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Archive for June, 2014

Can it wait another 104 hours?

Beware my cheating Bart

Beware My Cheating Bart

Billboard: Fox: 25 Years of Televising Stuff

The true location of Springfield is in any state but yours

Couch gag: Directed by Bill Plympton, tells the story of Homer’s love affair with the couch, who is pregnant when Homer leaves it for Marge. In the end the couch becomes the sitting couch while the baby couch becomes Maggie’s couch.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voice:
Kevin Michael Richardson as the mall cop

Synopsis: Homer becomes addicted to a Lost parody called Stranded. Bart, encouraged by Jimbo to chaperone Shauna to stuff Jimbo doesn’t want to do, becomes involved with Shauna and threatened to be beaten up by Jimbo.

Discussion: Yeah look, I don’t get it. Everything from the couch gag to the two plots was half arsed and weird. Let’s start with the couch gag. Homer falls in love with the couch and impregnates it. Let’s just think about that for a moment. Eww. Forced into pole dancing when Homer dumps the couch to marry Marge, the couch attempts suicide before being rescued by Homer as the family’s couch in their living room. Seriously.

Moving on, Homer buys an expensive piece of exercise equipment which becomes another TV in the house while he watches Stranded, a parody of the popular TV show Lost. Personally, I was never a fan of the show, losing interest early in season one when there was a polar bear on the tropical island. Fickle, I know. Anyhoo, Homer likes it. This plot doesn’t really go anywhere except an anticlimatic scene where Marge gives a couple of vague spoilers and Homer reacts by saying their marriage is now in trouble. Whoa.

The main plot was Bart-Shauna-Jimbo triangle, which could have been a half decent plot but Shauna is completely unlikable and Jimbo has no depth of character although he is prematurely balding. Bart has a thing for older women; remember Laura Powers? What Shauna sees in him is unclear and weird… sure, they didn’t actually do anything but she did flash him (which repulsed him as her chest area reminded him of his father’s man-boobs). Anyhoo, Jimbo gets jealous, beats up Bart and Shauna breaks up with them both to “find herself” with the help of an inappropriately older man. I suppose if Shauna was more interesting instead of a one dimensional character (literally and figuratively) then the plot may have worked. Jimbo also dated Laura Powers… maybe bringing her back would have been a better idea. Was Sara Gilbert busy?

I have besotted my liver with your fermented gifts

Them Robot

Them, Robot

Couch gag: The Simpsons sit on the couch in 1989 with a banner proclaiming “America: The Most Powerful Country in the World”. Twenty three years flick by and the banner is changed to read, “Too big to fail, we hope!” Maggie holds up a Chinese flag.

Director: Michael Polcino

Guest Voice:
Brent Spiner as the robots

Synopsis: The power plant workers are too expensive so Mr Burns fires them all and replaces them with robots. Homer is kept on as the plant’s only human worker.

Discussion: It was only a matter of time before Mr Burns looked to cut costs in running the plant. When his grand plan of specially bred kangaroos doesn’t pan out (which would have been funny to see), robots are hired to perform the plant’s tasks. Obviously Homer is in the mix as well, how else is he going to sabotage the robots for his own personal gain?

It’s not a bad episode, but it does lag a bit in the middle before picking up again towards the end. Brent Spiner is always a pleasure to watch and his unmistakable voice brings the robots to life. The funniest line in the ep is delivered by Homer: when the robots are revealed for the first time, Homer shrieks and says, “Comic Con nerds!” The various odd jobs that the unemployed plant workers now take on are amusing yet disturbing… why is Barney naked? He doesn’t even work at the plant! Did he run away from Moe, who went a little nutty?

Homer’s treatment of the robots is pretty much what is expected although I thought there’d be more lazing in the hammock and beer guzzling, but I guess Homer never found out about the robots’ ability to vibrate as a relaxing ottoman for one’s feet. It’s enjoyable enough to warrant watching without the use of powerful drugs or a nearby rusty spoon.

I failed the basic duty of childhood

How I wet your mother

How I Wet Your Mother

Couch gag: The Simpsons are rolled into sushi and cut into rolls. Maggie pops out unscathed.

