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

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Large Marge

Marge secretly might be the best, funniest of the Simpsons. Homer and Bart are obvious antic machines and Lisa is an intellectual with a heart but while Marge might seem "also there", there is a lot going on. When written well, there's a sense of sadness and humanity and sweetness that is very engaging. But there's also a weird streak of absurdist humour to her as well that you start to notice, like her insistence that potatoes are neat. She's not just a "nag" or a buzzkill, even if sometimes the writers themselves seem to think otherwise. What's more, Homer and Marge might have one of the healthiest sex lives on TV. But things have gotten weird in this era and that includes Marge's sexuality, as she appears in officially sexy form in magazines.



In this episode, Marge worries that she's not attractive to Homer anymore and tries to get some liposuction. But a mistake at the doctor accidentally leaves Marge with double d-cup breast implants. Marge is understandably upset but Marge decides to keep them a little longer after she is offered a modelling job. She likes the adventure but soon tires of being objectified, Meanwhile, Krusty is in hot water with audiences and tries to win them over with a ridiculous stunt. When the stunt goes wrong and the police are threatening to shoot her loved ones, Marge stops them by showing her breasts, thus distracting the cops. Marge takes out her implants and feels like herself.

Large Marge isn't bottom tier Simpsons but it's pretty low. It's not cringey but very few jokes actually land. And sadly, it doesn't have a lot to say. For an episode that's basically "Marge gets tits", it's not as bad as it could be but it also doesn't do much. And I think that's the frustrating thing about the era; ideas are suggested but not delved into. I think it actually has very little say about beauty standards or surgery. It wants to say something about not treating women like objects, then has Marge save the day but showing her tits. And it's not clever or subversive, it's just a straightforward "it's nice to be seen as beautiful but being an object is demeaning."

Perhaps a lot of it could be salvaged if we actually get into Marge's headspace. What IS it like to be ogled? Or to have your body changed? Any exploration is very superficial and while I admit I don't think I'm the person to posit the best way to do it, I can see it being done poorly here. I think the closest it really does to dealing with the body feeling different is Marge having trouble cuddling Maggie but being so gagged-focused has robbed the episode of actually exploring the idea of beauty.

The b-plot is even worse, some weak business about Krusty getting in trouble on TV. It makes little sense and seems like a mish mash of old Krusty plots. They don't even fit together well and if there was an intended message about censorship, it doesn't work. Large Marge is pretty weak sauce all around and feels like it's not even plot focused, but more about incident. This era of Simpsons is frustratingly bad at handling Marge stories and the episode isn't an embarrassment so much as a complete shrug.

Other great jokes:

"Truer words were never spoken, crusader."
Is a quote I use a lot and I'm not sure why?

"Maybe if we cut his foot off, people will feel sorry for him."
"That didn't help your dad get your mom back."

"How'd you get in here."
"You're doorman died."
"OH NO, HE WAS MY AGENT!"

"My forthrightness is my undoing."

Other notes:

Did you really need to explain who the former presidents are?

The song is one of the weakest they've done.

So the Baha Men were in this episode... Did you know they formed in 1977? And are still doing music?
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Helter Shelter

I remember in the late 90s and early 2000s when reality TV was everywhere. And it felt like everyone, myself included, was complaining about it. And it's funny, because I feel like I spent a lot of time complaining about something I wasn't actively engaged in. I still have no interest in reality shows but I can't imagine being interested in the genre to actually complain as I once did. Granted, in the age of streaming, there's countless viewing options but even in that era there wasn't a lack of other options. When I do hear about people who watch it, there is sort of a richness to it, in a way, and an understanding of how it works not unlike the acceptance of kayfabe in wrestling. Yeah, it's all artificial but I don't feel like anyone actually feels like they are being hoodwinked.

In this episode, the Simpsons' house is under siege by termites and the Simpsons are homeless until their house is completely fumigated. After trying to stay with every other person in town, the desperate family tries out for a reality show. The Simpsons become an instant hit as the dysfunctional family tries to adjust to the premise of living like they would have in 1895. But when the Simpsons learn to adjust and get along, the ratings begin to nosedive and the network desperately retools, adding Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley to the cast and putting their house on a river. As the Simpsons lament their situation, they meet a lost tribe of reality show contestants who have been abandoned and they team up with them to rise against the producers and crew. The Simpsons finally return home, finding TV distasteful even for them.

One thing I've noticed in this period is that the show is fully in C+ mode. Most of the episodes are perfectly watchable but there are very few laugh out loud moments. Considering I remember how awkward the show would be when I finally quit it, I don't mind going through these, even if it feels more out of duty to this than strong enjoyment. Helter Shelter makes no major missteps like Large Marge but it lives in a realm of trying to discuss a contemporary topic and in doing so feels fairly dated. Its not that reality TV have changed all that much in 18 years (withers to dust) but it feels like the observances and commentary is deeply played out and I feel like it was when this show aired.

The episode is the Simpsons taking reality TV and TV in general to task but I don't think it is telling us anything about the human condition. The commentary on media aspect feels like it could have been an Al Jean but it was actually written by Brian Pollack and Mert Rich, who were former writers on Cheers and the 80s cop parody Sledge Hammer. This seems to be their only episode and they mostly have the show's voice down. Even though I think their commentary on a contemporary trend is a little well-trodden, it does feel like they are also making sure for some regularly silliness. And what they come up with is completely passable, no more no less. C+ Simpsons.

And I guess that also speaks to this era's issue... for better and worse, the show has stopped evolving. I suppose you could say that it devolves from here but despite my complaints about eras to come, that's also reductive. I do remember striking moments from episodes still to come, even if they are infrequently. But on the better side, it does seem like the show has also stepped away from some of the stuff they were heading into hard. Homer is far less of a jerk lately. He's not throwing cans at Flanders or emotionally abusing Lisa. He's an oaf. And maybe that means we are getting a bit of a more toothless show, but it's not biting for the sake of it. Unfortunately, I think we will head back into some of that ill considered comedy down the line but for now we are in a spot of mild chuckles and people being not TOO shitty.

Other great jokes:

"Thank you mouthy American child. Please to take my hockey tree."



"I look like Buster Brown... whoever that is."



"Mutt and Jeff comics are not funny. They're gay, I get it."



"That Lenny sure had a crazy apartment."

Other notes:

How did act one NOT end in another of Springfield's full scale sports riots?

The only reality show I remember getting invested in is the original first season of the Joe Shmoe Show, where a likeable guy thinks he's on a reality show but everyone BUT him is an actor playing a reality archetype.

Ice-Topes is a good team name.

Remember when TV was all about Bill Cosby impressions. One of the kids I look after talked about how much he liked the show he watched with his family and I was all like "MMM HMMMM"

The Kwik-e-Mart was still selling Urkel-Os. Lucky Springfield.
 

FelixSH

(He/Him)
Hmm, this looks like the episode, where I realized in the middle of it that it felt painful to continue watching, and I switched channels. But that can't be true, that was only in season 14, or so...

Anyway, I have this weird problem, where I can't watch random episodes of shows, I have to watch them from start to finish. Yes, even the Simpsons. So I found a site, where I could choose the seasons, and it would pick a random episode for me. Which works beautifully, I can finally recreate the sensation of turning on the TV, and get a random Simpson episode, only with the knowledge that it's from the time where I enjoyed the show.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Great Louse Detective

When a show is on long enough, everyone feels like an old friend. And strangely, that can be true of the villains. They start to feel like one of the cast and sometimes people just start accepting them as part of the group without even caring about how ridiculous it might feel. What's more, it is often fun to take the villains and force them into a team up with the hero and let characters bounce off of each other in a way that they usually don't get to. Villains can make for fun protagonists, bringing in a fun tension for the characters. We know generally the villain won't destroy the hero and that it won't change the status quo, but that chemistry is fun for a brief time.

In this episode, someone tries to kill Homer when he is in a spa and fearing it might happen again, the police suggest bringing in a specialist to catch the would be assassin: Sideshow Bob. Bob stays in the Simpsons home with a device with an electrical shock to act as a deterrent against killing Bart. Bob is befuddled by the sheer amount of enemies Homer seems to have and makes little headway. However, Homer is elected the King of Mardi Gras by the killer who stuffed the ballot boxes to make him an easier public target while he sits on his throne for the parade. Bob manages to figure out the killer was a mechanic and manages to save Homer's life. The killer reveals himself to be Frank Grimes Jr., looking for revenge on Homer for the death of his father. Later, Bob escapes and manages to get Bart where he wants him... only to realize that he can't, at least not without doing it "right" (IE elaborate) due to his love of revenge.

