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Archive for October, 2013

Time to ram-a-lam these ding dongs

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The Bart Wants What It Wants

The Giving Tree is not a chump

Couch gag: The family form a chorus line, which is revealed to be a huge production

Director: Michael Polcino

Guest Voices:
Wolfgang Puck as himself
Reese Witherspoon as Greta

Synopsis: Bart meets Rainier Wolfcastle’s daughter, Greta, who falls in love with him.

Discussion: Bart has another girlfriend, this time it’s the daughter of actor Rainier Wolfcastle. Bart likes her because she has awesome stuff, Greta has genuine feelings for him. Aww! Naturally, it’s destined for disaster. Bart chooses to heckle Skinner at a comedy club instead of taking Greta to a school dance. Greta finds solace with Milhouse… and something about going to Canada.

Bart and Milhouse’s girl troubles are regular fodder for the show, and this one isn’t really that different. What if Bart and Milhouse were each trying to win the affection of Greta? And what if they didn’t go to Canada and use every cliche in the book?

Reese Witherspoon, as always, is fantastic in this ep. She has an ability to be sweet as pie or delightfully snide. A little bit of both are seen here as Greta falls for, and punishes, Bart. And Milhouse, to a lesser extent.

Unfortunately, there’s nothing new. Girl troubles and tired cliches about another country are really all this ep offers. It starts out well but by the third act, it’s just embarrassing. There are some good moments, usually provided by Rainier Wolfcastle (including the appearance by authorised look-alike, Chuck) but overall, the ep falls flat.

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This is so like our lives

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Half-Decent Proposal

I will not bite the hand that feeds me Butterfingers

Couch gag: Removalists take the couch and Homer cries.

Director: Lauren MacMullan

Guest Voice:
Jon Lovitz as Artie Ziff

Synopsis: Marge reconnects with high school boyfriend, Artie Ziff, who promises a million dollars to spend a weekend with her.

Discussion: Hands up if you have a partner who snores. Hmm, lots of you eh. Well, here’s the solution: stay at your sister’s house and drunkenly email your old boyfriend, who is now richer than a weather girl and still in love with you. What can go wrong?

Homer is a chronic snorer, but the operation is very expensive. Why else would Marge agree to the million dollar weekend? I’m not sure I totally buy that premise but since I can’t think of a better one, let’s just go with it. You may remember Artie Ziff from season 2, where we learned the back story of Homer and Marge and their disastrous prom night. He’s back in this episode, voiced again by the delightful Jon Lovitz (Artie appeared in season 4, but Lovitz was unavailable so Dan Castellaneta filled in).

This is a great ep. It was criticised for rehashing old themes, but do these critics realise that half the eps from season 10 onwards are rehashed old stuff? Come on! Besides, this is actually funny and sweet and poignant and full of unexpected moments… such as Lenny’s admission of carving Mt Carlson for his “friend” Carl (nudge nudge wink wink). Marge sticks to her guns and refuses Artie’s advances, even with the promise of a million dollars and a solution to Homie’s snoring problem.

There are several highlights here: Patty and Selma’s fave show Nookie in New York, every scene with Artie, Lenny’s obsession with Carl and Artie’s snoring machine where he sings “I am watching you through this camera!” Hilarious!

I was counting corn cobs on the curtains

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Jaws Wired Shut

Couch gag: The family are dressed as characters from silent films

Director: Nancy Kruse

Synopsis: Homer breaks his jaw and learns to listen.

Discussion: At the basis of comedy, you find truth. At the beginning of this episode are two nuggets of truth: gay pride parades are awesomely over-the-top and there is a lot of crap shown before a movie starts. After Homer breaks his jaw, it’s funny for about two minutes before mediocrity sets in. What happens when you take away a defining trait from a character? You end up with boring, that’s what. There’s nothing to replace the funny when funny is taken away.

Homer learning to listen is a good premise, but one that can’t be carried for a whole episode. Sitting and listening to Grampa’s tales of liberty cabbage or Marge’s frustrations with Ned whilst communicating with a chalkboard aren’t enough to keep one’s attention. Let’s not mention Marge’s brief foray into demolition derbying, it’s just ridiculously stupid and isn’t saved by Popeye parodies.

There are good moments: a personal favourite is Afternoon Yak, which parodies The View and is fairly amusing. Sadly, not enough to save the episode from the pits of snore-fest.

Thank you, Erin Choc-O-Snitch

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Sweets and Sour Marge

couch gag: A prize machine claw grabs Homer, who screams, “My brain!”

director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voice:
Ben Stiller as Garth Motherloving

Synopsis: Springfield wins the title of World’s Fattest Town, prompting Marge to launch a class action against the leading sugar company, thereby banning all sugar from Springfield.

Discussion: Some fan I am- I had no idea Ben Stiller was in this episode! Anyhoo… Homer wants to build a human pyramid in an effort to get the town into the Duff Book of Records, and accidentally sets the record for World’s Fattest Town. It’s a pretty good premise if you ask me; there are loads of fat people in Springfield. It’s about time they did something good for the town.

