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Johnny Unusual

King Leer

I love my family and owe them everything but some people aren't so fortunate. Some people have families who are toxic and hurtful and are better off with friends and other loved ones. But so many TV shows are about the importance of having a loving family. More recently, a lot of said families are found families or have non-traditional structures to show that family can be anywhere but I imagine years of media trying to tell people the greatness of blood relatives probably messed with some people.

In this episode, Homer and Marge decide to follow an extremely agitated Moe to a secret meeting where he gets in a fight with an old man. The old man is Moe's dad, Morty Szyzlak, a mattress salesman who wanted the kids to be a part of his family business. But when Moe refused to use powerful bedbugs on the competition, Moe was disowned. Now Morty wants to make amends but the bad blood between Moe and Morty and Moe's siblings is strong. Marge hosts a dinner to help them come together and though it begins with a rough start, the evening ends with Moe getting his own store from the Mattress King chain. However, it turns out Moe's brother and sister still haven't forgiven him and work to sabotage him, which Moe tries to do in kind. The prank war ends up escalating until Moe is threatening to put bedbugs in all the family's mattresses except the one from Moe's store. Marge enlists Morty to help but in fact Morty loves the idea that Moe is now capable of something he wasn't able to before. But in the end, Moe can't do it... though he accidentally drops them, making the point moot.

King Leer is better than the last episode to be sure but it's definitely a weaker Moe outing. It's not an episode with notable big problems, simply that for an episode that introduces the family of one of the most beloved Simpsons characters with a major guest star, it's all too forgettable. No big identifiable missteps, just the gags don't land and mostly I'm not that invested in Moe's tale. On the page, the pitch for it seems fun, a loose retelling of King Leer with Moe. Even more to have great actor and guy who is very good at playing scum Ray Liotta as Moe's dad. That's just good casting.

The prank war itself isn't that funny though, the gags mostly forgettable (except a brief moment where Homer splatters paint on Patty and Selma for no reason save that he's under prank hysteria. It works less for what happens and more for putting it in the middle of the montage but not really being what the montage is about). I think it's supposed to be the big moment but I just didn't find them clever. I also feel like for whatever reason, Morty didn't land. I think Ray is trying but for whatever reason it feels like an actor who is game but somehow didn't feel like the right fit for the material.

I think the message is kind of interesting, showing that Marge's family-centric worldview doesn't mean much when the family completely sucks. But maybe we needed something more. Not bad behaviour but maybe more hurt from Moe instead of his usual anger. Moe is a scumbag but like Jimmy McGill in Better Call Saul, there are qualities to like about Moe and a good episode can make us feel bad when he is hurt and having his family hurt him should have a bigger impact. It doesn't have to be a strongly emotional episode but I usually like Moe when more than being a sadsack, he's a bit weary but despite his hesitation is willing to put himself in a vulnerable position one last time. It's a decent idea for an episode, it's just a shame it wasn't all that interesting in practice.

Johnny Unusual

Lisa Gets the Blues

When you have a skill that you are proud of, it can be disheartening to realize your skill is a skill that many others have. After all, if you are surrounded by people without it, it might feel like your special thing but if there are more people with it, using it, you might feel less unique. I see lots of amazing early childhood educators every day who outclass me. I still have things I feel are strengths, like engagement with the children (someone came to watch my practicum and was impressed I could chase them around for nearly half an hour straight) but what I do isn't unique. But I am present, I can do it, I can improve and someone will be there to appreciate it.

In this episode, Mr. Largo asks Lisa to give up on the sax, fearing she's just going to disappoint herself when she faces real opposition. Lisa is hurt and develops the yips, causing her to be unable to play. The family plans on taking a trip to Gainesville but ends up getting their flight diverted to New Orleans. Marge asks Homer to spend the day with Lisa and try to cheer her up but Homer's ideas are mostly gluttony punctuated by a few failures. Still, a trip to a statue of Louis Armstrong starts to get Lisa thinking and when she and Homer go to a bar, they meet a jazzman who asks Lisa to join him on stage. He reveals himself as the nephew of Bleeding Gums Murphy and that he knows Lisa as the most promising young musician he can think of. This gets Lisa out of her funk and restores her faith in her abilities.

Lisa Gets the Blues is one of the most unnecessary episodes in a series long in the tooth and known for repeating it's plot points. I feel like I've already seen a bevy of episodes where Lisa loses faith in herself because she's told she's not special. Combining that with a "the Simpsons are going to" episode doesn't really change the rhythm of either, sadly. Having the yips isn't a bad variation necessarily; after all, its a genuine inability to perform. But it's pretty lazy that the message is "have confidence, stupid", especially with so little nuance. I think a certain level of sadness is important to Lisa's character, especially when it's "Lisa the artist" and "Lisa the activist". In both cases, it is a motivator. In many cases, like Moaning Lisa, she learns to embrace her sadness (that episode really holds up in that emotional aspect) as a part of her without being overwhelmed by it. This episode is much simpler.

Now don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily mind Lisa gets positive feedback from a source she respects and feels confident and using Bleeding Gums Murphy makes some sense. But I also feel like the series is diluting the legacy of that character in such a weak episode. It sure doesn't help it includes the new character of Bleeding Gums' nephew whom they don't even bother to name. Seriously, I looked up the Simpsons wiki and it's the unwieldy subject header "Bleeding Gums Murphy's Nephew". It all points to how by the numbers the whole affair is.

I do feel like in the direction, the episode does try in spots. There's a LENGTHY montage of Homer eating and naming Cajun cuisine that seems like it took a lot of work and an argument between Homer and Lisa that sounds partially improved. In both cases, I feel like they are well directed and realized by neither are actually funny and really is the highest quality construction of something that doesn't really work. And it's also stuff that eats up more time. A lot of times I say the story needs more breathing room but this time there really is so little here that, yeah, I think they needed to eat up time. And that's pretty bad. Keep in mind, this isn't a god awful episode or hard to watch. But it is frustratingly a non-entity of an episode that director Bob Anderson very much tried to make into an entity.

Other notes:
Interestingly, this episode is co-written by David Silverman, one of the show's most accomplished directors who did a ton of Golden Age classics. But he also did the Kang and Kodos episode.

Johnny Unusual

Forgive and Regret

I work with kids and one thing kids are both really good at and really bad at is forgiving. They are very bad in the immediate present of being able to forgive, grumbling at each other and so forth. But often when left to their own devices, it happens very quickly. They just move on and truly to the forgetting part of forgive and forget. But at the same time, it isn't easy. We want the people we feel we need to forgive to actually show they understand the pain they caused and to try to do something about it.

In this episode, Grandpa goes to the hospital seriously ill and is told he is dying very soon. On his deathbed he tells Homer a secret he wants him to forgive, something awful he did years ago. asking him never to tell. Homer is angry but swallows it up to make Grandpa's last moments come with closure and forgiveness. But Homer soon regrets his decision when Grandpa makes it through as healthy as ever. Suddenly, forgiveness is even harder for Homer and the two are at odds about everything. The Simpsons try to help the two patch things up but to no avail. Eventually, a frustrated Homer reveals the truth. that as a child Homer and Mona bonded making pies and pie recipe cards, each with a loving message to Homer on the back and when Mona left, Grandpa threw them off a cliff in rage. At this point, all the Simpsons turn on grandpa and begin stewing at his cruelty and selfishness to the point where they decide to return to the retirement castle just to prod at him some more. When they arrive, Grandpa is gone with a note revealing he's gone in search of the recipes. Worrying about Grandpa's safety, Homer rushes to him but his own incompetence causes both Grandpa and Homer to end up dangling from a cliff. attached to each other. Homer sees the recipe box at the side of the cliff but being given the choice between that and grandpa, he chooses Grandpa. Grandpa, however, manages to find a way to save both, but they discover the recipe box is empty. It turns out the recipes rained onto a failing diner and the pie recipes and hopeful messages helped the owner through a hard time and Homer is given his recipes back and forgives grandpa.

This episode is written by a writer whom I often am less thrilled with; Bill Odenkirk. Brother of beloved comedian/character actor Bob Odenkirk, Bill wrote some all timer Futurama episodes but I've found a lot of writers who do well with Futurama often fumble with the Simpsons. I'm not sure if it's simply the different show runners (I definitely have issues with Al Jean as showrunner) or a different mentality (Futurama can get emotional but takes place in a world that lends itself to darker and crueler humour) but on the Simpsons, I'm not a big Odenkirk fan. He's a gag-forward writer, which isn't inherently a bad thing but in this era, the gags aren't the strongest element of the show. It becomes more strong when it finds different emotional angles for the characters.

On the surface, this ISN'T a new emotional angle. Homer and Grandpa have been at each other before. But this is still a story well-told and keeps in mind that forgiveness can be hard. Homer is willing to forgive Grandpa when he is dying but when he's walking around seeming pretty indifferent to what he did, it's far less easy. Grandpa didn't trick Homer and he knows the weight of his sins to an extent but he doesn't take into account actually doing something. You don't always have to "earn" forgiveness in life but you can do more than just feel contrite and Grandpa decides to do something by the end. acts that earn forgiveness that don't undo what has been done but show an effort to change.

Another angle we rarely see that Homer puts succinctly; we rarely see the family brought together by mutual disgust or loathing to one person. By the end, they are all on the same page in their disgust at Grandpa and it's a weird feeling because sometimes it is satisfying to see them in lockstep and working as a unit but knowing it is for a justified emotion with toxic ramifications is interesting (and leads to some fun bits). I'll also say that this is one of the better uses of Glenn Close as Mona in recent years. They often dredge her back up for some lazy feels but this is one of the more successful uses, her soulful performance reminding us why they are so angry at Grandpa, even though her loving message also has the inadvertent drawback of Homer equating food at love. Overall, this isn't the most emotional script but it is one where there is really a good balance between the comedy and heart that is often missing in the latter era.

Other great jokes


"I hope you got a return receipt on that balloon."
"I always do."
I love how mournfully she says this.

"We did everything we could. And the last thing worked!"

"When the body is in too much pain, the brain releases a hormone to bring a merciful death. But an expensive new drug blocks that and keeps him alive."

"If cake solved problem, Homer would have a Nobel Peace Prize."
"That's a bullcrap prize, they gave it to Kissenger."


"They're just sitting there."
"I bet they'd hurry if they knew we had balloons."
The balloon runner works for this ep. It's very Marge.

Johnny Unusual

Left Behind

Looking for work can be a scary thing, especially when you are older. A couple years ago, I went into Early Childhood Education and though I had a great resume and experience, it really is a different world from what I was doing before. And the day I got the job I cried because it was also the last day I was looking after my niece and nephew. It was the grieving of an old life and a start of a new one. It isn't always easy and the end of an era can have some powerful feels, even as a new one opens up.

In this episode, Flanders loses the Leftorium and needs to find work. Homer suggests applying at the plant and Flanders gets a job in HR. Everyone is having a hard time tolerating Flanders religiousness and willingness to call out stuff the staff has been getting away with for a while (mostly Homer), so Homer prays for Flanders to lose his job. Flanders does when he calls Burns out on his unethical practices and has a hard time finding a job. Marge suggests Flanders become a teacher and he becomes a Springfield Elementary substitute. However, Flanders has far too hard a time dealing with the kids, made worse when Bart is pressured into spitballing him. Bart and Homer feel guilty and Bart uses some pranks to get the kids to behave.

Left Behind... that's a title that implies this episode is more emotional than it is. The episode is "story by" Al Jean and "teleplay by" Joel H Cohen and John Frink and while I tend to complain about Jean, I feel like the failure might be more in the teleplay. Of course, the other problem is one I've said before; there are actually TWO episodes in here but smashed together they have no breathing room. The first episode is Flanders working at the plant and at first calling Homer out before discovering the deeper, more systemic problems that lead to Homers in the workplace. And also it would deal with the idea that Homer would feel guilty for asking God to sabotage a friends life. All of that could be one interesting episode where Flanders, who loves Homer in his way but can have a hard time tolerating him and respecting him, can see what empowers some of Homer's bad habits, which is a bad workplace.

The other part is Flanders looking for work as a 60 year old (maybe there's three episodes here) and taking his second wife's job. The episode uses archival audio of Marcia Wallace but despite that, it barely deals with it. I think the Jean's job as show runner was to find a new status quo for Flanders and a new teacher for Bart and this does make a kind of sense for the series. I think Bart needs a teacher character and using Flanders creates a different dynamic; like Edna, Bart can be fond of Flanders and want to mock him. But Edna and Ned have different kinds of integrities and values. I think the interesting take and the emotional one implied by the title is Flanders learning what kind of teacher he is. He really can't be Edna, who is often cynical and checked out but that belies that she is more invested in the children's education than Skinner (who is in more of a bottom-line position) and is willing to fight for it. Flanders is his own person though and might struggle in comparing himself and have to find his own way. But really it comes down to some Bart pranking kids into thinking God is real which... doesn't really work for me.

