• Welcome to Talking Time's third iteration! If you would like to register for an account, or have already registered but have not yet been confirmed, please read the following:

    1. The CAPTCHA key's answer is "Percy"
    2. Once you've completed the registration process please email us from the email you used for registration at percyreghelper@gmail.com and include the username you used for registration

    Once you have completed these steps, Moderation Staff will be able to get your account approved.


Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
The irony is that Marge becoming a robot in a fake bad episodes bit now feels pretty restrained compared to many of the directions the show has actually gone in with episodes.

Also wow Kang and Kodos appeared in a regular(-ish) episode far sooner than I'd remembered.

Johnny Unusual

The irony is that Marge becoming a robot in a fake bad episodes bit now feels pretty restrained compared to many of the directions the show has actually gone in with episodes.
Still better than episodes about "will the gays make them gay"? I can think of three off the dome and only one is good.

Johnny Unusual

I think so. I was like "wasn't there one were Homer loses his memory from the night before" only to realize it was an extended Eternal Sunshine parody with a plot and everything.


"Marge becomes a robot!" Hail to the Teeth (S31, E11) - Artie Ziff builds a robotic duplicate Marge to marry. Other examples include Homer having a weird Terminator fantasy and I believe some playing around with cybernetics/brain uploads in the various future episodes.

"Maybe Moe gets a cellphone" ... OK I know there have been cellphone centric episodes, multiple episode's about Moe being out and about, and it's 2021 as I'm writing this so... it has to have happened, right?

"Has Bart ever owned a bear?" Technically no. He's had one in his yard, been mauled by one, been imagined as one, and had one move in with the pet elephant he used to have though.

"How 'bout a crazy wedding?" We have not SPECIFICALLY had a poly lesbian wedding between Marge's sisters and Grandpa, but all of these characters have had multiple wedding episodes now I believe, and we've seen Grandpa with breasts/in dresses/in wedding dresses specifically I believe multiple times.


Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
"Maybe Moe gets a cellphone" ... OK I know there have been cellphone centric episodes, multiple episode's about Moe being out and about, and it's 2021 as I'm writing this so... it has to have happened, right?
I don't think there's been an episode specifically about Moe owning a cellphone, but I'm pretty sure I saw one of the newer Moe's Tavern prank call gags in a compilation that had Moe trying (and failing) to angrily respond to Bart's prank call on his new touch phone.


the room is full of ghosts
The thing that sticks out about this episode is that they showed a scene that was cut in syndication and then when they started showing this episode in syndication, they cut that scene for syndication.

Johnny Unusual

I Am Furious (Yellow)

As a kid, I always imagined I would be a creative type. I spent school drawing new Megaman villains and video game levels. I was never a good artist but the reason I never followed that dream simply is because I never tried. I thought I would be a writer and even went to university for an English major. But I never did any writing outside of class assignments. And that's really what you need to do, rather than waiting for some opportunity as ordained by a system, it's to do it for yourself and just keep doing it. Find people to do it yourself and all the avenues. I still like being analytical about creative works but I came to realize while I can certainly have great ideas, doing the work involves muscles that really need to be worked out as often as possible and tempered with technical skills.

In this episode, Bart is inspired his favourite cartoon to make his own comic book. At first, Bart's work fails to impress the critics but eventually finds himself inspired by Homer to create his own character: Angry Dad. Angry Dad becomes a local indie comic hit and eventually gains the attention of an animation website. His character is soon turned into an internet cartoon and finally gets Homer's attention. Homer reacts badly but his family points out that Homer does have an issue with rage. Homer decides to start repressing it. Bart, in need of more inspiration, decides to play a prank on Homer to enrage him but before it is triggered, his cartoon is cancelled when the animation website closes. The prank enrages Homer who goes on a rampage across town. Homer ends up in the hospital and it turns out Homer almost killed himself repressing his rage and that Bart saved him.

I Am Furious (Yellow) is yet another episode that is pretty flawed but gets saved a bit by a proper amount of good jokes. It's a Swartzwelder joint, so you come to expect that as well as the occasional weird take (no, John "PC Culture" isn't going to stop us from using the word "pizza"). The big flaw is that the first act and a half is pretty solid but when Homer becomes the focus of the plot, it really goes south. The show didn't really earn being about Homer's rage when it feels like the episode is a half-finished thought on the nature of following your dreams to create the kind of fun you want to see in the world or about the difference between taking inspiration from life and simply cribbing. The episode has some fun ideas in this regard but never bothers to actually do any exploring. And it's even worse that the transition to "Homer tries to stop being angry" has even less going for it.

The Bart plot seems to be cribbed from life, learning to find your own voice and not simply copy another creator. Homer's story has little to say about the nature of anger. It's not "Homer's anger is justified in this modern wackadoo world" nor is it "rage really is intoxicating and this is why." It really says very little. So really, it feels like the pivot basically derailed TWO potentially good plots. It also feels like as much as I like what Swartzwelder is doing in the first half, having the opportunity to show how someone gets into a creative field and takes what was just dumb fun and lets it become a passion. But then the last bit doesn't work and the Hulk segment feels like it was backwards engineered from a promo image designed from when Stan Lee was announced as guest star.

