act professional and impress his enemy but Grimes isn't having it. When Grimes realizes his co-workers are more or less blind to the fact that Homer should not be working in a nuclear power plant and see his opportunity to expose him as a fraud when he tricks him into a children's contest at the plant. However, Homer ends up winning the contest and is celebrated, which causes Grimes to have a nervous breakdown. In his panic, Grimes ends up accidentally killing himself. At his funeral, Homer talks in his sleep during the service, causing everyone to laugh at their lovable friend.

Homer's Enemy is an amazing episode of television. It might be the densest and bleakest episode of the series but at the same time challenges the nature of the show without damaging it. It forces us to rethink Homer while still making him likable. It also has a new character who is a one-off who is both largely correct but is also rather unlikable. I don't know where to begin unpacking.

I guess with Grimes. I know a lot of people found this episode too mean-spirited but I don't think it is, certainly not compared to other season. But it is very dark and it starts with Grimes. A complete outsider to the world of the Simpsons, despite being a Springfieldian, Grimes is a sensible person who realizes pretty quickly how wrong it is that Homer is in the position that he's in. It feels very much like both a commentary on the nature of the show but also on the American dream, on how romanticize the people who make their own way in the world against all odds, the kind of American dream shit people eat up, especially right leaning folk (but also definitely people of all political stripes). And Grimes should definitely be commended for his accomplishments and professionalism. But while it makes him a person of integrity and ability, it doesn't actually make him likable. He's bitter and offended by the idea that someone can have an easier life and have it easier, as if the world is a meritocracy, a world created by someone to make the point that its a stupid idea.

Homer, meanwhile, is the flip side of the American dream. He's thoughtless, crude and lazy. And yet despite everything, Homer lived a charmed life, having a nice house, a great if "dysfunctional" family, has befriended multiple celebrities and went to space. Each of the adventures alluded too are crazy enough for one lifetime but putting all of Homer's adventures together as a tapestry reveals Homer is the most interesting person in the world and he barely even notices. And its not just that, Homer's stupidity is actively dangerous, hurting many people. People like him but in their like, they are willing to put aside the fact that HE SHOULD NOT HAVE THIS JOB, a fact more pointed when you compare him to, say, many people with any sort of political power. But Homer is likable and even in this episode where it is specifically pointing out not only Homer's flaws but way those flaws go beyond weird quirks but also something dangerous, for all his good intent (when he bothers to have intent). It's a fantastic balancing act and it helps, as writer John Swartzwelder says, that Homer is a "dog", dumb but sweet and loyal but also a dog should not be in charge of nuclear safety.

So, yeah, this is an episode about the American dream, about what people want it to be vs. what it might be. We like Homer and don't like Grimes but Grimes is not wrong, even if he is bitter and eventually vengeful. But he's also in many ways weak. Yes, its actually responsible to try to get Homer removed from his position. But he does it through a cruel prank and it becomes more about himself than about him caring about the safety of others. Its the principle of the thing above his humanity while Homer is all humanity without any of the restraint that he definitely should have. When Grimes realizes the world isn't going to reward him for being right, he freaks out and gets himself killed. This is the myth of the American worker dying as a result of the triumph of a caricature of the reality that you don't need talent or hard work to succeed. Homer's Enemy might have been a divisive episode when it came out, but I think it currently has a much more positive reputation, one that challenges the structure of the show while expanding what it can be. It is such a shame that the show fell into formula in terms of plotting and jokes when Homer's Enemy show that you can still expand the show into exciting new realms and new ways to look at the characters. And that the end of the day, it doesn't change the fact that


Jokes I missed before:
I think it was taken out for syndication but Homer fishing Grimes' lunch out of the garbage.

Other great jokes:
TOO MANY!

"Hehe, which if true means death for us all."
I always love first moments or shots that perfectly set up the theme.

"During his long recuperation, he taught himself to hear and feel pain again."

A minor in determination is great.