The episode sets up a potential new status quo that I don't mind but the episode is a lot of promise with little follow through. The idea of Homer dealing with the idea that he wanted Flanders to fail has been done but I think that specifically it being a prayer this time would be kind of horrifying to Flanders that someone would pray for ill will. But while Homer feels guilty about it and says he wants to make it up to him... Bart's the only one who does it. There's no fallout for Homer. It's part of the show's habit of weirdly sloppy storytelling. I saw weirdly because in, say, a crummy serialized series like Heroes (always my first go to), dropping plot elements and never picking them up is not surprising but that's because when they get to the next episode, sometimes things are forgotten. I always find it weird within the script of a single episode that things just drop or seem to be scrambling to an ending rather than building one organically. Heck, that might mean relying on tired formula but at least in those situations there's a sense of continuity. And other stories that don't might seem experimental or toying with format. But the Simpsons is just a show that has this weird habit of looking at the clock and "oops, time's up." Just like this post.

Johnny Unusual

Throw Grandpa from the Dane

When I was around 12-13. I lived in Thailand for 10 months. I was a special experience but one with hardship. I didn't really have any friends there. I also was too young to appreciate the food, which was often spicy (though I loved the non-spicy food). I do have a lot of nostalgia for it and there was a lot I liked at the time but I was eager to finally go home. My sister had a bit of a harder time. She feel in love with it completely and totally and did not want to leave. Eventually she returned to Thailand, doing a couple years of her education there. Frankly, I think as an older man, I would love it again too.

In this episode, Grandpa needs an expensive and embarrassing procedure done that he won't admit to. Lisa suggests they take a trip to Denmark and try to have it done cheaply there. Marge and the kids fall for the country but Homer is less interested. When Marge considers moving the family there permanently, Homer can't. He spends his time trying to get grandpa injured for free treatment until Grandpa admits it's not surgery he needs but to remove a tattoo with Mona's name on it. Homer almost leaves with his family when they refuse to leave and Grandpa convinces Homer to stay. By then, the family has already fallen out of love with the country and decide to return home.

Throw Grandpa from the Dane is another "The Simpsons are Going To ___" episode and like many it didn't need to happen. Like many of them it is pretty gag-forward and like many the gags aren't all that strong. It's not awful but it's really an unfocused hodge podge of ideas. The most consistent one is the Simpsons love the country and want to stay and Homer doesn't. It compares his stubbornness to the stubbornness that cost Granpda his marriage and that's almost something, I guess. But the related ideas are kind of sloppily chained together and the rest is nonsense.

It doesn't help that I feel we've seen the dynamic that the Simpsons suddenly want to stay somewhere before, including when it turns out one family member isn't into it. Most of the episode doesn't have much story and is cultural gag based, which isn't necessarily bad... but these are pretty weak. Throw in a weird pointless "woman hits on Homer" segment that's not only a lazy sitcom misunderstanding but one that is almost immediately dropped once the scene ends. I'm really not sure what beyond some gags about Denmark necessitates this episodes existance.

This is yet another case of an episode that didn't bother me but also made me shrug. It's not even a regurgitation of old episodes but of fairly recent ones, like the Boston one and yet another "Grandpa needs to go to a socialized medicine country." This season had some hard episodes to swallow but overall, despite the clumsy attempt to deal with the Apu controversy, the show seemed to be doing better but I've been finding that a return of old tropes and missteps I thought the show had moved beyond. Season 29 is nearly done and season 30 is coming up. I inch ever closer to what I am told by people I trust is a brighter future.

Johnny Unusual

Flanders' Ladder

Whew, that's the end of season 29. Overall, despite a really glaringly bad episode, this one has been not awful but has fallen into some old bad habits. Haphazard and sloppy storytelling. often lackluster humour (more prominent in gag-forward episodes), repeating story beats from better episodes, parodies or recent films. I do truly feel that the show's pulled itself out of a hole somewhat but that hole was so deep that even getting better, the show is still rough, outside of a couple stronger episodes (the weird Banacek parody is REALLY GOOD). The Simpsons has been making fun of itself being long in the tooth for a long time and it's even more prominent after surpassing Gunsmoke, the long-running Western TV series that aimed to be more mature than the others on the air. Interestingly, Andy Daly's Dalton Wilcox has a comedy "recap" show for Bonanza that was originally going to be Gunsmoke but he found that Gunsmoke just wasn't hokey enough. But yeah, the show's been around forever... so no wonder, even with no end in sight and on the cusp of a thirtieth season, the series is thinking about THE END.

In this episode, Lisa is angry about a prank Bart pulled and plans revenge. When the internet goes out, Bart climbs a ladder to steal Flanders' router, only to get struck by lightning and fall into a coma. Lisa decides to prank Bart by whispering into his ear about death and dead people, causing Bart to dream he can see the dead. In his dream, Bart is convinced by the ghosts to help them finish their Earthly businesses, in most cases with revenge. Bart proves to be successful and helps most of them move to the other side except Maude. She wants a final prank on Homer for killing her and Bart does it... but it ends up killing Homer. Homer is ready to move on but Bart doesn't want to lose his father. Meanwhile, Lisa learns that her prank might be killing Bart and urges him to get better. In the dream, Bart saves Homer and wakes up. Lisa confesses but Bart is pretty forgiving, thinking it was a clever trick he wants to learn from Lisa.

Flanders' Ladder feels like it is THIS close to being a good episode... but I'm not sure what it wants to be. Bart and Lisa's arc is supposed to be connected but I do feel a real disconnect between them. Generally, J. Stewart Burns is one of my least favourite of the ongoing writers but this isn't a "bad" episode but neither is it a good one. Which is a shame because it does seem close to one. I just don't think it has the bravery to commit to it's more ambitious ideas set up by the premise. Despite the Jacob's Ladder title, the episode is largely a Sixth Sense parody and feels more like what would happen if they gave a Halloween segment a full episode, which they would do with a really good It parody in the most recent season. This is less successful in that the It parody, though largely silly, actually had some emotion behind it. This one seems like it would but doesn't.

And that's a shame because bringing in Maude Flanders was promising. Lisa wants Bart to stew in a nightmare about death and because of that, this episode should feel more nightmarish and perhaps thoughtful about death. What does it mean to Bart, who has actually lost a few people in his life (amazing they didn't try to dig up Glenn Close again for this)? What does it mean to him being so young and probably not thinking about it the way we do? Maybe he could learn to realize yeah it's a scary thing but also it can be very sad? How does a 10 year old make peace with it? There's so much potential but instead it's a broad parody that doesn't take advantage of a dreamscape and simply tells a watchable or forgettable Halloween segment.

Lisa's end is also pretty blah. This should be an episode about Lisa realizing the toxic nature of revenge but I don't think we are put in the place of someone humiliated to act out or realizing they might be responsible for the death of a loved one to really give this episode stakes that could have added more to it. I think the two halves of the episode have competent structure this time but no weight and they don't dovetail well enough to make the ambition of the idea match the episode, which is simply unambitious. The episode seems to posit ideas about death and revenge and other big ideas but in the end, just them being in the script seems to be enough for the writer and it feels pretty hollow. There are a couple solid jokes in this one and it's one of the more watchable "something impossible happens canonically" episodes of this era but even a series of wacky character death to cap off the episode doesn't make this feel like a strong finale.

Other great jokes:

"You're dead too?"
"Yeah, I killed myself five minutes before you got here."
"Why would you kill yourself?!"
"Oh, I want my patients to think it's all their fault. Hahaha. Oh, if you have been on time you might have saved my life but you know whatever,"

"If you move on, Mom will marry someone else."
"I want her to be happy."
"And someone else will raise your kid."
"Hahaha, sucker."
"And someone else will ride YOUR MOWER!"

Other notes:
OK, I'm older than Homer now but if he had a TV remote with a cord attached, he's even older than me.

If this was going to be about Maude so much, wouldn't it make so much more dramatic sense if Homer was the one confronting his part in her death?

Bart not caring Lisa was pranking him works for me.

I like the idea of having Bart wear a sweater in the dream for a pay-off at the end is cute. It didn't make me laugh but I appreciate details like that.

Johnny Unusual

Bart's Not Dead

And now we reach the 30th season of the Simpsons. Only five more seasons to catch up (six come fall). Well into the deep darkness of the Trump era, The Simpsons is a show that early on seemed really audacious and pointed but as an aging institution, despite it's left-leaning tendencies, it's hard to see it as being particularly strong satirically anymore. There are some outliers but many of the ones that go for it are either heavy handed or don't actually have that much to say in an era where even saying nothing feels like a political statement. We are deep within an era where you can't be a mainstream late night host who doesn't primarily have something to say about the news, especially since every day it seemed like there was one more crazy thing. Now when the Simpsons does have strength it is the strength it always had when it exercised it, to tell stories of the human condition and laugh at our own flaws and contradictions. Will season 30 do that again. I don't know but I will say this; this episode begins with a ridiculously similar beginning to the season finale of 29, except... it's just better. All around.

In this episode, Bart is mocked for not taking a dare that will hurt Lisa's feelings. Marge is proud but is overbearing and embarrassing in her love while Homer insists Bart takes the dare to make up for his "error". Bart takes the next dare that comes his way, which lands him in the hospital. When Bart awakes, he and Homer decide to trick Marge into thinking Bart had a vision of heaven. Bart shares his lie with everyone and soon Christian filmmakers arrive to adapt Bart's story into a movie. Lisa. who has Bart figured, warns Bart not to let the lie get out of control and Bart becomes more antsy. Eventually, he confesses to Marge and Marge makes Homer fess up. Homer does and asks them to blame him rather than a 10 year old for a childhood mistake.

Bart's Not Dead is an interesting episode. I feel like a lot of the episodes I can see all the flaws and I can see a lot of flaws in this one too but somehow, it's just a fun breezy episode with a lot of character. If I have to talk about the flaws, I'll get them out of the way now. I feel like Bart isn't given much of a proper reason for fessing up. He has a guilt dream but I feel like the consequences of the lie should tie into his life more or, perhaps a little headier, it should examine that there really is no overt consequence but holding a secret like that can still eat away at you. I feel like it approaches some other great ideas (Homer and Flanders having to work on a screenplay together, Marge's blind faith, Bart torn between his Dad's bad advise and his discomfort with Marge showering him with praise as he becomes a social pariah) and targets (the Christian film industry, parents who perpetuate hoaxes) but it doesn't have much to say in those rich veins.

But this is still a very successful episode on two other fronts; character (and smaller character beats) and comedy. In terms of character, when I got to the end, I feel like we got a bit of the older Homer back. For a long time, we had "Homer gets stupider every year" until it reached a point where he really couldn't but this Homer is a good balance of the older Homer traits. He's dishonest when it is convenient, he hold true to old, stupid childish rules like "always take a dare" and he is amusingly dumb. Bart is balanced that he'll misbehave and you can understand why (peer pressure, not wanting to be a mama's boy) but also he's not just being a shit to Lisa so easily this time. I also love the joy of him coming up with his ideal version of heaven. And there are smaller bits that feel like the characters are still broad but not so outsized. The plight of Bart is plausible, even if the message about lying is bog-standard and dull.

But Stephanie Gillis' script (maybe my favourite by her?) is also, most importantly, chalk full of lines that actually made me smile and laugh. That counts for a lot, especially in an episode that isn't particularly gag-forward. And it's funny because I feel like some of the good jokes echo older gags and often that irks me but whatever they are doing here works. Every so often there's an episode like this that does have some flaws but at the same time points to what I want the current era to look like. It's not always the same feel but that's just a reminder this series has so much potential to go in a number of better directions even now.

Other great jokes:

"I need to get this monkey off my back."
"Hey, how about that for a dare. We put a monkey on his back!"
"And after we're done, then what? We have a monkey that's our permanent responsibility."

"But it was joyful. clouds, harps, Abe Lincoln."
"Oh, my God, Marge, I think Bart went to heaven. Were there any other presidents?"

"Does this Jesus have any tattoos or interesting marks?"
"No, but he does think the sermons are too long."
"Then I'm afraid we're going to have a talk with the Reverend."
*loads and cocks gun*

"We are Christian filmmakers."
"So you give the money you make back to the church?"
"Uh... Um... Can we talk to your father?"

"Our lord how art in heaven, holler out your name, thy kingdom come, I'm almost done..."

Emily Deschel's scene as Marge feels like a classic Homer bit that's been done before (particularly "HELLO MR THOMPSON") but it works for me.,

"Lisa, do you know how I've gotten to this point in life? Two things: blind faith and a little wine. Can you get the wine that I keep in mommy's knitting basket?"
"I know where you keep it...
There was no knitting in there."

"The scene we set in New York is actually downtown Calgary. And vice versa."

Other notes:
The visual gag of "we're writing a screenplay"/"let's take a break" feels very much what Simpsons writers say the process is like.