Even more than most, the Bob episodes really allow the writers to let loose with genre fiction homages and this one is a detective tale. The mystery itself isn't particularly strong, but it's fine. The real fun is watching Homer and Bob bounce off each other, a combo we don't see very often. As usual, Grammer is a lot of fun as Bob and once Bob shows up, the episode really picks up. Oh, sure, there are hokey jokes every once in a while (the "That 30s Show" is very Mad Magazine) but the Bob character is still a lot of fun while it feels like a lot of the other Simpsons are stuck with some of the same old standby jokes. I'm kind of glad Bob only show's up once every other series because then he could more easily fall into the trap of the other characters.

As for what the episode explores, it's about as shallow as a lot of this era but there's still stuff in there. There's having fun with the idea that this one doofus manages to have so many enemies and that even the people close to him kind of want to kick him while he's down. I don't think it says anything we don't already know about the character but it's fun nonetheless. Bob not being able to kill Bart at the end also speaks to the nature of cartoons. Granted, it's a beat I think we've seen a lot in the Bugs Bunny cartoons, particularly "What's Opera Doc?", in which Elmer Fudd finally wins and is overcome with grief. I like the idea of characters realizing the fun is in the chase and that anything else is just a boring old ending.

I don't mind the character of Frank Grimes Jr., save that it's a reminder of a much better and more challenging episode, possibly one of the show's most challenging. The whole episode is a goofy detective adventure with Bob as the lead, and him in the anti-hero role remains a lot of fun. I think the last song is a bit weak (I don't care for a lot of the series song parodies of classic musical numbers), though it has some decent visual gags to go with it. But I do like that the finale's conclusion was lead up to well in that Bob is a messy bitch who loves drama. Which is to say acting and the arts. Obviously, the reasons villains talk so much is to give heroes the chance to escape but having it makes sense for the character helps and Bob is much more about the method than the result and that's fun to play with. As Lenny says, Bart is actually pretty easy to kill... but that's assumes that all one wants is a death kid.

Other great jokes:



"How can one ordinary man have so many enemies."
"I'm a people person... who drinks."





"Dad's heading for the museum of swordfish."
"That museum's been nothing but trouble since it opened."

"Your king needs these stilts!"
"Jesus is our only king!"
 

Juno

The DRKest Roe
(He, Him)
This episode is just ok overall but I have to admit the part where Homer initially doesn’t remember Frank Grimes, then laughs and is all like “How is ol’ Grimey” is kind of perfect.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Special Edna

I like stories about teachers. I haven't been a professional teacher in quite some time but I've always loved the feeling of seeing a student grow. Right now I'm in childcare and I enjoy it and find it rewarding but it is a very different animal. Right now, it's all about organizing kids and getting them to have fun but before it also included a lot of contributing to development and growth in a more overt way. And it's also why I like the character as Mrs. Krabappel. The character speaks to me in that she is often lonely but also that despite seemingly being a cynic, she does mostly still care about her work (unlike Ms. Hoover, who is clearly super checked out). I think the show manages to continue to care about her throughout its run, even when it gets worse with the other characters.

In this episode, Bart has trouble focusing on his studies and fails a big essay, Mrs. Krabappel stays with Bart in order for him to write the essay correctly and pass the class. Bart witnesses Skinner taking Krabappel for granted and decides to take her to the movies to cheer her up and the next day decides to show his appreciation for her by for the Teacher of the Year award. Bart's video wins over the committee and she becomes an official nominee and Krabappel and the Simpsons are invited to Orlando for the ceremony. Skinner decides to head over to try to win her back when he becomes afraid she might quit teaching if she wins the award but makes the mistake of bringing his domineering mother along. Skinner tries to sabotage the ceremony in an attempt to break her spirit but ends up regretting his actions, clears things up and proposes to Edna.

Special Edna is a sweet little episode for the most part and has a first act I actually relate to on two fronts: one as a kid who always had trouble focusing when it came to school work and the other being the teacher who needs to put in the effort and hours to help a kid. I will say that the part where Edna accepts Bart's date invitation certain feels counter to my experience of the student-teacher relationship in that aside from friendly hellos, its better to keep those worlds separate. And frankly, I can't imagine that happening without at least a "look, this isn't appropriate" talk from some higher ups. But if you can accept it, it does add to the sweetness.

That said, I will say the episode never quite sells the Edna/Seymour relationship, as it speaks to the kind of problem solving Homer gets involved with: the grand gesture. I think it's next season when the two finally break up and this episode is a better argument for that then for them to remain together. Skinner in the end says he's his own man but considering how the show likes the status quo, its doubtful that he can give Edna the attention she deserves. And that is what the episode is about: feeling and showing appreciation. Bart is bratty and immature but he knows how to express it while Skinner can't prioritize the woman he loves properly. It's an interesting idea but I don't think the ending completely lands. I feel like this would be a good episode to pit Skinner against Bart, threatened by the fact that the kid who wants to put boogers in his desk has a better handle on emotional maturity then he.

The episode is written by Dennis Snee, a sitcom journeyman who only wrote this episode. But the sitcom basics/formula work well and though a lot of the shows he wrote for were a bit more traditional (Empty Nest, for example), I think they work to the benefit of a show that often forget some writing and emotional basics. I feel like having another low level "the Simpsons are going to" doesn't really help the comedy, with the few Florida bits being a mixed bag (I do like the extended airline bit, not so much the electric car and Disney World bits). It's an episode that works best when focused more on Edna, Bart and somewhat Skinner. The good wins out over the lukewarm in the end and it's always nice to see Krabappel as the focus.

Other great jokes:

"Don't worry, I got you these store-bought apples instead."
"The apples weren't the point."
"Then why were we going apple picking?"

"Lt. Simpson, you've been up for hours. Have a nap. You're no good to us cranky."



"Holes define who we are and were we are going" is actually kind of damning and disturbingly true.



I like the Eastern Airlines bit. The robot with airplane heads are great.

"Wow, this restaurant is so international. La pizza. Der hamburger. Senor grilled cheese. I hope I don't accidentally order an elephant."
I love Marge's mom humour much more than dunking on the Latin Grammies for some reason.

"He has the cold clammy hands of a chimp."



Other notes:
A 10 page essay for a 10 year old? Nelson was RIGHT to beat up Martin.

It's weird that the students don't want to type the report, either. Isn't that what kids mostly do now?
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Dad Who Knew Too Little

I try to be a people person but I also fear I can be a little too self-absorbed. Am I really a good listener or am I just waiting for people to stop talking so I can? I want to be a person who is observant about friends and family but sometimes I just simply don't think about other people as much as I should. I like to think I'm kind and polite but one thing people want is to be known and understood and failing to do that can be a bummer. I've always been bad with faces and names and its been a source of embarrassment quite often.

In this episode, for Lisa's birthday, Homer buys Lisa a personalized video tape, which ends up revealing how little he actually knows about her. This hurts Lisa and Homer finds it difficult to make it up to her. Out of ideas, Moe suggests a private eye and Homer hires him to follow Lisa to know her. The PI, Dexter Colt, does great work and Homer uses the information to get closer to his daughter. However, when it comes time to pay the bill, Homer finds Dexter loaded the bill with ridiculous expenses that Homer refuses to pay. In retaliation, he frames Lisa for freeing animals from a testing lab. Homer and Lisa go on the run and Homer reveals to Lisa he paid Dexter to investigate her, causing Lisa to be very angry at him. The duo later find where Dexter has kept the animals and Lisa ends up saving Homer from Dexter.

It's nice to see that when the show wants to, it can still put out a very well rounded episode. The Dad Who Knew Too Little is funny, has a decent plot, good pacing and I care about these characters. Yes, Homer does some bad stuff, as often he does, but it comes out of a misguided place of love. I think this era is still trying to figure out the right balance of Homer misbehavin and Homer loveable and very often it not only makes Homer a jerk, it kind of forgives him when it shouldn't. Homer isn't malicious and it doesn't come across as grotesquely emotionally abusive, as in Make Room for Lisa. Essentially having a loved one stalked is beyond the pale, to be sure, but the episode recognizes this, which is why Lisa rightly feels betrayed.

I think the show never questions that he loves his daughter but loving deeply isn't the same as loving well and Homer's complete lack of understanding of who Lisa is as a person is hurtful. The video itself is funny, with an incredibly unflattering photo of Lisa walking around with Homer's voice but the show also lands emotionally with Lisa's reaction and realization how little she is understood. Again, I'm going to make reference to Make Room for Lisa because in that episode Homer is gaslighting Lisa with "no you don't" type answers. Here, Homer really does realize he wants to know and understand Lisa, albeit through some devious means. It's a better Homer who is still extremely flawed, as he wants to express love but his idiocy and bad judgment allows him to think there's an acceptable shortcut. We do see there's things he will always retain about her and I think the last minute reveal of that is a little shortcutty itself but it does speak to the idea that often the people we love will make an impression, even if it's not the ones we expect.

