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

zonetrope

(he/him)
I have a huge soft spot for the Moody Blues, so their extremely tacked-on bit is the one thing that salvages this episode for me.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Wild Barts Can't Be Broken

As someone who looks after kids, I can tell you first hand that I've more or less become the guardian figure I thought I would never be. I love my dad but he could be somewhat of a grump from my point of view. And looking after the kids, I'm often in a position where they simply won't listen and I got to grump at them to get them to do a thing and I don't like it. That can be the real push and pull, trying to both have a lot of empathy but also making sure that the kids actually have some discipline and do what they are needed to do.

In this episode, Homer and his friends go on a bender that ends with Springfield Elementary getting trashed. The blame ends up going to the youth of Springfield, resulting in a draconian curfew enforced by the police. Eventually fed up with the unfair rules, the kids sneak out to watch a horror movie about supernatural children with mental powers who expose the secrets of the adults. The kids are caught and punished but are inspired to use their real strength: intimate knowledge of all the adults' secrets, which they use as a form of protest, promising to continue until the curfew is lifted. Eventually the kids are caught and they and the kids have a big argument that ends up disturbing the elderly in town. Eventually, due to the elderly voting in record numbers, a curfew is enforced after a referendum for anyone under 75.

Wild Barts isn't the strongest episode but it has a lot of good jokes. As a story about the age gap, its fun enough but not terribly insightful. I so like the method in which the children rebel, though, as it does take advantage of the fact that we may accidentally expose children to our own bad habits even if we complain about theirs. The ending makes for a fun take on the adult/child power dynamic but its also preceded by one of the weaker musical numbers of the era. Alf Clausen properly gets a lot of credit for the sound of the show but the big flashy music numbers seem to get increasingly hokey. Not even bad or cringey, simply something you need to sit through. In terms of parody/homages, I much prefer The Bloodening, a fun parody of the sci-fi horror classic Village of the Damned.


I wouldn't call it laugh out loud hilarious (though I like the trailer for it) but the Bloodening feels like a loving and specific shout out that appeals to me.

I also feel that this is an episode that where it becomes easier to point out that act one has little to do with the acts that come after. Often these first acts do have thematic resonance. After all, it is very much about the childish and irresponsible behaviour of adults, but dedicating so much time to these first acts often rob episodes from digging into the episodes themes in a satisfying manner. I actually don't think it hurts this one too much but that's mostly because while it is analyzing something, it doesn't feel like there's a lot in here that more time would actually contribute to the main plot. Over all, Wild Barts is an episode that is competent and somewhat funny but isn't remarkable save for a music number and a lovingly conceived film pastiche.


Other great jokes:


"Hello Big Maggie."

"Fine, we'll play Hippo in the House."
"Mmmm the Hippo's missing."
My experience as a kid whenever I wanted to play a board game at a friend's house.



"Due to the likelihood of fear-induced heart attacks, we're offering all patrons million dollar life insurance policies."
"Life insurance. Hmm... would I be able to borrow against the equity?"
"I don't know, it comes free with the popcorn."
"Is that air-popped?"
The thing I liked about this gag was its a reference to SEVERAL 60s era promotions.

"In your face, fish-wife!"

"But I've been hearing good things about Talk to the Hand. Tom Shales says the writing snaps crackles and pops."
...
"♪Talk to the hand, the face ain't listenin'♬"

"Edna, how could you? Don't get up, I'll bus my own tray."


Other notes:
Some guest stars have rather thankless cameos but Cyndi Lauper's is perfect and short. Its just her singing the national anthem to "Girls Just Want to Have Fun". I think getting her to sing is a good way to do a short cameo. Plus, I fucking love Lauper.

Reminded by Azaria's announcer voice: has anyone actually watched Brockmire? Is it good?

Simpsons is getting needlessly darker, between Homer asking if "Moe finally blew his brains out" and Moe talking about how a sniper at an all-star game was a "blessing in disguise". Also, Homer is into spanking again. This always feels weird after "Two Bad Neighbors".

"Any kid caught on the streets will be shot... or returned to their parents as the situation may warrant."
Wow does this joke read differently today.

It's nice to see Grandpa just straight up get a win for once.
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
I always wondered what Homer was singing in the car at the baseball game, so I looked it up, and the lyrics go thusly:

Whistle while you work!
Hilter is a jerk!
Mussolini bit his weenie
now it doesn’t work
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Sunday, Cruddy Sunday

I've never been able to get into sports. Over time, I've definitely gotten into sports in fictitious forms. I love sports manga and I tend to like the sports movie formula. But every Superbowl Sunday, I tend to completely miss the hoopla of the big game. But what I find from cultural osmosis is that the game itself is just a part of what makes the day special to people. There's the snacking and the commercials and anticipation and togetherness. Its a ritual and a shared cultural event and though it doesn't speak to me and the game itself is part of a bigger tapestry of celebration.

In this episode, Homer runs across Wally Kogen while both of them are scammed by a auto shop. The two go out for a drink where Wally reveals he's a travel agent with a chartered bus heading to the Superbowl and that if Homer can fill the bus, he can go for free. Homer does just that any eventually they make it to the game... only to find Wally was scammed again and doesn't have real tickets. Frustrated, Homer and his friends sneak into the Super Bowl only to get caught and jailed. After getting freed they run amok and while they miss the game, they eventually end up in the winning team's locker room and party with the winners.