Johnny Unusual

Heartbreak Hotel

Whenever I watch TV series with a competition element, part of me thinks "I think I can do that challenge better." But fact is, I don't know if I could. It brings to mind nightmares I had when I first started driving, that I could drive but somehow the car DIDN'T feel like an extension of my body and didn't do what I want. Or dreams where I fight but every hit feels awkward and impotent. That's might fear, that I approach the competition like I get it and I just flounder and humiliate myself. That said, I did a "eat a fruit by the foot without using your hands" competition at work recently and I got a respectable second place.

In this episode, the Simpsons are watching popular reality TV series the Amazing Place and at the end of the episode, it is stated they are looking for contestants for the next season. The kids insist Marge, who is a superfan, play but Marge steadfastly refuses, eventually confessing that she HAS tried for most of the seasons but was rejected over 30 times. Lisa decides to use Marge's sob story to their advantage and pitches the show a narrative about it. Marge and Homer get on the show but end up losing the first competition. Marge is humiliated but before they can go home, they need to stay in a hotel for the duration of the shoot so they don't leak the results of the show. Homer loves his all-expenses paid hotel life but Marge is wallowing in frustration, believing she lost them the competition. Eventually Homer convinces Marge to enjoy the free vacation and they do... until Marge discovers in the post-production room that Homer unwittingly cost them the game with an obvious blunder. Marge is angry at Homer for costing her one big chance and the two's marriage becomes spiteful and frosty. Eventually, Marge is given another chance if she dumps Homer for a new player and she does. Together they nearly win the competition but a small blunder by Marge costs them the game. Homer forgives Marge because for the first time he has a blunder by Marge on tape rather than the other way around.

The Simpsons go on a reality show, particularly Survivor/Amazing Race parodies, feels like the hokiest pitch. But the fact is, this episode is pretty strong. Because for the most part, it's not really an episode about reality shows. Oh, there are bits about the manipulativeness of the editing and such but beyond that, it's an episode that asks "would you rather have the chance to blow it or not have the chance and save the embarrassment." It's also about the idea of playing a game where you might be good but have to deal with someone who doesn't have your skills and the frustration in that. It's an episode that takes time to explore it's ideas from different angles as we learn different things about the plot and I appreciate that.

In all honesty, going in, I thought it was going to reveal the game was rigged for the drama and that could be fun but simply have it be a Homer blunder is much better. This isn't Homer being a jerk, it's just him being kinda dumb and fucking up because of it. It's too stupid a mistake to simply say "it's understandable" but at the same time, it's not beyond the realm of possibility to make his mistake (eating a candy bar, not even considering it is the object you are looking for). And I like the way it uses that reveal and turns a forced vacation into a personal Hell for Marge and Homer, leading into a very authentic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" parody with George Segal, one of the films original actors, now known more as a sitcom actor in Just Shoot Me and The Goldbergs. When it gets to the actual parody, I admire it more than I laugh at it but it despite the tone change, I feel it works with the episode as an entire entity.

So this is an episode where storytelling-wise, it isn't haphazard and is based in character in ways I can buy. It's not just another "THE HOMER/MARGE MARRIAGE IS IN TROUBLE AND ONLY A GRAND GESTURE CAN FIX IT.", it's a story were Marge and Homer see things from different angles (Homer is jazzed about a free vacation, Marge humiliated to miss her big chance) and it comes to a head when Marge realizes that she's not responsible, Homer is. Despite the potential for a lot of commentary on reality shows, this episode is less about the happenstance of those and more about the frustration and resentment that leads to the big blow ups these shows are noted for, the chance to be part of something denied and the only thing that brings them together is mutual humiliation. It's a kind of cynical ending but one that doesn't rob the episode of it's care for the characters themselves.

Other great jokes:


"How could I be such a noob?"
"I could learn to love a noob, given time."

"Lisa said I can't use the bubble bath but you said you bought it for everybody."
"This conversation is hereby terminated. You are each entitled to one cap-full of bubble bath."

"Just had my first wax in years. Hurt so much they had to give me an epidural."

I love the gag that by the end every sentence uttered onscreen becomes a hashtag. It's a bit I've seen before but I feel like it does the perfect job of not drawing too much attention to itself early on but building in silliness and inanity.



This is basically what it is like when there is a movie trailer on youtube.
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Johnny Unusual

My Way or the Highway to Heaven

It was around 12 I decided with high certainty that there was no God or heaven. And it was a thought that kept me up late at night. During my teen years, I would often toss and turn and even has quiet little tantrums about the fact that I will eventually die and be nothing. It's something that I still don't like, a cosmic fairness that is also insanely cruel, as non-existence is simply terrifying to me. I never overtly said I'm a non-believer to my parents but I do believe they know (even though I'm the one who says grace at family holidays). But I still respect my mother's faith. She's not the most observant catholic but it really does seem to mean a lot to her to return to church on the Holidays and have me with her.

In this episode, God and St. Peter decide to have a discussion of who gets into heaven. The two decide to watch Ned Flanders discuss that at Sunday school, where he tells the story of how he became a born again Christian. It seems he was taking a lot of jobs he found unsavory (despite. at best, being very tangentially related to sin at worst). Eventually, he became a door-to-door salesman, selling trampolines at a surprisingly profitable time. Flanders is proud until he learns that the trampolines have a potentially lethal defect and when young man Flanders learned child Homer is about to activate it's deadly flaw. Flanders saves Homer, has a vision of Jesus and becomes a true believer. St. Peter then suggests allowing in good atheists and Marge shares a story in Sunday school of an ancestor in Nazi occupied France who did not believe in God. After finding American soldiers hidden in the basement. Believing that if there's no god, it's up to us to look after each other and helps them, even convincing her collaborator husband to help them. In the final story, Lisa tells the story of Siddhartha as the princess Siddmartha. She has obscene wealth but is unhappy. After a lot of soul searching, she realizes that her material wealth is getting in the way of her happiness and wants less. She tries to seek guidance from the learned spiritualists but decides to find the truth within, sitting under the Bodhi tree and finding enlightenment.

Two episodes of a surprisingly good start to the season, I was curious if the streak could be continued. Having it being an anthology episode isn't promising and similarly written by Dan Castellaneta and Deb Lacusta generally means I won't like it (despite enjoying The Days of Wine and D'Ohses AKA the first sober Barney episode). But.. this isn't a bad one. Now it's not perfect but each one is competent, does a decent job of making it's point and has a few laughs. And really, if this thread has taught you anything, I'm pretty forgiving as an audience of the show. The first story, written by Dan, is pretty OK. I don't think it gives a strong insight into Flanders but there's some legit good gags, particularly Flander's "sketchy" jobs, like a Gentleman's Club that literally is dapper dudes with canes and top hats. I don't think it sells me as a tell of how someone comes to Jesus but it's a cute little caper.

The second story is the strongest. For some reason, this show likes WWII capers and having Marge in them but Deb's script includes the idea that there's no heaven so we need to make it. But more than that, it's just a silly adventure tale that checks quite a few fun boxes. The last story by Vince Waldron (who doesn't even have an entry on the Simpsons wiki) is a very shortened story of Siddhartha but I feel like it shouldn't have stopped when Siddmartha finds enlightenment, because we aren't really given a reason to understand the full weight of what enlightenment means. But the start is pretty good at setting up the sense of being lost in one's wealth as Lisa points out being given 50 ponies somehow feels less then being given one.

The framing device shows it wants to explore who deserves to be saved and putting value about deeds and goodness over who prays to what. And it's not a bad message but also... kind of obvious. I don't think it approaches it with much depth or nuance and basically feels more like "this is the point." And that can work sometimes but frankly the stories between are better. So now, I feel like for the first time in a while, we have three decent episodes in a row. Even though not all of these episodes are among the best the show has to offer, there's a sense of care within the story building and an eye to jokes that work. I'd be hoping for four in a row but I've seen the next episode years ago and remember... it's not one of the better Halloween episodes.

Other great jokes:

I saw the punchline of "Uter gets to heaven" but it still made me smile.

"Brother, do you not grow weary of this opulence?"
"Sometimes, but there's always the decadence."

Other notes:

Buddha shows up, this time voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson and he's got a weird energy and he brings a weird energy. They clearly learned "we can't do an accent" but... there's something off about the whole thing.

Johnny Unusual

Treehouse of Horror XXIX

Ah, another Halloween. I swear I hear people saying "well, the Halloween specials are still fun" but I actually think they are among the weaker any given latter day season. But I also think the audience might be somewhat more forgiving simply because the aspirations are less message-based and simply "Let's do a Mad Magazine parody." My issue is usually how unnatural a lot of the joke set-up/pay-offs are. But sometimes the show does go for a little more. And sometimes it works. But this one does not.

In this episode, FOUR tales of terror. First, in the opening segment, a parody of Shadows Over Innsmouth, Homer enters an oyster eating contest in New England but his opponent is Cthulhu. Homer still wins. Then, in a parody of Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Springfield is overwhelmed by a mysterious spore that kills people and replaces them with plant people. However, when Lisa is taken, it turns out that the invasion is by benevolent aliens who have transferred the minds of people of Earth to get them away from their addiction to devices. In the second tale, a parody of Split, Bart, Milhouse and Nelson are kidnapped by Lisa, now deranged with multiple personalities. Lisa goes on a revenge-based rampage on the trio, who humiliated her with Bart's earlier prank, and kills Nelson but eventually Bart talks Lisa down. In the final tale, a parody of Jurassic Park, Mr. Burns opens a new retirement centre that rejuvenates the elderly with dinosaur DNA. Eventually, they mutate into dinosaurs and run amok until Lisa realizes she can get through to them by treating them as people.

So Treehouse of Horror breaks the streak of pretty decent episodes with a pretty weak trilogy + 1 of stories. The opener is pretty standard parody stuff but it isn't bad. The problem comes with all the subsequent stories, which feel like they are striving a little bit more and ironically end with a little bit less. Last episode Lisa mentions having 50 ponies are worth less than 1. Here, having aspirations that ends with heavy-handedness means I'd rather something that's dumb fun like the first segment. The most obvious of these is the Invasion segment. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is such a good movie because it is so primal and the metaphor very malleable without losing it's power. Here, it wants to use it to mock us being a slave to machines. This doesn't need to be ham-fisted. necessarily and as "old man yells at cloud" as it can appear, I think it could work. But it really doesn't, it's as dumb and obvious as you might expect. Heck, the opening ties in thematically but kind of makes no sense in the narrative: why are the aliens running a Mapple (ugh) event? The phones aren't part of their actual plan.

The second tale is worse and in general, the worst of the stories. Clearly, Yeardley Smith is having a good time and I'm happy for her but Split is a weird choice. It's one of the better received M. Night Shyamalan movies but it ties heavily into his weird pet themes of "crazy" people being monsters. Worst, this parody has it be a "woman" thing at the end with a comment that women can only be pushed so far that they snap. I really don't like this and didn't need it. I feel like there's not even a consistent reason for the personalities, they just wanted Smith to do some silly accents, which, OK, but also, within the story it makes little sense.

The last tale isn't bad but like the Invasion, it tries to have a message and falls short. In this case, the idea is perhaps we treat old people like a horrible other when they need compassion and agency. OK. But really, aside from a character saying that, it's much more gag-focused. Which isn't necessarily a problem except it isn't that funny. The visual gags of the dino-people don't land and the dunks on the Jurassic Park franchise flop even harder. I like that this episode wants to use it's parody time to actually play with some things. After all, these are stories with social commentary so why shouldn't the writer use that as a chance to change the commentary into something they care about. But in the end, a lot of the gags feel forced. There's a line where Lisa comments that Maggie has a lot of pent up rage toward Marge and it doesn't land within the context of the scene. She does it pretty dispassionately and with one hit (if she kept smashing a chair on the corpse, on the other hand...). And I feel like a lot of the set up/punch in these episodes really do feel unnatural and stilted, A shame because while this episode wasn't good, I appreciate some of the motives.

Other notes:

Yum! (The Oreos, not Nazis)

The most in character moment: Miss Hoover sees through a ruse but still goes with it to dunk on Lisa.


the room is full of ghosts
There's a Simpsons comic with a so much better take on Invasion of the Body Snatchers, culiminating with the characters
realizing that they are all, in fact, characters in a comic book

Octopus Prime

Mysterious Contraption
There’s a good joke in this episode, and the writers knew it, since they used it twice;

”To him, the Great Barrier Reef is just the Barrier Reef!”
”To you, we live in the Crab Nebula, but to us, YOU live in the Crab Nebula!”

Johnny Unusual

Baby, You Can't Drive My Car

The Simpsons is a series that has lasted a long time and the best episodes are fairly timeless. However, when the series gets to trying to be topical, it tends to fumble and has some awkward or weird takes. And I can understand, sometimes when I look back on my original reaction to... something significant in trends, I can see my own naivety. Of course, I generally don't spread that over an expensive TV series that will likely to be. Don't get me wrong, it's important for the Simpsons not to be left in the past but sometimes jumping onto a topic without fully understanding it leads to very poor results. But sometimes, the show gets it.