Cue Marge doing what she does best: complain and take action. In this case, it’s against the Motherloving Corporation, which is run by the not-so-charming Garth Motherloving (voiced by Ben Stiller). I’m not really sure why, but I don’t love this ep. Garth is an unlikable character; maybe if he was charming and charismatic, it would have played out better.

In any case, Mr Motherloving, Mr Burns, Apu and Homer travel to island San Glucose to smuggle sugar into Springfield. Again, I like the idea but it’s just not executed well. It’s missing a certain pizzazz which is hard to explain; the ep is never more than average although it has a fantastic premise. Oh well, let’s see what tomorrow brings.

We flushed your sin sticks to Hell

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Brawl in the Family

Couch gag: The Simpsons are a hedge, made into topiary by a gardener

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voices:
Jane Kaczmarek as Judge Constance Harm
Delroy Lindo as Gabriel

Synopsis: The Simpsons receive private consults from a social worker when they go one bicker too far. Ginger and Amber, the cocktail waitresses Homer and Ned married in Vegas, return to resume their lives with their “husbands”.

Discussion: In this episode, we have two distinct storylines with very little to do with each other. In the first, Maggie calls the police when Homer and Bart fight and Marge and Lisa try to pry them apart. Gabriel, a social worker, follows the family and tries to connect them as a family unit, teaching them to work together. This is finally achieved when the family conspire to drive out Amber, who has returned as Homer’s “Vegas wife”.

Firstly, WTF? The ep takes a full 12 minutes to get to the point where Ginger & Amber return. Secondly, the first half of the ep doesn’t have anything to do with the second half. Thirdly, their return can stretch out to a full episode on its own and the viewer is denied this for… this: a patched-together episode which doesn’t really make any sense and holds no heart either.

Homer and Ned’s escapades in Vegas has the potential to be a great plot as the wives return, but this is overshadowed by the audience’s still-numb brain attempting to work out what the hell just happened in the first half of the ep. Gabriel is lovely but the plot can’t hold out a full ep and the attempts at making the Simpson family a functional family unit go awry. This also has the potential to be a good plot, but falls far short of delivering.

Having said all that, there are some very good bits. Homer’s insistence that Gabriel is an angel, the Vegas wives showing their uh, less-than-classy habits and Homer and Marge having another of their infamous fights where Homer is left to sleep outside. However, the ep as a whole just doesn’t work.

**

I want to take the opportunity to mention the death of series regular, Marcia Wallace. She voiced Edna Krabappel (“Ha!”) and the producers have said they will retire the character. It’s only fair to retire Edna, in the same way Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure were retired after Phil Hartman’s death. We’ll miss Edna and our thoughts are with family & friends of Marcia.

I’ve never written to a registered trademark before…

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The Blunder Years

I am not Charlie Brown on acid

Couch gag: The Simpsons stop in mid air, Matrix-style, then sit on the couch

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest Voices:
Judith Owen as herself
Paul Newman as himself
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony

Synopsis: While hypnotised, Homer starts screaming and it is determined he is suffering psychological trauma due to a repressed childhood memory. The family, along with Lenny, Carl and Moe, attempt to find the cause.

Discussion: Now here’s some classic Simpsons! It’s an old fashioned murder mystery, a real sleuthing case that harks back to great episodes such as Who Shot Mr Burns? and the few other mysteries seen on the show.

Homer’s flashback sequence borrows heavily from Stand By Me, which was based on the novella The Body, written by Stephen King (the film is better, BTW). Homer, aged 12, finds a corpse and thus embarks on a journey to find who the corpse was. The revelation that it is Smithers Sr is a good surprise, and further explains the real relationship between Smithers (Jr) and Mr Burns.

It’s quite a touching episode and full of genuine mystery. The catalyst for the mystery, a stage hypnotist at a popular Springfieldian restaurant, is also an inspired work. This episode is one of the good ones, which are sadly few and far between now.

Oh, and Mr Sexington, if you’re reading this, call me.

I’ll have the shark butt with butt sauce

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Hunka Hunka Burns in Love

Fun does not have a size

Couch gag: The family burrow to the couch, dressed in prison garb.

Director: Lance Kramer

Guest Voices:
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Gloria
George Takei as the waiter

Synopsis: After meeting Gloria, Mr Burns enlists Homer to help him appear vibrant and youthful in order to win her love.

Discussion: We’ve seen Burns fall in love before only to have his heart broken, and here we go again. This time, Gloria feels there’s just too much of an age difference, so Homer comes along to assist. Just the usual things: placing Burns’ hand on Gloria’s knee, carrying them upstairs to the bedroom, kickstarting Burns’ heart… Just when everything is working out nicely, Gloria’s ex boyfriend Snake comes along and wins her heart again. Aww.

