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

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

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


the room is full of ghosts
I actually like this episode, despite not feeling like a Simpsons episode. The gags may be overly long but they're funny.
Too bad the only video of this scene is so low quality.

Johnny Unusual

Bart Stops and Smells the Roosevelts

Being an educator for kids, you need to be considerate of avoiding putting kids in dangerous situations, which means intervening in roughhousing and if possible doing so simply with words. Things like that generally works thankfully and it usually isn't too hard to keep kids safe, even despite their best efforts. However, you also want them to have fun in an active way and that usually means some form of risk. And you don't want to completely remove risk, it's part of life, but you want it too be manageable and reasonable and do everything to make it something you can deal with if there's a problem. And sometimes you need to make judgment calls rather than simply assume some protocol will figure it out for you.

In this episode, Chalmers is chewing Skinner out over Bart's most recent prank and Skinner stands up for himself and challenges Chalmers to educate Bart. Chalmers is worried he is in over his head but soon finds a strategy to educate Bart by having him do a deep dive on the manliness of Teddy Roosevelt. It works and Bart becomes a fan and even encourages other rougher kids (and Milhouse) to join in on their lessons. Chalmers decides to take the kids on a trip to Springfield national park in hopes of finding a pair of Roosevelt's lost spectacles. However, Nelson is hurt on the trip and Chalmers is fired for this happening on an unauthorized trip. Bart and the tough kids decide to take the school hostage in order to work towards getting Chalmers his job back, which eventually works when State Comptroller Atkins is worried that police intervention could lead to tragedy.

This is another episode were there are some small points where I question it's view towards teaching but unlike the Ned-Liest Catch, I feel like this episode is wisely a little cagier about its messaging on that front and many of the better values are in the fore. I feel like it helps a bit while the show, while never pass judgment on some of Chalmers' questionable takes but I feel like while there are no jokes, I think we are meant to believe while most of his lessons and values are good, I don't think we are necessarily supposed to agree about his concern that education is now "geared towards girls" and he's tired of "celebrating differences". It's clear he's from an older school of thought where he never caught up with certain values and while I definitely believe that the show could agree with these bad takes (Girls Just Want to Have Sums), I feel this is more couched in character than anything. And it doesn't take away the actual value of his hands on teaching methods.

My actual complaints is the show does gloss over the reason some things are put in place in regards to safety, as there are a LOT of reasons why you need to authorize field trips and go through a lot of procedure and protocol. Ironically, this is one where not passing judgment does feel like the show might agree because I think the actual message isn't in the negative shit he says but in the positive and while I agree it's OK for kids to get bumps, bruises and get a little risky at times, as someone in the education profession, he should not be the one putting them in that situation, particularly since his flying by the seat of his pants attitude IS putting kids at risk and I think writer Tim Long *kind of* gets that yet also *kind of* thinks kids are not given enough risk. It's never put into some kind of thought, cringey satire the show about kids today does very often. It's not quite an old man yelling at cloud because his laments are low key and because he's not looking at this in a satirical "can you believe this?" way, it never feels like he's pointedly saying things, which is pretty rare in this era. I will say that they paint Mrs. Muntz as someone who just wants to sue to get money but Nelson is hurt and the show never really points out Nelson's from a poor household and even a broken arm is probably costly to them. Instead, Chalmers is the only barer of sympathy for the scene.

So I have some mixed feelings on it but I appreciate the way it is exploring its ideas. But the strengths of this decent-enough episode are less in jokes and more in character. Chalmers has some bad takes and in the episode's beginning he is a bully. We've seen him bully Skinner a lot so getting him put in his place in the beginning of the episode is pretty cathartic (especially when it points out Chalmers is constantly bullying a former prisoner of war with PTSD). But despite that, the show gets us on his side. The episode never spells anything out in an obvious way but Chalmers was in some ways (without specifying which ones) probably a lot like Bart as a kid, and is very happy to see Bart passionate about something he feels the same way on. I think some of the better messaging is lessons where you get to go out and do things, which probably helps make lessons more memorable. There are small references to Chalmers being as widower but they play out long enough to paint a little more of a picture of a character who is usually just the guy yelling at Skinner or making education-relating schemes. Again, I think this is an episode were there's stuff to question but I also think it's a grounded, humane episode for the most part and even though the broad strokes are more "pretty OK", I appreciate it's an episode that never feels the need to overtly say all it's messages and can trust in it's characters, even if maybe it was excuse for Tim Long to fanboy out about Teddy.

Other great jokes:

"While I'm on a roll, I'm going to call that carpet cleaning service and tell them out hallway doesn't count as a room. Hello, it Andre there? Oh yes, I'll hold."
I love Skinner's smugness.

"Today's modern schools have completely failed you."
"School failed me? Does school have to go to Summer Jimbo?"

"Chief, can we take the school without hurting any children?"
"Well, if a bunch of Muppets can take Manhattan..."

Other notes:
From here, I feel we are getting more guest directors for couch gags. This isn't the first, the Chiodos did a quick stop motion one. But since they are being more drawn out, I like the idea of being a showcase for great animators. Unfortunately, this episode, it's "guy who would publicly revealed to be a super-creep in five years" John K. And it's not even his last shot at guest animating.

I appreciate the asspull reason Chalmers gets his job back here; it's how to get the cops from going into the school, guns out, who are vocally uncertain they won't shoot children. Yeah, I'd believe people would be happy to let him have his job back to prevent that.

Octopus Prime

For much of the season 20 episodes, a good rule of thumb is that a Guest Animator Opening is going to lead to a bad episode.

Johnny Unusual

I don't think this one was bad but I'll keep that in mind. Also, though not an animator, I did forget that Banksy guest directed one (which also Guillermo del Toro does for a Halloween ep down the line).

Johnny Unusual

Treehouse of Horror XXII

Halloween is right around the corner. Still September so I'll have to work hard to get the next Treehouse in October, I guess.

In this episode, three more tales of comedic terror. In the opening sequence, Homer gets trapped in a parody of 127 Hours. Then in the first full tale, a parody of the The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Homer is paralyzed and can only communicate by farting. Then in a parody of Dexter, Flanders begins killing the evil people in town, unaware the voice of God guiding him is actually Homer. And finally, in a parody of Avatar, Bart goes undercover as an alien to steal their precious and rare substance hilarium.

This is a particularly weak outing this season. I think in particular, the opening sequence and first segment are very misguided. It's not just that both are based on true stories with little connection to Halloween beyond... being vulnerable, I guess. But turning two real life tragedies (even if both are also tales of triumph of the human spirit) seems like such an odd choice. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a great movie but turning a story of a guy having to find control in a life where he is almost completely paralyzed and turning into a big fart joke is just bizarre. Even more is it becoming a Spider-Man parody in the end. It's wild.

The second story is a bit better but in trying to come up with wacky stuff, it really goes off the rails in the last act, trying to pile on comedy but feeling like it misses the opportunity to do a smaller gory Halloween tale where Flanders finds his faith weaponized by Homer. It starts promising with Flanders not just angry for being tricked and turning into a monster but essentially for turning his back on God. I would prefer looking at what it says of Flanders that he's willing to do evil as long as someone who is "good" tells him to. It's also a bit like the film God Told Me To, which I only mention because it's an odd little sci-fi thriller where aliens trick people into thinking God is asking them to kill.

The last tale is less messy but also less ambitious, a pretty straightforward parody of Avatar. As much as I disliked the first two stories, they did feel like they were taking the story as a jumping off point, even if they have no clear direction. This one feels a bit more like a Futurama with the writer coming up with goofy gross ways for Bart's alien girlfriend to be weird. Tress MacNeille at least is having fun as Bart's yelling girlfriend, doing her Ndnd from Futurama only much louder. And I appreciate that some people on staff were having fun coming up with weird alien animals to fight the space marines. But other than that, like the rest of the episode, I just can't be made to care.

Other great jokes:

"Had they asked for the hilarium, we would simply have given it to them. In Rigellian, there are no words for 'yours' or 'mine'."
"It's why we didn't enjoy the movie Yours Mine and Ours."

Other notes:
Krusty jokes that the Nazis are back and, well, frankly it was only 5 years away from being true.

Aron Ralston has a cameo in a parody of that time he cut off his own arm. So... weird.

Johnny Unusual

Replaceable You

As a worker, I'm someone who likes to be praised but at the same time I'm often so nervous about getting in trouble, I like to keep my head low a little. Don't get me wrong, I'll do what you ask and if nothing is happening I'll ask what I can do. But I also tend to shrink a little bit when someone with even a bit more authority is around and sometimes would prefer to be unwatched. Yet at the same time, I'm also someone who really craves guidance and reassurance. I'm kind of a mess that way. But that doesn't mean I don't want to grow in my career. I'd love to be a site coordinator or maybe help develop an ESL program within the company. And I can't let my own small anxieties stand in the way when the opportunity comes.

In this episode, Homer gets a new assistant, Roz, who seems to take to him well. However, when he asks her to cover for him while he goes to the movies, she rats on him in order to demote him and take his place as safety inspector. She's uses her power to abuse Homer and bully him. At his wits end, Homer confides in Flanders and the two realize they both know the same person, Flanders knowing her from church events. Flanders also knows her one weakness; she hates being touched. Homer uses this knowledge to have her turn on Burns who is giving her a celebratory hug. Homer gets his job back. Meanwhile Martin and Bart's science project, an adorable robotic baby seal, ends up becoming a hit with the old folks.