It also helps that the episode is also pretty fun and breezy, particularly the Dexter Colt stuff. There are a lot of fun plays with film noir and detective story quotes and while Dexter Colt isn't quite as ludicrously wacky as Rex Banner, he gets a lot of good, ridiculous lines. As always, Hank Azaria does great work in an archtypical character. Part of me wonders what Elliot Gould, who has a cameo in the episode, would have done with the role, having starred in the 70s noir pastiche The Long Goodbye. I can already tell from his small scene that he isn't phoning it in and I would have loved to hear him give the wacky detective an edge. The Dad Who Knew Too Little is one of the stronger season 14 episodes so far. It's written by Matt Selman, who's episode's qualities have range. Some episodes are weak but he's written some I remember being fairly fond of. I hope that those memories are correct.

Other great jokes:

"Here's the recliner where Don Adams and Shelly Winters made beautiful music together. It should be a museum but museums don't want it."




"My uncle died of crotch dot."




"Silver bullets?"
"Early on I was working under the theory your daughter was a werewolf. It didn't pan out."

"...And a book report of the Secret Garden by Lisa Simpson."
"What does that tell you chief."
"Well, apparently there's a secret garden in all of us."



"You know, Simpson, from the minute you walked into my office I knew I'd kill you in a hall of mirrors."

"How ironic, now he's blind after a life of enjoying being able to see."
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Strong Arms of the Ma

I have been fortunate in that I've never had to live in true fear. I definitely can think of moments where I have been afraid and I also know that generally what I do is freeze. I would like to be the kind of person who just does the right thing regardless but I can feel that generally, I am someone who might not be able to despite knowing what I should do. Fear is a force beyond reason and while a lot of fiction is about digging deep and overcoming, sometimes it's a lot more difficult than that, as it can do true damage to the psyche that isn't dealt with using triumphant background music and a closed fist.

In this episode, after a trip to Reiner Wolfcastle's yard sale, Marge stops to use the Kwik-E-Mart bathroom. While there, Marge is mugged, an experience that traumatizes Marge, making her unable to leave the house. The family is supportive and comes up with solutions to help her but the fear eventually drives her into the basement. While there, Marge starts working out with a weight set Homer bought at the yard sale. Marge builds some serious muscles and eventually finds them able to give her the strength to leave the house and even defeat the man who mugged her. Marge continues to build her muscles and after meeting with Ruth Powers, now a body builder herself, Marge is convinced to start taking steroids. Soon Marge is participating in competitions and becomes ambitious and short tempered. After an altercation at Moe's, Homer convinces Marge to kick the drugs so that she isn't the very bully that drove her to fear in the first place.

So going into this one, I was afraid... and those fears were valid. When we get to Marge the body builder, the episode takes a huge nosedive, conflating the uglier aspect of body building with looking unfeminine. It's pretty frustrating to listen to people complain that "I wish you were a WOMAN again", as it is limited in viewing what femininity is and could be and deciding what it should be. What's more, this is the SECOND TIME in the series that Homer is sexually assaulted, this time by Marge rather than a panda. Seriously, what the fuck, show? The final act has some isolated jokes and moments that work but overall it is a complete misfire and is wholly offensive to me.

And it is doubly frustrating because the first two acts are VERY GOOD. It deals with something very real, a moment that causes one to live in fear, in a way that has the Simpsons irreverence but also feels sensitive. The moment Marge returns to the car is jokeless as Marge takes in what happened and breaks down and it's a power little moment. And we once again see the Simpsons, despite Homer's goof ups, really trying to help Marge by coming up with some creative ideas and taking her and her situation with the right amount of seriousness. It's a good balancing act for the episode and an emotionally compelling ride for the character. If there is one thing this era is doing, it's getting out of the trap of Marge simply being the person who complains about what Homer is doing this week.

The last act COULD have worked. The idea of Marge becoming addicted to strength and turning into a bully who inspires fear and remembering how fear feels has potential. And I think there could be some commentary on the nature of differing views of beauty or how developing muscles to such a degree could have dangers to the body but boy writer Carolyn Omine did the last part wrong. The funny thing is it sounds like both Al Jean and Omine were responsible for the best stuff. The original idea was Homer was going to get mugged and it was gonna be funny but taking the risk with Marge pays off. It's not funny and it is a risk of seeing one of our beloved regulars in a rare, truly vulnerable role (well symbolized by her pearl-less neck). For those two acts, things are interesting and we are actually in a GREAT episode. So the episode's completely ill-considered comments in the last act about how muscular women are "gross" are frustrating. It's especially weird because when that one woman breaks the piano and the other one romances Frink, these are moments that are fun and sweet when a lot of the other comments are "THIS IS ALL WRONG!" Omine blames making Marge too unlikable (I mean, the rape didn't help) but I think they missed the point of why the last act doesn't work. I wish they landed the ending. Instead, we have an episode I loved until I hated.

Other great jokes:

"I'll put my best man on it."


"Let's go home, there's nothing dangerous there except the electrical wiring."

"I gave your necklace to my girlfriend."
"I just through it in a drawer at night. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

"Dad, we're canceling the rest of the play."


"It's just like Cheers. I loved that show because you always knew it was only a half hour till Wings. Then you could just sleep till Monday."

Other notes:

I dunno, Marge, maybe weights don't go in a furnace. I think you are just ruining a furnace.
 

Purple

(She/Her)
Large Marge

The Strong Arms of the Ma

So like... what the hell was going on in the writers room this season? Between these two episodes and the saucy magazine stuff, it feels like there was someone who started watching the show at a formative age ended up as a writer or producer and... had some things to work out regarding Marge, that somehow ended up being shown to us all instead of being kept in a secret little sketchbook or deviantart account.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Pray Anything

The Simpsons is uncommon in television comedy in that it has Christianity represented and it, sort of, takes it seriously. When the series started, most of the sitcoms remained largely secular but in the Simpsons, the family is often shown in their church. There is no shortage of mockery of Christianity and the church but it also does ask spiritual questions. Some of the earlier seasons confront it directly and even when the moral is straight forward, like "don't steal", it can point out stealing can be anywhere and is part of our world. Obviously, it's not like Christianity is in NEED of representation, but when I was a kid, questioning of the religion never felt encouraged while the Simpsons did want to ask questions. Unfortunately, this episode is asking the same question again.

In this episode, Homer notices Flanders good fortune and comes to the conclusion that it comes from prayer. Homer begins praying at all times and concluding any good fortune is from God. When the Simpsons plumbing threatens the Simpson house, Homer prays for help when he falls into a hole on the church lawn. Homer sees it as a sign to sue the church, which he does successfully. With the church unable to pay, Homer is awarded the church, which he makes his new home. Homer throws a crass party in the church while Lovejoy leaves town. Eventually, a flood hits Springfield and everyone blames Homer's sinning, but he is eventually saved by Lovejoy, to whom he returns the church.

Pray Anything isn't AWFUL and it has some good jokes but it has two major flaws. One, this is Homer in complete jerk mode. He's never sympathetic and everything he does is just bad, It isn't nearly as bad as some episodes, as it never feels directed or specifically cruel, but it means it lacks depth on the character front. The other is I feel the messaging is interesting but already tackled in better episodes. The idea is Homer wants all the benefits of his faith but is unable to understand the point of it, like selflessness, caring, and compassion. It's certainly something that feels evergreen considering very public unchristian attitudes of figures also giving Christian lip service is always going to be a thing. But Faith Off, only done a few years prior, already tackled the idea of prayer as a self-serving act.

Pray Anything is definitely going for a more allegorical feel, particularly the climax which ends with Homer being beset with a biblical curse. So even more than Faith Off it feels broad. I also think it is pretty ridiculous that the show declares "God has left Springfield" with the loss of one church. I think there are ways to show it better. And it does do that in one scene, where Homer chases off an AA meeting, specifically showing how the Springfield Church helps the community that Homer's selfishness destroys. But the episode seems to feel the need for a shortcut and just says it, when I think showing actual hurt and lack of community can help. I myself am not religious but can see that, dependent on the church itself (there are certainly some toxic ones out there), a church can provide a lot to its community.