It’s not a bad ep. There are some fantastic one liners and the plot keeps moving nicely. Julia Louis-Dreyfus is a lovely addition to the episode (as well as the always awesome George Takei) although I do wonder about Homer’s short job as fortune cookie writer. How does one get such a prestigious job using lines like “You will be aroused by a shampoo commercial”? One of the highlights is Homer taking a jab of Burns’ aphrodisiac and scarring the kids and Flanders for life. Hilarious!

Let’s recycle the shards and get out of here

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Homer the Moe

A burp in a jar is not a science project

Couch gag: The Simpsons tackle each other for a football. Maggie is triumphant and scores a touchdown.

Director: Jen Kamerman

Guest Voices:
REM as themselves

Synopsis: Moe is disillusioned with the path his bartending is taking, so returns to college while Homer looks after the bar. When Moe returns, he changes the tavern into a hip nightclub, much to the chagrin of Lenny, Carl, Barney and Homer.

Discussion: Moe wanting to redesign his tavern isn’t a new idea. He’s previously transformed it into a swingin’ hotspot (featuring Red Hot Chilli Peppers) and a family restaurant. Now he turns his bar into a po-mo (post-modern) nightclub catering to snobs and Russian models of questionable gender. The regular barflies are unhappy, and for good reason.

So, Homer opens his own bar in his garage. It’s a reasonable plan… until he goes hunting. Then the episode turns into yet another WTF? moment.

What goes wrong in this ep? The premise isn’t original and it’s also quite dark at times. When Moe heads back to his old bartender’s college, he chats with an old professor who confesses he has cancer, then wades into a pond, essentially committing suicide. There’s also a half-finished robot which Homer throws onto the street. The robot asks his “father” to give him legs, Homer refuses, and the robot pulls himself along the road using only his makeshift arms. It’s very sad and adds to the dark tone of the ep. Then, of course, there’s Homer hunting a turkey to validate his hunting club.

REM appear as themselves, first singing in Homer’s garage bar (with Homer ad-libbing his own hilarious lyrics) and then being invited to Thanksgiving dinner, complete with tofurkey. They seem quite stiff in the ep, like they don’t really want to be there. Can’t blame them really, they’ve obviously read the script and probably shuddered like the rest of us…

This starts well but winds up being a below average episode. Yay for season 13…?

Don’t spit on my cupcake and tell me it’s frosting

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The Parent Rap

Nobody reads these anymore

Couch gag: The family jump ship, which is revealed to be the painting above the couch, and the water splashes the Simpsons who are sitting on the couch.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voice:
Jane Kaczmarek as Judge Constance Harm

First appearance of:
Judge Constance Harm

Synopsis: When Bart is caught stealing a police car, the judge carries out an unusual sentence: tethering Bart and Homer together. Marge cuts the tether, causing herself and Homer to become the latest victims of Judge Harm’s unusual sentencing.

Discussion: This episode begins with an interesting premise: punish the parents. In this case, Homer and Bart are tethered by a fibre optic cable (revealed when Marge cuts the tether and Judge Harm appears in the cord) when Bart is convicted of joyriding in a police car. Because Marge broke the sentence, she and Homer are to suffer another one- shackles!

It’s all a tad ridiculous but I think it works. Marge is sticking to her convictions and is paying for it. I like that Marge and Homer go after Judge Harm and tell her she’s a big meanie, because it’s something you just wouldn’t do in real life, and shows the strength of Marge’s convictions (I’m pretty sure Homer is only doing it because he’s narky that Marge won’t snuggle with him…)

It’s not the most brilliant episode, but it’s pretty good. Homer sings ‘Wedding Bell Blues’ at the beginning of the ep- a song I only know from My Girl, which happened to be on TV the other night (although I saw it at the cinema when it first came out). And I will be sure to look up predicates too…

Remove your knickers and wait in the bath

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Treehouse of Horror XII

Director: Jim Reardon

Guest voices:
Pierce Brosnan as Ultrahouse 3000
Matthew Perry as Ultrahouse 3000

Synopsis: In Hex and the City, Homer is cursed by a gypsy and needs a leprechaun to set things right. The Simpsons upgrade to a new house in House of Whacks, but the house tries to kill Homer because it has fallen in love with Marge. Lisa and Bart attend wizards’ school in Wiz Kids.

Discussion: As far as Halloween episodes go, this one isn’t bad. Homer’s gypsy curse is resolved with a leprechaun (of course), which actually makes sense… well, as much sense as a Halloween ep makes! It’s a good segment which explores different ground to previous ones and also shows the characters as something different to their normal selves, or selves as other characters (such as yesterday’s ep where Lisa was Connie Appleseed).

House of Whacks is definitely the highlight of the episode. Pierce Brosnan is charming as Ultrahouse 3000, a very fancy modern house which caters to your every whim. The house has fallen in love with Marge and plots to kill Homer… but who can deny that suave English accent?

Wiz Kids is a parody of the Harry Potter films and does it very well. I like this segment because I’m a big Harry Potter fan and when it first aired, I cracked up laughing, I found it so frickin’ funny! It’s still funny, but kinda loses something in the time since the original airing; Harry Potter isn’t a big thing anymore.

One of the best Halloween episodes to date.

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