After seeing a lot of episode with big themes and ideas that fall short, its nice to see an episode that is designed to be an openly superficial comedyfest. That's not to say there isn't an idea: taking the idea that they wouldn't show the actual game, its sort of about all the excitement around the game rather than the game. But its not looking for a message about it, its just a bunch of silliness. I get the impression that was intended. I'm pretty sure the Bowl was on Fox that year and I'm sure Fox was asking them "hey, do a Superbowl tie-in please" and they were like "sure, sounds fun." This is an episode with four writers and it feels like it could have easily been an exquisite corpse.

And as a comedy, its pretty funny. It has lots of strong jokes and a few great sequences. That said, the gags specifically about Superbowl stuff largely didn't speak to me. I think the bit about Superbowl ads is VERY well put together (and could easily have been a real ad of the era) but it doesn't make me laugh. Dudes getting drunk and sucking in their guts didn't work for me either. For me, the strongest stuff is when its less about the wacky antics and more just things getting weird. That's why my favourite bit is a time killer about "Vincent Price's egg magic", a perfect little non-sequitor that just speaks to me (another dumb "we don't know where Springfield" joke aside).

This is an episode loaded with guest stars as well and as you might guess, their success is a "voice by voice" basis. Fred Willard is in it and as you might guess, he's great, though I think he's only given a serviceable character. It is one that speaks to some of his strengths, since even in his outsized character, I feel Willard's strength is within the more understated elements of them. Dolly Parton does decent enough. As far as "bad people" guest stars go, I don't mind Rupert Murdoch. I mean, as a person he fucking sucks but I like that he is presented only as a shitty villain and that we have evidence that he is a completely shitty actor, though he delivers "Silence!" believably. I wonder why... Oh, and the football players do as well as you might expect. Actually, Madden and Summeral are pretty good in delivering their lines, particularly Madden's increasing frustration with the episode and the franchise.

Other great jokes:

"Who ever wondered how the post office works? Really? No one?"
"I did until we came here last year."

"Ooo, free foot pain analysis."
"Oh, Marge, that's just a trick to get you in there to fix your foot pain."


"The road to the Superbowl is long and pointless. I mean, when you think about it."

"Bi-weeks. Bronco Nagursky didn't get no bi-weeks. And now he's dead. We'll, maybe they aren't a bad thing."

"Damn, that was my last quarterback. Now what am I going to do? You!"
"Me?"
"Yeah, you. Get your hand off my wife's leg."

"Now that's Lenny's in, Carl will fall like a domino!"

I like that Aikman will only draw people in dune buggies.

This is such a weird, pointless nothing of a b-plot. I love it.

"There's no such team as the Spungos."

"I book a lot of package tours to Dollywood and Euro-Dollywood. That's in Alabama."

"Woo! I'm going to Disneyland!"
"Really? Because I'm a travel agent and I've heard nothing but bad things."

Other notes:

I'm positive this is one edited, though probably long before syndication or Disney Plus. The Superbowl Ads' joke reveal was originally "The Catholic Church", then it just becomes "the Church", which is inherently less funny by removing specificity.

I don't think this is a syndication edit but there's a very clear and clumsy edit between Milhouse getting his letter to Santa and Bart getting a coupon book.
"Well, I'm just glad I work in an elementary school."
This joke was ahead of its time in the most horrifying way possible.

I love that the half-time show is Dolly in a jet pack and a Snoopy Mask with Stomp and Rob Lowe.

This is the second time this season someone says "Where I come from, ______, we [something basic]." It works both times.

I also love Madden doing a 180 on the episode.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
A trend I’ve noticed gaining prominence, especially in season 19, is Barts transition from “L’il Bastard” to “Anarchistic Child’s-Rights Advocate”. And, much like Neds gradual change from “Excessively Friendly Doormat” to “Hyper Conservative Christian Jackass”, it makes him a lot less fun as a character.

It also leads to a one-two punch of child-friendly parodies of The Departed and Sid Vicious & Nancy Spungen. The latter of which being... several levels worth of deeply weird
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
The Broncos were in this year and so the overdubbed line when homer covers his mouth with the beer says Broncos and I live in Denver and that's how I'm in an episode of the Simpsons.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Homer to the Max

As a kid, I never liked my name. I thought it was too weird and different. Note that this is definitely by privileged white kid in the 80s standards, so I imagine I didn't know shit about what it was like to have an uncommon name. But I really wanted to be named Mark. I just thought it was a cool name. It is one of my middle names but I never actually bothered to ask for a really easy change. But frankly, I'm lucky: my name is a sign of familial love, as my first name and two middle names were provided by my parents and sister (each one gave one). And also, I know there are people whose birth name does not reflect who they are.

In this episode, Homer gets excited when a popular new show's big character has the same name as Homer. Homer basks in reflected glory until the character is retooled into a bumbling fool, leaving Homer humiliated and frustrated. In response, Homer changes his name to Max Power and decides his new name also comes with a dynamic new attitude. This ends up gaining the attention of a wealthy businessman named Trent Steel and soon Homer ends up falling in with Springfield's a-list. Homer loves it at first until it turns out the crowd also has a social conscience and Homer has no patience for it. Eventually, Homer ends up ruining a protest by accident and changing his name back.