Director: Lance Kramer

Guest Voices:
Glenn Close as Mona
David Byrne as Dream Operator singer

Synopsis: The family enter Homer’s dream to find out why he’s been wetting the bed at night.

Discussion: I didn’t feel like I was watching The Simpsons. I felt like I was watching Inception with Simpsons characters. Don’t get me wrong, I love Inception and think it’s one of the best films of the past thirty years. But to use the plot of the film to solve Homer’s bed-wetting problem? It’s a little too weird.

The hook of the episode is Homer allowing unrestricted access to the power plant’s supply closet and not getting caught, while everyone else does. Immediately after this incident, he starts wetting the bed at night. According to the American Association of Continence, this problem affects about 2% of the adult population, and is more prevalent in males than females. Usually this is caused by a medical problem such as prostate problems or certain medications, but in Homer’s case, it’s either karma or a niggling psychological issue.

Enter Professor Frink, blown from his house after trying to dodge a news site’s paywall. He’s developed a machine that allows people to enter other people’s dreams. Now, I like the idea and think it’s a clever one, but to then parody the entire plot of Inception made the ep feel overly familiar with nothing fresh and new. I did enjoy the sequence of Homer’s ultimate dream land, where drink driving is encouraged and there are giant doughnuts and beer bottles on every corner. The guest appearance by Homer’s mother Mona (voiced again by the fantastic Glenn Close) was a real treat and a lovely surprise, considering she died several seasons ago but lives on in Homer’s memories.

Mona’s appearance tried to bring the episode back to what it does best: bonding families together and creating those warm, fuzzy feelings. I wouldn’t say that this ep entirely failed in that respect but it certainly lacked something to kick it into high gear. There were a few good jokes along the way, but I still felt that the episode lacked zing. I’m also quite glad that, despite the title, Marge never actually got urinated upon…

How was I supposed to know parents have feelings?

exit through the kwik e mart

Exit Through the Kwik-E-Mart

Couch gag: A parody of the Game of Thrones opening titles, where major Springfield landmarks rise out of the ground with the help of cogs.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest Voices:
Shepherd Fairey as himself
Ron English as himself
Kenny Scharf as himself
Robbie Conal as himself
Nicholas McKaig does the closing credit theme.

Synopsis: To exact revenge on Homer, Bart graffitis Springfield with pictures of Homer and becomes a celebrated artist because of it. Meanwhile, Apu may have to close the Kwik-E-Mart because a new store has opened, selling fresher items and jellies with fruits that Lisa’s never heard of.

Discussion: I have a confession to make. Don’t judge me, but I’ve never seenĀ Game of Thrones. I guessed the couch gag was a parody of it, but had to YouTube the original clip. It’s very well done and deserves all the praise heaped on it.

Other than the opening titles, I found the episode to be mediocre. Bart has long been a graffiti artist in the town, so this really feels like a storyline that could have happened in season 3. Bart isn’t usually known for his artistic ability so to become a celebrated street artist with his own exhibition is pushing the limits of plausibility even within the genre. I would have liked to see Homer having a dig at Bart about being the second Simpson to have their own art exhibition but instead the audience is forced to wait several minutes while Homer realises the street art is actually him. Whoa, stop the presses!

To fill in some time and link the title to the plot, there’s some lame thing about Apu having a rival store attract his customers. Desperate, Apu pulls a gun on Snake (now known as Bird, not Jailbird) and tries to rob him. This part has so much potential yet it was just shoved into the ep without any context. It could have been done so much better!

The episode’s title is based on the documentary, Exit Through the Gift Shop by famed street artist Banksy. It would have been nice to have Banksy as a guest voice but we all know how reclusive Banksy is (although he did do the couch gag artwork for the ep ‘MoneyBart’). If you’re going to make an ep (loosely) based on this doco, then Bart is the obvious choice, however I think that the ep is trying to be too clever and ends up looking lame.

I withdraw my diddly

Image

At Long Last Leave

Billboard: Kwik-E-Mart: Yesterday’s food at tomorrow’s prices

Bart’s earned a day off (Written by Milhouse as Bart looks on)

Couch gag: A collection of couch gags from the previous 499 episodes, zooming out to reveal a photomosaic spelling ‘500’.

