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

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
A Streetcar Named Marge

I read a Streetcar Named Desire in University. Its been a while, but I vaguely remember it being about a formerly wealthy woman who is now on hard times and is aging (well, by the standards of the time. She's in her thirties) and needs to stay with her sister in New Orleans. There she meets her brother in law Stanley. They instantly dislike each other: she dislikes him for his low class boorishness and he dislikes her for perceived hypocrisy and her high-flalutin' behaviour? Can they put aside their differences to stop a counterfeiting ring? No they can't because A) that doesn't come up and B) it turns out Stanley is an absolute monster of a man, getting drunk and hitting his wife. Soon it becomes a battle of wills and eventually Stanley's bullying leaves Blanche mentally defeated to the point where she needs to be taken to a mental institute. It's not a happy story. Which is why the Simpsons turning it into a fun, poppy musical is such a delightfully subversive gag and one that doesn't feel far removed from the Broadway desire to turn EVERYTHING into a musical.

In this episode of the Simpsons, Marge auditions for the part of Blanche DuBois in the Streetcar Named Desire musical entitled "Oh, Streetcar". Marge seems to fail the audition until the director sees potential in her during a defeated phone call with Homer. Marge has trouble with the performance but finds the her creative furnace fueled by resentments both recent and long-standing toward her husband, who has been especially unsupportive towards her during this project. As Marge comes closer to opening night, Marge feels this resentment intensifying while Homer remains largely unmoved. After the performance, Marge realizes she's gotten through to Homer, though he only kind of figures out that he's been a bit of a Stanley.

This is a stellar episode. The last one was comedy gold and this one is comedy gold mixed with some real pathos. We've seen Homer be a jerk before and I feel like we've seen him be worse in spurts, but this is a consistently long period of awful for him through the whole episode. Usually, the show might have him realize that there's some tension and maybe blame the play before moving on but here its all about his oblivious cruelty rather than any intended maliciousness. In "Colonel Homer", his obliviousness makes him much more forgivable to what he puts Marge through. He just wants to help someone and doesn't realize he's hurting Marge's feelings. Here, it makes him look VERY bad. Its not a good natured obliviousness, its one that is complete bullying and we feel for Marge throughout. This time, it isn't Homer's story, its Marge's and I feel while episodes have taken Homer to task for being the weaker half of the relationship before, this indictment takes no time to look at things from Homer's perspective until the end when he is truly moved and he and Marge can connect again.

I think this still works a lot better than a lot of later "jerk Homer" episodes, because those later ones are often about his choice (and often the redemption seems forced into some grand gesture). Here, its a series of awful micro-aggressions (and occasional regular aggressions) one after another after another in short succession in pretty much any given scene. He's unsupportive because he is happy with his status quo and is too selfish to think about those in his life who might feel the need for change. Homer doesn't get redemption in a grand gesture but there is some reconciliation in his recognition of Marge's acting and his respect for it and the fact that he was moved. It really hurts us to see Marge beaten down through the episode but Homer proves despite the comparison's he's certainly better than Stanley (certainly a low bar to be sure). Obviously part of it is because his attacks are not physical and he isn't conspiring to break someone down. But also because he can be moved and connected with and he can be made to see and regret his own selfishness.

This episode is also one of the most culture heavy episodes. The A-plot is about a classic play and the b-plot is an homage to the the Great Escape, filtered through a lens of Ayn Rand and followed up with a parody of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. Most of this went over my head as a kid in all quadrants but it didn't stop it from being a laugh riot from beginning to end while still having an empathetic look at Marge's relationship with her unintentionally cruel husband. But when you know more about the pop culture being referenced, things are enhanced, particularly the Ayn Rand School for Tots. The entire musical is also great and knowing the sad story makes the upbeat musical even better. The tragic line of "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers", which is loaded with meaning from everything we know about Blanche and how "strangers" have treated her in the play and what her final fate is to be, has its soul-crushing weight and irony removed with a kicky musical number that lists what the kindness of strangers can do that is COMPLETELY AND SPECIFICALLY (buck up your spirits, shield you from danger, a friend you've never met...) antithetical to the tragedy we just watched. Its beautiful.


Jon Lovitz is in the episode playing two roles and kills it in both. While I wouldn't call other of them subtle or nuanced, I will say that his portrayal of Mrs. Sinclair is surprisingly toned down considering he had to do falsetto for a villainess-type. And something I noticed is that Jon Lovitz's characters often, though definitely not exclusively, have connections to Marge. I wonder if that's a coincidence or if they found that Lovitz and Kavner just played really well off of each other. As Llewellyn Sinclair, Lovitz plays a role similar to Professor Lombardo in "Brush with Greatness" as someone supporting Marge creatively. Here there's a little more friction as he fights for Marge to get the fire out of her belly but he's generally a good guy and perhaps a little too passionate, as his direction of "Hats Off To Hanukkah" caused more than one child to cry. Still, the review "Play Enjoyed By All" does speak for itself.


I really feel like Marge is often secretly one of the show's best joke machines in the show, exhibiting a mix of unexpected loopiness and weariness and a love of all things bland. But while the show often retroactively paints her as a "nag" (particularly in "Bart's Inner Child"), in the moment, she's often not just a straight man but a well-rounded, sympathetic character. There are lots of shows that have that beautiful, sensible wife with a silly shlubby hushand but there's so much more going on with Marge. Like the Simpsons themselves, I feel the audience often doesn't give her enough respect for what a great character she is, especially in episodes like this.

Jokes I missed before:

Even after figuring out who Ayn Rand was, I did miss these posters.


Also, there's actually two Homer playing with his Gameboy bits in this episode and I forgot about the first one (presumably cut for syndication).

Other great bits:

The beauty pageant opening with Janis Ian's "At Seventeen" transforming from a confession of teenage loneliness to a celebration of popularity is a perfect parody of missing the point of a song (which continues FREQUENTLY in politics to this day. Do you think "A kinder, gentler machine gun hand" isn't a fucking takedown of modern first world countries? And America in particular).

"I made some peanut butter brownies for the play."
"Well, would anyone else like a bite of banality?"
"I would."
Me too, Wiggum.

"You know what a baby's saying when she reaches for a bottle?"
"Baba?"


Killer reveal.

"There's nothing about bowling in the play. Oh, wait, there is."
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Homer the Heretic

I became an atheist around age 13. I was never really that interested in religion. I was raised Catholic and Dad didn't seem to care. He went to church with us but when me and my sister stopped going, he clearly didn't feel the need to. When I stopped believing in God, I developed a pretty strong fear of death to the point where I had many nights literally whimpering to myself about my mortality. That's probably going to happen again in the not too distant future. But I never really got anything out of church. There were sermons but I was usually in my own head. I could tell you very little about the actual religion I was raised in except communion was a thing. When I stopped going in my teens (occasionally going for Mom's sake), it felt so great to be freed from the shackles not of some religion. I didn't care about that. I just didn't like the chore and obligation of ostensibly taking part in a weekly joining of a community I had absolutely no investment in. I suppose that's why I can't connect to the message of a mostly great episode of the Simpsons.