Stan does appear and he's definitely one of the best parts. I love Stan but it is a love that comes with knowing he was a flawed dude. I don't think he was ever intentionally malicious in his actions but he was definitely negligent (perhaps willingly, as much as I don't want to believe that) in helping out his peers when they were in hard times to the point where they stopped being friends. Even this episode bills Stan as the "creator of Marvel Comics" and while his importance is very great, it still short changes Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, who played major roles in creating those characters. But it's hard not to be charmed by the dude and this episode really does take full advantage. I mean, as influential as Jack and Steve where, I feel like the voice of Marvel is unmistakably his, especially considering how incredibly "quippy" those film franchises are. Stan isn't in the episode for a ton of time but his charisma makes an impression for the scenes he is in.

Other great jokes:

Kirk van Houten feels like Swartzwelder's sadness muse.

"As the head of the student activities committee, I have an idea."
"I was wondering what she was doing here."

"I pity the fool who derives self-esteem by insulting other people's clothes."

"What state does Danger Dog live in?"

"Now those youngsters who throw their lives away, drawing things that never were."

"I like L'il Dot. Can you rip that off? I mean, who's gonna know?"
"I'd know, mom."
"That little girl sure loved dots."



"Look, you're punching the cat right now!"
"Oh, no I'm no--- Oh my God, you're right."
This joke works for me because the cat seems pretty indifferent to this.

"I'm a rageaholic. I can't get enough rageohol."


"If anything, he should punish you."
"What-- hmm. Okay..."

Other notes:

Happy Comic Book Guy sounds like Bullwinkle and I can't unhear it.

"Osama in a Blender" feels like an encapsulation of a very specific, brief moment of Internet animation. Remember Icebox? Anyone?

I swear, re-entering this era is bizarre to me. Some episodes feel like they happened much earlier (Hunka Hunka Burns in Love) and others feel like they happened much later (the next one, The Sweetest Apu)


Me and My Bestie
(He, him)
I certainly won't deny it has some structural problems and that it doesn't really seriously delve into Homer's rage issues, but compared to a lot of Season 13 I liked this episode a good bit when it aired. Part of that was certainly Stan Lee's performance, but also I like that the episode acknowledged the existence of Flash cartoons on the Internet...and that they could be really bad and/or dumb things.

Also while it's obviously a "We got Stan Lee" decision to have a contrived prank that makes Homer look like the Incredible Hulk, I loved just how impotent his rampage is. This isn't the cartoonish Homer who went Popeye upon drinking a beer, this is a Homer who punches a parking meter and lamppost and doesn't even leave a mark on them.

Johnny Unusual

In that regard, yeah, I agree the impotency of the rage helps but it loses something in the contrivedness and Lenny just straight up saying "It's the Incredible Hulk" which is very clunky. But yeah, much better than beer Popeye. And again, Jaws Wired Shut FEELS like a later entry than I Am Furious Yellow.

But while I feel that the internet cartoon bits, small as they are, aren't "haha" funny, but does it capture the spirit. It's interesting that the only cartoon people really remember from that era is Homestar Runner, which made the clear decision to be everything those other cartoons weren't, even if the earlier Homestar was... let's call it modest by comparison to what it would become. But yeah, I remember a dogs playing poker cartoon by the MST3k guys that was pretty bad and some John K cartoon and Drinkin' Lincoln and man... that sure was an era.

Johnny Unusual

The Sweetest Apu

I've never been in a relationship but I can't imagine the pain of being cheated on. I'm already someone who feels like they wouldn't be great at sharing affection but to learn that someone, even if they love me, is willing to betray me in a personal, intimate way would be hard to take. I guess I would have a hard time understanding the mentality of the cheater, but that's largely because I am a creature who is happy with comfort and routine and following "the rules". I'm also someone who is truly afraid and paranoid about hurting the feelings of the people I love. I have a hard time sympathizing with a cheater in fiction, I tend to be able to sympathize with the guilt of hurting someone through irresponsibility (I have a lot of guilt based dreams).

In this episode, Apu and Manjula are having some marital strife in trying to raise their kids. When Homer goes to the Kwik-E-Mart, he discovers Apu having an affair with the lady who delivers Squishee syrup. Homer eventually admits what he saw to Marge and the two end up deciding to confront Apu. Apu vows to stop cheating but ends up cheating again the next day. Manjula becomes suspicious and eventually discovers the truth, throwing Apu out of the house. Homer and Marge try to get the two back together during a dinner but instead, Manjula serves Apu with divorce papers. However, Manjula has second thoughts when she sees how inhuman the divorce industry is. Marge convinces Manjula to forgive Apu... but it comes with many conditions for Apu to prove his resolve. Apu eventually completes the difficult tasks and the two get back together and decide to take things slow.