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voices:
Julian Assange as himself
Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob
Jackie Mason as Rabbi Hyman Krustofsky
Allison Krauss & Union Station performing the Simpsons theme over the closing credits

Synopsis: The Simpson family are banned from Springfield for all the trouble, damage and costs they do. The family are accepted in the Outlands, where they prefer to live but spoil it by promoting the area to other Springfieldians.

Discussion: Welcome to episode 500! Yes boys and girls, I have wasted 500 days of my life on this project and am currently just 52 days away from finishing. (By then, season 26 will probably have started…)

Anyhoo, this episode sees the Simpsons evicted from Springfield. It feels a lot like The Simpsons Movie but with less snow and no crazy Native American women using interpretive dance. This time, instead of heading to Alaska, the Simpsons head to the Outlands (complete with new opening sequence and couch gag). Anything goes in the Outlands, so much so that the Simpsons start inviting other Springfieldians to come experience the joys of living where rules don’t apply.

It’s a decent episode, one worthy of being the 500th, despite the thematic similarities to the movie (which wasn’t that great). The fact that Marge feels at home with Springfieldians rather than “home” being a place reminds us that while Springfield is important to the show, it’s the characters that make it what it is. It’s like New York’s relationship to the girls of Sex and the City; I once heard NY described as a fifth character and in some ways, it’s also true of Springfield. Aww.

There’s a few famous voices in here, adding to the familiarity. Julian Assange… Well, that’s a bit strange. I get that he’s an outlaw on the fringe of society, and it’s a great joke. I read that his lines were written by a very funny Australian writer named Kathy Lette, who wished to add a bit of Aussie irony to Julian. I didn’t pick up on it while watching it and I missed it again watching the second time knowing it was written by Kathy Lette. Whatever she was aiming to achieve in terms of Aussie-ness, didn’t work. I also felt Sideshow Bob could have had at least a couple more lines.

There’s no solid resolution to this ep, which also makes it feel a bit movie-ish. The ep is far more sentimental than it probably needs to be but then again, it is a milestone episode so I’m willing to overlook it. There’s a shortage of laugh-out-loud moments but hey, we’re pretty used to that right now. This ep is more about a warm fuzzy comfort feeling, like eating hot soup on a cold winter’s day. It might not be the best soup you’ve ever tasted but it sure makes you feel good anyway.

If I was to rate this ep, I’d give it a 7/10 but that’s probably mostly due to the comfort-food feelings it inspires rather than being a fantastic ep.

You were a lot more adventurous at the dessert bar

Image

The Daughter Also Rises

Billboard: McBain’s Valentine’s Day Kick-asscre Opens February 14th, closes February 16th.

I will not replace a candy heart with a frog’s heart

Couch gag: Moe wishes the Simpsons a happy 500th show, surrounded by townspeople, but Lisa tells him it’s only the 499th show.

Director: Chuck Sheetz

Guest Voices:
Jamie Hyneman as himself
Adam Savage as himself
Michael Cera as Nick

Synopsis: Lisa falls for a literary type named Nick while Bart and Milhouse crack myths about their school.

Discussion: The easiest thing to say about this episode is that the writers forgot to include some jokes; there’s nothing even mildly amusing about this ep. It’s a rehashing of the age-old story of Pyramus and Thisbe, ill-fated lovers whose story is retold most famously as Romeo and Juliet. Except… the thing keeping Lisa and Nick apart is never really made clear. Hmm.

Michael Cera is not the world’s most versatile actor. He plays the awkward kid in slightly off-beat romances, and here is yet another one. Nick starts off as a character who suits Lisa, but she quickly realises he’s just repeating stuff he read in Hemingway books. Really? This is the most interesting character to pair with Lisa as yet another ill-fated crush? Who has crushes and (several) first kisses at age 8 anyway? This is one of those times when I wish the Simpsons kids suddenly aged by about 7 years because they’d be a whole lot more interesting with a whole lot more interesting things to do and people to kiss. That’s the whole reason why soaps age child characters- they are far more interesting that pre-teens. Let’s face it, Bart and Lisa have pretty much done all the things kids do at that age and then some. After all, they’ve been 10 and 8 for over 20 years now.

