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

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
"Why do I always shout first? Just gives them a chance to run away. I'm an idiot."
"Now Martha, we've been over this and over this! We're too old to start havin' children. If you're lookin' for somethin' to do, why don't ya start a new twine ball?"
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Simpson Tide

I like to think I'm not a completely irresponsible person but I do see myself as someone who is 38 and still doesn't feel like I'm a "grown up" yet. But then I watch the news and am shocked by the lack of maturity and personal responsibility of people in power. Its never just that people are evil, often transparently so, but even more than that they seem completely incompetent. I must take a lot of work to get to those positions of power and I can't wrap my head around how this happened, how someone can put in the work and still show very few signs of personal and professional growth.

In this episode, Homer is fired and joins the US naval reserves. Homer graduates from boot camp and ends up involved in war games on a US sub. Homer makes a good impression on the Captain and is made acting captain when the admiral investigates a blockage in a torpedo tube. When another ship arrives, Homer decides to fire on them, launching the Captain and leaving Homer in charge. Homer bungles the ship into Russian Waters, causing an international incident. Homer manages to use his wits to solve one problem and manages to use a weak excuse to disarm a tense situation. Homer is dishonorably discharged, saved from jail by the fact that everyone else in Homer's hearing is involved in various scandals.

I remember Simpson Tide being, at least, a very funny episode. Upon rewatch... not really. The thing is, the good lines are pretty funny but so much of it is pretty subpar. First lets look at the plot itself; the whole thing feels like a throwaway. There are technically stakes, global stakes, but it all feels really teflon and thrown together in order to get to the comedy goal of Homer being a military leader. Homer loses his job and is basically rushed through some boot camp hijinx into the story. I'm not saying a comedy can't work as a series of jokes but this feels really slapdash. And Bart's b-plot is an even bigger nothing, serving mostly to set up a Homer hero moment and the two otherwise don't feed into each other well.

Thematically, its essentially a comedy about the idea that in what is supposed to be a proud tradition of defense, inappropriate people can get into positions of power due to poor judgement. But while it is a theme that thought went into in the structure (particularly Homer getting off the hook due to everyone else being as much of a hot mess as he), it really feels more like it largely began and ended with "lets put Homer in the navy and the jokes will follow." It doesn't say a lot about the government or Homer as a character that hasn't been said better in other episodes. Again, the Bart b-plot is even weaker, as the tension between Homer and Bart feels really manufactured and doesn't work well with what the episode is supposedly on about.

In terms of comedy, there are some really shiny bright spots but its amazing how cheesy the majority of it is. Homer accidentally impressing the Captain (name... ugh, Captain Tenielle) with his foolishness, the In the Navy bit, the Planet of the Donuts dream sequence. I wasn't surprised to find the episode was written by The Critic vets, because a lot of the "zanier" jokes, which eschew internal logic in favour of a cultural reference joke (the aforementioned Village People bit and the JFK bit which makes NO SENSE to me in context. Why would he just say that apropos of nothing and to no one?) The biggest offender is probably the Starbuck gag, an eyerolling clunker of a joke EVERYONE was making at the time. Heck, in about 9 seasons, the show ends up making a joke about how cliched Starbucks jokes are. But the good jokes are pretty good and I use them to this day. The strength of those is probably why I had a more pleasant memory of this episode. Instead, this is an episode edging on self-parody.

Jokes I missed Before:

Not so much as joke but I appreciate that the actors in the UN scene underplay their two lines before the "Russian" ambassador reveals the Soviet Union is still around.

Other great jokes:


"Blackula, followed by Blackenstein, then its the Blunch Black of Blotre Blame."

"We don't have the clapper."
"Sorry Marge, I can't hear you. I'm clapping."

"Alright Simpson, you don't like me and I don't like you."
"I like you."
"OK, you like me but I don't like you."
"Maybe if you got to know me better."
"What are you, a comedian?"
"Well, I'm no Margeret Cho but I do a pretty good Columbo impression. Just one more *ahem ahem* Can I go get a drink of water?"

"Milhouse, my mom wears earrings. Do you think she's cool?"
"No, I think she's hot! Sorry, that just slipped out."

"Lost this eye in Haiti. I was drinking a mai tai and I forgot to take the little parasol out."

I love that Bob Denver's "act" is a plea for mercy.



Other notes:

To me, the only real Captain Tenielle was this one.


...Oh, wait...
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Trouble With Trillions

In my heart of hearts, I'm someone who is scared of breaking the rules. I guess I felt if I never broke any laws, I would stay out of trouble. But getting older, I see there are laws worth breaking and "you have nothing to fear from the law if you do nothing wrong" is deeply naïve. I'm pretty fortunate, living a life of privilege based on my class and race so for me, I probably am safe in these things but knowing that I am living within a system that can oppress and prey upon its citizens with ease now gives me a healthy skepticism of the people I once assumed were around to help me.

In this episode, Homer, desperate to get his taxes done on time, fudges a lot of numbers, only to get audited. The government threatens him with five years in prison unless he becomes a government stooge. Homer gets a peer arrested and the FBI decides the next step is to help take down Mr. Burns. It turns out following World War II, the American government printed a trillion dollar bill as a form of aid to Europe. It seems they let Burns deliver the bill and it never arrived. Homer is tasked with finding the bill. Homer succeeds but as Burns protests his arrest, Homer decides he doesn't want to be a victim of the government anymore. He frees bird and together with Smithers, they escape with the bill to Cuba. They assume they'll be welcomed but in the end Burns is robbed by Castro and the trio work their way back home, with Burns planning to bribe the jury during his upcoming trial.

The Trouble With Trillions is an episode I wasn't sure how well would play returning to it. I definitely remembered it as one of the wackier ones of the season and it is. But I also feel in comparison to this one, it is an exploration of our relationship with our government and money. I was afraid of this simply because "our tax dollars pay for [[complaint]]" is often a conservative rallying cry but I feel like this one comes to the conclusion that whatever your political stripe, you should be very worried about where your money is going. I mean, I really tried to gauge politically if the themes were more conservative or liberal and while I definitely wouldn't call it apolitical, its one that kind of plays to both sides. I can easily see anyone using it as an argument for their political agenda. It goes through the entire episode and while I think there's a message that the fucked up nature of the US isn't the WORST government, I feel this is more of an "exploration" episode than a definitive answers episode, which might be why I can see it being open to a preferred invitation.

Within it, we start with Flanders happily paying his taxes, listing off the nice things (and cops) that taxes pay for. But we also see that taxes can also pay for the government to bully people like Homer. The people the government targets ARE definite villains. Burns is the obvious big one, stealing money from people in need. Yet I feel like Charlie's "beating up government officials" reads a LOT worse in light of recent events. None of this forgives, of course, how Homer is treated and the fact that Homer being bullied is terrible evil. There's not a lot of good guys in this episode, with Homer coming closest, committing a crime and literally trying to close his eyes and cover his ears to try to deny it. But the two countries the episode takes place in are fraught with corruption, the difference being that Cuba can bully much quicker. The episode plays for high comedy but it is among the most cynical of this episode's season, saying that you really need to be aware of what the government is doing with your money because it can be against your interests to commit crimes.

The Trouble With Trillions is definitely an overtly goofy episode. Even the premise of the trillion dollar bill makes very little sense. It could never be spent and therefore does it have any actual true value? If anything, it could only be a symbol for actual money to help Europe. But for whatever reason, everyone agrees that this can somehow definitely be used. The episode never really points this out but whether it is the writers not caring or simply deciding not to call attention to it (which I feel like they would. Its not like the show plays subtle in this era), it does work thematically into the ridiculousness of the whole plot. I mean, if it can't really be spent, does anyone have ANY MONEY that they are struggling so hard for? I don't think the Trouble With Trillions is the best or smartest episode of the season but I feel like it is one that is very funny and is very interested in digging into its themes, unlike the last episode which was mildly funny and pretty uninterested in its themes.