"Smithers, I've just seen the most heroic dog on television. He saves a toddler from a moving car and pushed a criminal in front of it."

I love that Homer doesn't even care if its his name on a pencil, just so long as there's A name on a pencil.

"I didn't even know what a Nuclear Panner Plant was."

Also love that Marge is willing to settle for Nitsy as a personalized plate.

"Ugh, the man eats like a pig."
"No, pigs tend to chew. I'd say he eats more like a duck."

Homer checking his watch the second time.

Homer's grin when Grimes asks if Homer knows how close to killing himself is both hilarious and chilling. Homer as happy horror works.

"He likes you."

"Because from now on, we're enemies."
"OK... do I have to do anything?"


"You're a fraud, a total fraud... It was nice meeting you."

"Yeah, yeah, that's it, he's a nut. Its not about me being lazy, its about him being a crazy nut."







"But this was a contest for children."
"Yeah, and Homer beat their brains out."

"Frank Grimes, or Grimey, as he liked to be called..."

Other notes:
This is an episode SO dense, it also has a completely unrelated b-plot that is hilarious and somehow doesn't take away from the rest of the episode.

Great voice acting from Castellaneta as he's just annoying Grimes in his office.

If I had an office job, I would buy that "Mr. Good Employee" poster.

I love the use of the term "media room" in this series and wish it came into real world vogue. It makes so much more sense now than "TV room".
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
"Hey, if they got a picture of you, that means they can SEE you! They're probably watching us right now..."
"That's ridiculous! Nobody is watching us right now."
 

Juno

The DRKest Roe
(He, Him)
To be honest, I don't have much sympathy for Grimes.

He's right that Homer doesn't deserve the job he has, but he fails to recognize the larger problem beyond Homer. It was Mr. Burns who hired him, who has kept him on, who is incapable of recognizing his incompetence. If somebody can be as bad at their job as Homer is at working in the power plant, yet they continue to work there, then there are problems in the workplace beyond the individual employee. Grimes is too obsessed with Homer personally to recognize this.

I mean, think about it. Burns initially hired Grimes to be his executive vice president because he saw a touching news story about him, then chose a goddamn dog for the job after also seeing a touching news story about him. That is a terrible process for hiring people, yet Grimes doesn't ever question whether Burns is the root of the problem here. He seems to treat Burns like all the other employees in that he simply needs to be shown how bad Homer is at this, and then everything will be solved. But the difference is that Burns owns the goddamn plant and has a responsibility to understand that! Imagine Homer was fired- what reason do we have to think that his replacement on that job won't also be bad at it, given how Burns clearly has bad judgment about his employees?

Basically I think of Grimes as one of those people who are convinced that all of the country's problems can be traced to individual people being lazy and think nothing of how all the financial power rests in the hands of small number of billionaires who have rigged the system in a way that ensures they keep making money no matter how incompetent they are or how much things get worse for the lower class.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Hard agree. What Grimes does to get to the plant is laudable but it doesn't make him a good person, even if he's right. The episode feels like a very complex indictment of how many expect America to work.
 

yama

the room is full of ghosts
Here's a list of deleted scenes.

Act One

Cut Line: After Burns says "That's the kind of man I need ... a self-made
man like me" the table read included Smithers' reply "You're not exactly
'self-made' sir. You inherited 200 million dollars from you father."
Burns glares at him and Smithers continues, "Not that that is an easy thing
to do!"

Cut Lines: After Grimes meets Homer, Lenny, and Carl, Carl says "Okay, see
you around. I think we're going to be good, good friends" and Grimes
replies, "Well, I'll do my job and you do yours. That's why we're here."

Changed Line: Marge's first line in the show is "'Marge' is taken? How
about 'Marjorie'?" During the table read it ended with "How about
'Margaret'?"

Added Lines: A few lines were added to the auction scene after the
reading. The table read didn't include "Our next lot is ..." or the
auctioneer doing the auctioneer bit after Bart bids a buck.

