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Archive for September, 2013

Now chew through my ball sack

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Skinner’s Sense of Snow

Science class should not end in tragedy

Couch gag: The family are in a football tackle and Maggie emerges to make a touchdown.

Director: Lance Kramer

Synopsis: Bart, Lisa and the kids of Springfield are trapped by snow, and overthrow Skinner to run the school.

Discussion: This is a really good episode. It’s a little bit Lord of the Flies when Bart overthrows Skinner, but this is something fresh and quite original considering some of the rubbish we’ve been seeing from season 12.

There are moments of animated magic, so the ep is not quite down-to-earth, but still, there’s elements in there that fill me with hope that this isn’t the end of the good episodes. There are some classic, memorable lines such as “I’m tired of taking orders from G.I. Jerk” and “You’ve slapped your Willie for the last time!” as well as the quote chosen for the title of this post.

It’s also nice to see Homer and Ned bonding as they try to save the kids, as well as some good work by Nibbles the Hamster. In fact, this episode feels nothing like Christmas; if they hadn’t mentioned it at the end, I’d forget all about it.

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I can finally afford a young crazy stripper wife

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The Great Money Caper

The nurse is not dealing

Couch gag: The family swim to the couch in deep sea diving gear, and as the camera pans out it is revealed that the couch is in a fishbowl.

Director: Michael Polcino

Guest voice:
Edward Norton as Devon Bradley

Synopsis: Bart accidentally stumbles upon grifting as a way to earn money, but things go awry when Homer joins his act.

Discussion: This is a pretty good episode. Bart and Homer try to perform magic, which turns into grifting and becomes quite profitable. It doesn’t rely on silly premises to get the plot moving, which is a change from recent episodes in the season. In fact, this works really well… until the final scene. But I can forgive that; there are few satisfactory explanations to close the narrative and they probably suck anyway. Just go with something stupid featuring every character seen in the ep. Why not?

This is one of those eps where I must have seen them but had completely forgotten. Homer and Bart’s bonding never goes well, and this can be added to the list. Lisa and Marge hiring an actor and staging the arrest is a pretty smart idea, and it almost becomes a battle of wits between Marge and Homer, unknowingly, of course. Marge has organised the actor to pose as FBI, who tells Homer and Bart to turn themselves in. Homer suggests a cunning plan to make it seem like he and Bart have been imprisoned… while the actor grifts their car. It’s genius!

Hello, operator? I’d like to report a really weird island

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The Computer Wore Menace Shoes

I will only provide a urine sample when asked

Couch gag: Santa’s Little Helper is dancing on his hind legs, but stops when the family see him

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voice:
Patrick McGoohan as Number Six

Synopsis: Homer receives a journalism award for his work as Mr X, a blogger on the internet. Homer is then transported to a secret island for people who know too much.

Discussion: forget what I said about yesterday’s episode being the worst one… I think this is worse. Everything about the ep is a parody of movies, which I get, but these films are so old that on first airing of this ep, they were completely lost on me. So yes, I do think this biased my future opinion of this ep. However now that I know the originals, this ep is still shit.

Poking fun at the internet, which was still a growing entity back in 2000, Homer makes a webpage and gossips about Springfield’s residents. He’s done it before, only this time he’s rewarded for it. I’m cool with this.

The island- well, come on! The whole premise is just stupid, and what’s with the koala behind the Dame Edna mask? I just don’t buy it and it’s right up there with the most ridiculous plot lines ever.

There’s a new Mexico?

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Homer vs Dignity

I was not the sixth Beatle

Couch gag: The family skateboard into the living room.

Director: Neil Affleck

Guest Voice:
Leeza Gibbons as herself

Synopsis: In a desperate financial situation, Homer becomes Mr Burns’ prank monkey; being paid to pull pranks on others.

Discussion: Just in case I hadn’t given the title to Worst Episode Yet, here’s a hot contender. Homer is broke and begs Mr Burns for money, and pulls a bunch of stupid pranks to earn it. On one hand, there’s no surprises as the title clearly states this is Homer vs Dignity, but on the other hand, there’s Homer being raped by a panda.

It’s a recycling of old themes: Simpsons being hard up for money, Mr Burns hiring Homer to be his assistant while Smithers is on hols… and nothing fresh or new is brought to the episode, except Homer being raped by a panda. It’s the lowest of the low for the show thus far.

You don’t pocket mulch?

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Lisa the Tree Hugger

I am not the acting President

Couch gag: The family are dressed as Teletubbies. Maggie claps as they all sit down.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest voice:
Joshua Jackson as eco-hunk Jesse Grass

Synopsis: Lisa lives in a tree to stop it being cut down.

