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

Archive for March, 2014

You’ve reached the snug bug


The Debarted

The art teacher is fat, not pregnant

Couch gag: The family and couch are on a Lite Brite machine

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest Voices:
Topher Grace as Donny
Terry Gross as herself

Synopsis: Bart has a new friend at school, who has actually been employed by Skinner as a rat. Meanwhile, Marge crashes Homer’s car and he’s left to drive a very fancy loaner until the car is fixed.

Discussion: The name Donny hasn’t been this cool since Donnie Wahlberg. Here’s another rare episode which is just plain fun to watch and you wonder why this simple idea wasn’t thought of earlier.

Much of the episode is a parody of the film, The Departed. Donny was employed by Skinner and Super-nintendo Chalmers to infiltrate Bart’s plans and snitch to Skinner. All goes well until Willie spills the beans. The subplot of Homer’s new loaner car is so simple yet so effective. He’s not used to such fancy cars and he makes the most of it before realising that his old pink bomb car is really the one he loves.

Topher Grace isn’t his usual self in this episode. Every time he speaks, it’s like he’s being forced to under threat of breach of contract; his heart just isn’t in it. However, the character of Donny is a great addition and it’s too bad we don’t see more of him in the future. Or maybe we do, how would I know? Donny could be a great mate to Bart and they could get up to pure evil on a bigger level- Bart’s usual prank buddies aren’t that smart so it would be good to see someone with a brain be a sidekick.

It’s a fantastic episode, well done and much enjoyed. Just goes to show that sometimes, it’s the simple ideas which work the best.

Let’s get Snicker faced


Love, Springfieldian Style

Couch gag: The family rush into the living room and attach themselves to a giant mobile, but Homer’s weight crashes them down.

Director: Raymond S. Persi

Synopsis: Whilst stuck in a Tunnel of Love ride, the Simpsons tell three stories of love.

Discussion: Who doesn’t love Valentine’s Day? Well, OK, it’s a lame holiday… but full of TV gold. This episode is The Simpsons‘ offering from 2008 and one of the better episodes of the season.

Bonnie and Clyde , starring Homer and Marge as the title characters. Bonnie (Marge) is only turned on by violence, leading Clyde (Homer) to rob banks and pull in a civilian (Ned) to help. When Ned snitches, Bonnie and Clyde’s love ends in gunfire. The ending surprised me because it’s quite graphic for the show: the sequence lasts over a minute where Bonnie and Clyde are fired upon without dying or even bleeding. I understand the episode was heavily edited for UK audiences but I don’t know what happened on the original Australian airing (I’d long given up watching new episodes by this point). It’s not a very strong segment and the ending really is quite shocking. Despite bloody, gory deaths being shown on the show before (usually in Halloween episodes), this particular one was disturbing. Maybe it was the lack of blood and death which made it so eerie?

Shady and the Vamp is a parody of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. The film is classic Disney and everyone knows the scene where Lady and Tramp are sucking on spaghetti. Here, Shady (Homer) and Vamp (Marge) have a fling but Vamp ends up with a litter of Barts and Lisas, who wander off to find their father Shady and wind up very close to the gas chamber of the local pound. Again, this is a little bit disturbing- no one likes to think about animals being euthanised. Being a Disney fan, I loved this segment, particularly the song sung by all the characters. The Siamese Cats (Patty and Selma) are just one of the highlights from this segment. I was sad to see it end!

Sid Vicious & Nancy Sid and Nancy’s story happened before my time, but even I know that they were destroyed by drugs. Of course, you can’t show drug dependency on The Simpsons so they’ve replaced heroin with… chocolate. Come on! Give the fans some credit! Get Nancy (Lisa) and Sid (Nelson) addicted to caffeine or some other mostly-harmless substance. The drug/chocolate scenes are numerous and overpowering so that their codependent love story is overshadowed, as I guess their real-life relationship was. At least this story doesn’t end with an alleged murder and death by overdose.

