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Archive for July, 2013

Well this is a kick in the knickers


The Trouble With Trillions

I will not demand what I’m worth

Couch gag: Three old men are sitting on the couch, spooning water into a hot pit to create a sauna. The family, wearing towels, slowly back away.

Director: Swinton O. Scott III

Guest voice:
Paul Winfield as Lucius

Synopsis: Homer is selected for a tax audit and as part of the deal, is wired to listen to illegal activity Mr Burns is up to. Specifically, where the trillion dollar note is hidden that was given to Burns to give Europe to aid recovery after WWII.

Discussion: Let me just say: What The Hell??

This uninspired, dull episode deals with Homer, Smithers and Burns fleeing America so they won’t be tried for grand, grand, grand, grand larceny i.e. refusal to give back a trillion dollar bill.

Firstly, it takes 11 minutes – half the episode’s run time – to get to Mr Burns and the trillion dollar bill. Clearly the writers were stuck for time because there’s a whole unnecessary scene of Ned Flanders doing his tax on New Year’s Day to prolong the ep. How about Marge nagging Homer for four months to do his taxes?

Secondly, escaping to Cuba and giving Castro the trillion dollars to look at? Mr Burns would never do that!

Thirdly, what the hell. Just… what the hell. This ep makes no sense, doesn’t have a clear point and takes half the episode to get to the plot. Dear season 9, what happened?

Can’t hear you Marge, I’m clapping


Simpson Tide

My butt does not deserve a website

Couch gag: The Simpson family fall off the couch and grow into flowers in a parody of Rocky & Bullwinkle-style animation.

Director: Milton Gray

Guest Voices:
Rod Steiger as Captain Tenille
Bob Denver as himself

Synopsis: After being fired over a doughnut incident, Homer joins the navy and bumbles his way into becoming acting captain.

Discussion: I think this episode would make more sense if I’d seen Crimson Tide. Maybe I’m just not into naval rescues. Or maybe this ep is a bit crap. In any case, I don’t love it. Homer getting fired over a doughnut is pretty funny. Homer joining the Naval Reserve- what could go wrong? Nothing, except for firing the captain from the torpedo chute and not being court marshaled because the commanding officers are all indicted for something… Well, OK.

There are two highlights of the ep: Homer half-dressed as a naval officer and requesting permission to board in a role-play scenario with Marge, and Bart’s impromptu performance on the bus of Do the Bartman which was indeed released in 1991 as mentioned by Ralph.

Other than that, I feel the ep drags a bit. Apart from being called Mr Moe, Moe doesn’t really do anything; perhaps that role could have been done better with Barney? I don’t know, I can’t put my finger on it, but I don’t love this ep.

I found a moon rock in my nose


This Little Wiggy

I was not told to do this

couch gag: Bart checks to see if anyone’s looking then graffitis his family onto the couch.

Director: Neil Affleck

Guest Voice:
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure

Synopsis: Bart is forced on a play date with Ralph Wiggum, who suddenly becomes a lot more interesting when Bart finds the police master key which opens every door in Springfield.

Discussion: Arguably, Ralph Wiggum has the best lines in the show and doesn’t disappoint in this episode either. Bart is having another trademark guilt trip between wanting to be cool and exploring the old state prison, and being friend to the hapless Ralph.

I like this ep. Poor Ralph only wants a friend who doesn’t tell him to burn things. Bart just wants to have fun. Together, they can cause mayhem when armed with nothing but a master key.

The ending chooses to be a feel-good ending where Ralph is applauded for having a pretty good idea… even though Lisa came up with the idea that actually saved the mayor. Even though it’s a bit weak, it still works because the audience loves Ralph and he does deserve his moment of appreciation. I’m sure Lisa is disappointed at her lack of credit but hey, she’ll make it up again tomorrow at school or something…

Wait, that’s not how you spell dumbening


Lisa the Simpson

Couch gag: A vine grows in the living room and the family grow on it, appearing as vegetables.

Director: Susie Dietter

Guest Voice:
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure

Synopsis: Lisa feels she’s becoming stupider, and Grampa reveals there’s a defective Simpsons gene that ensures her intelligence will disappear forever. Meanwhile, Jasper freezes himself in the Kwik-E-Mart and Apu turns it into a freak show to make some extra cash.

Discussion: Poor Lisa is the last in the group to solve a brainteaser, leading her to believe that she’s getting stupid. This is confirmed by Grampa, and Lisa takes her brain on a last tour of intellectual activities.

This is something pretty much everyone (sample size: me) experiences at some point in their life. You wake up one morning and suddenly can’t seem to do the same things you did last week. Mental blanks are increasing and things you should know aren’t there. Luckily for Lisa, this is just a phase and the defective Simpsons gene is only on the Y chromosome, so only affects males. Simple!

I really like this episode. It’s full of memorable moments and shows the panic someone goes through when they think they’re starting to lose their marbles. Eight years old is a bit early… but when you’re talking Lisa Simpson, it’s entirely plausible.