As with most Apu episodes, this comes with the caveat that "yeah, this isn't the best representation", to put it nicely. As I've long felt, the writers clearly have a lot of affection for the character and have put a lot of effort into making him one of the show's more well-rounded characters. But it also doesn't excuse the fact that the cultural jokes have aged poorly and no amount of good intentions entirely forgives the end result. Still, the fact that the writers care about the character definitely go a long way as this is definitely an episode where character comes first, which is more than I can say for a lot of this season.

This is an episode that isn't among the upper echelons but it is definitely one of the stronger episodes of the seasons and the ratio of jokes to pathos to plotting to character is spot on. Despite my singing his praises, I'm surprised this is a John Swartzwelder-penned episode. He has definitely done some emotional propelled stories before but I always think of him a joke man and with the show becoming more gag heavy, Swartzwelder felt less beholden to sure story-telling elements. Instead, this feels like a story written by someone who very much wanted to explore feelings of betrayal and guilt. It's still full of gags, some fantastic, some hokey (intentionally and otherwise) but the episode is much more balanced overall.

The show also have the opportunity to explore infidelity from a number of angles without feeling scattershot. There's the dilemma of living with such information and what to do with it, the realization of how ugly the divorce industry is (in a very broad scene), the pain of guilt and loneliness and the weird feeling of getting back together after such a betrayal. Oh, there's still a bit of cheesiness, as the Simpsons insistence of getting involved with every problem is now just something they do for the sake of a slightly less belaboured reason for them to get involved with everyone's affairs. It It isn't the show at it's best but structurally, its an episode built on a very solid foundation. I often complain about the writers room but this is an episode where it feels like a decent script was elevated by it, with not too much being moved around for the sake of gags. Or if they were, than it remains thankfully seamless.

Other great jokes:

There is a pretty good bounty in this one.

"I get to stand around as you sell fatty poisons to overfed Americans."
"You think that would deter me, but no."

"The battle of Springfield was fought by the North, the South and the East."

"to keep Springfield in, out of and next to the Union, respectively."

" Now, the actual battle was fought over there where that man is standing."

"But he won't move so we'll do it here."

"The nylon is being released!"

I love the use of the same 5 seconds of music.

"I hope no one makes any double entendres."


"Let's tell Krusty."
"What would that accomplish?"
"That's guy's hilarious. His reaction would be priceless."
"Apu is cheating!"
"That's sad. All those kids."
"I think he's building to something."

"A girl in the bar, what do we do?"
"Watch and learn ya dinks."



"Manjula, I have a special surprise for you."
"Is it my husband's whore?"
"Even better."
"This is going great."

I like Marge REALLY wanting to go to the Golden Banana.

Other notes:

Is America done with historical re-enactments where half the people get to cosplay as soldiers fighting for slavery?

Do you know a really good movie about divorce and the divorce industry? Marriage Story. I think people don't watch it because they assume it is heavy drama and there is some but it is also very very funny in a painfully emotional way. The woman coming by to watch Adam Driver with his kid is extremely funny but it can be hard to look directly at it.


aggro table, shmaggro table
Nope! Civil War reenactments are still stupidly popular throughout the states that participated in it.


the room is full of ghosts
Marge decides to stage a revival of her 1999 high school musical, but the original show's star returns to steal the spotlight...again


the room is full of ghosts
It's probably too late now but, yeah, they probably should have let the characters age.

Octopus Prime

Meanwhile in the future

A Treehouse episode included a parody of Back to the Future (that classic spine-tingler), which had Bart travel back to when Homer and Marge first met in high school.

And it was explicitly still the 1970s.

Inknow the Halloween episodes aren’t canon, but still… feels germane to the discussion

Octopus Prime

Fortunately, in this case, Marge saw Homer strangling Bart and made an immediate snap decision to not fall in love with him based on that

Johnny Unusual

Little Girl in the Big Ten

It's funny, I think of my self as a mostly happy person tinged with a healthy amount of sadness and regret but I had a lot of unhappiness as a kid. The Ritalin I took kind had some rough side effects in elementary, though they faded when I got to Jr. High. Instead, that period was filled with existential dread and despair. High school was a little better but I wasn't really happy till I got to university. I probably didn't choose carefully what I wanted to study but I loved learning about literature, film and philosophy (my only bad scores were in classics classes, for various reasons). I wrote for the student paper (and got free video games and CDs to review) and worked at the campus radio station. It was a real delight but also made me feel like I was opening up my understanding of media and art. I don't think it became too helpful professionally, but I definitely value everything I took from it.