I think that the common observation is that a lot of Simpsons episodes have a first act that has nothing to do with the second. Rewatching, at least to this point, it is easier to see certain thematic connections, even if plot wise not so much. Homer to the Max, however, feels like two different episodes crammed together. Both have more potential than the final product itself, frustratingly, though one half is far funnier and most interesting from a story-telling point of view than the other. It is actually easy to see how the story of act one flows into the next two but I feel like while both are incomplete, act one also does a much better job mining meaning in the first episode than the second half. Heck, I don't even remember what the second act break is now. This feels like a two act episode (in fact, without checking, I'm wondering if what I assumed was "act one" takes up two acts").

The first part's greatest strength is being very funny. This helps that this is a Swartzwelder episodes and having watched so much Simpsons, it is easy to see some of his weaknesses as a writer (and some surprising strengths), when he is on his A-game, he hits amazing highs. The entire "Police Cops" segment is golden absurdity and talking with the producers is a wonderful set up on how a program mutates and what causes it to happen. I also think the idea of how fiction can inform reality, for both good and bad, is a very interesting one and if there's one failing, the entire episode could have been about that. I'm thinking of unfortunate people who share unfortunate names with fictional characters, like the story of the kid named Kenny McCormick who felt bullied because of it. Then there's that elderly couple who kept getting pizzas thrown on their roof because they owned the Break Bad house. Homer being driven to near madness is a good concept and I feel like it is explored well comedically. But as ridiculous as it is, I feel there could have been some more actual weight in this premise. Like, it didn't need to be an emotional episode but it could have put us in Homer's headspace about what it feels like to have something so trivial throw your life into complete disarray.

The weakest part is the back half. I feel like the idea is to take "Scenes from a Class Struggle in Springfield" but use Homer and give it a subversion where Homer is welcomed but he ruins it. But neither the jokes nor the plotting add up to anything funny or insightful. Heck, I'm not even sure what it is doing politically. I guess its supposed to be a twist on the "in-crowd" being backwards thinking conservatives but it never really lands in any direction, whether it be the Groening liberal values or Swartzwelder's anti-environmentalism. Ironically, the most trenchant commentary is a background joke is the hired help ALSO being tied to trees in protest and none of them looking happy to be there. It really eats away at the more interesting story. And it could have been a good satirical episode in a number of directions but sadly it ends a fairly funny episode on a weak note.

Jokes I missed before:

Other great jokes:

"Its hard to believe someone that young could rise to the rank of Admiral."


"Maybe I'll have to foil an assassination. Or stop a peace conference!"

"I know, maybe he's just acting stupid to infiltrate a gang of international idiots."

"You're character provides the comic relief, like Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now."

"The 13 of us began with a singular vision: Titanic meets Frasier."

"Who's Jeremy Piven?"
"We don't know."

"It was called Badge Patrol."
"But the network idiots didn't want a series about high tech badges that shoot lasers."

"The mailman won't know what to do. Did you think of the mailman at all before you did this?"
"Briefly, yes."

"I feel like Cinderella."
"Me too. Let's sing the Cinderella song."

Other notes:

The Homer name change doesn't actually feel like its what results in Homer's events in the last half. Its more Homer being Homer and someone noticing it.

I love the touch that when Homer is about to call Homer Simpson stupid, they finish his sentence but when Homer calls him stupid, they are like "oh, no." This feels kind of true in that I feel like writers probably love writing Homer stupid but if someone calls their dim-witted character stupid, they might want to reframe them with more nuance... even though they are stupid.

Now I want Thai food.

I feel like the ease with which Homer changes his name does not reflect what I hear from other people on this board.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
I kind of feel like Homer and Judge Schneider’s relationship at this point is to just do what it takes to get him out of the room faster.

Also, “Rembrandt Q. Einstein” is a very good pseudonym
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
I'm thinking of unfortunate people who share unfortunate names with fictional characters, like the story of the kid named Kenny McCormick who felt bullied because of it.
Don't forget Kenneth Lamar Noid, who held a Domino's hostage in 1989 because he thought the company was making fun of him.
Then there's that elderly couple who kept getting pizzas thrown on their roof because they owned the Break Bad house.
Apparently living in the Home Alone house is a nightmare, too. I mean, it's a nice house, but the people there have had to deal with tourists and mail overload.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Don't forget Kenneth Lamar Noid, who held a Domino's hostage in 1989 because he thought the company was making fun of him.
The Noid is one of those things where I'm always like "He was a memorable character, why don't they bring him ba-- OH YEAH." Its a rather bizarre, sad story and definitely one worth looking up.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I'm With Cupid

Its an Apu episode. As I have stated before, Apu is a character whom I still have a lot of affection for despite him being a very problematic character. Its not just a white man voicing a non-white character with an accent, its also that there was so little representation of an Indian character on TV and it is very much dictated by a bunch of non-Indian writers using stereotypes, meaning they essentially had the controls of representation in that regard. I have no doubt the writers meant well, as Apu is often presented as more positive than negative compared to a lot of Springfieldians but good intentions and even nuance (on a certain level) doesn't result in a portrayal that is fair. Groening recently hinted that there are plans to bring Apu back and considering the voice actor changes for characters of colour, it is almost certain Apu (and if she reappears, Manjula) will be voiced by actors of Indian decent. And even then, I feel like the character will need a lot of changes beyond simply the voice actor. Now, I have very little faith in modern day Simpsons to give him a good story (not impossible, last I checked the ratio of modern day good episodes is 1.5 per two seasons) but part of me wants this to work. Because despite everything I understand, a part of me has fondness for something that's caused a lot of pain for people.