Jokes I missed before:



Other jokes:

"Sir, why did you wait until the last minute to pay your taxes."
"Cause I'm an idiot. HAPPY?"
I feel Krusty here, whenever I'm asked I did a thing.

"Let's say you pull a thorn out of the Pope's butt and he grants you one wish. What'll it be?"
"Only one, eh? Well, I've always wondered what it would feel like to wear something that's been ironed."
"That'd be sweet. What about you, Moe?"
"Well, I was going to say a night with Joey Heatherton but an ironed shirt? Damn, that's tempting."


"This film will self-destruct... if not properly stored."

"We believe that Burns still has that bill somewhere in the house, but all we've ascertained from satellite photos is that its not on the roof."

I love Burns failed attempt to scald Homer. "*sigh* Let me get you a towel."

"That intrepid lad is my great grandpapa, tossing their tea without a care in the world what the caffeine would do to the Fenway flounder."
"Is that a fish?"
"It was."

"I'm gonna write the best darn article... oh right."

"Take 'er down, Smithers!"
"Uh, you're flying the plane sir."
"Excellent."


Other notes:

Man, that dinner Smithers made for burns sounds good. I'm sure "pheasant under duck" is good but I do love root veg as a remoulade.

I've eaten donkey meat when I was in China. It was good.
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
Does anyone know if the Disney+ episodes have any changes besides the absence of the Michael Jackson episode? I wanna replace my compressed DVD rips with 1080p versions and I'm hoping they're not like, trimmed for syndication versions.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Nothing I’ve noticed.

They don’t have the bonus features of the DVDs, of course, but otherwise everything’s intact.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Basically nothing as far as I can tell. Though I think some of season 9 eps are out of order? According to most other lists, Lisa the Simpson happens later in the season. But they definitely kept the gags taken out of syndication. And even the problematic gags. Like, LGBT slurs.

Notably, The Muppet Show kept all of its problematic gags but has disclaimers before some eps. The only thing cut is due to licensing stuff. But I don't think the Simpsons ever got that problem?
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Girly Edition

I'm not proud of how ill-informed I am, news wise. Most of the news that comes to my attention lately is stuff that falls under my nose rather than something I seek out and in the 2000s, most of it was stuff I was experiencing through comedy programs like the Daily Show and the Colbert Report. These were shows that obviously gained popularity in part due to its comedy but people also kept describing them as having more trustworthiness than the actual news. This is because it often gave a sense of perspective to stories many news programs didn't include for the intent of "objectivity", often to a degree that comes across as ridiculous. Around that time, there were also a number of incredibly dumb right wing punditry shows that seemed to want to mimic the movie Network, completely missing the message of the movie Network: we should be very weary of news reframed as entertainment.

In this episode, Lisa is given her own TV show: Kidz Newz, an educational program for kids. Bart joins the program as the sports anchor despite Lisa's trepidation and immediately kills it and is bumped up to co-anchor. Bart overhears Lisa complaining that Bart isn't smart enough to be co-anchor and hurt, Bart tries to prove her wrong. Unable to do so, he instead finds a way to upstage her with advice from Kent Brockman: sappy human interest stories. People love Bart's segments but Lisa is disgusted by the manipulative and empty nature of them and how it perverts the show she wants to make. After a failed attempt to emulate Bart, Lisa instead tricks Bart into doing a story about Willie, who Bart left homeless following a prank. When Willie literally tries to kill Bart, Lisa intervenes, using Bart's techniques to defuse the situation. The kids realize their opposing styles can actually be complimentary, though they get cancelled anyway. Also, Homer gets a monkey.

I often have a problem with shows within a show. For a quick sketch, its usually fine but it gets trickier when it becomes part of the story. The worst is when we hear someone talk about a significant work of art and what we are presented with sucks (I feel like Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip is famous for this). But my problem with this one is... Kidz News never makes a lot of sense. If it was a program purely for Springfield Elementary, fine, but it seems to be a kids news show for the whole city that also only talks about stuff happening in one school? It just feels like the bits for the program itself don't really work for me. I mean, Lisa talks so much game about good kids news and the stories are... ham salad? It feels weird for us to get invested in the integrity of Lisa's news show when its kind of crap to begin with. I also think that the Kidz Newz gags that aren't that good and I might have forgiven this if they were better.

As for the episode, its fine. I remember liking it more, but its still good. I feel unlike Lisa the Simpson, despite Lisa labelling Bart as dumb, he proves himself to be savvy, while Lisa is smart but lacks Bart's ability to connect with his audience. Too late, the kids realize that working together they could be far greater than the some of their parts, yadda yadda yadda. But at the same time, I do like episodes where we get to compare and contrast the two kids' skillsets. I also find this episode mostly doesn't have Bart be too meanspirited, despite literally rendering Willie homeless. Of course, part of that is its first introduced as another Bart prank before revealing the real consequence. The b-plot comes off as far nastier, funny bits aside, as we see Homer abusing an animal with bad training.

This is also the second major appearance of Lindsay Nagel (still a brunette at this point), a character I am only now suspecting is inspired by Faye Dunaway in Network. Like the character in the film, she's more concerned about eyes on screen than the integrity of the show. But she's also pretty right about Bart's worth and its unfortunate that Lisa fails to recognize her lack of having gold under her nose. Its understandable that she doesn't want the flash over substance Bart begins with and certainly not the trash stories Bart brings to work. But as she says at the end, she realizes the very tools Bart wields could have been used for good.

Jokes I missed before:

I just assumed Jordash was a made up word, rather than a brand.

Other great jokes:
"What don't they learn? Don't trust mice. Cats are made of glass."

I love the excess of the length of Krusty's show.



"I can't wait to eat that monkey."
Funniest way for us to feel less bad about Grandpa getting betrayed.

"Zork? What is zork?"
"I didn't say zork."
I love pointless gaslighting

"Hey Jughead, did ya hear? The supreme court reversed---"

"This is the most prestigious award Del Monte gives."
Del Monte had potential for The Jumble level of ridicule on this show.


I love Lisa coyly telling Bart he'll need to ride his bike "pretty fast" before learning he gets a chopper.

"PRAY FOR MOJO."

 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
This was also the debut episode for the Crazy Cat Lady, a one-joke character who really should not have been brought back for later seasons.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Trash of the Titans

Following the election of Trump, I feel a lot of "Simpsons predicted" internet articles/videos/content came out and didn't stop happening. But the thing is that the stuff that seems surprisingly prescient now is really just a reflection of the time. The worrying thing isn't that someone saw the future and did nothing, its how despite all of the changes in how things happen, a lot of our basic problems remain. And this episode of the Simpsons covers two of our most worrying concerns right now: environmental crises and demagoguery.

In this episode, Homer picks a fight with garbage men and they refuse to pick up his trash. Eventually, the garbage goes away and Homer is aghast to learn Marge wrote an apology and signed his name. In his pride, Homer goes to retract his apology from the sanitation commissioner and decides to run against him. Homer's campaign begins as a farce until he comes up with a rallying cry "Can't someone else do it?" Homer promises round the clock clean-up service with constant cleaning and personal hands-on assistance for even minor annoyances. Homer wins and vows to keep his promises but soon finds his popular new reign bankrupting Springfield sanitation within a month. Homer finds a solution: to loan out the towns abandoned mines as dumping grounds for larger cities. Soon, Springfield finds itself flooded with garbage and Homer is deposed. Springfield then moves 5 miles down the road, leaving "old" Springfield an abandoned cesspool, with the promise that the new Springfield will likely share the same fate.