Man, what even is this? What's the point? I'm not even angry at the episode. It's watchable. It is even occasionally funny. But there really is no "there" there. There's a lot of potential in both the a and b plots but the episode feels like it was planned with a point but written purely for the purpose of coming to completion, a problem I have with a lot of episodes within this decade and specifically what I remember before I just quit the show. The b plot is extremely this but usually I give a little leniency on this. But its not just without a point, it's a weird story of robots in the old folks home and one of the weirder ones to try to comment on the issues of quality of life for the elderly. The idea of a bizarre rollicking plot poking fun at the morbidity that a business might lobby for the deaths of the elderly can work but it's clearly weirdness and gags above a point and without it being really funny to forgive it, it feels cobbled together and shaggy. Lisa seems like her feelings are going to be key but she ups and disappears from the plot. Weird Simpsons isn't bad but it needs to be either riotously funny or working on another level to work and this doesn't have either.

On the other hand, there's a lot of potential in Homer's story that's almost at the surface but none of the plot beats get much time to sink in and give it meaning. The closest the show comes is when Homer for the first time in a long time in the series is having to really crunch the numbers on his check. I feel like the episode is supposed to be Homer dealing with the fact that he's been so complacent, he is really unprepared for a shake up. Or maybe it's about Homer lacking the kind of killer instinct needed to survive. Or maybe it's about how scary ambition can be. But while we see Homer suffer, it's all surface and I don't feel like it really deals emotionally with Homer being bullied out of his own life or that he's never appreciated how good he had it. But really it just comes down to "Roz is a bully".

Yeah, there's very little to Roz. She plays nice and reveals herself as a bully. Jane Lynch plays Roz and she does a very great job with what she is given but I wish she was given more depth. There's a small hint when she says she doesn't want to ask her dad for help, implying that maybe her cruelty is motivated by frustration and desperation to keep Homer down so she doesn't have competition. And, hey, she's a woman in a very male dominated environment, maybe she feels the need to go on the offensive. I wish we got something like that in the story. Or maybe if the show was about Homer needed to find a killer instinct, then... well, Homer never grapples with it, he just does one clever thing to sabotage someone. He doesn't care that it's actually kind of shitty, even if it's too a shitty person. In fact, I don't like it because the solution is Homer learns she doesn't like to be touched and turns her sensitivity and weaponizes it. It makes me uncomfortable that this person with this kind of issue is taken as "this part of here compounds her inhumanity". If she has issues being touched, I don't care if she is a shit, don't do that. It's an episode that is a mess and frankly I don't look forward to these episodes that have neither wit not humour to save it.

Other great jokes:
"Bart, isn't that awfully similar to the cootie patch you did last year?"
"That was preventative, this is morning after."

"Now in second place, Lisa Simpson's grim description of our short-sighted dependence on fossil fuels."
"It's about an asteroid."
"It's all the same, Gloom Hilda."

"Do you know that my job was the reason I got those checks every week? And now that I'm demoted, the checks are getting smaller. Not in physical size, but--."

Other notes:

Oh, they killed Mrs. Glick this episode. I mean, they weren't using her, I guess.

Johnny Unusual

The Food Wife

Man, I love food. I mean, who doesn't. But when I was a kid and teenager, I was a very picky eater. But as I got older, I fell in love with trying new things and now my favourite thing is a novel and unique eating experience. Me and JBear have basically worked towards nearly eating from every restaurant in my home town from the bingo hall cafeteria (turns out, not good) to private one night only dinner events. I'm certainly open to good junk food and trashy take out but my real joy isn't just eating something I like again, it's to discover a different flavour or experience. There's still foods I don't like due to personal preference rather than quality but I'm happy to try to change for the sake of giving myself new opportunities.

In this episode, Marge notices how much the kids love their outings with Homer and wants to be considered as fun in the eyes of her kid. After a disappointing outing, the Simpsons' car breaks down and they find themselves in an Ethiopian restaurant having food they've never had before. While reluctant at first, Marge tries the food and falls in love and the fun experience inspire Marge and the kids to start a food blog. Homer, afraid of trying new things and doesn't want to think about what he eats and doesn't join in, so Marge savours her time with the kids as a fun mom. Eventually, though, Homer gets jealous and Marge invites him to their big event at a molecular gastronomy restaurant. Homer accepts and even begins to get excited about it. But Marge gets worried Homer will sop up all the attention and she won't be seen as fun anymore, so she intentionally gives Homer the wrong address. However, it turns out the address is a meth lab where a shootout with the police breaks out. Marge learns the truth and saves Homer from being beaten by a meth dealer by sating him a deconstructed apple pie.

After the last episode, it's a big relief to get an episode that is well-paced, has a point and properly takes time to examine it's ideas and characters in a relatable way. It's a moderately funny episode, which is nice in this era of the show but more than that, it's got a good story and clearly has affection for these characters. A lot of the episode is really us having fun watching the characters have fun. And the finale isn't a laugh riot, I recognize care was put into the construction with scene mirroring the fancy restaurant with a drug lab. Heck, I would love to eat all the food in the episode. But it's also about that fear of not being seen as fun in the eyes of someone you love and the nebulous but valued territories of "my thing." You know, a shared hobby for bonding where it feels just right for a very specific group. It can be intimidating if someone wants to join in sometimes and can feel like you might lose something in the attention economy.

Marge feeling she's missing out on something is often a great catalyst for an episode and specifically worried about not being able to have fun with her kids is relatable. I'm not a parent but I spend a lot of time with my niece and nephew and I keep wanting to have my own things with them. I used to like taking my niece out to random stores to wander around and explore when she was three (before COVID) and I want to be the uncle to takes the kids to the movies or play video games (again, COVID put a damper on the former). That's not to say I wouldn't want my sister or her partner to come but I love the idea of a "just for us" activity. It's a story that has wacky circumstance but it comes from a real place I understand.

The episode has quite a few chef guest voiced including the now-disgraced creep Mario Batali, covered-up-a-sexual-assault-for-a-friend Anthony Bourdain (yikes) and Gordon Ramsay, who comes off the best here but still I don't like him. But the bigger role is for comedy duo Tim and Eric, known for their bizarre anticomedy that is often off-putting to many. They get a rap song and a few lines and they do everything well but it's not really an episode that plays to their strengths with intentionally awkward and clumsy line deliveries, a sense of overt or underlying discomfort/tension and the obsession with the bizarreness of the artifice of the video era. Sadly these guests add little and just feels like part of the trend of the series of late. That said, one element I do remember is that when the show starts utilizing comedians who aren't (at the point of their appearance) household names, it often will signify a better episode and this is that.

Other great jokes:

"We discovered Korean barbeque in this town."
"Uh, before the Koreans?"
"Oh, sure, they cook it, but they don't get it."

The baseball bat/birdhouse thing is pretty fun nonsense.

"He'll be the fourth mouthkateer."
"But there were no four muskateers."
"Yuh-uh, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and d'Artagnan."
"d'Artagnan wasn't a muskateer! He only had a letter of introduction to the captain of the guards... WHICH HE LOST!"
I love Marge's feels on this.

Other notes:
It's not haw-haw funny but I like the touch of characters showing something on their laptop and stacking it over the previous laptop used.

Do you have a favourite Tim and Eric thing? Here's mine.

Johnny Unusual

The Book Job

As a kid, I loved Garfield. It's easy to see how it all is pretty sucky now. Heck, Jim Davis has been pretty upfront that he just wanted to make a comic to make money. But I don't think it could have made money if it didn't have something of merit or, at least, had something that really connected with people. I mean, think of all the strips that didn't survive nearly as long. Garfield isn't good art but it is possible for good or impactful art to come from someone simply trying to calculate a ride to get money from people. After all, even a cynical work takes a lot of work and if the people involve have passion, then that can shine through. I think there are very few works that don't have some passion involved.

In this episode, Lisa is discouraged when she learns that her favourite author is actually written by committee, formulated to sell based on trends and market research. When Homer learns of this, he realizes the financial potential of creating his own book and recruits Bart, Skinner, Selma, Moe, Prof. Frink and Neil Gaiman to co-author a novel. Lisa, learning of this, is upset by their cynicism and decides to write a book of her own. However, Lisa finds herself unable to write a book while Homer's team plans and completes the book. But when the team is selling the book, they learn they are missing one ingredient; a fake author to represent the team. They end up recruiting a defeated Lisa to be the face of the book. The book is sold for a million dollars but the victory is soured when they learn their book about teen trolls has been converted to chase the vampire trend. Despite their completely financial intentions, the team can't abide the changes and realize how much the book itself meant to them. They decide to break into the publishers on the night of printing to change the book at the last minute only to find themselves betrayed by Lisa who is afraid she won't be on the cover any more and will lose a deal to write the sequel. Or so it seems, as it turns out that Lisa foresaw one more obstacle and got close to the publisher to overcome it. In the end, the book is released as intended thanks to Lisa but she's disappointed to find the author credit went to Gaiman, who did that for all his books.

Man, I know it's only two episodes, but in this era even that streak of really solid episodes is wonderful. And the Book Job is definitely a very strong, fun episode all around. Again, the show is well-paced, funny and actually has something to say that even in the cynical world of the entertainment business, the "product" might be lovingly crafted. Lisa has high aspirations and ideas of how art should be made but it's easy to idealize the art and finds it much harder to get the job done. Meanwhile a group of disparate weirdos with cynical designs are actually just able to do it with hard work and cleverness.