In this episode, Homer loses his job again and gets a new job roadtesting self-driving cars for a start-up called CarGo. Only needing to sit back and relax, Homer finds it the perfect job. When he and Marge explore the workplace, they notice a lot of the luxurious perks are being unused by the IT staff it is built for so they decide to encourage everyone to use them. The owners are impressed Homer and Marge were able to make the workplace more fun and hire Marge and reposition Homer as fun coordinators. Job satisfaction is through the roof and Homer and Marge feel truly fulfilled. However, they soon discover that the self-driving cars are listening in on drivers. The two realized in this is clear in the fine print of their contracts and have little chance to speak out but while slightly bothered, Marge feels like she can live with it for the sake of her marriage while Homer doesn't like this strike on privacy and independence. He ends up teaming with Burns and Smithers (who had infiltrated the company to discover why they were losing employees to CarGo) to sabotage the systems. Marge tries to stop them but as she goes to tell on them, the company unveils key fobs that collect data. This is a step too far for Marge who helps Homer, Smithers and Burns destroy the company.

Man, 4/5 strong episodes. In season 30. I'd like to say "oh, Matt Selman is assisting as show runner, that must be it", but even then, he's only showrun one of the episodes I've watched so far. No, I'll say completely that Jean might be doing a... good... job... now? And Rob Lazenik's script is also great. An episode about Homer turning about self-driving cars could have been based on old people arguments like "I like REAL cars" or misguided ones like "Oh, this would have been a good company if human error represented by Homer's rapacious id" but instead shows how insidious the company is. You know it's going to be bad; it's a company in the Simpsons and aside from a few references to crushing competition, things go very great for the first act and a half, Never a good sign. But the evil is also very real; collecting data by listening into us. Which is also very very real and I think that's why the take works; it seems to have a basic understanding of the evil of data mining.

More than that, I also think it understands the characters mostly. I personally would have preferred a LITTLE more time in Homer's headspace to get into why he's disturbed by this (I feel it would be just as easy for him to not care unless it directly affected someone he loved) but Marge going on with it is both surprising but also makes a lot of sense for the character and as a human thing. Frankly, for a long time as a society we've been giving away elements of our privacy away without much prompting. Marge is a status quo woman and though she might be bothered by it, she's also the type not to rock the boat, especially if things are going well for her. And with her life, even though it's the wrong decision, it's a sympathetic one, as both she and Homer are happy and financially stable and fulfilled in their jobs that also make other people happy. It's the perfect job for Marge. But also it REALLY goes against what she believes in when this invasion gets into the "powder room". It's a silly line but it also makes sense; I think there are places where Marge really values her privacy... and intimacy. She talks about the powder room but despite her "almost getting found" kink from a while back, we know that this is a red flag zone for Marge (remember how she reacted when Homer revealed bedroom secrets without her consent).

This is a really strong episode because it understands the problem. Taking data isn't "new" per se but it's visibility in the public sphere is more apparent. I suspect Rob Lazenik is someone who is genuinely interested in this and looking at how this evil tries to fill the nooks and crannies in our environment. He also is very clear this is not the issue of one or two bad actors. The show is about one company but makes allusions, insinuations and references to similar problems in society all over and how this is a very ubiquitous "everywhere" problem. And it goes back as far as advertising in broader terms; trying to get into your head and never leave your brain. It let's us enjoy Marge and Homer enjoying their new job so when they destroy their happiness for a greater good, it means something. It's just a well put-together episode and overall, I feel like I
m in a place where the show knows how to put one together again.

Other great jokes:
"So Lisa, what does that mean?"
"I don't know."
"You don't know what that means?"
"You're as stupid as I am! You're as stupid as I am!"
"Kids, kids, you're both stupid in your special way."
"Bart is much stupider than I am."
"That's sweet Lisa. Let your brother win."

"They do have an excellent LGBT policy."
"What's that stand for? Lazy goof-off buffoons? And transgender?"


This is a dumb joke the show has done before in different forms but I always like the implication they stopped to have a good time and probably had a conversation about how many monkeys to get.

"They want your data. That's what all websites want."

"I was in one of those cursed robot cars saying I felt like a poisoned rat."
"And you wound up at Moe's. Fancy that. Man, buying those keywords REALLY paid off."


Other notes:
It doesn't translate too well without motion but I love "WAY TOO HAPPY/DANCING" Smithers.


Johnny Unusual

From Russia Without Love

I've been on online dating apps for a while now and I don't get many bites. Recently, I did connect with someone but we found there were factors that made us romantically incompatible, though we are still talking as friends. And one of the things I find on some of the sites are very clear scams. I think it's sad that with knowledge there are people looking for love and companionship there are people who are looking to take advantage. Granted, that is to some extent what a dating app itself is but at least it's less of a lie than trying to lure someone into a pretend relationship.

In this episode, Bart pulls a prank on a lonely Moe that he easily defuses and Bart decides to step it up a notch. With the help of Herman, Bart, Milhouse and Nelson order a mail-order bride, Anastasia, for Moe on the dark web. Moe actually falls for her but feels afraid to get his heart broken again, even though she makes it very clear she's into him. Eventually, Moe finally rejects him but then changes his mind, only to discover she's already moved onto another lover. Homer, Lenny and Carl convince Moe to go after her anyway and he does, and Anatasia says yes but only if they have a Russian orthodox wedding. During the wedding, Bart, who picked up some Russian on the dark web, realizes the marriage contract is a trap to get Moe's Tavern. Moe is angry and heartbroken but moves on after Bart tricks Anastasia into trying to woo Willie.

So the show is on a bit of a hot run lately so how does this episode fair? Just OK, It's neither bad nor great but I think the script, credited to journeyman screenwriter Michael Ferris (check out his wikipedia, it's a bit wild). And I think it does a lot right but as a complete whole, it has some problems. The big thing is I think it has a thematic throughline of predatory trickery. It begins with Moe as a caveman introducing beer to corrupt a caveman Homer and continues with Bart playing a gag for laughs and the reveal that Moe's love is another predator. Moe is a little less scummy and is trying to do the right thing but while he doesn't do something as questionable as ordering a bride, he is inspired by bad romcoms to try to win her back.

But I think that's part of the problem. The show can't commit to Moe actually making any big folly. Moe is a loveable loser and we want him to win but in general, he's usually the architect of his own downfall, sometimes by being scummy, sometimes simply by not understanding how to love properly, like winning people over with money or changing himself. It seems like it's setting Moe up to be convinced to emulate pop culture in an unhealthy way and do a Simpsons-style grand gesture, only for him to realize real life doesn't work like that. I feel like Moe's lesson should be to realize that any trickery by him is hurtful in the way she hurts him in the end.

And I think that's the problem in the end. I feel like anything Bart and Moe learn in regards to trickery doesn't really land for whatever reason. Now it sounds like I'm dumping on the episode but these are just some weaknesses, not a deal-breaking problem. It just means that while the episode is part of the more character-based focus that is working for the show now, I can see how it could be better. But overall, I don't mind this at all. There are funny gags, the overall plot is mostly well constructed and the writer really does want to look into it's theme. I just wish it was a little more daring about it, risking Moe being slightly more unlikeable or flawed beyond the obvious facile ones. After all, what I like about the Moe episodes are his tragic flaws.

Other great jokes:
"Cool! We get to see a taxi."
I love people being impressed by unimpressive things.

I love that the episode spent a fair bit of real estate to Marge making the Simpsons guess what cooking oil she used (it was vegetable). Similarly, the Simpsons are all really into Fiddler on the Roof.

"You look like the Pennywise."
"Oh, I know, it's terrible. Now when I'm in the gutter and call kids for help, nothin'!"

Other notes:
Of course Kirk is a DJ Of course.

Johnny Unusual

Werking Mom

The world of drag is one that I admit I don't know a lot about. I know probably what the average person knows; performative and flamboyant expressions of gender. And it feels like it's one that's been around for a while. And yet, now more than even it's being attacked by bigoted, self-styled "moral crusaders" who are clearly pushing back hard against anything that defies a very rigid view of gender. There is a fear being stirred up by people who try to conflate actual problems like grooming with anyone who says it is OK to be gay or express yourself outside of outdated "norms". And even within the world of drag, ironically (and sadly) there are prominent individuals who are actually against LBGTQ-positive policies (Barry Humphries, best known as his persona Dame Edna, has made numerous transphobic comments). But I would say based on what little I do know, it would seem it's a community with a fun, supportive culture and was probably the doorway for a lot of people to learn more about themselves.

In this episode, Marge decides to be a tubberware saleswoman but is struggling to host a party. Julio suggests she give herself an empowering new look if she creates a party for him. The party goes great but Julio reveals that it was because her new look is drag. Marge initially feels ashamed by Julio suggests she keep doing it since the best salespeople are in drag. Marge does become a success but Homer doesn't realize it. Homer finds out and eventually blurts out her secret, only to quickly realize how hurtful that was to her. Marge decides to confess to her new drag friends she's a woman and they say they know and don't care and Homer shows he's willing to understand by doing drag himself. Meanwhile, Lisa discovers that she likes adding magic and joy into people's lives but her last act is more like meddling and causes some problems for Agnes and Seymour Skinner. However, Agnes and Seymour forgive her and invite all she helped to have a lunch together.

OK, so now that the season had a strong start, I think we've settled into an OK phase as this episode is also not bad but doesn't make me laugh a lot. But overall, I think that the episode succeeds in a positive portrayal of drag. Not too surprising (and welcome) RuPaul is in this one and it does go with the message of finding an outsized version of something inside can give you power in your life. It's interesting that some of the tension is supposed to be Marge feels like she's not supposed to be a drag queen but in fact there are a lot of drag queens who are women. It's actually interesting this episode DOES star RuPaul, who initially DID ban non-male drag queens on Drag Race, only to change his mind later (he said "never say never" the year this episode aired and had the first AFAB queen in 2021). In this episode, Marge thinks she won't be accepted and is not a "drag queen" and this episode came around the time where that did change on the show. It's interesting they accept Marge but when she says she isn't a "drag queen" they say "we all knew". I think now, about 4 years later, they would say "yes you are." And she is. It's clearly an exaggerated performance much in the same way the other characters do.

So do I have problems? Some small ones. I think one thing I like is this is a new reason for their to be turmoil in the Homer/Marge marriage, one that I buy more than usual; Marge feels really empowered and Homer steals that from her. We are a little more sympathetic to Homer too because he instantly recognizes and regrets it but only after the damage is done. But then the stuff in between... it feels like the show needed that time a little more to dig into that. It's a little rushed to have such a meaty conflict and Homer's grand gesture feels a little on the nose. Oh, and there aren't a lot of lines that really made me laugh. I also wish we got a bit more of Marge as "Marge", maybe evolving her character and getting on with the other queens and learning about them.

So I think this is an episode that works pretty well message-wise but flounders a bit in being a strong episode. Perhaps this is another one where the A and B plots should have been different episodes. The b-plot, Lisa trying to add magic into people's lives, didn't do a lot for me but I like the idea that Lisa might struggle to see the line between injecting wonder and going to a place where she doesn't belong. If each of these two halves had time on their own, I think I might have liked them both more. But this isn't a bad episode overall and the quality of the season remains overall a positive one, with three OK episodes, one bad one and three good ones. For this season, that's a much better spread than usual.

Other notes:
There's some word play about a waging a garnish war that feels like someone wrote it independent of an episode and tried really hard to sneak it in somewhere. If it was it's own scene, that would be some Family Guy shit.

Johnny Unusual

Krusty the Clown

The Simpsons have a lot of stuff that are a relic of a bygone age. One of the most notable is the character of Krusty. TV clowns, in particular "Bozo", a character franchised to many affiliates and played by different people, used to be a thing way back in the day. Even by the time the Simpsons rolled around, even though there was still Bozo on the air, it did feel like an archaic throwback. Which makes sense; a lot of the Simpsons early design, though not as pointedly as, say, Pee-Wee Herman, seemed a throwback to 1950s kitsch; notably Marge's hairdo. I feel like there was a short-lived obsession with the inherent silliness of the beehive but then Marge's hair basically became it's own thing. Now we don't really have kids TV hosts but growing up it was a great way to build viewership with a sense that someone is enjoying the show with you. I have very fond memories of PJ Phil on YTV, who always seemed like the coolest dude. But the day of the TV host is... I won't even say past but whatever form it takes now is far more niche than it used to be.

In this episode, Lisa asks Homer to act as a TV recapper for her school paper and focuses on the Krusty the Clown Show. Krusty gives the show largely middling reviews which drives Krusty into a murderous frenzy. After a failed attempt on Homer's life, Krusty is on the run and Bart hides him out at a circus under the name Soggy. But Krusty soon finds he doesn't have the talent for REAL clowning and humiliates himself. He's soon thrown out but when he's needed for a stunt, he exceeds expectations and hits big. Krusty becomes a hero to the circus but the circus faces closing unless they can get $50,000... which is exactly what Krusty's bounty is. Krusty allows the circus to take him in and luckily has a very sympathetic jury. But Krusty finds that while the circus is thankful for what he did and his talent, they cannot work with a "TV clown". Krusty returns to work, though is motivated by an accidental good review.

