Old Yeller Belly
My pen is not a booger launcher
Couch gag: The Simpsons parody Lunchtime Atop a Skyscraper
Director: Bob Anderson
Stacy Keach as Howard K. Duff VII
Synopsis: Santa’s Little Helper becomes Suds McDuff, the new mascot for Duff beer.
Discussion: Hehehe, unitard.
Today’s Simpsons ep finds Homer in a spot of trouble and Santa’s Little Helper, ever the faithful companion, chickens out (or was that a turkey?), leaving Homie to be saved by the cat. Blah blah blah, the dog becomes the lovable new spokesmodel for Duff beer, and is reclaimed by his former owner, some greyhound racing guy. Yes, beloved viewers, scandal has hit The Simpsons.
Maybe it’s because I had very little sleep last night, but I really enjoyed this episode. It’s full of great lines (my notebook of possible blog titles is full of gems from today’s ep) and Bart’s opening night of his new treehouse is so frickin’ funny, it deserves its own awards night. Hmm, maybe I do need more sleep…
This episode could not have been done better. Everything aligns perfectly to propel the story forward: yesterday’s episode where Homer writes ‘Everybody Hates Ned’ was so disjointed and weird. However, the writing is tight, hilarious and brilliantly worked together to create a fantastic episode. And who doesn’t love Duffman? He’s a peripheral character but we see a different side of him- gold star for you if you can work out his maths problem too.
Dude, Where’s My Ranch?
Couch gag: The Simpsons are mimes
Director: Chris Clements
David Byrne as himself
Andy Serkis as Cleanie
Jonathon Taylor Thomas as Luke
Synopsis: After Homer writes a popular song about Flanders, he and the family head to a ranch to get away from his success.
Discussion: This episode was controversial because it was claimed that Usher’s song ‘OMG’ was a lot like Homer’s Christmas carol. If you haven’t heard the comparison, you can find it here.
Unfortunately that’s pretty much the only bit worth talking about in this unfortunate episode. Threatened with legal action over the family singing Christmas carols, Homer decides to write his own and comes up with a song about how annoying Ned Flanders is. It’s a catchy song and it takes the world by storm, so much so that Homer & fam decided to skip town and stay at a ranch.
After this point, it’s safe to turn off. The ep descends into every cliche known to man with a token gust voice and some square dancing. Lisa falls for a cowboy named Luke and is jealous when another girl enters the picture. Naturally, the girl is Luke’s sister. Snore.
Everything after the first ad break is a shocker. Despite winter and Christmas in the first scene, it’s not mentioned nor seen again. I guess writing, recording and distributing songs does take a long time, which might account for the change in seasons… but really, continuity is not a strong point of the show so I shouldn’t really be criticising. It’s a weak episode, story-wise, but Homer’s song really is catchy and it’s a shame it’s not made more use of.
Three Gays in a Condo
couch gag; The Simpsons are deep fried, placed on the couch and salted
Director: Mark Kirkland
Scott Thompson as Grady
Weird Al Yankovic as himself
Synopsis: Homer convinces himself that the only reason Marge married him was because she was pregnant, so he moves in with a couple of gay guys to sort out his life.
Discussion: Here we have an excuse to parade around every gay stereotype and joke known to man, however I don’t think it’s done in an offensive way. It’s just how gay people are portrayed in the Simpsons universe. It’s almost like gay characters are one big homogenous character who all present the same characteristics, facets of gayness that only the audience understands.
For some reason, Homer has convinced himself that his entire marriage has been a sham and Marge only married him because she was pregnant was Bart. Somehow, the entire chronicle of the series has escaped Homer’s memory (and, I assume, the audience as well). Despite this universal amnesia, Homer moves out and seeks shelter with Grady and Julio, who painstakingly point out just how gay they are to Homer. Apparently, Homer’s marital amnesia extends to John, whom at one point, Homer was convinced was going to teach Bart to be gay. Or maybe Homer really did get over his homophobia. Who knows?
The point is, the premise doesn’t make sense. It’s a ploy to throw in depressed bedfellows (the residents of Kirk Van Houten’s abode pining for their failed marriages) and every gay “joke” in the book. Weird Al’s parody love song to win Homer back lacks any humour in it whatsoever.
It’s a lackluster episode, whichever way you look at it. It has potential to be a really funny, biting satirical look at marriage… but it fails miserably. All this episode really offers is Homer getting drunk… repeatedly.
‘Scuse me While I Miss the Sky
Couch gag: Homer waterskis over sharks and when he lands on the couch, it is revealed sharks have his legs.
