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

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
This is my favorite Simpsons joke. I love that Homer's fantasy theme park is so shitty that he has to gaslight Milhouse with a smile. It's everything that's funny to me about the show.

lol yup

All of the animation budget went into James Brown while the crowd more or less just bobs about and the band is completely inanimate until the bandstand falls down.

Seems like the correct place for the animation budget to go into.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Boy Scouts N The Hood

Man, I'm pretty tapped out in trying to tie this into my personal life at this point in... history, so lets just get to the meat of this.

In this episode, Bart joins the Boy Scouts... er, Junior Campers after a squishee bender. Bart initially aims to quit but finds the skills they offer to teach very useful to his prank game. Soon, Bart is all in on his new hobby but Homer would rather just make fun of his son. Bart reluctantly invites his father to the father/son rafting trip and Homer reluctantly agrees. Homer screws things up and Homer, Bart, Ned and Todd end up trapped at sea with no way to get home. Eventually, they are saved when Homer discovers a Krustyburger in an offshore oil rig. Also, Ernest Borgnine is probably dead.

Boy Scouts N the Hood is a very good episode but the journey and character exploration is similar to stuff we've seen before. Once again, we see that Homer is lacking as a role model and Bart finds a powerful and nurturing fathering source in an unusual place. This time it isn't within a tiny soapbox derby racer or a bigger brother but an institution, the incredibly square Junior Campers. But Bart is able to overcome his prejudice by the siren song of knives and traps. Bart is an interesting character in that on his own he is very anti-authoritarian and rebellious but he often goes all in on a group when they offer him friends, skills and praise. Despite the shows general mistrust of authority, many of the forms of authority Bart falls in with are largely positive and brings out the best in Bart. Granted, when he becomes a hall monitor he's less interested in protecting and more getting off on being a cop but more often than not we see Homer probably needs a better role model than Homer.

Homer isn't quite in full jerkass mode yet but he's close here. The problem is later season jerkass Homer often goes out of his way to be mean or is mean in ways that cross a sort of "fun" line. Here, Homer is awful but its less meanspirited and more of an indictment of a terrible American mindset. Often Homer acts like a jerk because he feels threatened by something or someone but here its more about Homer looking down on his nerd son's nerd hobby and then finding his entitled ass coming to realize he doesn't have the skills or smarts he needs. Homer's uselessness and obnoxiousness gets them into deeper and deeper trouble. Meanwhile, Flanders proves himself to be somewhat useless in an emergency, not because he is unskilled but because the skills he have do no favours for him and his assumptions cruelly turn on him. Homer is able to save everyone with his one useful skill: smelling food. Bart finds that despite Homer's embarrassing ignorance, he still loves him and is proud of the one good thing he does. I feel like we've seen this story, the lessons and the explorations before but its not like the retread of latterday Simpsons. The jokes and setting and specific scenarios are still fresh at this point and with the cast and crew at their peak, its hard to really care about such trifling concerns

Jokes I missed before:

I'll go into more detail later but the kids loving the character of "Fatso" Judson from From Here to Eternity.



I don't know what that entails. Despite this, I'm positive "The Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure" counts as Triple G Rated


Other great jokes:

More video games should let you be Wallace Shawn.

The perfectly robotic "I'm sorry you'll have to leave" from the squeaky voiced teen is chef kiss.

For some reason the entire "$20 can by many peanuts" was included in one of the Simpsons soundtrack albums. Its a great big but I feel like its an odd one to include for some reason.

Chock full of back to back great jokes but Dr. Hibbert's ridiculous surgery with an exploding appendix is wonderful. Also, that one guy should probably get sewn back up.

"Don't Do What Donny Don't Does.... they could have made this clearer."

You know there's some sort of asshat pointing out this "error" on the internet because they are some stupid robot. I'm going to assume its CinemaSins.

"I'm the captain. My son is Bart."
I love how in Bart's dream that exaggerates Homer's stupidity, it doesn't exaggerate him turning a map into a paper hat.

"I don't want to go so if he asks me to go... I'll just say yes!"
"Wait, are you sure this is how this sort of thing works?"
"Shut up brain or I'll stab you with a tooth pick."
Once again, Homer's relationship with his brain pays comedic dividends.

Someone. probably Hank Azaria, really went for it as the sound of a dying seagull.

I love that Homer's surprisingly sensible flare gun based b-plan didn't take into account that another plane might fly by and snatch a guy up in mid air.
Other notes:
The show's little b-plot is hilariously dark. As a kid, I remember finding the horror movie ending kind of unsettling. Basically, it starts with a Deliverance reference, then its Ernest Borgnine and the kids (all the other adults seem to have mysteriously and perhaps tragically disappeared) and finally ends with a Friday the 13th style finally. Borgnine is well-used here. Its clear by this point in time he's a character actor known mainly by older audiences so its funny that he's the "celebrity dad" for the trip. He does cite one of his biggest roles that the kids cheer, but the joke is that its a movie most kids probably wouldn't have seen and the character he plays is a piece of shit bully.

So Barney wakes to find himself on a ship atop bags marked... baklava? Is there something I'm not getting here? Its an odd joke.
 

fanboymaster

(He/Him)
"I don't want to go so if he asks me to go... I'll just say yes!"
"Wait, are you sure this is how this sort of thing works?"
"Shut up brain or I'll stab you with a tooth pick."
Once again, Homer's relationship with his brain pays comedic dividends.

*pushes up glasses* Pretty sure Homer's last line here is "I'll stab you with a q-tip" which is a bit less arbitrary a threat of violence and more something Homer's likely done routinely while attempting to clean wax out of his ears.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)
Or for vengeance, doesn’t sound like an idle threat.

Homer referring to him as “That Borgnine Guy” always stuck with me, and, to this day, that’s how I refer to the actor
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
*pushes up glasses* Pretty sure Homer's last line here is "I'll stab you with a q-tip" which is a bit less arbitrary a threat of violence and more something Homer's likely done routinely while attempting to clean wax out of his ears.
Cut me some slack. ITS BEEN A DAY, TODAY!
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
This is one of the all time great episodes that still feels a little under-recognized to me.

 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
The Last Temptation of Homer

I thought of this episode a year or two ago. Not the a-plot, but the b-plot. It felt like my niece had a ton of similar things she needed for herself to Bart in this episode: orthidics, glasses, cream for dry skin, medicine for yeast infection. The poor kid seemed to need all kinds of stuff for issues. Though she definitely still has a weird gate and needs glasses, she's really come into her own. I wasn't worried about her popularity but I was concerned that it all might have an effect on her self-esteem. But I was wrong, she was able to role with it all pretty well and is much better at taking care of her glasses than I was. I too had similar awkwardness over the years: braces, arch supports and the like. Frankly, it didn't help my self-esteem. No one was making fun of me but I definitely felt truly uncool. Granted I was NEVER going to be cool but its nice to have the illusion I'm not actively uncool.

In this episode, Homer has a crush on his new co-worker Mindy and is desperate to fight his strong attraction to her. Even worse, it seems as fate keeps pushing Homer and Mindy closer together. Eventually, he finds himself at a breaking point where he feels he can't resist any more. Meanwhile, Bart finds that a lazy eye might be responsible for his bad grades. Upon visiting the doctor, they end up foisting a number of other treatments to help him out that manages to zap all his cool and makes him a target for bullies.

A lot of writers were concerned in the episode "Colonel Homer" that Homer would be too unlikable for hanging out with Lurleen but I think the show proved them wrong. In that episode, Homer wanted to help someone and was completely and comically oblivious to her advances. In this one, the show risks Homer's likability which is funny to say considering how his obnoxiousness and headstrong behaviour nearly got himself and his son killed. He's the one who is attracted and is the one who is likely to initiate the cheating. But Homer has no desire to harbour these feelings. We know he won't do it in the end, not just because it would explode the show but also because Homer's love for Marge is unimpeachable. But no one is immune to desire, morality be damned.