Cut Scene: After Grimes catches Homer abusing his pencils, Grimes is seen
running to an elevator yelling "Hold that elevator." Homer is the only one
in the elevator - he waves his hands ineffectually - and the doors close.
After a beat, the other elevator doors open and Homer is in it. He waves
his hands again - and the doors close.

Cut Scene: After the elevator bit, Grimes is working at his computer
trying to ignore a thudding against the wall. He covers his ears with his
hands and types with his elbows. Cut to Homer's office and we see Homer
playing with a radio controlled "Duff Beer" truck which he keeps running
into the wall.

Changed Order: After the above Grimes/Homer scenes the story during the
table read continued in Grime's office. The episode jumps to Bart's
factory.

Changed Scene: The bit with the chair and fire extinguisher wasn't in the
story during the table read. Instead Bart tips over a barrel of industrial
waste and says "Now I know the pride of ownership!" He sees a sign on a
door that says "President" = "That must be me" - and he runs into the
office. In the office he finds a jar filled with 118 pennies. "$1,18 -
this company pays for itself!" It is after this that he sees Milhouse out
the window.

Deleted Line: During the table read, after Grimes says that he saw Homer
hanging from a coat hook, Carl says "That's our Homer".

Deleted Line: During the table read, Grimes said "My God! That
irresponsible oaf?" "My God!" was dropped from the broadcast.

Added Line: A really funny line was added after the read. When an angry
Burns tells Grimes to "Come with me." Homer says "He likes you."

Added Line: Another funny line was added right at the end of Act One.
After Grimes announces "we are enemies", Homer asks "Do I have to do
anything?"

Act Two

Deleted Lines: The dining room scene began with Homer fretting, "Let's see
... best dishes best clothes, is this the best furniture we've got?" He
looks at his watch and says "Oh, it'll have to do." Marge reassures him
"Homer, stop fretting. The evening is going to go fine."

Changed Line: During the table read Marge says "I only have six lobsters."
Some one must have realized that Lisa doesn't eat lobster and changed it to
"five lobsters". [Let's check that guest list again: Homer, Grimes,
Marge, Bart, and ... Maggie? Hmm, I guess Homer eats lobsters in pairs --
Ed.]

Added Line: When Homer introduces "my daughter, Lisa -- IQ 156", Lisa says
"Hi" and Homer goes "See."

Changed Line: Grimes says "You went into space. You?" During the read,
Homer replied "Yeah. I went up with some guy named Buzz ... uhh ...
Aldrich ... son" to which Grimes replies "Figures. It figures."

Deleted Scene: Homer and Marge in bed, Home is saying "He's right. I am a
fraud." The scene continues with Marge trying to cheer Homer up. Finally
Homer asks "Why did you marry me?" and Marge replies "well, you were a
nice man and you got me pregnant. What other man could have done that?"
"Any man on that miniature golf course," Homer answers, "I was just in the
right place at the right time."

Deleted Scene: Bart and Milhouse show the factory to Grampa. "What did
they make here, Grampa?" Grampa sees something run across the floor,
"Rats!?" Milhouse says "Rats, no wonder they went out of business,"

Deleted Scene: Bart and Milhouse are cutting off pieces of Bart's desk.
Principal Skinner knocks at the door carrying a "help wanted" sign. Bart
offers him a part-time job at half of minimum wage. "Hmm .. I guess it
wouldn't hurt to take an application" Skinner says. After Skinner leaves
Bart says "He strikes me as a go-getter. What do you think?" Milhouse
says "I don't know ... he seemed a little too eager."

Deleted Lines: At the beginning of the scene where Homer is acting
professional, Carl comes in and asks "What's the gag, Homer?" to which
Homer replies "Implement safety procedures. Strive for zero defects. Think
safety," Lenny: "Whatever you say Homer."

Added Scene: At the end of act two - Homer backing into Grimes' car.