Director: Steven Dean Moore
Eric Idle as Declan Desmond
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony
Synopsis: A documentary filmmaker comes to Springfield Elementary. Bart tries to be cool by stealing a hood ornament and Lisa protests about light pollution over the town.
Discussion: Forgive me for being jaded about this episode; another variation of a theme. Lisa is on yet another crusade for science and Bart is causing trouble while attempting to be cool.
What would make this ep more interesting would be Lisa deliberating on say, Obler’s Paradox. Bart’s attempts to get in with the cool kids is passe at best… and since when have bullies been “the cool kids” anyway? Mr Burns should have been ecstatic to have perma-noon lighting over the town, this is what the townspeople fought against way back in the Who Shot Mr Burns? episodes. Yet the only shot on Mr Burns in this ep is him looking adoringly at the night sky (well, to be technical, there’s also a shot of Burns and Smithers looking at the sky and Smithers does the yawn-and-stretch-arm-around-the-shoulders bit). Maybe his cold fiscal heart has softened somewhat over the course of 300+ episodes…
Let’s talk about Sideshow Mel. I get it, he’s a peripheral character by definition, but what if we had a whole episode about him? We know nothing about Sideshow Mel yet he’s often given the best one liners in an episode. He’s obviously intelligent. There’s no need for him to follow Sideshow Bob’s storylines (been there, done that) but surely something can be made up for him?
Couch gag: The Simpsons are in a flip book
Director: Mike B. Anderson
Synopsis: Inspired by a motivational speaker, Homer seeks to become owner of the nuclear power plant.
Discussion: This is another episode which takes a while to get to the point, and the point isn’t that fantastic. I’m sure we’ve seen this before (and not just because it was on TV last week). Homer has been high up in the power plant ranks before and never appreciated it, but apparently still yearns for the rich life working his fingers to the bone and neglecting his family.
The main thing about this ep is that it makes sense… but there’s no plot. Homer takes out a canary, the legal owner of the factory, and becomes CEO and soon regrets it. It feels like A Christmas Carol but the punchline is Mr Burns trying to seal Homer in a mausoleum. Considering Mr Burns is physically weaker than the canary, this scene elicits a chuckle. Also worthy of a chuckle is Maggie dancing to Tom Jones’ Sex Bomb: perhaps is the ep was made today, Maggie would be twerking.
It’s quite sad to say that the ep is “not bad” only because it’s plotless. It feels stale, we’ve been here before.
Mr Spritz Goes to Washington
couch gag: Homer uses the remote control and transports the family + couch to prehistoric times, Roman times and back to the present
Director: Lance Kramer
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony
Synopsis: When the flight path is changed so that the Simpsons are affected, they campaign for Krusty to become a Congressman to change the bill to revert flight paths back.
Discussion: I’m not making an honest connection with this episode. Maybe it’s because politics bore me to tears, or maybe it’s because I don’t really understand why Krusty is chosen to be a Congressman to change the flight path.
Let’s take it from the top: The Simpsons can’t sleep because the flight path has been changed so that jets now fly right over their house. A diagetic promo flashes across the screen and Homer eats it (whatever happened to poor ol’ Joe Millionaire anyway?) and somehow, the Simpsons decide that Krusty should run for Congress.
I’m wondering if any other Evergreen Terrace residents are bothered by the new flight path. Is Ned now hallucinating due to lack of sleep? Are Rod and Tod speaking in tongues from vibrations from low-flying jets? It seems only the Simpson family are bothered by it, which leads them to talk to their local Congressman, who suffers cardiac failure and needs to be replaced. Enter Krusty. The Simpsons’ arguments to get Krusty to run seem fair enough- Krusty’s own dodgy dealings could be parlayed if he’s elected. Personally, I don’t think the case is strong enough- Brazilian immigration for Mr Teeny? Really?
And then you have to have the entire town of Springfield to vote for Krusty. This part is washed over and, needless to say, Krusty is not a big hit in Washington until Bart starts blackmailing people to pass the Bill in order to get the flight paths changed. This whole ep seems to be one long, drawn-out ploy to play with another version of the classic fish-out-of-water scenario. It fails miserably, IMO.
A Star is Born Again
couch gag: The Simpsons are marionettes controlled by Matt Groening.
Director: Michael Marcantel
Marisa Tomei as Sara Sloane
James L. Brooks as himself
Helen Fielding as herself
Synopsis: Ned meets and falls for Sara Sloane, a famous Hollywood actress.