Trash of the Titans felt a little meanspirited when I first watched it but I feel that it works a lot more for me now. Yes, this is Homer in jerkass mode but on occasion it works, as in this episode. It isn't an emotional episode, its a dark allegory and for that, Homer is perfect to embody America's pride, hubris (a subgenre of pride) and entitlement. There are obvious parallels to the campaign and presidency of Donald Trump; Homer using baseless and nonsensical insults to try to shout out the sensible Ray Patterson, basically causing a ecological pestilence and his entire campaign being motivated by spite and pride with no consideration for why anyone should vote for him. But really, this is just a continuation, albeit a very conspicuous one, of a problem that was already plenty clear, that America and much of the world, is ready, willing and able to mortgage their futures out of convenience.

Yes, it isn't a subtle episode and its pretty bleak but it does feel appropriate that the 200th episode should be a mission statement for the show as a whole; authority is at best incompetent and misguided and at worst, actively preying on you. That the average American is actively hurting the world they live in. That we value our pride over our own well being. And Homer gets to be America at its worst. I feel like I often don't care for this version of Homer, a version with few redeeming qualities. This is just pure awful Homer but it works for me much better than episodes that are either in an emotional or a "super wacky" mode. In both it can sour things. But the point of this episode is to be sour. Sour and mistrustful about the status quo of America. And I think it does it well. This is one case where Jerk Ass Homer has his uses. I just wish they'd keep him under lock and key until he's needed for episodes that feel like a particularly good episode of Dinosaurs (seriously, this feels like a Dinosaurs' plot, doesn't it?)

I'm also going to say the big non-U2 guest star, Steve Martin, is doing great work in a role that didn't need to be him. Its not a flashy role but its a great role, playing the put upon victim of both Homer and Springfield before basically saying "fuck you" to everyone who chose an irresponsible liar over himself. While he gets a couple good traditional laugh lines, he's the straight man, with his humour coming from the incredulity of Homer's incompetence and popularity. He plays a role similar to Frank Grimes minus Grimes' less savoury qualities: he's someone who seems to be living in an alternate Springfield that seems reasonable and being exposed how ridiculous the average Springfieldian is. Ray isn't a "likeable" character, but he's also not "unlikable". He seems like an effective workman whose world is turned upside down by a madman and Steve Martin gets it. He also is tragically wrong about things that sound right, like "No one wants to hear the nonsensical ravings of a loudmouth malcontent." That seems reasonable and the line isn't played for irony in the reading or presentation. Rather, the irony unfolds through the episode, taking something that sounds right and proving it tragically wrong. I feel like most shows would want to ring as much classic comedy from Martin as they can but instead, Martin is a highly skilled team player, giving a great performance that allows visual gags and Dan Castellenta's jokes land.

Jokes I missed before:
The music when Ray Patterson comes onto the stage is the theme to Sanford and Son, about a father and son team who work in a junkyard. Also, the Simpson Family "loveland" is playing "Love Will Keep Us Together" by Captain and Tenielle. They are getting some play this season.

Other great jokes:

"Well, this man doesn't crawl, he stands tall. That rhymes, Marge, and you know it rhymes."
I don't know why but I love this line.

"Potato man."
"Where the Hell have you been?"

"Don't worry, he's getting the help he needs."
*Homer getting mercilessly beaten while "in the name of Love" plays*


"Did I hear a briefcase opening?"

"OK, before I show you, who wants to guess how I got the money?"
"Dealing drugs?"
"Drugs?"
"I'll have to say drugs, too."


Other notes:

First appearance of Mr. Costington, who becomes a sort of utility player for chubby rich guy.

The credits gag doesn't really work for me but part of it makes me wonder if U2 just wanted a member of Spinal Tap calling them wankers? In fact, it occurs to me beyond the massive popularity of the show, I wonder if Shearer's involvement has ever enticed rock stars a little more than it would have otherwise.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
King of the Hill

During the pandemic, I've both lost and gained weight. Where I live, we've been relatively fortunate but after losing 60 pounds and closing in on my ultimate weight goal, I put on a fair bit of weight due to a mix of being unable to find a good exercise menu during the next virus wave and bad eating habits creeping back into my life. But the fact that I managed to lose that weight was something I never thought I'd do. I had two friends working on it but I needed real motivation before I could bite the bullet. For me, it was a scare where my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic. And it took a long time but I did things I never thought I could. Now I need to get back out there and redouble my efforts... if I did it before, I can do it again.

In this episode, Homer embarrasses himself and Bart when he loses a capture the flag game due to being out of shape. Homer decides to exercise in secret. Over two months, Homer's efforts and hard work manage to yield great results: noticeable weight loss (though Homer is still has some flab) and fantastic strength. Homer attracts the attention of the marketing team from Powersauce, an applesauce-based health bar that Homer feels is key to his fitness. They offer him a marketing campaign involving climbing the largest and most treacherous mountain in Springfield, the Murderhorn. Homer accepts in order to impress Bart but while Homer is now fit, he's still untrained and the mission looks ill-thought out. Homer thinks he's doing well until he realizes the sherpas the marketing team hired are cheating for Homer. Homer's pride is wounded and he vows to continue the journey alone, fair and square. Homer works hard but the top seems forever out of reach. In his despair, Homer gives up and plants his flag, only for the mountain to partially crumble, turning the spot he was on the new top and allowing him to succeed.

Last episode had an actual effective use of jerk-ass Homer and this one gives us his more likeable form: dog Homer. Dog Homer is extra dumb but also a lot more likeable, only occasionally actively cruel (usually about Flanders) but more of an unhinged id with a heart. I call him Dog Homer because that's how John Swartzwelder, the writer of this episode, thinks of him: of a dog who is easily distracted (Dana Gould found this out in conversation with John when trying to get to the bottom of his favourite joke at the time). Dog Homer is closely related to another likable Homer who is also present in the episode: DIY Homer. Jack of no trades, master of one for an episode. Homer, usually lazy, can find motivation to single-mindedly work towards a single goal and have some level of surprising skill of it, usually by sheer force of will and writing convenience. Homer can kind of do anything the writers want in terms of talent but you sort of buy that the proudly lazy Homer can accomplish the impossible because he can also be shown to have both a certain creativity and at times the ability to withstand mind numbing repetition. Of course, Homer is never going to stay the buff he-man because whatever super-power or skill he gains evaporates by the episodes end. And dog Homer lets you by this: he's so easily distracted, once he reaches a goal, he probably gets bored and does something else (assuming its a good TV season).

This episode speaks to me now as someone who has lost a lot of weight with hard work and discipline (though it feels weird saying that on my pig-out day. Oof.) And I buy it. Really, even a Homer Simpson totally can get buff, assuming they can have the time, discipline and maybe a friend (well, nice acquaintance) in their corner like Homer does (fairweather as Reiner is since he forgets Homer exists from then on). Its all about the proper motivation and being able to turn things into habits. I still don't like working out and I only kind of like running but I can't imagine not doing them in some capacity any more and it helps a lot knowing it helps. And, you know, I can listen to podcasts during them. And Homer finds motivation and a goal, to impress his son. And I think this is about goals in terms of good and healthy ones to set. Setting one to make his son and himself proud is a good one. But Homer, who never goes anything less than all in on any endeavor, reaches it, he becomes a bit judgy of his family. Later, he is given the goal of the Murderhorn. This is a bad goal. There's good in it, he still wants to impress his son, but there's too much risk and he isn't properly prepared and the people in his corner are using him. And another key thing is he set the bar too high, which is a common mistake. But ironically when Homer finds his defeat, he accidentally topples the mountain, which feels like a metaphor for him looking at himself and stops saying "look what I have left to do" and "look at what I've accomplished." It may have been a fools errand and he may have unwittingly cheated, but Homer find himself appreciating his accomplishment. And losing his wallet.

