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

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Marge Vs. The Monorail

As a kid, I was constantly watching stuff with jokes that were over my head. But you don't necessarily have to get a joke in its entirety to find it funny. MST3k is full of references that are lost on me but I would constantly get the heart and intent of the joke, which would be good enough. If anything, it added a mystique and often inspired me to look up what was being referenced if I could. I still don't know who Linden LaRouche is or if I'm spelling it correctly but I know enough about weird political nutballs to get the kind of joke being referenced. But sometimes I would be surprised when finding the origin of a reference. The Taking of Pelham 1-2-3 was often referenced on MST3k and for a long time I assumed it was a cheesy made-for-TV thriller, only to discover much later it being a masterpiece of suspense and sardonic humour. And next we have what is considered to be the greatest Simpsons episode by many, featuring two parodies of things I was very unfamiliar with at the time: The Music Man and 70s era disaster movies.

In this episode, Mr. Burns pays a three million dollar fine and the town argues over what to do with it. A slick salesman named Lyle Lanley comes to town with a promise of revitalizing the town with a monorail and the town is instantly on board. Even Lisa is one over by the stranger's charm, leaving only Marge to worry the town is making a mistake. After finding some damning evidence that Lanley is fleecing the town, she heads to a town he namechecked in a song as being improved by the monorail only to find a haunted ghosttown, ruined by the monorail. Marge returns with an engineer to try to stop the monorail but its too late and the monorail goes out of control. Now, the only hope is if the conductor can-- aw, shit, its Homer.

Its funny how it only took me THIS viewing to realize that this episode was a parody of an era of disaster movies. I guess I read it as another Simpsons adventure rather than a love letter to the overstuffed spectacles like The Towering Inferno and The Poseidon Adventure (the latter being a fun movie in its own right). And it makes sense: though there's only one "celebrity" on the train, the town of Springfield has grown into an all star cast, so it makes sense to bounce off of them similarly. Of course, the actual disaster is saved for the last act and the first couple are a parody of the Music Man, a movie I've still never seen. All I know about it is its about a con artist who comes to town and sells everyone musical instruments they don't need and convinces them to become a band. People seem to like it.



But you don't need to know these references to enjoy this episode. Because if anything these two disparate elements are really a template for a brilliant comedy in its own right. Now real sentiment in this one, this is pure comedy from beginning to end. There isn't a lot of deep meaning, though I feel like an apt analogy could be made between Springfield and any city foolish enough to decide to host the Olympics. And the satire of Mr. Burns going before a judge, paying his fine with walking around money, then buying the statue of justice is still terrifyingly spot on. But other than that, the arcs aren't particularly compelling. On Marge's side, her sensible opinions are ignored in favour of a flashy song and dance man and she ends up doing most of the legwork to save the town, only for Homer to essentially take the hero role at the last minute, even though it was mostly just luck. On Homer's, there's a bit of a small "Bart looks up to Homer this week" on his road to conductor. But it feels not entirely complete and under the radar and I feel the writers felt the freedom to let the arcs slide to let the comedic beats do the heavy lifting.

And lift they do. Like a disaster movie, we get to see lots of characters get play and it feels like almost all the toys are being taken out of the toybox. The gags are even more ridiculous than usual. The reality is stretched even more thinly, as Little Rascal Leonard Nemoy beams away at the episode's end. The episode is a Conan O'Brien episode and it feels like it. I think the man is very sweet but his preferred type of humour is weird and wild over the kind of emotional preferences of the producers (though he did it for New Kid on the Block). The choice of Conan as a late night host apparently confounded America but eventually his weird humour found an audience and he's remained a beloved TV host. And late night TV comedy seems like the perfect venue. Generally, the writing isn't about "arcs" its a bunch of bits and sketches and personality and that seems very much where his strengths lie. BTW, if you haven't yet, please watch Lookwell, the TV pilot he created with Adam West. Its fantastic.

This episode furthers the idea that the people of Springfield en masse are easily manipulated by a flashy gimmick. From here in, Springfield is almost an organism and the herd mentality can be either surprisingly noble or, more often than not, malleable in a harmful way. Meanwhile, while we've seen Homer almost instantly become surprisingly competent at a new job, here the story is both absurd and realistic: Homer doesn't immediately become better, he gets his position out of luck and Homer assumes he's good at the job, when someone said so and he's too naïve to realize they're wrong. He's just a patsy throughout and remains likeable simply because he's in "dumb dog Homer" mode. Really, Marge is the hero and Homer just follows some orders and gets lucky. The only real thing he needs to do for himself is make an anchor, which, yeah, that's good but compared to Marge, he's an assistant in a glorified position.

