I watch, and blog, and watch and blog and watch. It's the Simpsons every day!

Archive for January, 2014

Can we bring outside food?

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Million Dollar Abie

I will not flip the classroom upside down (The classroom is upside down)

Couch gag: A menu screen pops up and “delete recording” is chosen

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest voices:
Rob Reiner as himself
Michael Carrington as Jock Centre Host #2

Synopsis: Grampa considers euthanasia when everyone in town hates him, and then becomes a bullfighter when the assisted suicide doesn’t go to plan.

Discussion: Yes, dear reader, you read that sentence correctly: Abe Simpsons considers euthanasia and then becomes a bullfighter.

I don’t even know how this monstrosity gets there- something about a new football team, Grampa capturing someone he thinks is a burglar and, next thing you know, he’s hooked up to the Die-Pod. WTF? Seriously, WTF? You know the episode is garbage when I have three lines written down for possible blog titles and “Can we bring outside food?” is the best one.

There is absolutely nothing good to say about this episode. I want to wash my eyes out and pretend I never saw it (I will keep the memory of seeing it, just so I remember never to watch it again).

Episodes like this have me wondering how they ever get on screen. Does no one realise that the episode is utter rubbish? At what point does someone read the script, look at the storyboard and OK the project to move ahead? Does it give them nightmares? Are they tempted to hook the show to the Die-Pod and finally kill it off? How do episodes this bad ever see the light of day?

 

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Disembowel me with your pointy, pointy words

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Homer Simpson, This is Your Wife

I will not eat things for money

Couch gag: The entire opening sequence is recreated using actual people, shown here on the left hand side:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvSnNpawWiI

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voice:
Ricky Gervais as Charles

Synopsis: Homer signs up the family for a Wife Swap-type show in order to win enough money to buy a high definition plasma TV.

Discussion: I know the world is in love with Ricky Gervais, a comedic genius who turns everyday into funny, but I’m not a fan. He wrote and guest starred in this episode, which centres around Homer wanting a HD plasma TV like Lenny has, and winning the money for signing up to a Wife Swap-type show.

Enter Ricky Gervais as Charles, the husband of a soul-sucking beast, who falls in love with Marge. Charles is basically the same character that he plays on The Office, which again, I am not a fan of. This cross between British and American humour just doesn’t gel. Gervais nails the character and all his imperfect British ways, but the episode is almost painful to watch because it is so cliched: Homer takes the mickey out of Gervais’ character for being British but it’s not organic. It feels forced- forced humbleness, if you will.

However, it’s good to see Marge receiving some attention from a male who isn’t Homer or Artie Ziff. She hasn’t felt attractive since season one when she met Jacques, who taught her how to bowl. The song performed by Charles is painful. It’s classic British humour which doesn’t translate to an American audience (as an Australian, we’re caught smack bang between the two cultures, and the differences are both noticeable and hilarious to us because we are an impartial audience to both).

I suppose there are millions of fans out there who love this episode because of Ricky Gervais, but I’m not one of them. Maybe I just don’t get him, or maybe I just find him supremely irritating. Either way, I’m not loving this episode.

 

Ambidextrous- lefties in denial

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Bart Has Two Mommies

Couch gag: The living room is protected by a laser security system, and the family have to weave around them to get to the couch. Homer’s head is cut off by a laser. 

Director: Mike Mercantel

Guest voices:
Susan Sarandon as herself being the computer voice
Randy Johnson as himself
Antonio Fargas as Huggy Bear
Dave Thomas as Bob Hope

Synopsis: Marge babysits the Flanders kids and Homer looks after the Simpsons kids, taking them to the zoo of retire celebrity animals where Bart is kidnapped by an ape. 

Discussion: …What? This episode takes a long time to get moving and when it does, it still has no point. There’s a lot of cutesy Flanderisms and one liners but nothing of substance. Any emotion supposed to be here is completely missing and Lisa is given lines to explain what’s going on- in earlier episodes this feeling would have been obvious, not needed to be stated by a character. 

I guess the most interesting thing about this ep is the maturing of the Flanders boys. Rod and Todd have been sheltered all their lives, even more so since the untimely death of their mother Maude. Enter Marge, who lets them play Christian Clue (unfortunately Rod cuts his finger on the plastic weapon) and takes them to a game centre to climb walls and play in ball pits. It’s a dangerous environment but hey, someone has to take the kids into the real world. 

I’ve said it before, but the Flanders kids would be really interesting in the Real World. It’s a bit like that reality show where Amish teenagers experience all the hedonistic wonders on offer in the world. This ep gets halfway there, but the subplot of Bart being kidnapped by the ape really detracts from it. By the way, is it still a subplot when the title of the ep references it? 

Anyhoo, this ep sucked. There was no feeling in it and no point. Marge’s impassioned plea to Toot-Toot to release Bart was the lowlight of the ep. I do have one burning question though: How the heck does Ned Flanders know the lyrics to ‘Welcome to the Jungle’?? 

Hi ho Smithers- away!