Easily the standout scene is Apu’s freak show, capitalizing on Jasper’s decision to freeze himself in the ice cream freezer so he can experience the future (with a change of pants as fashion dictates, obviously). My favourite part is the haunted ATM which dispenses images of dead presidents. Brilliant!

You bunch of ungrateful ingrates!


Dumbbell Indemnity

Silly string is not a nasal spray

Couch gag: The family sit on the couch and are squished into a cube by one of those things that squishes cars into cubes

Director: Dominic Polcino

Guest voice:
Helen Hunt as Renee

Synopsis: A woman is finally interested in Moe but he goes broke trying to keep her happy. 

Discussion: We all know Moe is unlucky in love (and for good reason, apparently). It’s nice to see him with a woman just to explore the lengths he would go to to keep her. Renee (voiced by Helen Hunt, who was Hank Azaria’s girlfriend at the time) is a sweet woman and doesn’t ask for all this extravagance unleashed upon her, but she doesn’t shy away from it either. Moe runs out of money, engages Homer in an insurance scam to get more money, Homer screws it up yadda yadda yadda. 

It’s not the first time Homer and Moe have fought. Remember when Homer made a delicious drink and Moe took the credit? Homer and Moe are more than friends, Moe is the person who gets Homer drunk. It’s a special bond. 

What’s great about this episode is Moe’s relationship with Renee. She’s a normal woman, for a start, and Moe’s character deepens within this relationship. He’s awkward. Not just around women, but with himself as well. He knows his shortcomings and he knows women won’t just like him for him (he may be surprised…) 

Homer’s stint in jail is a dark point in the episode, but when viewed as a whole it works. Out of context, it’s a bit out-there and doesn’t really add to Homer’s character. Homer is very much a What’s In It For Me? kind of person even though it mostly masquerades as a desire to help a friend. For example, after he’s stolen Moe’s car, he takes a detour to see a movie, All Hail the Chimp. Instead of taking the car to the railroad as planned, he’s decided to do something for himself, which ultimately screws the entire plan and gets him into trouble. Maybe it’s s good thing Moe spends the insurance money on a trip to Hawaii and not bailing Homer out; it shows Homer that sometimes friends are selfish as well. 

One last thing: this ep’s title is based on the movie Double Indemnity. I encourage you to watch this film, it’s really good. It was one of the first American film noir films and also made smack bang in the middle of the Production Code, which forbade it from showing all the juicy bits (this is why mutually attracted people are shown to smoke; it’s a symbol of smouldering sexuality). Also during the Code, all crime had to be justified- the criminal had to be caught. It’s a very interesting time in Hollywood and a really great movie. 

I hope he tells us to burn our pants


The Last Temptation of Krust

Pain is not the cleanser

Couch gag: The family’s bottoms are on fire and the couch holds water, putting out the fires when the family sits in it.

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Guest Voices:
Jay Leno as himself
Janeane Garofalo as herself
Bobcat Goldthwaite as himself
Bruce Baum as himself
Hank Williams Jr as himself
Steven Wright as himself

Synopsis: At a comedy festival, Krusty fails to impress with his dated and offensive material. Realising he’s paid more attention to merchandising his name instead of working on new material, Krusty embarks on a new comedic journey.

Discussion: The standout section of this episode is the Canyonero. Everything else is filler for this spoof of SUVs and the multitude of problems they come with, plus it’s a rich satire of celebrities and marketing.

Krusty is old news. His material is offensive and can’t compete with the keen wit of observational humour. Enter a bunch of famous comedians and the popularity of late 90s comedy festivals to help seal Krusty’s path to popularity once again.

This episode’s climax is the brilliantly done Canyonero commercial at the end, featuring Krusty. The ep itself is a bit wishy-washy. There’s no real point to it and the Canyonero bit at the end doesn’t quite fit. Krusty gives it away in exactly one line: he’s spent more time merchandising than working on good material. Miss that line and the whole episode is just weird and nonsensical. Unfortunately, it’s an easy line to miss.

I feel there’s so much more that could have been done to this ep to make it better. Keep the first act where Krusty’s act stinks. Make the connection between advertising and why Krusty’s act stinks clearer. Hark back to Krusty having financial problems as the reason he does all this merchandising- why is he burning money? The audience already knows Krusty has financial problems yet here he is on stage burning a dollar. It’s something we’ve seen Mr Burns do, why would Krusty do it?

They taste like burning


Das Bus

couch gag: The family are frogs (Maggie is a tadpole) and they all sit on a lilypad. 

Director: Pete Michels

Guest voices:
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure
James Earl Jones as the narrator

Synopsis: During a trip as the model UN, the bus has an accident and the kids are stranded on an island. Meanwhile, Homer builds an internet business.

Discussion: Before this episode first aired, I heard it was based on Lord of the Flies so I went to the library and borrowed that book so I would understand the references. I’m glad I did, it’s a good book and made the episode a lot easier to “get”. For some reason, Bart using the conch shell really cracks me up. 