Also, a shoutout to Lyle Lanley. Phil Hartman is always a treat and vocally he's more or less the same as his other character's on the show. The difference as funny as he is, he goes past "delightfully corrupt/sleazy" to downright evil. He's not "scary" but his complete disregard for human life and his ability to completely charm his way through almost any situation makes him one of the show's most effective villains. Its also a perfect showcase for Hartman's musical chops and his ability to be a true showman, even more than supposed showman Troy McClure. The Monorail Song is one of the show's most memorable moments and for good reason, a perfect storm of funny jokes and a toe-tapping beat and a performer on the top of his game.

Marge Vs. The Monorail is top tier Simpsons, loaded with great jokes from beginning to end. It just feels like the show is firing on all cylinders and has truly evolved into its best form. Oh, the show will still have some strong emotional beats to play but I feel like people will primarily remember the Golden Age as a master class of joke writing with a kind of humour that wasn't common to TV at that point. Occasionally, there would be shows like "Police Squad" or you might see sketch comedy with similar weirdness but I feel like it was a show that mixed lots of different humour styles and a savviness about genre and comedy itself that the 90s would basically be known for. I can never truly know if I can objectively look at the show because saying it was "my Beatles" as a transitional moment in comedy and TV writing sounds a bit much, it will always feel like that to me: a show that if not completely changed the landscape, changed and defined comedy for me.

Jokes I missed before:

The toxic waste barrel is marked "Do not eat." Considering the workers at the Nuclear Plant, this signage is essential.

Other Great Bits:

Shit, where to begin. I mean, the episode opens with an extended Flinstones parody but to me the great thing about a lot of these bits isn't the parody, its the smaller details, like Homer happily smashing through his glass window as he lands in his car. And it doesn't let up from there on in.


My favourite detail is that Springfield is so used to this kind of shit, Apu is making his point while Burns is still escaping via grappling hook.

I love how Grandpa's complaints get everyone on board with fixing main street.

"Can it outrun the Flash?"
"You bet!"
"Can Superman outrun the Flash?"
"Ehh, sure."



"How much did you see!"
"Nothing incriminating."
"Good."

Nemoy explaining the Star Trek doors weren't automatic to a barely interested passenger is one of those jokes that should NEVER have been taken out for syndication.

If you've learned anything this episode, I hope it is that Batman's a scientist.

The Escalator to Nowhere

Other Notes:
Making Lurleen washed up so fast for a gag bums me out a bit.

He missed an episode but the sea captain is back. So since his initial appearance, he's appeared in 4 of 5 episodes. That's pretty impressive.


Why... why is there another Kent Brockman? Is this the cosplay that the kids are doing these days?
 

jpfriction

You'll never take my hat away
They don’t get much better than that one.

I’ve also never seen the music man (maybe, now I’m thinking my brother was in a production of it). My best friend in high school had his outgoing voice mail message as “With a capital P and that rhymes with me and that stands for Paul!” for a while and I just thought it was the most clever thing in the world until I stumbled across that song somewhere. Still some solid voicemail work, Paul, you should bring that one out of retirement.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
That's Rich Moore standing next to him too.
 

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
(He/Him)
"I call the big one Bitey" combines about four jokes into one punchline, and I am forever in awe of it.

Also; this is one of my favorite single images of Homer in the entire run of the show;

 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Selma's Choice

I think I've always fantasized about having kids of my own someday but sometimes I feel the desire is much more about what kind of cool dad I could be rather than something truly well thought out. Helping my sister and her partner raise their kids is definitely a learning experience in what it is like to herd cats and that the difficulty involves a lot of trial and error, fear and regret that you might be making the wrong call at a given moment. I look after the kids about 5 days a week for 9 hours a day and I feel like I could not imagine living with it. Of course, that's because I have a comfortable, if a bit lonely, life outside of it where I can just check out and not have to worry about anyone but myself for a while. But I do think what it would be like to dedicate myself to another life like that.

In this episode, the Simpsons attend a funeral for one of Marge's relatives and during the reading of the video will, Selma comes to the conclusion she wants a baby to ease her loneliness. She starts seeing all kinds of guys, lowering her already low standards but finding nothing. Afterwards she turns to a sperm bank and considers artificial insemination. But before she commits she takes the kids to Duff Gardens after Homer falls sick. There, Selma finds taking care of kids far more difficult than she imagined.