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The Seemingly Never-Ending Story

Couch gag: Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are on the couch, which is on a conveyor belt. A claw drops Homer in place on the couch and the conveyor belt moves on.

Director: Raymond Persi

Synopsis: The Simpsons are on a nature walk to a cavern, where Homer gets stuck so Lisa tells him a story of Mr Burns telling a story about Moe’s story of treasure… Look, it’s a series of stories within stories.

Discussion: Here we are, halfway through season 17. The expectations are pretty low at this point; the most I hope for is “average”. It’s good to see that the show still has surprises up its sleeve.

I don’t know if it’s the format or the unexpected tales interwoven (think layers of plot a la Inception), but this is a FANTASTIC episode. Easily 5 stars (out of 5). I can’t think of any way that this episode can be improved. Very deservedly, it won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (Less than One Hour) as well as an award for the scriptwriter in the Annie Awards.

The style of the episode is different to a regular plot- there are stories within stories, layered to make a complete picture with a satisfying conclusion. We (partly) learn back stories of Moe, Edna Krabappel, the Rich Texan, Mr Burns and Snake. Their stories come together and end in a Mexican stand-off deep in the caverns where Homer has deliberately led them.

It’s just brilliant, more so because it’s so unexpected! These later seasons are universally regarded as rubbish, but this is a standout and a real highlight of the entire series.

The only pants that understand my complex hiney

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My Fair Laddy

couch gag: Image

Director: Bob Anderson

Synopsis: Lisa turns Groundskeeper Willie into a gentleman, while Homer searches for a new pair of blue pants.

Discussion: Who knew buying a replacement pair of blue pants could be so darn entertaining? When Homer damages his last pair of pants through “normal wear and tear” (go-karting 50 laps with his bum on the ground), he looks everywhere for a new pair only to be constantly told they’re not made anymore. This subplot is never fully resolved: his one-man advertising campaign allows the pants to be manufactured again and everyone is wearing them… but did Homer end up with a new pair?

This is all backdrop to the main plot of Groundskeeper Willie becoming a gentleman, a parody of My Fair Lady. It’s the first time we’ve seen Willie take centre stage in an episode, and I must admit it was enjoyable. The songs were also parodies of songs from My Fair Lady, however they didn’t get to the goody fun-ness of other musical highlights; these seemed forced. They’re not particularly witty or clever which dampens the spirit of the ep considerably. Having said that, it’s still the best episode thus far of season 17 (although the new coach, the Bombardment! guy, was SUPER ANNOYING!)

Lisa does well at transforming Willie and it works quite well, however I don’t think that turning someone into a gentleman is technically a feat of science…

It’s like the school’s lymphatic system

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We’re on the Road to D’ohwhere

Teacher was not dumped- it was mutual

Couch gag: In a parody of Bonanza, a map burns from the centre out while the family ride in on horses. The theme music to Bonanza plays.

Director: Nancy Kruse

Synopsis: After pulling another prank, Bart is sent to a boot camp in Portland and Homer has to drive him. Meanwhile, Marge holds a yard sale and is busted by the cops for selling expired prescription medication.

Discussion: Look, it’s not the worst episode ever, it’s only average. We’ve seen Bart and Homer on the road before and we’ve seen Marge and Lisa left home alone before- this time, they haven’t bought a doorbell. They’re selling all of Homer and Bart’s crap, including expired medication, which soon lands Marge in hot water. This should have been the premise to the episode instead of Bart’s pretend trip to Portland.

There’s too many facets to the episode, making it seem disjointed and mashed together. The yard sale is the most interesting part; Homer and Bart’s road trip feels forced with not much direction. What if the ep focused on Marge selling the meds and trying to get out of jail that way…? Just a suggestion.

 

Good evening, dumbasses

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Homer’s Paternity Coot

I am not smarter than the President

couch gag: A series of family portraits year by year is taken; Homer apparently dies and is replaced by Lenny then a robotic version of himself as the kids grow up.

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Guest voices:
Joe Frazier as himself
Michael York as Mason Fairbanks
William H. Macy as himself

Synopsis: Homer discovers a letter from his mother’s secret lover, leading to questions about who his biological father might be.

Discussion: It’s a well known fact that Homer is Abe’s son… or is he? This is one of those episodes which shakes things up a bit and you know what? It works.

It’s written by Joel H. Cohen, who has written many good episodes of the show. This ep has a lot of heart and a lot of laughs (or at least, giggles). Abe’s paternity is called into question when a forty-year-old letter turns up frozen with a poor mailman, who’s state of iciness is never really explained but that doesn’t matter. The point is, Mona Simpson was having it off with a lifeguard. Go Mona!

Cue the questions about the definition of “father” and the paternity test we all knew was coming. It doesn’t really matter who Homer’s biological father is, although it’s revealed that it’s Mason… but then Abe reveals he actually switched the name tags so Abe really did father Homer. Does it matter? No. Had Mason been Homer’s biological father, there’s a whole history with Abe that is still valid and Mason would disappear into the ether just like Mr Burns’ son or the real Seymour Skinner.