In this episode, Homer decides not to go to church and has what he considers to be the best morning of his life. He decides to forego church altogether, which causes a rift between him and Marge and starts his own personal religion to himself. He insults various other people belonging to other religions along the way but after nearly burning his own house down, is saved by those same people.

The Simpsons has always presented religion more regularly than most other successful sitcoms before or since and in its early season upheld some of the values of said religion in a way that is sometimes profound. This, on the other hand, feels like some weird messaging. Its still a very funny episode but in terms of a story, its message falls on deaf ears. Don't get me wrong, in the third act, Homer acts like a condescending asshole towards people of other faiths and learns a lesson about being respectful. Hey, that's fine. But as self-indulgent as Homer is being, it more or less comes down to him... not wanting to go to church. There's very little strong defense of organized religion in the episode: no one seems to actually get anything out of church in the episode and Homer is constantly being told he should go by Marge. The episode doesn't give us a really strong reason why he should.

There are hints of a stronger character struggle. The struggle between a non-believing husband and a faithful wife and how it effects the kids is a strong dilemma to build an episode on. The third act meanness of Homer towards Krusty and Apu does feel like something he should get a comeuppance for but that feels like its supposed to be a culmination of what Homer's "wicked"ness and I just can't buy it. I can respect a person's faith and religion but it seems like Homer falling out with the rest of the "flock" is not presented in a way where I see an argument for him coming back. It could be in what the "values" of the religion are but considering how impotent and uninteresting those sermons by Lovejoy are, there's very little evidence of that and the decency is regular human decency rather than something specifically informed by the character's religious beliefs. Its a strangely built episode to me because I really feel the message is improperly and inconsistently conveyed.

I feel like the Simpsons have tackled those values better in other episodes. Even if episodes like the one where Homer steals cable is a little preachy, the view is clear to me. More interesting is the "Listen Lady" episode, which tackles my issue: can Reverend Lovejoy tap into his love of religion to win back his flock. Or the episode with the "angel" where Lisa is correct in her assumption of a hoax but also is condescending and mocking of those who believe in it. But this one feels like the proper point might have been in the first draft and was lost in interest of creating a strong joke machine. Even Homer starting a personal religion is kind of vague-ish. It seems like it could have been an episode about learning that a relationship to God isn't what he can do for you or even what you can do for him but what we can do for each other. That's sort of in there at the end, but it isn't the struggle of the episode.

But Homer the Heretic is still funny as Hell. Homer's perfect morning is wonderfully small potatoes but still charmingly relatable. Who doesn't want to be bundled like a big cinnamon bun, even if they must succumb to the urge to pee. All of the good things that happen as so small, the climax is Homer finding a penny. I wish I could enjoy my mornings like that. Conversely, the Simpsons' Hellish mass is also a delight, with the best part being the Reverend's description of Hell providing warmth for the Simpsons.

There is also the first of a recurring character... sort of. Its God's first appearance on the show, the only character with five fingers. As he often does, he only appears in Homer's help Homer rationalize his decision. I love that Homer's description of him is that of a celebrity. "Perfect teeth, nice smell, a class act".

Now, I might have complaints about what I feel is a muddled, ineffective and maybe insincere message but luckily the quality of the show doesn't begin or end with it. I certainly was scratching my head about it this outing but I still enjoyed myself the entire viewing and found it to remain a very funny episode. After writing most of this review, I do what I often do and read the AV club review and while I agree with him on the strength of the comedy and the opening in which the righteous are punished for their loyalty while Homer is rewarded for his disloyalty, I just can't see it as some great statement about religion, especially when it sets up the return to the flock as the correct choice. I feel that whatever the intent might have been, this was clearly written in a room full of people who didn't truly care about Homer's journey in any way beyond a vehicle for jokes. And frankly, I can't say I blame them.

Jokes I missed before:

A reference to Morgana the Kissing Bandit, who I am only kind of aware of now.

Other great jokes:

"Whether they be Christian, Jew or... miscellaneous" (Lovejoy's condescending "that's just super" is a perfect topper)


Flanders trying to sing to Homer and it ends in a 70s-style car chase is the perfect kind of weird tangent that Family Guy basically wants to be all the time and will NEVER be as good at.




Other stuff:

I'm curious if anyone got anything different out of this episode than I did in terms of meaning.
 

jpfriction

You'll never take my hat away
I was always curious why Flanders was home to save Homer and not at church like everyone else.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Lisa the Beauty Queen

When I was a kid under ten, I had a seemingly constantly runny nose I was sensitive about. When I went to my sister's Junior High School Festival, there was a caricaturist who drew a picture for me. I don't think he was expecting it to make me cry. See, he drew me with a pronounced philtrum which I took to be a little droplet of snot. I was very hurt by this and I'm sure the poor artist felt bad about it. I may have taken home some loose insecticons I won in some sort of fishing game, but my ego was pretty bruised. I'm still sensitive with how I look. I don't think I'm "ugly", but I tend not to see many qualities in the mirror that are conventionally "attractive". Its not shallow to be concerned about one's looks. We all want to present our best self and want it to reflect the good stuff we feel inside, so it can feel discouraging if in comparison to some societal expectation we are found wanting.

In this episode, Lisa is demoralized by a caricature at the Springfield Elementary Fair (The Happiest Place on Earth) and Homer, wanting to cheer her up and prove that she's pretty, signs her up for a beauty pageant. Lisa doesn't want to but eventually agrees and ends up getting into it. Though initially winning only second place, Lisa becomes "Little Miss Springfield" after the winner is struck by lightning. At first, Lisa enjoys the attention but soon finds her position is being used for a nefarious purpose and rebels.

I feel like beauty pageants are a tradition that I NEVER understood the appeal of. Seems like the rest of society is shrugging too because as I understand it, they are certainly less popular. I remember when I was a kid, they might appear on TV somehow but I feel like the world has passed the beauty contest by. Thanks a lot, millennials! I guess they are still around on a smaller scale. I feel like the world of "Toddlers and Tiaras" is still out there, much to my deep concern. But this episode has a lot to say about finding self-confidence in different places.