This is another episode with an interesting use of guest stars and two I definitely wouldn't put together: TV star Steven Webber, coming of the end of the popular series Wings (I mean, I assume it was popular in some capacity) and rising star Brendan Fraser, before his big hits and then unfortunate career woes. I will say, Fraser is back in Doom Patrol and does a great job as a dopey and fucked up superhero in that series. Its not perfect but I love it swinging for the fences and boldly doing rewrites of great stories. Anyway, while Steve Martin was atypically cast, both these actors who are, as far as I can tell, pretty unrelated and by Simpsons standards not big draws both do decent work as sleazy marketing guys. I feel like it didn't need to be any guest stars and their reads don't differentiate them in terms of performance style than characters who could have been played by Azaria or Shearer but nonetheless, they do good work on the episode. And frankly, I appreciate when the Simpsons chooses solid character actors rather than flavor of the month stars or even superstars whose appearances eclipse everything.

Jokes I missed before:
Low salt candy bars and low fat sodas.

Other great jokes:

"That's what I call breakneck speed."
"Mom, a man just died."

"You just shot your own mustard" feels like the perfect encapsulation of Mafia.

"Sports on a Sunday? I better ask Rev-"
"Oh, just play the damned game, Ned."

"Oh, great, now the cat knows."

"A guym? What's a guym?
Ooooh, a guym."

"You'll die, just like I did?"
"You? Did?"

"Oh, this just in; Powersauce is amazing."

"Brad and Neil were quite insistent you not die."
"Frankly, we don't care."

"Tell my beloved wife, my last thoughts were of her... blinding and torturing Abe Simpson."


Other notes:

I don't think the Vita-Peach Health Log is healthy but I bet I'd like it.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Lost Our Lisa

I don't consider myself an adventurous person. I'm very much a homebody who is afraid of breaking the rules. And I'm also accident prone enough that said accidents get me into enough predicaments as it is. But at the same time, I feel like I do have some advantages over other people I know in that department. Some people are pretty impressed that I've traveled overseas to teach, even though I generally feel well-guided. But it also helps that my family took me to many other countries as a child. I used to be a picky eater but now I love trying things I have no idea about. When I'm in a restaurant with non English menus, I'll just point to a word and see what I get. Some risks are scary to me but sometimes, even in small doses, its worth it for an experience.

In this episode, Bart buys some silly accessories at a joke shop and has them glued on with industrial adhesive. Marge takes Bart to the doctor while Lisa finds herself without a ride to the Isis Exhibit, a museum exhibit at the Springsonian Institute. Lisa wants to take a bus but Marge tells her not to. Lisa makes a call to Homer and manages to trick him into approving. Lisa takes the bus but discovers she's taken the wrong one and ends up in the outskirts of town. Lisa walks back to town but finds herself lost and in increasingly scary situations. Meanwhile, Homer realizes that letting Lisa take the bus was a bad move and rushes to find her. Eventually the two meet again and after a misadventure, Lisa regrets taking a stupid risk. Homer stops her and impresses on her the value to risk in terms of life experience. To that end, the two sneak into the Isis Exhibit and manage even to find the secret of one of the items, teaching Lisa the value and beauty of adventure and misadventure.

This is an episode I've been looking forward to rewatching for a while. I remembered it fondly and it holds up very well. It really gets to explore Homer and Lisa in a way that the show starts to get less curious about. I feel like the show is less interested in exploring the virtue of the characters and more about broad jokes with big winks to the audience. It also has versions of the characters I like, versions that are still broad and funny but have range. They can do a lot of stuff but it doesn't feel like they are changing simply because the writers need them to in that moment. There's a strong sense of character and place and even time that feels more consistent than even some of the other strong episodes of the season. I also like that it is a Homer/Lisa episode that isn't about the two at odds or even Lisa rolling her eyes at her Dad's stupidity. Instead, Lisa has a hard day and then Homer puts things into perspective and has a surprising message for Lisa.

Lisa and Homer are well-drawn (not in the doodle sense) here. Homer is stupid and reckless and easily distracted and tricked but he also is compassionate and in a way thoughtful about what he feels makes his life valuable. Gormless Homer can be funny and at times pointed but I like this version, much more well-rounded and allowing for a lot of humanity. Meanwhile, Lisa is very smart but the episode remembers what so many other episodes forget: she's still just a child. She's can come up with plans and appreciate intellectual pursuits but finds herself in a situation where she doesn't have the life experience to make the situation easy for her. I feel like later writers take perverse glee in humiliating Lisa or conversely just make her the most capable person in all fields but here she's vulnerable without being some sort of punching bag.

I also like that it makes Homer a character with a real consistent point of view. The message of the episode comes down to Homer's philosophy and though the show makes it clear that this is what makes Homer so damned reckless, the show also finds value in it. Homer is always taking stupid risks and obviously it leads to humourous outcomes but the show also demonstrates that going against the rules can also lead to richness in life. Obviously, living life like Homer would be completely unsustainable for a non-cartoon character but its a good lesson for Lisa to take the unpleasant day and chalk it up to an adventure and a life experience. Crisis can lead to opportunity and walking off the beaten path can lead to discovery. Lisa shouldn't have done what she did to get her into the mess but now that she did, she can take something away from it instead of just beating herself up about it.


Other great jokes:

The reveal Homer is at the bar already.

"Hey, these don't work."
"Uh... lead shirt."
"I'll take three pairs. Here's my prescription."

"Don't make me tap the sign."



"That's the kind of faucet I want for your bathroom."


"IT HAD TO BE TERROR SWEAT!"

"But you don't know Lisa. I mean, she's so smart they tried to hook her up to a computer to teach her things, but she had so much knowledge that it got really hot and caught on fire!"


"Shouldn't you be at work right now?"
"Yes sir Mr. Burns sir."
"Then get back to wherever you work whoever you are."

"Well, I already got some balloons, but they aren't this nice."

"I'm not normally a praying man but if you're up there, please save me Superman."

"You wanted me to crush him, right?"

Bart apologizing to a non-present Lisa is pretty good.


Other notes:

Do museums actually have guard dogs? Not doing research, I'm convinced the answer is no.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I think we are in a weird space where there are still some classics but mixed in with some weak ones.
Yeah, from my experience rewatching some eps a while back it's seasons 10 and 11 where the show really starts getting harder to rewatch.

Of course, Season 10 was also around the time Groening's other huge (eventually) series Futurama launched, so that likely had an effect on things.
 
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Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Natural Born Kissers

Its weird to think that in the 90s, of all the TV families, the Simpsons did two things you didn't see a lot of on TV. Despite being controversial amongst certain prudish types when it first aired, the Simpsons were one of the only family's shown regularly attending church. The other thing was due to the animated nature and not having to worry about staging and blocking and such, Homer and Marge get to be shown having a surprisingly healthy sex life for a married couple. Despite Marge often being prudish and Homer being a boor, they are usually shown having a sex life full of sweetness and a sense of fun. Obviously, we have them having problems (such as Grandpa Vs. Sexual Inadequacy) but they seem in general to have a cool, sex positive attitude, at least within their own marriage. And therefore, the medium of animation also allows the show to see them find new romantic avenues to explore while still being in the PG-13 area.