The episode itself is a loving spoof of heist movies and the process of conceiving, writing and selling the book is presented as such, with different characters in different roles. It kind of highlights both the strengths and weaknesses of the episode. It's a great metaphor because a heist story should be like a murder mystery; a bit of narrative magic with misdirection and lots of planning for a process. But the weakest part is when the heist is literal and they put too fine a point on it. It's not unfunny, but the most fun is watching our characters conceive this thing and bring it to fruition. When we get to the heist, the big twist is pretty obvious and even lampshades the weakness of the writing (though that joke is pretty funny). Even in a parody, I feel like you want the joy of a real surprise and it's a shame writer Dan Vebber, an animation writing journeyman of not, wasn't able to pop that key aspect.

But despite this complaint, I do really like the script overall. It feels atypical in structure for the show yet it feels like Vebber is having a lot of fun playing with the toys in this series toy box. It doesn't hurt to have a very game Neil Gaiman, an appropriate choice not only because he's a beloved fantasy writer but because he's specifically a writer whose stories are almost all about the nature of stories and myth in some capacity. It's not always easy to use the guest well, especially when it is a non-actor. Andy Garcia is also doing good stuff as the villain; he's only given one mode, but he wears it well. I think the show also has a lot of fun with deluded "writing", which as someone who wanted to be a writer but never brought myself to do writing, I relate to with pained glee. The juxtaposition is fun stuff and works well within the heist montages the show is having fun with.

Other great jokes:

The kids' "no fair" argument reads so true.

"You have a computer?"
"You're in."
"In what?"

"Don't kill him, that's Neil Gaiman."
"I don't care if he wrote Sandman Vol 1: Preludes and Nocturnes."

"British Fonzie is right."

"Hello, I'm the pizza delivery man."
"We didn't order a pizza."
"No, of course, you didn't. The establishment I work for delivers pizzas to everyone and gives them the option of accepting or refusing delivery."
"That's a terrible business strategy."
"Oh, no it's quite sound."
"OK, we'll take a pizza."


"You switched the drives?!"
"I got the idea from every movie ever made,"

Other notes:
Not a big laugh but I love the loving recreation of a classic Far Side strip.

Again, not a big laugh but I love the specificity of the type of books Moe wrote. It feels like a real thing you'd find out there.

Johnny Unusual

The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants

I like my job but in all honesty, the parts of teaching or caretaking I like the best is to try to let my personality shine through and use my charisma to make kids happy. That's right, I have charisma. But I also tend to find it exhausting. I love spending time with my neice and nephew but sometimes playing with them (particularly let's pretend with toys) is tiring after a day of doing it. I get why some parents make the mistake of a lot of screen time because it is hard to be on all the time.

In this episode, Homer hosts a party and foolishly invites Mr. Burns, a real buzz kill. But Homer manages to turn it around and impresses Burns with his ability to control the situation and decides to make him an accounts man, work that involves a lot of gladhanding and charming. Homer takes some advice from exiting accounts man Robert Marlowe. Robert mentors him, mostly teaching him to use drinking to keep him going. The work involves a lot of fun and plays to Homer's strengths but he finds it takes a lot out of him, leaving him less time for his family. Marge is worried and asks Marlowe for help who encourages Marge to help Homer get out of that career. Homer agrees to spend more time with a family rafting trip and ends up splitting time between that and a rafting trip with his businessmen in the same location. Homer is caught and when both Burns and the Simpsons are threatened with a waterfall and Homer can only save one, he chooses his family. Burns survives and forgives him based on his previous work but demotes him to his old job.

The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants is not a bad episode but frustratingly one with some really solid gags and a fun first act gets progressively worse as the show goes on. The first act is good at explaining why Homer would be a good accounts man, showcasing his ability to get people to loosen up and have fun. Homer may be a fool but he is great at being flashy and distracting and I like Homer having some redeeming qualities. Homer is often shown as having a zest for life and I like the idea in putting him in the Mad Men situation where he seems happy but has some deep emptiness. The problem is that the second act is so into being a Mad Men parody (down to a recreation of an iconic scene which isn't even really a joke) that it never sells why Homer is unhappy now. And there are good reasons; if all his passion is now work, it can be hard for him coming home to be a fun guy. Like the core concept of the show itself, there's a hollowness in the middle. And it only gets worse in the last act.

The last act is the Simpsons once again taking a hoary old sitcom cliche and NOT subverting it. They barely even lampshade it, which they often do in place of actual cleverness (though I did like the Book Job doing that last episode, I admit). It's Homer's got two dates at once, except one date is work and the other is family. Maybe writer Jeff Westbrook thinks he is subverting it, as the two women are work and family instead of two women. But a workaholic trying to work on vacation in secret and rushing between rooms is bottom of the barrel farce that's been done to death and this is no acceptation. I think think despite being a parody of a popular show, there could have been an actual emotional episode in here but really there's no there there. Despite it worsening as it goes on, it's never actively bad, just bland with a few good gags.

The acting is pretty strong in this one, though. John Slattery is clearly around to be a lampooning of his Mad Men character but I feel like he's trying and he knows that even with the arch dialogue, there are a few line reads that sell him to me. Hank Azaria has some good Kirk Van Houten line reads, particularly when he is concedes Krusty scares him. There's also an amusing but go-nowhere b-plot about Bart learning to read and loving it and it ends with Bart being bullied into reading and all the actors doing the bullies are killing it in this scene, even though it's mostly just kinda funny. Pamela Hayden, Tress MacNeille and Nancy Cartwright are really good in this scene and sell it pretty well. The joke is well-worn, the bullies act like they are above "girly" stuff but are deeply invested, but it still works for me.

Other great jokes:
"You know, I was in an anecdote once."

"May you all fly in an aeroplane someday."

"As a safety inspector he hasn't exactly set the world on fire, though he came close several times."

"But I must warn you, account men lose their soul."
"Woo-hoo, no more church."

"Bart needs to work on differentiating the character voices a little better."
"Yeah, I keep thinking 'why is Megan saying this' and then I realize it's Beth."

Johnny Unusual

The Ten-Per-Cent Solution

It's great going back to an entertainer from your youth to find that not only do their material still holds up but that they are a great person. There are some entertainers who are celebrated who turn out to be creeps and conversely there are figures who have spent a long time as the butt of jokes, only for people to really come around on them as people. Sometimes we just need a little reminder of how great they are.

In this episode, while visiting the museum of TV, the Simpsons meet a showbiz agent, Annie Dubinsky. Later that day when they find Krusty in the dumps after his show is cancelled and his agent dumps him. The Simpsons suggest the agent they met but it turns out that they have a past; she was Krusty's agent who discovered him and they fell in love, but eventually Krusty dumped her for a new agent. Despite this, the two agree to work together and Krusty actually gets a new series on a premium channel geared towards nostalgic adults. The show is a hit and Annie and Krusty end up getting back together. But things hit a snag when Annie turns out to be extremely aggressive on the set about every little thing, threatening cast and crew. When it is addressed, Krusty is hesitant to do anything but when forced to make a choice, he chooses Annie and loses his show.

The Ten-Per-Cent Solution is an episode that's definitely written for the guest, Joan Rivers. The writers are Dan Castellaneta and Deb Lacusta and this duo rarely has had only one completely good episode at this point, the one where Barney gets sober (and a lot of people don't care for that one). But I do believe they are writing whatever they are interested in. They did the Cheech and Chong episode and I feel in both, they are scripts with a mind toward who the actors are and where the strengths are (though direction counts for that, too). I do believe the duo definitely have strengths but they sadly don't result in great episodes. Joan Rivers is doing great work on this one and I think it does play to her strengths of anger, sassiness and some surprising tenderness.

And I think the episode is sort of about reappraisal of entertainers we've written off. At this stage in her career, Joan had something of a turn around where shows like the Simpsons or Family Guy would use her as a punching bag representing hacky has-been comedy. But as a comedic voice and as a person, people began to realize she's not only funny but is deeply thoughtful, hard-working and dedicated to her craft. She was considered one of the great comedy heroes again, which was a nice place for her to be in her final years. And she was still working quite often. This episode is very much about that, which I appreciate, where Krusty finds himself not only with success but critical acclaim.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the scriptwriters where thoughtful to some aspects and Dan is clearly working hard behind the scenes and doing the voices, it's just not that great. The struggle is Krusty's dilemma that his agent is someone he loves and wants to be successful alongside him but if he keeps choosing her they are both stuck. Krusty chooses her over success and that's kind of sweet. But as an agent Annie is a real bully and it doesn't make the resolution as well. The funny thing is, it can still end the same AND have her be a bully but what it needed to do is be a little darker and point out "yeah, and so is Krusty, so they are made for each other". That could be a pretty damning showbiz statement on the abusive nature of entertainers but while the episode is cynical about showbiz, it's kind of a gentle cynicism about meddling executives or backstabbing and it's clearly not that interested in dealing with the fact that fame and power can promote abuse. And even if it did what I want, it would need a deft hand, considering how transparently "ick" showbiz abuses have been. So frankly, it kind of mucks up the dilemma for me.

Other great jokes:


Other notes:
The episode lampshades how hacky the "recent" references are when it takes over a year to make the joke come to the screen.

Johnny Unusual

Holidays of Future Passed

I had some pretty good parents but they weren't without flaws. I remember being able to accept that when my dad got fed up helping me with math and then coming back in apologizing for his behaviour and telling me he shouldn't behave like that. It can be hard to parent and do the right thing sometimes, having to balance proper discipline with care and trying to be aware of the ways you might potentially be giving them mixed messages or teaching them something that is unhelpful for their development. I doubt I'll ever be a father. I think I'd like to but I also worried I might be too self-absorbed to be a good one. Just because I have a lot of love doesn't mean I'm great at expressing it.