After the madcap hilarity of "Marge Vs. The Monorail", we get a much more human story with one of the show's more human characters. Selma's romantic woes paid dramatic dividends in "Principal Charming" and comedic ones in "Black Widower" and here we have all of the above. Despite the fact that Patty and Selma are often gruff and detached, Selma is the more sensitive and lonelier of the two sisters and while it is another story where she wants a partner, its a means to an end to get a child. The Simpsons have done its fair share of jokes of the fear of dying alone but here its taken with emotional weight as the gift from Aunt Gladys includes both literal and metaphorical reminders of mortality. Its definitely a motivation I can relate to, as death and loneliness are among my greatest fears.

The final act ends with Selma coming to the conclusion that she was completely unprepared for the realities of having kids. She likes her niece and nephew but its more than just not being "good with kids", its she finds herself unable to roll with the punches. Knowing Homer, there's a good chance what happened to Selma could have easily happened to Homer. There's a bit of bad parenting in there that spins wildly out of control to be sure but parenting missteps happen every day. Selma finds herself defeated by them and kind of gets a new appreciation for Homer's ability to be a parent because even half-assing it can take a shocking amount of resolve and work. Patty ends up allowing the part of her that wants to nurture to be used towards looking after Jub-Jub the iguana.

Its a sweet ending and also a parody of an iconic Murphy Brown episode that people have likely forgotten. While there are plenty of wacky jokes, this episode goes a lot more intimate and zeroes in on an ancillary character. After three episodes with a focus on her, Selma has gone from a irritant to Homer and a drain on the family to a well-rounded character filled with humanity and pathos. There are still a lot of "she ugly" jokes but the show is clearly sympathetic towards her and allows the show to tell the kinds of stories that the core cast doesn't allow. While the show doesn't always do well making a recurring character a focus (I didn't need all those Comic Book Guy episodes, thanks), Selma is a surprisingly strong contender for most well-written character outside of the main cast.

Jokes I missed before:

A few this time, two involving beer hats: one with FDR wearing one in the Beer Hall of Presidents and Homer wearing one to drink Pepto Bismol.

The young preppie version of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side" a song about drugs, prostitution, oral sex and featured some of mainstream music's first major references to transgender people (specifically actors who were in Andy Warhol's circle of friends).

The ending that's a Murphy Brown referenced. That's why recent references are a dicey proposition.

Other great jokes:

"You'd be surprised how often that works, you really would."

"No suspenders for you."
"...I guess not."

"Did I do wrong?" is a line I still use.

I love how pumped Homer is for Norman Fell as Zeus.

"Oh, I'm not a doctor."

"Hercules, the cyclops tore off my dress."
"HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Other notes:

A nice touch is Aunt Gladys reading Robert Frost. Its such a cliché to try to sound profound with that particular poem. Apparently most people miss the point of the poem and its really that the road less travelled isn't necessarily the better one. But it works for the episode in which Selma finds herself in her own crossroads.

Why the fuck did Marge not through away the sandwich after finding it behind the radiator?

I wrote this entire thing and only at the end realized I wrote Patty instead of Selma most of the time, even though the episode is clearly "Selma's Choice"
 

Torzelbaum

????? LV 13 HP 292/ 292
(he, him, his)
Maybe they're dumb or bad but I love the Lisa tripping balls scenes and the aftermath.
"I am the Lizard Queen!"
"Can't talk, coming down."

Why the fuck did Marge not through away the sandwich after finding it behind the radiator?
Because she's an enabler?
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Brother from the Same Planet

I forgot about this until recently but in Junior High, I had a Big Brother. I'm not sure what brought it on. I think even at the time I was a little confused. I think I was a bit depressed at the time and I know Mom also took me to a therapist for a hot minute but that didn't really work out. Jr. High was tough. Dad might have been away a lot at the time. And our family had recently returned from a 10 month stay in Thailand, so even returning to our hometown, things had changed significantly. But once a week, there was a guy who would take me for walks and we talked about comics and went to see Broken Arrow. Then it just stopped being a thing. He seemed like a nice guy and I think it is cool to just take time to hang out with a kid to let them know they are wanted. Bart might think he's gaming some system but maybe he's simply getting what he actually needs.

In this episode, Homer forgets to pick up Bart at soccer practice and feeling spiteful he contacts the Bigger Brother program to get a mentor figure. Bart ends up with Tom, a cool, strong, wealthy and sweethearted go-getter. When Homer finds out he's hurt and decides to get revenge by getting a littler brother. Homer finds Pepe, a poor lonely kid with giant eyes and a open heart. As Homer and Bart get closer to their mentees and mentors, they aim to hurt each other for getting hurt. Things come to ahead after Tom confronts Homer, whom he believes to be a drunken gambler. It is a correct guess but all the same, a fight breaks out that spreads across the city. Meanwhile, Lisa is addicted to a hotline and must find a way to break it.

