The Blunder Years
I am not Charlie Brown on acid
Couch gag: The Simpsons stop in mid air, Matrix-style, then sit on the couch
Director: Steven Dean Moore
Judith Owen as herself
Paul Newman as himself
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony
Synopsis: While hypnotised, Homer starts screaming and it is determined he is suffering psychological trauma due to a repressed childhood memory. The family, along with Lenny, Carl and Moe, attempt to find the cause.
Discussion: Now here’s some classic Simpsons! It’s an old fashioned murder mystery, a real sleuthing case that harks back to great episodes such as Who Shot Mr Burns? and the few other mysteries seen on the show.
Homer’s flashback sequence borrows heavily from Stand By Me, which was based on the novella The Body, written by Stephen King (the film is better, BTW). Homer, aged 12, finds a corpse and thus embarks on a journey to find who the corpse was. The revelation that it is Smithers Sr is a good surprise, and further explains the real relationship between Smithers (Jr) and Mr Burns.
It’s quite a touching episode and full of genuine mystery. The catalyst for the mystery, a stage hypnotist at a popular Springfieldian restaurant, is also an inspired work. This episode is one of the good ones, which are sadly few and far between now.
Oh, and Mr Sexington, if you’re reading this, call me.
I no longer want my MTV
Couch gag: Homer is a Russian nesting doll and each family member is inside him.
Director: Dominic Polcino
Fyvush Finkel as himself, playing Krusty
Synopsis: Homer and Marge recount the story of how Lisa got her saxophone.
Discussion: Despite being a flashback episode and having a musical number, this ep just ain’t working for me. It’s cutesy and has a lot of good bits, but there’s just something niggling at me that makes it not quite work. Perhaps it’s that it feels stitched together, stretched to fit time, covering a lot of old ground (even though it doesn’t- we’ve hardly seen anything of the Simpson kids as toddlers).
Lisa’s saxophone is an integral part of the character and through this episode, it’s revealed that the instrument was to encourage Lisa to use her intelligence and nurture her academic gifts. Bart’s first day at school doesn’t really add to the story but it’s cute but kinda explains how and why he became a brat (if there’s such a thing as the nature vs nurture thing). The central plot is good, it’s just that you can definitely tell the episode has come up short on time so they’ve tried every trick in the book to lengthen it. Like when you do an essay and you’re 200 words short so you just throw in a random paragraph that doesn’t really fit…
And Maggie Makes Three
“Bagman” is not a legitimate career choice
Couch gag: James Bond-style, with Homer re-enacting the gun barrel scene
Director: Swinton O. Scott III
Synopsis: Everything is perfect in Homer’s world… until Marge falls pregnant with Maggie.
Discussion: Flashback episodes in The Simpsons generally work well, and this one is no exception… assuming you forgive the “flashback” to 1993… However, forgetting the time continuum issue, it’s a pretty good episode. Homer is debt free (does that ever really happen??) and scores his dream job working in the bowling alley (after resigning in the worst way possible). In their celebration snuggles, Marge falls pregnant with Maggie and Homer is forced to grovel to Mr Burns for his old job back.
We all know that feeling of things not working out perfectly and we’re forced to take a job we’d much rather not be doing. Homer turns this around by pasting pics of Maggie around his work station and covering up the incredibly demotivating “Don’t forget: You’re here forever” plaque.
It’s a cutesy episode but also funny because everyone can relate to it. Maybe not because of unexpected pregnancies, but that feeling of unexpected circumstances which seem shit at the beginning but turn out to be for the best. And if we have to suffer a crappy job for it, c’est la vie.
I guess the moral of the episode is that whatever you’re doing, find the positive in it. Motivate yourself to do it because it’s for the greater good. (It’s not often the show has a moral, but it shines through in this one.)