In this episode, Lisa is having trouble in Phys Ed and does gymnastics in order to get a passing grade. There she meets two other girls whom she later learns are university students who, due to their body types, look younger than most. They incorrectly assume Lisa is similar and Lisa, wanting to get into college life, decides to keep up the ruse. She attends the university while trying to balance her new school life with her old and enjoys every minute of it. However, Lisa is exposed to her humiliation and becomes unpopular with her elementary peers who think Lisa must assume herself to be above them. Lisa gets Bart's help to win them back with a prank.

Little Girl in the Big Ten has some funny jokes but it is another episode that is only halfway good. Yet again, its a premise where it seems to stop following it's interesting set up for a pointless, pat solution to Lisa's problem. Most of the structure is fine: Lisa goes to college, loses the chance to go and must return to her old life and find value in it. The idea of the other kids being threatened because Lisa is "college" is OK in principal but it really falls apart here in practice. The story could be about "Lisa needs to find the joy in being the age she is" or exploring why the other kids feel threatened. Instead, it's "Lisa is unpopular" (wait, how is that different?) and needs a wacky prank. It's kind of thoughtless and pointless.

The idea of putting Lisa in college and finding peers is the better end of the episode and where it is at it's best, which is basically act two. Act one has some good jokes and is OK and the third act is lazy but the middle bit feels like the writers expressing how they felt going to college, meeting likeminded people whom you can communicate with on a different level. I feel like it's a part of a tact that the writers have at this stage to do stories that make more sense if the kids were aged up and finding some work around. A lot of them, particularly the romantic episodes, feel odd but it works for the middle bit for me here, particularly when she's just enjoying her now in the coffee shop.

The b-plot is the kind of weak ones you expect in this stage, a parody of "The Boy in the Plastic Bubble". Weirdly, even though fascination with the story seemed to peak with the John Travolta tv movie, it feels like there are more parodies of it in this era, with Seinfeld doing a parody and Bubble Boy, a wacky terrible comedy with Jake Gyllenhal of all people. I love ya Jake but this was an unfortunate footnote for you. Really, I almost would have ceded Bart's time to more Lisa here and definitely more Lugash.

Other great jokes:


"Who wants to put on a leotard to get screamed at?"
"Well, hookers and Spider-Man."

"That's right, Liser."

"You girls were all great. Cats back for everyone."
"I had a dog."

"Yeah, well I live in a dorm without a DSL line."
This dated joke still works for me because of one girl's middle distance stare.

Pinsky's stupid story involving the president is so great. I love the idea that he's apparently treated like some Hollywood writer expected to hit deadlines for his poems.

"You won't eat our meat but you'll glue with our feet."

"Once he's gone, they'll kill us."

"Doogie Houser went to college at my age."
"Against my wishes."
I love Homer didn't approve of the premise of the show.

Other notes:

Jon Vitti wrote this one. The middle bit definitely feels like him, for the better.

I'm going to say while this is a mid-tier episode, Robert Pinksy is given some of the better guest star material of the era.

I didn't know Study Carrels were a thing. I assume Marge though people sang study carols. Which I would believe she would believe.

Octopus Prime

Meanwhile in the future
A season 24 episode had Homer being depressed until he wins an iPad, and then it breaks. That’s it; no B plot.
But at one point Moe remarks “Wow! Remember when it was a big deal that I had a cellphone!”

And I appreciated that little call back

Johnny Unusual

The Frying Game

I have weaknesses like everyone else. And sometimes it is a desire for vengeance. And there are definitely people in the world, who deserve it but I feel that to enact it is something that damages the soul. That's why I am against the death penalty, as I feel punitive murder damages the soul of our society. Vengeance is certainly bad because we shouldn't go around hurting people but the reason we shouldn't be killing people who may have no redeeming qualities is simply because of the damage we do to ourselves to do it. Which is to say the episode dances around discussing the death penalty.

In this episode, as part of his community service, Homer delivers meals to people's houses. It's through this he meets Mrs. Belamy, an elderly woman who appreciates Homer's help. But soon she starts taking advantage of him and drags Marge into it, manipulating them to do chores and practically become her servants. One evening, she is murdered by a thief who leaves behind no evidence. Worse, with Belamy's will recently being changed to giving much of her wealth to the Simpsons, Homer and Marge become the prime suspects. After a trial, the two are sentenced to death. Homer decides to confess the crime in order to exonerate Marge and save her. On the day of the execution, just as the lever is pulled on the electric chair, it is revealed the entire "murder" was a frame up prank for a reality show.

I remember really not liking the last act of this episode when I first watched it. It's funny because it also includes a favourite first act: the screamapiller. As is the case with many episodes of the era, the story has no relation to the main plot and on it's own, it's a very funny, weird bit of business about an animal that probably shouldn't even bother being alive. Clearly, it seems stemmed from writer Swartzwelder's anti-environmentalist views, thinking the length people might go to save a dumb animal are also dumb. But it still works for me because the specific weirdness of the animal that the writer gives it.