I feel like Bart genuinely needed a Tom, at least for a little bit. Homer is a loving dad for all his faults but Bart could use another, probably. I don't know the specifics about how the program works in real life but I'm sure its about feeling loved and appreciated and I don't think having a well-intended father necessarily precludes Bart shouldn't have another friend. In addition, Bart has a lot of energy and drive and his *spark* that his family has a hard time directing and someone like Tom seems like he could be good for that. Of course, its clear that Pepe is in more in need of a Tom in his life so its nice to see that the sweet but apparently dense duo end up together but Bart and Tom made a pretty solid team as well. Of course, Bart's well aware that his motives are less than pure and he begins to feel bad about it and knows there's probably someone Tom could see who is more in need. Homer's motives are similarly selfish but he also clearly has a lot of affection for Pepe. Who wouldn't? He hangs on your every word, is eager to learn and is just happy that you showed up. Homer is probably not a good Bigger Brother but for his buffoonery and ill-intent towards Bart, he's clearly putting in an effort and the affection between the two isn't a complete lie.

A lot of the humour of this is that Homer and Bart's relationship is framed similarly to a romantic relationship on the rocks and that they are openly cheating on each other. There's Homer's soap opera-style waiting at home moment with a husky Bette Davis sort of voice (if the parody is more specific than that, its lost on me). Bart telling Homer all the times he had fun on the swing he was "faking it". Really, the Bigger Brother stuff is all a wacky metaphorical way to tell a story about infidelity followed by a toxic relationship between exes.

This is also yet another great showcase for Phil Hartman, who is basically a cast member by this point. This is also the most genuinely decent person he gets to play, taking his skill with cheesiness and essentially making a younger, sexier Ned Flanders. Its still a recognizably Hartman character but its so rare for him to be a complete good guy rather than a slick sleazeball or a hollow-souled actor. He also gets to do some other work, including taking part in a pitch perfect parody of Saturday Night Live with him as the announcer (I think he was still on it at the time). It goes without saying that Hartman was the show's strongest recurring actor but watching it again, its amazing how perfectly he and the show complemented each other's strengths: a man with a talent for voicing men of authority and a show with a deep distrust towards it.

Lisa's b-plot is serviceable. My one complaint is that the resolution doesn't make a lot of sense: she can get over her addiction if she doesn't do it for one day? Even for TV that's plenty naïve. But its chalk fill of solid bits. Every second of the Cory hotline is bizarre and vapid and perfect. It also re-introduces the relationship between Skinner and his mother as something a lot more unpleasant, with what was probably intended to be a one-off joke that became a very big part of the character.

I haven't thought about this episode in years but it is crazy strong. Pretty much every joke in the prolonged fist fight between Homer and Tom is killer, particularly the opening salvo of Homer using starfish as ninja stars, then Tom putting them safely in a pool only for them to be eaten by sharks. That sounds overly busy on paper but now is the time the show is willing to go down these little rabbit holes with their jokes. The ninja star thing is enough and they didn't need to do more with the starfish. But Tom's character sort of informs that he can't leave them be and the joke sort of "has" to keep going. I feel like the show had finally gotten the courage to be really specific and weird and a little longer form with joke telling that doesn't have a huge effect on the plot. And, again, I can't be objective but I feel like this style of writing would become a huge influence on comedy as a whole going forward.

Jokes I missed before:

I never noticed that the "Saturday Night Live" parody was "Tuesday Night Live".

I also didn't realize till years later that the grapefruit scene was a parody of "The Public Enemy"


Mmmm.... Grapefruit.

Other great jokes:

I love the kids being very excited to see Barton Fink. That's an amazing movie but I feel like those kids won't enjoy it the way I do. Maybe the climax.



"We could sit here and try to figure out who forgot to pick up who until the cows come home. Lets just say we're both wrong and that'll be that."

"Lost your Dad?"
"Uh-huh."
"He's not coming back, is he?"
"He might."
"No, he's not."

Grandpa's maniacal laugh as he falls asleep. "AHAHAHER!"

Homer and Bart bonding over cowardly fighting tactics.

Other notes:

Why does Milhouse have a photo of a relative who is EXACTLY as angry as his dad is right now?

I like the show's implication that Ren & Stimpy is just Itchy & Scratchy for people who can afford cable.