In this episode, Homer and Marge are forced to bring the kids to their anniversary dinner, turning a would-be romantic evening into another raucous outing and find themselves unable to properly get into the groove for sex. The next day, Homer and Marge need to buy a new fridge motor and find themselves stuck in the rain, seeking refuge in a nearby barn. Being trespassers, they hide from the owner and then both find themselves aroused by the situation after they leave and have a literal roll in the hay. Feeling rejuvenated sexually, the Simpson decide to spend a romantic weekend at a bed and breakfast but once again find intimacy issues... until they are accidentally walked in on. From then, they realize that they have a shared new kink: the fear of getting caught. Marge and Homer decide to keep it up in a place special to them; the windmill in the miniature golf course Homer used to work at. Unfortunately, they are almost caught and are forced to leave without their clothes. Wandering the city naked, the couple has misadventures in trying to not get caught, ending up in them appearing naked in the middle of a football game. Despite the public embarrassment, they still into their shared kink.

This is an episode that I remembered fondly but is even better than I remember. I don't think I'd put this as the best of the season, but its definitely up there. Its much more of a gag based episode but its also a human one and it comes through really good in some fantastic voice work from Dan and Julie, particularly in a funny scene where the two try and fail to have sex. The last act of the episode is wall to wall farce. And after "the Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons", its absolutely refreshing to see farce that isn't winking about how stupid farce is and instead gets to the dirty work of making genuine farce funny and playing with the giddy comedy of their awkward situation. After all, much of farce is about not getting caught. Usually, its not getting caught in a lie by here it is not being naked and its a perfect tie in with the theme. After all, in good farce there's pleasure in the tension and that's exactly what Homer and Marge find themselves being into.

Its also more kink positive than I remember. The duo get into trouble and the show never feels like it wants to humiliate them or dunk on them for being into their new thing. It does want to show that it definitely comes with risk of embarrassment and making things awkward but in the end, they still realize they like this feeling and their public humiliation isn't stopping the feeling (and likely even stokes it). Its an episode that really digs into Homer and Marge on an intimate level, both in terms of their highs and lows. Two often, the writers fall into the boring pattern of Homer as merry mischief maker and Marge as disapproving "nag". It makes the characters not only broad but ends up painting a pretty ugly and sad picture of their marriage while I much prefer something that has fraught aspects but is still multifaceted. I like to see reasons that these people should still be together and this episode shows the two really into each other and even when there are problems they are trying to please each other to awkward results.

This is the last episode of the season and I'm worried about how often we'll see this kind of dynamic. I know that it never goes away completely but a lot of the more complex stuff becomes infrequent. We are on the cusp of season ten, arguably the last Golden Age season, depending on how you measure these things. Natural Born Kissers, though, feels like a path towards a better future we never got. Its a dynamic that feels fresh for these characters that we are extremely familiar with. Heck, if anything, it should be a sign that our passions for this very familiar show can still be re-ignited. Its also frequently funny AND even has a joke that I would usually deride as a "Critic joke" (one that spends a long time on a pop culture riff, particularly a film one) which is VERY funny (interestingly, The Critic also did an alternate ending of Casablanca bit which I also still think is a bit funny). There's still life in the show at this point but the hits are going to come out less frequently as characters get broader and the show decides to get more crass and less humane. But I still have hopes for some strong stuff in season 10. Fingers crossed.

Jokes I missed before:

Other great jokes:
This one is super quotable.

"A program from that guy's funeral."
"You mean Frank Grimes?"
"Yeah. Whatever happened to him?"

"Lisa, go cut me a switch."
"YES SIR!"


I wish I could find the entire segment where Marge and Homer's failed sex is interrupted by the dog. But trust me, you don't want to look up Homer and Marge dog sex.

"And that's why today, banana's are called Yellow Fatty Beans."

"And that's how I earned the Iron Cross."

Animals being given inappropriate human names is always funny. Re: pigs named Teresa and Steve.


"Hey! Look at that!"
Julie Kavner gives some amazing line reads.

"I saw everything."


This is funnier when you remember the movie and how little sense this makes in the context of that movie.
Also, "Here comes two" is a very good quote.

"I mean that's what you're here for right? You're young, you're successful, you're naked? You want a car with a radio, right? You kids like music, right?"

"OK, I think I figured this thing out. We can go up and down but not side to side or back in time."

"I want you to pull the thing that's near the other thing."
"You mean this thing?"
*FIRE*
"That was not the thing."

"Wow, a lot of people have pools."

Other notes:
Bart and Lisa "playing Hot Wheels" is the truest thing I remember from my childhood.

Maude seems kind of over Ned's shit in this episode.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Lard of the Dance

Aging is weird. I'm 38 and I still don't feel like a grown-up emotionally. And more distressingly, I'm noticing how much more childish people in power are. But often I find myself comparing myself to people my own age who are parents of teenagers and seem like real grown ups. I know I shouldn't waste my emotional energy comparing myself to others in such a way but it is hard to help wondering if the way I've chosen to be leaves me somewhat wanting. It is something I felt in my teen years, too. I was still watching cartoons and bought toys (I didn't really play with them but I liked having them) and I saw people going on dates and accomplishing things. I know I should just enjoy the me I am and my own form of maturity but its hard not to see other's virtues and think they should be my own.

In this episode, Lisa is charged with showing a new student around the school while Homer gets into the grease collection business. The student, Alex, is rich and trendy and likes grown up stuff. Lisa soon finds herself intimidated by her and notices her peers are now into the kind of grown up interests as Alex. When Alex suggests the school has a school dance, everyone agrees and everyone seems excited for the event, except for Lisa. Eventually, peer pressure gets to her and she tries to emulate the other girls, only to find herself humiliated and seeing an ugly side of herself she doesn't like. Lisa, who organized the dance, attends begrudgingly while Homer sneaks into the school for a big grease score. Lisa finally enters the dance floor to discover the dance is a disaster as the kids are way too shy of each other. Lisa tells Alex that they aren't ready to grow up yet and should just enjoy their childhood. Alex rejects it at first but after Homer's scheme floods the gymnasium with grease, the kids play in it and eventually Alex joins in.

Lard of the Dance is mostly just an OK episode but its actually better than I thought, since I mostly remember this as the "Homer's eyeball pops out" episode. It actually explores an interesting idea pretty thoroughly and puts us in Lisa's shoes of being uncomfortable and being made to feel immature. I feel like there's was a specific fear at the end of the century and the beginning of the next about how kids are dressing up more mature than they are. Like, there was Bratz (which still strikes me as a weird toy line) and fear mongering news reports and this feels a little like this episode was caught in this zeitgeist, particularly when Alex tries to convince Lisa to wear a gross cocktail dress. I feel like there was definitely some legit concerns in this era but I also feel like a lot of it was centered on a narrative designed to prey upon parental anxiety and targeting older people who were going to grump about "kids today".

Despite that, I still think the core of the episode is good, not great, because it feels more like from the perspective of being left behind. I think it would have been easy to make an episode about terminally uncool Marge being concerned about Lisa dressing provocatively and hip. Making it be about the fears of Lisa, someone who feels like an exceptionally smart teenager already finding herself left behind by her peers. And it also addresses that Lisa IS mature but in a different way (as Marge points out, she organized the dance, something I doubt the other kids would or could). This is where the episode is at its strongest. But in all honesty, despite liking some of its choices, I think it only falls on the side of being just OK. I think it doesn't help that the show isn't indulging in its worst instincts yet, it dances around them.