When the episode begins, Lisa feels ugly and Homer, mostly being a good if boneheaded dad in the episode, won't stop until Lisa feels good about herself again. Signing her up for Little Miss Springfield is definitely the wrong move but when Lisa learns about her dad's sacrifice, she immediately agrees to try and try she does. Interestingly, everyone in the family brings something to Lisa to help her: Homer gets the ball rolling, Marge takes Lisa out to get treatments and styling and Bart teaches poise and the proper attitude and protocol. Yet after everything, despite the fact that she is "officially" the second prettiest girl in town according to... a very random assortment of judges (including an ice cream lady from a couple scenes back), she finds herself a little hurt by the loss. But who wouldn't be? Losing sucks, even if in doing so you learn you are actually pretty great at something.

But Lisa really gets her confidence when Amber Dempsey, the first place winner, is struck by lightning. Lisa picks up her duties and is beloved but soon finds herself in an ugly situation. Its probably a bad sign when you are there to deport immigrants. Seriously, my thought process in this darkly funny scene was "wait, do they really want extra attention for this", then remembering American politics coming to the conclusion "100%". But Lisa draws the line when she's asked to shill smokes for Laramie cigarettes. Lisa fights back and eventually is so outspoken that a technicality is used to strip her of her title.

The episode is great. I think it would be easy to say "looks aren't the most important thing". This is true, but at the same time, I think we want to be thought of as good looking in some way, generally. But what this really is about is Lisa finding that she is appreciated for her looks and charm and finding that means little if she's being used her nefarious ends. What really makes her feel good about herself is the kind of stuff Lisa is always great at: effecting change, having the confidence and courage of her convictions to fight against injustice. During the pageant she says she wants to make Springfield a better place. I know she means it when she says it. That's who Lisa is. But she is saying it there as a vague idea. When presented with the reality, she hesitates for a bit, but then sees not even what she CAN do but what she NEEDS to do, to speak out against injustices.

Its a damned shame some later episodes forget that she's the most sympathetic character to dunk on liberals for some reason because Lisa is a downright aspirational figure. She has her faults and her feet of clay at times but generally she is a person to emulate. Despite her deep want to authoritarian acceptance from teachers, she won't be silenced if she sees something that needs speaking to. Personally, I'm a shy guy and I don't trust myself to speak out against things properly some times and am too afraid of making people angry, so this 8 year old girl is someone I still want to be when I grow up.

Jokes I missed before:

There's a gag I forgot about where Otto sends a fair ride into the school. I remember seeing the aftermath before but not the joke so it must have been cut for syndication. Frankly, I'm finding some of the syndication cuts to be no big loss, with the exception of the first Halloween episode.

However, its immediately followed by another joke that works a bit better where one of the fair attractions is really just Jimbo and company beating you up and taking your money. But Milhouse admits, said "spookhouse" is "scary".

Other great jokes:


How the wheel turns, huh?

"You see the circular patterns on the field? That's from central pivot irrigation."
"WOW!"
Golden Age Simpsons was PERFECT at writing the most specific and hilariously boring shit.

The whole "Cute as a bug's ear" bit. I love Homer happily taking his dad's bile to prove a loving point to his daughter.

The start of the Little Miss Springfield Pageant where a father is tossing his daughter in the air, starts talking to the camera and the girl doesn't come down.

"I hardily endorse this event or product"
Someone didn't learn anything from the season premiere.

Those few seconds where Lisa and Marge give a blank faced stare in the face of Bart's shockingly deep knowledge of beauty technique.

"Dad, do you know anything else about women?"
"No, that's it."

"T is for her tooth-filled mouth
T is for her tooth-filled mouth"

Big football players being intimidated by four nerds is great but the follow up is even better.



Other notes:

Bart can really rock high heels.



The jokes in the last scene are all great. Homer writing "OK" in the section "do not write in this space" and constant clips of a baby goat. But I also love how economically it also gets through what could be lengthy expository reveals and the joke is we essentially don't see what could have been the climax to Lisa's story.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Meanwhile, in the future

Watched Saddlesore Galactica last night. May be up there with Principal and the Pauper for the unjustly derided episodes. Nothing but good things to say about it.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Treehouse of Horror III

I love the genre of horror now but it took me a long time to really get into it. As a kid, I couldn't go near things that had a whiff of horror, which is understandable. In particular, I thought Chucky from the Child's Play series of films was the scariest thing ever and even a glimpse of him sent me into a panic. It wasn't until years later that I actually saw the films and... none of them are actually scary. Chucky himself is good actor Brad Dourif doing a Nicholson impression. Also, Chucky's whole deal is needlessly convoluted from the jump. I almost think he would be scarier if his evil was unexplained but his deal is that he's a wise cracking serial killer with voodoo powers and his end goal is to body jump into a child and its all very dumb. That's not to say they are BAD movies... but they aren't good, really. Still, the first two are quite watchable for what they are and the second one has a legitimately funny gag.


Chucky has many skills but pokerface isn't one of them. Anyway, despite ragging on the franchise, I can't deny the impact its had on my psyche. Seriously, I don't get scared watching it but if I'm going to, even for that silly clip, my brain seizes up for a split second. Now, I love horror and it is so rare that I get scared even during a good horror film that I genuinely get excited and feel weird when it happens. The last time was watching the original Black Christmas (and around the same time, the first 20 minutes of When a Stranger Calls, which was originally its own short film). Both tell "the baby sitter story" where "the call is coming from inside the house" and both do it perfectly. Very little music and in "When a Stranger Calls" does it, the burn is very slow so the dread and the feeling of isolation is palpable. The rest of the movie is kind of a mess that tries different things, none quite as successful as the first act. Sorry, I'm digressing. Anyway, its clear that the writers of the Simpsons, at least collectively, have a huge swath of love for horror and genre film based on their Halloween specials, like this one.

In this episode, the family tells scary stories at a Halloween party: Lisa tells the tale of an evil Krusty Doll, Grandpa retells King Kong and Bart tells a story about zombies running amok in Springfield.

I think a lot of kids my age assumed that the first story was intended to be a spoof of Child's Play but while I have no doubt that played a key role in keeping the killer doll trope in people's minds, the only aspect of that I can actually see in the telling is that the doll is a birthday gift. In fact, while there are a few moments that spoof the last scary segment in the Trilogy of Terror anthology TV movie (most famous for its scary weird story about a killer "Zuni Fetish Doll" that has unexpected plans for its victim), a lot of the structure and jokes are more a reference to "Living Doll", the Talky Tina episode of the Twilight Zone, featuring classic voice actor "June Foray" as the titular doll who threatens an abusive dad and gives him what he deserves.


The King Kong spoof features even more homages to the original. Obviously that's in part because it is spoofing one specific film rather than a bunch of media with similar themes but it is also specific within that, such as those weird close ups of King Homer's smiling face, very similar to the Kong in the original.