There's an active and currently flowing volcano in the middle of Springfield, apparently.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
I Love Lisa

When I was a kid living in a suburban neighborhood on the outskirts of town, there was a kid who wanted to be my friend. The feeling was not mutual. I don't know if there was a specific reason why he wasn't cared for by me but we didn't want to come out and tell him we didn't like him. It probably didn't help that I briefly entertained a friendship because he had a Sega Genesis (this became less of an incentive when his dad told us his views on homosexuality). But eventually, when he would knock on our door, me and my sister would hide and wait for him to go away. In childhood, there are lots of relationships built on convenience but they also don't have the best judgement of how to friend and how to try to painlessly break things off.

In this episode, Lisa gives a Valentine to the most unpopular kid in class, Ralph Wiggum. Ralph takes it the wrong way and falls for Lisa hard but Lisa isn't interested. Ralph follows his dad's advice to be "persistent" but his attempts at love bombing make Lisa feel weird. Eventually, Lisa is invited to a Krusty anniversary show out of convenience but during the taping, Lisa blows up at Ralph after he proclaims his love, breaking his heart on national television. Even worse, the two need to star in a President's Day play together after Ralph uses his father's police power to finagle the lead prior to the TV incident.

I certainly remember this being a strong one but man, season four is just hitting them out of the park week after week. The last few episodes have taken the zaniness of Marge Vs. the Monorail and tempered it with human emotional stories, creating what is unsurpassed peak Simpsons. Now, I actually stand up for a lot of stuff post-season 10, but as someone whose finally dropped the show as of a few years ago (but will catch up with in a Simpsons rewatch) I can tell you that its not just "the magic is gone" but the way episodes are written now result in a lot of particularly strong, interesting set ups ending up losing cohesiveness through the process by which the show is written, whether it be on an emotional level, an intellectual level or simply mining a premise in the correct way for laughs.

This is a great episode about the awkwardness of childhood friendships. I mean, its also clearly about the awkwardness of a first unrequited romance but I connected both to the part about being unpopular and being the person hiding from an annoying person in my own house. And I have continued friendships as a kid because someone had a console before, I must confess. But the only real villains are the parents and their shit advice. Mainly Chief Wiggum, who wants his son to be happy and tries to give him advice that might seem good if you aren't paying close attention (persistence in many endeavors is a good quality but in romance is probably bad if it is unrequited) but basically he's bullying on behalf of his son through most of it. Ralph remains likable throughout because he seems somewhat unaware of his father's behaviour or naively is unaware of how malicious it is. Meanwhile, Lisa wants to see the Krusty show but knows that accepting will lead Ralph on. She wants advice from Homer but his is predictably bad and ends in heartbreak.

The last act ends with Ralph learning a good lesson for himself: letting it go. He uses his emotions to fuel a fantastic performance as George Washington. He is able to use his pain to make art, then he and Lisa become friends. Its a sweet ending that still ends with some big laughs. I kind of wish they had kept in the direction that Ralph is an idiot with a supreme acting talent. I think they went too far with making Ralph a non-sequitur machine with no connection to reality. Here, there's a lot of pathos for Ralph and that's something the character losses as time goes on in favor of gags. I'm not saying he can't be dumb. Futurama was great at making Fry astoundingly stupid ("Bender's name isn't Bonder! It's Bender!") and still relatable and human and the Simpsons does the same with Homer, as jerk-ass as he can be in later season. But I feel like Ralph has gone to a place of no return and this episode shows why that's something of a loss.

Jokes I missed before:

Other great jokes:

"The children are right to laugh at you Ralph."

I feel this might have the best Itchy and Scratchy sketch, where Itchy murdering Scratchy seems like genuine affection towards his victim.

"Why do they call this a 'urine monkey'? Oh, I just found out."
"That is funny for so many reasons."

"Look in the tunk... I think he means trunk".
People on the Internet. Also me on the internet.

"You know, one day honest citizens are going to stand up to you crooked cops."
"They are? Oh, no. Have they set a date?"
Looks like it was about 27 years from the airing of the episode.

Mediocre is actually looking pretty good right about now.

The extra second or so of Teddy Roosevelt's mouth flapping with no words coming out are a perfect little detail.
This episode is also filled with great go to lines for everyday living:
"So do you like... stuff?"
"Yeah, it'll do that."
"Angry, angry young man."
"Oh, God this is always death" (perfect for whenever Alex Trebec talks to a contestant)

Other notes:

I assume that the inclusion of Clinton might have been done last minute. I feel like the election probably as not too long ago as of the episode (plus episodes took a long time make).