As a Valentine’s Day ep, it’s OK. It doesn’t get overly mushy and keeps that satirical edge throughout the episode. I found parts of it quite disturbing and am glad Sid and Nancy’s demise wasn’t shown, although I guess it could have been an interesting bookend to the Bonnie & Clyde non-death segment…

Everything penis shaped is bad


That 90s Show

Couch gag: The camera zooms out to reveal the family sitting on the couch is a painting in an art gallery

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voices:
Weird Al Yankovic as himself
Kurt Loder as himself

Synopsis: A flashback to the 1990s, when Marge and Homer were a young couple living in Springfield Place before the kids were born.

Discussion: Ladies and gentlemen, what is the Golden Rule of narrative? DON’T MESS WITH CONTINUITY! By the time this episode aired in 2008, The Simpsons had been on air as their own series for almost twenty years. During that time, we’ve seen many flashback episodes chronicling the relationship between Marge and Homer: they were high school sweethearts who married straight out of high school because Homer had blessed Marge with the seed that would become Bart. Yes, the maths don’t work (Homer and Marge are 37 and 34 respectively, Bart is 10… so unless Homer and Marge stayed back a few years…) and this is where this ep fits in.

During the actual 1990s, the show was a staple on television even here in Australia so how is it possible for Homer and Marge to spend that time dating college professors and recording music?

Forgetting completely about the Simpsons’ timeline, it’s actually a pretty good episode. The ep is chock full of 90s references, including the emergence of grunge (apparently Homer invented the genre and Marvin Cobain called his cousin Kurt to pass it on). We’ve seen Homer singing before in a barbershop quartet but his grunge days as the lead singer of Sadgasm really stretch the character in a new way. Sadgasm really embody the spirit of the angsty music defining the decade and Homer’s fame parallels that of real-life Kurt Cobain. If you’re a 90s kid, you’ll get it.

Unfortunately I can’t forgive the interruption of the Simpsons’ timeline. You can’t spend 20 years creating a universe only to squeeze something nonsensical into it. If it made sense, then sure, it’s a great episode due to the many, many 90s references including Marge’s “Rachel” haircut. Messing with characters is the reason, I believe, that the show jumped the shark to begin with (as noted in ‘The Principal and the Pauper‘ in which Principal Seymour Skinner is revealed to be Armin Tamzarian). You can’t spend years building up your characters and then mess with them. It pisses off the fans and creates havoc with continuity.

The only boom booms will be in our pants


E. Pluribus Wiggum

Teacher did not pay too much for her condo

Couch gag: A medieval tapestry shows a battle between the Simpsons and the Flanders, with the Simpsons being victorious.

Director: Michael Polcino

Guest voices:
Dan Rather as himself
Jon Stewart as himself

Synopsis: With the whole country looking at Springfield for the 2008 Presidential Primary, Homer puts forth a motion for Ralph Wiggum to become US President.

Discussion: Yes boys and girls, you read correctly: Ralph Wiggum is up for Presidential nomination.

This episode has some biting satire about the nature of US elections and former Presidents, but it’s also one of the silliest episodes I have seen. Lisa correctly points out that Ralph is only 8 while the Constitution requires Presidents to be at least 35 years old. Bart and Homer follow that with some stupid remark, leaving the valid point unresolved.

But, that’s not my only issue with this ep. I found it extremely boring; I’m just not into politics, especially those of another country (I’m in Australia, remember?) whose system is much more complicated than ours. But really, voting for Ralph Wiggum to be President is just not a good idea. Maybe the writers could have turned that satire into something more relevant to Ralph: what about school President? We’ve seen Lisa become an Eva Peron-type and her battles with being Prez of Springfield Elementary, why not Ralph? It’s much, much more believable than Ralph running for US President.

And for that reason, I’m giving this episode a big fat fail.

NERD: Not Even Remotely Dorky


Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind

The capital of Montana is not “Hannah”

Couch gag: The camera zooms out to reveal Springfield, the state, country, Earth, solar system etc until it finally coalesces into a strand of hair from Homer’s head.

Director: Chuck Sheetz

Synopsis: Homer has to piece together the events of the previous day to find out where his family is and why the dog hates him.

