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Archive for February, 2013

If I’m not a safety whatchamajigger, I’m nothing

Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk

The Christmas pageant does not suck

Couch gag: As the family approach, Santa’s Little Helper growls to keep them away

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest voice:Phil Hartman as Horst and the stock broker

Synopsis: Feeling trapped by the power plant, Mr Burns decides to sell it to a German consortium. Homer loses his job.

Discussion: I suppose this episode is about the loss of the American Dream, where solid US businesses are sold to overseas investors, ruining the lives of American workers (or in this case, worker). But on the other hand, selling the power plant allows Mr Burns to have some free time, but without the power to inflict tyranny, he’s unhappy.

I find myself really enjoying the Mr Burns episodes. This one falters in the last five minutes by losing pace though. The highlight of the episode is Homer’s Land of Chocolate fantasy (“Mmm… half price chocolate!” even though he’s surrounded by it) and Bart’s rendition of Teddy Bear’s Picnic at Moe’s Tavern is also very funny.

The relationship between Smithers and Mr Burns is explored in this episode; Smithers’ unwavering allegiance to Mr Burns as well as Mr Burns’ reliance on Smithers for every day things. There are several allusions to Smithers’ sexuality which is a running joke in the series and work well here.

I stared up at that hairy yellow drumstick

Flaming Moe’s

Underwear should be worn on the inside

Couch gag: Burglars are stealing the couch and the Simpsons hop on, but the burglars tip the couch to throw them off.

Directors: Rich Moore & Alan Smart

Guest Voices:
Aerosmith as themselves
Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz

Synopsis: When Homer runs out of beer, he concocts a drink from leftover booze in the house. It’s OK, but when ignited, it tastes like there’s a party in your mouth and everyone’s invited. He shows Moe how to make it and Moe runs with the idea. His bar is now the most popular place in Springfield and he turns down million-dollar deals. Homer is furious.

Discussion: This is an all-round great episode. Two sequences in particular really shine: Eye on Springfield and the homage to Cheers. It’s the first time Eye on Springfield has appeared and it appears in a few future eps as well. Now, I’m not a fan of Cheers; when it was first-run TV, I was too young to watch it. Now that it’s doing the reruns, I just don’t get the attraction. Still, I can see the parallels between Moe’s new waitress Collette and Diane from Cheers. I guess someone had to be the moral conscience in Moe’s life at this point…

In this episode, Moe becomes a real character. He likes being the centre of attention, which is probably why he takes credit for Homer’s drink. Aerosmith’s appearance really brightens the whole episode, especially as they’re not invited to perform, they’re just having a quiet drink and are called to the stage. Flaming Moe’s is the coolest place to hang out, so I’m not really sure why Ned and Maude Flanders are there; perhaps they’re drinking Virgin Moes?

This is one of those episodes where I groan, thinking I’ve seen it a million times and could probably write this without watching it. But I do anyway, because this is Simpsons Every Day, not Simpsons When I Feel Like It. I’m reminded that this really is a very good episode, still able to make me laugh. I notice things I haven’t noticed before (in this case, the resemblance of Moe’s waitress to Diane) and I’m still able to thoroughly enjoy the show. This is what makes the Simpsons great.

Whoa, talk about your pieces of crap

Saturdays of Thunder

I will not fake rabies

Couch gag: The couch is missing its cushions so the family fall through.

Director: Jim Reardon

Guest Voice: Phil Hartman as Troy McClure

Synopsis: Failing a fatherhood test set by the Fatherhood Institute, Homer tries to become more involved in Bart’s life. Bart is building a soapbox racer so Homer joins him. At the race, Bart comes last but Martin hurts himself and asks Bart to race in his stead.

Discussion: This episode has the same theme as yesterday’s episode where Homer tries to be a better parent to Lisa, only this time it’s not self-driven guilt, Homer has failed a test as seen in a magazine. Again, being a parent is a lot of effort and Homer just doesn’t have the time- why parent when you could be watching Football’s Greatest Injuries?

The ep is full of funny dialogue which redeems it from being another “failed fatherhood” episode lost in the mists of season 3. Wikipedia tells me that the main criticism for the episode was because soapbox racing wasn’t popular at the time of broadcast so few could relate to it. There are two issues I see with this. One, the soapbox racing isn’t the point. The sport could have been practically anything (as it happens, soapbox racing was chosen from an earlier comment by Bart when he was banned from watching TV and he would go build a racer instead). Secondly, Soapbox racing looks like fun. I know I wanted to build one after seeing the episode but somehow never got around to it…

Overall, I think the episode benefited from the witty dialogue and subplot of Homer’s failed fatherhood test. I particularly love Dr Nick’s appearance in I Can’t Believe They Invented It! among the other random crap. Infomercials are awesome!

I want you to play with my ding a ling

Lisa’s Pony

‘Bart bucks’ are not legal tender

Couch gag: Homer flops on the couch and the family sit on him.