The rest... I think I like it better now but it is a weird beast. It's not as disjointed as a lot of episodes in the era. In fact, it flows rather well in a lot of ways from scene to scene. No, the problem is... what is this episode actually trying to say? Maybe nothing, but even if that's the case, it has some beats of genuine emotion, particularly when Homer confesses to a crime he didn't commit to free Marge. As a commentary on the legal system and/or the death penalty. In all honesty, I'd be somewhat surprised if Swartzwelder was against it. But even then, John has written amazing scripts that ran counter to his actual beliefs (it was a weird skill he seemed to have). And if that was what it was about, I don't think it feels particularly pointed or specific about where it all comes from.

It could be just an experiment in Kafka-ism in mocking the nature of our systems but even there I feel like that doesn't land. What about simply a scenario to push Homer in his hardest situation and see him do something decent. Again, it's somewhat there but it doesn't feel focused. I think my original issue watching it is that it seemed too mean-spirited but I don't think so now. I just don't think it quite earns the George Meyer-created ending of a reality show. It's an understandable swipe at a genre of show that could get grotesquely crass (like the Swan, about giving people who felt ugly plastic surgery or an upcoming one making activists compete against each other for their causes). But that's, like in the last bit and thematically, even covertly, doesn't feel threaded into the show. I think it explores some joke and scenario possibilities with Homer but aside from the first act, as wild as things got, it lead to an otherwise forgettable main body with a few real solid jokes sprinkled in.

Other great jokes:

"Without constant reassurance, it will die."
I really relate to this screamapiller.
"Is sexually attracted to fire."
Well, this is just spooky.

"What's God gonna do, make my wife leave me again?"

"Why don't I hear any sleep screams?"

"Didn't these meals use to have a cobbler?"
"Uh, they discontinued the cobbler."
"YOU smell like cobbler."
"Let's not get into who smell like what."

"So I threw the superball so hard, it hit the ceiling twice THEN BROKE A LAMP!"

"And I can ride my bike real fast."

"And the elephant who couldn't stop laughing was put to death."

I like Moe happily following "Simon Says" rules to Homer's threats.

"The only thing she's guilty of is loving too much... the murder I did."

I like Homer thinking if Marge can confess next, then they both get out of jail.

"And I'm some actor they hired!"

Other notes:
Oh, Carmen Electra, turns out you REALLY sucked.

So... did Agnes, Mrs. Glick and that one rich woman know Mrs. Belamy was just Carmen Electra?

The Green Mile bit feels very Al Jean, since he's the guy who always seems to be into doing a timely pop culture reference. And like a lot of times when Jean takes this route, this doesn't really work.

Johnny Unusual

Poppa's Got a Brand New Badge

I never wanted to be a police officer but I long did think that maybe if I did become a police officer that I could help people. In the past few years it's become evident that the fucked up system we live in means that being an actual hero in that line of work is hard and it might make one inclined to make terrible and heartbreaking decisions. Its so bad that media I assumed would be around forever are suddenly representatives of backwards adoration of the law. I still love Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Hot Fuzz but now to enjoy it I must look at them through a somewhat fantastical lens where you can still be a good person and a cop. The only thing that would make this worse if it dovetailed EVEN TIGHTER with capitalism. Enter...

In this episode, a heat wave is followed by a crime wave of looting after the city's power goes out. Marge feels unsafe and when Lisa's doll is stolen, Homer helps her out. Deciding he likes helping people, Homer decides to start a security firm, SpringShield, where he can make a career out of helping people. He becomes so successful that when Chief Wiggum embarrasses himself on TV, SpringShield is put in charge of the law. After Homer arrests Fat Tony, he swears vengeance and promises to kill Homer at noon the next day. Homer tries to get help but no one is willing to help him. Homer decides to stand up to Fat Tony but has no real chance of defending himself when he's protected by a mysterious unseen gunman... who is in fact Maggie Simpson. Homer quits and gives his job back to Wiggum.

It's funny, a lot of the cop fiction I once enjoyed has not aged so well but a lot of the Simpsons episodes about it have. Mostly, I'm thinking about Marge being a cop but I feel even there, Marge finds herself as part of a corrupt system and just gets fed up with it. But this episode is mostly a straightforward cops and crime tale. As usual, Wiggum is a terrible cop but I don't feel like this is an episode that has a strong satirical take on the nature of law and authority. It have very little to say on such things and that's a shame. In a lot of ways, this episode mirrors the far superior Homer the Vigilante, an episode that's mostly aged well in presenting vigilantism as stupid. But in this case, Homer creates a business of fighting crime and it becomes the law.

This feels like it should be teed up for some something potentially big. The left-leaning Simpsons sometimes toys with a few conservative takes but in general the show has exactly the right amount of cynicism towards authority and the police and capitalism are big, juicy targets. So the horror of combining the two in the hands of a well-meaning incompetent like Homer seems great. Homer should come to approach the law like a business and we see how completely fucked that is and Homer realizes the best thing he can do is... not any of that. But no, we basically have a story where Homer is strangely competant throughout but finds it won't protect him.