Out of all of them, this feels more like a Mad Magazine take on the story where the original story happens and a lot of jokes and comments are hung off of it until the story goes a different direction in the final panels. But I feel like there are a lot of loving specifics to the original (which I have still yet to see. Someday, maybe.).

The zombie story is a bit like the first in that rather than being a spoof of a specific zombie film, it takes a lot of different elements from the genre. Its very much a combination of the Romero mythos minus pretty much any social commentary (which makes sense since Bart would in no way be grappling with that aspect of the story in those films) and the much-more Bart Simpson-like film The Return of the Living Dead. Return is the film that famously added brain-eating to the zombie mythos and is a weird nihilistic horror comedy and its pretty good. While the Romero films where dark mirrors into the contemporary human soul (the 68 Night of the Living Dead was about revolution, the 70s Dawn of the Dead was about consumer culture, the 2000s Land of the Dead was about the war between the haves and have-nots, the 80s Day of the Dead was... actually I still haven't seen it), The Return of the Living Dead was a joyfully mean-spirited party anthem to human destruction, both self and otherwise.


Also, weirdly, it incorporates the idea that the original Night of the Living Dead "is based on a true story" within the film.

While the Simpsons Halloween shorts aren't completely divorced from ideas like "theme" and "character", they tend more to be about the joy of taking our already established characters and bouncing them off silly situations. There are certainly parallels: Homer is put in the place of the Bad Dad from the Twilight Zone and the ape-like Kong. But it also delights in the idea that while Homer as King Kong would be destructive, he doesn't really have the drive to ascend an entire building.

But yeah, this is all about the jokes and this episode is chalk full of classics. The entire exchange with the Asian mystic stereotype is one of the all time greatest comedy bits of all time. Its incredibly simple, doesn't overstay its welcome and has the perfect 1-2 punch of endings of revealing Homer's stupidity and Homer being ready for the sketch to end. So legendary is it that it is used in one of the most heartbreaking comic strips around by Steven Universe's Rebecca Sugar.

But that's not all. There's Candy Apple Island, "Someone set this doll to evil.", "Hey monkey, wanna peanut? I SAID ONE!", "He was a zombie?", "Is this the end of zombie Shakespeare?" If you are looking for all jokes and no emotional filler, The Treehouse of Horror III is God Tier Simpsons silliness.

Jokes I didn't get before:
Homer cocking a gun before yelling "To the book depository" didn't click for me as a JFK assassination reference before.

There are also some cut for syndication jokes I forgot about including Homer swearing on a book of carpet samples and Carl accidentally shooting Lenny and Lenny getting pissy about it before he dies.

Other great bits:

"Scientists have announced that Springfield's air is only dangerous to children and the elderly". Having lived in Beijing, I've lived this.

"The doll's trying to kill me and the toaster's been laughing at me!" I don't know if this is referencing anything, but I love it as a non-sequitor.

Mr. Burns little self-satisfied noise after Marge is kidnapped.

"If we get him alive, we can put him on Broadway. Dead, we can sell monkey stew to the army."

Lenny's slightly annoyed "Quit eatin' me." as if he's still in Power Plant mode. Similarly Marge's "Oh, hi" when he pops outside her window.

I literally laughed the second before "Look at the size of that platform" because I love the joke so much.

"I remember when Al Jolston ran amok at the Winter Garden and climbed the Chrystler Building. After that, he couldn't get arrested in this town."

"Or write parents brains on a three by five card and send it to..." I love how the flesh hungry zombie is still a showbiz professional.

Other notes:

The kids open complaining that they are at a party instead of trick of treating. Sadly, this year we probably won't even get those things.

Man, this is a needlessly awkwardly framed shot.



The "no one wants nudes of Whoopi Goldberg" is some mean body shaming joke that I can do without.

For years I had NO idea was Flanders was saying when he invited those zombies in. He was calling one of them by name: "Sue Dolkes". I always thought he was saying an exclamation I couldn't parse.

Its a shame there isn't much in the way of a Halloween for kids this year but this episode already has me excited to watch some horror and monster movies. Maybe I'll finally get around to King Kong.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie

Discipline is hard. I've never been a good disciplinarian as an ESL teacher and as a nanny its proven to be tricky. Finding the sweet spot between being tough but not being mean. Knowing when to relent and when to hold fast. Figuring out when progress is being made or when I'm just making the kid feel bad. And with my niece struggling with a learning disability that can make communication hard (particularly in the output department), its always tough. And I have a soft spot for my sobbing niece. But I also don't want her to rely on avoidance strategies when it will be better for her to tackle certain things head on. And in this episode of the Simpsons, Homer struggles with a similar issue.

In this episode of the Simpsons, Homer and Marge fret over how to discipline their son. Homer quickly gets tricked by Bart every sparring session and seems to have given up. But when Bart's negligence results in Maggie endangered and the family car destroyed, Homer is moved to lay down his biggest punishment yet: Forever banned from seeing the Itchy and Scratchy movie, coming to a theatre near you. Will Homer cave?

With season four, the show continues to hit it out of the park. Here, we've returned to a much more emotionally grounded and deceptively simple story. And that's funny because its a Swartzwelder joint and while he has written episodes that fall under that umbrella, I think of him as an absurdist first and foremost. But this is a great Homer and Bart episode. Homer is a terrible disciplinarian in that he's constantly teaching the wrong lessons or is easily distracted or is just too mean sometimes. But he picks the perfect punishment for Bart in this episode, one that makes an impact and isn't too cruel. But Bart has trouble seeing it that way. Too him, this is a big cultural event, one Lisa compares to the moon landing. But of course, though the quality of the film is undisputed through the film, its just a movie.

It also captures perfectly the Hollywood hype machine in full swing, with the film being built up to be the greatest thing ever and the little kid brain excited beyond measure to see it. I certainly remember that experience more than once. I mean, don't get me wrong, I still get excited for a new Marvel trailer, but I could never have that level of "need to see it opening night" mixed with pure excitement. Its like how I rarely feel excited by action movies the way I used to as a kid where they were exciting and sort of scary. When you get older, the feeling isn't as visceral but as a kid it is extremely potent.

So Homer's mission is to hold fast and when he finally does, he's actually a good dad through the episode. He shares his sympathy with Bart rather than lording it over him, he tries to give him alternatives and when Marge and Lisa come to make a case for the end of the punishment, Homer understandably can't, not out of anger or a power trip but because he knows it will become another unfullfilled punishment. Homer was able to ignore the other stuff when it was mindless destruction but in both busting up the car and more importantly, letting Maggie get behind the wheel (so many "hows" for that predicament) in a situation that could have killed her, Homer takes it very seriously. And Serious Homer is surprisingly effective.