Homer keeps getting weird signs from the universe to cheat but when he gives in, it feels less like a man giving in to temptation and more a man defeated. Thankfully, the woman who he is mutually attracted to is good in all the best ways and that includes steering Homer to really think and consider what he wants. And of course, its Marge. Its a sweet romantic episode to an episode that leans much more silly than taking Homer's struggle with too much weight.

The character of Mindy is a lot less well drawn than Lurleen. That in no way lies at the heels of Michelle Pfeiffer, who is doing great stuff and is very game as a female sex bomb Homer. Like Lurleen, I feel like the artists wanted to create a uniquely sexy character within this show. The problem is that while she is given a lot of character traits, she's never given much beyond what she can do for the plot. Lurleen was a character who felt like she had a life before Homer and will have a life after. Not so much with Mindy. She's given some cool non-Homerbait qualities that also makes her attractive to Homer like looking cool on her own motorcycle but we don't get a lot of insight. Still, it is fun seeing Homer play off the character at times and, again, Pfeiffer seems to be having fun.

As a story, its serviceable. I don't think we get much insight into Homer's character that we didn't know before. He's a sweet guy who feels tempted and he's troubled by the fact that he could ruin everything he built giving into it or could even get away with it and have to live with that. I feel like the show starts to go somewhere interesting when Homer briefly says "well, maybe I want to." That's a dangerous road and Homer and the show understandably veer away from getting into a potentially much darker side to a character who is already jerk we still want to love. When he says it, its not with evil, its just considering. Anything further than that would probably be hard to recover the character from, at least in the layout of this story.

But beyond the story, the Simpson joke factory is VERY strong with this one. Some of the "foreign people" jokes have aged poorly (a weird non-sequitor involving vaguely middle eastern people and an unfortunate Chinese accent done not by a Chinese person) but it feels like scene after scene has a batch of jokes that still hold up VERY well. The b-plot is funny too, with a pitch perfect ending that puts a nice cap on the arbitrary nature of bullying. The Last Temptation of Homer doesn't do a lot that "Colonel Homer" didn't do better, save that if it were a "who made the best joke" contest, I couldn't tell you who would win.

Jokes I missed before:
I didn't realize Col. Klink was voiced by the original actor. And he FUCKING KILLS IT.
Other great jokes:

This entire minute of cartoon is wall-to-wall perfect jokes. Their indifference to the death of a co-worker, Lenny's solution being that of an eight year old in trouble and of course the gag of denying the audience the thing that is most dramatically interesting.


I never appreciated how great this is. Homer steals pens everyday and the animator made it clear if someone asked Homer "to what end?", he'd have nothing. The pens are leaking over the seats. They are clearly more of a problem than a boon. Homer doesn't care, so long as its free.

I feel like after this we didn't need to tell jokes anymore. Having reached their zenith, we could move onto other things, occasionally remembering that time the perfect joke happened.









Other notes:

I love the beautiful simplicity of Bart's parking lot prank. Also, that took a LOT of work.

Once again, Bart is obsessed with Victorian era dialects.

Everything about the Colonel Klink section is perfect. The subversion of the It's a Wonderful Life formula, Klink just disappearing right after and after twice being tired of Homer treating him as the real character, the third time he is upset by a revelation from the show.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
$pringfield (or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)

I don't play video games as much as I used to. I definitely get in an hour a night but a lot of that is "Ringfit Adventure" which is great but more of a duty than just a fun time. But there have been times when games have taken up too much mental space and I could only think about playing them again. Games are great but they can undeniably be addictive. Heck, I play a match three game daily. But I'm really glad that never transitioned to gambling. I went to a casino once and spent a couple bucks on games but nothing clicked. Also, when I lived in Japan, I lived above a pachinko parlor (which I really need to write about some time) and having been in one, it is an absolute assault of sound and senses with its lights, shockingly loud noises (as loud as you think it might be, its worse than you think) and heavy cigarette smoke. It always bums me out to see such an addiction and the fact is, it can happen to anyone.

In this episode, Springfield is hit with a heavy economic downturn that is damaging the town. At a town meeting, it is decided that gambling could be legalized in Springfield, which is almost instantly enacted. It seems to work and Homer gets a job as a blackjack dealer. When Marge pays him a visit, she starts to play and soon becomes cripplingly addictive. Homer ignores this until a nocturnal incident makes Marge realizes she's been spending too much time at the casino. But soon Marge is back at it and Homer ventures back into the casino to make Marge see she has a problem.

Its funny, I feel like I've been complaining a bit about story structure in a way I can see people not giving a shit about (considering the quality of the show and in particular the jokes at this point, I don't blame them). But I feel the kinds of things I might complain about in other episodes are perfect for what the episode is about. Its a Marge episode and there's actually not that much Marge. But that's the point, as her gambling makes her absence keenly felt and we see how it affects her family and her role in it. I think there's a lot to say beyond that in regards to how Marge is viewed within her family and discussing if the show is presenting the damage as mostly related to her maternal role but there's only so much time in the show and I feel like there are people who could unpack this better than I.

Anyway, Marge's absence is perfect for the themes. It also makes sense that the show can't fix Marge by the end. It comes up now and then from then on but the show never does much with it beyond then. The show points out with a joke that Marge should get help but for utilitarian purposes they don't bother (though Marge going to get therapy is a great episode in a few seasons). But the problem is never completely solved, it is only acknowledged with the hope that Marge will get better. And while there might be a more elegant solution, I'm pretty OK with this ending for what it is about. It might be slightly more responsible to actually have Marge at least say she's going to get help because man, people miss the point of jokes sometimes and showing this happen to one of our beloved characters might help others want to seek help. But what it does do is show that no one is immune to addiction. Making Homer addicted wouldn't nearly have the same impact or dramatic weight as someone as clean cut as Marge.

In fact, a lot of the humour related to Marge are people making assumptions about this. I said before that people put Marge in the "nag" box when she's usually just sensible and in this episode people wait for Marge to come down on gambling and there's a great recurring bit where Homer remembers Marge as being staunchly anti-gambling. The fact is Marge is the second most likely Simpson to want to try new things (Homer wants new endevours but he has to be FORCED out of a comfort zone, since, ironically, stupid risk IS his comfort zone). So I like that people are jumping to conclusions about Marge's squareness and it emphasizes the point that addiction can happen to anyone, not just the raging ids of the world.

Though the episode is primarily a Marge/Homer episode, it also works as an ensemble episode with two b-plots: Mr. Burns opening a casino and turning into Howard Hughes and Bart opening his own surprisingly successful kids casino. I also gained new appreciation for the first act and establishing Springfield's dire straights. I didn't appreciate before that the silly Homer with glasses bit works on its own as a tiny comedy plot but also continues establishing the economic troubles of Springfieldians, letting Homer escape with a gag. There's a lot of great stuff going on with it and interestingly Burns himself becomes addictive, unable to turn away from watching his business thrive (despite Homer's terrible blackjack dealing), he loses touch even more than usually and becomes unhinged. Probably not the most sympathetic mental illness portrayal but it keeps with the theme, at least.

$pringfield is a strong episode and is chalk full of great gags. I love Homer's fear of the boogieman quickly escalating and then blaming Marge for him "acting stupid", which is a pretty funny indictment of the family dynamic that Marge's gambling is hurting. There's an incredible bit of Burns laughing for over a day at his own act of incredible cruelty and punctuates it with revealing that its even worse than we thought. While the episode definitely has something to say, I feel like the writers found legalized gambling was very fertile comedic ground. It certainly bore some great comedic fruit.