The final act of the film is a loose parody of the film High Noon. If you've heard the title alone you might assume it's a stereotypical horse opera but in fact it's a pretty tense and bleak movie about a man who is a beloved sheriff who is about to retire, only to return when it seems that his town will be under attack from an outlaw seeking revenge, only to discover to his horror the people who he was protecting won't lift a finger to help him. It's a suspenseful, dark tale of a man let down by his neighbors in the face of certain death and it's not bad. Its this and in the looting scene where there is some actual social commentary, the idea the people of Springfield are committing crimes and willing to look the other way when one of their own is in danger because it inconveniences them. But it isn't any more insightful than High Noon and I feel like it doesn't milk the ironic tragedy of it enough. On it's own terms, I do think this episode, penned by Dana Gould, is alright and quite funny but like a lot this season is that it feels like some of the corners have been sanded off.

Other great jokes:

"Jingle Bell Jingle Bell Jingle Bell Ro---"

"See, if you don't use Milhouse, it's hard."

I love whenever there's just an anachronistic newsboy hanging around.

I love Maggie's reaction to Homer calling her "the poop machine".

I don't care for the extended Sopranos riff but it's worth it for this.

Other notes:


I kind of love this weird animation error. It ads a bit of weirdness that is uncommented on when he looks at his chunky wrist, only for there not to be a watch there.

The parade of fictional students is another "Al Jean"ish gag but I don't think he's even anyone near this one.

BTW, I'm hosting a list of Top 50 Cartoon Characters and if you want to take part, I would be super stoked. Just PM me your top 25 favourite cartoon characters.


Johnny Unusual

Treehouse of Terror XIII

Fall is right around the corner. Oh, it's still a bit warm but outside my window the leaves are turning a glorious orange. We are heading into Halloween, a wonderful season to treat myself to horror, one of my favourite genres. I have a big pile of horror comics sitting on my shelf from last year that I never got around to from the previous (and maybe even the year before). And since I'm only doing half the work I used to with my new job, I might have time to watch a horror movie a day. But for now, I am intentionally trying to avoid absorbing horror material until the time is just right for spookems. Only a couple weeks left...

In this episode we have three more tales of terror. First, Homer discovers a magic hammock that creates clones. At first, Homer uses the clones to do work around the house but when one murders Flanders, Homer tries to get rid of them. They learn to self-replicate and besiege Springfield until Lisa comes up with a plan to destroy them... accidentally only leaving a clone Homer alive. Marge learns to deal with it. In the second tale, Lisa is in a cemetery when she discovers a gravestone of William Bonney, a young man who died during the old west. Seeing a epitaph that wishes for a world without guns, Lisa vows to make his dream comes true and petitions for a gunless Springfield. She succeeds, only for the town to learn that William Bonney was Billy the Kid and he has returned as a ghoul to take advantage of a gunless town along with his posse of zombies. Prof. Frink sends Homer back in time to save the day, making gun violence the answer. In the last tale, the Simpsons take a vacation on an island owned by Dr. Hibbert, who has widely reported as having gone mad. It turns out he's been turning vacationers into animals, including Marge and the kids. As Homer tries to reason with Hibbert and the animal-people who has chosen to accept their new forms, Homer accidentally ends up talking himself into joining, realizing it's a life of sloth, gluttony and sex.

The future of the Simpsons isn't too bright at this point but it would be understandable to think otherwise with this one. It's not the strongest episode, but it is completely solid AND each of the stories are scripted by three writers taking their first cracks at scripting an entire episode. The first story is written by Marc Wilmore (brother of Daily Show correspondent Larry Wilmore), who sadly died this year of complications related to COVID. Marc would go on to be an executive producer on the show for 219 episodes. I think this might be the strongest of the three, feeling both like the plotting, gags and sense of pacing are all as good as they need to be. I feel like a lot of the later Halloween episodes are particularly weak on this front so I appreciate that it is all working here. A lot of the jokes feel like archetypical, almost basic Simpsons, which is understandable if this is your first chance to get your reigns on the show and I don't think it's to the segment's detriment, crafting a decent little short.

The second segment plays a little weird now. The joke is gun violence gets to stop gun violence. The irony here is not lost on the show but it's weird since the narrative to a lot of pro gun advocates is much the same, which makes the aforementioned irony just a little less fun in this outing. Thankfully, it is still solid in the same fields the previous segment was, only this time with the writer trying to get a little clever with it's attempted subversion (I assume) of the gun narrative and its reveal of the villain (which probably wasn't a surprise to some old west enthusiasts). Again, some of the jokes are also very good, especially with the appearance of Kaiser Wilhelm, who, in all honesty, could have gotten a little more play for my taste.