Director: Carlos Baeza

First appearance of:
Lunchlady Doris

Synopsis: Homer screws up and wants to buy back Lisa’s love, so he buys her a pony and gets a job working at the Kwik E Mart to pay for it.

Discussion: Oh look, Homer screwed up again. It’s classic Homer- trying to fit everything in to create a win-win situation for everyone and failing miserably. Lisa’s talent show is tonight and she’s broken her saxophone reed (how do they work, anyway?). Homer promises to get one but he’s distracted by beer. The “talent” at Springfield Elementary is questionable, but hilarious. Milhouse can play spoons, who knew??

This episode has the potential to be boring, but Homer’s sleep-deprivation makes for some classic comedy, and the Slumberland sequence is inspired. Overall, it’s a good ep. We explore more of Lisa’s interests and family bonding as Homer really does want to be a good father… unless it takes too much effort.

Bad corpse, bad corpse!

Treehouse of Horror II

Director: Jim Reardon

Synopsis: After eating too much Halloween candy, Lisa, Bart and Homer each have a nightmare. Lisa’s nightmare involved Homer buying a magic monkey paw which granted wishes. Bart’s nightmare saw him having powers to do anything he wished and the world feared him. Homer’s nightmare was being turned into a Frankenstein-ian robot built by Smithers and Mr Burns.

Discussion: The usual Halloween offerings from the writers of the show brings little new. This was the first time the Halloween special employed familiar things like the “scary names” bit in the opening credits, plus a return appearance of the aliens introduced in the first Halloween special, Kang and Kodos.

To me, it’s not a standout episode of either the season nor the Treehouse of Horror episodes. Don’t get me wrong, there are some very good moments, particularly in Homer’s nightmare and I love the monkey paw sequence. The animation in the third nightmare is particularly good and that is actually a standout of the season. I think the main issue I have with the Halloween specials is the parodies; I’m not a fan of parody anyway, and now that I think about it, my favourite segments from these specials are the original ideas (having said that, my ultimate fave is Homer in 3D, but we’ll get to that eventually).

Aww we coulda seen a monkey

Like Father, Like Clown

I will finish what I sta

couch gag: The family sit down and Bart flops across their laps

Directors: Jeffrey Lynch with Brad Bird

Guest voice:
Jackie Mason as Rabbi Hyman Krustofski

Synopsis: To thank Bart for helping clear his name when he was framed for burglary, Krusty promises to have dinner with the Simpsons, but keeps cancelling. Bart becomes disillusioned and Krusty’s personal assistant demands Krusty keeps the date. At the dinner, it is revealed Krusty is Jewish and estranged from his father, who disapproved of his son’s chosen profession. Lisa and Bart encourage a reconciliation.

Discussion: Here we discover Krusty’s background. His real name is Herschel Krustofski and he’s Jewish, like so many other entertainers (“Mel Brooks is Jewish?”) Paying homage to the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, which also deals with a father disapproving of his son’s career choice, this episode is also quite intellectual and deals with Judaism in an appropriate way.

So often on The Simpsons, religion is dealt with a little left of centre; whilst it’s not made fun of, there are characters who bend the steadfast notions of organised religion. For example, Ned Flanders. Being devoutly Christian, he takes it to a whole other level when he calls Reverend Lovejoy in the middle of the night with a moral dilemma. The character is not a stab at Christianity, it’s an exaggeration. Here, we see Krusty’s faith has lapsed and his father is steadfastly adhered to it, obviously, since he is a practicing Rabbi. I understand the episode was carefully researched, particularly the part where Lisa and Bart are convincing the Rabbi to meet with his son, going so far as to quote a line from Sammy Davis Jr’s autobiography. The whole storyline was appropriate without being condescending or offensive to Jews- even when Krusty was creating balloon objects such as the Star of David and a menorah.

I thought the animation in some parts, such as the dinner at the Simpsons’ resembled the animation from season 1. It was darker than the rest of the animation plus it was a bit sketchy. My favourite line is from the diner where Bart and Lisa are hoping to arrange a “chance” meeting for Krusty and his father. Bart orders another complementary plate of pickles and the waitress replies, “Watch how fast I go.” That one line cracked me up, it was inspired hilarity!

All in all, it’s a good episode. It continues the family togetherness theme not only with the reconciliation of Krusty and his father but also Lisa and Bart, who are typical brother and sister: they fight occasionally but can really pull together when they need to.

Oh, and for people playing Simpsons Logo Quiz: Hyman Krustofski.

Thankyou for making my last few minutes socially awkward

Homer Defined

I will not squeak chalk (while squeaking chalk, of course)

Couch gag: an alien is sitting on the couch but escapes through a trap door as the family enter.