Fun fact: Al Jean was inspired by getting that EXACT card from another kid when he was young and she added "I really do.". Also, he has "I choo-choo-choose you." on his wedding ring.

Thanks for reading and I hope people are reading my cartoon intro thread. I haven't gotten too many responses so I don't know if interest waned or what.

Happy Peruvian Armed Forces Day everyone!

 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
It bugs me that there have been so many episodes about Lisa's love life over the years but they're all aggressively straight despite Lisa being canonically bi.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Also, the show eventually decides, to an extent, "sure Milhouse." and I'm like "NOOOOOO!" In the words of Future Mrs. Krabappel "we can both do better." OK, Milhouse can't do better than Lisa but as soon as he stops trying Ralph Wiggum-style, then the better the chance he has at some emotional healthiness.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
Milhouse pining for Lisa was funny at the time.
Lisa doomed to end up with Milhouse is awful and was never funny.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Duffless

While my personal vice isn't act potentially physically destructive as smoking or alcohol, I have been dealing with my own addiction in the past couple years: food. I love food and I love to eat. About a year and a half ago, my mom urged me to get a blood test for cholesterol due to my father's own issues. My cholesterol level wasn't too bad but I was told I was pre-diabetic and I immediately started panicking. I know being diabetic isn't the end of the world and you can still live a happy and relatively healthy life with it, depending on the severity, but as someone who loves food, I didn't want to lose my ability to eat my favourite foods. I read up what I could on being pre-diabetic and found losing some weight can be a big help. Inspired by friends who also had chosen to lose weight, I went on a strict diet, then eased into cheat days every eight days after about four months. Last Tuesday, I was told I wasn't pre-diabetic anymore. In addition, I went from 246 pounds to 183. People keep asking if I feel better. I don't know about physically, save that I can do a lot of jogging now, but in terms of self-esteem, its helped quite a bit. I still pig out every eight days (I get serious food FOMO) but I can live my life happily and relatively healthily now.

In this episode, Homer is arrested for DWI after a trip to the Duff brewery. Homer loses his license for a time and must attend Al Anon meetings (sorry, Alk Anon for probably legal reasons), all while grumbling and rolling his eyes. But at his wife's urging, Homer begrudgingly gives up beer for a month. It turns out to be difficult, as temptation and boredom lurk everywhere. Meanwhile, Lisa wants revenge on Bart after he wrecks her science project for a prank. Lisa decides to hit two birds with one stone and creates an experiment to humiliate and torture her brother.

I never got into drinking but I definitely relate to Homer's fast. Giving up food never hit me in quite the same way, but I still got to be wary of my snacking (I still snack but its all very specific and planned). It took me a long time to give up food because I feared that dieting wasn't for me and I was doomed to being obese. Homer doesn't really care to change and its very much with the character we know since the beginning. Not even specifically alcohol, one of his great loves, but in general Homer tends to be happy with the status quo save for when he desires something (usually wealth or respect) and often tries to ignore when Lisa or Marge want it to change. Of course, as in this episode, he loves his wife and is willing to change for her and he does. But when the time is up, Homer wants to get wasted. The happy ending is that Homer is able to see how sad his addiction can make him. He's still going to be a drunk, but its nice to see he's earned the will power and self-esteem to put himself and his wife first by the episode's end.

Interestingly, the fast is only in the last act of the episode. The first is Homer getting in trouble and the second is Homer having to put up with all the fallout of his DWI. The fast itself is mostly handled in a series of quick sketches and gags, including a tupperware party hosted by Patty and Selma (huh?) and culminates in Homer seeing temptation at every turn. Its all funny stuff. And its only in the last three scenes does the emotional component come in, ending with probably the show's most shamelessly syruppy sweet ending as Homer and Marge ride off into the sunset while singing "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." Not a knock on it, it is a really sweet moment. But its interesting that how quickly the show can build up its emotional momentum. Granted, the seed is planted early in act three when Marge pleads with Homer (Kavner always kills it with Marge pleads. That sounds sad but they always sound they are from a place of true concern, worry and love.) But then its all business (which is to say gags) and then the show quickly returns to its emotional climax. I mean, all the gags all paint a picture of Homer's wants as well, which definitely informs his passion to get back to being wasted, so its all perfectly part of the tapestry. But I feel it also points to how economical the show can be emotionally and how earned it can feel with so very little, compared to the often slapdash or non-existent attempts at putting in emotional stakes in the later seasons.