In this episode, we flash forward to a Christmas 30 years in the future where Bart is a lonely divorcee, Lisa is dealing with a daughter who seem to want nothing to do with her, spending all her time in a virtual network and Maggie is a pregnant rock star. They all plan to come to the Simpson household for the holidays and Bart brings his children. Bart is jealous of Homer, who is a beloved grandfather while his kids have little patience for him. Maggie is trying to get home but finds herself giving birth on the way. Lisa is worried about her daughter Zia and fights with Marge about how to raise her. Bart and Lisa have a heart to heart about their troubles and both are inspired to keep trying. Lisa tries to be hands off but finds herself entering her daughter's virtual space and seeing she is beloved and apologizes Zia for invading her privacy. Homer tells Bart's kids to appreciate him despite his flaws. Bart catches up with his kids and lets them know they are the most worthwhile thing in his life. Maggie gives birth and the family spends the holidays together.

I remember when this one came out, it was the most critically acclaimed episodes in quite a while. I was excited to go back to this one and in rewatching it... it's quite good but not quite great. There are definitely tropes that they've done before for future stuff before that I generally don't like; Bart is a total loser. Lisa marries Milhouse. Stop trying to make Milsa/Lihouse happen, show! But despite that, I think it does a lot of good with what it has. Yes, Bart is a loser, but I think while Bart to the Future is laughing at washed up Bart, this episode still cares about him. I don't like Lisa being with Milhouse but while he's still something of a sadsack, at least it isn't another "it's funny because he's dragging her down." Though Lisa does have her doubts. She is in contact with Nelson and it's a joke line but it works in an emotional scene. Lisa seems like a success despite that.

The episode has a very strong sense of character and place... mostly. I feel like there are a lot of episodes where the locations are just that, settings for the comedy. Here, I do think it creates some good atmosphere and tonally gets to have several different speeds. There's a lot of Futurama-style goofiness, but writer J Stewart Burns also gets to have some real genuine moments, the best easily being Bart and Lisa having a heart to heart. I feel like in the last 10 years, even in good episodes, these two live adjacent to each other and when one is having genuine feelings, the other is there to deflate and mock. It's nice to see them really be brother and sister. Then the next scene a drunk Lisa comes in to tell her mom she loves her and there's not much in the way of jokes or furthering the plot, it's just a nice reminder that despite their tensions, they do care.

But while the episode's strengths remain, I had forgotten some of it's weaknesses. The sharia law jokes are groan-worthy, the Maggie subplot is weak (though has a good joke with Kearney). But more than anything, I feel like Bart's kids are poorly sketched out (in the character building sense, not the cartoon sense). The only thing we learn about them is they don't like Bart until they do. Heck, I had to look up their names. Ironically, Zia is a much stronger character. Most of the episode she is intentionally something of an enigma for most of the episode but still still makes an impact with a striking design. So in some ways, I feel like the episode has some notable weaknesses but I'm willing to accept them for a show that is emotionally invested in the Simpsons again, rather than being joke machines untethered to any real problems. This is closer to the show I want it to be in it's autumn years.

Other great jokes:

"Oh Marge, how would you like some future sex."
"Why are you calling it that. It's now."
"I mean a week from now. That's when the new penis gets here."

"It's so hard to find someone new."
"Tell me about it. That's why after Homer accidentally killed Edna, I married Maude's ghost."
"There is no God, Neddy. There's just an empty void."
"Isn't she pretty?"

The release the hounds followed by Smithers dumping dog bones in front of Homer is pretty funny.

"Computer, hospital."

Other notes:
Man, Lisa was way better off in that gay polycule. I don't even know the details, except THEY AREN'T MILHOUSE!

They gave Bart preppy, anarchist (Anonymous-style) and greaser phases and Lisa goth, otaku and hipster/ phases. This seems correct.
Though I think Lisa's hipster dress is a reference to a movie? A Woody Allen movie maybe?

Johnny Unusual

Politically Inept With Homer Simpson

There's a Homer for every color of the rainbow; classic Homer, jerkass Homer, weird Homer, every American Homer... he's a very malleable character who is able to be presented in a multitude of different ways that don't feel like a betrayal of the core of the character. But that doesn't mean all of them are palatable. People got sick of Homer being extra-mean pretty quick and the writers still notice and sometimes he raises his ugly head. But in a similar but not entirely same camp is Fox News Homer, the oafish thoughtless patriot. He's often been a mockery of America's sins but somehow in lumping him in with a politically side that is nakedly evil, it makes him far harder to sympathize with much like Flanders has in recent years.

In this episode, Homer has a meltdown on an airplane about the shabby treatment of its passengers. The outburst is caught on film and Homer becomes a viral sensation and something of a local hero. Homer appears on TV and manages to use his abrasive nature to overcome the loudmouth pundits looking to take him down, beating them at their own game. He's immediately given his own show, where he becomes more and more erratic onscreen. His family begins to worry when he is riling up his fans with ridiculously histrionics and crying. Meanwhile, a floundering Republican party asks Homer to pick their new candidate, and Homer chooses Ted Nugent, leaving his family is aghast (except Bart). One night Homer has a dream with James Madison that inspires him to turn his back on punditry... until he realizes it wasn't a dream, it was a staged trick by Lisa, Marge and some historical re-enactors. Angered, he decides to double down but on air Homer finds he can't cry, and accepts how empty his words are and gives up his TV show.

This is such a weird episode. I find that often when latter Simpsons gets political, it can be extremely unsubtle and heavy handed. But at the same time, this episode about punditry is in many ways extremely prescient. It's not like it was saying things we didn't know but I feel like a lot of it's big points are even more to the fore. The claim pundits make about themselves as "just entertainers playing a character" while spreading misinformation and a TV populist having a ridiculous amount of power within a political party. It's not subtle in the least but I do think there's enough parody of pundits who think Howard Beale is their idol, missing the entire point of the movie Network.

Right wing Homer is among my least favourite Homers, tied with outright abusive Homer. I like Homer being too clueless and unengaged to think politically but knows who he cares about and wants to protect. Mostly, I see Homer as someone kind of willing to accept most things, as long as he can get to a place where he can understand it emotionally by overcoming his limitations. I'm more upset when he's echoing awful talking points. I know the point is he's a victim of media manipulation but at the same time, it just means he's kind of a monster now. This episode he's doing the manipulation. He's stirring shit up with no endgame in mind and people are using that to their advantage to fuck up democracy. Again, very prescient.

But despite this, I do kinda think it's a good episode. Kinda. It's smarts are about the specific kind of bizarreness of punditry and I think it really manages to get into the warped trickery, particularly that of Glenn Beck, the big pundit who sort of, thankfully, burned out really quick but being known as the guy who barfed weird stream of consciousness nonsense onto a script and heavily produced his bizarre ramblings into a script. I have to put up with a bad Homer (bad Flanders is there too) but I think it does it in a more broad allegorical way that's a bit easier to swallow. Bad villain Homer works a bit better in allergory (like the garbageman episode). I wish it didn't devote so much time to it's guest star Ted Nugent. It feels weird using the guy, and praising him, when the point is his point of view sucks and it undercuts it by making him a "cool" bully. But I was going into this one expecting to really dislike it but found myself finding a lot of interesting stuff in it. I won't praise it but as far as latterday political episodes go, this could have been far worse.

Other great jokes:

The actual segments of the show are really well done, particularly when the joke is about the cheesy artifice of Homer's shows with cut out animals.

Other notes:
"Ethnic people have smelly weird food." really feels more like a Family Guy bit. Because it's xenophobic.

Johnny Unusual

The D'Oh-cial Network

A few episodes back, the series was mocking itself for trying to do timely parody within the confines of a system where it takes a year to make an episode. I won't say all "timely" Simpsons gags are bad but some of them work despite attempts to be relevant that is more attributable to solid gag writing. But there are a lot of things that fall flat because what was going on in the zeitgeist faded away until we barely know what it is about. Even with a new Avatar movie coming, no one really talks about Avatar. Even big hits can turn out to have surprisingly small cultural footprints as time moves on. Still, sometimes it's not the fault of the referenced, it's that the parody isn't very good.

In this episode, Lisa realizes she has no friends but finds making online friends easy. She decides to start her own social network in the hope of upping her friend count and it becomes a big success. However, it also causes everyone in town to be so distracted as to be a danger. Lisa shuts off her site and finds she does have friends in the real world.

Ugh... this one is one of the laziest, old man yells at cloud episodes I've seen in a long time. Don't get me wrong, there is a lot that can be said about our addiction to screens, the evils of social networking companies, petty vindictiveness combined with big business. But this episode has so very little to say, it's ridiculous. It's not saying anything clever about our addictions, it's just saying "all of society is on their screens when they should just touch grass." The lack of any real insight or cleverness in the episode is ridiculous and as a very loose parody of the Social Network, it's kind of ignoring the ideas in that film, too. It's a complete nothing of an episode.

It also doesn't help that even by Simpsons logic, it's ridiculous. Lisa and her nerds just whip up a social networking sight that, as far as I can tell, is indistinguishable from Facebook. If specificity is the soul of narrative, than this is one of the most soulless episodes the show has done thus far (remember, I still haven't gotten to the Elon Musk episode). "Springface" is nothing. I feel like the show should make up some new features the others don't. It can be a sign of Lisa overreaching for power or "this the bad directions these sites are going to a cartoonish extreme" but no, it's just people really seem to like Lisa's thing that is exactly like all the other things. It really feels like it is treating Lisa as the inventor of the internet and is being sued for everyone being addicted to the internet. It's so fucking bizarre.