The final tale is the only one that is an overt spoof on a specific film rather than a trope of topic. The original Island of Dr. Moreau is a commentary on human cruelty of animal experimentation (particularly vivisection) but appropriately this becomes about humans giving into their baser instincts,. I like that Homer is by coincidence the last hold out and when he has a chance to think about it for a minute is like "wait, why am I holding out?" It's probably the weakest but, again, it's a solid episode. It's written by Kevin Curran, a former Married... with Children vet who ended up writing The Wife Aquatic, one of the funnier later season episodes. Sadly, Kevin has also passed on, having died of cancer complications in 2016.

It's nice to see a solid Halloween ep. I feel like a lot of the anthologies, in being focused on being joke machines, feel more interested in doing a Mad Magazine-esque parody rather than using the opportunity to tell fun stories with the characters so it really is nice to see a decent episode with three very solid tales.

Other great jokes:

"The hammock man! I'm glad he's a little early today."

"Then after World War Two, it got kinda quiet, 'till Superman challenged FDR to a race around the world. FDR beat him by a furlong, or so the comic books would have you believe. The truth lies somewhere in between... "

"Does Dad seem a little... dumber than usual?"

"Boy are we evenly matched!"
"Me concur."

I like Homer's clones raising their hands to get shot.

"I'm sorry. I can't live without passion."

I also like that he's... just buried in Springfield.

"Now let's rob the bank, give the money to the poor, then rob the poor and shoot the money!"

"Noe to get me some caveman hookers!"

"Think what Shakespeare might have accomplished if he had the eyes of an eagle or could spray stink on his critics."

"She's become a monster! Though you have to admit, I kind of suspected during the sex."

"Manimals! Invertibroads!"

Other notes:

The opening bit is quite weak, though. I feel like a Simpson saying their full name when they don't need to is a sign the show think's it's being ironically hokey but is just hokey.

Despite my mostly positive take on the episode, the show is definitely falling back on old lines like "He had a good run" and "It's a good group".

The line read for "Anything for Homers" sounds really off. Was it a different voice actor for some reason?

"The Fright to Creep and Scare Harms" is a great title.

Johnny Unusual

How I Spent My Strummer Vacation

I often think about the road not travelled. Most of it is simply wish fullfillment fantasies. Maybe if I spent my whole life applying myself to it from a young age I could have been a writer or director or the creator of a hilarious refrigerator alarm. But that's just a pie in the sky fantasy, which is fun and harmless to do. But then there are moments were you make bigger choices that shape your life. About 5 years ago, I dedicated myself to looking after my sister's kid and while I don't regret it, I could have had other opportunities had I not. No regrets but it is easy to see looking at your life and wondering about how we could have gone in a different route.

In this episode, Homer ends up appearing in a reality show where in an unguarded moment he expresses his regrets on getting married and having kids. Understandably, his family is upset but then his family comes together and admits that while what he said was hurtful, they appreciate the sacrifices he made for the family and are rewarding him with a trip to a rock and roll fantasy camp. Homer loves it, being taught to be a rock star by legendary rock stars. However, the final day has Homer despondent that the fantasy is over. Seeing him sad, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards offer to let him come on stage for their Springfield show. It is only at the event, though, that Homer realizes his role is as honorary roadie. Homer goes on stage, feeling embarrassed just to test the mic in front of his friends and family and then decides to steal the show. The rock stars attack him for his hijacking, which makes the show a disaster. Homer and the rock stars make up and Homer makes peace with his place.

How I Spent My Strummer Vacation is a better episode than it needs to be, to a certain extent. It's obvious that the show is simply a guest star showcase, with the writers getting to get the heroes of rock to say goofy things and play with their image. Having Homer's issue come from a mid-life crisis is pretty much the same as the similar "Homerpalooza", save that even in 2002, pretty much every guest fell well within the Dad Rock camp. But the Taxicab Confessions intro, really nothing more than an impetus for plot that allows guest stars to happen, is actually interesting, with Homer in an unguarded moment, admitting his regrets in a way that is incredibly hurtful when his loved ones. And I also feel like the Simpsons' conclusion that despite being hurtful, one of Homer's good points is that he does a lot of sacrificing for his family. Lisa saying "we do stuff that you don't like" works a lot better here in a single sentence than "Make Room for Lisa" an episode about that which is completely undermined by Homer's emotional abuse of Lisa.

But while there is a heart in this, it's pretty much in the short section before what we are REALLY here for, the guest stars. The Simpsons have a lot of guest star heavy episodes and often they can be a bit embarrassing, especially the latter day ones (the best one is definitely Homer At the Bat). This one, however, knows how to use it's guest stars properly. The characters are fawning, but it doesn't feel like the show is, unlike some (the one with Lady Gaga comes to mind). Instead, the game is making the rock stars likable but kind of uncool in the way their fans measure it. I'd say the last bit is a little weaker than the rest but the episode is carried very well by strong middle act antics that it is easy to forgive.