So... I don't read recaps. Do they do letter grades? This feels like the show is conflating the art of recapping with reviewing, which is a different thing. A review might have a short recap but the few recaps I've seen seem more just very detailed descriptions of what happened with minor commentary (that said, I have seen the two conflated, even with the site linking a review as a recap). This feels more like taking shots at the AV Club (who no longer even bother to review the Simpsons to my knowledge). I know that apparently Yeardley Smith was very upset about some of those reviews but I often find the use of critics in art pretty artless, painting them as bullies. There are times it can work, such as Ratatouille but usually it's like Lady in the Water where M. Night wants us to cheer when the critic is killed by a monster or something or in Willow where all the baddies are named after critics. It just feels really petty. This episode is flawed in that respect but it also feels like it wants to be about this unhealthy relationship Krusty has to reviews.

It all leads into the b-plot which is the more interesting to explore. Like I said, it really does not entirely get recapping, I think. Again, I don't read them and find the idea as interesting as "____ explained" videos. I like reading reviews of things I've seen NOT to have my opinion told to me, which is what Marge implies but to search my own feelings by reading about the thoughts of others. I can use that to inform my own opinions and change my mind but I certainly don't expect it to be something I feel is a concrete definitive. What's more interesting is it uses the idea as a gateway to an amusing "Ned Beatty in Network" scene where a company boss reveals a large swath of shows don't even exist and instead creates an illusion of choice. The idea that the USA Network hasn't existed for 20 years got a big laugh out of me.

But that's all B-plot. What about the A-plot? It's... fine. It's basically just a re-do of other episodes where Krusty wants to be seen as credible and respected. Ryan Koh's script doesn't give Krusty a bold new place to go. But it is quite funny and that actually counts for a lot. I feel like even though there's a lot I think the recap subplot gets wrong, it is also funny enough to be forgiven and it has other clever insights I think do work. I think there is a thematic element that is interesting in having a hunger to be validated and how toxic it can be to absorb criticism purely as a comment on oneself but I also feel like that tapers away to the background a bit as the episode goes on and is more plot focused and the plot's been done after a fashion. This is an episode about criticism that is flawed but considering how THIS show has reacted to it, it's far from the worst or most petulant take.

Other great jokes:

"Oh, Tesla, your 900 pound feet of silent instant torque is the perfect killing machine."
Funny but I can't parse what "pound feet" means.

"Like my show!"
"Why, is it season 4 again?"

"Who are you?"
"Soggy. Soggy the clown."
"Didn't we already have a Soggy?"
"No, we had a Moisty."
"You're hired."

I like the efficiency of Homer being approached by a limo and a threatening voice says "Get in." and Homer's just goes "OK"

"Do you know... the USA Network?"
"Sure, Royal Pains, Suits, White Collar?"
"Have you ever seen any of those shows?"
"No. But somebody must have seen those shows. Surely somebody..."
"There is no USA Network! There hasn't been in 20 years! IT'S ALL BUS ADS!"

Other notes:
Billy Eichner is in this episode but it's a pretty forgettable role just setting up the action. Peter Serafinowicz comes out stronger doing Ned Beatty... well, doing Will Arnett doing Ned Beatty. Seriously, I thought this was Will Arnett, saw Peter was credited, then watched the scene again and thought "yeah, that Will Arnett is a talent."

There is some weird phrasing in the case chase. Aside from above there's also "You want to see something really humour". Unless there's some weird word play I'm not getting, that's a weird-ass line. Do people talk like that and I've missed it?

Johnny Unusual

Daddicus Finch

Not exactly a hot take but To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all time favourite novels. I liked it OK in school but I was never the best reader unless I was hooked from the get (I still have problems focusing on prose unless I'm completely engrossed in the prose style). I listened to the audio book when I was living in China (Sissy Spacek did a great job) and I've watched the movie many times over. Perhaps there are holes to poke in it like all great works. Perhaps if I go back into it, I'll find something distasteful, however well intended, of how this story is told or the 'voices' used. But in my mind, I can only remember the good, a beautiful, haunting tragedy about a very plain but intelligent man who wouldn't back down.

In this episode, Lisa is having a tough time while reading To Kill a Mockingbird but when Homer cheers her up by taking her to a clothing store, he's offended by the sexualization of children in the products, branding and advertising. Lisa is moved and sees him as akin to Atticus Finch and the two bond over the book and film. Soon, Bart feels left out because even doesn't respect Homer, he wants Homer's attention. Eventually, Bart starts acting out and a rift develops between Lisa and Bart. Homer and Marge decide to talk to the kids and Homer tells Lisa the hero worship is just a phase and soon it will be easier to see his faults. Lisa tells Homer regardless of that fact, she'll always love him.

Whew, back from vacation and I feel like we are at a "slight" downswing. I say slight because I don't actively dislike this or the last episode but they are weird, imperfect beasts. In this case, I think writer Al Jean is toying with a lot of interesting ideas but I think it's an episode that really needed a bit more focus. To be fair, maybe the ambitions was to tackle the idea of a changing family dynamic from different angles and the show has been able to do it before but Daddicus Finch isn't the one. The thing about this episode is it tells me what I already know from being the co-creator of the Critic; the dude loves pop culture and this one is telling us what movie/book specifically he loves. But wisely, I think he also knows... mostly... not to do a parody. In fact, the overt parody is the weakest part of the episode and it's weird to have a very guilty Bart stand in for the not guilty victim of bigotry Tom Robinson.

But what I think Jean does do well in the episode is simply using the pop culture to start off an idea of hero worship, kids having phases and how a changing family dynamic can throw someone for a loop, even resenting something they believe they didn't want, in this case Homer's attention. Jean clearly wanted to tackle a lot of these and while I've complained about Jean's show running in the past, I really appreciate what he's trying for here. But in the end, there's so much happening but it lacks a certain organic feel. I believe Lisa would see similarities between the characters and admire her dad but I don't think it dives into Lisa being blind to her dad's faults or how Homer could accidentally influence Lisa negatively which is alluded to but never really happens. In fact, Homer being a bad influence on Lisa seems like a good idea for an episode that's never happened, especially considering it's usually the reverse.

And on the page, Bart's feelings make sense but it really comes to a conclusion that's long been held that Bart's misdeeds are often a sign of seeking attention and there's little new to say. And the episode also alludes to a changing family dynamic but shouldn't it start with the example of how it is AND why Bart feels these changes? Compare that to Lisa on Ice where the two are competing in the realm of sports. I like the idea of Bart missing something he's not sure he wants but as an audience member, I only feel it in the concepts, not in the story. This isn't as bad as the haphazard storytelling I've complained about before but it really does feel like Jean had a lot of great ideas in his head that sadly got lost either in bringing it to the page or bringing it to the screen.

Other great jokes:

Grandpa getting Bart to put up his dukes to punch him has a decent punchline.

Other notes:
Even though he's still playing variations on the same character, I love that they keep popping JK Simmons into this series.

Johnny Unusual

Tis the 30th Season

It's July and it's a weird mix of quite hot and muggy and often rainy. For where I live, the weather has been hard to predict: lots of calls for rain that don't happen. I can live with that but it is a bit frustrating to get so little sun. I don't need my summer to be relentlessly sunny but I do want it to be a little more consistent. Sometimes we want things to feel just so for a certain time of year but that is rarely the case. After all, having an ideal summer is beautiful because it is rare, as is having the perfect Christmas.

In this episode, Marge helps out Gil during a Black Friday sale and misses out on losing the one big ticket item the kids wanted for Christmas. Homer recognizes Marge is demoralized enters a mania to make Christmas perfect and Homer tells the kids so they can conspire to make Marge's Christmas. They book a vacation for Florida and shanghai Marge into their dream vacation. But the hotel is a nightmare, the weather is awful and it seems that every thing to see is terrible. But Homer and the kids put up a brave front for Marge and try to see the best in everything. However, when Marge admits they aren't having a good time, they all admit it and they decide to head back to Springfield just in time for Christmas, just in time to spend Christmas dinner with Moe.

It seems this season I might be a bit kinder but the episodes I'm having the biggest problems with are the holiday episodes. The Halloween one was a dud and this Christmas one has a good topic to focus on; the paradox of the stress of creating a perfect holiday, but winds up saying nothing. It's a little bit frustrating because the bare bones of it tell me this is a great idea for an episode. It's a bit of a standard lesson. Christmas is about what we can do for each other and who we do it with, but it's one that can be expressed in a myriad of ways and angles and I like the idea of the kids and Homer deciding to sacrifice for themselves without letting Marge know. Because Marge might be moved but I think they know they also might realize it could make Marge guilty. But by the episode's end... they just kind of drop it.

And I think that's my problem; it's falling back into the standard "episode looks at it's watch and decides to end" rather than commit to engaging with it's characters, the consequences of their decisions and even the ways they express love. It feels like Marge finding out the family went so far to give her some relief should land emotionally but really it ends with "ugh, let's just go home." And that's a shame. Don't get me wrong, not all Christmas episodes need to be sentimental. Some work by being wacky or maybe a bit dark, going against the grain. But I just feel like this one had very little except "well, I guess we should do a Christmas episode."

I do appreciate that this begins very much based on a Marge decision; even when she wants to, she can't turn her back on a person in need. It's a pretty good character moment for her and in typical Simpsons fashion; it isn't even reciprocate. Gil just sells his chance to buy the item he was working so hard for. I was interested in this and was hoping it would lead to more. On it's own it's a decent character bit but I wish it tied into the episode more. With an episode that starts with character, it really kind of drops it. And what the Simpsons suffer through on their crappy vacation is also far more lenient than an episode like Miracle on Evergreen Terrace where they lose everything but a washcloth and they are happy. Here, there's a bit of relief but nothing to really bring home the idea of what we expect Christmas to be.

Other great jokes:
*in the Hall of Vice Presidents*
"It's like looking at America's rogue's gallery."

Johnny Unusual

Mad About the Toy

As someone who has never had sex, sometimes I wonder what I don't know about myself. I'm pretty sure I'm a straight man but I also want to be open to the possibility that I might be receptive to something beyond a cis woman. I don't know anything about myself for sure but maybe I'm gay in some ways and don't realize it. I haven't really had the chance to really explore that yet, at least not with anyone. I think I would some day and when that happens, I hope it is a largely joyous experience.

In this episode, Grandpa is babysitting the kids when he suddenly panics upon seeing little plastic army men toys. Grandpa isn't sure where the trauma came from until he remembered he was photograph as the basis for those toys years ago. When they realize Grandpa was never paid for his work, they suspect it might be based on resentment but when they confront the toy company, the CEO reveals he was the one who ran out before completing his contract. Grandpa then remembers he panicked when the photographer, misreading a moment, kissed grandpa. Grandpa learns the photographer, Phillip Hefflin, was fired when Grandpa thoughtlessly outed him and Grandpa realized he may have ruined his life. Grandpa tracks him to Marfa, Texas to make amends, despite being overcome with fear for what he did. But Phillip is very forgiving, feeling that it gave him the incentive to leave and live a more open life. Phillip suggest Grandpa should think about himself and whether he's gay. After some consideration and a kiss to Phillip, he decides he isn't and the two decide to spend some time together as friends.

One thing I've actually been hoping the Simpsons could do is have Homer realize he's bi or pansexual. There seemed to have been a lot of jokes in earlier seasons that imply he's also attracted to men and I don't really think it would change too much of the status quo because he still knows who his life partner is. I feel like if Grandpa realized he might be bi or pan or a little gay, that also could have been interesting but I guess the show wasn't ready for that, but it did show he was at least willing to try some exploration. But I do think this show is interesting in that it is about someone feeling guilt over some gay panic and realizing that it had consequences down the line.

The Simpsons certainly had a fair bit of gay panic jokes (and sometimes subverting them, like the classic "THIS LESBIAN BAR DOESN'T HAVE A FIRE EXIT!"). But even in the earlier seasons, the show could be about that. Homer's Phobia holds up more strongly than I expected in this respect. And I feel like in metaphorical way, this episode is kind of about that. I think Grandpa looking back is similar to when I look back at telling jokes or reacting to things in a way I now cringe at. Grandpa realized he hurt someone and for someone who is thinking about bravery, he quickly discovers his real challenge is to face up to his mistake. I think it's an episode that tackles it well with empathy.