Discussion: Well, well, well. Whoda thunk Ned Flanders was a horndog? He’s had a couple of well, not flings exactly, but one could probably say that he’s felt the stirrings of passion a couple of times since his wife died (most notably with Christian singer Rachel Jordan). Here he’s falling for Hollywood actress Sara Sloane, portrayed to perfection by Marisa Tomei. Sara is everything Ned isn’t, but yearns for a simple lifestyle and some good, old-fashioned Neddy homefires.
This is a really sweet episode. It’s about time that Ned had a lovelife and moral crisis (who doesn’t love a moral crisis when it involves a beautiful woman?) The ep is punctuated by guest stars and wacky British comedy that US audiences probably don’t get- The Benny Hill Show was huge here in Australia and was as politically incorrect as they come. I guess that was the appeal… Benny Hill’s ending act in every episode was him being chased by policemen and busty women to the tune of Yakity Sax (aka the Benny Hill theme). I’m sure there are many clips of it on YouTube, however I fear the impact is lost 30 years later, and to an unfamiliar audience. In any case, Helen Fielding’s parody of it is quite funny and right on the mark.
I’m Spelling as Fast as I Can
Couch gag: Homer uses an Etch-A-Sketch to draw the family
Director: Nancy Kruse
George Plimpton as himself
Synopsis: Lisa is accepted into the Spellympics and Homer chases the last Ribwich across the country.
Discussion: First of all, welcome to my most controversial blog title. For the record, it was uttered by a clueless Principal Skinner (I’m led to believe that “wank” is not a common term in the US, although it is in both the UK and Australia).
This feels like yet another rehashed episode dressed up in fancy new clothes. Lisa loses sleep over a moral dilemma (and dreams the series’ first lesbian kiss) while Homer chases a food item across the US. OK, so I don’t remember Homer doing that before… but it seems like something he would do. And Krusty sent the rib animal extinct as well…
Let’s start at the beginning. Where’s Martin in the finals of the Spelling Bee and how did Milhouse end up there instead? We all know Lisa can spell well, but it’s a big deal for her to end up in the national finals and be accepted within her home town. Seems odd- since when do the people care about Lisa’s academic achievements? They’ve derided her before for being a brainiac. But here they are building a Mount Rushmore-type monument to her. Go figure.
The real star of the episode is the Ribwich: a McRib-style sandwich available for a limited time at Krusty Burger and available around the country for audience testing. Major logic flaw being that Krusty has now sent the rib animal extinct… but this is a TV show, which doesn’t need to make sense. Homer and the Ribwich groupies fight over the remaining sandwiches and nothing exciting happens. There’s no rioting, no threatening Krusty at the sandwich’s demise, no thinly veiled taunts at what might happen to various Krusty Burger joints around the country or even a mere suggestion of using another animal in the Ribwich.
If I thought last episode was a car crash, guess what I think of this one.
I will not (and then Bart hacks the chalkboard with an axe)
Couch gag: The Simpsons are gingerbread people living in a candy house
Director: Matthew Nastuk
Jane Kaczmarek as Judge Harm
Tony Hawk as himself
Blink 182 as themselves
Synopsis: Bart divorces his parents after discovering Homer spent all his earnings from a commercial featuring Bart as a baby.
Discussion: Holy mother of God… Where do I begin in this car crash of an episode?
Firstly, the last time the Simpsons had a spring clean, Bart won an elephant. This time they’ve found a bunch of videotapes featuring Marge and Homer carving pumpkins and one of Bart as Baby Stink-Breath. Homer’s spent all the money earned from this escapade, and Bart’s so mad, he divorces his parents and goes to live in a loft (which, incidentally, is not full of hay). The premise isn’t so bad, truth be told.
Cue a bunch of celebrity voices with nothing more to do than show up in an episode and be paid for it. Whoops, did I say that out loud? Tony Hawk (only familiar to me because I’ve seen his video game in the shops…) lives in Bart’s building and something about Homer being cool and becoming Bart’s legal guardian again. What?
Then there’s the not-controversial controversy about this being the 300th episode. This is self-referenced within the ep: Marge asks how many times Homer has gotten into a scrape, Lisa clicks over a counter to 300, Marge remarks she could swear it was 302 (which is the actual episode number. Ep 300 was two episodes ago). I get it- put in some big name stars to attract (weakening) audiences for a milestone show. Whether or not the audience was treated to brilliance… I think not.
This ep feels like it was mashed together from about three different storylines. The emancipation from his parents echoes the troubles of child star Macaulay Culkin, who was a dear friend of Michael Jackson (the infamous baby over the balcony incident is also referenced in the episode). Bart goes to live in a building in which the tenants have a drug problem. Why not explore that part of it (obviously don’t show Bart taking drugs, what if he gets caught up as a suspected drug mule or something?) I just don’t love it.