Jokes I missed before:

Oof, as far as jokes that got cut for syndication, the Rain Man parody is one of the ones I'm more thankful for missing for years. I've never seen the movie but I'm given to understand that it might not be the most accurate portrayal of autism he said with intentional understatement. And this is somehow worse probably.

Jokes that aged weird:
I feel the Liza Minelli slam aged weird, even more than a lot of celebrity slams of the era. I think people are mostly pro-Minelli. Though for me, I mostly think of her as Lucille 2 (from a show that aged worse than that joke, sadly)

I missed how smug and musclebound Homer is in his photographic memory.

Other great jokes:

"News on Parade Corporation Presents News on Parade... Corporation... News."

There's a little back and forth of grunts between Smithers and Burns I like. Like it's not "funny" but its a weird touch I like.

"Once something has been approved by the government, its no longer immoral."

"We got more more gongs than the breakdancing robot that caught on fire."

"I'm gonna give you my lucky hat. I wore it the day Kennedy was shot and it always brings me good luck."

""Well, he sure showed me."




"Vera said that?"


"I said hop in."

"You made her cry. Then I cried. Then Maggie laughed. She's such a little trooper."

"I'm Idaho"
"Yes, of course you are."

Other notes:
Man, there's something too real about Krusty's awful "herpes" bit. I feel like one of the writer's say this for real and just put it in the show.


I sincerely don't know if this guy is trying to pitch a casino.

After hearing about so many professionals refusing to do the "someone clearly inferior to you beats you at the thing you are best at" joke, I'm going to give props to Gerry Cooney for doing it.

Watch this. Its interesting.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Homer the Vigilante

I own a bike and as a bike owner, I've had several bikes stolen from me. As you can imagine, it sucks. The financial inconvenience is bad but it also leaves you with an anger. How can someone do that to another person? Theft is far from the worst crime but it certainly makes you feel taken advantage of. And with that comes me replaying immature revenge fantasies in my head. Trying to track down the criminal. Maybe needling him or turning the tables on them. Its all pretty stupid when it is best to just move on. So I definitely understand the anger and fear that causes people to want to become a vigilante and why someone would abandon common sense to seek out a "hero" narrative in their lives.

In this episode, Springfield is the victim of a crime wave as a mysterious cat burglar targets seemingly everyone in town. Lisa in particular is hurt by the theft of her saxophone, which spurs Homer to find it. With the police proving to be useless, the town comes together to find the criminals and Homer quickly takes the lead, forming a vigilante mob. However, soon the mob becomes more interested in harassing people for the most minor and even non-existence offenses and loses sight of their goal. When Homer's big chance to catch the cat burglar fails, the town turns on him until Grandpa, who was turned away by Homer earlier, reveals the identity of the criminal.

Now is a pretty great time for a rebuke of vigilantism. We've seen a lot of horror stories of people taking the "law" into their own hands as reasons to harass and even murder people of color and other minority people. Its sadly an evergreen message. Heck, last week there were groups taking part in voter suppression. This episode is a great argument against vigilantes but I won't lie, there are probably some stupid people who come away with the wrong message, like "wow, dumb silly Homer isn't good at leading HIS vigilante group, unlike me, an awful person". But its clear that the movement in the show is an ugly thing that quickly gets out of hand and causes more harm than good and completely bungles their one stated mission that is actually a good cause. Homer plays the role of strongman with major members wearing different uniforms (including Barney with a fast food uniform). The people like Skinner and Barney are motivated by a desire for justice after being wrong and we see that Apu began the episode as a terrified man defending the Kwik-E-Mart with a sniper rifle and no regard for this targets. They are motivated by anger and fear and are vulnerable to the misguided decisions (at best) that motivate vigilantes.

Homer is all big talk and playing the role of strong man. But Springfield turns on their strong man the moment he reveals himself to be a loser. Wow, is this timely as of the writing of this recap/review. The vigilante group doesn't catch the villain of the episode, but the hero is outside of the law. Despite the fact that Grandpa would jump at the chance to be part of a violent Marge, Grandpa wins not by strongarm tactics but by keeping eyes peeled and letting someone know. This actually leads to a b-lesson: old people have worth. This comes up a lot with Grandpa and I remember my sister talks about how a lot of these jokes make her uncomfortable about how mean people are to the character. But the show is always pointed about how the aged are treated in society and are occasionally the crux of the episode ("Old Money"). Here we see the elderly have the jump on the town. Grandpa wins but also Malloy, the cat burglar, plays the town for fools multiple times and in a perfect finale, exposes the hypocrisy of the town).

See, the show resolves pretty much its plots but still has time and uses it for a new wrinkle and even though it seems somewhat unrelated to what came before, is kind of a perfect direction to take. In an extended parody of It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (one of the few "comedy epics" that frankly, I don't think is very funny) Malloy reveals there's still a lot of missing money from the course of his decades long career and tells Homer and the police where to find it. Instantly, Homer and the police lose their heads trying to find the stolen money and it spreads to a town-wide mania to find some treasure. In the end it is revealed to be a ruse but the last people to keep trying are too stupid to give up on the fantasy, which includes the police and, of course, Homer (and surprisingly Marge). I don't know if this was the intent, but it works great to show these would-be paragons of justice are pretty quick to abandon their causes when it can benefit them. But both desires to be a vigilante and to be rich come from base instincts that define Homer.

Homer the Vigilante is a Swartzwelder episode and it shows. I don't know the specifics to the writers politics save that he's a libertarian so it does seem counter-intuitive to make an anti-vigilante episode (and a notable joke about guns in the wrong hands, maybe written by someone else) but the nature of the absurdist jokes is specifically him. The cast is also very good and Dan Castellaneta has Homer at his most Homer, untethered from reality, quick to pretty much any capital E emotion (mostly anger) and quick to cool off if it works for the joke. He even does something with a weird laugh as he's dancing to Lisa's reluctant jug music that is chef kiss. Its not the most emotionally involved episode but it is a smart one and is a laugh riot from stem to stern.

Jokes I missed before:

Jimbo's graffiti is "Carpe diem"

Other great jokes:


"Bart's pain is funny but mine isn't."



"We'll the real humans won't burn quite so fast."

That laugh.



"I'm filled with piss and vinegar. At first I was just filled with vinegar."



I used to think he was saying fourteen. Now I think he's saying "for-ty" very weirdly.


"Well, touché."

"Oh, Grandpa, they pelted you to?"
"No, actually I fell at the Big Boy."


How ironic.

Pretty much the entire last act.


Other notes:


Hey, Scott Christian is still around.

People really need to exploit the comedy chops of Sam Neill more. He's good as a lovable crook here and also watch Hunt for the Wilderpeople.

Homer "putting out" the burning leaves is vigilantism in a nutshell.
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)
Also, after reading a number of his books, not only is it easy to see which episodes were written by John Shwarzwelder, you can pick out which individual jokes were his.
 

Lokii

It's always time for burgers
(He/Him)
Staff member
Moderator
On the commentary for Homer Simpson in : "Kidney Trouble" they say that Shwarzwelder wrote for the ghost town part in the first act that one of the cowboys just starts digging a hole and no one understood it, and the animators didn't understand it, but they trusted it to be funny.