The funny thing is, this episode is making me angry not because it is offensive or the comedy is cringe-inducing. The comedy is bad but never excruciatingly so. It's just that this episode angers me because I feel like it was made to fill a slot and no one cared, not the actors or the animators or anyone. The series needs to get 22 episodes out a year. That's tough. And this is the episode that was probably written in the 11th hour with little time for punch ups. At least, I hope so.

Other great jokes:
"I'm less popular than the hornet's nest in the gym."
"I thought you were getting rid of that nest."
"We trade the honey for chalk as yard sticks."
"Hornets make honey."
"Better than wasp honey, not as good as bee."

"Let's see, which muppet am I? Beaker! I guess that's fair."
I'd probably say that to any muppet assigned to me.

Other notes:
This is the first episode I've noticed where, as Marge, Julie Kavner's voice is notably lower.

Weird monster Armie Hammer makes an appearance. Related: I feel like when the Simpsons are out of joke ideas when two people are hanging out, they just making out.

The episode also ends with a cartoon because the episode ran short. I'm down with the idea and I appreciate they are doing an Edward Gorey homage but it is a pretty weak cartoon.

Johnny Unusual

Moe Goes from Rags to Riches

I consider myself somewhat materialistic. I mean, I value the intangible like love and knowledge but I don't have a lot of shame in my pleasure in getting or giving a physical gift. Of course, maybe that's because it gives a physical representation to intangible feelings in a way I appreciate. But yeah, there are physical things that give me comfort in my lonely days. I also work with children who are constantly keeping their favourite toys with them and get very upset when they are gone.

In this episode, the patrons at Moe's Tavern mock Moe, telling him his best friend is his bar rag. The rag then thinks back to it's history, beginning as a tapestry and being whittled down by historical events. Eventually it came into possession of Moe, who in fact does view the rag as his best friend. The next day Moe finds it missing and later finds that Marge washed it for him. She reassures Moe that he has lots of friends, particularly the Simpson family and Moe throws out his rag. The rag is found by Santa's Little Helper and the rag is pleased with it's new owner.

This... this is a WEIRD episode. I get you want to get a little experimental in your autumn years, The Simpsons, but Moe's rag telling it's life story is a hard sell. But I do see the potential; I think we project a lot onto things that have no emotion because of the emotions associated with it. It's why Toy Story and even The Brave Little Toaster work on making us care about things that we know have no feelings. And the episode details how there are things in this world that can be vehicles for exciting adventures. But it's about a bummed out rag with a downward spiral and I think it doesn't do a great job explaining WHY we connect so with things that cannot reciprocate.

Like, even the instigating incident is weird. People claiming Moe's best friend is his rag is a weird off-hand comment. I think it could work with some build up, even in editing but it's such an odd little piece of business that it feels unnatural. And like a lot of modern Simpsons, despite being ambitious, it feels rather hollow. The best thing I can say is that the rag is voiced by Jeremy Irons, who does have the perfect voice of gravitas for the silly epic tale of the episode. But in all honesty, I'd rather rewatch Dead Ringers and that movie is not an easy watch.

There's a b-plot that isn't as bad and actually comes from a more grounded interesting place; Bart goes too far insulting Milhouse and Milhouse dissolves their friendship and Bart goes crazy trying to win Milhouse back. It doesn't have a lot of laughs but Milhouse spends so much time being Bart's doormat, I kind of get tired of the writer's cruelty. Hooking him up with Lisa isn't good but having the duo work through their relationship and come to an understanding? That's something I can get behind. I'm OK with the idea that Milhouse feels more comfortable as ceding control on most things to Bart but wants to be cared for and respected. There are episodes that have toyed with their dynamic before but I think as a full episode, this could have been effected.

Other great jokes:

The Emperor yawning "too many" is pretty good.

Other notes:

Do watch Dead Ringers. Its far less gory than most of David Cronenberg's movie but it will put you through a psychological wringer.

Johnny Unusual

The Daughter Also Rises

Ah, a Simpsons kids romance episode. It's often weird. I often get tired of the show playing with the joke of "kids versions of adult stuff" in the show. It's really more of Rugrats thing. And then sometimes it's metaphors for sex or maybe Bart thinks he needs to marry a pregnant teen. I get wanting to write the Simpsons kids as older sometimes but don't want to spend every 5th episode in the future. But it really means stretching the characters into some weird directions. That's not to say any of the things I mentioned can't be done well. There have been some great romance episodes for the kids. So where does this one lie? Mostly not good but not without good points.

In this episode, Lisa is spending the day with Marge when she meets a romantic young boy with an obsession with Hemingway. Lisa and Nick fall for each other and Marge starts to get jealous. Lisa talks with Grandpa and convinces Lisa to run off with him somewhere romantic to steal a kiss. Marge follows them but after spending time with Nick, she realizes he's not the man he thought and both of them decide to forget about it. Marge and Lisa reunite and Marge feels bad about her jealous.

The Daughter Also Rises is not nearly one of the worst romantic kids episodes but it also feels like we are getting into the problem I remember having with the show when I quit. Namely, that I feel like the episodes have some good premises but the show is pretty bad at navigating the plot to the point that everything feels disjointed and character motivations feel have baked and unexplored. It's like Cliff Notes for itself. I think the weakest element in this respect is using Marge's jealousy as a catalyst for things. It tries to establish that Marge wants to be closer to Lisa and I guess I just don't really buy her reactions. That's not to say it couldn't work, the episode just did a poor job of selling it. The other thing I dislike is, as mentioned, stuff like the kids going on a date at a classy French-style restaurant for kids and juice boxes being presented like wine.

It definitely is fine in individual moments where there's breathing room; Lisa and Nick's initial wooing of each other, which has some actual character to it. And I feel like the realization that Nick is a liar trying to live up to an ideal he created is not done too poorly either. I think we've seen Lisa in a similar situation before and I don't think Nick comes off as a creep, just a guy who wanted to be special and made up stories the way kids do. It also helps that Michael Cera is doing good work as Nick. He's playing at an interesting level, one the show usually doesn't do, to bring a sort of chill vibe to the episode.

This is another episode with a more interesting b-plot. And it's low stakes in a way I get why it is the b-plot but I actually think it is about kids and their love of mythmaking. In this episode, Bart and Milhouse are into a Mythbusters-like show (with the actual Mythbusters as guest stars) and decide to do the same, which they do... only to discover they've kind of ruined the magic of childhood for themselves. I feel kids are natural mythmakers and I've been around when they've been playing ghost games, trying to conjure spirits in the bathroom. I would like to see an episode about it rather than a b-plot, because there is a joy in making weird stuff up to believe is true.

Other great jokes:

"I dreamt I got fired from that job I dreamt I got the night before."

Other notes:
Jeez, I don't like how the "romantic Paris" music is contrasted with hip-hop beats as a symbol of urban squalor. Yikes.

Johnny Unusual

At Long Last Leave

500 episodes down. That is exhausting to think about. I've done 500 of these little write ups (not counting this one. I did the movie, too). I mean, I could be doing something meaningful with my time. Like.... um...

In this episode, the Simpsons stumble across a secret meeting where it turns out they are being banished for their behaviour. The Simpsons move off the grid in a community of outsiders and learn to adjust, except Marge, who misses home. Homer takes her on a trip back home when the city of Springfield threatens them with violence. Marge is disgusted and realizes she is done with Springfield and she and Homer tell them that the problem is everyone in town is a jerk. The Simpsons move back to their home of outsiders but ironically Marge accidentally painted a pleasant picture of the Outlands they live in and the entirety of Springfield moves in, basically turning it into Springfield.

I remember not liking this one much when it first came out because I guess I had a hard time with the reality of this episode where the town unanimously hates the Simpsons. Like I just don't see a lot of people actually caring, like Wiggum or Dr. Hibbert. But while this isn't a particularly strong episodes, I actually think in broad strokes I actually like the episode now, or at least the message of it. See, the Simpsons is a show that is largely anti-authoritarian (at least compared to many other shows) that has mistrust for government, the police, the media and organized religion. So what happens when all of those things go away for the Simpsons.

Well, the Simpsons are mostly happier. It turns out they can live without those things, even if it is a less comfortable life. The Simpsons are made to be the bad guys but Marge makes society face the fact that it is society as it is that sucks. We love other people but our systems are poorly designed. And then everyone wants to live in a similar place unencumbered by bad systems. But when everyone jumps aboard, so do the systems, just to put us back as square one. And while the Simpsons are in many ways big trouble makers, they aren't the root of evil.

The episode is broad and arch and I guess I can live with that but I also think in some of it's broad strokes, it doesn't sell it's ideas as well. Again, it's an episode that I might like the structure of but the episode itself isn't as effective as I'd like. I feel that a lot of what this episode does was done better in the Simpsons Movie. Oh, it's not exactly the same, but I would love that same amount of emotion so that when Marge goes off on Springfield, it's cathartic. Unfortunately, just everyone wanting to broadly murder the Simpsons feels a little too much. I feel like specificity would help, as I just feel like a lot of the characters are acting slightly off just for them to be mean. It's not a bad episode but it's not great.

Other great jokes:
"Do you ever wonder if there are donut shops on other planets."
"On a night like tonight, I have to believe their are."
Somehow Kavner sells this joke but reading the line as really genuine.