Discussion: Whoa. Sometimes I see an episode so awesome that I’m (almost) speechless. Today is one of those days.

Homer has woken up covered in snow and has no idea what happened yesterday. All he has are fragments of memories which have been extracted using a fancy machine invented by Professor Frink. What occurs is a brilliant episode which cannot be faulted.

The title of the episode comes from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which, if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend. The plot of both the film and today’s episode is about someone who has lost their memory (deliberately) and is trying to hold onto the fragments. The ep also references another memory-themed film, Memento, which starred Guy Pearce and is also recommended (if you like “thinking” movies… you have to be on your toes to keep up with it!)

I don’t want to give away too much because I want you to experience this episode for yourself. It’s a perfect example of the artistry of The Simpsons and the capabilities of the writers. If only they put as much effort into every episode… Anyhoo, this episode has so many highlights I can’t mention them all, however the sequence which stands out the most is Homer’s ‘Picture A Day‘. Please note that this link to the Homer-a-day sequence is not mine and is presented in mirror image to avoid copyright issues with YouTube. Please also note that YouTube are very strict with their copyright issues and the link may be taken down at any time- leave a comment below if this happens and I’ll remove it.

This episode is easily the best of the season (so far, but I’m not holding my breath for something better or even equal). I cannot recommend it highly enough. It’s just one of those gems that lies hidden amongst the trash and reminds people why they’re still watching. And when you’re done watching the episode, watch the other two memory-themed films I recommended.

You TV fat cats have plenty of money


Funeral for a Fiend

Couch gag: A magician uses his cape to make the couch and family appear.

Director: Rob Oliver

Guest voices:
Keith Olbermann as himself
Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob
David Hyde Pierce as Cecil
John Mahoney as Dr Robert Terwilliger Sr

Synopsis: The Simpsons are lured into another murder plot by Sideshow Bob, but will Bart make it out alive?

Discussion: Firstly, didja miss me? I’ve been away for a week without internet. Well, there was internet, but it was slow and expensive.

Secondly, this episode harks the return of Sideshow Bob, who hasn’t been seen since his Italian adventure in season 17. The premise to Bob’s return is some garbage about batteries, TiVo and not watching ads, making the Simpsons see a TV commercial specifically aimed at them to draw them into another murderous plot by Sideshow Bob. The plan works nicely until Lisa uncovers the true plot but are they in time to save Bart?

Sideshow Bob is one of those characters that gets better as the seasons progress. He’s now got a family as well as revenge to think about, so 87 years in jail is a nice long time to think about them. This episode has very average moments, but also moments of laugh-out-loud funny, which is missing too often from these episodes. One standout moment of sheer comedic silliness is Homer coming out of the bathroom with a DIY home perm. Unfortunately the moments of funny aren’t enough to save the episode; Krusty’s parody of Elton John’s Candle in the Wind from Diana, Princess of Wales’ funeral could have been tweaked to have a funeral for the show in general… Anyhoo, I digress.

This ep follows standard formula whenever Sideshow Bob is present: he’s trying to kill the family, there’s a fantastic scheme foiled at the last minute (usually by Lisa) and Bob ends up in jail. This gives the viewer a narrative framework to work from and also gives the show a chance to embrace continuity and enhance the Bob character. These aren’t bad things, by the way. It’s just something to remind us of why we loved the show and why the die-hard fans (and bored bloggers) continue to watch.

More kudos for the guest voice cast: it was a brilliant move to engage David Hyde Pierce as Bob’s brother Cecil back in season 8 as Pierce and Grammer played brothers on Frasier. Dr Robert Terwilliger Sr, crucial to Sideshow Bob’s evil plan, is voiced by John Mahoney, who played Frasier and Cecil’s father on Frasier. There’s nothing like keeping it in the family, even if the family are fictional characters on TV.

All food tastes like barf


Husbands and Knives

The pilgrims were not illegal aliens

Couch gag: The Simpsons and couch are in a pop-up book

Director: Nancy Kruse

Guest voices:
Jack Black as Milo
Alan Moore as himself
Art Spielgelman as himself
Dan Clowes as himself
Maurice LaMarche as the jock

Synopsis: Marge opens a women’s only gym and becomes very successful, leading Homer to worry that she’s going to trade him in for a younger, fitter husband.

