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Archive for April, 2014

Just as the cookie foretold

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Million Dollar Maybe

Couch gag: Homer plays with a couch app on his smartphone.

Director: Chris Clements

Guest voice:
Chris Martin as himself

Synopsis: Homer wins the lottery but at the time he bought the ticket, he was supposed to be with Marge, so if he tells her he’s won the lottery, she’ll know he skipped out to buy it. Meanwhile, Lisa buys the residents of the retirement castle a video game system.

Discussion: This episode was really rather cool. Marge and Homer are supposed to sing at a wedding but Homer, believing the fortune cookie is on the right track, stops to buy a lottery ticket, leaving Marge to perform on her own. When he wins, he’s presented with a conundrum: if he owns up to winning, Marge will know he deliberately stopped to buy the ticket instead of going to the wedding. Hmm, what to do? There’s really only one thing he can do: hide the money and don’t tell anyone.

It’s such a simple concept yet embodies everything we’ve loved about the show for 20 years (even if some of those years were pointless wastes of time).

The family dynamic is the important thing here: Homer is buying things that the family genuinely wants and needs, e.g. hiding some Philharmonic tickets in Lisa’s saxophone. Although Lisa is mostly seen at the old folks’ home with their video game, the rest of the Simpsons are enjoying the gifts from the mysterious benefactor. As always, there’s a catch: Bart finds out and threatens to blackmail Homer.

The first few minutes provide some genuine laughs, and the momentum is kept up throughout the episode, making it very enjoyable to watch. It shows that even simple ideas can take the show back to greatness; you don’t necessarily need the convoluted ideas and big guest stars to entertain people (although, Coldplay are hired by Homer to play, and ordered to stop by Bart when Bart needs to use the toilet). A good episode overall.

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I’m a Star Wars

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Once Upon a Time in Springfield

Billboard: A picture of Maggie with the caption :The Fox Network, still sucking after 20 years

The world may end in 2012, but this show won’t

Couch gag: The Simpsons are sperm and the couch is inside an egg. The embryo grows into Mr Burns.

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voices:
Anne Hathaway as Princess Penelope
Gary Larson as himself
Jackie Mason as Rabbi Hyman Krustofski
Eartha Kitt as herself

Synopsis: In an attempt to draw more female viewers, Krusty hires Princess Penelope, who falls in love with Krusty. Meanwhile, Homer, Lenny and Carl are poached by a rival nuclear power plant when Mr Burns takes away their daily doughnuts.

Discussion: Kudos to Anne Hathaway for being awesome in this episode! Everything else about it was lacklustre. Krusty’s ratings are down (again) and Princess Penelope is brought in to boost the female demographic. She quickly becomes the breakout star, declares her love for Krusty and they marry. Yawn.

The subplot of Homer et al being lured away to another nuclear power plant is far more interesting, yet not fully developed. There’s a crisis when Mr Burns no longer provides doughnuts to the Springfield crew, yet they’re also won back by the promise of the ultimate doughnuts every day. This side of the story could have been developed more and could potentially carry an episode on its own. Lenny and Carl are good characters and when paired with Homer, many strange things can happen, especially in a new setting such as Capital City Nuclear Power Plant.

For me, the best part of the episode was the anticipation of Bart and Milhouse ruining Krusty and Penelope’s wedding. Their execution of such was a major disappointment; a reliving of Krusty’s ex-wives, including Eartha Kitt, to whom he was married for six hours (asleep for five of those hours). It’s kind of sad that the only part I was excited about was the anticipation. It’s like being on a log ride and the several seconds before you drop down the side of the mountain are the scariest.

For an anniversary episode, it sucked. I do, however, like their optimism that the best is yet to come.

Now I know how a radio feels

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Thursdays with Abie

Couch gag: First Homer, then the rest of the family, are thrown around inside a pinball game.

Director: Michael Polcino

Guest voice:
Mitch Albom as himself

Synopsis: Grampa becomes a sensation when he starts telling his stories to a journalist, but the journalist has sinister plans. Meanwhile, Bart is entrusted to look after the class stuffed toy for the weekend.