In this episode, Homer and Marge have dinner with Apu and Manjula and Manjula realizes Apu is a workaholic who is putting work before her. Wanting to make up for his errors, Apu begins a week long campaign of romancing leading up to Valentine's Day to make Manjula feel good. It works but as a side effect, all the other women in town realize that they are being overlooked in their relationships. Homer encourages the men in town to try to sabotage Apu's big romantic Valentine's gesture. The follow him around and eventually must stop a skywriter from writing a love message. Homer battles with the skywriter and the message is half completed, saying "I♡U" followed by a star-shaped cloud. The women of Springfield interpret the image to their wishes, save for Marge. But Homer's fight with the skywriter ends with him blasted into his back yard with piles of roses where Marge is waiting and Marge takes it as a grand romantic gesture. Meanwhile, Apu reveals his biggest romantic gesture is simply to close the Kwik-e-Mart for the day for his wife.

I'm With Cupid is a completely serviceable episode, albeit revolving around one of the characters who's aged badly. The story makes sense as the next step for the character: Apu is often shown as a workaholic, so this would put some tribulations into his marriage. Apu and Manjula make for a sweet couple, thanks to the great voice actors who should not be doing those voices. The actors definitely inject humanity and charm into the characters, even if it is poorly considered in retrospect, and it is easy to see why people are hesitant to come to the conclusion that the characters are offensive.

The last half is not bad but its the kind of forgettable sitcom shenanigans. The husbands following around Apu looking to sabotage largely doesn't work and the bad husbands unable to just do the right thing. Its not a thread that's interesting to me and doesn't pay a lot of comedic dividends. Its pretty standard "men are bad at romance" gunk. I feel like the show has already explored in better episodes the idea that Homer is such a creature of comfort, he's taken aback when he's expected to do a little more. Frankly, I much prefer the jokes about Apu's big romantic gestures.

Its always frustrating to see the Simpsons fall into cliche comedy traps that they've already expertly parodied in anti-comedy bits. And this is something that happens more and more as the series goes on. I feel like there are times where they blur the line between commentary on cliches and simply being one. As this flaw goes, I'm With Cupid is far from the worse offender. Its not "bad", just annoyingly lazy. Its all very middle of the road stuff with Elton John being a high point and he only gets one line that really makes me laugh (and one that makes me smile big). Still, he's so loveable and has such a positive energy that he does help the episode out a bit. It doesn't hurt that I also just watched the Elton John episode of the Muppet Show (BTW, GREAT episode. Watch it.)

Jokes I missed before:


Other great jokes:

"The prince fell asleep for a hundred years, until he was awoken by the kiss of a noble raccoon."

"This is delicious. What's in it?"
"Chickpeas, lentils and rice?"
"And this?"
"Chickpeas and lentils."
"Try it with rice."

"Hey, they stole our idea! See, look!"
"Oooh"
Homer and Marge totally believe they invented 69ing.

"Successful mayor type seeking open minded discreet cheerleader type."

"Then the bird sang 'I Love the Nightlife' with clever new lyrics."
"Yeah, I hate that song."
"Me. too but it was sweet."

"Reverend Timothy Lovejoy says he's counseled a number of disenchanted wives, including Maude Flanders."

"Elton John!"
"That's my name... well, not really."

Other notes:
Easily the most cringeworthy "joke" of the episode that I kind of missed all these years; "Still in hot water with the squaw?"

Oh, Fantastic Dan! He's a holdover from a one scene joke in Bart Carny and he gets a lot of play here. I bet they wanted to make him a Disco Stu-like fixture.

I know he's a Thomas Edison-styled shameless self-promoter but... Elton John's kind of the best. Nearly Dolly Parton good.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Marge Simpson in: "Screaming Yellow Honkers"

I don't have a car but in taking care of my niece and nephew, I do a lot of driving. I don't get road rage but driving with kids can be stressful at times. And its not even though the kids are poorly behaved. The younger one sometimes gets upset and cries about nothing (or at least nothing I can determine). Meanwhile, the older one is obsessed with imaginary monsters and I need to tell her that driving isn't the time to point out "big big monsters" that she expects me to feign terror of. Its not hard for emotions to take hold of how one drives and I always try to make sure I am centered so I don't get into accidents due to mood-based judgement.

In this episode, Homer buys a Canyonero but immediately rejects it the second he finds out it is part of the "F" series, which is to say aimed at women. So Homer pawns it off on Marge, who finds the giant SUV intimidating at first but eventually falls in love with it. However, the vehicle also enables Marge to feel a sense of power on the road she's never felt before, which becomes road rage. Eventually, Marge gets in trouble with the law and is forced to attend a course on road rage. It seems to have an effect but soon after Marge gets back in her car, the road rage takes hold, which eventually leads to Marge losing her license. Later, the Simpson family, save for Marge, takes a trip to the zoo where wild rhinos escape an attack the Simpsons. Marge uses her road rage and Canyonero to stop the rhinos.