Other notes:

With special guest star... Julian Assange. Yeesh.

Octopus Prime

“The nicest one of them is the baby, and she shot a guy”

The irritation this man has for Maggie’s attempted manslaughter stuck with me

Johnny Unusual

Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart

Art within art can be a tricky thing. I've seen lots of movies or shows that are otherwise good but completely break their reality when the films, tv series and music within that we are supposed to accept as good is clearly not. I've seen it fail more often when it succeeds. I've certainly seen it done right from time to time; Puke-A-Hontas from the Critic crossover episode has some gags and art film parodies but I think that one works because we still actually get some tragic insight into Barney and you'd buy it means a lot to it's viewers. But I get pretty tired of having to accept characters, even silly goofs like in the Simpsons, treating some crap as the most amazing thing. Does this episode fall into that trap? It's... about 50/50.

In the episode, Homer's thoughtful gift is accidentally ruined by Bart's, leading Homer to give Bart an unfair punishment. Bart decides to get revenge by graffitiing the town with anti-Homer tags and pictures, which build in creativity. Bart is inspired to broaden his satirical pen and while avoiding Chief Wiggum, he ends up getting the attention of some iconic graffiti artists. They offer him his own gallery viewing and Bart decides to do it in order to stick it to Homer a little more. However, it is only after Homer overhears Bart does he realize he is the subject of the pictures all over town. Homer is angry but Bart makes it up to him with some art. Then Bart discovers the art show was in fact a sting operation by Wiggum. However, they are able to work out a deal thanks to Homer's previous punishment.

Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart is an OK episode but, again, I think it is falling into a bad habit of squandering it's potential and kind of having a bit of bad messaging. Not as problematic as it sometimes has but it is a recurrent problem; Homer's cruelty kind of being accepted. This isn't full jerk-ass Homer (in fact, he and Bart are specifically pretty thoughtful in most of the first act). Look, not every show needs to have everyone learn a lesson, hug and become better people. But this is an episode that I think is supposed to be uncynically about the power to street art and standing up to an unfair authority. MAYBE you could argue that it's a commentary that a lot of great artists can come under the thumb of a cruel overlord, their powerful message being subverted. But the third acts reconciliation between Homer and Bart doesn't feel that way.

And my problem here is "Bart made Homer feel bad, now he's going to make up for it." Which seems like an unwise take. If the spirit of street art is questioning authority and attacking it, it seems like Homer's journey to be one of self-reflection, going beyond being insulted by Bart's work and understanding Bart's anger and have Bart's art transform Homer, with something beginning merely as an outlet for anger blossom into something. It hints at that when Homer laments he isn't a hero to his son but then it's about making Homer happy. Then the last act would be Homer going above and beyond to protect Bart's art, which is nakedly insulting to him, because it and Bart mean something to him. Frankly, the one we actually do get is more the kind of the much better Any Given Sundance, where Lisa makes real art but at the cost of her family's public image, which makes much more sense there in balancing being truthful and being respectful to the people you love.

So does the "art" work. Well, it begins with the Simpsons problem of it just being a clear parody of the iconic OBEY poster but the art within the show gradually gets genuinely clever. But then it really refocuses on the Homer-based art, and that is mostly just insults rather than the design team of the show getting witty. So I think is sells Bart can be a good artist but we don't see as much as I would like. Again, I keep harping on the potential for things but sometimes, it's the only thing I can see. It's like having a soup that needs more flavour and you are thinking about what you can add to it. Everything is in place but the Simpsons should really be finessing it's plots beyond everyone worried that they won't reset to the status quo, and then doing it.

Other great jokes:

"There's a *white* wine? And a *swiss* cheese? And a *peanut* butter? And a *potato* chip? And *toilet* paper? Whahaha what?!"

Johnny Unusual

How I Wet Your Mother

While the Simpsons certainly wasn't realistic, when it premiered, there was a relative groundedness to the reality. Yes, the original shorts had some weird unreal movements but in the early seasons the characters don't conventionally splat and squish but they do bleed, there isn't magic or fantastical elements and there is little awareness of the fourth wall. Things slowly changed overtime; the fantastical could happen for gags, Homer still bleed and had injuries but was unrealistically immortal and the fourth wall was occasionally happen. But the show didn't focus on these elements except for the non-canonical anthology episodes. Things leaked in more and more over time. It's hard to say when pile became heap but lots of fans were ready to draw some lines. And making a fantastical episode comes with storytelling potential but when reality becomes too flexible it can threaten investment as it no longer resembles the show it was.

In this episode, Homer causes trouble at work but ends up being the only person not in trouble for it and even gets a day off, spending time with Bart on a fishing trip. That night, Homer finds he's wet the bed and the next few days this continues. Homer is convinced it's karma but after he resolves the issue with his work friends, Homer is still wetting himself, becoming a big problem at home. Prof. Frink offers a solution; using one of his inventions to enter Homer's mind to figure out what stress or mental block might be causing Homer's problem. The Simpsons enter Homer's dream but end up in danger. Descending into multiple dream levels, Homer discovers a coffin labelled marriage filled with fish. Eventually, the Simpsons are saved by Homer's mother Mona (or the dream of her), who reveals Homer's problem comes from a childhood anxiety that he caused his parents marriage to dissolve due to an accident on a fishing trip. Mona reassures him that it wasn't true and despite Abe and her troubles, he was loved. Homer wakes up and finds he no longer wets the bed.

Billy Kimball and Ian Maxtone-Graham did this one and while I didn't like all their episodes, they tend to do some interesting ones as a team. It would be easy to write this one off as going too far into unreality as to be a treehouse of horror episode but the fact is, this isn't a bad episode at all. And this is despite the problem that it's yet another "parody of recent movie" premise they had already taken lampshaded a few episodes ago, this time a parody of Inception. Some of it is a little obvious, like Homer's deepest mind level being a city of food and bars but there is some real creativity here that works. The show has parodied it's Tracy Ullman days before but the extended spoof is probably the most lovingly crafted with cheesy gags and pretty accurate designs It's parody but it really does try to go for an epic feel when Homer's inner desires go apocalyptic.

But it's not just the lovingly crafted episode, the episode also has an emotional core you generally don't get from Treehouse of Horror style episode. It's not the show at it's best but it really is taking the kernel of Homer's anxiety with emotional earnestness. I also think as silly as the episode plays Homer deciding to stay in himself forever, I think it works thematically in Homer wanting to lose himself in himself and wish they spent some more time on that idea, giving a little extra existential fear and tragedy to it. The episode's events aren't grounded but I think tying it into something emotional puts it a little above most of the flash-in-the-pan parody episodes we see. Oh, the stuff I don't like is still in there, particularly the last gag that's a parody of the Inception ending which feels quite clunky. But I actually think it works better than it should, all things considered.

How I Wet Your Mother is better than it should be, a surprising bright spot in the season I wasn't expecting. It also actually has a lot more laughs than I was expecting. It's not the visually wild stuff of the third act or the dedicated parody of itself, but the first act and the first part of the dream has some really great gags that work. It's nice to be laughing at the show again. Glenn Close is always welcome back as Mona but since the character died, it's usually a case of diminishing returns, even if she's doing great work. The main cast is also doing a great job mocking their old voices. Is is an episode that I wouldn't mind revisiting in the future, even if it falls flat in it's last gag.

Other great jokes:

"This is the best I'm sorry party Homer's ever thrown."
"Who the Hell are you?"
I love when the show how points out the insular nature of TV and there's probably a world outside of the main cast.

"Son, I'm afraid the Uralarm Whiz-No-More 8000 is no joke."

"It's Death! I recognize him from 40th Birthday cards!"

"Oh, actually, because I neglected to install the latest Adobe Acrobat update, if you die in the dream, you die in real life. Incidentally, I've also proven that Hell is real and everyone goes there."


"If I unhook them now, I won't know if it will be safe to use on chimps."

Other notes
My favourite touch in old school Simpsonsland is Bart's weird mouth that doesn't move when he turns his head.

Weird touch; the end credits have a duet by Glenn Close and David Byrne, the latter of which wasn't in the episode.

Johnny Unusual

Them, Robot

I really liked teaching in Korea but there were some real... down times. See, the high school class I taught was considered inessential so while we did have finals of a sort, my class was basically turned into study hall during exam time. I didn't have a lot to do, and then after that was several weeks of nothing. Basically, for my 12 months working there, I was doing very little for about three months time except hanging out in online spaces. I got money for my presence so I got money for doing nothing but sitting on my duff and while it sounds nice, it also feels really weird, even to a lazybones like me.

In this episode, a rash of sick workers from the poorly maintained plant results in Burns firing his entire staff in favour of robots. Homer is kept on, however, as there needed to be one employee whose purpose is to do small things the robots can't. Homer finds himself bored and eventually discovers that if reprogrammed, the robots can talk. Homer does so and treats the robots as friends. Eventually, he accidentally breaks some robots who are trying to save him as is their programming. He decides to remove the programming so they can protect themselves, only for them to turn on him and Burns, seeing them as impediments to the plant. They end up being saved by the former employees, who are all rehired.

Them, Robot is the second episode in a row where it decides to take a sci-fi bent and it's weird how consistently it is doing it. This isn't as successful but that's a shame because at the beginning of the second act, it has an interesting seed in there. Homer goes to work and he should be happy. After all, this time he is expected to do nothing and get paid for it, his dream job. But I'd believe even for Homer, it's weirdly dehumanizing and isolating work and that's an interesting angle. I think my own problem is not the robots themselves but when the robots start talking.