So... why do I not like this episode very much? Well, I do like it in terms of messaging and heart and character. It's pretty strong there. The main problem is that outside of that, it kind of just isn't that funny. It's not actively unfunny and I do appreciate good character and heart picking up the slack which can make me very forgiving. And I don't dislike the episode. But I think the fact that there's few jokes that land for me mean it's also something I feel like I'm more appreciating intellectually rather than actively enjoying. Maybe I will like it more with time. There are definitely films where watching at the time was a bit of a chore but then it lived in my head after that. But those were usually more challenging works and while I like a lot of what the episode does, I don't find it to be a challenging episode. At least the show is making better LBGTQ+ choices now, mostly.

Johnny Unusual

The Girl on the Bus

It's interesting that the women of the Simpsons have no real friends. It seems like half of Lisa's and maybe a forth or fifth of Marge's are about getting the m and their loneliness.. I think this goes back to when Lisa was invented in Moanin' Lisa, where she went from girl Bart is intelligent and sensitive. Early on, they establish Janey as Lisa's best friend but mostly she's just around and somehow changed to someone who is often really crappy to Lisa. It's clear the writers care for her and want to show her she can win but usually it's bittersweet: that week's guest star has to move on. So it's no surprise eventually Lisa would have an episode where she sees the pattern.

In this episode, Lisa is wistfully wishing for a friend on the bus when she sees a girl playing clarinet outside. Lisa becomes interested in her and eventually skips school to meet her. Soon Lisa and the girl, Sam, become fast friends and Lisa falls in love with her thoughtful, intelligent, witty family. However, Lisa is ashamed of her own and decides to make up elaborate lies to make them sound better. The lies become more and more elaborate to cover the other lies and when Marge finds out, she is insulted. Eventually, Marge forces them to invite them for dinner and coaches Bart and Homer not to embarrass them. Then Bart has a club in his bedroom.

Boy, that last thing was fucking random, wasn't it. It sure was. The Girl on the Bus isn't an offensively bad episode of the Simpsons but it does feel like a big pile of a lot of the problems I've has with the show. To be fair, it's not trying to juggle b and c plots that eat up time. But it ends because it is time to, it rehashes old farces from the show and then just ends randomly with everyone partying in Bart's swanky new bedroom. Now, perhaps the intent was a joke that there was a b-plot we weren't privy to but it does not land. It ends with Lisa declaring it's a happy ending this time but... are we ever going to see Sam again?

And do I care if we do? She's not really a character, she's a collection of characteristics Lisa likes. And it really drives the point home that this is a really bloodless episode of the Simpsons. It doesn't properly dig into the idea that Lisa is insulting her friends and family by lying about them or digging into Lisa's insecurity that caused it. I feel like the farce of the episode is also really "been there done that" so I'm not sure at all what the episode wanted to get at. The final line implies writer Joel H Cohen wanted to give Lisa a win that wasn't just bittersweet. But considering I don't care about Sam or Lisa's struggle, I don't really care if she gets one this time, because I'm not given much reason to care. Mostly, the episode has her understandably annoyed on the bus but that feels less like ennui and more her looking her nose down at the other kids. Lisa name dropping and showing off her cool interests doesn't make her that charming and her new friend is nothing. Not for a lack of trying by Yeardley Smith, she's given very little to work with.

In the end, there's an episode that sets the Simpson family up as slobs and the... other family as more considerate but it comes to very little when they meet. I'm not even asking for an explosion of conflict but maybe it could reveal these people who are very different won't turn their noses up at each other, even if there are obstacles to understanding their circumstances and part of growing up is not just putting people into boxes. Instead, it has a whole bunch of nothing and Broadway legend Patti LuPone given a bit of a nothing character (and weirdly low key... flirting with Bart?) Season 30 started off really strong but now I feel like we are taking a prolonged dip into mediocrity again. I hope the show crawls its way out of it.

Johnny Unusual

I'm Dancing As Fat As I Can

The Internet, streaming and the much larger number of channels has stratified how we watch shows. The Simpsons was a mega-hit when it first aired on the then-fledgling Fox Network but today what a massive hit is looks a lot different. And in the streaming age, something can be a bit hit for a much briefer period, especially when all the episodes appear at the same time. It's funnier because as I grow older, I binge TV less. I think services like Disney + also realize the value of spacing episodes out; people will talk about them more if they have time to digest them. There's definitely addictive shows that can be hard to pull away from but a lot of the time, I just like to take it one at a time.

In this episode, Marge goes to see a dying relative and pleads with Homer not to watch Odder Things, a popular sci-fi show, because it is Homer and Marge's "thing". Homer tries to fight the temptation but Marge catches him breaking his promise and is extremely mad at him. Homer finds himself searching for ways to make it up to Marge and realizes that she loves dancing shows, so decides to take up dancing. He works with a dedicated trainer and together Homer manages to secretly become a dance machine. Homer invites Marge to a dance and sweeps her off her feet.

I was excited for this one because I often get a bit excited for new blood on this show. This is the only episode written by Jane Becker, who had worked on this show as "additional crew" for three seasons and has been a writer on Rick and Morty, Harley Quinn and Ted Lasso. By the end, I feel that Jane did a lot of things right in the build up but for me, despite trying to be a sweet, romantic episode, a lot of it doesn't work. Now part of it is another "Marge has never been madder at Homer", which after the episode where he brings a gun into the house, it's a lot harder to by. But I do think that "he watched the show without me" is a tact I can get behind, even though it feels less like it should be explosive, searing rage. I think she should feel betrayed for being left behind after she makes it clear watching the show together means a lot but it's hard to compare it with similar reactions to Homer doing much worse things. Then when the story gets going, the tension kind of oozes away. Homer learns to dance but there are few surprises in the narrative or how the characters react.

I think the show does do a good job of getting us to root for Homer to become a better dancer. Yes, it's a grand gesture but I think Homer learning a skill for his wife means that this is something that they can do together again; it's a real gift for her and the relationship in general after taking one away. Unlike a lot of the gestures, it has a lasting impact (not necessarily in the show's status quo but for the nature of the story) and is perfect for making up for the error; taking away one "thing we do together", Homer replaces it with another. And I think the end, due to the writing and direction, is sweeter than some attempts. But I also feel like with so few surprises, I'm just kind of waiting to get there and am not feeling that strongly when they do.

I feel there's a lot going on right in this episode in terms of how Homer resolves his issues but as a story itself, there isn't a lot going on. And look, not everything has to be boiled down to narrative construction, there are lots of great episodes of TV that are far less about plot and more about character, tone or humour that work great. But I also feel like this, as an emotional/character episode, keeps things a little too consistent. That doesn't sound like a complaint but I feel like there's one emotional hill, one emotional valley and the trip between them is just a bit too smooth. Especially since so much of the episode is Homer reading himself for the grand gesture. I also feel like Marge's anger can be justified digging in, especially if they killed off the sick Aunt she was visiting and putting her in a more emotional place but I feel like despite Marge's nice explanation of why it means a lot to her, I don't "feel" the impetus for that level of feeling betrayed. And I don't think it's so much "Marge is unreasonable" and more the show could put us in her headspace more or demonstrate the nature of the source of those feelings. I'm Dancing As Fat As I Can does the sweetness well for the most part and I would like it if Jane did another episode but overall, I wish the other aspects were better bolstered.

Other notes:
Dear Simpsons, stop putting business men as guest stars. Why did you think we wanted so much Ted Sarandos? Like, he's in it so much, he should be third billed.

Part of me thinks I might also be tougher on this one because of the last episode; both are episodes that work to give the Simpsons a complete unequivocally happy ending and I feel like these things are better when they are spaced out in a season. The Simpsons need to be a bit hard luck a lot of the time for these occasional super happy endings to work. But at least this one has thought put into it and the last one was just weak as hell.

Johnny Unusual

The Clown Stays in the Picture

It's funny, off and on for a while, I was an English tutor, a job that became more like an English proofreader and editor for students who did not have English as their first language. And a lot of the time, I would come across sentences that were technically and grammatically correct but I also knew that they were entirely saying what the student wanted to express. I usually gave them another option or two and let them know the subtler implications of each one, even if the change is minute. But minute changes can be important ones, especially when trying to express something in just the right way.

In this episode, Bart and Lisa are listening to an episode of WTF with Marc Maron where Krusty is the guest. Krusty reluctantly begins discussing his failed dream project; a sci-fi movie called the Sands of Space. It turns out, Krusty has some success in a family friendly high concept comedy movie and the studio want a sequel. Before Krusty agrees, he declares he wants to make the Sands of Space, based on his favourite novel. The studio decides to pull a Producers and set Krusty up for failure with a crew of Springfield amateurs (including Homer and Marge) so he can go back to starring in hacky family comedies. Krusty gets into an argument with the competent but checked-out director and chases off set, declaring he'll direct it. But Krusty has never been a director and is soon overwhelmed by the litany of decisions that are needed. As he is freaking out, Marge calms him down, believing his passion can carry him through if he can just make decisions. But Krusty needs constant reassurance and guidance from Marge in making those decisions. When Marge spends the night with Homer, Krusty is jealous of Homer (not romantically, just for having Marge's attention) and tries to ruin him by giving him the worst jobs. On one, Homer gets lost and wanders into a hideout for dangerous criminals. They ransom him for one million dollars, which they do not have. Instead, the crew decides to rescue Homer with the film's props. Eventually Marge tells the criminals they don't have the money but they can have the raw footage. Krusty is hesitant to give it up but is eventually convinced to by words from the novel that meant so much to him. In modern day, Krusty learns the film is now a "The Room"-style cult hit in Mexico, much to his despair.

OK, this is more like it. Often, I want these episodes to really be considerate of character without being too mean but this is a reminder it really doesn't have to be sappy and ultra-sweet to check those boxes. I won't put this as a top tier but it really is a solid episode where even though Krusty IS being a mean jerk, it's all very believable to his character and is saying something about it rather than just the belief that jerk-assedness itself is funny. I mean, Krusty is darn near trying to have Homer killed and yet it still doesn't feel like it's crossing the line in terms of what feels right. Some of the previous episodes, with mixed results, have been trying to give our heroes wins of the heart and in a weird way Krusty does by finding a mere iota of human decency. But mostly it is a piece about an insecure creative who is both a tyrant and needs to be told what to do or he self-destructs.

It helps that writer Matt Selman, who is one of the best late-stage Simpsons writers, is at the helm. This is the season he also started to help in show running. Despite my issues with Al Jean, I don't want to lay EVERYTHING wrong with the show at his feet but I think Selman's involvement is a net positive. I feel like even when his episodes fail, there is usually something good in there that makes it more interesting than most episodes (even the abysmal Girls Just Want to Have Sums has an all-time banger of a joke). And in this case, it's also a rarity to have a late-stage flashback episode that works. I think it helps that aside from a gag about visions of the kids afraid they won't be born, it doesn't point it out too much. If there was a need, a slight reworking could easily have had this take place in the present but not making that decision doesn't hurt it.

In the end, it's a pretty funny half hour of TV, which counts for a lot. Homer's in it, but it's really more of a Marge/Krusty episode, where Krusty actually wants to make art based on something meaningful to him but when has to experience the suffering of being an artist (hard work, making crucial decisions in every area), he starts to crack and takes it out on other people. Just because Krusty finally has passion and a dream doesn't mean he won't be awful about it in the most showbiz way possible. After all, he's still Krusty. But while I don't relate to him being cruel to others. I certainly do to wanting to have a personal life coach help me make decisions, as someone who just... tends to be afraid of making them. So even though it's not a sentimental episode and is pretty wacky, at it's core is something human. After all, just because it's human doesn't mean it's all great.

Other great jokes:
"Krusty needs me. He's under so much pressure. You wouldn't believe how much directing dust he's sniffing."
"Everyone's working hard. We had to paint all set black and white for a flashback. It would have been impossible if not for all the crew powder."

"I'll grind that boyfriend down as fine as this set's red powdered... which I now wish was sand coloured."

"You couldn't function because your assistance had a boyfriend? Where does that jealousy come from?"
"How should I know. I fired my therapist when I found out she was seeing other patients."

Other notes:
Going in, I assumed this episode was going to have a "The Day the Clown Cried" analog and it surprisingly did not.

Good Cop, Dog Cop is 100% the same premise of the 90s Canadian family sitcom Doghouse, down to the dog being a St. Bernard.

I love the fakey video editing effects from Krusty's film where it's clear where the magic rainbow stops.


Johnny Unusual

101 Mitigations

As a nerd, I recognize the power of holding something in your hands that is physical. It does mean a lot to hold something that represents something near and dear to your heart. More so if that thing is connected to nostalgia and even more so if it's part of YOUR nostalgia. What would be more meaningful; to find another copy of the toy you grew up with or to find the very same, even if it was in rough shape. One is merely a reminder but the other is an artifact of your past, which can never be replaced.