The b-plot is a lot of fun as well. It fills in the episode but its also a fun little story about revenge and how maybe there are better things to do than pursue it. After all, Bart's initial act was mean and thoughtless but it was clearly a crime of passion, while Lisa plans a cruel, drawn-out revenge. Bart's a brat but Lisa's toxic desires nearly break Bart's brain (though, lets face it, part of it is that he's real dumb here). I love that Bart gets back at Lisa by completely undermining not only the source of her revenge but the validity of it. Lisa still wants to win by the merit of breaking Bart scientifically but Bart's victory shows Lisa that showmanship can trump all by putting a hamster in an aviator cap. In the revenge game, Bart tends to have the advantage as he does once again here. There are definitely different kinds of smarts and Bart's is his savviness towards manipulating folk.

For the sake of the show, most of the status quos will be retained. Homer will always be dumb, drunk and gluttonous. We might see some nuance to that by via the nature of TV and a series like this in particular, only smaller characters get to really change and even then by inches. Barney gets to be sober... for a while. Milhouse's parents split up... for a while (this one bothers me less because it ties into these characters as shitty decision makers and what SHOULD be a cautionary tale to Milhouse). Some characters die (some out of necessity, Maude out of... spite, maybe?). Apu gets a big character evolution and then is ejected from the show in what is the exact wrong way to handle a rich but problematic character. One could look at the big picture and say the episode is kind of sad because we know the next week the status quo we are supposed to be seeing is not so good will be restored. But lets take it episode by episode. And in this episode, if we see no more, Homer gets a little better at the end.

Jokes I missed before:

I never noticed that in the fantasy about the alcohol fueled car, Homer imagines it as "Gasohol".

Also, I think its only today I noticed the A Clockwork Orange and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid references (for a long time, I just assumed "Raindrops" was a standard, not a song that emerged from that movie).

Other great jokes:

Homer's brain jokes evolve...


"Well, I would suggest Mr. Vanocur, if you knew the president, that that was probably just a facetious remark."

"I would also like to express my fondness for that particular beer."

"All right, we've got nothing. We have no ideas for the future. Happy?"
"No."

I love Lionel Hutz's going all in on surprise witnesses. "Each more surprising then the last!"

The video of terrible car crashes set to funny music as everyone (including Mrs. Hibbert and Ruth Powers) watches in slack jawed horror only to reveal Homer finding it delightful is perfect.

"Drinking has ruined my life. I'M 31 YEARS OLD!"

"I said *psst* I love you."



Other notes:

So... did the Simpsons just forget they had a hamster? Also, Lisa is apparently so bad at showmanship, she didn't think to bring the hamster.

I would like a go-go ray but I promise only to use it with consent and not on those with heart conditions.

Hey Hans Moleman is either black or very tanned in this episode.

Burns has a weirdly specific power plant spider. Also, a surprisingly weak one.

Ah, a Herman's Head reference. Timeless.

Are gummi beer a thing? They have to be, right? I mean, wine gums are a thing and a big one at that. BTW, my hot take: cola gummis are the best gummis. The worse? Off-brand cola gummis.

Even if the parachuted beer bottles are props, that level of littering in the climax CAN'T be legal.
 

Ghost from Spelunker

BAG
(They/Him)
I didn't know the name of the music they play during the car crash video until a few years ago, and it bothered me so much.
(Probably because around that time I was making home movies and that song would have been so useful.)

Anyway, it's "Round the Bend" by Ronald Aspery.

 

yama

the room is full of ghosts
I think this was called Windshield in The Simpsons Cartoon Studio. I used it in a video in which Krusty is abducted by Kang and Kodos and forced to toil in their underground sugar mines.
 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
Rev. Lovejoy: So Homer, please fee free to tell us anything. There's no judgement here.

Homer: The other day I was so desperate for a beer, I snuck into the football stadium and ate the dirt under the bleachers.

[the group gasps]

Rev. Lovejoy: I CAST THEE OUT!
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Last Exit to Springfield

When I was a teen, I had to get braces. And braces suck. Look, they are important for straightening teeth but stuff is always getting caught in them. No fun. Following some jaw surgery, I still have a wire glued to the back row of my teeth. Most of the time I forget about it but sometimes I think about it and its weird. And little bits of food still get stuck on it. But its not as bad as the full set, having to keep lots of little elastics around to put them in my mouth at night. It was all pretty nasty. My point is I have more to say about my personal experiences with braces than with unions.