I guess the big question is "are these rock stars doing a good job?" Well, it depends on the rock star. Most of them are clearly not actors, by nature with Brian Setzer having the most "non-actor" vibe. It's hard to tell if they are "game" but they are also not disinterested, not incompetant and they seem to be putting in the work. Sometimes, this can be weirdly charming, watching these people try to struggle with wacky dialogue but coming off stilted. The big two names of the episode are Keith Richards and Mick Jagger. Richards also doesn't quite feel like an actor but Richards himself has his weird aura and definitely feels game that he makes it work. But of all of them Jagger definitely feels like the one who just gets what this is. Jagger never exceeds but he's clearly the most suited to acting of the group. I have no doubt the episode was envisioned as a finale and feels like it, just another victory lap with guest stars to put on the ads. And by that metric, the episode is a fun success.

Other great jokes:

"Oh, I don't resent you, sweetheart. What I was trying to say and maybe I wasn't using the right words is that marriage is like a coffin and each kid is another nail. But as coffins go..."
Yeardley Smith puts some extra acting into her response.

"For once in my life, I'm confused."

"Now, you're all here for one reason."
"To rock!"
"That's right Otto."

"He's just like you or me or Jesus over there."

"And I've got to put up the storm windows. Winter's Comin'."

Other notes:

I love that Mick Jagger actually runs the camp, doing day-to-day budgeting and such.

Pizza and pop IS a winning combination.

Johnny Unusual

Bart Vs. Lisa Vs. The Third Grade

I love my sister but I always get self-conscious in comparing myself to her. She's a professional career woman with a loving family and is fit and well organized and none of those things really describe me. I'm a messy guy who loves his work but still feels like he's working for the weekend and lives in a messy apartment on a modest budget. I'm not ashamed of who I am but I always feel like I've wasted my potential when I think of what I could have accomplished. It isn't healthy but it's part of me.

In this episode, the Simpsons get satellite tv and due to spending all his time watching it, Bart fails a major test. For Lisa's success and Bart's failure, both end up in the third grade in the same class. Both of them quickly get on each other's nerves and it ends up coming to a head on a field trip to Capital City. Eventually, Bart and Lisa get in a fight and find themselves lost in the woods, until they are saved by rural folk. The two then return to their respective grades.

From that anemic looking description, you might assume this is a bad episode. It isn't. But it also isn't a good episode. The good thing is there are some good jokes in here and it's pretty watchable. But it's full of weaknesses. There's some lazy plotting stuff that doesn't make that much sense; why did the kids get lost in the woods when they can see the bus leaving from which is right next to the Capital Dome. I also can't see Lisa having conventional studying difficulties considering the kind of stuff she learns for herself. It feels like so much of the episode just needs certain things to happen.

And I guess I wouldn't care if it seemed more focused. It doesn't seem as disjointed in plotting as some worse endeavors but in terms of themes and straight up having a point, there's little focus. Like, what is the episode about, beyond the literal. The episode brings up a lot of ideas of what it could be about but never actually seems to settle on anything. Heck, I don't even need a definitive answer but exploration beyond broaching the idea would be nice. Is it about how the kids handle their new circumstances in ways that are unexpected for the audience and informed by their characters? A little bit. Is it about their relationship? Well, Lisa brings up "why don't you protect me from the bad things in the world" and the episode immediately drops it. I feel like the episode gestures at a lot of interesting ideas but never settles on anything proper. Heck, even the way the Simpson kids are saved doesn't tie into the themes, instead just being... a thing that happens.

It is a shame because while there are lots of Bart and Lisa episodes, the third grade opens up a few potential stories that I feel could be good character pieces, but there's only time for antics. I think that's part of the reason I tend to be kinder to the character-heavy episodes in this era, even when the jokes aren't home runs: I feel like we're seeing the same jokes in different shades but I feel like there's lots more to do with these characters who are both specific and archetypical. I think when you really dig into the characters, it tends to make the other stuff shine a little better, while episodes like this are passable but fade from the mind.

Other great jokes:

"It's finally happened Bart. You've lost your mind!"

"Just walk, don't run
Drink juice, yum yum!"

"Dogs Eat Barf Solely on Wednesdays Mabel."
"Clowns Love Haircuts, So Should Lee Marvin's Valet."

"Sobbing only pushes Bart's grade higher."

"Mr Speaker, the time has come to redesign our state flag. This confederate flag is an embarrassment, particularly as we are a Northern State."

"Oh and the hotel gives us a free USA Today outside your room. I'm sure it's free. FINE, I won't touch it."
I can't imagine Lisa likes USA Today. Isn't that the garbage one covered in stupid infographics?

"I told you, I ain't a bear."
"Roar roar roar. No one understands you, she-bear."

"We're heading into the city to get the new Spy Magazine."
"I'm sorry, Spy Magazine is gone."
"The world I grewed up in is gone."

Other notes:

Huh, they remembered who the governor is. Weird callback, but I appreciate Mary Bailey showing up again.