Discussion: Despite a lot of great lines (“Have a good time at hippy club!”), this episode falls flat for me. Buoyed by eco-hunk Jesse, Lisa agrees to live in Springfield’s oldest tree in order to stop it being cut down by a rich Texan. Yawn. I feel that we’ve been over this before… sure, it’s great to see Lisa on her high horse about environmental issues again, and to feel the adrenalin of having another crush, but really, it’s just too predictable. I read that the last piece, about Lisa Land’s log floating out to sea, was a last minute inclusion. It totally looks it too.

Lisa’s rampant environmentalism hasn’t been explored for a while. Jesse Grass is the kind of enviro-hero you want to see: he’s just dreamy! Marge remarks he’d be cute if he weren’t so idealistic… Nothing wrong with ideals. The plot was sorta kinda based on a real person who lived in a tree for TWO YEARS!! I cannot comprehend that kind of commitment, never mind the day to day living in the tree part. Go you!

Anyhoo, this episode ends up in the realms of average. It’s too predictable to be fantastic but the addition of charismatic Jesse Grass definitely lifts it.

You should try Mary Magdalene’s chocolate orgasm

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Insane Clown Poppy

I will not surprise the incontinent

Couch gag: In a nod to The Matrix, the family stop in mid air, the scene flips 180 degrees and the family continue to the couch

director: Bob Anderson

Guest Voices:
Drew Barrymore as Sophie
Stephen King as himself
Jay Mohr as Christopher Walken
Amy Tan as herself
John Updike as himself
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony

Synopsis: Krusty is reunited with his long-lost daughter.

Discussion: Did the critics watch the same episode I did? I love this episode! It’s relevant, funny, fresh and story-driven as opposed to the mush thrown together, seemingly at the last minute.

After Homer and Bart blow up Lisa’s room (and half the house, dog house, letterbox, drawers…), the family set off to the book fair where Bart meets Krusty’s daughter in line for an autograph. I do question the guest voices in this segment: Stephen King is brilliant but everyone else’s role seems wasted.

Krusty’s tragic story of a one-night stand in the midst of a war is funny but moving as well. It was indeed a turbulent time (as a tween, I wrote in my diary how scared I was at the prospect of WWIII) and serves the plot well. Poor Sophie has never had a father and is making up for lost time, with an angry mother who never forgave Krusty for a whole bunch of things.

The beach sequence is one of my favourites from the entire series. It’s part quality bonding, part Simpsonsesque bonding, every bit what is expected from the show. It’s fantastic and a real return to form. Plus it’s nice to get away from a Simpsons-centred episode for a while.

However, it’s not all good. I’ve never been a fan of Krusty losing Sophie’s violin in a poker game. I can see why this happens- it’s exactly what one would expect from Krusty as a kinda sorta deadbeat dad. Getting the violin back is also inevitable, with Homer’s “help” of course.

Even though the ep isn’t outstanding, it’s a return to form with a bunch of guest voices to reel people in. Are all of them needed? Probably not, but at least I know who they are as opposed to say, the softballers from season 3.

It worked on the test corpse

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A Tale of Two Springfields

I will not plant subliminAL messaGOREs

Couch gag: Bart places a whoopee cushion under Homer’s seat. When Homer sits, it makes a farting noise and the family look at Homer disapprovingly.

Director: Shaun Cashman

Guest Voices:
The Who as themselves
Gary Coleman as himself

Synopsis: Homer is annoyed when Springfield is split into two area codes and divides the town into New and Olde Springfield.

Discussion: What. The. Hell? Springfield has been divided by two area codes and Homer is unimpressed (and uninformed, despite the rampant advertising). So he becomes self-appointed mayor of New Springfield. The residents leave and Homer persuades The Who to perform on top of the garbage wall. What?

Although the critics praised this ep, I’m not loving it. I do agree with the guy who said that his expectations had been lowered by previous seasons and this is the reason he enjoyed this ep. My expectations are also lowered and I still didn’t enjoy this ep. I like that the town can be split… but that’s about it. There’s no hilarious follow-up to it, only Homer in the foetal position as the phone constantly reminds him that he’s in the other area code. Oh noes!

The only thing that lifts this episode is The Who. Younger viewers are likely to say Who? and be far less impressed. The badger at the beginning provides some good lines, particularly Homer’s quip, “Badger my ass. It’s probably Milhouse.” getting rid of the badger is easy enough; once Homer couldn’t call the animal patrol, he told the badger to go away. OK, so the badger brought back all his friends at the end, but what’s a few badgers between friends?

Poor start to season 12, but I guess we’re used to it now.

I’m George Cauldron, is Suzanne ready yet?

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Treehouse of Horror XI

Opening Sequence: A parody of The Munsters: Homer is Herman, Marge is Lilly, Lisa is Marilyn, Bart is Eddie and Grampa is Grandpa. Townspeople drive stakes through their hearts except Lisa, who whistles innocently as she wanders away.