Discussion: There are many episodes where there’s two plots that deserve to have their own episode; this is one of them. There’s a cool new comic book shop in Springfield, run by the very cool Milo. He can play Guitar Hero and Dance Revolution at the same time as well as sing the Korean version of a Tom Jones song. Sigh, he’s so dreamy!

Unfortunately, Jack Black’s fantastic performance doesn’t last very long. It’s quickly overtaken by the main plot where Marge, feeling uncomfortable with a gym, starts her own gym for regular women and becomes very successful. About halfway through the ep, I was thinking that both of these plots deserve their own episode… but then I realised that the gym part was the episode. I’m disappointed that Jack Black’s role wasn’t expanded- it’s metaphorically left hanging in the air like a speech bubble from a Batman fight.

The main plot, Marge’s gym, works pretty well on its own. Homer becomes worried that Marge is going to trade him him for a younger, fitter husband and tries surgery to keep her. Everything up to the surgery is all good- we’ve seen Homer get fit a few times before and this time is equally amusing… right up until his dream and unsatisfactory ending. We all know Marge is going to keep Homer, but I’d have liked her to casually mention just one small change she had the doctor do. I dunno, a small tummy tuck or a sudden dislike of beer. Just something to shake up the episode a bit.

Beating up Comic Book Guy came off as lame instead of the awesome homage to comic book fighting it was supposed to be. A highlight is Marge on the treadmill complaining that everyone else is probably also having trouble with it, until she looks over to a group of people parodying OK Go’s ‘Here It Goes Again‘. Big thumbs up to that film clip (if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend you watch it immediately).

The episode is amusing enough but I wish that Milo’s new store could have been expanded further into the episode.

There’s a time for krumping, and this isn’t it


Little Orphan Millie

There is no such thing as an iPoddy

Couch Gag: The Simpsons appear on the cover of Modern Couch Gag magazine

Director: Lance Kramer

Synopsis: Milhouse’s parents are lost at sea after their holy undivorcing, leaving Milhouse sombre and moody, making him popular at school. Meanwhile, Homer is struggling to remember the colour of Marge’s eyes.

Discussion: The Simpsons is at its best when storylines are poignant and sweet. The presumed death of Milhouse’s parents at sea should fulfill that criteria, but it never really gets there.

Milhouse is one of those peripheral characters that take on a life of their own when something happens. He’s invited to stay at the Simpsons’ house during the honeymoon and after his parents are presumed dead, bringing the whole family into his world. The scene with Homer blurting out inappropriate sea-themed products is sadly funny and the viewer really begins to feel for Milhouse as he realises the world he knew has come to an end.

Of course, this new moody Milhouse is poetic and mysterious, making him popular at school, but he doesn’t care about popularity now. Enter uncle Norbert, whom Bart has tracked down from southern California. Bart’s reasoning is that family would make Milhouse happy again, and a happy Milhouse is not a popular Milhouse. This reasoning is a bit weak; maybe uncle Norbert could have been next of kin in the Van Houtens’ wills? Still, Norbert is a cool Indiana Jones-type who is willing to take care of Milhouse to live happily every after etc.

The subplot is some stupid filler about Homer not remembering Marge’s eye colour, leading to Marge wearing sunglasses throughout most of the episode. The only thing this plot adds to the ep is a rather cool song by Homer, apparently written when they first fell in love. It’s pretty catchy, even the dog and cat dance to it. In the end he stumbles over the line revealing Marge’s eye colour… something that rhymes with “appraisal”…

Even though the ep isn’t particularly funny, I liked it. It has a sweetness about it and shows another side of Milhouse that we don’t normally see. We’ve seen the angry, bitter Milhouse, the crazy cool Milhouse and the obedient Milhouse who follows Bart like a lost puppy. Milhouse is a kid who deserves a break, and he’s treated well within this episode.