In this episode, Mr. Burns decides to have a small victory against his workforce by taking away the dental plan. Meanwhile, Lisa discovers she need braces and with the fate of the dental plan in question, she might be stuck with some demoralizing and awkward headgear. Homer decides to fight for the dental plan and ends up starting a war between Burns and the workers. Burns tries to outnegotiate Homer but Homer is too dumb to read between the lines, ironically making him the perfect foil for Burns. But that doesn't stop Burns from going as far as he can, even threatening to turn off the city's power.

Last Exit to Springfield is on the short list on a lot of best episodes lists and its not hard to see why. It is an episode that is back to back great gags. Though it is not one of its more emotional episode, it is also an episode that works to the core philosophy of the show involving flawed, dysfunctional people living in a world where authority is not to be trusted and does not care about people. The show tells a lot of jokes about union corruption (a subject I must admit I know insofar as it was a part of The Irishman) but the show is clearly on the side of the union. Its not an emotional episode mostly except I feel our hearts go out to the strikers, particularly thanks to Lisa's surprisingly stirring protest song (the lyrics are often silly but Yeardley Smith sings the Hell out of it, especially for the climax). The stakes are somewhat minor, the dental plan, but that's not treated as much of a joke and is beside the point. The point is though its a small patch of land in the union contract, Burns just wants to take ANYTHING to exert his power and Homer wants to keep this small thing because it is big to him. Heck, most of these small things may not feel small when you lose them. Burns just wants a win for his ego and the workers aren't going to give up a benefit just to sooth a rich man's ego.

The point of the episode is also the real power is in the hands of the workers. Burns has endless amounts of money and power over the city, literally, but it doesn't mean a thing if he can't get anyone to exact his power. For some reason he can't get scabs and he can't get effective strike breakers. In the end, he steals the power from Springfield but once he enacts his ultimatum and the workers are unmoved, he sees his own powerlessness in the face of the people. As silly as the episode is, its genuinely hopeful and inspiring despite the fact that the head protestor only has two strengths: determination and being too stupid to be manipulated. Once again, even the authority who we are on the side of is pretty disappointing but despite Homer's excitement about corruption, his faults are relatively innocent in this episode and while he falls ass-backwards into his "negotiating" victories, he is generally heroic for making a stand and not backing down.

But as much as I love the undertones and messages, Last Exit to Springfield is wall to wall comedy gold. This episode has two jokes that invest in the comic absurdity of taking WAY too long: "Dental Plan"/"Lisa Needs Braces" and Grandpa Simpsons telling a weird long story (which would become a runner through the series). We have a montage of Burns and Smithers running the plant. The negotiation scenes. Even the "gay panic" joke is not so bad as these things go, particularly when compared to some fairly unpleasant transphobic jokes earlier in the season. Here it is just a mild comic misunderstanding and Homer comes across as far less intolerant has he will in "Homer's Phobia", which will be fascinating to watch, as it is a very pro-gay comedy that also trades in stereotypes pretty heavily. This episode has a lot of jokes I still parrot to this day.

Last Exit is among the upper echelons of this already great show. The actors are all doing top notch stuff, the gags fly fast and furious and it mines the premise perfectly for jokes, tackling as many aspects of a classic worker strike narrative as one can. It comes to the same conclusion as many but it has a lot of fun doing so and I think it works that the "hero" is someone neither smart nor heroic enough to consider much beyond his front door and is the kind of guy who has sold his own worker's rights before. The strength of such a figure doesn't have to be some sort of noble martyr. Maybe it just has to be a guy who doesn't yield, whether out of bravery or out of obliviousness.,

Jokes I missed before:



Other great jokes:

Jesus, where to begin?



I love the cadence in Burns voice when he says:
"We should have listened to that young man, instead of walling him up in the abandoned coke oven."

"Hired goons?"

"It was the best of times, it was the BLORST of times? YOU STUPID MONKEY."

"And this here is my basement."
"Its not as nice as the other rooms."
"Yes, I really should stop ending the tour with it."
This is even better since showing him around the house was clearly an attempt to intimidate and show off his power and maybe tempt Homer and it really undercuts it.

"It was him. Lets get him fellas."

I know I referenced this, but...
I love that this took almost a minute of screentime. If it was shorter it wouldn't be as funny.

Meanwhile, this montage is pretty gag dense.

"I brought my own mic."

"Homer, organized labour has been called a lumbering dinosaur."
*Scream*
"My producer has told me not to talk to you anymore."
"Woo-Hoo"

"Haha. A chilling vision of things to come."

The punchline of Burns' elaborate secret room is funny and also feels kind of true considering some security gaffes I've read about.



"Oops, left the gas on."

Other notes:

The first "Yoink!"
 
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