Homer the Heretic is probably the best of Homer's religious journeys because while it is funny and also has Homer being hoisted by his own petard, I feel it is more about the nature of faith and that sometimes it isn't just for your convenience and how Homer slowly turns a somewhat understandable personal religion to him disrespecting his friends and neighbors out of a perceived superiority. Homer's a jerk there but his rationalization is more relatable and its more satisfying to see the people he insulted come to help him. Here, that same Flanders who risked his life to save Homer from a burning building is now excited at the prospect of a flood to wipe out the wicked. Characters are broader, yes, but more than that, they aren't as likable anymore and it takes an interesting message about our relationships with our religion into something kind of dull.

Other great jokes:

"You go, girl."
"Yes, I will depart, lest your bad grammar rub off on me."

"I've never actually BEEN to a baseball game. The fresh air gives me hives."

"Homer, we can't sue the church. They'll poke fun of us in the church bulletin."
"It wouldn't be the first time."


"Morning, judge. How's your lovely wife?"
"She was run over by a clergyman."

I like how possessive Santa's Little Helper is of the AA meeting room.

"Wow, Homer, this is like a party Dick Clark would throw."
"Yeah, fun but not too fun."


"They've broken every commandment except one."
"Hey, Lenny, covet some more chili fries?"
"You bet."
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Barting Over

A lot of people move out of their parent's place when they go to university. For me, I left after when I went to live in Japan. I had roommates at first but eventually, they moved out and I had a pretty big apartment (for Japan) to myself. I learned to really appreciate the pleasure of simply living on my own, which is something I have mixed feelings about today. I would love to have an significant other but I don't know how comfortable sharing space with someone else, having to do the work to take them into consideration in terms of sharing space. I'm a messy guy who likes picking up after his own pace. I don't consider myself inconsiderate but having to be considerate takes mental energy and it does feel nice to not having to worry about it.

In this episode, Bart discovers an old tape where he was in an embarrassing television commercial as a baby. Worse, Homer reveals he spent all the money to protect his reputation in regards to his bad parenting. Bart, fed up with Homer's selfishness, decides to become emancipated legally. The trial ends with Bart being awarded emancipation and moves into a loft in downtown Springfield, getting half of Homer's salary. Bart is nervous at first but is excited to learn he lives upstairs from Tony Hawk. Homer asks Tony Hawk to throw a match to help win back Bart's love but the plan doesn't work. Instead, Homer gives an earnest apology and promises to pay back Bart by starring in his own impotency commercial.

Barting Over is the 300th/302nd episode and rather than a milestone it feels like another tired "Homer is a jerk" episode. The episode has very little going on beyond premise (which could have potential) and jokes (which are largely misses). It comes close when we have a brief moment of Bart feeling truly alone in his new apartment but a lot of the potential humour and storytelling of Bart learning to fear then love living alone is more or less ejected in favour of "GUEST STAR TONY HAWK". And I have no objections to Tony Hawk the person, he takes away from the plot more than he adds, which is frustrating.

This is another episode about Homer being a jerk and there are two major ways in my mind this can go wrong. One is that Homer is far too cruel to make the shenanigans fun. This version goes beyond the usual meanness into something that poisons the stew and bleeds into everything else. The other error is the one this takes: Homer's meanness is bad but it's regular cartoon wackiness. Instead, with no emotional depth whatsoever, the turn at the end of the story feels unearned, meaning I have no interest in Homer being forgiven. It feels like the episode could be a commentary on whether Bart is actually better off without a wacky cartoon dad but there's frustrating little insight in what could have been the show commenting on itself and the nature of how people treat each other in a sitcom.

This is another episode where the idea is "other episodes did it better". There's nothing in here that wasn't done better in "Brother from the Same Planet". In that one, I feel it justifies that while Homer is lacking as a father, he does love his son and they do get on well when they aren't fighting. I think by the end, you might not be able to say they are good for each other but the tone works and you get the idea that though there is resentment, both want to be seen and loved. Here, Homer's just a two-faced jerk and any hints that he misses Bart don't land, as these moments don't line up well with the rest of the episode. What does Homer miss about Bart? How is his life different? It doesn't scan very well because it's a poor plot and with the episode being a joke/sausage factory, there's not a lot of room for nuance, something you might not thing about the Simpsons being until it truly is gone.

Other great jokes:

"These soothing chemical patches sooth your babies DNA, while leaving the RNA untouched."

"Not safe for babies under two."

"And I don't remember her being this granulated."

Other notes:

The episode is written by Andrew Kreisberg, who co-created the Arrowverse series of shows which are not particularly known for their strong writing. I began watching them when I heard good things about Legends of Tomorrow and that the Crisis special looked fun and basically decided to watch them all mostly in order. Frankly, they mostly aren't very good or memorable. Legends is definitely the best if only because for all it's shortcomings, it is definitely trying to have fun but all the shows have a weird mix of sometimes trying to be progressive while also having some questionable takes or in some cases, no takes at all (there's a particularly bad "gun violence" debate episode in Arrow where the answer is *shrug* and the villain is an anti-gun advocate). Kreisberg himself was eventually fired from all series following sexual harassment allegations. My point is, this is essentially the level of quality I would expect from a Simpsons episode penned by him and that's too bad.

Yeah, I don't like this. I don't like that Marge thinks like this.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can

I think we all have fantasies at being the best at something to get notoriety. My sister, an athlete, knows better about that than I but now that I'm older, I have a different role, watching kids after school. And there, I'm popular with some of the students, who are just happy to get a little attention. I don't need to be cool or impressive, I just need to be present and kind. Some kids pout because they need to share me with the other kids. Granted, some times they are trying to wield me against other kids (particularly in justice for sleights both factual and perceived) but I can tell that some really like having someone to talk to and spend time with. And that feels almost as good as any victory. Though I also get to kick the butts at the younger kids at basketball.

In this episode, Lisa wins the school spelling bee and is given the chance to take he competition to a higher level. Eventually, Lisa becomes the state champion and is invited to go national. Eventually, she is one of the three major finalists but Lisa is offered to take a dive in favor of a cute, popular boy in the hopes he will make the "sport" more popular. Meanwhile, Homer becomes addicted to the Krusty Burger's new product, the Ribwich. When the Ribwich promotion ends locally, Homer discovers a tour to eat Ribwiches in other markets. When Homer ends up with the last Ribwich in existence, Homer sells it for a ride to see Lisa's final game. Lisa is inspired to denounce the bribe to take a dive, only to lose anyway. Lisa finds that she is still loved in the town, despite her failure.

I'm Spelling as Fast as I Can is an episode that does OK with jokes but as a finished product, it's kind of a mess. It definitely wants to say some things but it doesn't really organize it's ideas very well and it comes off as disposable. So what are those ideas? One is about Lisa fearing that if she doesn't win, she'll lose all her popularity, only to discover they don't care how far she fell but are proud of how high she has risen. I actually like this idea a lot, especially from a town as famously fickle as Springfield finally really showing they care about it's most conscientious citizen. The other is Lisa trying to judge whether she'd rather sacrifice her ideals for her future, which isn't easy to answer for the Simpsons' tough financial situation. And also it's about Homer once again choosing Lisa over himself.

The show has dovetailed such ideas before but the stars aren't aligning for this one in terms of having them all fit together for an emotionally satisfying story. It's a shame because there are moments were it could work and the though definitely went into it from writer Kevin Curran. But I also think while the intent to inject heart in it is there, the script he wrote is incomplete and could have used yet another pass. I feel like script passes in this phase of the show are to iron out the humor. From that perspective, the episode is a modest success. There are good jokes, one of which stuck with me for a while. But at a whole, it leads to something of a wonky episode.

Still, the ribwich stuff has some laughs and I think George Plimpton is one of those guest stars that really works. He's clearly not an actor by nature but he's clearly used to public speaking so he delivers his ridiculous lines just fine. Probably one of the oddest bits is the ending. As I said, I do like the message that Springfield honors not how Lisa failed but how well she did. She went national. She's the second in North America. Cool. The episode ends with her having a Mt Rushmore style face put on Springfield and it feels like another joke is supposed to drop but it doesn't and it's weird and the episode hasn't earned any other proper emotion at this phase. It feels weird is all.


Other great jokes:

"Frankenstein and the Harlem Globetrotters meet the Mummy and the Washington Generals!"

"And he's your price for today, a scale model of the planet Mars."
"This is just a kickball with Mars written on it."
"BEHOLD! THE RED PLANET!"

"I'm just happy your excited about something besides saving the whales. Face it, they're doomed."

"Ugh, this has got to be the slowest news day ever. Ah, here we go. PARIS IS NO MORE, the legendary city of lights has been extinguished forever as a massive..."

I love the release the bees bit.

"And a hot plate!"

"I could give piano lessons."
"But you don't play the piano."
"I just need to be one lesson ahead of the kid."

"Think smaller. Think more legs."
Eh, we're all going to be eating bugs in the future anyway.