In the end, Bart tells Homer he won but Homer says they won. And its true, a good punishment should be about education rather than reprisal. This wasn't about making Bart suffer but in seeing consequences of his actions and mischief. Bart will be back to his usual mischief next week but in this episode, Homer made a difference in a way that was hard for both of them. When Marge and Lisa confront Homer about his punishment, he seems well aware that Bart feels bad. Though certainly not as much, Homer is going through some things with them. And in the cut to the future, Homer seems to have made a difference. Though considering what counts for a Justice of the Supreme Court these days, Bart might be overqualified.

Jokes I missed before:

Another cut for syndication I forgot.


Other Great Jokes:
"Dad, you and your stories: Bart broke my teeth. The nurses are stealing my money. The thing on my neck is getting better."

"Since you broke Grandpa's teeth, he gets to break yours."
"Oh, this is going to be sweet."

"53% new footage!"

"Aw, isn't that cute, a baby driving a car... and there's a dog driving a bus."

"When I was a boy I wanted a catchers mitt, but my Dad wouldn't get it for me. So I held my breath until I passed out and hit my head on the coffee table. The Doctor though I might have brain damage."
"Dad, what's the point of this story."
"I like stories."

The scene from the Itchy and Scratchy Movie at the end is pretty great.

Other notes:

Again, I feel like the Supreme Court thing is less impressive now. Still, RBG for life.

Ralph's whole deal is still vague. I feel like there are two Ralph's who are eventually merged into one this season.

While Liza really couldn't open a movie any more, I think both Minelli and Mickey Rourke have regained some cultural cache since this episode's dunking on them.
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
"What if one of us has been good and one of us has been bad?"
"Poison pizza."
"Ohh no, I'm not making two stops!"
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Marge Gets a Job

I am a nanny to my sister's kids in these COVID times and its not always easy. With her an her partner at home all the time, me and the kids can't make all the noise we want and while they certainly aren't "over my shoulder" in any way, it does feel a little awkward for them to be around at times. Its so much easier when we have our run of the place. A little bit of personal space. Now I've never been in a relationship, but I definitely get the idea that a couple might want some space from each other. Its been a problem with the pandemic and a lot of couples have found themselves having to spend more time than they wanted when one or both used to get some breathing room at work.

In this episode, the Simpsons find out that one side of their house is sinking and need a LOT of money to repair the foundation. Marge finds herself getting a job at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, one she is woefully unqualified for (making her a perfect fit, really). But things seem to look good for her career when Mr. Burns takes an interest and implements some of her policy ideas. However, that interest is that of a romantic nature and when that comes to the fore, Marge is fired and the Simpsons try to sue Mr. Burns for sexual harassment.

This is an interesting episode. Its very funny and I think it has some interesting things to say but it never finishes its thought, exactly. The first act is talk of Homer and Marge working together at the power plant. Marge is doing it for the money but she admits there's more going on and being a homemaker has left her feeling isolated. Homer, on the other hand, as always, likes the current arrangement and likes having some time away from his family at work. They each have an argument that it wouldn't be fair to dismiss but man does Homer keep stepping in it when he raises his objections. Homer is kinda jerky, but I feel his wants are understandable, if not feasible considering they need the money.

The second half is more about sexual harassment in the workplace. Here, Mr. Burns isn't straight up making advances until the end but he is the kind of selfish jerk who thinks he can fire an employee for not pleasing him. The show doesn't out and say it, but he probably feels like he is owed Marge for trying to impress her by taking her suggestions and trying to mold the plant based on her suggestions. I feel like a lot of shows in the 90s were tackling sexual harassment in the workplace but I think the smart thing about how the Simpsons does it is Burns never really loses his battle, which is probably despairing accurate. He instantly wins his "case" when Lionel Hutz flees in fear of his high priced lawyers. In the end, Marge is still fired and the Simpsons happy ending is purely dependent on Mr. Burns' whims. But the episode treats it generally as a happy ending as Burns acquiesces seeing Homer's love for Marge.

The turn in the end is pretty sudden, too. Homer's act is brave to stand up to his boss but the writing doesn't quite sell Burns being moved by Homer's actions. I feel like with a little massaging and maybe dropping the b-plot in favor of more time on the a-plot might give time to really work with the frustration of the Simpsons' plight or do more work on how Burns' might be moved by Homer's love for his wife. Or you could even make a little bit of a more cynical ending by really putting a button on how Burns with his money and privilege can't be beaten by the Simpsons, at least in the legal sense.

Its still a very good episode, I just feel like the episode could have dived deeper into its ideas. But the b-plot feels a bit weak by this era's standards, in which Bart keeps pretending to be sick to avoid a test. There's funny stuff in there. such as the Krusty show ("She thinks you're trying to steal her eggs" "But I only are one") and Mrs. Krabappel's well animated prodding Bart with a stick, but it really feels like episode filler. On the other hand, the runner that Lisa did TOO good a job padding Marge's resume works all over, with that feeling overwhelmed in a new job.

Marge Gets a Job is another strong episode from a strong season but I see two or three stronger episodes hiding in there. This nearly isn't as bad as latterday Simpsons, where it felt like they constantly had good ideas to explore and yet were such a machine that the jokes are taking all the air in the room and there's no time for exploration or thought or opinion. I mean, it could be worse: a few seasons back ended with an opinion that was just the worst take (Yeah, I'm talking about "What can you do?"). But Simpsons is definitely getting away from some of its more human stories in favor of jokes. Recently I re-watched Conan O'Brien talking with other Simpsons writers and it actually is enlightening: the young writers like Conan were more interested in pushing comedic boundaries while the producers like Sam Simon and James L Brook constantly wanted to reinforce the family/human element. Frankly, this era with its push and pull mostly works: a lot of the episodes are still wacky as Hell, but with a strong emotional thrust. Here was have an episode that has a fair amount of both to a good end, but it also feels to me like it never achieves its full potential.

Jokes I missed before:

"Huh, I thought Muddy Waters wrote that song."

Other great jokes:
Me, when I have to figure out anything ever.

I love how unsurly Surly Joe is. He is in fact quite reasonable and friendly, which Homer meets with furious anger.



Mr. Burns' heart beating like a "jackhammer".


Those three lost souls kill me.

Also, for someone who likes all the clever and outlandish jokes, somehow I laughed the hardest at Tom Jones getting knocked in the head by an automatic door. What does this say about me?

Lionel Hutz is always gold.

Other notes:
The Curies attacking Tokyo always guaranteed I would always remember who Marie Curie is.