/Rant

Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse watching a MythBusters parody called MythCrackers and decide to crack some of the school’s most infamous myths. Again, you’d think the school would have some interesting myths and not just the stock standard some-girl-died-and-if-you-say-her-name-three-times-you-die-too. There are no interesting myths at Springfield Elementary, leading Bart and Milhouse to create one: Groundskeeper Willie is actually a werewolf. However, even this isn’t very interesting and the entire subplot, which felt promisingly like it was heading to a climax, falls flat at the last minute.

This is yet another mediocre episode in which nothing interesting happens and several moments make me think WTF? One such moment was when Bart and Milhouse were playing violent video games while Lisa and Nick wore War Reporter hats and took notes. Is this a deleted scene that only got half-cut? Was this leading somewhere but someone forgot to edit properly? It feels disjointed and too weird to be included.

I made you into a real boy last week

Moe goes from rags to riches

Moe Goes from Rags to Riches

Billboard: Bumblebee Man, Kent Brockman and Booberella, your new Channel 6 news team.

There’s no proven link between raisins and boogers

Couch gag: The Simpsons take a journy through popular sitcoms from the 50s to now.

Director: Bob Anderson

Guest Voice:
Jeremy Irons as the Bar Rag

Synopsis: Moe’s bar rag narrates the story of how it became a bar rag. Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse have a fight and their friendship might be over.

Discussion: Paaaaaaaaaaaaaainful.

Moe is teased that his best friend is the rag he uses to clean the bar. What follows is a painful tale of the rag’s journey from being a tapestry in Dark Ages France through to being a bar rag. On paper, this sounds like an interesting premise, but in practice, it’s just stupid and one of the worst episodes in the entire series.

I’m not really sure how it all goes wrong. Maybe bar rags just aren’t that interesting. The bar rag was a sort of Forrest Gump character, turning up in all sorts of famous situations as part of its “thousand year fall from grace”. Most of the rag’s misfortunes came at the hands of Homer in different guises.

While the uninteresting rag tells its woeful tale, Milhouse dumps Bart as a best friend and makes him beg for forgiveness. This subplot is strong enough to carry an episode on its own, as it has done before, however shoved in the middle of the main plot, it gets lost and is clearly just there to fill in time. This subplot isn’t as fully developed as it should be as it has loads of potential. Milhouse enjoys having power over Bart (for a change) and this could be explored in so many different ways, yet it feels forced. Bart is terribly cute in his Krusty pyjamas though.

There’s not a lot to love in this episode, and it ends with a schmultzy ending where Moe realises human friends are superior to rag friends while the dog and Maggie fight over the rag.

All my friends have birthdays this year

The Dohcial network

The D’oh-cial Network

Billboard: Winter at Squidport: Dead seals wash up daily

We do need no education

Couch gag: The Simpsons fight their way through New York City to be guests on Davide Letterman’s show.

Director: Chris Clements

Guest voices:
David Letterman as himself
Armie Hammer as the Winklevoss twins

Synopsis: Lisa creates an online social network after realising she has no friends in real life.

Discussion: Who here has seen A Muppet Christmas Carol? Hands up if you can’t guess what it’s about. This episode of The Simpsons felt very much like that film (and others of its kind): it’s not a parody if you put different people into the same storyline with much the same characterisation. It’s a remake. The first half of this ep felt like a remake of The Social Network but with Simpsons characters.

Lisa, realising she doesn’t actually have any friends, creates a parody of Facebook, called SpringFace. The townspeople use it constantly, to the point where there have been 35 deaths caused by residents’ failures to look where they’re going and take due care (especially while driving). Lisa is on trial for this destruction and agrees to shut down the site. BORING!

My main issue with this ep is that it lacks any originality whatsoever. It’s not a parody; it’s taking a film and big business (Mapple/Apple) and using it to connect with an audience using familiarity. It’s like that shot-for-shot remake of Psycho. Why bother?