Anyhoo, there’s not much in this episode that makes sense, but that’s OK. It’s a convention of television audiences that they suspend belief for oh, about 22 minutes or so. It doesn’t really matter how the kids ended up on an island nor does it matter how they ended up off the island, which is part of the beauty of the narration at the end: 
So the children learned to function as a society, and were eventually rescued by oh, let’s say… Moe.” The audience is asked to accept this and let’s face it, the show can get away with it. Well, OK. The kids need to end up back in Springfield, let’s just wrap it up nicely in 5 seconds at the end. Hey, it’s a lot better than “they woke up and it was all a dream…”

Had the ep been made today, the bus falling off the bridge would probably have been done in the style of Inception, hopefully not taking three hours to fall though. Perhaps the island survival might have been based on the show Survivor

It’s one of the final episodes of Phil Hartman so I wish Troy had a bigger part in this ep, but having the kids watch a bible epic on TV is OK. I think most kids were allowed to stay up late to watch bible epics on TV: I remember watching a bible movie once and my aunt caught us watching Adam and Eve’s nudity, and we got into so much trouble for watching “a dirty movie” until we said it was Adam and Eve, which is apparently OK. Go figure. 

Anyhoo, this is a great episode and one of the best so far in season 9. If you’ve not read Lord of the Flies, go ahead and read it. If you find it boring, imagine Bart as Ralph and Milhouse as Piggy. 

Homer no function beer well without


The Joy of Sect

Shooting paintballs is not an artform

couch gag: The family are tiny, and help each other to sit on the couch. Santa’s Little Helper comes along and takes Homer

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Synopsis: Homer is sucked into a cult and brings the family along with him. Although the cult wears down Homer and the kids, Marge escapes and tries to de-program the others.

Discussion: This episode is a parody of cults in general, with a twist at the end that media (Fox in particular) is the real brainwasher of society.

Homer and Bart come across the cult at an airport, which are infamous for two things: Selling Michael Crichton and Stephen King books, and where different religions are represented in order to spread the word about whichever idol they favour. In this case, Homer is persuaded by the Movementarians, who promise that their Leader is buuilding a spaceship to take them to the blissful planet of Blisstonia. Seems fair enough- who wouldn’t give their life savings and deeds to the house in order for eternal bliss? Once they spend 100,000 years toiling, of course.

In response to the Leader’s tax-free status, Mr Burns tries to form his own new religion. This section, while funny, doesn’t really fit. Maybe it was just inserted to lengthen the episode? Perhaps the idea could be expanded into its own episode as a way for Mr Burns to not pay taxes? In any case, it doesn’t really fit here.

It’s nice to see the Simpsons out of their home and out of their minds. Most of the townspeople are under the spell of the Leader, bringing different depths to each character. Good ol’ Ned Flanders is still devoted to his own God and even assists the Simpsons in coming back from the Movementarians.

It’s a good episode, despite the weirdness of Mr Burns’ attempt at becoming god of his own religion. The Movementarians are an amalgamation of different cults, taking the weirdest parts of each and sticking them together with an awkward name. When the Leader is finally revealed as a fraud, the townspeople’s minds are freed from their illusion.

You’d better not be in my ass groove!


Bart Carny

couch gag: As the Simpsons go to sit on the couch, it gets pulled back and Nelson appears from behind the couch.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest voice:
Jim Varney as Cooder

Synopsis: There’s a carnival in town and Bart needs to pay off a debt, so he and Homer work as carnies. They fail to bribe a cop so their stall is taken away, leaving two carnies homeless. Cooder and Spud move into the Simpson home until Homer outwits them.

Discussion: Let’s start by saying the premise is a good one. Homer, who isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed, finally outwits the carnies who are squatting in his home. But for some reason, I’m just not loving this episode. It’s true that the carnies, Cooder and Spud, are incredibly unlikeable, but that’s the whole point. Homer’s naivety can be charming, and in this instance it certainly is, with a twist at the end that he outwits the “kings” of the world.

The ending is good. Outwitting them is far more satisfying than Homer pulling off the trick of getting the hula hoop around the chimney, and when Homer sees them outside and suggests having them stay- it’s priceless!

Overall, it’s a good premise, pretty good execution… but it’s missing that spark to make it a truly great episode. There’s a definite lack of memorable lines, maybe that’s the missing spark?

For hostage purposes, you’re just too weird


All Singing, All Dancing

couch gag: the loungeroom is on a treadmill and Homer gets caught, going around and around…

Director: Mark Ervin

Synopsis: Homer and Bart hire a Western movie on video and it turns out to be a musical. Disappointed, they complain until Marge points out they’re all guilty of singing in public. Snake takes the family hostage but their singing saves them.

Discussion: Well, it’s a clip show. This one is held together by a subplot of Snake holding the family hostage; their singing saves them but also threatens him as he comes back to shut them up.

Despite my love for musicals, I’m just not feeling this one. It contains all the best songs from the series (the spontaneous ones, which excludes Dr Zaius). Don’t get me wrong- I love revisiting the best songs and singing along… I guess I just feel that the ep lacks substance and they’ve tried to make up for that by having Snake come in wielding a gun.

Personally, I’m starting to think that season 9 is where the show jumped the shark…

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