Listened to a bunch of Tom Jones while writing this. That motherfucker can BRING IT!
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
Not to the degree of the commercial for Spiffy (Quoth the Raven; What A Shine), but Troys instructional video is one of my favourite Phil Hartman bits in the show.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
New Kid on the Block

Romance isn't really my thing. I love romantic stories but I've never had a real romantic experience in real life. I think I've wanted to since I was young, proclaiming a crush on several girls in class in grades 2 and 3 but I think that was just me liking the idea of a crush as I'd seen it on TV. In junior high and high school I was too shy and I never really got over that when I got to University. I've met people who I thought "Oh, maybe this person would be cool to date" but it usually turned out they were already with someone and we would just be good friends. Which is cool, because I was never in love with said people, they just seemed like cool people to spend time with in some capacity. So for me, love is generally an intimidating idea. Part of it is being afraid of being hurt but I'm also afraid I'm too selfish and would just hurt someone else. Like, they would be much more invested and I would just feel like I'm too scared to call it off or something. But yeah, the fear of heartache, mine or someone else's, is something that occupies my thoughts of potential romance.

In this episode, the Simpsons get new neighbors: Ruth Powers and her daughter Laura. When Bart meets her, he falls instantly in love, but she's a teenager while he's just a kid. Bart strives to be noticed, trying to get advice from other adults but to no avail. Even worse, she ends up getting a boyfriend: Jimbo Jones, a bully from school. Meanwhile, Homer is kicked out of an all-you-can-eat restaurant and takes them to court for not providing him with all he could eat.

Bart falling in love episodes end up become a dime a dozen as the show goes on, to the point where Bart must revisit all his old GFs, which is a Hell of a thing for a 10 year old boy. I think this is the only one where it is truly unrequited and its been a while since I've seen some of the other ones, but I suspect this is the best one. Probably because it works to capture the frustration of being in love with someone who just can't see you the same way you see them. I also think Laura is probably the best constructed of these characters, with a lot of little details that aren't outright said but implied, like her being an army brat. I feel in making someone for Bart to fall in love with, while they gave her a lot of Bart's mischievous qualities, she also feels very much her own character and someone "cool" for Bart to fall for, in that she seems like she would be aspirational for him.

I will say the episode is strong with character stuff but in story telling terms it ends with some romantic comedy tropes that don't work so well any more. I feel like there was a big period where romantic comedies involved some guy trying to make a girl see that her current boyfriend was a jerk and this has sort of the same path. And while Jimbo is a jerk, Bart's plan doesn't reveal that so much as it reveals Jimbo is weak and uncool. Which might be a good reason to break up with someone but I feel like we are past the "save you from your bad boyfriend" trope, as it was in those days.

Nonetheless, Bart's rapport with Laura is genuinely charming and it feels very similar to what would be explored a lot better in Gravity Falls with Dipper and Wendy. Of course, Gravity Falls had the course of many episodes to explore it and while this is a good episode, I don't feel like there was much more here to mine. But watching it again, its the first thing that came to mind. Interestingly, she's also a kind of cool that seems specifically 90s but also sort of timeless with her sarcasm and army jacket and whatnot. Laura is voiced by Sara Gilbert and she gives the character a voice that feels particular to her character and perfectly still a kid but also, despite her impishness, still mature in every way compared to Bart. I feel like there are some actors who end up doing kids in Springfield and while they aren't acting poorly, their voice is just... their voice. Its actually not surprising considering how little the kids of Springfield act like regular kids most of the time.

The episode was written by Conan O'Brien and that surprised me a bit. This episode was more of a character-focused one and I think of him more as a gag man, particularly in what is considered to be among the series best episodes, "Marge Vs. The Monorail". If you were to ask me to guess the writer, I would have assumed Jon Vitti or Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein. The most Conan it feels is actually in the very funny b-plot where Homer goes to court over an all you can eat restaurant. This one really is just a joke machine about Homer's gluttony and courtroom cliches. Its also one of the few times were Lionel Hutz straight up wins a case by himself (thanks in no small part by a well selected jury). Marge tearfully explaining how the rest of the evening went is gold ("And when you couldn't find one?" "We went fishing.") and the introduction of Captain MacCallister (AKA the Sea Captain) is great. He's such an odd character but he clearly somehow had staying power with the writers.

Jokes I missed before:

I feel like it must have been cut for syndication by Ruth Powers having hired "Clumsy Student Movers". Seems like a bad thing to name your company but remember "Rent-A-Wreck" was an actual business.

Other great jokes:

I like the Sea Captain but he's NEVER been funnier than in the ad when he asks someone if they want more ice tea, the person sedately says "OK, sure." and they are met with an uproarious and passionate sailor laugh.

"I guess I can have some Tic Tacs from my purse."
"Excellent choice, ma'am."

"This is the most blatant case of fraudulent advertising since my case against the never ending story".

"Zookeeper, zookeeper! Those monkeys are killing each other!"
"They're having sex."
"Oh"

Other Notes:

The exit of the Winfields from the series. Good bye, you will never be remembered. Meanwhile, Ruth Powers actually more speaking roles (along with a lot of background appearances).

"The Two Guys from Kabul" certainly feels like its from a different era with a tone not of "foreign food is bad" but "a business of foreign food does badly". I feel that kind of thing isn't the case anymore. Yeah, there are still lots of people who are scared of foreign food but I feel like an assumption that it wouldn't speak to the masses doesn't really work as a gag.
 

jpfriction

You'll never take my hat away
Solid Sea Captain. Nothing will ever beat the hot pants exchange in my heart, though.

I also enjoy “Two glass eyes” *tink tink
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Those are two elite tier Sea Captain moments. Hard to beat (if not impossible).

"Ah, Squiddy, I got nothing against you, I just heard there was gold in your belly." is another good one.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Mr. Plow

Ah, Winter. The worst season. Now, I don't hate any season, Winter is simply the worst simply because it is the least fun to weather and it makes getting around hard. I feel like I like it more than some. I love when it is snowing. I just don't like trudging through it. And Winter is fun for the first month or so, but then it gets pretty monotonous and in my part of the country takes forever to go away. The weather is currently cooling and I can feel the crisp fall arriving, which I love, but I also know that the cold, lonely winter is just around the corner. Its going to be even worse in the pandemic times, where if we want to get out, its best to be outside with a lot of space. I'm just glad I was able to snag a copy of Ringfit Adventure before the dreaded new season arrives. But every inconvenience can be an opportunity in disguise, as in this episode.

In this episode, Homer ruins both family cars and ends up buying a plow in the hopes of paying it off plowing driveways. It turns out its a job he's good at and he becomes a local hero. When Barney wishes he could be like Homer, Homer gives him a pep talk that inspires him to make something of himself. Unfortunately, he does that by becoming Homer's primary competition and it doesn't take him long to completely usurp Homer as the #1 plowman in town. In an attempt to get rid of the competition, Homer calls in a fake job at Forbidding Widow's Peak, only for Barney to be trapped. Homer is the only one who can rescue him and must take a perilous journey to do so.