Screaming Yellow Honkers is another episode that starts with something very promising, it seems like the show didn't know how to stick the landing. Oh, Marge battling rhinos with her SUV works comedically and as just fun but it seems like the promising episode couldn't think of a think to say ABOUT road rage beyond a certain point. The set up is strong; Marge is sheepish in her driving habits until she gets real power and immediately begins to abuse it. Its clear she feels less powerful over other aspects of her life, so the Canyonero gives Marge a terrible destructive outlet for these feelings. But then technically the ending seems to be saying "road rage should be good, not evil" which is dumb. I don't even think it is saying it ironically (and there's a lot of pointed irony and cynicism in the episode). I feel like the episode has a great observation about the Marge character and why she would be subject to road rage but not so much how that, as a story, resolves. It could have been cleverly ironic or with sincerity about the character but instead its kind of nothing.

Its a shame because as unrelated pieces, it works. The climax IS fun and silly with some great gags. But it doesn't feel like the proper emotional or intellectual resolution. Wiggum congratulates Marge of channeling her rage properly but it doesn't make much sense. Its funny there's a disconnect since this is an episode that's very much NOT "first act only tangentially related to the second". Homer gets the car not too long into the first act. Usually, the first act feels a bit more like a playground before getting into the episode proper. This isn't necessarily a bad thing if you can tell a good story in those two acts (Cartoon Network having 11 minute shows like Adventure Time and Steven Universe shows you totally can in that time) but sometimes it does eat into the main story. But the problem here is different, its simply that the ending it lands on feels similar to Homer's "grand gestures" that feel good in the moment but resets things to the status quo with very little actual insight for the audience or the characters.

But this is more of an observation. I didn't have a strong memory of the episode but as a trip and a comedic piece, Screaming Yellow Honkers works more than it doesn't. We are at the point in the series where not only does the family not have money woes, Homer can buy whatever he wants and despite stated costs (Homer's 401k), that's more a bit of lampshading/joshing that never feeds into the actual story. Aside from some homophobic/fear of the "feminine" jokes from Homer, the character isn't too much of a jerk this episode (though he definitely is, particularly to that one poor lemur) to make him hard to watch. Aggressive Marge works comedically and overall its a focused episode. Heck, there has been very little in the way of B-plots recently. I think the last one was Vincent Price's Egg Magic, which was barely a blip. So despite kind of giving up on having something to say in the last act, Screaming Yellow Honkers is a fun one.

Jokes I missed before:

Other great jokes:
"I didn't think it was physically possible but this both sucks and blows."



"Do you want to spend your whole life doing what's right?"
"OF COURSE NOT!"

"A three chambered peanut! MARGE, LOOK WHAT I DID!"

"Over these next eight hours, you will be broken down to the level of infants, then rebuilt as functional members of society, then broken down again, then lunch, then if there's time, rebuilt once more."


"Uh, Chief, can I at least shield my crotch?"
"Bears can't talk, Eddie."

"Well I hope you're happy Simpson. Those prisoners were ONE day away from being completely rehabilitated."

"Then do it for this adorable little puppy. Look at the puppy, Marge."
"That's your hat."
"She's good, chief."

"Authorities say there's no immediate danger to anyone... except those three luckless people, whose bodies we'll identify once the rhinos spit out their wallets."


Best visual gag of the episode.

Other notes:

The film strip was originally going to be a Troy McLure bit prior to the death of Hartman. I wonder if that would have included all the same jokes, as a lot read a bit differently as being presented by a woman.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Make Room for Lisa

Sometimes I feel guilty for not doing enough stuff with my parents. I tend to see them around three times a week but that's usually either to drop off the kids for a visit or a family dinner. I'm technically pretty close to my parents but at the same time, especially during the pandemic, they have things a little rough. I would like to find more things to do together (before the pandemic, it was taking my mother to the movies) but I also value my private time to chill at the end of the day. Maybe in many ways there is some drifting from each other emotionally, where we still care for each other but we don't talk too much about personal stuff anymore.

In this episode, during an outing, Homer accidentally damages the Bill of Rights. The Bill was in the care of Omnitouch, a phone company, and to pay for fixing it, the Simpson house is converted into a cell tower. Worse, Lisa's room is converted into automated control room and Lisa must stay with Bart. Eventually, the stress causes Lisa to have a stomachache. This causes Lisa to realize that while he loves her dad, their differences will drive them apart over time. Homer takes Lisa to a new age store to help Lisa with her stress and the two decide to try a sensory deprivation tank. Lisa has a vision of seeing the world through her father's eyes and realizes despite all of his complaining, he takes Lisa to all sorts of things and does a lot for her. Lisa decides to let Homer take her to his favoured activity, the demolition derby.

Make Room for Lisa is another idea made of good individual ideas but are kind of hurt by what is brought together. The thing is, the conclusion Lisa comes to is to be forgiving of her father as he's done a lot for her. And I feel like this message works better in other seasons but in this episode Homer's kind of too awful. He's not even being particularly "mean-spirited" so much as he's deeply thoughtless. A message of forgiveness of someone who means well would be better if Homer's thoughtlessness is particularly cruel (however unintended) to Lisa, causing her so much stress she's in physical pain. I think there are better ways to show both Homer as very flawed while still loveable enough to want to forgive but he spends the entire episode dictating what he assumes everyone knows to be true that it goes past funny to just frustrating.