I think I appreciate when the robots don't talk. Sure, they can zap Homer but when they aren't talking, it feels like some machine that Homer is surrounded by. When the robots start talking, they are basically cartoon robots. I find that less interested than something relatively grounded and about loneliness. That, or I could see it being like "Homer Goes to College", where Homer expects college to be like in movies and taking that idea and applying it to robots, trying to make friends with something that really is just a piece of equipment. Instead, the robots basically are just a little short of being Futurama-esque, with pain activators and a constant need to be pedants.

It's no wonder they brought Brent Spiner into this episode, because like Data, the robots are constantly correcting pretty much everything Homer says. He does good work but again, he's contributing the part of the episode that's least interesting to me. The episode ends with a pretty basic "robots can't replace people" message which doesn't really work here because it is both a facile version of the message and also because the robots ARE kind of people-y. There's also a quick look at how Burns' decision destroys the economy, which is interesting but it fades away fast in favour of more robot nonsense. Them, Robot isn't as awful as a "Homer befriends robots" episode could be (they already did a classic Simpsons fight robots episode, after all) but it's pretty skippable.

Other jokes:

The business with the world's smallest violin works for me.

Other notes:
Hey, the episode ends with a They Might Be Giants song.

Johnny Unusual

Beware My Cheating Bart

As I've mentioned before, the Simpsons doesn't always do a great job trying to deal with the kids in a romantic way. It is often awkward and simplistic analogies were it's "kids doing adult stuff but in a kid way". But I think what the show doesn't really contend with is a young persons understanding of sex, romance and consent. Where I work there was a recent concern about it and kids often don't know how to deal with some of this stuff. They often don't have the ideas of appropriacy we do and may do something unacceptable out of a natural curiosity and it can be tricky to deal with.

In this episode, Bart catches Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney at the movies and when Jimbo's girlfriend Shauna wants to see a romance while Jimbo watches a horror movie, Jimbo sets up Bart as a chaperone, hoping that he can stop other guys from hitting on her. Jimbo forces Bart to take on the role again and again and Bart and Shauna start getting closer. Eventually, Bart is worried they'll get caught but also worries that Jimbo isn't right for her. Soon, Jimbo gets wise and threatens to beat up Bart but Lisa intervenes and helps convince Shauna not to define herself by the men in her life and work on herself.

Beware My Cheating Bart is one of the more generic and forgettable Simpsons in recent memory. It's nice to have something more grounded after robots and dream jumping but unfortunately it doesn't have a lot to say. There's a message at the end that Shauna doesn't need men to validate herself and that's good. But at the same time, it's an episode that doesn't really examine Shauna as a character. Basically, the character until now is, for lack of a better, not-gross word, is "skanky" and I like the idea of taking a character who is defined by something simple and generic and then fleshing them out. But that's not what happens, so the message feels a little hollow.

Frankly, the other aspect I'm interested in is when Shauna shows Bart her boob and Bart is kind of wrestling with feelings about it. And it's interesting when you think about their ages because Bart is 12 and Shauna is probably about 12 or 13 (maybe 14 if Jimbo is dating a middle school kid). And in that small amount of time there's a big gulf of understanding and for both a lot to learn. It's a potentially interesting story about unintentionally throwing in some uncomfortable power dynamics from kids who don't mean harm but might be making each other uncomfortable in navigating some heavy stuff. Stuff they might not have the readiness to deal with.

But mostly, it's a few boob jokes and the episode moves on. And I think that's a shame because while I think it would need to be deftly handled, I think there's a place in the Simpsons world to tell a story about kids trying to understand sex, romance, intimacy and trying to figure out what they think is expected of them and how they can mature themselves. But instead, it's really more of another "Bart has a girlfriend story" and we've definitely seen funnier versions of that. There's also a b-plot about Homer being late to the party on a Lost-like TV show and it has a few moments, I guess. It's actually the more memorable half, if only because the mockery of Lost comes with some interesting visuals.

Other great jokes:

"How long do you want to live."
"Long enough that me and Marge can be one of those couples who just sit and hold hands."
"I heard Lenny had a terrible fall."
"You know who else fell? Dr. Hibbert."
"Yep, Falls'll get ya."

Other notes:
Hey, a Bill Plympton couch gag. I think he does a few of these but this is a good one. I remember Bill Plympton cartoons from "The Edge", a sketch comedy show no one else seems to remember that had Tom Kenny and Wayne Knight.

Octopus Prime

Was this the first appearance of Shauna?

because the wind up making up for lost time in not always having a readily available Sullen Teen Girl in the cast

Johnny Unusual

Was this the first appearance of Shauna?
No, she had been poppin' up for a while. Her first appearance is a joke that is her talking in the third person and then clearing up that "I'm Shauna." But it had been more recent than I thought; her first appearance is in season 20 in an episode where Bart dates a girl played by Anne Hathaway called The Good, The Sad and the Drugly.

Johnny Unusual

A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again

I got to do a lot of cool things as a kid. My dad was a professor with his own consulting business which lead to some cool globetrotting opportunities. We lived in Japan, Australia and Thailand for a time and visited many cool places. Elephant schools, Legoland, rainforests, all sorts of wild places. I've also travelled on my own, teaching in other places. And now I think I'm at a place in my life where I might not do anything like that again. But despite my lack of funds, there's always going to be opportunities for cool life experiences, even if I question the meaning of my own life.

In this episode, Bart is feeling like he is stuck in a rut and after seeing a commercial, desperately wants to go on a cruise. Bart works hard to save up and the rest of the Simpsons, seeing how much he wants it, chip in and eventually get an economy class room on a cruise. They get there and somehow it becomes even better than advertised; due to an overbooking, the Simpsons get upgraded to a ridiculously opulent room. The vacation proves amazing for everyone; Bart is given a nearly endless supply of fun, activities, Lisa finds a section with like-minds taking part in intellectual pursuits and Homer and Marge have time for themselves to make woo. But halfway through the trip, Bart starts to worry about what life will be like when the vacation ends and that this is where his life will peak. Bart decides to pull a prank, convincing everyone that the rest of the world is struck by an apocalyptic pandemic and they must stay at sea. Bart enjoys his vacation but the cruise soon turns into a nightmarish dystopia of power struggles and dwindling sanity. The Simpsons learn what Bart did and tell the crew, who abandon them in Antarctica in anger. The Simpsons are might cross at Bart but Bart explains he wanted to make everyone happy and his anxieties. The Simpsons come across a penguin colony and Bart sees that though the penguins are stuck in an empty desolate place, they can still find fun and happiness and takes the wisdom that there's joy to be found even in a hard life.

A Totally Fun Thing Bart Will Never Do Again is the last episode written by Matt Warburton and is by far his best. Yes, it's wildly insane to see an episodes 8 years away from our nightmarish pandemic dealing with it AND THE CRUISE SHIP INDUSTRY BEING AFFECTED BY IT. But I actually don't have much to say about that aspect or the breakdown of society. Instead, I want to say that this episode is easily the best of this era of the show by a wide margin. It isn't a laugh riot from beginning to end (I think the first act is pretty middling from a humour perspective) but it's an episode that has an idea never really explored on the show before, mines it fully, couches it in characters and is playful with it. The last act is doing what a lot of weird latter episodes do which is adding a speculative fiction element, even if it a faked one, and it works because it dovetails with it's themes.

This is an episode about the existential dread of trying to find joy in your life. Are we just treading water until we get to death? The episode isn't the cliche of "live each day like it was your last", it acknowledges that life isn't going to be a wild ride everyday. We have responsibilities and sometimes we will face drudgery and some suffering. What Bart has to deal with is the idea that there will always be more opportunities for fun and joy, even when it feels like the glory days are gone. It can be hard to enjoy the moment, especially as we get older and have a greater sense of time and I think this is an episode that explores it well. It's also nice to see Bart's plan isn't just him being an asshole and it sets up he wants his family to have some form of forever joy. missing that a complete life has more than that and fun isn't meant to be sustained the way he wants. Instead, it mutates into something hideous and ugly, which Bart ignores in his midlife crisis.

Yeah, this is another episode that's a kid going through an adult thing but this feels a lot less clumsily done than most episodes because I really can believe even a 10 year old boy can convince himself that fun is coming to an end and it also doesn't put too fine a point on it. And it isn't a perfect episode; it really spells things out a little too lecturely in the last act. But overall, I wish this level of strength could be kept up in this series. Afterall, The Simpsons, believe it or not, is not life. It shouldn't have some form of necessary drudgery (unless we are talking about the creative process itself). I will also say great use of guest voices. Steven Coogan is pretty great as the cruise director but I particularly love a self-effacing cameo by Treat Williams, an actor who has done good things but who is also known for being a b-movie mainstay. It's a great name pull for this one. This is the kind of episode I want to see; it's wild and wacky but it is also consistent and strong in structure, themes and character while so many episodes are shambling messes. This is exactly what the Simpsons should be. It's OK for it not to be the Golden Age and never as quotable as it once was, as long as there's this level of care going into an episode.

Other great jokes:

"I sold a couple of my rare jazz records. After a while they all start to sound the same. Still love the genre of course. Not even close to getting sick of it.":

"You'll never guess how many bath towels they gave us. Enough."

The low key editing gag of pretty much every sentence the cruise director says is shown with him leaning on different railings is really good.

"Hey, what's the deal with how many Starbucks there used to be, huh? ...I don't know why that used to bother me so much. Go hug your kids."