I will say this episode is kind of sly about how it gets to its second act break where Barney emerges as the Plow King. By this point, the series has established a big cast and appearances by characters like Grandpa are just comedy moments passing through. Barney seems the same way but its actually not just telling a joke, its establishing Barney as a loser figure, Homer's unfortunate friend who has even less class and dignity than Homer. But it does it without pathos so it never feels overtly like it is going to enter the main plot until it does. Even Barney's second appearance feels like a joke, albeit one with an inspiring speech by Homer. But when Barney is revealed to has stolen Homer's whole deal, its actually an interesting look at the two characters.

Now the episode isn't pathos heavy and is mostly focused on a series of set pieces but it does sort of reveal the animosity hidden behind Barney. We see in flashback that Homer is responsible for enabling what we would learn is Barney's addictive personality. But despite that darkly funny but also sad moment, this isn't season two. Its a season where God in Heaven can pettily make spring happen at the episode's end. There are some definite episodes that return to some powerful emotions but here the character-based themes are designed to keep the joke machine going. And yet, it is really well constructed. While it never dwells on it or asks you to consider it, it is really about tables being turned. Barney doesn't seem like he's particularly hung up or even aware how much he is a loser but the zeal for his new business comes in the form of overt offenses to Homer and his character, even featuring a commercial where he and Linda Rondstat being the living Hell out of Homer's effigy. Homer is a bit of a loser too but he's also got a great life all things considered, so its not surprising that Barney has some dark ill-will toward's his "superior" friend.d

All the same, the whole episode is aces. Its another classic filled with memorable lines and segments. The entirety of the first Mr. Plow commercial is gold with wall to wall solid gags, capped off with an all-time great quote about "the waiting game". Homer and Marge getting intimate with a bit of play from the Mr. Plow jacket is very sweet (I believe this is pointed out in the book "Planet Simpson" but in these first ten years or so, Homer and Marge might have the healthiest and happiest sex life of any TV couple up to that point). Its also another episode where Homer just gets another job. Its understandable why that happens because Homer is sort of a perfect encapsulation of the best and worst of America: he's an entitled, lazy, dumb slob but he's a real entrepreneur and despite many errors can be surprisingly adept at growing a business or excelling at a new job in a short amount of time (again, as pointed out in Planet Simpson. I want to read it again but there's a whole chapter about Apu and I suspect while it might have a lot of good points, its probably overlooking the problematic nature of the character as many of us were at the time of the book's release). Anyway, perhaps the formula is done to death but its easy to see why it is so effective.

Jokes I missed before:

I missed that one German car manufacturer is called "Fourth Reich Motors".

Other great bits:

"It's a pornography store. I was buying pornography."
Dan Castelleneta is SO good at making Homer weirdly gormless/robotic.

"She'll go 300 hectares on a single tank of kerosine."
"Put it in H!"

"Hey, wait, that's not a dummy!"
"This exhibit is closed."

"Pure West."
Adam West is a comedy legend who should have been in more stuff. If you haven't seen Lookwell, his TV pilot from Conan O'Brien, PLEASE WATCH IT!


"All of them. They're having a party. Jimmy Carter's passed out on the couch."
Man, they go to the Jimmy Carter well a lot in this era.

Other notes:

Lullabuy$ is not only one of the less goofy one-off business names in Simpson's history, its just a great name.

One episode later and Captain McCallister is ALREADY on rotation of utility players for jokes.

The bridge crossing scene is actually a reference to the movie Sorcerer. If you haven't seen it, its a great thriller. Stylistically, despite being a very different movie, it was a big influence on Uncut Gems in it being a tense, nihilistic thriller. Though currently considered a classic, it bombed on release, as its competition came from a galaxy far, far away.

 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Lisa's First Word

I don't have kids but I've been helping them grow up since 2016. I'm a nanny to my sister's kids and watch them about 5 days a week. When the second kid was coming, Eva (the first), couldn't wait. Like many kids her age, she was really interested in babies and was excited to have a baby around all the time. That changed on day two, when she wondered when the baby was going away. She loves her brother more now that he can interact with her (and she sometimes tries to force kisses on him that he does not want) but there's still the frustration for her about having to share things, both physical and intangible.

In this episode, Marge and Homer tell the kids the story of Lisa's first word. Beginning in 1983, the Simpsons are living in an apartment in downtown Springfield when they learn they are going to have another child. The Simpsons pack up and move to their now-classic digs and Bart eagerly awaits the new child, expecting a playmate/prop/stooge. But the new situation presents increasing stresses for Bart and by the time baby Lisa show's up, Bart resents her. Bart begins acting up a lot in response and eventually plans to run away until Lisa says her first word: "Bart". Bart then realizes how much he means to her sister and all is well-ish.

Having helped raise kids, there's a lot going that feels true. Bart's stress-inducing "I am so great" chant. Homer and Marge's reactions, including the understated ones, to children endangering themselves. Heck, Lisa only calling Homer by his first name is super-true; as I was the only person to speak to Eva in the first person in her formative years, she tends to call me "Me". To me, the biggest is Bart's assumption of what Lisa will be: a convenient and fun non-entity. A toy. It always seems fun until the messy reality sets in of having to share a life with another person, particularly one who needs a lot of attention and must have all his needs met. I feel like there's more specificity here than in the previous flashback episodes.

The specificity also goes to the era. While the previous flashback episodes are specific to the general era, this one decides to be specific to the year in terms of humour. Jokes about the 1984 Olympics and the McDonald's ill-fated promotion, "Where's the beef?" and Joe Piscipo abound. The episode also has fun with this with downtown Springfield a sort of anachronism of 1930s New York with tough kids and accented immigrants but the tough kids are playing video game stickball and the immigrants are opining the ending of M*A*S*H. Frankly, we'll get some diminishing returns in further flashback eps (though there's still some great stuff, like Lisa's Saxaphone and Bart's first day of school) but this one knows how to mine comedy from even then must have pegged what was only a few years old to a very specific time. I don't know if I can think of something cheesy that will feel specifically 2012. This year on the other hand...

Though the episode has Lisa in the title, this is very much Bart's story, a story of the discomfort of growing up and for things to change, only for him to find that it is sometimes worth it. Bart navigating a scary new world is something I understand, watching my niece having to adjust to changing rules and being admonished for reasons she's trying to understand. She's always had a mischievous streak and is often trying to see what she can get away with. She also knows how things are "supposed" to be and gets very upset when things go against that grain. Watching Bart go through those growing pains and finding himself in a world that is a little bit strange and scary is something I definitely understand.

