Couch gag: The Simpsons sit on the couch and nothing happens. Lisa remarks, “What? Can’t we sit on the couch without anything happening?” Just then, Homer is impaled by a large spear.
Director: Nancy Kruse
Synopsis: When medications become too expensive, Homer and Grampa smuggle meds from Canada.
Discussion: Well, well, well. Aren’t we scraping the bottom of the plot barrel? Mr Burns cuts the subsidised medications for his employees, forcing Homer and Grampa to become drug mules to feed Springfield vital medications. What?
There’s nothing in this episode to hold interest. Lisa and Marge at the pharmaceutical company echoes my own feelings as they look silently at each other with a WTF? expression on their faces. Is this really the best plot the writers could come up with? Medication smuggling with some generic Canadian insults (and poorly done accents) thrown in. I am slightly amused at the biting satire of patriotism exhibited by Homer, but that’s fleeting and certainly not enough to carry the episode.
But… there must be something I liked, right? Well, the musical score was pretty good. The argument between Ned and Apu over deities was amusing for about five seconds, and Ned meeting his Canadian doppelganger was also mildly amusing. Given the chance, I’d happily wash out my eyes if it meant un-seeing this ginormous waste of time.
She Used To Be My Girl
Poking a dead raccoon is not research
Couch gag: The family all have Moe’s face
Director: Matthew Nastuk
Kim Cattrall as Chloe Talbot
Synopsis: A high school friend of Marge’s returns to Springfield as a glamorous journalist who inspires Lisa but causes Marge to feel envy.
Discussion: Hands up if you’ve been to a school reunion (or just Facebook stalking old friends) and been a tiny bit jealous that someone is doing something cool and is successful? (Me? Nah, never…)
Marge’s old school buddy is back in town covering a sex scandal involving the Major. Sorry, Mayor. Lisa finds Chloe beautiful and inspiring, leaving Marge to feel envious that not only did her friend become successful, she’s also a huge role model to Lisa. Let’s face it, Lisa benefits from different female role models in her life.
Anyhoo, this episode is OK. Barney’s rescue in a helicopter is similar to the time he rescued Bart and Lisa from Mt Springfield when a wildfire was burning out of control… Lisa having a strong female role model, well, that’s happened a lot before. Kim Cattrall is fabulous as Chloe (I didn’t recognise the voice until the theme from Sex and the City played after she proposes pity sex to Barney). To me, the ep just feels a little contrived, I don’t entirely buy it. Maybe it’s the recurring themes, maybe it’s a female character that’s completely opposite to Marge and frankly, not very interesting despite what others think of her.
All’s Fair in Oven War
Couch gag: The Simpsons and their couch are launched from a trebuchet
Director: Mark Kirkland
Thomas Pynchon as himself
James Caan as himself
Synopsis: Marge enters a home cooking competition and cheats her way into the finals. Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse find some girly magazines and transform the treehouse into a bachelor’s hangout for their friends.
Discussion: Moral dilemmas always work well in The Simpsons, and this episode is no exception. Feeling unworthy, Marge sabotages the other entrants in a cooking competition and Lisa disapproves. What happens between these characters is typical of a real life family situation, and in this case it’s Lisa pulling the guilt trip with a devastatingly cute card which compels Marge to do the right thing. You know it’s going to happen, it’s a narrative convention and it works well in sitcoms.
The B plot is also very interesting and, at times, threatens to overthrow Marge’s A plot. During the remodelling of the kitchen, Homer finds some old Playdude mags, Marge cuts out all the nude women and Bart finds the discarded magazines and does what every male pretends to do: reads the articles. From these 1970s magazines, Bart and Milhouse form an idea of what’s cool and set about to transform their treehouse into a rockin’ party pad, similar to Hef’s Playboy Mansion. Of course, it all goes pear-shaped when Homer gives the “facts of life” speech to Bart… with hilarious results.
It’s an above average episode, but only just. Marge’s plot seems a little forced at times, but there’s enough to hold interest for the entire 20 minutes. It’s well worth a look just for Bart’s B plot.
Treehouse of Horror XV
Director: Tell-Tale Silverman
Synopsis: The Ned Zone sees Ned Flanders given the ability to predict how people will die. Four Beheadings and a Funeral has Bart and Lisa in Victorian times solving a series of murders in England. In the Belly of the Boss, Maggie is shrunk and accidentally swallowed by Mr Burns, leading the rest of the family to be shrunk and rescue her.
Discussion: Despite me saying that I’m not a huge fan of Halloween specials, they’re growing on me in the past few seasons. This one isn’t particularly clever, but it’s enjoyable enough and doesn’t drag on like some episodes I could mention (hello season 15 finale).
This ep’s opening sequence shows Kang and Kodos in a fictional sitcom called Keeping it Kodos. It’s really funny and a great way to open the episode. The theme from Perfect Strangers plays in this sequence as well as over the closing credits. It’s a wave of welcome nostalgia.
The Ned Zone finds Ned Flanders having premonitions of people’s deaths. After seeing himself kill Homer, he tries to avoid it but circumstances lead a different path. The play between Flanders and Homer is always enjoyable, much more so when Ned is having ethical issues. Not a bad segment although the first 5 minutes (i.e. two-thirds of the entire story) is taken up by the opening credits. Bad form.
Four Beheadings and a Funeral has the potential to be the most boring piece of shite ever, but surprisingly, it’s not. Lisa (as Eliza) and Bart (as her assistant, Dr Bartley), are hot on the trail of the Muttonchop Murderer, based on the tale of Jack the Ripper. The story moves along nicely but encountered some censorship and rating issues in various countries by depicting Ralph smoking opium: here in Australia it was rated M for audiences over the age of 15.