So what are the shows worst instincts? Sadly, some transphobic jokes, which strangely appear more commonly the closer we get to the premise (we are literally getting a slur this season) but that's not the issue in this episode. The issue is in the b-story to me. There's more grossout humour, like Homer's popped eye. I feel like this is a sign of the network being more permissive with the show which would lead to series like Family Guy but it always feels like a weird fit for the Simpsons outside of Itchy and Scratchy and the Treehouse of Horror. Then there's the wasted potential. I feel like it doesn't dig well enough into Homer's wacky scheme cutting into his childhood, even the stuff he didn't realize he'd miss. Homer isn't super jerkass but he's still a little TOO much out there and Marge is just sort of fine with whatever, save for grumbling. It's not a terrible b-plot or anything, just indicative of the stuff I'm less enamored with as the show goes forward.

Jokes I missed before:


Jokes I missed before:

I love that everyone is really into that one tree.

"School dance? I didn't approve any school dance?"
"Yes you did. Yesterday, by my locker."
"Oh, yes. Carry on then."

"Stop saying hello!"

"Am I the only one who wants to play hopscotch and bake cookies and watch the MacLaughlin Group?"

I also like Homer being REALLY down on Marge's emu farm.


"Lisa, I made you some homemade Pepsi for the dance. Its a little thick but the price is right."

"Or you can stay here and we'll have our own dance.
EVERY SIMPSON DANCE NOW. Bom bom bom bom bom."
"I'll go."

"We're new foreign exchange students from... Scotland."
"Saints be praised, I'M from Scotland. Where do you hail from."
"North Kilttown,"
"I'M from North Kilttown. Do you know Angus MacLeod?"
"Wait a minute, there's no Angus MacLeod in North Kilttown! You're not Scottish at all!"


Other notes:
I never really liked Friends, a fact that probably won't change since I keep hearing about how a lot of it hasn't aged well, but I always liked Lisa Kudrow. And she's pretty good in this.

Hey, the writer of this episode is the sister of Conan O'Brien! Neat.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I remember when it first aired that this was the first time the show felt kind of tired and recycled to me; the broad strokes of the plot were pretty similar to Lisa’s Rival (Lisa becomes self conscious when a new girl upstages her at every turn, and Homer gets a new, incredibly unhealthy side-hustle with food additives), but far less funny.

No funny sugar rant, for one thing
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Man, that going back to school as a disease joke aged badly.
But also weird because it's a pun on scoliosis, which despite what the rest of the joke implies, isn't a disease, it's just a weird curvature of the spine. I mean, my sister has it and she was the athlete of the family despite it.

I think the episode differentiates itself fro. Lisa's Rival in that despite the new student mirroring, the nature of the intimidation is different. But also, it isn't as good.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace

As a 38 year old man, I do have worries about what I accomplished. I know I've done good work. I've helped my niece and nephew grow big and strong and have done a lot of stuff I'm proud of in education. But I want to be remembered. I don't know why. I'm an atheist and while I want to make sure the world is better with me in it, why will I care when I won't care when it happens. Why can't I just relax and enjoy life instead of fretting about missed opportunities. I get even more self-conscious when I compare myself to people far younger than me who have accomplished incredible things.

In this episode, Homer suffers a mid-life crisis and becomes convinced he has accomplished nothing. The Simpsons hold a party to convince Homer he's done a lot but instead, Homer learns about Thomas Edison and becomes obsessed with him. So much so, he decides to become an inventor himself, like his new hero. Homer tries but in the end, he seems to invent nothing... until a small personal invention proves to be kind of useful. Homer is elated... until he realizes that he merely cribbed an invention that he saw in a photo of Edison. However, Bart and Homer realize that the invention was so obscure, no one heard of it. The duo decide to head to the Edison museum and destroy the item, so Homer can claim it as his own. Homer is about to strike when he sees a chart on his wall that mirrors his own an makes Homer realize that both of them tried to live up to impossible standards they set for themselves.

The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace is not without interesting themes about a fear of aging and a desire to leave a legacy. But really, that's not where the strength of the episode lie. In terms of storytelling, its just OK. Its real strength is being in a joke machine and since it is a John Swartzwelder script., it is strong on the joke front. Its not that the other stuff is "bad". Homer is still somewhat likable in his way and his fears are relatable but at the same time, I can't get invested in his journey. Homer deciding to become an inventor isn't out of character in terms of wacky Homer schemes but this feels like a phase we would be told about rather than follow, like that time Homer had a detective agency. Weirdly, as a storyteller, I feel like Swartzwelder is at his strongest being tasked with stories about stuff he kind of doesn't believe in, like stories about the environment. In this apolitical tale (I suspect Swartzwelder might also have written this as an Edison nerd), its all mechanically sound but in terms of practicality, it is lacking.

But as a joke machine, The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace is a strong one. Homer series of goofy inventions, Homer's childlike obsession with Edison, Homer failing to connect with his actual accomplishments. Its largely good stuff. While I do think Homer is likable, there are a few lines that push that for the sake of a joke (ordering his kids to spank themselves) but its not nearly as bad as the show would become even as soon as next season (I am not looking forward to Homer Vs. Dignity). I wouldn't say I laughed a LOT in this episode, but I certainly smiled a lot and remembered a LOT of the lines of dialogue are personal favourite jokes of the series.

Its also interesting to see an episode praising Edison, since I feel like people are down on him in favour of the Internet's golden boy, Tesla. Heck, at this point, singing Tesla's praises feels like eyeroll bait and it isn't helped by some of his views on eugenics. Oh, he was a fan. But Edison is also a historical villain of some note, a bully who murdered an elephant during the current war (I think. I don't remember the specifics. I know he murdered that elephant. Bob's Burgers did a musical about it). I won't say this "ages" the show, but I feel an episode about someone being moved by Edison's works wouldn't happen now (though we are still inundated with Tesla stuff. There was a Tesla meets Doctor Who episode last year).

Other great jokes:
"Hehehehe. Website."

"Half my life gone and I'm only guaranteed 38 more years."


"THE PICTURES! THEY'RE COMING ALIVE!"

"Finish him! Finish him!"

"Oh, I should have punted."

"Its true, I read it at a placemat at a restaurant."

"They won't let me in the big people library downtown. There was some... unpleasantness, I can never go back."
OK, so he jacked it.

"And these Hardy Boys books are good, too. This one's about smugglers."
"They're all about smugglers."
"Not this one: the Smugglers of Pirate's Cove. Its about pirates."



"Oh, that's where you're wrong, Marge. We was a shameless self-promoter."


I love and relate to the thinking here.

"I brought you a tuna sandwich. They say its brain food. I guess because there's so much dolphin in it and you know how smart they are."

"These babies will be in the stores while he's still grappling with the pickle matrix."

"YOU CAN'T TURN IT OFF... but it does break easily."

"Now I have to get my cold cream gun."

"Now behind that door is Edison's actual preserved brain. Ordinary, tourists are not allowed to see it and of course, today will be no exception. "

"Now no tour would be complete without a tour of Edison's boyhood giftshop."


Other notes:
Hey KITT AKA Mr. Feeny's in this one.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Bart the Mother

A lot of my dreams revolve around guilt. My big fear is doing something I can't take back ever and its not uncommon to dream of being responsible for a death. I can't imagine what it would feel like but its something I feel like I would have trouble living with. That said, my other fear is that I could, that I could go on with my life and just forget the awful thing I did. Sometimes I feel like I am too self-absorbed but I feel that I do have a strong sense of empathy and that my family has had a good influence.

