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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

Mysterious Contraption
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.