Act Three

Deleted Scene: Bart and Milhouse are throwing light bulbs into the gears
of a machine. Bart runs out of bulbs then turns to Milhouse and says "Hey,
Van Houten, I don't pay you to goof off! get back to work." This leads to
Milhouse becoming the night watchman.

Added Scene: The coffee machine bit wasn't in the story during the table
read.

Changed Scene: The "I wonder where the rats will go," bit wasn't in the
story at the table read, Instead Milhouse asks "What should we do now,
Bart? Run?" To which Bart replies "Yes." They run into Principal Skinner
who says "I decided to take that part-time job." He then looks at the
factory and says "The old girl looks somehow different today." Bart tells
him the factory is for sale and sells it to Skinner for $6. "Need a good
night watchman?" Milhouse asks.

Added Line: "Ralphie, get off the stage, sweetheart" was added after the
table read.

Changed Line: After Grimes' goes whacko, he says "I'm the worst worker in
the world. Give me a raise so I can buy another house". The line is
changed to "I'm the worst worker in the world. Time to go home and eat
lobster."

Changed Lines: Rev. Lovejoy's eulogy changed after the table read. At the
table read he said "And if there is a heaven, we can all take comfort ...."
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
Frank Grimes is not wrong to be mad at Homer for getting him in trouble over actions that were taken to save his life or being concerned that the Springfield power plant has an incompetent boob as its safety inspector, but the man is blinded to the bigger problem by his own rage towards a man who just wanted to be his friend. And that problem is the people of Springfield who are enabling Homer: Mr. Burns* for willingly hiring and keeping an incompetent boob as his safety inspector, and his friends and acquaintances for being indifferent to his more harmful traits as long as they're not effecting them personally and directly.

It says a lot about the kinda person Grimes is when his plan to get revenge on Homer after inviting him to his home (albeit under false pretenses) is a childish sitcom villain plot. And how when he should have an epiphany that the problem extends beyond one dimwitted but well-meaning man he instead goes crazy and accidentally kills himself while acting like a bad caricature of Homer.

It's important to remember that while bad people can occasionally make good points here and there, they are still bad people. On the subject of feeling sympathy for the devil, I've seen so many hot takes latching onto that one line about Syndrome from The Incredibles wanting equality between the superpowered and non-powered that conveniently ignore or gloss over that he manipulated and murdered multiple superheroes, tried to do the same to Mr. Incredible and held him hostage on his island, tried to blow up his family, had his PMC try to kill them when that failed, tried to destroy a city with his robots so he could make himself look good by saving it from said robots (i.e. Hero Syndrome), and then resorted to attempting to kidnap the infant son of the Incredible family when his plan to make himself look good fell through.

Not saying I didn't feel for him when he was rejected by the hero he idolized in the past (even if he was an annoying fan) but he went from a kid trying to play superhero to a corrupt manchild trying to play superhero. These are not the actions of someone who wants supers and non-supers to be on equal footing, these are the actions of someone who wants to play hero and get rich(er) by profiting off of solutions to the problems he creates.

* Even before hiring a dog off the TV, let's not forget that Mr. Burns hired a duck.

I often wonder exactly what Stewart did to get his prestigious position hauling nuclear materials around the plant.
 

Juno

The DRKest Roe
(He, Him)
I suppose I can see why Grimes would put his anger on Homer- he can't do anything about Burns since he owns the plant, so I guess the response to that is to hyperfocus on something smaller, something you think you have control over. Still though, his failure to recognize that the problem extends beyond Homer is what led to his downfall. These people have known Homer to be like this for a long time, and it was foolish for Grimes to think he could somehow show Homer in a light worse than what they've already seen.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase

The Simpsons, believe it or not, did consider spinning off more than once. One was "Tales of Springfield", an anthology that would be three stories per episode for non-Simpson characters... well, at least for 1/3. The stories every episode would include a Young Homer adventure, a story set in the future and a solo episode focusing on someone who isn't a Simpson. The funny thing is I feel like at this point the show has done a ton of focuses on non-Simpsons where they are practically in the background for some of them. Seriously, stop making Comic Book Guy episodes. I don't think its possible to diminish a return any more. The other one was a proposed live action Krusty the Klown show with Dan Castellaneta as the clown hosting an LA talk show. "A recurring joke throughout the script was that Krusty lived in a house on wooden stilts which were continuously being gnawed by beavers" says wikipedia. This sounds fascinating. In the end, its probably good these shows didn't happen. Not to say spin-offs can't be great; Frasier, Better Call Saul and... uh... AfterM*A*S*H? But it would have easier to damage the franchise with oversaturation even faster. Still, I would have loved to see either of these concepts as a one-off episode.

In this episode, Troy McClure introduces three proposed Simpsons spin-offs. First is Chief Wiggum P.I., in which the police chief moves to Springfield to become a private detective and runs afoul the local mob boss Big Daddy. Chief Wiggum wins the day but the villain escapes, with the promise of future matches of wits between the two. Next is The Love-Matic Grandpa, in which Grandpa's ghost ends up trapped inside Moe's love testing machine and gives Moe love advice. Moe takes it but in the end finds that honesty is the best policy or something. In the final spin-off, the Simpsons, (save hold out Lisa) host a variety show with musical numbers, sketches and guest star Tim Conway.

The first sketch is definitely the strongest, a rollicking parody of 70s/80s detective adventure shows. I think it helps that while it works as parody of the tropes of story telling in such shows, it also works in a parody of the reworking of continuity to accommodate such spin-offs, with Skinner getting a ridiculously repurposed backstory to explain his presence (wait till next season, folks...). But it works better than the other segments because unlike the other two, it doesn't steeped in a specific sort of irony or anti-comedy and is just a straight up laughfest.

The second sketch is a little rockier. It is funny but it also has to rely on a lot of irony, filled with intentionally groanworthy comedy tropes and jokes. It doesn't rely wholly on that, though, as it also peppers in a fair amount of darker humour, with implications of the nature of Grandpa's undeath. But mostly its designed to be intentionally rough, with characters who intentionally make little sense, like the woman who throws herself at Moe for coming clean about the awful thing he did to try to win her over.

The last sketch is probably the one that is the most ambitious, a parody of 60s/70s variety shows. I think it is actually better than the second in terms of construction and realization but there's a real problem here: the previous sketch already used the anti-comedy bit of intentionally cliched crap. In addition, its also intentionally less funny. Its job is to recreate an awful and garish time in televised entertainment and is a perfect realization of such a vision. Mugging for the camera, bad jokes that still need to be explained to the audience VERY CLEARLY, very obvious and awkward recasting, Tim Conway. This was clearly written by someone who either has a deep love for the genre while acknowledging them as terrible or a hatred tempered with fascination. Its an entirely sarcastic segment with the implication that our favourite family is willing to go from classic comedy to sing and dance and look for audience approval in an embarrassing endeavour. But also, it means you have to sit through one of these things and the joke isn't haha funny. Maybe on the first watch when you are getting into the audacity of committing to the bit but it is also a bit more of a chore to sit through than the others. Ironically, being the perfect parody makes it the sketch that delivers the fewest actual laughs, regardless of appreciation for craft. Still, I think this would have come off better with a different middle sketch, maybe a parody of a non-comedy TV genre.

Jokes I missed before:
Quite a few I missed from syndication but my favourite moment is Moe and his girlfriend laughing at Grandpa and Moe, through his laughter, exclaiming "He's haunted", in case we didn't get it by now.

Other great jokes:



"A real treat for Simpsons fans, if any."





"Its no cakewalk being a single parent, juggling a career and a family like so many juggling balls. Two, I suppose."

"Dad, these rubber pants are hot."
"You wear them until you learn, son."