In this episode, Homer is accidentally given the wrong car by a valet at the Gilded Truffle and Homer decides to take it on a joyride. When he returns, the owner, Comic Book Guy, is appalled at the damage done to his car, as well as an extremely rare comic book in the car that was destroyed. Comic Book Guy calls the police and Homer is charged with grand theft auto. In court, Homer tries to use Lisa's well-thought out defense but the judge finds him guilty. Marge tries to talk to Comic Book Guy who reveals that the car was his father's and was special to him. Marge offers to have the car and comic fixed but he won't budge, claiming it is in issue of respect. The Simpsons then try to create a video to convince the judge to be lenient but while it seems to work, Comic Book Guy counters with an impassioned speech of his own. With one day to sentencing, Lisa discovers there is a copy of the rare comic that was destroyed and they retrieve it to offer to Comic Book Guy. Comic Book Guy won't budge until he notices Homer's rare Welcome Back, Kotter keychain. Comic Book Guy asks what it means to him and Homer explains how it was given to him by his father. Comic Book Guy destroys the keychain and forgives Homer, as what he wanted was for him to understand losing such a precious item from his past.

I've often said Comic Book Guy is one of the characters the show has been a little too invested in giving episodes to. They usually aren't great and I don't think the character works in that mode. I understand why they do it; he's a good entry point when the show wants to enter a geekier sphere. But I feel like this is the episode that knows how to use him well. This is the only episode where he is an out-and-out antagonist. Which isn't to say he's a villain like Burns and Sideshow Bob. He's the one that has been wronged and while he overreacts by trying to send a man to prison (guilty as he is), this isn't an evil plot. This is an angry dude who feels disrespected and not understood. That doesn't justify his toxicity but I feel like he's used in a way here where he is both a threat without being shrugging him off as simply a villain.

And by the end of the episode, I think while it doesn't make him less pathetic, I think it understands him better than a lot of the episodes do. He's an archetypical old nerd crank but this episode is also about him wanting to be understood without softening his worst aspects. And we do in the end, by giving Homer the knowledge that some things that are lost are lost forever and it feels awful to have someone destroy something that is yours. As I was watching it, I thought I knew were the episode was going; Homer would create an episode that would not move the judge but Comic Book Guy would find it ironically amusing and trade it for Homer's freedom. The ending that happened was more thoughtful and I think a decent way to get these two people to understand each other more. Yes, it's fucked that he is a jerk who values a thing over a person but he's not a good guy in this episode. The point is that Homer can understand his pain a bit better (though it might work more if Homer had a bit more time to react. The one problem is it feels almost like Homer doesn't care his own totem was unilaterally removed from his life).

101 Mitigations is a Rob LaZebnik story and he often does good work. Brian Kelley and Dan Vebber turned it into a teleplay and again, they can be great writers for the show, too. I think there are definitely flaws in the episode; Guillermo del Toro's section is cute, but probably a bit too long when it could be laying more groundwork. I already mentioned I wish we got Homer to take in what happened for him to get Comic Book Guy to forgive him a bit more. But I feel like it used Comic Book Guy a lot better than usual and the structure reminds me a bit of Bob's Burgers. Rarely is Bob threatened with jail time but a lot of episodes have the family cornered in a way and they lesson they learn is often not what they expect and sometimes involves empathy for an annoying, off-putting weirdo. I really do appreciate that and I think that counts for a lot. But please, when using Comic Book Guy more heavily in an episode, make him an antagonist. That's just a better place for him.

Other great jokes:

"He's an angry man. His favourite thing is Star Wars and he hates Star Wars."


"The only thing non-canonical in my story is Snoopy dressed as Sergeant Rock for an ill-timed Vietnam War ad."

I love Marge's edited video. Bad editing jokes are an easy hit for me.

Johnny Unusual

I Want You (She's So Heavy)

I am someone who both tries to be good to my body but I'm also not super great at it. I make sure I get exercise every day with a jog and a trip to Ringfit Adventure. Sometimes, though, I can feel myself pushing when I'm just a little too exhausted. It's not like I'm in great shape either but I'm not in awful shape. But it can be hard to know the right way to do things for my body, especially if I'm feeling guilty for not exercising.

In this episode, Homer and Marge accidentally injure themselves after a night outl; Marge with a sprained ankle and Homer with a hernia. Dr. Hibbert recommends Homer listen to his body and get plenty of rest. Homer is ready to join Marge for physical therapy when, thanks to the hallucinatory nature of his medication, Homer hears his hernia talking to him, telling him not to bother. Homer ends up following his id, overeating more than ever while Marge takes up kite-surfing. Homer and Marge begin drifting apart and Lisa encourages Homer to see Marge kite-surf. Homer decides to win her back by kite-surfing to. The couple ends up getting stuck together in a wind farm but romantically reconnect.

I Want You (She's So Heavy) is written by Jeff Westbrook, a real hit and miss writer for me. Sometimes you get illiterate book thief Neil Gaiman (to be clear, that's a plus) and sometimes you get Lisa looking at the audience, wearily shrugging that she doesn't know what the show is going to do about Apu. While not AS bad as the latter episode, it's a very weak one. It's another contrived plot where Homer and Marge's marriage is threatened and only a big crazy act by Homer can get them back together. And it really is the most basic version of this story; Homer decides to double down on his laziness while Marge does her own thing. You'd think adding a talking hernia would separate it from the pack but it really doesn't.

The set up is potentially interesting. Homer is told to listen to his body and that's not bad advice but maybe to the wrong guy. Still, I could see a few different stories; Homer is living the way he wants on doctor's advice but feels a little guilty. Or Homer is listening but it is very frustrating to Marge. I can see both of them handling injuries in ways that speak to their characters but mostly it's the same old stuff. There is an idea here that Homer is giving up out of fear, just thinking leading a healthy life is pointless if you are going to get injured anyway. But it's mostly about Homer and Marge again in a way there's little new to say.

And the worst part is a complete waste of one of the most beloved character actors of all time; Wallace Shawn. Wallace, best known for Vizini in the Princess Bride and one of the most prolific character actors, voices the hernia and he himself is doing great. But the script isn't that good and he can only do so much as the plump devil on Homer's shoulder. Maybe Wallace will be on again; there are a few actors who have guest starred as different characters while not being "recurring". But I wish this episode had anything new to add in speaking to these characters. It's not a mess like so many others have been, it's just so thoroughly lifeless.

Johnny Unusual

E My Sports

I love video games but watching other people play games is not that exciting to me, so I never got into e-sports. And having played one of the more famous e-sports game, DOTA 2, I was overcome with extreme boredom as I ran a play, hit someone a few times and then sat around waiting for something to happen after I died. MOBAs are definitely not the games for me. Generally, fort me, my love of video games is not very competitive: unless I really get in the groove, I never feel the need to move into hard mode. I just want to have a casual good time with my friends and just don't have that killer drive to really push myself.

In this episode, Homer and Marge encourage Bart in his video gaming because it keeps him out of trouble. Bart's games seem to distract him but when he learns he's a strong e-athlete with a chance to win $1000 for his team, Homer throws his support behind him and even becomes the team coach. Homer hires an expert gamer who acknowledges the children's strength. Eventually, the kids get to play the world championship in North Korea and Homer's harsh but effective training is producing results. But when Lisa sees Homer asking Milhouse to step down, she encourages him to make a salt mandala and appreciate creating, destroying and being free from material goods. This encourages Homer to turn off the power at the tournament finals so neither side wins.

E My Sports has a promising first two acts but in retrospect, it becomes clear Rob LaZebnik's script has a lot of interesting ideas but doesn't really have a focus by the end. Much of the episode is about Homer molding the kids into a perfect team but in doing so is kind of making it his creation. There's a whole musical number about living through your kids and there's an idea about stealing a childhood. But somehow that doesn't land when Homer unilaterally ends Bart's victory. Homer is practically in a trance, so this feels less about Bart sacrificing the other aspects of his childhood for sports and more about wacky happenstance. And that can be funny. Sometimes a character learning a lesson isn't about the audience doing the same but merely seeing farce as character reactions clash. But this was a Homer heavy story and by the end, it's less about the two of them and more about JUST Homer as a father and I think that's a shame.

But leading up is a promising first two acts. It's somewhat funny, I feel like we see Homer as a father who is strategic in a somewhat cynical but funny way, trying to manipulate Marge into taking his side (though to an extent, Homer seemingly caving to punish Bart with a new hobby isn't actually a bad idea. As an early childhood educator, there's a big focus on redirection rather than punishment.) There's fun with Homer molding his new team. I think my problem is while there are problems with the eSports team, I don't think it entirely connects for me. The one I think is most interesting is Homer trying to make the kids good at the thing they love but without other aspects of their childhood, even if they love it, it is a little worrying they might miss out on other aspects. But at the same time, I don't think it contends with Homer thinking of his team of children part of his "material world" he must overcome. If he is possessive of his team, that's a great angle and a flaw to overcome but him choosing to take their victory also means he's still treating their career as something to take, not as a father making a hard decision for their own good but just as... some asshole.

I feel like Rob and the team really wanted to present e-sports without the "old man stink" and I think they do generally but as a story, it's somewhat scatterbrained. I think there are lots of potentially good angles and a REALLY good script could incorporate all of them but I think this needed to focus on Homer being possessive and calculating while having a real understanding of the consequences rather than being in a zen trance. Rob I think is often a pretty thoughtful writer in this era and I think the thoughtful writing helps buoy the episode for a lot of the running time but the last act, while not retroactively ruining the first two acts, makes the episode in total lead to something less interesting.

Johnny Unusual

Bart Vs. Itchy & Scratchy

One thing I generally try to do as an educator is to make sure kids are aware that games, toys and colours aren't gendered. There are a few times the terms "boy colour" or "girl colour" are used and I make sure they know these things are for everyone. But even after all this time, sometimes I catch myself saying something that is something I grew up with that I know I need to move beyond. So I work hard to improve on myself when I realize there are areas I can improve in. And when I go back to art, it can also help when I have improved my vision, such as seeing Do The Right Thing again and seeing that Mookie starting a riot was actually the right thing to do, by redirecting the anger from each other to a place. Sometimes what seems wrong is only because I haven't understood the reasoning behind such things.

In this episode, Krusty announces a new female reboot of Itchy and Scratchy. Bart is appalled while Lisa is excited. Bart holds a rally at home where they performatively not watch the show but all the kids are blindfolded, Bart ends up sneaking to Lisa's room, who is filming herself reacting to it, and ends up laughing at it. Bart then sneaks back down and tells none of his friends and his hypocrisy chafes Lisa, who responds by posting his honest reaction online. The boys turn on Bart with Milhouse being their new leader and chase him to the girls bathroom where he meets a gang of feminist activist pranksters; Bossy Riot. Bart is impressed with them and ends up helping them out using his own skills as they take their pranks up a notch. Lisa loves Bossy Riot and when Bart realizes how much it would bother him if he was in the group, he tells her. Lisa is very upset, not just that Bart's in the group but that Bart is more interested in the pranks than the meaning behind the cause. Bart says if she thinks she can do it better, she should join up, but Lisa is too scared. Bart finds out the latest plan is to destroy the original Itchy and Scratchy master tapes after Krusty caves to Milhouse's group BRA (Boy Rights Association) and reverts the Itchy and Scratchy back to boys. Bart can't go with the plan of destroying his favourite show and Bossy Riot ties him up to do the job without him. Lisa finds Bart and together try to stop Bossy Riots plan. Lisa saves the tapes but inadvertently sets off another protest; blinding BRA with nail polish. Bart assumes he is kicked out by Bossy Riot but Bossy Riot tells him they weren't a part of the group. Bossy Riot does want Lisa, though, her blinding BRA and Lisa ends up accepting, despite her worries.

Bart Vs. Itchy and Scratchy is a really great episode and probably the best of the season. It certainly doesn't her that it was written by Megan Amram, a woman I know as a top quality tweeter but is also a great writer on The Good Place, probably the best sitcom in the last decade (and there have been a LOT of good sitcoms in the last decade). The Simpsons have done feminist episodes before and some of them are great, like Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy but after a while a lot of the episodes about the gender divide have been ill-considered. This is an episode where Megan gets to say a lot without it feeling messy (many episodes, the writers seem to get tripped up when trying to look at a lot of angles on one subject), gets all the characters exactly right and just has a good, thoughtful story. I was enjoying the episode in the first two acts but to me, the episode REALLY comes together when Lisa is upset with Bart because I think the show elegantly lays out the issue.

What the episode shows us about the characters is Bart believes in his cause insofar that's it's cool... but he's not terribly thoughtful about it. It's clear he knows the most basic issue "chicks get a raw deal" but he doesn't know why. Lisa isn't offended because Bart is joining her cause but because he's not really a part of it. At the same time, Bart isn't faking his want to join but as Lisa says, because he's not thoughtful, he's more like a mercenary. But at least he is doing something. Hey, if Bart needs to see only the external cool to jimmy open the locks of perception and slowly see the bigger picture, all the better. It's one of the many reasons why representation on TV is important; a lecture is not as likely to get someone excited as, say, a cool character or and interesting story that embody those ideals. We might not get why we like them at first but if they stick with us, they'll live in our heads. And while Lisa believes and understands the cause, she is too hesitant to do anything until the end. And I think that speaks to Megan understanding her character: Lisa is a feminist and she loves activists but Lisa also is someone who can be afraid of breaking the rules (I mean, depending on the episode. I don't think this is inconsistent, I think this is one of those contradictions that work, like Homer both being lazy and impossibly industrious). I like acts one and two but this is when it really cooks. And in the end, Lisa does finally learn to cross the line (not that we see it) with Bart's support.