And it is

 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Bart Gets Famous

One of my least favourite feelings: the second you realize you've run a joke into the ground. I consider myself fairly witty amongst the people I know. Look, I'm not hysterical, but I get by. But when I tell a joke and then I realize there is some more juice in it, I may re-use it when appropriate. So if I discover if doesn't have any more give after trying it one more time, its pretty disheartening, not only because people don't laugh because I can feel it be bad and realize how not good the joke is IN REAL TIME. On the other side of things, there are also jokes that I've told that my parents parrot back at me. When my aunt was cutting very thin slivers of pie once, I recalled a MST3k joke: "Cut to the width of one electron." I didn't mean any insult but it made my aunt self-conscious. But mom loved it and repeats it frequently. Even more uncomfortably, I recently learned that it might because her family grew up poor that she cuts food thinly, making me feel worse about this undying joke. A joke getting out of your control in some capacity can be an ugly scene to be sure.

In this episode, Bart escapes a dull field trip to a box factory to wander around Channel 6 studios to see behind the scenes. There, after helping out Krusty, he's given a job as Krusty the Klown's assistant. Unfortunately, it turns out working in the business isn't as glamourous as it seems and Bart is ready to quit after constantly being mistreated and used. However, just as he's about to leave he's given a small role in a sketch. After accidentally destroying the set, he proclaims "I didn't do it." and his spontaneous comment is met with huge applause. Soon, Bart becomes a celebrity, gaining fame from his catchphrase. But Bart soon grows tired of limiting himself to a single catchphrase, despite the fact that this is all people wanted from him. Bart is ready to quit when Marge convinces Bart to keep going since despite the inanity of the bit, it makes people happy. But during the show, it soon become apparent that the Bart fad has passed.

I remembered this being a good episode but I was surprised how much I liked it this outing. Like, I think I would put it in the top ten episodes. Its extremely funny and also very insightful of the showbiz experience and, like many episodes, acts as a meta-commentary on the show itself. Bart's trajectory feels like a perfect encapsulation of a lot of people working on sitcoms. It would easy to put Bart in the shoes of similar child stars, most of which have catch phrases, but I also think it works very well for sitcom stars of the 80s and 90s. It starts with Bart paying his dues with a lot of thankless behind the scenes work and is eventually able to get an opportunity to shine (of course, Bart wasn't even planning to be a star but not every analogy is perfectly one to one). I've no doubt that actors like Bronson Pinchot worked very hard to get where they were and then when their catchphrase heavy characters came into being, they felt limited despite their success (which I think was the entire plot of Extras).

Bart makes it but soon finds a moment of true comedy has been echoed into meaninglessness, its context long forgotten. One nice touch is the second "I didn't do it" sketch not only feels painfully artless but the success of the original is the unexpected while with the second sketch it is all very clearly set up. Of course, by the time Bart comes around to do the terrible bit to the best of his ability to make people happy, people are all Barted out and his career is over. But despite a cynical view on the industry, it ends happily. As Marge points out, he'll always have a memory of when he meant a whole lot to people, capturing attention of the world and as Lisa points out he can have this without being shackled by his fame.

This echoes the show itself. We start with a visit to a mind-numbing business and possibly a job future. Bart wanders off the beaten path into showbusiness. But the glamour of showbusiness is eventually marred by the reality which is generally more mundane and often downright soulcrushing. Eventually, success is found in the Simpsons and then the success is dependent on catchphrases and merchandising. When the honeymoon phase is over, the show is finally free to evolve. Of course, the key difference is that the show has success beyond the fad phase and the Simpsons is still a catchphrase heavy show, a fact that the show calls itself on in the last gag.

So it is an insightful and cynical episode tackling the entertainment industry. But, in general, it is also just funny. These past three seasons have not had a loser amongst them aside from the clips show (and even that has its moments). But it has long segments that yield rich veins of comedy. I think the Simpsons is the show that should that you don't need to be off-the-wall with magic robots to be funny, as the absurdity of the mundane and denial of anything else is very funny. The show manages to make the box factory SO mundane and dull, that it can't not be funny. Something interesting failing to happen is in itself funny, such as Bart finding himself incapable of a whimsical fantasy sequence. Really, there's no slow spot in the whole episode and it manages to make a sequence of jokes tell the story in many places, using the increasing absurdity of Bart's shitty job and later Bart's fame trajectory to do much of the work. It feels like the momentum is built on scenes that are primarily gags that when taken together let you know what you need to know with only a couple scenes to act as exposition and even then, its more explaining Bart's emotional reactions to the story and his attempts to take control of his life.

Maybe the Simpsons finally hit the phase were its tepid laughs and the show is unable to stay fresh in this business *Honk* *Boing*. But its legend has far outlasted any chance the show will be forgotten. The episode also aged well in that catchphrases are strongly connected to current meme culture/language. Fact is, the whole episode aged well, thanks to no jokes that aged poorly/offensively. The nature of fame may change but there are always going to be aspects that are evergreen, such as the fleeting nature of fame and pop culture moments that burn out fast and hard. People might end up as some shmoe working at a box factory, but the fact that a person gets to have such sudden weird fame for a brief time is fascinating in itself.

Jokes I missed before:
I feel like there were specifics in jokes I didn't understand before but the structure of the joke, I did. Like I didn't know who Ross Perot or Oliver North were at the time but I got that the joke about Bart's biography was that the grown up political stuff had nothing to do with Bart's story.

Also, I think Selma and Patty starting a fire in their apartment was cut for syndication.

The Clue reference. Also, apparently Krusty killed someone? I mean, I guess I'm not surprised.

Other great jokes:
Where to begin. I could spend an entire afternoon on the box factory alone.


So much gold in this clip alone. The story of the box factory, "Oh, we don't assemble them here. That's done in Flint, Michigan.", "I don't know what kind of factory you're thinking of. We just make boxes here." "This is just like the other rooms", the tour of the office.

"A box damn you! A BOX!"

Bart surprisingly retain something from the box factory visit.

"A certain kind of soft drink has been found to be lethal. We won't tell you which one until after sports and the weather with funny, sunny storms."

Homer's great advice followed by the revelation that its what got him to where he is today. Then comforting Bart over this fact.

"He's dead." "Dead?" "Or sick or something I dunno."

"Repetitiveness is my job."

Other notes:

Seems like they should order more danishes if that's the one barrier between order and chaos at channel six.

The animators give Lisa a facial journey about regretting ragging on Bart's career as Homer talks about punching Urkel.

This isn't an emotion-focused episode (save for the feeling of disillusionment) but Marge gets to add an emotional dimension twice. Like, its far from making me well up with tears but her recontextualizing the situation to make Bart feel better works when she encourages him to keep trying because despite everything his work makes people happy and again when she points out there is a moment in time when you were treasured by everyone. That last one feels especially effective for someone is despite class clown popularity feels very much like he's often at odds with the world (albeit in a very different way to his sister).
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Homer and Apu

Apu is a character I used to have a lot of affection for. It is clear the writers did and as time went on gave him nuance and a detailed backstory. He was often very funny but the character was also educated, intelligent and insightful. But that doesn't mean the character isn't offensive in a myriad of ways, sadly straight down to the core. And coming to terms with realizing something I cared about harbors a harmful stereotype can be rough. I went through a bit of a defensive phase but eventually realized that despite any good intentions, he's a "funny voice" character who often embodies particular stereotypes and is a representative character whose entire narrative is controlled by white people, which in turn has an effect on the people whom the character represents.