Other notes:

Excellent music selections in this episode. Particularly the Hot Chip tune.

The musical number isn't the strongest but it sounds like a lot went into making it, AND it was written by the guy who did the Frozen music. It's going for it.

I love the idea of the kids as monks hand-transcribing kids entertainment.

Johnny Unusual

The Spy Who Learned Me

I'm not really good at talking with people romantically because I don't know if I understand myself romantically. I've never really fell in love with anyone and the only times I met people I felt I might feel that way towards, they were already with someone. I've been on a few dates and they've been OK but I never really had anything click. So I guess I really don't know how to talk or be romantic. But while I'd like to be interesting and attractive, I don't want to be some sort of pick up artist. I guess I have a hard time imagining myself with someone I only find physically attractive and I guess I'll never get the pick up artist mentality.

In this episode, after a bad date night, Homer is worried about his relationship with Marge. After Homer gets 8 weeks paid time off work after an accident, he decides not to tell Marge and head out for some free time. Still stewing about his troubles with Marge, Homer is visited by fictitious superspy Stradivarius Cane who lives as a figment of his imagination giving him advice. He tries to help Homer gain confidence to win back Marge and part of his training is pick up artistry. Homer succeeds and comes clean with Marge about his 8 weeks off and has been using that time to become a better husband. However, Homer is threatened by one of the boyfriends of a woman he picked up and decides to use his pick up skills to de-escalate the situation.

The Spy Who Learned Me is certainly a step down from the last episode. There are definitely some great gags but overall, the show is again heading into more fantastical territory that doesn't have a lot to say. It certainly has the potential but it actually has very little to say about being a pick up artist. It never contends with the shittiness of being a pick up artist and using people and is more about the nature of confidence. But even then it doesn't have a lot to say. I like the idea of the episode discussing the idea that confidence can mislead people into thinking they have knowledge or authority when they don't. a dangerous weapon in the hands of someone like Homer.

And it also doesn't really contend with Homer's dishonesty and how his "practice" makes Marge feel. Yes, Homer lies is a dime a dozen but Homer being fake unfaithful for practice is pretty bad but Marge never gets more than a "what?" in edgewise. So I'm not sure what the episode wants to be about. I'll say structurally this isn't as shambling as many episodes but there's so very little in terms of content or meaning and it's not funny enough to support itself beyond that. I'm not upset that I watch it but its another episode that has a wacky premise and yet becomes completely forgettable.

That said, special guest star Bryan Cranston is doing good as Homer's imaginary super spy friend. He's not doing a British accent but he's putting a little extra class to go along with his mellifluous tones and it works, even if it's in favour of a subpar end result. We also have another episode where I kind of wish it was about the b-plot, which is Bart taking out Nelson by getting him addicted to Krusty Burger and him becoming obese. It could have had more to say in regards to class and access to healthy food but it's mostly just unpleasant fat jokes.

Other great jokes:

"When I was in Africa I had my skull cracked open by cannibals and I'm still kicking."
"Sir, that was your partner. You betrayed him to the cannibals."
"Oh, that's right. I have his memories because I ate his brain."

Other notes:
Ugh, that Alicia Silverstone joke. That's... awful.

Johnny Unusual

Ned n Edna's Blend Agenda

Part of being in a relationship with someone is accepting the rough and trouble spots. Not everything is going to have a perfect solution and there still may be, over time, things no one will agree on. This might be why as a conflict averse individual, relationships are scary.

In this episode, Ned gets in an accident and it comes to light that Ned and Edna secretly got married. The Simpsons convince the couple to have a party hosted by the Simpsons while Edna decides to take a hand in raising Rod and Todd. Edna is aghast at the Christian school the boys attend and pulls them out immediately. She convinces Ned to let the boys go to Springfield elementary but Ned's resentments regarding Edna's decisions explode during the party. Ned spends the night with the Simpsons and Ned realizes that Homer and Marge still don't agree about everything as parents but it doesn't make their parenting unhealthy. Ned meets up with Edna and they apologize to each other, acknowledging even if they don't always agree, they'll still love each other.

This episode is a bit interesting in that it in many ways feels like a pretty good validation of the Edna/'Ned pairing that the show made a bizarrely big deal about. Like, they didn't need to make it a referendum but the pairing as a permeant fixture yields good, grounded story possibilities that doesn't work with the family structure of the Simpsons. But also... it has the misfortune of being a bit dull. It's not awful but there aren't really any strong memorable moments. It's a little sad because I think that writer Jeff Westbrook has an interesting and real conflict at the heart; a new parent coming in with a strong moral stance that runs counter to elements of who her partner is. There's a lot of drama in there already and that's a lot of meat on the bone.

But the problem with moderns Simpsons is pacing. It's not unusual to have a nearly unrelated first act that is basically a fun event to hang gags on but now everything feels like when these act ones do have room to breathe, the rest suffers. Its interesting because I'm thinking of Homer Badman, an episode that is misguided in message but is a very fun well-told episode in almost two acts, with act one being primarily a wacky candy convention. That's pretty economical. And I feel like this isn't an awful episode in that regard. But I also see a lot of untapped wells within the episode and things that could have been explored more. Like, I think the structure of the last acts is decent but we could have gotten something a bit richer with more breathing room. I kind of wish act one was jettisoned to make a little room. I really didn't need a "secret marriage gasp moment". We could have caught up if Ned and Edna were now married off-screen.

Keep in mind, this isn't a bad episode at all. It's sweet and it's thoughtful about it's subject. It's not actively unfunny but it also isn't that funny. It is also kind of hinting at dealing with Flanderization and I think it introduces threads that can be explored. Heck, maybe it could give Rod and Todd a chance to... become characters. They rarely get to do that. Mostly they are wieners even Milhouse can feel superior two. I think that this is an episode that goes to show that you can have well-considered ideas and real care put into the characters but it still might be missing the wit that made the show hit like an atom bomb in the first place. It isn't the strongest episode but it made a strong promise that, sadly, the passing of Marcia Wallace meant it would go unfulfilled.

Other notes:

God, that Flanders rap at the end hurt to listen to.

Johnny Unusual

Lisa Goes Gaga

The Simpsons epically long run has also yielded a huge, ridiculous number of guest stars. Starting small, the show's second season after being a phenomenon appropriately yielded a megastar in Dustin Hoffman who did not use his real name. Then an even bigger star, Michael Jackson. These were episodes written with the star as a major player and were well integrated into the show. But as the years went by, there were a lot more drive-by guestings, some of which were just confounding. We haven't gotten to the most stomach churning use of guest star (and remember that the show had Rudy Guliani, Julian Assange and in the same episode Tony Blair and JK Rowling) but up until then, this episode was my least favourite use of one. I wanted to know if maybe it was actually better than I remembered.

In this episode, Lisa is unpopular in school until a mysterious internet figure named Truth Teller praises Lisa. But Lisa is mortified when the truth comes out; she is Truth Teller. Lisa isn't just unpopular but lost her integrity, sending her into a deep depression. Meanwhile, Lady Gaga comes to town hearing about the low self-esteem of Springfield and learns of Lisa's problem, making it her mission to have Lisa find the beauty in herself. Lisa eventually tires of Lady Gaga and explodes at her publicly. Lady Gaga, defeated, aims to leave town but Lisa arrives to tell her she actually does feel better after venting her frustrations.

Oof. Oooof. I really, really don't like this one. It feels like the worst kind of fan fiction except the self-insert hero character is also the celebrity guest. It's awkward and ill-considered and fawning. Weirdly fawning. And don't get me wrong, Lady Gaga seems like a cool person (unless there's some news about her I missed.) But the show works SO hard to make her looks impressive that it really looks embarrassing. I remember hearing about Prince insisting that his own writers do a Simpsons episode and Simpsons said no. I feel like this is that script but they replaced the star and the references to said star. I just find it painful to watch.

I think it also hurts because I remember the first time watching it finding myself squirming through it and thinking similar thoughts. But there were two elements I thought had potential; Lisa is often unpopular but to lose her integrity is more interesting because it often defines her. I just wish the impetus was better. I feel like the Simpsons writers don't get the internet if everyone is buzzing a person posting compliments on a message board. Though I suppose it wouldn't be worst thing in the world. The other aspect is I thought the episode might actually be a subversion of a guest star sweeping in to fix everything and showing that what Lisa needs is something more than a celebrity guest star can give her.

The whole episode wants to say something about self-love but it feels like Gaga not just trying to help but intruding on Lisa's life trying to bully her into loving herself, trying to make Lisa an extrovert to solve her problem. And it works, I guess. I myself admit I might not know the best way to deal with someone who is depressed and might feel the need to go against their wishes if I felt if could really help them or prevent them from hurting themselves. But this just feels like another way to praise a celebrity and it feels like it's a show that 's completely lost touch with anything relatable. I almost wish it was a fanfic written by Lisa allowing her to deal with her own feelings. But instead it's this weird mess where the joke it "Lady Gaga is great but she dresses weird and sexy" and... is that even a joke? There's not one interaction that feels real even in a "Simpsonsy" way. I guess maybe the episode thought it could do another episode like Stark Raving Dad but while the guest star is a better human being, the entire episode is a bizarre funhouse mirror parody of itself.

Other notes:
Marge getting a lesbian kiss from Gaga felt like pandering fanfic but I think it really wouldn't bother me if it was consensual. Also, I feel like it is part of a trend of the use of sexy lesbianism as a "punchline" in this show, usually in a male gaze fashion.

Maybe I have other things to say but... I really don't want to fish through that episode to find them.