I think the episode also gets into the heads of men's rights activism with the boys, and using Milhouse makes the most sense. He's weak and uses this as a chance to feel power, preying on the boys sense of worry that they'll lose their own thing. If I have one complaint is that... I think we need more actual Bossy Riot? What I mean is we have a murderer's row of guest stars for them; Chelsea Peretti, Nicole Byer and Awkwafina and they get really cool character designs but also not a lot of big laugh lines, which is unfortunate. I think it's mostly because there just isn't room to get silly with them in a way that the actors can really sink their teeth into so... if there's an excuse to bring them back, it might not be a bad idea. I'm glad to see Megan actually has two more episodes I can look forward to, as well (and both are Marge episodes, which makes me excited). I think this is an episode that stands out this season. A lot of really funny jokes, a story that works with the character and ideas to explore regarding what it means to be a good feminist; that it's both about being willing to think and willing to act. And by the end, Lisa is acting a bit more and maybe Bart's thinking a little more.

Other great jokes:
"We here at the Krusty Show really care about gender diversity. Just ask anyone. Our lawyers, our attorneys, anyone."

"See, girls like my pandering! Remember this if there's ever a gender war."

"This is the worst thing that ever happened to Krusty. Even worse than Sideshow Leonard Cohen."


The manspreading gag is a little obvious but that's a very good visual, especially when it is in motion and Marge is twitching uncomfortably.


"Oh, Bart winked at me! I must be in on a joke."
Oh, Marge, never change.

"This is someone else's war and you're just a mercenary."
"Mercenaries are cool, like Boba Fett."
"Oh, yeah, Boba Fett, great character."
"Boba Fett's badass, he wears a jetpack and a cape."
"Pick a lane, weirdo."
"Why does every discussion of feminism turn into an argument about Star Wars?"
"If Boba Fett's such a good bounty hunter, why's his armor all banged up."
"It's a look! Like distressed denim."

"That thing you've said about me being all talk? Well I have prepared TWO comebacks and I will now give you both."


"See, the thing about comedy is..."
"Nononono, see if I keep talking, they'll get it eventually."

Other notes:
Wow, a real actual sweet moment for Kirk and Luann.

Johnny Unusual

Girl's In the Band

I love my sister and I've never had much serious jealousy over her but I feel like she's definitely the one who did better for herself. Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of who I am and what I have accomplished but she's the one who is ambitious, can wonderfully juggle career and family, is a skilled athlete and remains kind and thoughtful. As a kid, the athletic part was her focus and it wasn't for me. My parents tried to get me into gymnastics but it didn't take, I just wasn't interested. Meanwhile, my sister did a lot of travelling (Maritime games, Canada games for rowing) and I often joined but I was very much in the sidelines. It's not exactly the same situation but I understand how Bart feels in this episode a bit.

In this episode, Dewey Largo is moping about his failed career as a conductor when he gets a letter from Victor Klesklow, the musical director of the Capital City Philharmonic, talking about his "talent" and that he will see his student concert the next night. Largo is inspired and hits it out of the park, able to get the usually mediocre orchestra (outside of Lisa) to play a well-regarded concert. But Largo's "talent" that Victor wants is Lisa for his Capital City youth orchestra. It's a big opportunity for Lisa but for the Simpsons to shoulder the burden, Marge will have to take Bart and Maggie as they can't afford a baby sitter every day on an hour long drive to Capital City to drop off Lisa and Homer will have to work the night shift. Lisa finds that Victor, also the teacher, is a cruel, emotionally manipulative taskmaster but while Lisa recognizes this, she is nonetheless happy with his results and the passion he instills in her. But soon she notices the toll it's taking on her family; the long drive is stressing out Marge, Maggie and Bart (who is also stuck with the "siblings" of the talented kids), and Homer finds himself getting burnt out at work. Marge questions how much longer they can sustain putting off their own happiness for Lisa. Lisa ends up very conflicted when Victor announces she'll be moving up to the next age group, which is even more expensive and even further away. Lisa intentionally botches her audition so the family can have a happier life.

After a really good episode previously, I was prepared for a step down in quality. This is but only in a small way because this is actually a rather strong episode, too. Yes, it does deal with ideas we've seen before, like Homer paying for Lisa's happiness with even more soul-crushing work but I feel like this is different enough to really work and the episode feels like it is coming from a place of truth. The surprising part is who wrote the episode; Nancy Cartwright. We've seen episodes written by cast members before; Harry Shearer did the limp Trust but Clarify and Dan Castellaneta co-wrote quite a few with his wife, most of which were at best OK. So I was really impressed when I went back and saw that she wrote it.

I looked at the wikipedia page and Cartwright, which said she pitched a few episodes before and never a Bart one because she relates to Lisa more. She's also stated this episode has come from her own childhood, as well as observing her niece, with a Whiplash parody added by the writers. I will say, the Whiplash parody is much better than most of the parodies for pop culture from a few years back and having J.K. Simmons parody his famously intense roll works because he both has so much experience on this show an in voice acting that he knows how to handle mocking his own classic characters. But the episode is really successful because I do think this comes from Cartwright's heart. I mean, I think she's someone whose put thought into how much her family might have sacrificed for her to get where she is and maybe feels conflicted about it.

And I think the smart thing that is the key difference is the episode isn't just about Homer and Marge making as big sacrifice for Lisa, it's the family. As Marge posits; "is it fair for everyone else to sacrifice for one family member's happiness?" And I think the episode is smart in that Lisa IS happy, even though she knows and feels bad about what this happiness means. Her joy is genuine and it asks a similar question to Whiplash in a bit more of an affirming way; you may have to sacrifice a human connection for bettering your talent but should you? I think it's smart to start with Largo. His backstory was implied before but this is one of the few times we really dive into it and then bringing it to Lisa also implies a darkness that even if Lisa does succeed early on, she might not be in a happy place. The show never returns to it but I actually think that's OK. I think rather than using at a button, it's more of a post mark so when Lisa does give up her chance, we also see there's no guarantee she wouldn't have regrets. I also appreciate Bart's small c-plot as someone dragged to my own sisters thing. Yeah, I don't think I was thrown in a closet but its that feeling of knowing the attention isn't going my way and being bored and sort of lost. I don't usually think of the actors on the Simpsons as being such thoughtful to the writing process but I think this is an episode that really gets it and I feel like Cartwright is appreciative of the people in her life who help make sacrifices for her. It's a better episode than I was expecting for something whose logline is "the Whiplash parody".

Other great jokes:
I actually initially missed this establish shot joke.

Homer wholesale making up a Saturday Morning Cartoon character out of jazz name amused me.

Other notes:
The animators are having fun with the horror movie imagery of kids crawling out of musical instruments and cases.

The entire The Shining segment feels more like a detour than a real examination of Homer's plight.
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Johnny Unusual

I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say D'Oh

You know, I've actually written a play once. No, seriously. But I also don't want to oversell it. This was for children in China for my language school company. They wanted them to star in The Wizard of Oz, so I needed to write this in the most basic way possible so it could be spoken phonetically and there were enough characters so every child has a part. It was all pretty ridiculous but we did have a lot of fun doing it and, hey, at least it got "produced" (in a crowded department store on a Saturday afternoon).

In this episode, the players in the Springfield community theatre are tired of Llewelyn Sinclair's demands and pushiness to the point where he's ousted. Seeing no other takers, Marge offers to produce a new play for the players and she has Lisa write a hip-hop musical about Jebediah Springfield. Eventually, Sideshow Mel gets the lead and as he's practicing at work, it grabs Krusty's attention. He decides to produce it as a live TV special, to which Marge agrees. But soon Mel drops out for another opportunity, forcing Marge to recast, which she does with Prof. Frink. The show itself happens and is threatened by a flood but they push onward and the show is a critical success.

This one is another return to form... the bad kind of form the show had being into for much of the 2010s. Now it is an episode I think is somewhat less messy than some but in return it's also a real dull snoozer. The idea of Marge having to understand what it means to actually direct so many people and contend with countless problems isn't a bad one but the problem is the episode is way too breezy about it. Yes, Marge DOES have to deal with some problem in making the play come to life but we don't really feel much stress from Marge and the times it does try to introduce it, it feels very hollow. It really doesn't get much worse for her emotionally than she has to go to Moe's before working on the show. I think it wants to show us that though she is inexperienced, she is still determined and has enough ingenuity to make this work but the writers aren't showing much cleverness in how it plays out.

It's a shame because this is an episode from Jeff Martin, who wrote some classics in the Golden Years and is working with his daughter on this episode. I hope that behind the scenes was heartwarming and sweet. The final product tries to be but it's just completely bloodless. Marge has some strife on paper but we don't feel it. If anything, it feels like she aces her problems with ease and I'm not sure why this is an episode. I don't need Marge to suffer but I'm not sure what this is about. If it's about how everyone is working hard it all comes together too easily. If the point is that you don't have to be a shit like Llewelyn, it doesn't really show Marge at those crossroads.

Marge has some problems but I don't FEEL them. Marge is a character who is very much about feeling, especially when trying something new and I feel neither pain nor joy. It seems like the episode should have been about how the experience of making it sucked but perhaps the experience of having made it and accomplished something is rewarding and worth doing again. But Marge gets instant kudos when the play is done, there's little consequence or focusing on the decision to play through a dangerous storm (what do the players think of this. Are they hesitant about playing in a dangerous space or are they gung ho to meet this challenge head on? The episode doesn't seem to care). I think the fact that the episode is a parody of Hamilton is very telling, as is a very dumb b-plot where Homer goes to a "daddy and me" activity to ogle a pretty teacher. I feel like even the writers weren't interested in this one. This is just another non-entity episode.

Other notes:
Ends with a performance by Okilly Dokilly, the Ned Flanders-themed death metal band.

Johnny Unusual

D'Oh Canada

I love my country but I always find patriotism... creepy. In any form. It was a real shock to see ridiculous amounts of flags driving into Maine (I might be remembering wrong but I feel like every telephone pole seemed to have a small one). And I feel like people don't appreciate Canada's problems. A very awful treatment of it's indigenous peoples, prejudices against people who speak different languages or have different ancestry, it's own environmental strife. There are a lot of good things to say about Canada but like every country, it has it's own horrific sins. And there are lots of other countries I love and would love to return to but I'm also aware there are darker sides, some of which I may be ignorant of.

In this episode, The Simpsons take an impromptu trip to Niagara Falls and a bizarre accident sends Lisa over the falls themselves. She washes up in Canada where she's taken care of. As she's complaining about America, a mountie interprets her complaints as a plea for asylum and Lisa is given a home in Canada. Marge tries to get Lisa to return by sneaking into Canada but Lisa doesn't want to go home, loving Canada far more than America. However, eventually she decides America is where she belongs and that it's her job to make it better. With no way for Marge and Lisa to return legally to America, they sneak across a frozen great lake and barely make it, with Lisa excited to be back home.

D'Oh Canada is yet another nothingburger of an episode. Most of it seems like a love letter to Canada and despite choice deep cut references to Harvey's and the Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz, the pandering is not doing a lot for me. I think the problem is that Tim Long and Miranda Thompson's script is the most basic-ass and obvious observations about the difference between Canada and the US and it has little of actual worth to say. Yes, Canada has free healthcare, the show has been making jokes about that forever. Canadians are polite and people seem to like the Prime Minister more than they don't. Oh, it edges up to some actual barbs, like a reference to the SNC-Lavalin affair and actual prejudice within Canada but it's very brief and it lightly makes a point that every country can have issues without digging into it.

This is far from the first episode about Canada, I feel like this must be at least the seventh. But there's so little that seems to be being said. I feel like the impetus may have been what if someone who promised to leave the country if Bush or Trump were elected actually did but it doesn't really say anything about that promise. It's an episode that feels very much in response to America's grim political state but while we start with Lisa seeing dying industries, I feel like the show is ill-prepared to actually deal with the myriad of ways Trump fucked everything up. I appreciate not going the other way and going on about Trumps America, because while there is much to say, I don't feel like the Simpsons is the show to put new insight into it.

In the end, even despite noting it's problems, it mostly feels like "Canada is great" rather than having a more nuanced insight. Yeah, I think more than it isn't, the country is great. But it also has a lot of problems and I feel like when I see an episode that gets into a mostly xenophilia mindset, it's a bit of a turn off. And it's an episode that seems to want to say SOMETHING about that mindset, only to fall into the same traps and coming up short in saying something unique or clever. Sadly, it seems like we are on a run of real empty vessels on this show and after a promising start to this season, I hope it breaks free of this trap.