In this episode, Homer gets sick after Apu repeatedly gives Homer spoiled food and Homer helps Channel Six News expose his shady business practices. Apu was just following the letter of the law of the parent company but they hang him out to dry. Apu comes to the realization that he's wronged Homer and has decided to help him by... *sigh* becoming his servant. Oof. Anyway, Apu is eventually a part of the family but still misses his job and he and Homer head to India to find a way to get it back.,

Before this episode, I finally decided to watch The Problem With Apu, the hour-long documentary in which Indian comedian Hari Kondabolu grapples with the legacy of a character in a who that had meant a lot to him. Its a very smart and funny documentary and for anyone who hasn't seen it, PLEASE seek it out. Its an examination of racism and representation in the media but at the same time its a pretty fun, breezy watch. (Definitely compared to when I watched the four hour documentary "Leaving Neverland" before watching the Michael Jackson episode). I feel I could discuss that for a while but mostly I wanted to use it to enhance my ability to judge the first Apu-centric episode. One of the things Hari points out in the documentary (and I think this is not word for word so I might be missing an element of his argument) on the character in the show is that just because something can be wrong doesn't mean it isn't also funny and that just because it is funny doesn't mean it should be accepted. Apu does get some good lines and jokes that go beyond his "funny accent" but it is still very much in the forefront.

But beyond that, the documentary also points out that Apu, though often gouging people, is often in a "servile" role and boy is that extremely clear here when the character choices to make amends by being "at his service" and helping out the family. And there are some good jokes that way, such as getting the kids to eat corn by stacking it like its in a convenience store. But the plot itself is problematic and it doesn't get better when he travel to India to the first convenience store run by an archetypical guru.

There is a lot of good here. There are very funny jokes. Despite being born of unfortunate stereotyping, it is clear that even in jokes Azaria does want to make the character more nuanced in terms of acting. But that doesn't change the fact that he still is a white guy doing a stereotypical accent. The character decides to seek redemption through being a servant. There's a great scene in the documentary where Hari talks to Whoopi Goldberg who, in addition to being a comedian, is something of a scholar of minstrel history and when he asks "by your definition, would Apu be a minstrel act." She does say he fits into slots and says "but he's not singing and dancing for white people" and SMASH CUT TO THE MUSICAL NUMBER IN THE EPISODE WHERE HE SINGS AND DANCES FOR THE FAMILY in one of the shows beloved musical numbers.

As for the solution, I think is tough. The Simpsons decided to retire the character but that's a double-edged sword: we are rid of a stereotype but it also means less representation in Springfield (which I guess would be more impactful if the more recent episodes were things people watched but its the principle of the thing). The show itself just threw up itself and said "I don't know". Hari himself mentioned some interesting narrative turns that could help rehabilitate some of the issues with the character (making him a business owner, having his children voiced by actual South Asian actors). Getting rid of the character shuts down the conversation but keeping him the same would continue to reinforce stereotypes. Its really a thing that needs to be dealt with after a lot of soul searching, reflecting, seeking advice and, hey, maybe more South Asians in the writer's room, but the show as it is isn't prepared to deal with that. Heck, its a shambling sausage factory that is pretty hesitant to replace its parts. Finally having the black characters voiced by black actors is a big win.

I will say one other thing about the documentary: despite a few jokes, its clear Hari is not looking to vilify the people who worked on the show but instead point out there are blind spots and that maybe when you realize something is wrong you should act on it. Even though Dana Gould's reaction don't make him come across as particularly sensitive to the plight (though he clearly is listening and being as honest as he can, even at the cost of looking bad) and Hari is pretty concerned about Azaria still doing the voice (at the time of the documentary, of course) after people let him know how it effects them, I feel he wants to listen and be listened to. But we also need to take a hard look at the things we've laughed at before. I loved Arrested Development and the good is still good but a lot of it has aged quite badly. I can still keep the positives with me in my heart but I also have to acknowledge the negatives and hurtful elements of it. And as problematic as he is, I still have a soft spot for Apu because for all of the issues with the character, he often gets both funny lines and is sometimes instilled with humanity, like the other characters. But I can't let the positives blind me to the many negatives and going forward need to accept that as great as the Simpsons is, its moral hygiene is not above reproach.

Great jokes:

"Who needs money when we got feathers."

"What's this called again?"
"A napkin."
"Hehehe! OUTRAGEOUS!"

"Mmm, it's cran-tastic!"

"I'm... me?"
"Hey, don't... jerk me around fella."

"Well, Mr. Woods, your next song is going to be #3 with a bullet."
"I'm not a singer."
"Shut up!"

Other notes:
Oh, yeah, real life asshole/creep James Woods is in this. He does well within the show, less within real life. BTW, there's a recurring joke that for every role he was in, he researched by living it, even in speculative fiction. Which raises a lot of Videodrome-related questions. Reminder, even the lead in Videodrome, an amoral TV producer who becomes obsessed with a kinky torture TV series and becomes a fleshy assassin, is still much more likable than actual James Woods.
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
So much gold in this clip alone. The story of the box factory, "Oh, we don't assemble them here. That's done in Flint, Michigan.", "I don't know what kind of factory you're thinking of. We just make boxes here." "This is just like the other rooms", the tour of the office.
I'm a big fan of "even children's candy" because it sounds like a perfectly normal thing to say at first; then you realize what a weird choice of words it is and then as you unpack it you get taken on a little journey through this guy's sad, square life.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy

There are definitely a lot of things I like that are problematic. Things I have a lot of affection for. In some case, I can compartmentalize but it can certainly make it hard to recommend certain things because of that. Its one thing for me to watch and deal with it but I feel a little more uncomfortable sharing something that might spread an ugly message. I love anime but even many of the series I really like have SERIOUS issues. I used to watch South Park even though I often disagreed with it but after the 2016 election, I seriously couldn't stomach the shows messaging and world view anymore. There are some things where it comes to a point where I really need to confront whether I can support and/or enjoy it anymore. In this episode, Lisa does the very same.

In this episode, Lisa buys a new Talking Malibu Stacy doll and is disgusted by the sexist views it spouts. Lisa decides to take her concerns to the parent company only to find some empty lip service. Lisa decides to seek out the original Stacy creator, Stacy Lovell, to help, only to find she doesn't have any connection to the company anymore. Lisa then comes up with a plan: make her own doll with Lovell's help. The doll becomes a success but the momentum of the dolls popularity is brought to a screeching halt by a new Malibu Stacy doll. However, Lisa claims a small victory as one more child walks off with her doll.

Lisa is such a great character. It would be easy for Lisa, if a bit bittersweet for her, to boycott the doll. It would be a sensible moral decision. But she wants to make the world better in a big way and creating a doll that can be as fun as the doll she once loved but also espousing values she wants to put into the world. It reminds me of shows like "Steven Universe", which takes all the best from its inspirations (some of which haven't aged as well as others) and using them to teach even better lessons about empathy and acceptance. Lisa makes the change she wants to see in the world and though at times some people try to pervert it (namely a boardroom full of grim old men deciding the future of a girl's doll), she is relentless about her mission.

The b-plot is about Grandpa trying to find his place in the world after his family clearly wants to avoid him. Its a fun bit of business and does what Grandpa stories often do best: remind us that maybe we are not good at treating our elderly very well. Its all funny stuff and the conclusion Grandpa comes to is that an old person's job is to complain. But more than that, its OK not to be or at least be perceived of as young. But really, its strongest virtues is more grandpa ramblings, always a show highlight.

Yeardley Smith does great work in the episode but extra credit goes to an incredible performance by Kathleen Turner. I keep forgetting how great she is as an actress and in particular as a voice actress. She's been doing more in the last few years in guest roles but I really think I would love to see her in a consistent role or a larger one. Here, she kills it as the drunken but passionate Stacy Lovell. She brings a lot of weight and sadness to her role and does the smart thing of giving most of her joke lines very straight, understated reads. Her character has a ludicrous backstory where she was essentially married to action figures of the 60s/70s (including the first appearance by Dr. Colossus!) but she plays it weirdly real. Its great.