"That's Big Daddy's trademark calling card. See, it's right here inside the skull."



"Chief Wiggum, P.I. will be back... right now!"

"New Orleans really isn't a party town..."

"Look Big Daddy, it's regular daddy."

"What do you suppose the rent is on a hideout like that."
"Its not rented, Chief, its stolen. That's the Louisiana's Governor's Mansion. Its been missing for 8 months."



"I've got interests. And I ain't talkin' about stamp collectin'. Though I do find that esstremely interestin'."
"Oh yeah? Well that's makes two of us."





"I'm so desperately lonely."
*laugh track*

"That's the second time he pulled the plug on me."

"Fact is I invented kissing. It was during World War I and they were looking for a new way to spread germs."


"I've suffered so long. Why can't I die?"

"As you may have guessed, it's possessed by the ghost of my friend's dead father."

"I'm speaking with the curator of the Museum of the History of TV and Television Mr. John Winslow"

(this is the first time I noticed its the History of TV and Television)

"I'm Lisa, peppy, blond and stunning.
Sophomore prom queen five years running."

"That's it for our spinoff showcase. But what about the show that started it all? How do you keep The Simpsons fresh and funny after eight long years? Well, here's what's on tap for season nine. Magic powers! Wedding after wedding after wedding. And did someone say, "long-lost triplets?" [cut to a shot of the Simpsons] So join America's favorite TV family, and a tiny green space alien named Ozmodiar that only Homer can see, on Fox this fall. It'll be out of this world! Right, Ozmodiar?"
"Damn straight Troy my man!"

Other notes:

You remember that one large guy from the Ernest movies? HE'S BIG DADDY!
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
Ironically it took me years to notice them but I love the plainly visible (and somewhat dangerous-looking) mechanical props in this shot:



This fuckin' card is the funniest thing in the world to me, and much like that moment I liked in Itchy and Scratchy Land it's another example of a stupid throwaway line later being expanded upon to make both jokes way funnier.

"I haven't lived in New Orleans for 42 years; although... according to an article I read in Parade Magazine, a criminal by the name of "Big Daddy" runs this town."
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I feel like the problem with the intentionally bad vaudeville show is less that it's following another comedy bit and more that it doesn't have any room to breathe. The first two bits successfully condensed a detective adventure show and a sitcom with an absurd "probably won't live past the pilot" premise into five to six minutes* or so, but the variety show feels like it's ending right as it's starting. Especially since there has to be space for both Troy McClure's intro and outro bits.

Not that more corny variety stuff would necessarily improve it, it just feels like it needed a little more time than it got. It feels barely there compared to the other two bits.

* I actually really like this. I mean, 30 minutes to an hour often feels too long and padded out for these kinds of shows, so I'm all for cutting things down into smaller chunks.
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
oh and also

And did someone say, "long-lost triplets?"

"Bart's long-lost doppelgänger" is one of the many ideas that Classic Simpsons joked about being too stupid to use that Modern Simpsons looked at and said "sounds good to me!"

 

Ludendorkk

(he/him)
Frank Grimes complaining about living in an apartment sandwiched vertically between two bowling alleys, both the idea and the delivery, is the funniest line ever written for television
 

Purple

(She/Her)
Particularly where it clearly dawns on him for the first time mid-sentence just how incredibly weird that actually is.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Secret War of Lisa Simpson

Self-discipline is not my strong point. Generally, I can impose new rules on myself if I need to. I was able to lose 60 pounds within a year and a half. But that happened with fear as a motivator and without proper fear, I tend to let things slide. My apartment tends to get pretty messy and I'm generally a disorganized person who is not good at taking initiative when I should. Heck, I'm not great about thinking about taking initiative, often shrinking back when having to think about getting ready to look for work. I admire people who can take on an impressive task or life change. Needless to say, I can't think of a less appropriate career for me than the military.