Other notes:

Apparently the McRib's appearances are related to changes in pork pricing.

I feel like references to the Osbournes instantly dates your show. It's like there was one year people wouldn't stop bitching about it.

This episode knows Milhouse is the worst option. I wish the show remembered that.
 

yama

the room is full of ghosts
"Ugh, this has got to be the slowest news day ever. Ah, here we go. PARIS IS NO MORE, the legendary city of lights has been extinguished forever as a massive..."
Are Kang and Kodos responsible for this incident?
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
A Star Is Born-Again

I wasn't raised in a particularly religious household. My dad let my mom raise us Catholic by we pretty much stopped going to church a few years after we came back from Thailand. But I have family members who are quite religious and a family friend who was THAT kind of religious. You know, reads Christian books and watches Christian movies. The kind that I can't even imagine appealing to their target audience. Its a lifestyle I couldn't imagine living, even if I was a believer. I feel like it is a kind that denies a lot of important stuff and cuts it off from a wider world, instead choosing to live in a bubble that tastes like a communion wafer.

In this episode, Ned is feeling lonely when he starts connecting with a mysterious customer at the Leftorium. After he makes a date, he realizes she's movie star Sara Sloane. The date goes well and Sara is charmed by Ned's old fashioned values. The two get more serious to the point where Sara is willing to live in Springfield with Ned. The two have some trials and differences stemming from both the baggage of fame Sara brings and Ned's prudish thinking but nonetheless they still want to be together, and Sara even convinces Ned to have pre-marital sex. However, the next morning Ned assumes they'll be getting married but Sara doesn't want to. The two decide their relationship has reached it's end and Ned realizes the relationship has made him more attractive to the ladies.

A Star Is Born-Again isn't a bad episode but unfortunately it is completely middling. And that's a shame because this is an episode where the jokes aren't firing but I do feel like it is going to a nice character-based story. I definitely like the idea of focusing on Ned romantically, as while killing off Maude feels like an act of pettiness, Ned on the dating scene opens up some doors both dramatically and comedically. This episode wants to tell a tale of Ned finding someone he loves with different values and seeing the two navigating this and finding what they are and aren't willing to change.

The problem is that this is a more Flanderized Flanders. Ned started as a sweethearted yuppy oblivious to Homer's jealousy to a sweet religious guy to a conservative Christian and considering there are jokes about his own fear of gays and sexuality, it is a lot less charming. Ned's behaviour, despite his good intentions elsewhere, is now tainted a bit and having a "likeable" character who also is homophobic and afraid of anything outside his limited world view makes for a character I am less interested in rooting for. It's a damned shame because Harry Shearer is great at bringing sweetness to his character that is impacted by the writing. 18 years ago one might be in the mood to enjoy a sweet guy with some wrongheaded ideas, but I feel like in this era, it just tastes bad.

As mentioned, Shearer is doing good work, trying to bring a certain tenderness to Ned as he charts what is for him uncharted territory. Marisa Tomei is also good as Sara Sloane and it is interesting that she guested in this era, simply because while she was consistently working, she doesn't feel like a big draw name like Tony Hawk. I think she and Shearer do generate some chemistry that helps the episode a lot. Meanwhile, the Simpsons are there to more or less act as expositions for the general tone of what the town is saying and Homer providing occasional advice. This isn't inherently bad except once again dialogue for characters like Bart feels like it is in self-parody mode as it has to set something up. It's a shame the lack of jokes and contemporary jokes made a potentially nice episode unable to land.

Other great jokes:

"Wow. Wow. That made me completely forget about Bob Balaban."
"Hmm, that's what Maude used to say."

"HAW HAW! Fight lupus!"
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington

No matter what side of the political spectrum you come from, it's pretty easy to understand being mistrustful of the government. Everyone seems to agree that there are huge systemic changes that are needed but it also seems that it is impossible to get things changed. And it is hard to work within government and be able to keep your hands clean, no matter how good your intentions. After all, once you enter, even in trying to dismantle or improve the system, you still need to work within it to some capacity and that means being complicit in something. Heck, being part of society means some complicity in the sins, even without doing a damned thing. Of course, key differences are often values and what exactly to mistrust. Mistrusting health professionals in government; not good. Mistrusting "tough on crime" laws and the police; very good. But most important... just mistrust conservatives. You can never go wrong there.

In this episode, the Simpsons discover that air traffic has been rerouted over their house, making their living situation nearly impossible. Desperate, they hit on the idea of having Krusty run for congress after their current congressman dies. Krusty agrees and after a disastrous start, Krusty turns it around after publicly promising to help families like the Simpsons. But when Krusty gets into congress, he finds himself completely unable to help his constituents. Eventually, a janitor in congress is able to give the Simpsons advice on how to game the system in order to get their bill passed.

This is an episode that aged mostly not so good. It's an episode where the good guy is an obnoxious, sexist celebrity running as a republican actually is a good guy (by the show's metric). It should come as no surprise that this is a Swartzwelder episode, as it feels very much like his own point of view, albeit one that still trust to work within the show's style. A problematic candidate who makes empty promises with no experience for purely personal reasons is harder to get behind, even if he does, in the third act, really want to do the right thing. It's a story that could work with some finessing and is definitely not without merit, particularly in the third act.

I also feel this is an episode where things are feeling a little.... less universal. Specificity is often a good thing but I feel like while Fox is a well-earned target, there's a little bit of a self-satisfied smugness to it. Of course, maybe I'm being hard on it because I know that later Fox News jokes are endemic of the kind of humour that feels a little too "political cartoon"-level of witless that eats away at the timelessness of the humour. I feel like that kind of bit worked a lot better in Sideshow Bob Roberts, where it both had specificity of a Rush Limbaugh-type (even in death, his type is sadly evergreen), . But while it does not sit entirely well with me, there are still some legit good lines in it. Worse is parts where we get hacky jokes like "would you like some hot air? We congressman's are full of it." Ugh. And I feel like there's just too much hacky in this episode for it's own good. Heck, the episode begins with Homer eating a Joe Millionaire ad that just doesn't work in the already flexible reality of the show.

But while it is flawed, I like the structure of the third act, at least in the abstract; Krusty, for once, wants to do a good thing and finds it impossible to be a good person in congress. Instead, the Simpsons have to win the day by using the very same systemic problems but to their own advantage and Krusty, unaware of the plan, wrongly assumes he can make a difference. I'm making it sound slightly more clever than it is and I'm not even selling it as particularly original, but nonetheless, I appreciate the episode not ending with the system working. Of course, Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington did it better by having the system work but with a clear sense of sarcasm and irony. Still, this otherwise weak episodes joke get better in this act and while there is a political cartoon level of cheese, it still works a little better, by and large.

Other great jokes:

Ralph walking away works for me.

"That's the saddest story in my 75 years of public service. That makes my blood boil... and my right arms tingle... and do I taste copper?"

"It's a joke. When you give me that look, it's a joke."

"You make a very adulterous point."

"Grover Cleveland sucks what?"
"Leave it... lest we forget."

"Congressman, I have a tape here of you using your free mail privilege to send a get well card to your aunt!"
"Maybe I wanted to be caught."

Other notes:

I COULD buy Krusty feeling bad about selling out to big oil... if they sold a moment where he sees the impact. Instead, it rings hollow. This guy LOVES selling out.
Old Three Stooges is a joke I half like and half feel is too mean spirited.

Personally, I like Quimby's mistress's voice and would be delighted to see her opera.

Krusty's rasta character is bad but at least it's timely since Adrien Brody on SNL is trending again.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
C E D'Oh

For a time I worked in a language school that offered me a position as partner. Boy did that end badly. My "partner" who knew about business spent very little time teaching me how to help run it and basically disappeared for over four months with what began as a family funeral and... well, he just took forever to come back. Eventually, we went to court over it and I won but it was a very bad experience that more or less scared me off from a position of being a business guy. My dad keeps suggesting I should start my own business but the fact is I don't know a damn thing about it and would rather not get in the world of business. Frankly, I feel if I had to be a "boss", I might have to be everything I hate to keep it going.

In this episode, Homer ends up in a sketchy "Successmanship" class run by a motivational speaker. Homer follows his book in order to succeed in work, only to discover Burns doesn't care. Homer decides on revenge and when Homer accidentally discovers Burns' weakness, he manages to trick him into handling over the plant. Homer is in charge of the plant but soon finds himself overworked to keep the plant running. Burns later arrives to show Homer how much he lost in his drive for success and Homer decides to give the plant back over to him.