Director: Mark Kirkland

First appearance of:
Luann van Houten, Milhouse’s mother

Guest voices:
Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Jr as himself
Job Lovitz as Shelbyville Nuclear Power Plant owner
Chick Hearn as Lakers sportscaster

Synopsis: When the nuclear power plant starts going into meltdown, Homer saves the day through pure luck and is regarded as a hero although he sees himself as a fraud. Meanwhile, Milhouse’s mother tells him Bart is a bad influence and they’re not allowed to be friends anymore, making both boys miserable.

Discussion: This is a bit of a cerebral episode where Homer asks “who am I?” But of course, the question doesn’t appear to him until there’s a crisis. What I love about the episode is Homer’s definition appearing in the dictionary under various guises such as hero, fraud and “pulling a Homer”. His ethics are proven yet again when he feels like a fraud because it was pure luck in the power plant averting disaster, and doing it again when giving a pep talk to Shelbyville’s nuclear facility. Because of the dictionary cuts and two very different plots in the ep, it feels quite different to the previous episodes. I like it, I think it works.

Overall, it’s a great episode, well done and fantastic use of guest stars.

Forgive me, don Bartholomew

Bart the Murderer

High explosives and school don’t mix

Couch gag: The Simpsons form a human pyramid on the couch

Director: Rich Moore

First appearance:
Fat Tony
Legs & Louie

Guest Voices:
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony
Neil Patrick Harris as himself playing Bart Simpson
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz

Synopsis: Bart’s having a miserable day and ends up meeting mobsters, who offer him a part time job. When Bart gets into trouble from Principal Skinner, the mobsters have a meeting with Skinner and he goes missing. Skinner is presumed dead and Bart is put on trial for the murder. Just when it looks like Bart will be found guilty, Skinner appears in the courtroom to tell his tale of survival after being trapped under a pile of newspapers.

Discussion: What starts out as a really bad day just doesn’t get better for Bart. This episode is chock full of great moments: the trip to the chocolate factory (“Kids! Be sanitary!”), Bart’s aptitude for mixing cocktails, Homer’s meeting with the mobsters, Bart’s trial and the horribly inaccurate made-for-TV movie starring “TV’s Doogie Howser” as Bart. It’s just a really good episode- well thought out and well executed (no pun intended).

The characters of Fat Tony and his cronies, Legs & Louie, are inspired additions to the Simpsons cast. They are the dark underbelly of the town and although they present themselves as good guys, they are delightfully seedy without being unnecessarily harsh or mean. Sure, they’re mobsters, but they’re also truly likable characters. After all, it’s no crime to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family, even if you have a large family who don’t like bread, they like cigarettes and you’re selling them at a price that’s practically giving them away…

 

Huzzah for the shopkeeper

When Flanders Failed

Nobody likes sunburn slappers

Couch gag: The Simpsons do a little dance

Director: Jim Reardon

Synopsis: At Ned’s barbecue, Homer makes a wish that Ned’s new business will fail. His wish comes true but Homer has a change of heart and invites all Springfield’s lefties to Ned’s store. Meanwhile, Bart takes up karate but finds the class a lot less interesting than expected.

Discussion: In a moment of Mr Burns-like nastiness, Homer wishes Flanders’ store would go out of business and for Ned to end up broke. It’s somewhat uncharacteristic for Homer to be quite so nasty, but he redeems himself at the end of the episode by inviting all the southpaws to Ned’s store. This isn’t so much about rivalry, Homer is just pissed off at that moment and can’t think of a more appropriate wish for the chicken bone.

Honestly, it’s not a favourite episode. I dislike happy endings where everything is neatly tied up. Not that I want Flanders to fail, I’d just like to see Homer accidentally cost Flanders his livelihood before screwing things up even more, trying to fix it (before anyone asks, It’s a Wonderful Life is definitely not one a fave film; the movie is referenced in this episode).

Oh Marge, grow up

Mr Lisa Goes to Washington

Spitwads are not free speech

couch gag: Homer sits on Santa’s Little Helper

Director: Wes Archer

Synopsis: Lisa enters an essay writing contest and wins a trip to Washington with her family. Whilst there, she witnesses a bribe to allow logging of Springfield Forest. In anger, she writes a new essay about the rampant corruption in America.

Discussion: Personally, I’ve never been a fan of this episode. The title and plot are references to Mr Smith Goes to Washington, which was a love letter to America with low morale during the WWII, part of their “yay America!” movement. But that’s another discussion.

This episode is very political, which The Simpsons doesn’t shy away from, but the rampant corruption within the political giants of the country isn’t really a Simpsons issue. This is an animated sitcom and although I feel the ep is bordering on satire, trying to make a statement, it falls short. Lisa’s voice is wasted on an elementary school essay. Give her a juicy role, make her protest among the peaceful activists with signs proclaiming “Everything is OK!” Get her arrested for standing up for her beliefs, just like her feminine heroines.

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