In this episode, a prank by Bart gets Marge and Homer to send Bart to military school. While touring the grounds, Lisa is impressed with the school compared to the sloppy and ineffectual classes of Springfield elementary. However, Lisa, being the only female cadet, becomes a target of ire for the student body. Eventually, Bart and Lisa survive a battery of hazing rituals but only Bart is accepted by the others. Bart begins to thrive while Lisa finds herself slowly breaking down from ostracization. Bart supports Lisa but in secret so as not to be an outcast from his new friends. Eventually, the graduating classes find that they must pass a supremely difficult test of endurance. Bart trains Lisa and during the test, Bart supports Lisa overtly despite the consequences. Lisa and Bart graduate and Lisa is given a special medal by the school's headmaster.

I feel like this episode and the Summer of 4 ft. 2 are the platonic ideals of what I want a Simpsons season finale to be. Yes, there are guest stars, but even though they play important characters, it never feels like it steals focus from the family, They are episodes that are a perfect mix of wacky comedy and having some emotional weight. While The Secret War of Lisa Simpson isn't as moving as The Summer of 4 ft. 2, watching Lisa listen to her mother singing via a tape from home is some emotional stuff. I feel even more than the show's "Summer" episodes (which also tend to be very funny), it feels like the most appropriate way to end a year by sort of bringing focus to the characters.

I like the premise of this episode and it makes a lot of sense; Lisa is constantly disappointed by Springfield elementary, so it makes so much sense that it would make military school very appealing. Meanwhile, trouble maker Bart would obviously resist the school but also we've seen that despite scoffing at authority, he will feed on it if it gives him positive attention (Separate Vocations, that time he learned ballet). Bart being a skilled military student makes a lot of sense as a turn. I also love that a skilled and trained Bart might actually be more terrifying to his parents than regular Bart.

But what makes the story work is the story of Lisa being a trailblazer. Lisa isn't a gloryhound but Lisa is the type of person who takes pride in blazing trails. I feel like later seasons would just have Lisa join the school because no girl hasn't before but here it is a byproduct of a real want: a good education where she can push herself to the limits. The problem is that the reality of having to go against all odds is that it can lead to a lonely existence. Through the episode, Lisa's perseverance and bravery counts for a lot but in the end she also needs Bart's support, which is why him giving it openly is a moment of bravery for both characters. Early in the episode Lisa says "if you hang in long enough, they'll accept you." That never really happens, unless you are counting the school's headmaster. Really, she proves herself wrong. Instead, what she finds at the end is that she doesn't need their acceptance to succeed, though having her brother's open love counts for a lot. I think we romanticize overcoming adversity but at the time, adversity can really suck, which is why those stories are so moving. Lisa thinks she just wants a "challenge she can do" but in the end she does herself better and though it comes with heartache, Lisa realizes she can accomplish anything if she believes in herself... which is easier when someone else in your life feels the same way.

Jokes I missed before:

I always took "California Cheeseburger" as a gag where Wiggum is reading a script and missed a completely stupid error in the crappy cop museum. Now I see that "California cheeseburger" is a slang for some sort of baby sandwich.

Other great jokes:

This is one of the most joke dense minutes in the series.

"Of course we could make things more challenging, Lisa, but then the stupider students would be in here complaining, furrowing their brows in a vain attempt to understand the situation."

Bart thinking WAY too long to come up with his megaphone plan.


"I wanna quit and come home."
"Oh honey, I heard you the first time."




"Maybe you should just learn to use this. If there's a war, just blow on it and I'll come help you."


"It was worth sneaking into town. That was some good corn."

Yeardley Smith's line read of "I can't, they're stuck!" always works on me. There's something odd about it that's perfect.

"We're going to make your life a living hell for the rest of the semester."
"But graduation's in three hours."
"WE BETTER GO CHANGE!"


Other notes:

I keep forgetting Willem Dafoe's in this. Going in I thought it was Kiefer Sutherland.
 
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