Another episode, another new job for Homer. This one is written by Dana Gould and it's funny because while I feel his episodes aren't my favourite, I feel like he has the right attitude for later season episodes. They aren't emotional but they tend to be about something while understanding how to tell a proper Simpsons joke, something a lot of the writers seem to be losing their grip on. Like even some of the stuff that doesn't make me laugh out loud I like, such as Moe revealing he actually doesn't know who Mr. Burns is or the concept that businesses are often run by random things. Everything is still broad and over the top but I feel like he's got the exact spirit I want of this era, making this episode pretty watchable.

C E D'Oh could be better but it's also one where it does connect it's themes to it's first act, allowing the ideas to run through the episode, meaning it also has space to explore it's themes a bit. Does it explore them well? Well, the ideas are broad and not super insightful but I also suspect that they might come from the writers experience. After all, it's an episode that's basically "no one ever died wishing they spent more time at the office". But I do think Gould is exploring it from different angles, from the idea that it involves preying on each other, from the successmanship course to "tattling on the cattle" to the ending where Burns tries to murder Homer (one of my favourite gags, as Burns impotent evil is always funny to me). Its not the show at it's strongest but it has a decent foundation and doesn't feel like it's barely holding together.

I like a lot of the plot points. I like the Megatronics stuff, with Homer being taken in by a performative "successman" who proclaims anyone can be a success if they learn to not suck. The Cask of Amontillado stuff. Canary M. Burns. There's good stuff baked into the plot. I think I just tuned out more this time when it is about Homer being a victim of his own success, where the emotional work could have been more effected. But I do suspect it might come from Gould's life in the same way that certain things feel less like a cliche when it happens to you. I know my dad often felt guilty about spending so much time with his work, relating heavily to the Steve Martin character in Trains, Planes and Automobiles. So maybe simply I'd like it more if I felt I lived those feelings. Otherwise, it's a decent enough episode.

Other great jokes:

Other Gould weird specific I love: Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper are all... cat monsters?

"Now let's start with a full review of the theory of stripping. Now paleosexologists tell us that---"

"You, the oily bald man."
"YOU KNOW EVERYTHING ABOUT ME!"

"Oh, I'll stop sucking... later."

"See this watch? It's jammed with so many jewels, the hands can't move. How about your watch?"
"Well, I drew it on."

"See that car out there? They gave one to me, one to Stephen Spielberg, then they shot the guy who made it."

"Ooo, published by Kinkos."

"Wait till he steps on this flaming bag on... LISA'S COLLEGE FUND?!?!"


"So the caterpillar has emerged from it's cocoon as a shark, with a gun for a mouth."

"I thought he was going to say terror."
"Oh, I didn't think he was going that way."

Burns trying to wall up an already escaped Homer who gives him a blanket works for me.

Other notes:
I love using the phrase Life Obstacles.

For the sake of a joke, the arrangement of the Simpsons house makes less sense than usual.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Scuse Me While I Miss the Sky

As a child, like many children, I didn't quite like the dark when going to bed. If I remember correctly, I had the door open and left the bathroom light on. Over time, it changed to me having the radio on all the time and that eventually became having a fan on. I still have a fan on when I go to bed. But I do feel that such stimulation might work as an assistant but it's probably healthier to limit stimulation in order to sleep. I'm the kind of person who always likes to have noise on for whatever I do, so I don't appreciate the silence as much as I should. Instead, I'm probably living with more noise and light than I should when my mind could be clearer.

In this episode, Lisa becomes afraid she needs to focus her intelligence and chooses the path of astronomer. She decides to follow the path but soon finds a huge obstacle; Springfield is a huge hub of light pollution. Lisa has a petition filled out in order to reduce light pollution, but when the darkness is used by kids looking to steal hood ornaments. The backlash causes the mayor to turn on the lights 24/7, causing Springfield residents to lose sleep. Bart and Lisa eventually team up to trick a highly suggestable, sleep-deprived Homer in order to shut down the power from within the power plant. The citizens are angry but are mollified by a beautiful meteor shower.

I feel like it's been a while that there's been an episode with an environmental message and in those terms, this one is perfectly OKish. I like that we see consequences for the characters that comically reflect a reality, which is that too much light is bad for the brain. It's not subtle or even too clever, but I feel like it is there to remind us the beauty of darkness. Yes, it's about Lisa getting into astronomy, but if anything, that's more of an impetus for another environmental episode focused on the psychological effect that it has.

Otherwise, I kind of don't have too much to say about this one. It has some good jokes and the characters remain likable, which counts for a lot. We also have Eric Idle as a documentary filmmaker Desmond Declan, a character who would recur on the show from time to time. He's not actually that interesting a character to me, particularly in this one, were he plays a pretentious bully. Still, Idle plays his part well, as he is a good actor and the type of character he's playing is one he's played often in Monty Python, bringing a sense of media authority to ridiculous situations.

If I have one complaint, it brings up the idea that Lisa should pick a path in life and the episode doesn't really question it rather than acknowledging that Lisa is 8 fucking years old. Obviously, the source of this idea is pretty toxic but in making it a device to push the episode in the direction it needs, I don't think it explores the idea of anxiety about choosing a path and why it is OK not to panic about it. Which makes sense... it's simply not what the episode is about. And that's OK. But it introduces an idea that's more emotionally interesting than the one we get. It could also tie into the idea of overcoming having someone else try to pressure you into a path or make you feel less than for whatever reason.

Other great jokes:


Other notes:



"I spent 30 years brushing the teeth of dead monsters."

"Now, who will press my reset button. Will it be you? Or you? Or you?"

"Thanks a lot, surviving Beach Boys."

"Well, I'd like to help, I would but if I leave this observatory, another astronomer will move right in, they're like hermit crabs. Oh, there's one right now. I SEE YOU!"







"I don't know how you keep getting past security."

"You aren't John Ritter."
"And you ain't that gorilla from the zoo!"

"Oh, this is even better than our screensaver. And I love our screensaver."

"I wish God were alive to see this."
Other notes:
I love how the geology section of the museum looks lively and attractive before Lisa remembers it's boring. Though I think astronomy is as boring.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Three Gays of the Condo

As posted before, if you put all the gay jokes on the Simpsons back-to-back, it is clear that the show has not had the best track record with it's representation. It's not for a lack of trying. In fact, Homer's Phobia is an episode that held up mostly well. It's clear that the show wants to be pro-gay but a lot of it came of an era of gay and trans panic. I'm not saying the show doesn't deserve a little grief for that but the entire era was full of that shit and I would be lying if I didn't say I also didn't laugh and didn't realize that what I thought of as harmless fun represented a normalization of othering LBGTQ people. I think even as a show that wants to be progressive can look a little backwards in retrospect. But while it is flawed, Three Days of the Condo isn't as bad as I remember. But it could definitely be also be better.

In this episode, Homer finds an old note from Marge when Homer got dangerously drunk, expressing her misgivings. Homer feels upset about Marge's regrets and feels it's thrown their entire relationship into question. Homer decides to move out for a while and ends up in the gay section of Springfield, where he rents an apartment with two gay men. Homer begins enjoying his life in the area and feels a part of the community while Marge is worried Homer might never come back. Eventually, Marge decides to solve it with a grand gesture and Homer accepts but ends up getting drunk before their reconciliation dinner. Homer ends up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning learns that Marge had no doubts later in the evening of that fateful night when she wrote the note and the two really reconcile.

I remember this episode as the one where maybe Homer will be gay by hanging out with the gays. And... that's not entirely wrong but it's less in the forefront than I remember. But it's super in there. And with Homer having goofy dogs and new effeminate mannerisms, the indication is, Homer could go another way. Now the series has had jokes implying that Homer has considered experimenting before. Having Homer be canonically bi or pansexual in an overt non-joke is something I wouldn't mind happening with the character. I don't think it really changes the character too much and in the off chance they actually handled it well, it could give us an interesting story for the character, sorting out his feelings that he never addressed for most of his adult life. But Three Days of the Condo isn't quite so clever and feels a bit more like "will his new community make him be a gay."

That isn't the only problem. It also feels like an episode where the gay stuff much more like window dressing to a story about Homer and Marge... but also it takes up more of the episode. And also, Homer is even more than ever a raging alcoholic and everyone knows he has a problem and that's clearly where everything wrong in his life is stemming from for the sake of a joke when it should be the crux of the Homer and Marge plot. I don't think either thread entirely works. There is an idea of Homer code switching that could work but the idea is it could go beyond that thanks to the interest of a character played by gay icon and also guy with shitty takes on trans people Scott Thompson. It's an episode about gay community but it's not really ABOUT it so much as a lot of it is in there in a jokey superficial way.