The message of the episode is the message Lisa leaves behind: what we say and show in culture can have an effect and it can be good or bad. When Marge wants to change things with Itchy and Scratchy, she just wants to end it and when she is told to change it, it is with little regard for the show. Lisa LOVED Malibu Stacy and she wants to change the direction of the narrative while retaining all the appeal as best she can and maybe even generating some new appeal. Sure, there are times when we feel we want to leave some of our pop culture behind but its always impressive when we see the things we love shepherded in better directions.

Jokes I missed before:

In Grandpa's rant, he notes (spoilered for racist language) "Injun Eyes" are part of an old-fashioned Thanksgiving meal. Also, Stacy being referred to an "8 1/2 incher".

Oh, and the reference to "We Love You Conrad", which is only a reference that exists in the periphery of my mind and I don't even know where it comes from.

Other great jokes:

"I give you the man who puts young people behind bars, where they belong."





"Children much didn't like the taste of dry onion meal..."

Still very true.


"Do you have any idea how many kids have tried to track me down?"
"Am I the first?"
"Yes."

"Well, that and I was funneling profits to the Viet Cong."

Its not something easy to quote but that might be my single favourite moment in the episode.

"We're out of secret sauce. Put that mayonnaise in the sun."

"Ow, damned sandwich took a bite out of me."

"Release me from your kung fu grip."
"All right. I'll bomb your house to the ground missy."


"Well, I didn't tell them who you were."


"Well, you were right about the Berlin Wall."

"Oh, and the president was arrested for murder, more about that tomorrow night or turn to another channel. Oh. Do not turn to another channel."

"...but she has a new hat."
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Deep Space Homer

I try to be a mature guy. But the fact is I constantly have some immature fantasies. I'm not even talking about my puerile erotic fantasies which I will not get into FOR ALL THE REASONS THERE EVER WERE. I'm talking about the kind of entitled fantasy that somehow I'll be recognized for my good qualities and be plucked out of obscurity to gain some level of fame and respect that I am due. Except I'm not due and no one is out there looking for a completely normal introvert who likes anime and video games, despite being the most unique person who ever was. Seriously, though, its not like I believe them but I do daydream "what if someone just found some worth within me like a voice from on high." In fact, it would probably be irresponsible to do that. In this episode, we see why that fantasy would be the worst decision in actuality.

In this episode, Homer feels unappreciated at work and at home. After an angry call to NASA, the space program plucks Homer from obscurity to send him into space. It turns out NASA is very rating conscious, as it has an impact on their funding and need a spectacle to get America's eyes back on the space program. After a surprisingly close competition with Barney Gumble, Homer eventually gets the opportunity to go to space. After nearly chickening out, Homer eventually gets to space and almost immediately ruins the mission. Thankfully, he's able to do a last minute save and while he doesn't quite get the hero status, he finds himself a hero in his own house AND has had an opportunity few people in the world have had.

Its amazing how good this episode is. The title and premise sound like something you'd have in season 18, when eventually writers shrug and say "I dunno, send him into space, I guess?" It feels like the premise of a spec script from a very young fan. But in practice, it is a very smart episode and does a lot I like. First of all, and this goes without saying at this point, it is very funny. I'm afraid how long my great jokes list is going to be this time. But I feel like its exploring a few big ideas and carrying a few interesting messages and ideas throughout.

OK, so first is the more basic one: that feeling of not being respected and having to have the courage to do something big to do so. OK, so there's not a lot in this respect and the show definitely wants this in because despite everything that happens, we do want things to turn out well for Homer. And he does have some virtues. Despite losing the competition, he works genuinely hard in his astronaut training and though he proves to be a bit of an immature winner, he becomes surprisingly gracious in defeat for his best friend, clearly saddened but no anger or sour grapes we often associate with the character (there's a potential alternate story out there of Homer having to deal with losing his one big chance to his closest friend who did deserve it more, wrestling with his own bitterness).

But I feel like the more pointed and cynical elements are where the episode is at its strongest. That's not to say its a bitter episode, because it isn't. Its fun and irreverent and breezy. But its also insanely astute about the blurring lines between entertainment/media and everything else. Obviously, we've seen that in politics to a very upsetting degree. And while it is presented as ridiculous how obsessed NASA is with ratings, it makes sense: more attention means more funding. Of course they need to keep the public interest. NASA is insanely expensive and while space travel advancements are incredibly important, it can be a hard sell when immediate practical results aren't provided, which is not what it is about. So it makes sense they need to be appealing.

The spectacle they create is a farce. They want Homer and Barney to be the kind of fun TV slobs that people like but they are even worse: Homer is a boob and Barney is a drunken boob. They need to follow trends. We find out that the entire NASA control center is designed to follow TV ratings. NASA is weirdly both out of touch with the common man and the media and yet are necessarily media-success minded. Ironically, the mission where a spaceship is crashed probably less then 12 hours after it is launched is probably a rousing success, not because it made any advancement but because it was great ratings. I think its a very pointed and astute view of the proliferation of the media in ways that may be deeply unhealthy for the world's mindset.

In doing that, they simultaneously tackle the "plucked from obscurity" fantasy and the danger of putting someone deeply unqualified in a key position. Obviously, again, we've seen that in real life recently and America is currently trying to put out all of the metaphorical fires. Here, Homer is a good man and he does work hard and train himself but the fact is he doesn't have the mental discipline to not fuck up and in a precarious situation where every precaution must be taken, Homer is NOT the man to bring along. He saves the day but pretty much every crisis is specifically one he created and his solution is a complete accident AND he tries to undo it out of spite. Still, Buzz Aldrin is cool enough to try to let stupid Homer take the hero role... which the media passes onto an inanimate carbon rod (a great full circle joke). Look, being picked to be special is a wonderful fantasy but the reality of it is despite out good qualities and even some hard work, there are things we might not be good at or cut out for, particularly if we didn't spend nearly a lifetime beforehand preparing. The astronauts who are not Homer are dull as dishwater but that's OK, they know what they are doing.

Deep Space Homer feels like is could and perhaps should have been a shark jump move for the show. I'm not sure if there is one particular moment the show did but perhaps it more inched over it over the years (though if I have to pick, maybe the one where Homer is sexually assaulted by a Panda or the Elon Musk IS AWESOME episode). Instead, they told a surprisingly intelligent and pointed story that I think works from a bunch of different angles. The show might end on a note of "Homer did good" but at the core is something that gives us a few unfortunate truths in a candy coated comedy.

Other great jokes:

A donkey being described as "shiny" as an enticement is funny. Objectively.



"Wow, you actually got to SEE the rod?!"

I love how it gets... worrying.


"A mathematician, a different kind of a mathematician and a statistician."

"How did you get this number?"
"SHUT UP!"
This is a good alternative to "A wizard did it."

"I don't really think that was necessary, they wanted to be astronauts."
"I know."


"You know Homer, when I found out about this I went through a wide range of emotions. First I was nervous, then anxious, then wary, then apprehensive, then kinda sleepy, then worried, and then concerned. But now I realize that being a spaceman is something you have to do."
"Whose doing what now?"

"Second comes right after first!"

"But in another, more accurate way, Barney is the winner."





"Wow, former president James Taylor."

Brockman's joyful heel turn is perfect.

James Taylor: unkempt youngster.

Other notes:

I can't imagine the show didn't make someone on staff question their "civilian in space nearly dies" story considering it was fewer than 10 years since the Challenger disaster.

Did Tang really disappear around 1994 or so?

 

Büge

Arm Candy
(she/her)
It always bothered me when they cut in syndication gags which had a payoff later, like the big piano in Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy, or Homer playing with the box in Rosebud.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Homer Loves Flanders

When you are a kid, its relatively easy to find friends. But sometimes you come across someone who wants to be your friend and you don't feel the same way. I've had friends at times because I wanted to play their Nintendos or whatever but usually those didn't work out. There was one kid I was literally hiding from because unwanted friendship is a weird feeling and sometimes you don't have the courage to come out and say that you don't want to be friends. Even as an adult, you want to be civil and not hurt anyone but some times the best thing to do is to be honest, otherwise it might hurt even more.