Discussion: Ah, Homer and his dad. What an odd couple. Their attempts to bond usually yield some amusing moments but, in this episode, it falls very flat. The whole point of Tuesdays with Morrie was that the author, Mitch Albom, discovered deep and meaningful life truths from his mentor. Here, Homer is suddenly jealous that someone else is listening to Grampa’s strange stories and making a buck or two from it. Until the ridiculous murder plot, of course. Then it’s all Homer to the rescue on a train. What?

The second bit What? in this story is Bart’s subplot of looking after Larry the Lamb, a stuffed toy from school. There are so many things wrong with this plot, I don’t know where to start. Why does the class have a stuffed toy? Why does it need to be taken home for the weekend? Why is Nelson emotionally attached to it? And who stitched him back together at the end? So many questions, so little time. The whole thing is just weird and doesn’t add anything to any thing.

The Simpsons work best when there’s heart in the episode. This one tries to recapture a relationship between Homer and Abe but it fails to compare with earlier work, such as the Simpson & Son sexual potency tonic episode. Sure, we’ve come to expect low quality from this show by now, but it’s still a shame to see glimpses of former glory, knowing it could be so much better. What if Homer sat and listened to his dad’s stories and learned his old man wasn’t just a jumble of fish smells?

Does Obama know about this?

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O Brother, Where Bart Thou?

Couch gag: The Simpsons walk in to find the living room furniture dancing.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest Voices:
Huell Howser as himself
Peyton Manning as himself
Eli Manning as himself
Cooper Manning as himself
The Smothers Brothers as themselves
Kim Cattrall as the imaginary third Simpsons sister
Jordan Nagai as Charlie

Synopsis: After seeing the sisterly bond between Lisa and Maggie, Bart wishes for a brother. An escapee from the orphanage becomes Bart’s brother for the day.

Discussion: It’s only taken 8 episodes, but finally we have a good episode from season 21! Hooray!

Everything about this episode works. There’s great lines, a good solid plot, some fantastic guest stars, hilarious cultural references and some old-fashioned father-son bonding over a scary movie.

When a blackout hits the Simpsons household on a snowy day, Lisa and Maggie hold a fashion show and Bart is envious that he doesn’t have a brother to do cool things with. So, he does what any normal Bart Simpson would do and tries to force his parents into making a baby brother, even going as far as switching Marge’s Pill with candy (the Pills, in the candy container, are found and eaten by Nelson haw haw!) When that doesn’t work, he goes to an orphanage and wakes up to find an escapee wants to be his new brother. Aww!

It’s a really great episode which examines the bonds between same sex siblings. Bart knows a lot about reproduction (and seduction) for a 10 year old, but I suppose he’s had to learn something in those 20-odd years (remember when he thought parents were reverse vampires in connection with the saucer people?) There’s a load of great lines, which shows that the writers still have tricks up their sleeves. Bart’s dream about having a brother is reminiscent of when he sold his soul but instead of Springfield characters with brothers, he’s dreaming of famous brothers (although Sideshow Bob and his brother Cecil appear in the dream). The Smothers Brothers didn’t air in Australia; the first I knew about them was when I was writing an essay about television’s response to youth culture. In that essay, which inspired me to watch The Simpsons every day, compared The Monkees to The Simpsons as TV tried to keep up with youth of the day. The Smothers Brothers were also part of that youth revolution.

But I digress. This ep references South Park, Barney as the Plow King and famous brothers from all walks of culture from the Wright Brothers to Mario & Luigi. Charlie is an adorable character and the perfect fit with Bart- he’s not too naughty, yet loves games but not scary movies.

Highly recommended viewing. Aren’t you glad I do the hard work for you so you don’t have to sit through all the shitty ones to find the gems?

Don’t unform, you’re a great mob

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Rednecks and Broomsticks

Billboard: Advertising the Springfield Retirement Castle, with a picture of Grampa saying “Get me out of here”

Teachers’ unions are not running the country

Couch gag: The Simpsons, plus Patty and Selma, are having a fancy Thanksgiving dinner. After grabbing some food, they all sit on the couch to watch football.