Overall, it's a weak episode and though it uses a lot of cliches and stereotypes, the show has done and, worse yet, will do worse (I believe there's a "will Marge be a gay" episode only a season or two ago). But it also seems to bring up the more interesting ideas only to bury them. Obviously, we've had a classic "Homer stops drinking" episode (Duffless) but the episode presents it in a way where it is hard to be funny and is clearly hurting people. I think having it be that rough moves things from "wacky and dysfunctional" to a bummer. But also, the show deals with the idea of push and pulls of a marriage and buried feelings and Homer being really hurt by Marge's regrets but it never comes together in a satisfying way. Writer Matt Warburton would write more episodes, including one I feel is one of the great latter series entries "A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again" a great episode that combines high-level Bart hi-jinx and a high concept plot with a relatable story of the existential dread of losing a moment in time. So... I guess I got to wait around ten more season for that one.

Other great jokes:
"Is this about the billboard my sisters put up?"

"No, the voters will decide that in November."

"Stupid Flanders with his misleading silhouette."

"'Nancy Drew let out a low whistle. "This isn't an old windmill at all. It's a new windmill."' No Dad, I don't think she'll be killed."

"Did you ever get the parody song I sent you."
"Yes"
"Which did you like better; 'Living la Pizza Loca' or 'Another One Bites the Crust'."
"They were both pretty much the same."
"Yeah, like you and Allen Sherman."

"She was stealing sponges! I knew it!"
 

Ghost from Spelunker

BAG
(They/Him)
They're going to have to pay me way more than that to watch everything after season 12.

It would probably be more humane to hire more people and give each a few seasons to watch.
 
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Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Dude, Where's My Ranch

I feel like I'm a bit hard on the pop culture I revisit. In some cases, it simply fails to meet the impossible standards of my memory. But in some cases, there are jokes I let slip by while in revisiting they cause me angry in their laziness or poor conception. I've certainly seen this a lot in this show but now I think we've hit an episode where I feel like the show has become a cruel mockery of itself... and weirdly, I don't even hate it.

In this episode, Homer writes a successful novelty song and the family comes to hate it so they decide to take a vacation on a dude ranch. Lisa doesn't like it at first, mostly because of it's history (and America's history) but ends up falling in love with a boy at the ranch. As Homer and Bart end up in a plot to break a beaver dam, Lisa overhears the boy talking on the phone with someone named Clara. Lisa assumes the worst and when she meets Clara on the road, intentionally gets her lost. When Lisa finds out Clara was the boy's sister, she goes to find her, only to see her in danger from Bart and Homer's story. Clara is saved but Lisa is shamed by the boy and realizes being in love can make you do mean things.

Dude, Where's My Ranch is an episode that feels like it symbolizes the few things that work about late stage Simpsons and so much that doesn't. The first act has a lot of genuine laughs and there are some sprinkled throughout. But as the episode goes on, it begins to feel like what a marketing exec thinks the show is, with Bart being a trouble-making hero who saves Homer and is quick with a quip. In a similar camp, we have Maggie dancing to Britney Spears and posing with a cola can for, like, no reason other than "remember that popular commercial?" And then there's the Gollum reference and... is "my precious" a bit that's never NOT tired, even over 20 years later? I've seen more than one actual good show use it and it always causes me to sigh and roll my eyes.

Similarly, there are also problems with the fact that in making it a "Simpsons are going to _______" episodes, what the episode is about seems second to gags about the location. And what is there is not explored in an interesting way and has a pretty corny structure that's feels more like one of the weaker Tiny Toons episodes. Which is pretty damning. And Homer and Bart helping the Native Americans is a mix of "weak plot" and "ooooh, that's not cool". There is a lot that doesn't work and aside from appealing to marketing by putting the Simpsons in cowboy hats, I'm not sure what they were thinking. Like a lot of latter episodes, there are multiple good ideas for an interesting episode buried under garbage, mainly Lisa finding her love leading her to sacrifice her integrity or Homer finding his own creation exhausting and suffocating (which would be a good meta-episode). Heck, Lisa beginning her vacation unable to divorce the fun from the shitty history kind of reminds me of a great speech in an OK DS9 episode where Sisko explains his hesitancy about venturing into a romanticized 1960s and I wish there was more of Lisa contending with "this place is pretty cool" with "build on tragedy and horror."

Despite all of my valid complaints, it still isn't an episode without merit. Mostly it's the humour because while there are a LOT of bad, dumb jokes, there are still a lot of nice weird ones. A lot of them are in the first act, and after that, the awkward bad ones are sitting side by side with some of the good ones. I don't know if it all makes it worth bothering with the episode, but I still like it. We have a fun Walter Brennan/Walter Huston-esque prospector-type for a few gags that works (including him dancing excitedly at the prospect of the dance, getting tired and then dancing excitedly at the prospect of going to bed) and some brief visual, like the boy, Luke, putting an egg under a smiling rattlesnake who is pretty cool with it. I feel like it's easy to forget with the show's flaws that it can do legit good jokes, sort of like how Family Guy sometimes does even though it's not worth having to wade through it's ironic racism/sexism/etceteraism. I don't blame anyone whose jumped ship by this point but to say it has no gas left in the tank is still wrong. It's just.... terribly utilized as a whole.

Other great jokes:

I can't entirely tell why namedropping "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" is funny save that it's a weird, obscure title (as far as I know). But it's funny, particularly the lawyer saying.

I think both Flanders' and Homer's aborted song attempts are bad in a funny way. "There's a stranger in the manger and his name is love!"

"Ya ever see the movie Misery?"
"Actually, no"
"Then this will all be new to use."

"Do you have an internet connection?"
"HAHAHA! Son, the only Internet connection we got is a dedicated DSL port in the business center. Or you can patch in through the smart fridge in your cabin."

"On this battleground in 1881, 56 Indians lost their lives and four brave Americans lost their hats."
I like the damning word choice of "brave"

Bart getting on the horse like a baby and getting smug about it is a good one. "I want upsies," "He sure showed us."




I don't know why this works for me but it does.

I also like Cookie sharing a bunk between Bart and Lisa.

And finally, Moe's one hit wonder speaks to my inner insecurity.

Other notes:
Man, Alf Clausen doesn't even attempt to emulate what David Byrne producing a song by Homer would sound like. Except in one moment and even then it's the most superficial, toothless and off-brand version.

Pointing out Flanders has shitty views on birth control remind me I don't like them trying to keep selling nice guy Flanders when he sucks now.

As a joke, "Denzel Washington Monument" is dumb and lazy but also I wish it was real because Denzel is awesome (and also I feel like not enough directors take advantage of his comedic acting).
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Old Yeller Belly

It's interesting to think that in ways I didn't notice, we are changing how we think about animals. A few years ago, I wanted to take my niece, whom I knew loved animals, to a pet shop. Well, it turns out Pet Shops kind of don't exist anymore, at least in their conventional form. And when I thought about them and how loud they are and how much activity there is was likely unnecessarily stressful for the animals. So I think it's probably good to reconsider how we treat animals. At this point, I feel like it might be good for us to start moving beyond zoos as well. I love to see animals as much as anyone, but it is likely better for them if we don't have them in confined areas like that. I want to see animals but if it's better for their emotional well-being, then it's probably time to stop.

In this episode, during a fire Santa's Little Helper fails to save Homer while Snowball II succeeds. Homer becomes doting towards Snowball II who becomes a local hero while Santa's Little Helper raises his ire to the point where he disowns him on TV. After a photographer catches a photo of Santa's Little Helper drinking beer in a fun way, the head of Duff decides to make him a mascot, making Homer love him again for what he can do: make money. But then Santa's Little Helper's old owner comes to claim him and with Homer denying ownership on TV, the case is on his side. The Simpsons worry about the dog when they see him being overworked on TV and conspire to get him back. While their plan backfire, it results in Duff finding a new mascot and the Simpsons getting their dog back.

The pets on the Simpsons are rarely anthropomorphized and tend to behave like animals, with the exceptional bits for the sake of humour. But when the show remembers to utilize them, they work best when it remembers that they are just some animals and aren't treated by human standards. Which is why it is weird where the first half of the episode is all about the dog coming over it's cowardice when it feels like it should be about Homer accepting the animal as it is instead of holding it to human standards. I am glad the episode never says he needs to be brave in order to be loved by the episode's end.

Though I think it is done in a shallow and mid-tier way (it's a watchable enough episode), I do like that the episode is about humans exploiting animals for their amusement to the point where a drunken shark (appropriately characters are cheering as it pathetically flounders on the beach) is everyone's favourite mascot. This is the part I like and while I wish it was explored more and woven better into the episode as are the themes of my favourite episodes. Like, I kind of wish like "Bart's Dog Gets an F", we kind of got SLH's perspective on these weird humans telling him what he should do, what he should be and the overstimulation.