In this episode, Bart wants to play with Nelson after he gets a BB gun. Marge disapproves but Bart sneaks out to play with Nelson. While playing with the gun, Bart is egged into shooting a bird. Bart tries to miss intentionally but inadvertently kills the bird anyway. When Marge learns what Bart has done, Marge is so upset that she can't even bother to punish him, Bart then realizes the bird he killed had eggs and decides to hatch them himself. Marge eventually finds out and seeing Bart's genuine desire to make up for his error, forgives Bart. But when the eggs hatch, instead of birds, they are hideous lizards. In search of answers, the Simpsons head to the bird watching society, lead by Principal Skinner, who reveal that the lizards actually have a cuckoo like pattern of eating eggs and replacing them with their own. With the species being a serious threat to Springfield ecology. they legally must be destroyed, but Bart doesn't want to see them hurt. Marge, relating to Bart, allows him to escape and eventually the lizards go free. Eventually, the birds are celebrated due to preying on the city's pigeon population.

Bart the Mother takes a similar emotional beat to the all time great episodes Marge Be Not Proud, where Bart does something beyond what Marge expects Bart to be capable off. Bart eventually goes through some stuff and eventually proves his human decency to his mother. It works in Marge Be Not Proud due to Marge giving up on Bart to be a major emotional blow, as for all of Bart's flaws, Marge usually would never give up on her son. Now Bart the Mother is actually a decent episode but it does have the misfortune of falling short of a far superior episode. But on its own merits, Bart the Mother is a good episode of TV. Its not as gut wrenching as Bart getting caught stealing the tapes, but Bart killing the bird is a pretty big moment and I feel like its handled well with a real sense of weight.

Interestingly, the episode ends making a joke that implies undercutting that weight but that doesn't bother me. If anything, its a nice full circle kind of joke that works with the idea of the difference between an abstract many one is indirectly responsible for and one that one is more responsible for. Bart's adventure ends in bird genocide but its sort of a weird accepted norm but in the first/second acts, Bart needs to navigate the direct responsibility. Considering how many crimes we might be indirectly party to everyday in the nature of our society that we can't always have time to fret about, its not surprising and Bart's answer to Lisa's moral/philosophical question is wholly understandable. I also appreciate that the emotional hard stuff is in the first act and the third is wacky yet still resonates with the emotional messaging of the first two acts. Marge's "not as hard as you think" line is on the nose but is genuinely sweet, as is her act of rebellion in the name of love. The best jokes are in this act but it never forgets its point in the name of a joke, unlike the internal inconsistency of later seasons.

Though not central to the episode, I need to take time to point out that this was the last recording Phil Hartman did before his death. I remember hearing about it as a teen and being devastated. I wasn't as aware of character actors as I am now, but I was keenly aware of Hartman because I was a regular SNL viewer and a Simpsons fan AND a NewsRadio fan. I loved his comedy personas which often had a similar vibe of either sleazy performer or untrustworthy authority. Hartman was also an artist (he actually design a few iconic album covers) and a writer (Peewee's Big Adventure) and its a shame that he died relatively young under tragic circumstances. Though the show had been a little less steady before, I felt like loosing Hartman, a mere recurring player, meant the Simpsons had lost something forever that was so important to the show's voice. To the final episode of a legend.


Jokes I missed before:

I never properly appreciated how great a title "Our Fine Feathered Colleagues" is.

Also, Bart's note taking included "Billy" with the y spelled backwards.

Other great jokes:

"Easy, easy, stick with the plan."

"Hot food is tempting..."

"Nelson's a troubled, lonely, sad little boy. He needs to be isolated from everyone."
The Nelson stuff is a mix of making him the worst but also sympathetic to the fact that his story is pretty sad.

"Dear lord, we just wanted you to put fresh newspaper on the tribunal floor!"

"Now people, there's been some confusion in our bird sighting rules. You can't include birds you've seen on TV, on stamps or in dreams."

"By God, a pigeon. That's the last bird on my list. So long, suckers."
There goes a man who never wants to see another bird again.

"And it has nasty plans for the booby, titmouse, the woodcock, and the titpecker."
Some writers are super happy they were able to get away with this.

"The law is very clear on this. They must be killed as quickly and as gruesomely as possible."



"All right, its been exactly one moment..."

"Oh, am I in the way?"
"Yes, yes, you're in the way. Are you daft woman?"
"Sorry, I didn't realize I was in the way."
"You're still in the way. You don't seem to be moving at all."
"Oh, for crying out loud, just knock her ass down."
"Good shoving, Edna."

"Did you know they had those webbed flapped for gliding?"
"Yes, but I hoped they didn't know that."


Other notes:

I keep imagining an alternate timeline where David S. Cohen was the long term Simpsons show runner and the show's later seasons are slightly better.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Treehouse of Horror IX

Another year, another Halloween special. Weirdly, this is a different special in that only one of the three stories is a parody of a specific story and even then, the story has become such a trope and the title is such a non-household name in classic horror that it almost doesn't count. In all honesty, I kind of appreciate this more than later episodes that go for flavour of the month parodies like Paranormal Activity (a film whose success confounds me), Dexter and Stranger Things (an episode I'd basically call a reference parade more than a story). And as much as I love using a classic story as a framework, I'm happy with a mostly good selection of horror comedies.

In this episode, three more Halloween stories. In the first, Snake is sent to the chair for a minor crime and vows to kill the witnesses who allowed the police to catch him. Snake dies but Homer gets his hair in a transplant. The hair possesses Homer, who begins killing the witnesses. He almost kills the final witness, Bart, but Homer is able to overcome the hair and it is shot by the police. In the second tale, Lisa and Bart end up turning their remote control supernatural and transport themselves into Itchy and Scratchy and must survive their attempts to kill them. And in the final tale, Maggie begins to mutate and Marge reveals that Maggie's real father is the alien Kang. Soon, Kang and Homer begin arguing over who gets to take care of Maggie, a matter finally resolved when the Simpsons pretend that their ultimatum, death to all the politicians, holds water.

While I think all the segments are kind of "C"s on the grading curve, I feel like the first one is the best of a perfectly OK lot. The story is a parody of the classic film The Hands of Orlac, in which a pianist gets a hand transplant where the hands start to murder. But strangely, the "hair" version has already been done as a comedy in an episode of Amazing Stories... ALSO called Hell Toupee. I actually have memories of catching the episode very young and finding it somewhat scary. Watching it as an older person, I saw it was a very broad comedy and was only scary because I hadn't developed my irony filter yet and was taking it at face value. As for this episode, it does feature some commentary on crass TV and the stupidity of the "three strikes" rule but really is more about trying to be a silly comedy, which it somewhat succeeds at. Interestingly, worth noting is the premise of evil hair has come back in the horror movie Bad Hair, though it adds a message about the black experience.


The second story is OK. I like Itchy and Scratchy stuff and there's some fun mania but overall, its not one of my favourites. To me, Itchy and Scratchy is at its best when it is either subverting itself or just completely ambitious with its violence. But the nature of the story basically means its usual mania. I feel like some people assumed this was intended to be a parody (or reference) of Stay Tuned, a film that sometimes people remember, but it doesn't strike me that way (I mean, who makes a "parody" of a broad comedy unless they are saying something about it). I can't think of another similar plot that happened before the episode aired. Pleasantville, the most obvious parallel, came out literally TWO DAYS before the episode went to air. But over all, while the episode toys with some cartoon logic, looking back, for its meta-ness of Homer changing the channel once and Bart making an eject button, I feel like it could do more of that and be a bit more ambitious.