Directors: Bob Anderson and Rob Oliver

Guest Voice:
Neve Campbell as Cassandra

Synopsis: On the way back from a ski trip, Homer loses control of the car and the Simpsons end up rescued by Cletus, who teaches Homer about moonshine. Meanwhile, Lisa meets some Wiccans and decides to join their group.

Discussion: We’re into episode 7 of season 21, and this has to be the longest run of crappy episodes thus far. I had such high hopes for this one, it started off really well… and then spiralled into some weird witch trial that made no sense.

Let’s start at the beginning. The Simpsons are in a car playing a game I’ve never heard of but it looks like FUN! Seriously, why wasn’t that ever released in Australia?? Anyhoo, Homer loses control of the car and the family is not looking good for survival but are rescued by a stranger, who turns out to be Cletus, the slack-jawed yokel. He introduces Homer to homemade moonshine, and somehow Homer ends up judging homemade moonshine contests. Meanwhile, Lisa, playing hide and seek with Cletus’ daughters, gets lost in the forest and meets some Wiccans.

The second act begins well, but by the end of it I was cocking my head to the side like a dog does when it’s trying to understand what you’re saying. The Wiccans are on trial for allegedly blinding half the townspeople. It’s just stupid, and the third act doesn’t get any better. The only saving grace is Lisa’s discovery that the widespread blinding happened due to spilled moonshine in the water supply, not a curse placed in the name of Wicca.

I liked the references to Bambi and Thumper playing on the ice, and also a strange reference to giving the newly-arrested Wiccan girls a Judy Blume novel to read in the back of the police car. Ned’s conclusion that Buddhism has led Lisa straight into witchcraft is just so funny, as is Lisa researching Wicca using Wiccapedia and Bart congratulating her for coming to the dark side. I was really hooping for a great episode, but it went downhill about halfway.

Good lord, they’ve been sucking seven!

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Pranks and Greens

Billboard: Otto, surrounded by smoke and holding a bong, captioned with Dr Otto’s “Wellness Clinic”

Halloween does not kick Thankgiving’s ass

Couch gag: The Simpsons, dressed as carolers, sing Twelve Days of Christmas featuring lyrics with characters:
Twelve Grampas grumbling
Eleven Barneys belching
Ten Lennys leaping
Nine Carls dancing
Eight Moes a-milking
Seven Selmas smoking
Six Flanders praying
Five golden Frinks
Four crawling nerds
Three eyed fish
Two special Ralphs
…and a Maggie in a snuggie!

Director: Chuck Sheetz

Guest voice:
Jonah Hill as Andy Hamilton

Synopsis: Bart meets the ultimate prank nerd, but realises that he never grew up and is a loser. Meanwhile, Marge becomes worried that the kids are eating too many chemicals.

Discussion: First of all, let’s get the Marge plot out of the way. It’s stupid. Marge is holding a play date with some other babies and the mothers start freaking out over the chemically-laden food Marge feeds them. Apart from having no plot whatsoever and being 100% pure filler, the one thing that really ticks me off is when people go on about “chemicals” in stuff. H20 is a chemical. Cyanide is natural and present in apples. So get over it.

Now let’s move onto the main plot of Bart finding out he’s not the best prankster Springfield Elementary has ever known. That honour goes to one Andy Hamilton, who is now nineteen and still lives at home with his mother (another Skinner in the making?). His greatest claim to fame is filling the school’s swimming pool with worms, and Skinner diving in for his morning swim and being trapped for four days. Groundskeeper Willie says this incident made Skinner into the monster he is today… Wait, Skinner is a monster? Sure, he’s annoying, but a monster? Seriously?

Anyhoo, Bart gets Andy a job at Krusty’s studios and everyone lives happily ever after. Aww.