I think there is a way to make that work, to make the audience against him and while still acknowledging his flaws, making us want to notice his virtues. But I feel like the balance isn't here in the episode. I like the idea that Homer, for all his complaining, is willing to take the kids where they want to go but Homer's carelessness goes beyond the usual "oopsy-doodle" and feels like a The Prisoner-like attack on Lisa's mind. That in itself is actually an interesting idea to explore, something closer to the stressful reality of living with a loose cannon like Homer, something a "Homer's Enemy" tone where Homer is a gormless destructive force of nature as he smiles and dismantles Lisa's life but even that would have to do a lot of proper needle threading to work and not feel too mean-spirited. Unfortunately here, I just don't think an interesting message lands based on the actual episode. I do understand Homer is tricky. I mean, you want to make him somewhat of a jerk but not enough of one that the empathy completely stops. This is an episode about Homer being thoughtless but I just feel like despite attempts to make it clear Homer's misbehaviour comes from a place of carelessness rather than intended cruelty (he does try to correct when he does see he is in the wrong), the part where he takes Lisa's room and keeps bugging her and making gaslighting comments is just a bit much for me.

There's also a b-plot with Marge listening in on phone conversations. Its another pretty hacky one and now I wish the show treated all its b-plots like Vincent Price's Egg Magic: a complete time-wasting non-sequitur. The other thing worth noting is that the episode has a Lindsey Nagel character that isn't Lindsay Nagel. Its kind of weird since despite being purely in entertainment at this point, she would become the perfect all-purpose business woman who is sort of a void of a human and a terrifying avatar for whatever business she's in. The character in this episode is the same, down to an intimidating "community" moment.



Other great jokes:

"Well Marge?"
"What?"
"What's your favourite radio station?"

"You missed a great race. Bart was winning and then he said 'This is stupid' and he quit and I won!"

"You sure buried him deep Daddy."
"Not so deep the Lord can't find him... and judge him."
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
It's far from the wackiest The Simpsons has gotten, but "Family home is converted into a cellphone tower 'cuz The Bill of Rights was damaged" still reads like a really bad sitcom plot.
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
I hate this episode. It feels like the laziest sitcom plot. Homer heaps abuse on Lisa and, in the end, she apologizes to him.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Yeah, that never sat with me; “Homer Allows Himself to Be Bored, sometimes” is a really disproportionate response
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Maximum Homerdrive

I have no personal observations on this episode. You're welcome.

In this episode, Homer is eating at a steak house where he ends up in an eating contest with a trucker... a contest he loses. As he congratulates the winner, the discovers that his competitor has just died. Homer decides to take over the shipment, feeling somewhat responsible, for the sake of his honor. Homer enjoys the trip as a father/son trip with Bart but in trying to get to the destination on time, Homer pushes himself and ends up falling asleep at the wheel. When he wakes up, he discovers the car is capable of driving itself and that its a secret amongst truck drivers. Homer recklessly reveals the truth and is hunted by other truckers but manages to escape and get the shipment in on time. Meanwhile, Lisa and Marge get a new doorbell.

Maximum Homerdrive is a completely competent episode of the Simpsons. It has some very funny moments but it also falls back onto old jokes that now feel like space fillers ("Didn't I?"). Its not particularly clever in terms of structure and the show is now well into its contrived sitcommy premise phase with very little irony but I still had an OK time. Sadly, we are entering into the era where this is a win. And, heck, I'll take it. Homer is stupid and kind of jerky but there's no overt abuse like in the last episode, just Homer in his phase where he seems completely unhinged from the rules of the world.

The weakness comes in the very weird messaging. It feels like the message is that people in hard, mind numbing work should not take shortcuts and be proud of their hard labour but really this comes across as assuming a certain amount of laziness from people who are doing this kind of work. Why the Hell should a self-driving truck be seen as a scam, save for the fact that maybe employers might find it to be an excuse to pay them less. So you are a truck's babysitter? That's fine. They are being paid for they're time and watching the merchandise and even a job sitting still in a truck is exhausting in its way, as someone who has been on long car trips can tell you.

Marge and Lisa's subplot isn't bad, though it lacks the sublime genius of Egg Magic. But Marge saying goodbye to Homer made me think of a story that would be more interesting that other shows have done: what goes on with Marge when Homer's off on an adventure. Its also clear Marge feels a little jealous at Homer's adventure, so I can see a better episode similar to Viva Ned Flanders where Marge decides to go all in on a Homer adventure instead of fighting it. But as it is, its just a bunch of stuff that happens with a weird message about "real work". I'm not actually too surprised that despite my lukewarm take on the episode that its a Swartzwelder. It feels kind of in line with his politics. But I actually can't be certain as it sounds like the Navitron aspect was worked out in the writer's room as a third act complication the writers were trying to crack. So maybe its just that the episode was a headache to make and they can't all be winners. And they aren't. Oh, they aren't.

Jokes I missed before:



Other great jokes:
"You still haven't told us why Lenny bit you."
"Well, I really left him no choice. You see--"


Tony Randall having eaten a giant steak is a non-sequitur that amuses me.

"NO HOMER! DON'T FILL UP ON BREAD!"

I like that Homer's takeaway from his talking cow hallucination is "Lousy drunks!"

"He called my greenhorn. I called him Tony Randall. It was a thing we had."



Other notes:
The reveal that the truck Homer flipped was filled with migrant workers feels even darker than intended.
 