In this episode, Ned invites Homer to a football game and despite Homer's animosity towards Flanders, he accepts due to his desire to see the game. While at the game, Homer takes full advantage of Ned's generosity and grows fond of him, proudly proclaiming Ned his friend by the game's end. But soon, Flanders finds Homer's friendship to be obnoxious and smothering and attempts to distance himself from it quietly backfire and hurt his reputation. Eventually, Flanders reputation is in tatters while Homer becomes a local hero due to a lucky photo op. But after an outburst in church, Homer defends Flanders to the community and the two reconcile.

Homer is a character who needs to properly ride the line between deeply flawed and often a jerk but still likable and sympathetic on some level. In this episode he's a force of obnoxious nature but is still likable because most of his jerky moves aren't out of any intended ill-will (which he is not above by any stretch) but instead complete obliviousness regarding boundaries, good manners and other people's feelings. This isn't like Homer's Enemy, in which Homer's numerous flaws are laid bare by Frank Grimes but we still like him more than Grimes by a wide margin. We definitely sympathize heavily with Flander's irritation with his new friend. I think we've all been in conversations with people who can't take a hint and it risks breaking certain social contracts to come out with the truth.

I feel like Homer's Enemy and Hurricane Neddy are episodes that extrapolate on some of the ideas here. Flanders himself is smart but often seems oblivious to Homer's feelings in other episodes, using unending friendliness and eternal patience with Homer. But the flaw of both of them is loving their friend but all on kind of a superficial level. Ned learns to be friends with Homer in the end but he first needs to understand Homer's virtues: Homer is awful in a myriad of ways but he shows surprising humility is all in the tank for the people he loves, even when the world turns against them. The worst of Homer is never fixed but the best in him reveals itself. Meanwhile, the best in Flanders, his love and patience, is worn away through the episode only to find by the episode's end that Homer understands his virtue. He doesn't know what he is doing to annoy Flanders but once he sees that he is annoyed, he understands.

Homer and Flanders quasi-friendship can pay dividends and I feel its a damned shame that Flanders gets too "Flander-ized" as the show goes on. I'm sure it allowed the writers to rightly knock evangelical Christianity but it came at the cost of the likability and the humanity of Flanders. After all, the joke is Homer is generally constantly pissed off at a man whose only major sin is having better qualities than Homer. There are episodes that reveal more, like Hurricane Neddy. And I don't even necessarily mind stories like Flanders having flaws or letting his beliefs blind him to the fact that he might be causing more harm than good, But I think the mistake is trying to keep the balance of Homer's unjustified hate of Flanders and giving us good reasons to dislike him for the sake of a joke. And one of the take aways in this one (and, again, Hurricane Neddy) is that a good man can be flawed but we can still love them. Enough to make metal bands in their honor.


Jokes I missed before:

Flanders boat is called "Thanks for the Boat, Lord II"

Other great jokes:



"Warning, tickets should not be taken internally."
"See, because of me, now they have a warning."

"They made the world's biggest pizza so we burnt down their city hall."

"Sacrilicious."
The show is so good at non-sequitors at this point.

Homer and Flanders sharing a lauigh over his intended assault.



"That's all well and good for sheep but what are we to do?"

The fruit punch advisory board.

"Lies make baby Jesus cry."

"I guess he didn't see me."

"I bet he's the one who wrote Homer all over the bathroom."

"Let's sacrifice him to our God! C'mon, we did it all the time in the 30s."

Other notes:
One thing is I like the low key joke that Homer should be upset by the irony of Two Tickets to Paradise coming on the radio and then he just gets into it. I feel like we've seen the ironic/appropriate hold music happen on the show a couple times before but this is Homer missing it.

Why is Lisa upset by the no-sugar thing? I get Marge, her food is being rejected.

Dating the show: killer mailman joke.

"I'm not hepped up on goofballs" is a line that is read very strangely.
 

Patrick

Magic-User
(He/Him)
Oh, and the reference to "We Love You Conrad", which is only a reference that exists in the periphery of my mind and I don't even know where it comes from.

Ah, I see someone’s high school high school drama group didn’t perform Bye Bye Birdie.

 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Bart Gets an Elephant

When I was in seventh grade, my family spent nearly a year living in Thailand. We got to see and do a lot of stuff, including a visit to an elephant "school" which taught elephants to help in logging by dragging wood around. Its not that I didn't wonder if there was something wrong with this but I think since everyone else seemed to accept it, I did too. Now, I haven't done research since then so I don't know all the ins and outs of the morality of such schools but I strongly suspect even if they are treated well, the elephants would probably be a lot better off without being trained. There are animals like dogs and domestic cats who evolved with us out of convenience but a lot of intelligent animals need us less than we might need them. Or even covet them.

In this episode, Bart wins a radio contest but rather than take the money, Bart wants the "gag" prize, a full-grown African elephant. The station initially is hesitant but the bad PR forces them to relent. Bart loves his elephant, Stampy, but it soon becomes apparent that the family cannot afford to keep the elephant, even after trying to monetize it. Eventually the Simpsons are forced to get rid of the elephant and Homer must choose between an elephant preserve or an ivory dealer. Because he can pay, Homer chooses the ivory dealer so Bart frees Stampy, who runs amok in town. When the Simpsons finally catch up with Stampy, it ends up saving Homer, who decides to give it to the nature preserve.

Going in, I remembered this as just a silly episode with little to say beyond the inherent comedy of the Simpsons having to deal with an elephant. In the end, I came around to the idea that this episode is really about the relationship between animals and people. I think we LOVE animals but our love is often possessive. We want them in zoos where we can get a good look at them and some people try to own animals that really shouldn't be owned. Despite my complaints, if someone said "Hey, do you want a chimp?", it would be VERY difficult for me to turn down that offer. Thankfully, pet shops are becoming less of a thing with pets being bought through other venues. Hopefully, we can also be weened off of zoos, too. I think children should be seeing and experiencing animals but we need to find ways to do it that are kinder to the animals.

In this episode, Bart LOVES Stampy but it takes until the end of the episode to accept that he needs to let Stampy go and that despite his feelings they don't belong together. Homer is mistreating Stampy through the episode as one might expect but while Bart is trying to be nice to his friend, simply the act of owning him (and in particular keeping him in the back yard) is also cruel. Lisa pretty much states the thesis from the get but it can be pretty hard to accept that out desire to shower an animal with love and keep them around is a wrong form of love, intentions aside.

I love that Stampy is in no way anthropomorphized. I mean, I was never accepting a talking animal but at the same time everything is both funnier and even more touching with an animal that does not emote and just acts like an animals. It does express a bit of affection and even helps but it is also very muted and brings home the point that this is an animal who doesn't belong in the world of Springfield. Ironically, the Simpson pets, who also usually aren't at this point, behave in a sillier manner than usual (this is interesting because most of the time up to this point, Santa's Little Helper's sweet yet inhuman gormlessness was very much part of the joke).

I feel like this episode is great at exploring our not always healthy relationship with animals. Obviously, there's Blackheart the ivory dealer but there's Homer's attempt to monetize it and his obliviousness to his own cruelty (which at one points he lists). Bart wants it to be his friend but while it does have affection toward him later, most of the time it is indifferent to him and even sticks him in his mouth. The episode is very silly but Stampy's plight is sad with his poor diet (until he strips an arboretum bare) and uncomfortable lifestyle.