The episode is pretty darn funny but some of it is aging pretty badly, with like three gender-normative jokes and one specifically transphobic joke about Homer's cousin growing up "warped" because they shared a bed with their parents until they were 21. Ugh. There were already a couple jokes where Homer was afraid of being perceived as "fruity" in the series but they were so brief that I didn't even bother but the Homer's cousin bit is quite unfortunate and takes a lot of set up time. I know I'm going to see more of these, as well as some unfortunate jokes about race and culture. Homer & Apu is definitely going to be an experience to watch again, an episode with great jokes and that is rich in character but is also a white guy appropriating an Indian character written by white writers and yeah, you can imagine somewhat what that means if you haven't seen it in forever. Despite these unfortunate factors, they are thankfully minor ones in an overall strong episode.

Jokes I missed before:

On Walter Mondale: "No wonder he won Minnesota".

Other great jokes:

“Remember, ‘tis better to remain silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.”
“What does that mean? Better say something or they’ll think you’re stupid.”
“Takes one to know one!”
“Swish!”


Other notes:
Captain McCallister is three for three since his introduction! How long does this streak go?

Yeardley Smith gets to voice another character for once. A character who sounds like Irish Lisa. Look, she's a great actress but she's kinda got the one voice. But if you want to see Lisa with a whiny Southern accent, watch Maximum Overdrive, the movie Stephen King did at his coke-iest!

Dr. Hibbert, did you really give that less-than-a-year-old baby a lollipop? That's very bad, dude.

The reveal that Homer shoved Abe in an old folks home after he sold his house so the Simpsons could buy there are the Simpsons laugh up a storm is a brilliantly darkly funny and yet tragic detail.
 

Ludendorkk

(he/him)
Frankly, we'll get some diminishing returns in further flashback eps (though there's still some great stuff, like Lisa's Saxaphone and Bart's first day of school) but this one knows how to mine comedy from even then must have pegged what was only a few years old to a very specific time. I don't know if I can think of something cheesy that will feel specifically 2012. This year on the other hand...
Bojack Horseman gotta incredible mileage out of this premise with their flashback episode to the distant year of 2007
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Homer's Triple Bypass

Its sometimes been hard for me within the last decade to watch my father's declining health and quality of life. In the mid-2000s, he was diagnosed with MS and within the last decade he's gone from occasional teaching and daily bike rides to being unable to walk and a lot of difficulty doing a lot of basic things. It involves a lot of changes for our entire family and certainly through my parents retirement plans into disarray. Meanwhile, over a year ago I was told I was pre-diabetic. I made a lot of effort to eat better and lost 60 pounds in the course of a year and some change. So this episode that is about health issues brought on by diet and kids watching their father in some precarious health positions spoke to me.

In this episode, Homer has a heart attack brought on by his poor diet. Now Homer needs a triple bypass or he's going to be on death's door in no time. With price of survival too high for the Simpsons through conventional medicine, they are forced to depend on Springfield's crookedest and most incompetent surgeon, Dr. Nick Riveria. With time running out, Homer says goodbye to his friends before the big day and puts things in Dr. Nick's hands... and Lisa's.

If there's one takeaway, the issues present in America's healthcare system are still depressingly prescient. While not the main focus, it is definitely an indictment of the state of healthcare in America and of American health and diet in general. The episode definitely isn't subtle about it when he lists all of the nation's with better healthcare than the US (Is Paraguay's healthcare actually worse than America's? I do wonder...). And while the episode is nearly wall-to-wall jokes, it puts an emotional human face on the problem in Homer. Homer is definitely to blame for his own poor health but not for the way he can't afford to survive, which is a huge issue in the US.

This humanity also extends to people coming into Homer's life to extend their love. Every person who comes in comes in with a joke of some kind but they also seem to share genuine affection for their friend, which is reflected in the acting. Ironically, the least emotional is Homer's own dad, who is kind of glad he gets to outlive his son (yet as dark as the joke is, it never feels that mean for some reason). The bit where Homer gets the kids to feed him lines is sweet in that it is about how much the kids love each other and will be there for each other. There's also something real about the way Krusty levels with Homer "There's nothing funny about what you are about to go through" and sharing the fact that he's been through it. Of course, it ends on a laugh line that also becomes canonical ("THIS AIN'T MAKE UP") but it doesn't take away from a sense of an actual lived in character in the klown.

I definitely remembered this episode fondly but I was surprised how it got to me emotionally. I mean, I wasn't welling up or anything (and that's easy to do, as I am often emotionally distant in real life but a big crybaby for fiction), but I was moved by people coming out to support their friend in a way that, despite the absurdity of the jokes, felt surprisingly sweet and gentle, even if it was revealed that Homer could be replaced by a cinderblock tied to a rope. I mean, the animators did a fantastic job depicting this image of a weakened-yet-relieved to be alive Homer.


Obviously, Homer was going to survive the episode and his unholy id of gluttony will in no way be slowed down and he's basically downright immortal by season 10 or so, but this episode really sells the fragility of Homer and the weight of Homer's scenario.

Jokes I missed before:

"Remember your hippopotamus oath."

Great Jokes:

"The suspect is hatless, repeat, hatless!"

"Remember that old Plymouth we just couldn't fix?
"We're going to sell him to Mr. Nickapolas?"
"You're a dull boy, Jimmy."


Not as good as "Frogurt" but the rhythm of this Vaudville-type bit is still funny.

"Bed goes up, bed goes down."

Flanders thanking God for Sweating to the Oldies #1, 2 and 4 is a perfectly unexplained non-sequitor and raises questions about "Why not three"

"...and that's why God causes trainwrecks."
*kids nod in happy understanding*

"Hey, what's the matter? Oh, that's right. My grotesque appearance!"


"Why if it isn't my old friend Mr. McGreg, with a leg for an arm and an arm for a leg."

Other Notes:

Boy is "Cops... In Springfield" a timely bit, particularly the "Bad Cops" song lyrics.


Also, weird that the address used in that scene is also the Simpsons address through the rest of the series.

I also think this is the first time Hans Moleman dies.

Surprisingly, the trans joke in this one is less bad than some of the others. Like, its not one I'd hold up to say "Good joke" but compared to last episode, it seems pro-trans op in its way with Barney coming around on the idea and just wanting his friend to be happy and then picking out an ugly-ass swimsuit for him. But there's still the seed of "weird, huh?", even if its heart feels like its in a somewhat better place than called someone who becomes trans "warped". Seriously, WTF last episode?
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
"Kids, I'm not gonna die! That only happens to bad people."
"What about Abraham Lincoln?"
"Uh... he sold poisoned milk to schoolchildren."
 
That Mr. Burns scene is a classic, but I find it genuinely upsetting to watch, between Mr. Burns actually firing Homer and then Homer actually dying, if both only briefly.
 
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