Juno

The DRKest Roe
(He, Him)
This episode is notable to me for premiering right before the series premiere of Futurama. Other than that, I have no significant observations about it.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Simpsons Bible Stories

Though I became an atheist around grade 6/7, I was pretty on board with Christianity up until that point. I barely noticed I was Catholic, I more or less thought it was all the same thing. I was vaguely aware of some of the stories but I never really learned a lot about the mythos of Christianity. I still haven't but frankly, what I have is pretty wild: monsters, betrayal, sex, tragedy. But as a kid, I was hanging around churches with dull white walls and the imagery never extended beyond "people who live in arid regions learn about being nice". Its understandable not to want to teach a lot of the crazier shit to kids but why is everything so watered down and dull or worse, attempts to be hip that makes it feel worse. Maybe one day I'll crack open the bible but I get the impression its a wild story poorly told.

In this episode, the Simpsons fall asleep during a boring sermon and end up reimagining themselves as Biblical figures. First, Marge imagines herself as Eve as Adam (Homer) throws her under the bus after she joins him in eating the forbidden apple. Then Lisa imagines herself in that one Rugrats passover episode. Homer imagines himself as wise king Solomon and finally Bart imagines himself as David, battling Goliath's son who is seeking revenge.

I fear I may be forgetting one but this is the first non-Halloween episode to uses each act to tell a different story. And in that way, Simpsons Bible Stories is a very solid anthology episode. And I also think whether its by intent or happenstance, there's a great thematic throughline: finding relatability in stories that might be droned at us in church. Reverend Lovejoy literally puts everyone to sleep with stories so deeply ingrained in the characters that they are able to re-invigorate it within their minds, based on their point of views. Marge sees Eve as kind of ruined by love to someone unworthy and happenstance, Lisa sees herself as a leader with integrity and Bart is the action hero he wants to be.

The first story is pretty strong, with some memorable jokes, even if the "turn" is a pretty obvious one, that Adam kind of sucks and Eve is an unfortunate victim. But it being Marge, it also speaks to her feelings of the person she through in with; someone who she genuinely loves but might not be worth it, despite moments of good intent, and may lead her to ruin and toil. Lisa's story has some good gags and it certainly makes sense that the sucky authority figures are now sucky slave drivers. Again, obvious choices but ones that really do work for these characters as we know them.

Bart's tale is the best and funniest, a pitch perfect send up of trashy 80s action and sports movies (tonally, it seems to take a lot from the Rocky franchise). And it again speaks to the theme of the malleability of the classic tales that often doesn't quite work in later anthology episodes. The story of David is one I am more familiar with thank to the comic King David by Kyle Baker, which I highly recommend. Tonally, its a perfect mix of cool and awe-inspiring action as well as some Chuck Jones-style humour. And even though Bart's take barely resembles the story, it does cleverly end a similar way: with David going from amazing hero to tragic villain in his own story. But this is more a loving parody of dumb sequels and stupid tropes and it has the highest laugh per minute ratio, making it the best story.

Jokes I missed before:

I feel like there are still a few flying over my head. Like, I feel like these characters are so specifically designed that it is a reference I'm not getting.



Also the Canaanites are so stupid bit.

Other great jokes:



"This could really spice up those pies I've been making."

"I love you even more than the butterscotch pond or the porno bush."

"What have they done to ya, Gary?"

"These are the juiciest frogs I've ever eaten. Ra has rewarded my cruelty to the slaves."

"But after that, its smooth sailing for the Jews, right?"
"Uuuuh huh, more or less, does that matter?"


"No, it was his son, Goliath 2."
*dead*

"You're King David. I love you because you kill people."



"Although I haven't seen the body, the blast that failed to kill me surely killed the giant."

"Ralph! I thought you were dead."
"Nope."

"To us, he was Goliath the consensus builder."

Other notes:

Dan Castellaneta was clearly having fun as Santa's Little Helper as Goliath (no, not that one, the other one).
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I fear I may be forgetting one but this is the first non-Halloween episode to uses each act to tell a different story.
I believe the one you were forgetting was The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase, which did the three different stories thing prior to this ep but through Troy McClure introducing pilots for three different spin-offs.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
A bit late, but, with regards to Make Room for Lisa:

I hate this episode. It feels like the laziest sitcom plot. Homer heaps abuse on Lisa and, in the end, she apologizes to him.

This. It's so awful. And the thing that makes Lisa realize that she is in the wrong is so bad too. No, Homer, just sitting there is not enough. You are an adult, stay awake, you asshole. Especially when you always sleep on the job, it's not like it's exhausting him in any way.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Mom and Pop Art

The Death of the Author is one of those terms I am familiar with but I've never completely dug into. I understand it as the idea that authorial intent doesn't matter but it rather criticism begins and ends with the work itself. According to the most cursory of glances at the wikipedia page, it also says biographical context of the author also doesn't matter. Its an idea I'm only partially into and I feel like ideas running counter to it might be coming back, particularly "extra-textual" elements. After all, yes, a problematic artist might make good art but its completely understandable about knowledge of the artist can completely colour a view of it. Similarly, "bad" art might be charming if you have a positive opinion of the artist and see something genuine within it. A work of art might itself be "fixed" but the subjectivity of art also means that each exposure can yield different (even if slight) results, because something in the observer and the observer's world has changed and a different world, whether that difference is vast or slight. changes it. When I see something great (or at least thematically interesting) in the Simpsons, I'm never quite sure how much is intended and while I'm interested if it is, I do feel it doesn't matter. And in that, I agree with the Death of the Author... the nature of art can be completely incidental to the intent at times.