As just pure comedy, this is also a strong one. Homer's obnoxious and cruel but I feel like the previous episode did a job in evolving the side of Homer that is bizarrely... not even just oblivious but almost in his own zone. Dan Castellaneta at one point just stares into space and says "He's taking the elephant instead of the money" with a big smile and a blank stare (a similar moment. "...He likes peanuts."). Homer's gotten to a level of stupid that is detached from reality and anyone else's wavelength but his own. Strangely, that's the closest he is to likable as he seems to represent the worst of humanity's relationship with animals. Lisa is the one who has the correct take. But while Lisa has the correct and compassionate take, Bart might be more relatable, having that feeling of wanting an animal of his own and having to learn to accept that his love, while holding no ill-will, is selfish and harmful to Stampy. I think its great to love animals but to love them in a healthy way is the part we need to do better.

Jokes I missed before:

Other great jokes:

"Push her down, son."

"I think you'll find that escape is impossible."

"We pay your principal $10,000 to pull down his pants and keep em down for the rest of the school year."
"I'll do it, Bart."
...
"How about we use the money to surgically transform Skinner here into some sort of lobster-like creature."
"Wait, I didn't agree to that."

Homer gleefully getting thrown out of the radio station.

"I love that song. It reminds me of elephants."

"So isn't that what we're all asking in our own lives; 'where's my elephant?' I know that's what I've been asking."

Those clowns in congress.

"Well that was never five feet."

Homer trying to get money from the Van Houtens, who already paid.

"Lisa, a guy who has LOTS of ivory is less likely to hurt Stampy than someone whose ivory supplies are low."
The most capitalist rationalization in politics.

"THAT WASN'T PART OF OUR DEAL, BLACKHEART! THAT WASN'T PAAAAAAART!"

Four good ones in a row.

"Now I'll pull my arms out with my face..."

"And I owe it all to this feisty feline."
"Dad, feline means cat."
"Elephant, Lisa. He's an elephant."

Homer attacking that one guy with his head is good stuff.

Other notes:
Clinton playing the saxophone feels like the most 90s reference made in the 90s.

I like the background callback that the Simpsons buy Neapolitan ice cream and then only eat chocolate.

How... how did Homer train that bird to groom him?

Hey, first appearance of Cletus. Yay, classist comedy.
 

Tegan

dirtbag lesbian
(She/Her)
LTTP but regarding Deep Space Homer:
"Second comes right after first!"
This is apparently a real thing Buzz Aldrin would say and it sounded so unintentionally self-deprecating and hilarious to the writing staff that they asked if they could use it in the show.
Did Tang really disappear around 1994 or so?
We use Tang at the pharmacy where I work. I dunno where they get it though.

Also my favourite joke in the episode is that James Taylor's story about dealing with an ant infestation is told very straight-faced, but is completely ludicrous in any context besides "we need ideas about how to fix our spaceship."
 
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jpfriction

You'll never take my hat away
Tang is readily available these days, I just bought some and my daughter hated it, but I do think it was MIA for a while.
 

Johnny Unusual

(He/Him)
Burns' Heir

Before watching the Michael Jackson episode of the Simpsons, I watched the grueling and heartbreaking documentary Leaving Neverland to give myself the proper context in watching the episode. One of the things I notice was how both the children and adults were manipulated with such terrifying efficiency so as to turn on each other and unable to see the root of the strife in their lives. Deceit and wealth are a powerful combination and even wielded with naked stupidity for everyone to see, we've seen it do a LOT of damage in the last four+ years. So knowing there are people who are smart enough to get away with it for a long time is upsetting. I like to consider myself a smart guy but I suspect I can be easily manipulated and easy to bully and can understand how it can happen, even with people in my life who love me.

In this episode, a near-death experience results in Burns' realizing he wants someone to carry on the Burns fortune and legacy after he passes. The Simpsons kids audition and Bart is humiliated by Burns, causing him to give him some mischievous revenge. Burns is incredibly impressed and makes Bart his heir. Marge encourages her son to spend an evening with the lonely Burns, who uses this opportunity to manipulate Bart to favour him over his family. Eventually, Bart leaves home in favour of the free reign that Burns gives him. But soon Bart becomes bored and isolated due to his wealth, as which point Burns tricks Bart into thinking that the Simpsons turned their back on Bart. It seems as though Bart is completely within Burns' grasp but when asked to fire Homer, Bart turns on him and returns to his family.

Its eerie how similar the whole this episode is similar to Michael Jackson's strategy, with Bart being both blinded by fun and games and being told his family doesn't actually love him. I'm sure that this is likely because someone on the writing staff was familiar with similar tales of the rich brainwashing people with wealth and power. We know that wealth and power can be terrifying and corrupting but there's something extra upsetting when it is used to target a person's (a young person in particular) intangible qualities like their feelings of love and safety. Its a very astute episode about how such things happen.

Of course, we are fortunate because we get a "love conquers all" ending, which is easy to buy because we know these characters, we know that Bart is pretty empathetic for all of his mischief, we know Bart loves Homer and Burns makes the mistake of having the two face-to-face again when his divide and conquer plan is much more effective. The show also does a good job in seeing in many ways Bart become Burns. In the end, he is literally being molded in Burns' "engravened" image thanks to a corrective outfit but even before then Bart is put through paces that corrupts him the same. Obviously, there's Bart living without rules but we also see Bart drifting away from Milhouse and his wealth isolating him from the people who make him human.

Burns does some awfully effective work on Bart but he underestimates Bart's humanity in the end, something both connected with Bart's internal elements and the nurturing by his family. Even as shitty as Homer can be as a dad, he loves his son and usually by the end a given episode proves to be a decent guy in some way. Meanwhile, Burns finds basic humanity alien and while he knows enough about people to manipulate them, he can't understand certain finer points, which is why he often loses individual battles against the Simpsons while still winning in life by his rubric. Of course, its also a very funny episode and its clear the writers are having a lot of fun with the ridiculous excesses of Mr. Burns. Its a very funny episode and it tells a good story about how innocent people can be manipulated into very bad places in life.

Jokes I missed before:
When Bart lists off the things he's most impressed by at Burns' house, he includes "bleached hardwood floors". Did Bart notice that himself or do you think Burns kept talking about how impressed he was by it and Bart just soaked it in?

Also didn't realize at the time that fake Homer was Michael Caine (or at least Caine-esque), in a reference that Caine starred in some shitty movies for a paycheck.

Other great jokes:
"The big guys at the top work even harder."
Mid-90s Simpsons got contemporary capitalism better than most people today. But maybe that's because so little has changed...







"I don't know what phallocentric means, but NO GIRLS!"
Re: Pretty much any storytelling medium.

Homer finding things way too funny is always good.

"The lesson is never try."

"Oh, look, a bird has become petrified and lost its sense of direction."
"I think its a rock."
"We'll see what the lab has to say about that."

"Even some kind of gelatin dish. Its made from hooves, you know."

"The disputed islands lie here off the coast of Argentina..."

Even my sister remembers this one.

He'll be back.

"Mr. Burns is clearly the boy's biological father."

"Wow, a Bob Mackey!"
I hope Bob Mackey has a big picture of Milhouse somewhere.

Cowabunga, dudes!
Other notes:
There is NO reason for anyone to be an industrial chimney sweep.

Mr. Burns theatre appearance is a reference to this confounding trailer to the confounding movie Toys.

I like the touch that when Bart decides he can only trust Burns, the soundtrack plays "heartwarming music" with an underscore of "menacing music."
 

Octopus Prime

Jingle Device
(He/Him)
The actors playing the fake Simpson family is also how I always pictured the cast to look IRL.

This is probably more flattering for Dan and Julie than it is Yeardly
 
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