Still, having a fancy possible father has some fun moments such as Mason introducing Homer to “the lady in his life” (to which Homer replies, “You know it’s a boat, right?”) and Homer discovering there’s a knife specially made just for cheese.

There are also some weird moments; Homer and Mason’s deep sea mission to find long lost emeralds and Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney’s TV show where they beat up William H. Macy. What’s that about?

Giant pointy swords kill babies

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Simpsons’ Christmas Stories

Couch gag: A newspaper swirls to a stop with the headline: Couch Gag Thrills Nation

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Synopsis: Homer re-tells the Christmas story in church; Grampa and Mr Burns are stranded on an island and Santa Claus drops by; Moe is trying to kill himself while Homer looks for last minute gifts for Marge.

Discussion: I like these episodes which have three segments. By necessity, the writing needs to be tight and without added fluff.

The First D’oh-El Rev Lovejoy is unable to give the Christmas sermon (due to a terrible accident on his train set) so gives the job over to Ned, who faints at the sight of his own blood after a paper cut. Thus Homer takes the reins and regales the story of the first Christmas. It’s sweet and to the point while still incorporating classic Simpsons humour.

I Saw Grampa Cussing Santa Claus is my least favourite of the three segments. Grampa tells of a time, in WWII, when he and Mr Burns were stranded on an island and Santa Claus was shot down by Burns, but survives and promises to come back and rescue them. He never does. After Grampa’s story, Santa comes to the Simpsons’ house and tells Grampa that his long-lost brother Cyrus is alive and living in Tahiti. Apart from the the WTF? factor, We’ve already seen rivalry between Burns and Grampa (way back in the Hellfish ep) and this doesn’t add to it. Plus war stories aren’t very interesting to me anyway, and shooting reindeer (even magical ones) just isn’t very nice.

The Nutcracker… Sweet is largely set to the music of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker after Lisa mentions the music is now in the public domain. It’s cute and very sweet but Moe trying to kill himself is nasty and weird. 

Overall, it’s an above average episode and a really fun Christmas ep as well.

Slice, dice and serve on rice

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The Italian Bob

Couch gag: A hand deals cards, which land on the couch. Each card is a Simpson.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest voices:
Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob
Maria Grazia Cucinotta as Francesca

Synopsis: The Simpsons are sent to Italy to pick up Mr Burns’ new car, but find Sideshow Bob is Mayor of a Tuscan village.

Discussion: Sideshow Bob is back, baby! This time he’s mayor of a Tuscan village AND is married with a son! Whoa!

The premise to sending the Simpsons to Italy is stupid, but in a good way. It’s like the writers thought of the dumbest reason ever to get the family over there and used their A stuff for the main plot. I don’t mind; Lisa can finally use that Italian she learned from Milhouse in the previous episode.

But is Bob a changed man? His new life in Tuscany means that no one there knows his criminal past in America, until Lisa gets tipsy on wine and spills the beans. Bob’s wife Francesca is hurt that this accusation is true, but Bob’s son Gino is ready for vendetta (in English, that means “vendetta”).

Without the scheming, Bob is a pretty boring character but he sure can sing. Throw in Krusty for more villainy and there’s the best episode so far of season 17.

I have trouble with the space bar

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Last of the Red Hat Mamas

Couch gag: The Simpsons sit in a nest and a mother bird feeds a worm to Homer

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voice:
Lily Tomlin as Tammy

Synopsis: Marge joins a society where ladies of a certain age dress the same, but their intentions are not as innocent as they seem. Meanwhile, Lisa hires Milhouse to be her Italian tutor in an effort to convince Skinner that she speaks the language fluently. 

Discussion: Well, I still have my eyeballs. That’s always a good sign. 

In case you haven’t heard of them, there’s a society of women all over the world who wear red hats. Marge, feeling lonely, is looking for new friends and stumbles across Tammy & Co, who are members of the Cheery Red Hats and is eventually accepted into their group for her “special skills”. Unfortunately, their big plan is to steal Faberge eggs from Mr Burns and sell them to raise money for the children’s hospital which Mr Burns was supposed to donate to but decided to use the money to extend his own life. Boo-urns! 

Meanwhile, Lisa decides to spend the summer in Italy but has to convince Skinner that she can speak the language fluently. Cue an Italian tutor, who turns out to be Milhouse. Who knew Milhouse was part Italian?? 

So… the episode… Neither plot is fully developed and takes a long time to get to the point. Lisa picks up Italian quickly and easily and even begins falling for her tutor before angrily cursing him in a strew of Italian phrases. What? Did she get to go to Italy for the summer or not?? Marge’s friendship with the Cheery Red Hats is OK. It passes for a plot although breaking and entering Mr Burns’ mansion was a bit poor, as was Homer’s chase to stoop them, accidentally leading the police straight to the crime. 

Lowlights include: Sherri and Terri’s secret twin language and the bizarre exchange between Chief Wiggum and Lou. Overall it’s an average episode- could have been better but certainly could have been a helluva lot worse.

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