I do also feel that it is about Homer loving his pets conditionally. And despite the term "unconditional love", we do expect some reciprication, even if it's just a little reciprocation or maintaining the elements what we love. But Homer's love is extremely conditional and I wish if this was more about it, it could be Homer really accepting that the animals he love have some faults and that's OK. But like I said, while that stuff is there, the show never really makes time to contend with it or dovetail it into the plot, which ends with another wacky Simpsons plan. I'm kind of sick with the show having last act wild schemes to make things work. I appreciate that shows can change but its not really a direction that helps the show comedically (as it is often a little hacky) or emotionally. And I understand the Simpsons is less in touch with it's emotions at this point but if you are going to be a comedy first show, you need to subvert formula rather than fall into it.

Other great jokes:

"Did Frank Lloyd Wright have to deal with people like you?"
"Actually, Frank Lloyd Wright endured a lot of harsh criticism."
"Look. I have no idea who Frank Lloyd Wright is."
"You said his name two seconds ago."
"I was just putting words together."


"The Amish sure are industrious. Not like those shiftless Mennonites."

"I prefer catsup to ketchup and to me Youssaf Islam will always be Cat Stevens."
"Hehe, good stuff. You must like the Broadway musical Cats."
"God, no, it sucks."
This gag shouldn't work for me as well as it does but Dan sells his distain.




"What do you use for anesthetic? A big mallet? Well, I don't kno--"
*clobber, pop, pop*

"Marge, prepare the celebration ham."
"All we have left are the earthquake ham and the condolence ham."
"Marge, they're just hams, ok?"

Other notes:
It is fun the rare time Bart and Homer get into ill-advised frolicking.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Brake My Wife, Please

I am always afraid that I'm taking my loved ones for granted. I see my parents and sister and her family for dinner twice a week. I do some cleaning and help out but often I'm also just in and out fairly quickly. I also often worry about my mom, as she has to spend a lot of time looking after my father, who has mobility issues and I feel like while they still love each other, there's some tension from the fact that she has to do so much for him and there's a lot he is unable to do in return. I feel like I could help out more often but at the end of a long day, putting in the energy is tough. But after my parents having done so much for me, I should really do more for them.

In this episode, Homer gets into a car accident thanks to his own foolishness. Marge is forced to do all the driving relating chores when Homer looses his license but Homer bounces back with a newfound love of walking. However, Marge ends up hitting Homer with her car, and the two soon realize Marge is subconsciously attacking Homer over Marge's deep-seated resentment. Homer and Marge see a couple's counciller and Homer is inspired to make a celebratory dinner to let Marge feel appreciated.

Brake My Wife, Please is another decent episode thwarted from being a good episode by routine. That routine is "Homer's romantic grand gesture", which seems to fix everything until Homer has to do it again. Heck, this could have been a dark meta-ending because that basically means things are going to go back to the status quo, and that's not good. The episode slowly builds Marge's stress while focusing on Homer, which I think is good. I think it properly mirrors Homer's complacency until he's hit by Marge and the two eventually realize there's something very wrong in their marriage. I think that's actually a very good structure and builds on the routine of Homer's interest/job of the week, where for Homer it's another adventure and for Marge it's another mess to pick up after.

And that's a shame. I think there's a lot of interesting ways to move forward. I like the idea that Marge loves Homer but has so much resentment, she's attacking him in ways she isn't aware of. The last act could have had a thriller angle punctuated by an actual emotion. Instead it's all "Marge is great", which is true but ignoring the root of the problem. The episode could have scrutinized it's own formula but instead its ending lands it in "just a bunch of stuff that happened", down to yet another musical guest star who... the Simpsons can just get, now? Like, how are the Simpsons able to afford personal Weird Al and Jackson Browne concerts?

This isn't a bad episode in terms of jokes and watchability. The problem is it's lack of ambition, even in the slightest sense. Or rather, what it does have kind of gets thrown out the window for a basic ass resolution. At this point, the show can't really expect us to threaten the Homer/Marge marriage. If she can take the time Homer lied about his guns, no one big thing is going to do it. But just because it doesn't end isn't the happy ending, the happy ending is that the marriage is happy for both of them. It feels like Homer's journey is accepting that he needs to be vigilant about being thoughtful instead of simply waiting for a fire to put out. But the lesson is simply "I put out another fire" and it's unfortunate that's the solution to anything. And this is coming from a guy who admits he's pretty afraid to confront the people he loves when he should.

Other great jokes:
"Hmm, I thought I was being kicked exceptionally hard lately."

I love the aquarium guide who is constantly telling people to shut up.

"Ah, I might have known... but I didn't."

"I fear I have become a buttercup of winter."
"Hush up nana. That's fool talk."

I like that the big laugh for Homer is word's being misspelled.

I don't know whether Lindsay Nagel popping out of a morgue that is apparently next to Bart's room part of an aborted bit or just a non-sequitor but I still like the choice.

"I wanna amble."
"I wanna saunter."
"Amble."
"Saunter."
"AMBLE!"
"SAUNTER!"

I like the Sea Captain's reaction to Marge's mild reaction to the fish. Also, isn't she terribly allergic to fish? That's like the thing from the first Sea Captain episode.

Other notes:
Steve Buscemi is in this one and he actually appears in another one down the line. I actually remember liking that one. I hope it holds up.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Bart of War

When I was a kid, I spent a lot of time by myself. My parents did try to get me into clubs every so often but I was always happier doing my own thing. But I often see kids go into clubs. Kids who are often wild and find strength and control within the structure. And organizing that is tough. Right now, I'm looking after kids from grade 2-5 and while they are generally good, it is hard to control their focus. Some are sensitive, some are suspicious and perceive other kids are always against them. It's a formative time and it's good to have a good outlet and a guiding hand... and it's a little bit worrisome when it is being done wrong.

After Bart and Milhouse cause trouble in Flanders' house, Marge and Homer decide Bart needs an activity to keep him out of trouble. They choose the Pre-Teen Braves, a youth group focused on bettering the community. Bart likes it at first but soon they find a rival in the Cavalry Kids, the youth group Milhouse joined. The two end up competing for attention in terms of altruism, which comes to a head during a candy bar sale for charity. After a prank war, the Cavalry Kids win and get to sing the national anthem at a baseball game. After another prank, the Pre-Teen Braves take their place in order to humiliate the Kids, which results in a fight where everyone at the game is drawn into. On the big screen, Marge cries over the chaos, inspiring everyone to get together and sing the national anthem of Canada.

Whew, OK, let's get this out of the way... this one aged bad. In fact, I think it was ill-considered even in the time it aired. Because the episode is filled with some pretty unfortunate appropriation of Indigenous culture in the Pre-Teen Braves. Like, so much of it. Now, I shouldn't be surprised... it took forever for some of the more offensive sports team names to get changed and without looking it up, am very confident a lot of major teams still have some racist mascots and team names left over. But the episode knows enough to have Apu point this out, which... boy, this episode aged weird all over, didn't it. And seeing so much imagery can't help but colour a lot of my opinion of this episode.

But beyond that is a merely so-so episode to begin with. There might be something in here about the toxic nature of tribalism and how it can creep in anywhere, but beyond that, it's a pretty shallow story. Part of it feels like it is the plot itself isn't taking shortcuts, any reason it be invested in what happens isn't properly provided. It's another one where it feels like the point is the jokes and there isn't much more depth than that, which leads to a forgettable episode that has the misfortunate of it's ill-considered imagery and use of another indigenous character voiced by a white guy.

Seriously, the Indigenous stuff is supposed to be much more window dressing but it takes up a lot of room. And also, Lisa doesn't seem to have a problem with this? Considering that she's barely in this one, you'd think she'd be the one to point out it's kind of fucked up. I mean, the last time I think of such appropriation is Parasite where the point is "The fact that this rich kid is making this cultural appropriation a hobby and a game is FUCKED UP!" The Simpsons might put a hat on it but it doesn't stop them from doing it itself. This really wasn't going to be a thing I was going to talk so much about but the show didn't think to give the rest of the episode enough for me to work with.

Other great jokes:

"We're going to watch a show about the everyday problems of angels."
"Now back to Good Heavens."
"Jesus called today."
"HE DID!?"
Best joke in the episode hands down.

"I wish I could fly. Then I'd be the most popular kid in school."
"Knowing you, you'd mess it up somehow."

"I wish we could see their happy faces."
"Sin of pride, Roddy."
"Sorry, Daddy."
"Sin of regret."

"Dad, maybe you could lead Bart's tribe."
"You mean like some sort of madman?"
"Ideally, no but---"
"I'll do it!"

"I've already got the perfect headline: 'Activity participated in by some'."

 
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