In this episode, Homer tries to build a grill and it ends in him accidentally destroying it and in impotent frustration and rage makes a weird mess of bricks, parts and hardened cement. It ends up being discovered by an art dealer who suggests that the messed up grill is a work of art. Homer admits it was an accident but the dealer says it is still art and suggests that Homer is an outsider artist. Homer's art sells and Homer goes all in on being an artist, only to find his next works rejected for being too similar to his previous works. Homer hits a creative wall and despite a trip to the art museum, he can't create. Lisa suggests conceptual art and Homer becomes inspired and ends up flooding the town to make it resemble Venice, a concept inspired by his trip to the art museum. Despite the property damage, everyone in town seems to love it.

Though I didn't mention it, underneath the main plot is the undercurrent that Marge is pretty upset that her dream was deferred long ago and Homer becomes a success without really trying. This is to me the most interesting aspect of the episode and its a little frustrating that it isn't quite satisfying. Homer has to face his own artistic limitations and Marge comes to accept that Homer managed, through intent and true creativity, created a beautiful work of art. But Homer never really appreciates Marge's position in a meaningful way. His attention is called to it but when he should, it ends with yet another joke where Homer ignores the pain of someone he loves. Look, its not like I always need Homer to be sensitive. He is a clod. But Homer is supposed to be a loveable oaf despite his many, many flaws and while this isn't abusive as in Make Room for Lisa, its frustrating that this never properly comes to a head. There's a reconciliation, Homer proves himself to a doubting Marge but admits Marge is the real artist but he never really shows that he sympathizes with her understandable and interesting plight.

On the Marge side, mostly the show has her exasperated but I'm must more interested in this being about sadness. We know that Marge had a lot of potential in many fields. Even going back as The Way We Was, we saw Marge hanging out with people opening her eyes to feminism and other ideas. She may never have made it big but clearly she has snuffed passions that only occasionally re-ignite (for about 23 minutes on Sundays, minus commercials). To me, the most interesting thing is that Marge's frustration is completely understandable but at the same time, Homer's art, accidental as it was, might be legitimate. Art can basically come from anywhere and it can be accidental. Homer wasn't intending to "art" but he expressed himself ON something and that spoke to someone. Meanwhile, Marge is called a good artist in the series but for all her study and toil, she never was recognized on a scale Homer is. And I think if the show managed that with a twinge more genuine melancholy and less "aren't artsy types pretentious and wacky", there's a stronger episode.

I even think it would have made whole scenes that are as they are resonate more, like Marge opening Homer's eyes to the art world. Homer, a complete philistine, is immediately taken with some of the art, even if its for reasons that are alternative to the intent of the artist (like "soup is yummy", "the big pencil must have been owned by a big dude" and "the streets are water!"). Its actually a stronger scene than the rest and the emotional resonance isn't big (its more about goofy Homer), the idea that Homer is affected and it is because Marge, someone with a genuine passion, is sharing it, makes it interesting. Marge is someone who studied and Homer thinks he's a savant but he isn't. But anyone can make art, and that includes Homer. And Homer does eventually make art that takes effort, thought and consideration and that ties in heavily to Marge, who can accept it easier in the end on those terms. There really is a lot of good in the episode that's well-considered but there's something missing a bit in the emotional core to push it beyond simply an amusing lark. It doesn't help that the joke telling is now in the "comfortable rut" phase of using a similar humour formula that no longer feels different but I really think selling Marge's side and having Homer be a bit more empathetic to her frustration would have improved an episode that is otherwise actually kind of insightful about art and artists.

Jokes I missed before:
"Louvre: American Style"

Other great jokes:
"You know, installing your own barbeque it is no harder than building your own aviary or Olympic-sized swimming pool."


"Lighthearted apron not included. Snapping fingers may not make food appear."

"Why must I fail every attempt at masonry."
Me doing crafts with my niece and nephew.

"Smithers, years ago, I had the chance to buy Picasso's Guernica for a song. Luckily that song was White Christmas and by hanging onto it, I made millions."

"To be honest, we are adrift in a sea of decadent luxury and meaningless sex."
"Uh-huh and where might this sea be located."


"Edna, I'm going to pop you a question and I hope the answer is yes... Do you think mother will like this hat pin?"
"...yes"
"Oh, Edna, you've made me the happiest man on Earth."

Other notes:

Isabella Rosellini's character going all in on Homer makes no sense, considering she is very aware that what Homer did was an accident. I think she's supposed to read "competent" (by Springfield terms), but surely she'd at least start gauging his further output instead of giving him an entire show after one publicly displayed piece.

I'm going to say this was an OK episode but it was a lot of fun to dig through and examine. Like, there's a lot going on, more than a lot this season, so that really makes it a bit disappointing that its not better than it is.

Why is it that after years of Simpsons standards of super gluttony, Bart munching on an entire wheel of cheese gives me pause. That boy is going to be stopped up tomorrow.

Homer shaving his shoulders.... speaks to me. I should go no further.

Flanders being jazzed that the wicked are drowned in a flood is another notch in the character's Flanderization. That said, I don't mind the joke to much. I think its just a "this happened in increments" thing.
 

MetManMas

Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I realize this is a cartoon and not real life, but Homer flooding the entire town as a grand gesture/art still doesn't sit well with me. People have lost their homes and lives to floods as huge as what Homer made.
 
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