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Synopsis: G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad finds Homer’s horoscope surprisingly accurate and he dies, with 24 hours to do one good deed if he wants to go to Heaven. Scary Tales Can Come True is a parody of Grimm’s Fairy Tales where Bart and Lisa are Hansel and Gretel, finding themselves trapped in a gingerbread house with a witch. Night of the Dolphin sees dolphins taking over the world.

Discussion: I’m not a huge fan of the Halloween episodes, including this one. The stand out segment is Scary Tales, discussed below.

‘G-G-Ghost D-D-Dad’ has Homer’s horoscope surprisingly concise and true: You will die today. Once he dies, he ascends to the gates of Heaven, where St Peter informs him that in order to pass through the gates, he has to do one good deed. A series of good deeds gone wrong occurs and Homer ends up in Hell instead. There’s not a lot of substance to the segment, except the very beginning where an attractive co-worker gives him a compliment (“Ooh, I hope it’s Lenny!”)

‘Scary Tales Can Come True’ has the worst title, but the best plot. Homer is laid off from his job as Oaf and he can’t afford to feed the kids, so takes them to the Deep Dark Woods where they meet a witch living in a gingerbread house. This segment is brilliant: funny, smart, clever. Everything about it works… except maybe the final scene where Homer is laying eggs. Still, it’s a Halloween ep so you gotta expect some crap.

‘Night of the Dolphin’ sees Snorky leading dolphins to take over the world. Meh. There are some funny quips but overall, it falls flat. Although dolphins were chosen because they’re a “friendly” creature, this isn’t the case. Get ready for some biological science: dolphins can be quite mean. They gang-rape their females, often until the females die. They’re quite violent and kill not only porpoise babies but their own dolphin babies too. (There are numerous references a simple Google search will turn up for you; here’s just one to get you started.) Once you know how violent dolphins can be, this segment becomes a lot more sinister. Instead of the higher intelligence they could impart if we knew how to communicate with them, they’d probably be more like this segment: just plain mean.

(On a personal note, I do apologise for not posting for the past three days. There was a medical thing and internet issues which prevented me from doing so.)

That’s how I was raised and I turned out TV

Behind The Laughter

I will not obey the voices in my head

Couch gag: The family sit on a coin-operated couch which vibrates around the room

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voices:
Willie Nelson as himself
Jim Forbes as the narrator

Synopsis: A parody of Behind the Music, this episode delves into the “real life” situation behind the Simpson family and show.

Discussion: Well, isn’t this episode just brilliant? Based on the hit shot Behind the Music, this ep analyses the show; how and why the laughs happened, as well as a non-canonical look at the family behind the show.

There are metaphors galore which adds to the humour and realism of the ep (where realism = techniques used in Behind the Music). Homer was dismayed by the inaccurate portrayals of families on TV and wanted to show a “real” family. This part is true: remember my first post which argued that Matt Groening wanted to show a real family? The original premise of the show has obviously changed, taken a few detours (cha-ching! Personally, I think this is why the show jumped the shark) and ended up a bit of a mess. This mess is analysed within this episode but the reason given is that the family were money-hungry and self-destructive, giving rise to bad episodes. This is self-reflexive… but did the writers do anything to correct it? Season 12 shall reveal all.

This is a fantastic episode. It’s brilliant in every way.

The bitterness is strong in this one

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Marge

I cannot hire a substitute student

Couch gag: The family are a colour-by-numbers kit, hand painted by Asian artists.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest Voice:
Parker Posey as Becky

Synopsis: Otto is due to marry Becky, but Becky calls off the wedding when she realises Otto will never give up heavy metal music. The Simpsons take Becky in, and Marge becomes paranoid that Becky is trying to steal her family away from her.

Discussion: Despite having a poor reception from fans (apparently), I really like this episode. Instead of going off on tangents, the story is tight an concise, focusing only on one storyline. And it’s a good story too: Otto is set to marry the lovely Becky, but is ditched at the aisle for heavy metal music. So she moves in with the Simpsons until she finds her feet. Exactly how Marge ends up suspicious about Becky trying to usurp her and steal her family… well, that’s a bit unclear but it adds to Marge’s irrational thoughts.

Not everything about the ep is great; for example, Marge’s attempts to stay out of the mental asylum are tedious (except for the marching band) and that bit on Krusty where Marge’s face has Sideshow Mel’s lips is out-of-place. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and one has the feeling it is definitely an in-joke to the writers and Conan O’Brien.

However, as far as season 11 is concerned, this is one of the better eps. It stays true to one story, the catalyst is a stranger and not previously part of the Simpsons universe, and the end scene with Bart finally filming his school assignment is fantastic.

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