Having said that, there were a couple of highlights in this episode. One was Nelson’s treatment of the nerds as they wrote the code for Lisa’s site and the other is Hans being hit by Homer’s car and desperately hitting the Dislike button. I didn’t even enjoy the short at the end, where Bart and Milhouse get their comeuppance for pulling a prank at the school. When the episode runs too short, I don’t mind something random at the end but it was done much better years ago with “The Adventures of Ned Flanders” short (even though I hated it in my review…)

This is yet another mindless ep which doesn’t add anything to the canon (although it’s full of source material for The Simpsons: Tapped Out game). Maybe best viewed when drunk and/or high.

My fellow Americans, I am full of crap

Politically inept with Homer Simpson

Politically Inept, with Homer Simpson

Billboard: Re-elect Quimby, the devil you know for 18 years

Tintin did not sucksuck

Couch gag: The Simpsons are in a Victorian setting and Homer is shot. Bart is dragged away as Marge hides a smoking gun in her hair

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest voice:
Ted Nugent as himself

Synopsis: Homer is given his own political satire show and the power to nominate the next Presidential candidate.

Discussion: Although praised by critics, I found this episode boring. 1) Politics are boring; 2) American politics are boring; 3) Political satire shows are boring and 4) I don’t think I could name nor hum any of Ted Nugent’s songs (although I did YouTube a couple after watching this ep).

Having said that, we don’t tend to get many political satire shows over here in Australia and the ones we do get are shown absurdly late at night (or rather, stupidly early in the morning, like 1am) or they’re on pay TV which has a very small audience (relatively speaking). So, there’s not a lot here that holds my interest.

Homer is yet again given his own show and somehow this makes people from all walks of life want to wear gravy boats on their heads. Many of the references to the 2012 primaries were completely lost on me- we know practically nothing of what goes on in the primaries and usually we only hear who the two Presidential candidates are. All references to this race went straight over my head and seemed weird in the episode, such as when Ned is shot by Ted’s arrow and remarks, “As long as he isn’t a Mormon”.

So for these reasons, I have to score the episode rather low, but that’s entirely due to my complete lack of interest in any politics, especially American politics.

You couldn’t bear to see me smooshed

holidays of future passed

Holidays of Future Passed

Billboard: Mr Burns and Rabbi Krustofsky: Bah Humbug and Happy Hanukkah- Christmas ignorers unite

Cafeteria trays are not toboggans

Couch gag: The Simpsons, as gingerbread people, jump onto a tray and Homer eats his gingerbread self.

Director: Rob Oliver

Guest Voice:
Matt Groening as football commentator (uncredited)

Synopsis: In the fourth future-themed episode, the Simpson kids are grown up with kids of their own, and they all come to spend Christmas with Marge and Homer.

Discussion: Aww! This is a really sweet episode, featuring on the family as a family, both functional and dysfunctional. Christmas time is always a time for families to come together and remember the “true meaning of Christmas” whilst partaking in a lot of food and familial bonding.

This episode is set in the future, where all three Simpson kids have children of their own. Bart is a deadbeat dad to two sons whom he rarely sees (their mother is Jenda), Lisa is married to Milhouse (and not POTUS) with a rebellious daughter named Zia, and Maggie is the lead singer of a rock band in the late stages of pregnancy. In keeping with Maggie’s mute character, she’s not allowed to talk as it will hurt the baby. This was also explored in a previous future-themed ep in which Maggie was interrupted every time she tried to speak, although other characters exclaimed she was a chatterbox.

Anyhoo, as each Simpson kid tries to deal with being a parent, the episode keeps moving along nicely with plenty of jokes and scenes that work really well. Bart quips to his sons that he’s “been acting like a 10 year old for the past thirty years”, which is not far wrong. I read that this ep was slated to be the series finale in case cast negotiations broke down. I think it would have been a really nice way to end the series (maybe it should have been the series finale even if negotiations went well… Just sayin’).

Anyhoo, it’s a lovely, sweet episode that is well done and a sequence involving Ralph Wiggum killing endless clones of himself is really far more amusing than it should be. Highly recommended viewing (for a change).

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