In The Belly of the Boss is based on Fantastic Voyage and sees Maggie shrunk and accidentally swallowed by Mr Burns. The Simpson family have just 30 minutes to rescue her before stomach acids dissolve her. Marge gets to wear a revealing swimsuit, which dissolves even more as the acids get to her but, as Marge notes, they certainly know when to stop.
Overall, it’s a worthy addition to the Halloween specials and an above average episode on its own. Welcome to season 16!
Couch gag: The Simpsons are various Japanese anime characters
Director: Bob Anderson
Synopsis: Lisa and Mr Burns are in media competition.
Discussion: Although this episode is full of great one liners, it’s instantly forgettable. Mr Burns is a modern Randolph Hurst, taking over all the local media in order to control “free” speech and silence opponents. Comparisons to Rupert Murdoch abound, including a moment where Smithers and Burns concede that no one can control the world’s media, except for Murdoch. As an aside, in this year’s Australian federal election, Murdoch-owned media tried to oust reigning PM Kevin Rudd in favour of his opponent, Tony Abbott. It was a brash move, one that many people did not agree with and opening debates into journalism ethics. The government would have been voted out anyway… But I digress.
Burns vs Lisa. It’s happened before, but this time it’s personal. Well, it turns personal, with Mr Burns projecting lasers on the Moon depicting Lisa kissing Milhouse (“Way to go, Moon Milhouse!”) In the end, Lisa gives up only to find that pretty much all of Springfield have published their own papers.
And speaking of things that have happened before… Lisa’s Red Dress Press feels very similar to Kidz Newz, even with Nelson helping her out on each project. The lowlight of the episode is the scene where Mr Burns is suckling a mole… Ewww.
So, again, it’s an uninteresting episode with loads of deja vu. Instantly (and thankfully) forgettable, and so long to season 15. I’m beginning to think I’m a glutton for punishment, committing to watch every episode…
The Bart-Mangled Banner
Couch gag: The Simpsons are on a tray in the microwave
Director: Steven Dean Moore
Synopsis: Bart gets the family into trouble when he accidentally moons the US flag
Discussion: I get it- this episode is a biting satire of patriotism and media over-hype, but it goes on for about 10 minutes too long and the “joke” is spoiled.
Bart is temporarily deafened by a side effect of vaccination, and doesn’t hear the pledge of allegiance; he’s too busy sticking a carrot in his shorts to tempt a donkey, who, in the process of taking the carrot, pulls Bart’s shorts and Bart ends up mooning the flag. This is taken to mean Bart hates America and the family attempt to tell their story but wind up in jail… and then France.
This ep is full of stuff we’ve seen before: Apu’s store is bedecked with American flags (just like the ep where he was studying to become a citizen) and Homer et al telling their story on a talk show is reminiscent of Homer’s “attack” on a college student babysitter. Elmo in jail is a new one though…
It’s not a bad episode, it’s just overly long and uninteresting. It’s one joke stretched to 20 minutes with a lot of guff in between. The Simpsons in jail? Really? And let’s not even mention France again…
The Way We Weren’t
couch gag: The Simpsons are on the couch and knives are thrown at them, but embed in the wall instead
Director: Mike B. Anderson
Synopsis: Homer and Marge recount the special person they each met at summer camp, only to find out it was each other
Discussion: We’ve seen flashbacks to Marge and Homer’s courtship before, plus a few flashbacks of their childhood as well (especially Homer’s). Today we find out that they actually met one fateful summer when they were ten.
It’s a really sweet episode- Homer and Marge share a special kiss, their first kiss with someone special, only Marge has her heart broken when Homer doesn’t turn up to their second date; he’s been falsely detained at fat camp. It’s a pain that Marge has carried for thirty years, a hurt so deep that Homer isn’t easily forgiven.
Everything about this episode is lovely. From the treehouse game of Spin the Bottle (the shot of Milhouse kissing Homer almost made it in this post) to the two rock pieces becoming one again… it’s really a very simple love story which harks back to the romantic episodes of Simpsons gone by. It’s a shame that this ep rated the lowest thus far in the series: had people tuned in they may have been converted to thinking that The Simpsons wasn’t quite dead yet.
Couch gag: The Simpsons slide down firepoles and land on the couch dressed as characters from Batman
Director: Jim Reardon
Nichelle Nichols as herself
Synopsis: Homer creates a persona named Pie Man, who rids Springfield of all injustices.
Discussion: It’s superheroes, Springfield style! Seeing little Lisa’s masterpiece place setting laughed at by a judge makes Homer’s blood boil and he dresses as Pie Man, launching fresh pies into people’s faces for committing injustice. It’s about as good as a superhero can get in Springfield (I bet Comic Book Guy is peeved he didn’t think of it first).
This episode drags a bit in the middle, but generally is pretty good. Homer’s fight against injustice is nothing new, however he’s not really known for dressing up in order to fight them; unless you count sticking a paper bag on his head in order to publish stories on his Mr X website. It’s not particularly clever, and Mr Burns blackmailing Homer into fighting for Burns’ own brand of justice is a bit weird, but overall it’s a slightly-better-than-average ep. Mr Burns’ exploits feel a bit like the writers were fighting to stretch one joke into 20 minutes, however I’m willing to overlook that just for the pure amusement on Mr Burns’ face, particularly when Smithers is parading him around the park before Mr Burns’ nap.