I was waiting for this episode to really take off… but it never happened. What if Andy and Bart put their heads together and came up with the world’s greatest prank? Regardless of Andy being a 19 year old loser, Bart is still going to keep pranking. Bart’s pranks have featured heavily in recently-viewed episodes and this one isn’t floating my car engine.

There are some highlights though, such as the Simpsons spending $800 on organic food which wilts and becomes mouldy seconds after being scanned at the register. The Christmas carol as the couch gag is also quite funny. Even without Marge’s pointless plot, it’s an average episode.

I dub thee, King of the Morons

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The Devil Wears Nada

Billboard: Duffman: Don’t face this Christmas sober

I do not have the hots for my mom

Couch gag: The Simpsons and couch sink into a tar pit and their skeletons become exhibits at a museum.

Director: Nancy Kruse

Synopsis: Carl is promoted and makes Homer his executive assistant, resulting Homer being overworked and too tired for sex. Meanwhile, Marge’s libido is high after appearing in a sexy calendar for her Charity Chicks group.

Discussion: Where’s Lenny? In all this Homer and Carl stuff, what’s Lenny doing? He’s utilised in the first five minutes then completely forgotten. Is he angry at Carl and/or Homer? Is he drinking himself into a stupor to block out the pain of his two best friends being promoted above him and hanging out together? Maybe he should have been the one to (almost) hook up with Marge in a revenge plot. And what about the other Charity Chicks? Are they upset that Marge hogged the limelight?

Anyhoo, Lenny’s mysterious omission is probably the most interesting thing about this episode. We’ve seen numerous examples of Homer and Marge’s marital troubles, and bringing in Ned as an object of lust is just a little bit weird.

It’s hard to get excited about this episode. The premise was good but the execution left me feeling flat. Half the episode went by before the point became clear- it really was just about Marge wanting sex and Homer being too tired and overworked. Yawn. The scenes in Paris were good and I liked that Carl was allowed to explore an unambiguous sexuality. The raw lust in the episode made it more real and I’m glad the writers took it only as far as they did… although Ned and Marge in the kitchen was more cringe-worthy than sexy. And who was babysitting Rod and Todd while they were grounded?

For me, the ep brought up more questions than it answered, and some parts of it, I didn’t need to see at all. Still, it showed solid writing and is the best episode of the season so far… but that’s not saying much; it’s like saying puke green is better than baby poo yellow.

Slice her like a bagel

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Treehouse of Horror XX

Directors: Mike B. Anderson & Ralph Sosa

Synopsis: Three tales of Halloween Terror

Discussion: It’s Halloween time again (I swear this comes around every 3.5 weeks…) and Halloween episode #20 is nothing spectacular.

Dial M for Murder or # to Return to Main Menu sees Bart and Lisa plotting to murder each other’s teacher. It’s very Hitchcockian and done (very well) in black & white, but I still didn’t love it. Lisa’s morals are front and centre and don’t add anything to the segment. Get on with the killing, already! It was very much a cat & mouse scenario without any really satisfying elements.

Don’t Have a Cow, Mankind shows how the new Krusty burger turns people into zombies (called “munchers” here). Zombies? Really? Excuse the pun, but zombies have been done to death. Some originality, please.

There’s No Business Like Moe Business is inspired by Sweeney Todd, the story of a barber and his baker girlfriend who kill people and sell their flesh in pies. Here, Homer accidentally dies on Moe’s beer machine and the sweet blood makes the beer very tasty. Moe tells Marge Homer has left her to seek the company of other men and tries to woo her. I like Sweeney Todd and I’m a sucker for musicals, so this segment is the winner in my book. I would have liked it more had it not been a play…

This Halloween offering isn’t anything special. It lacks originality but the general storylines are OK. It doesn’t offer anything funny, new or clever and is missing the satirical views of other Halloween specials. Meh, it’s an average ep.

Studies have shown your mother is right

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The Great Wife Hope

Billboard: Leftorium- Next Right

I am not allergic to long division

Couch gag: The couch is missing and the family chase it all over the world and even into space.