One last thing: Coincidentally, I’m going on a cruise tomorrow for a week. Due to lack of time this week, I haven’t been able to forward-view episodes and pre-schedule blog posts… so you’ll have to excuse the lack of posts for a week. Hopefully I’m not lost at sea…

Out of my way, mysterious skank


Treehouse of Horror XVIII

Director: Chuck “Bloody” Sheetz

Synopsis: Bart finds Kodos in the shed; a parody of Mr & Mrs Smith in which Homer and Marge are hired assassins; Ned teaches the kids of Springfield why they should follow the word of God. 

Discussion: In the 18th annual Halloween special, Marge opens the show by trying to announce the three gory stories but is interrupted by in-show ads for other shows on the Fox network. The ads all meet their demise in gory ways (yay!). On a side note, it’s frickin’ annoying to have in-show promos for other shows on the same network. There, I said it. 

E.T. Go Home is a parody of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial where Bart finds Kodos in the shed with plans to destroy humanity. Fair enough too, we are a bunch of gluttonous, lusty sloths… oh wait, that segment was later. This story was quite entertaining, if only for the multitude of exploding heads. Let’s face it, it’s Halloween, you wanna see some exploding heads. It’s tastefully done with not a lot of blood if you’re one of those people who are so squeamish you can’t even stand cartoon blood. 

Mr & Mrs Simpson  is a parody of Mr & Mrs Smith. Homer and Marge discover each other to be hired assassins and they fight it out in the their living room. Again, quite entertaining except for the bit where they make love over Chief Wiggum’s corpse. I found that part to be really gross. But hey, whatever floats your lust boat. 

The final segment, Heck House, is probably the weakest story of the three. Milhouse, Lisa, Bart and Nelson are trick-or-treating and find Agnes Skinner to be quite unpleasant in not wanting to “treat” them, so they “trick” her and find it’s much more fun. After “tricking” most of Springfield, the kids find the church nicknamed Heck House, and enter because they’re not scaredy cats. Inside, Ned transforms into the devil to show them what Hell is all about and the 7 deadly sins that will earn you a place there. Being irreligious, scaring me into the atrocities of Hell isn’t going to work but I would have liked to see Lisa’s skepticism burn a little brighter. 

This ep is one of the better Halloween episodes. Funny that while the regular episodes are mostly average or flat out garbage, the Halloween specials seem to get better as we go on. Having said that, I’ve probably jinxed it and season 20’s offering will be crapola. 

You come off all needy and bug-eyed


I Don’t Wanna Know Why The Caged Bird Sings

I am not a FDIC insured bank

Couch gag: The Simpsons and their couch are in a diorama; Maggie pulls the Homer figure and sticks it in her mouth.

Director: Bob Anderson

Guest Voices:
Steve Buscemi as Dwight
Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Gloria
Ted Nugent as himself

Synopsis: Marge is held up during a bank robbery and the burglar takes quite a liking to her.

Discussion: It’s great to finally see the voice talent utilised properly! Steve Buscemi is a fantastic actor, and it is also apparent in this episode as Dwight, a bank robber who takes a shine to Marge as a possible replacement for his mother who abandoned him at a theme park. However, I kept waiting for something to happen… and it never did. The ep coasted along nicely but never took that big leap into a really great episode. What if, during the bank robbery, a film crew showed up to film a new episode of ‘Bad Cops’? We haven’t seen Bad Cops since oh, season 4 or so. I think something like that would have really lifted the episode. Even the Itchy & Scratchy episode failed to deliver laughs.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus returned for a few seconds as Snake’s girlfriend Gloria, previously seen in ‘Hunka Hunka Burns in Love‘ where she fell for Mr Burns but ultimately ended up with her ex boyfriend Snake. It’s always nice when previous episodes are honoured (again, we could have done with a Bad Cops reference).

If nothing else, the movie parodies alone are worth watching the ep for. There’s the obvious Shawshank Redemption but half the fun is spotting them all. This has potential for be a really great episode, it just doesn’t quite get there. Still, it’s enjoyable and I’m so glad Marge doesn’t have post-traumatic stress again after her stint as a hostage.

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