The final tale feels like a general parody of classic Golden Age sci-fi premises but feels mostly there for an extended Jerry Springer riff with Jerry himself. And frankly, it isn't very good. Did you know that fucking show was on as recently as 2018? Even as a punchline, it got tired by the time this Simpsons episode premiered. It feels like there was only so much to say and that it was mostly people laughing at the "freak show" ness of it and even making fun of it felt like playing into its stupid trashy mythos. There's also the reveal that Marge is coerced into mothering Kang's child and the show does its best to try to not make that aspect feel as "eep" but when you think about it, even for the silliness and the fact that it happens with a silly energy beam, the fact that they try to make it a silly sex metaphor and Marge, even in a joking, shrugging way, implies this is against her will, is not so good. Its probably the least *pulls on collar* way to do it but... maybe don't do it.

Jokes I missed before:
One of the cigarette ads is for "Ultra Tar Kings".

Other great jokes:
"Well, you'll be seeing lots of nuns where you're going... Hell!"
Definitely believe this.

"Snake played lacross at Ball State University."

"And that fluffy kitten played with that ball of yarn... all through the night."
I need to know about that story.



"Of course, the transplant! Somehow Snake's hair must be contro--"
"Oh, Lisa please, everyone's already figured that out."

"Now that's what I call a bad hair day."

"Tonight I'm going to suck... you blood."

"Why are you laughing?"
"Hey, they're laughing at your pain!"
I don't even know if this is meant to be written as funny or merely setting up the premise but I love Scratchy's line read.

"Need I remind you that two people are dead? Oh, wait I just got it."

"Lisa! Look out! A skeleton!"

"Is there anything you can prescribe, Doctor?"
"Fire. And lots of it."
"Oh, that's your answer for everything."

I like that to Kang, t-shirt production is Earth's most notable quality.

I love that Marge says that she was having a great time in the backyard and she's doing laundry.

"Now she must return home to Rigel 7, where she will be guaranteed a lucrative civil service job for life."
"Well, we can't compete with that."

"I HEAR ALL!"

"I can't believe it. Jerry Springer didn't solve our problem."
"And now he's dead."

Other notes:
OK, so for a long time, JBear has argued that at one point Moe's cereal was called Syphilo's and I maintain it was always called Penicillo's and that he's got like a one man Mandella effect going on. Also, that somehow, the Simpsons once had cold opens. Can anyone confirm these claims, such as foreign and/or post-production edits? I need something more substantial than "not that I know of" because that actually doesn't help.

Its weird that in the opening credits gag, Lisa's head just burrows into the side of the house.

Look, I don't dislike cilantro, Philbin, but I'd never describe it as giving food a "zing".
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
When You Dish Upon a Star

Celebrities: THEY'RE JUST LIKE US! At least, according to US Weekly. I remembered this as a reference and decided to look at one of these articles looked like. They are ridiculously inane, marveling at people doing regular people stuff. But as stupid as it is, it is also weirdly understandable, to see someone who you consider an icon in a moment of mundanity. Its a view that takes for granted that even within a bubble of obscene wealth, a celebrity can just do a normal person thing. But its also a sign that the bubble can warp things on both for the people outside of it and the people inside.

In this episode, The Simpsons have a day at the lake and after a parasailing accident, Homer crashes through the skylight of a secluded palatial home. Said home turns out to belong to Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger and Homer finds out that the home is their summer home to get away from the crowd. But they want their anonymity so much, they won't go out for goods and Homer becomes their gofer and eventually their friend. Homer loves it but eventually betrays their trust in name dropping them in the hopes of looking like a big shot. Homer is ejected from the Basinger/Baldwin home and becomes bitter. He opens up a museum of their things that was still in the back seat of his car and uses it to profit off of them. When they find out, they chase Homer down in an action scene gone wrong. After a court trial, a restraining order is filed against Homer to all celebrities.

When You Dish Upon a Star is one of the episodes where the celebrity guest stars playing themselves are leading characters. Its funny how unfortunate these turn out in hindsight: Elon Musk, Mel Gibson, Michael Jackson (kinda) and here Alec Baldwin. The actor is in a weird spot right now where he still very much as a career and a reinvented one at that (a comedic one) but he's widely acknowledged as a belligerent asshole. By the metric of the people I've listed his crimes are much more minor (general bullying behaviour) but its an interesting aspect to think about since this episode is very much about a celebrity bubble. After all, that concept raises the question if Baldwin is more prone to behaving this way being protected in his bubble or if it just makes the kind of shit he would have done anyway more visible.

But what the episode is really about is the weird relationship between celebrities and fans. Homer has a genuine desire to be friends but it also clearly getting a high from the sense of power and luxury he has with them and finds himself pretty entitled when they choose to cut ties with him. I also get the impression that Homer feels used and I think he may have been in a non-conscious way. After all, celebrities are used to people doing things for them and it probably warps their relationship with the people in their lives. But they also might be better friends, willing to forgive their friend for their weakness. By the episode's end, Homer has totally given into a toxic fan entitlement mentality and ends up pushing away people who at one point not only cared about him but admitted they liked hanging out with him. Overall, I feel like there's stuff that could have been expanded on into an even better story, but as is, its a competent one and a well-oiled gag machine.

As for the celebrity acting... its all competent. I don't even think I've seen that many Basinger films (Batman and My Step Mother is An Alien) but here she is doing OK but doesn't seem to be throwing herself into the role of playing herself. Part of me wonders if it is because she is playing herself, compared to Michelle Pfeiffer and Beverly D'Angelo who played fun characters. Alec Baldwin is in a similar spot, given funny line reads but out side of one or two moments, not bringing a lot of nuance and not given to much to do with them but read and let the writing to the funny. Ron Howard comes off the best. I think he's the one who most throws himself into the role and he has the advantage of both wacky sidekick and a sitcom background and this feels like the runway for his performance as the narrator in Arrested Development which... that one didn't age super well, did it.

Other great jokes:
"Oh, I was having the most wonderful dream. I was wearing a hat and tie with no pants on."

"Stop calling everyone suckers."

"So I suppose that's a hillbilly jacuzzi."
"Yep. That's where they cook up their vittles."




"Why don't you just move to Bethesda?"
"Not phony enough."

When the first Gersh agency ref came up I thought "Is that a joke." But then it got two payoffs.

"Do I smell vodka and wheat grass?"
"It's called a lawnmower, I invented it, do you want one?"
"Yeah, sure."
"And I'll have a rum and zinc"
"Oh, I'll have one of those, too.,"


"Tell them, Homer. They have a right to know about the celebrity summerhouse."
"Who the hell are you?"
"What do you care? I'm just telling you what you want to hear!"

"We can't even pay our bills and they're drinking Royal Crown cola."

"And when your doing your dishes, where's Ray Bolger?"
I love that this is Homer's pull.


Other notes:
Yep, this is the episode that has "20th Century Fox, a Division of Walt Disney Co." as a joke.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
I'm not very fond of this episode but going out on the Happy Days theme is some premo stuff
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Reading your post made me like this episode more than watching it ever did. I think this is, chronologically, the first episode of the Simpsons that I straight-up don't like. It's too much focus on the celebrities, who even play themselves, instead of characters who I actually care about - Homer himself is better, I find, when he plays off of people from Springfield, specifically his family. These celebrity characters, like the ones in later episodes, feel so weak and uninteresting, like the show doesn't really want to give them interesting personalities, and just wants to show us how nice they are. The theme is fine, especially when laid out like in your post, but the focus is on these (to me) boring nobodies, and it feels like we should like them just because they are these popular people.
 
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