Director: Matthew Faughnan

Guest voice:
Chuck Liddell as himself

Synopsis: In order to stop Springfield’s obsession with MMA, Marge agrees to fight the CEO.

Discussion: Look, I’m no Germaine Greer, but I can’t believe a woman wrote this episode. It goes against every feminine principle we stand for. Is there something about being a woman that Carolyn Omine doesn’t like? Does she despise her own femininity? Seriously, if Laura Mulvey ever saw this episode, she’d explode. 

MMA is a very masculine “sport”, which explains why every male in Springfield is obsessed with it and why Marge wants it stopped. This is reminiscent of season 2 when Marge wants to ban Itchy & Scratchy for being too violent. However, this time, in order to stop the violence, Marge has to fight the CEO of whatever brand of MMA this is. I have nothing against women standing up for morals and values, but to de-feminise herself to do it, in hand-to-hand combat in a male dominated arena, is not right. The real kicker (pardon the pun) is when Chet connects his first punch and says, “I’ve never hit a woman I didn’t love”. THIS IS NOT COOL! There’s a line, and it has been crossed with this one comment. I’m surprised the term MILF wasn’t also used; although there is a comment about being a “mom I’d like to fight”.

It’s pathetic that the only glimpse of feminism (besides Lisa downing Bart at the very end) is Nelson’s aspirations to be an event planner with the hopes of one day planning Lisa’s wedding. What? In the same way Marge is defeminised, Nelson takes on those feminine characteristics and somewhat bonds with Marge. The only parts of the ep which focused on female traits were negative ones, such as gossiping and being physically weak.

So no, I did not enjoy this episode and several parts of it made my blood boil. I did not see it as a satire of the MMA, I saw it as an attack on women for not wishing to subscribe to testosterone-fuelled, my-dick-is-bigger-than-yours barbarism. I note that all the positive reviews of this episode come from males…

I’ve crammed my head full of garbage

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Bart Gets a ‘Z’

Billboard: The Kwik-E-Mart now has porn on a lower shelf

Chalkboarding is not torture

Couch gag: The Simpsons have a gunfight around the couch

Director: Mark Kirkland

Synopsis: Bart accidentally gets Mrs Krapappel fired, and tries to make it up to her by encouraging her to live the life she’s always dreamed. Failing that, he tries to get the substitute teacher fired.

Discussion: It’s been a very long time since we’ve seen Mrs K, and I was hoping her pathetic existence was being challenged in some way that makes her a better person. This episode is a half-arsed attempt at that, and fails.

Mrs Krabappel is a great character when she’s being pushed out of her comfort zone e.g. secretly meeting Skinner for sexy rendezvous, going on strike (“Honk if you love cookies!”) or engaging with a secret lover via love letters. When she’s indulging in her pathetic life, she’s not very interesting, even if Bart is the cause of it (and let’s face it, it’s always going to be Bart who causes her misfortune).

This time, Bart tries to be helpful. Seeing Homer is easy-going once he’s had a few beers, Bart tries to relax Edna by spiking her coffee. The plan goes awry and Edna ends up being fired, replaced with a hip young teacher who survives on energy drinks and texts homework to his students. Feeling bad for ruining Edna’s life, Bart buys her a self-help book (a parody of The Secret) and Edna starts her own muffin store.

Now, all this is well and good… but the episode rapidly declines after this. Edna’s self-help book could have been stretched out longer and given more satirical views such as coincidences which help her along in opening her muffin store (it’s all part of law of attraction, you know…)

Anyhoo, the episode has potential but never quite gets there. It’s rushed, forced and doesn’t really develop any relationship or story. Edna’s decision to open a muffin store even though her dream has always been to be a teacher doesn’t make any sense; maybe it would have played better if she’d helped Bart get Zack fired, or combined dreams and had a muffin store where she could teach kids (if they can have coffee places in bookstores, I don’t see why you can’t have a classroom in a muffin store). I liked the parody of The Secret, but to me the ep fell flat although it’s good to see Mrs K again. She won’t be around forever 😦

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