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Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 11’

That’s how I was raised and I turned out TV

Behind The Laughter

I will not obey the voices in my head

Couch gag: The family sit on a coin-operated couch which vibrates around the room

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voices:
Willie Nelson as himself
Jim Forbes as the narrator

Synopsis: A parody of Behind the Music, this episode delves into the “real life” situation behind the Simpson family and show.

Discussion: Well, isn’t this episode just brilliant? Based on the hit shot Behind the Music, this ep analyses the show; how and why the laughs happened, as well as a non-canonical look at the family behind the show.

There are metaphors galore which adds to the humour and realism of the ep (where realism = techniques used in Behind the Music). Homer was dismayed by the inaccurate portrayals of families on TV and wanted to show a “real” family. This part is true: remember my first post which argued that Matt Groening wanted to show a real family? The original premise of the show has obviously changed, taken a few detours (cha-ching! Personally, I think this is why the show jumped the shark) and ended up a bit of a mess. This mess is analysed within this episode but the reason given is that the family were money-hungry and self-destructive, giving rise to bad episodes. This is self-reflexive… but did the writers do anything to correct it? Season 12 shall reveal all.

This is a fantastic episode. It’s brilliant in every way.

The bitterness is strong in this one

It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Marge

I cannot hire a substitute student

Couch gag: The family are a colour-by-numbers kit, hand painted by Asian artists.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest Voice:
Parker Posey as Becky

Synopsis: Otto is due to marry Becky, but Becky calls off the wedding when she realises Otto will never give up heavy metal music. The Simpsons take Becky in, and Marge becomes paranoid that Becky is trying to steal her family away from her.

Discussion: Despite having a poor reception from fans (apparently), I really like this episode. Instead of going off on tangents, the story is tight an concise, focusing only on one storyline. And it’s a good story too: Otto is set to marry the lovely Becky, but is ditched at the aisle for heavy metal music. So she moves in with the Simpsons until she finds her feet. Exactly how Marge ends up suspicious about Becky trying to usurp her and steal her family… well, that’s a bit unclear but it adds to Marge’s irrational thoughts.

Not everything about the ep is great; for example, Marge’s attempts to stay out of the mental asylum are tedious (except for the marching band) and that bit on Krusty where Marge’s face has Sideshow Mel’s lips is out-of-place. It doesn’t make a lot of sense and one has the feeling it is definitely an in-joke to the writers and Conan O’Brien.

However, as far as season 11 is concerned, this is one of the better eps. It stays true to one story, the catalyst is a stranger and not previously part of the Simpsons universe, and the end scene with Bart finally filming his school assignment is fantastic.

A great big sunshine hello to you

Last Tap Dance in Springfield

I will not dance on anyone’s grave

Couch gag: The family swing in on vines but Homer hits the wall.

Director: Nancy Kruse

Synopsis: After seeing a movie, Lisa decides she wants to start tap dancing classes. Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse are trapped in the mall after close.

Discussion: Another rubbish episode from season 11. Lisa has no rhythm for dancing, and enlists the help of Professor Frink to get shoes that keep her time. What? The subplot of Bart and Milhouse locked in the mall is really the plot that holds potential but even that gets on the nose when Chief Wiggum suspects a giant rat is the culprit for the mess.

Little Vicki is based on Shirley Temple, who declined the role. Little Vicki is perfect: she’s the perfect balance of jaded, successful and delightfully bitchy. I don’t think Shirley Temple would be nearly as perfect, or unbelievably bitchy anyway.

The movie that inspires Lisa is reminiscent of Strictly Ballroom and let me just say, Laura Mulvey would be so proud of this depiction- the Gaze is alive and well.

What I find most disappointing about this ep is that Lisa’s failure at dancing doesn’t faze her at all. We’ve seen Lisa be disappointed before; has she learned that she’s not good at everything? This somewhat contradicts narrative convention whereby characters are supposed to be tested but they don’t really change fundamentally.

He can crawl up through my toilet any day

Kill the Alligator and Run

I am not here on a fartball scholarship

Couch gag: The family walk over hot coals to get to the couch and when they put their feet up, they’re blackened.

Director: Jen Kamerman

Guest Voices:
Kid Rock as himself
Joe C as himself
Diedrich Bader as the sherriff
Robert Evans as himself
Charlie Rose as himself

Synopsis: Homer is paranoid that he doesn’t have long to live so he and the family head to Florida, where Homer accidentally kills a famous alligator.

Discussion: Yet another outlandish episode from The Simpsons. There are separate plots which do not marry well and end up as one big jumbled mess of crap.

Homer becomes a fan of self-tests on a range of subjects and finds himself having only another three years to live. Plagued by paranoia and insomnia, the family head to Florida for a vacation, where Homer finds some fun in Spring Break. This is all well and good… but then it goes downhill really fast. At the end of Spring Break, Homer wants to keep the party alive and takes the family out on the glades, where poor Captain Jack is killed by the speedboat. The family are now on the run.

The first bit is good, we’ll keep that. The killing of an alligator is garbage. The bit where the family become hillbillies and work for a redneck cafe is also good. The alligator coming back to life… WTF? Apparently there’s a deleted scene where the ‘gator is lying in state, which explains why Cap’n Jack was crawling out of the library. Some context would be nice. There are so many other sequences they could have left out in order to tighten the ep and leave that one in. Makes a lot more sense!

When this ep first aired, I had no idea who Kid Rock was. Even now his claims to fame over here is 1) marrying Pamela Anderson and 2) All Summer Long. So anything inferred by this part of the story is completely lost on me.

It’s not the first time the family have been on the run: recently we saw them growing tomacco because they were in hiding. It’s also not the first time Homer has been paranoid about his death: remember when he ate that puffer fish? In the Simpsons’ world, this ep takes place about 6 months after Maude died and Homer fell into the grave. Where was that bit in the episode screened? It would have been awesome but no, we were left with Homer making a dating tape for Ned.

In all, this ep is way below average and symptomatic of a dying show. It’s a huge mess.

Very la-de-dah


Days of Wine and D’oh’ses

I was not touched “there” by an angel

Couch gag: The family circa 1990 are sitting on the couch. Modern Simpsons come in, everyone screams and runs away.

Director: Neil Affleck

Synopsis: When the regulars of Moe’s Tavern make fun of Barney’s drunkenness, Barney turns sober.

Discussion: I’m in two minds about this episode. First, it’s great to see someone overcoming a debilitating addiction such as alcoholism. But then again, Barney’s humour is in his drunken states. The process of Barney becoming sober is a good one though: Homer cracking jokes about 12 steps and taking “six silver bullets” so Barney can fly the helicopter and save Bart and Lisa. Barney staying sober… well, we’ll see how that plays out (it’s not long after this season that I stopped watching).

The subplot about Bart and Lisa’s attempts at capturing the perfect pic for the cover of the new phonebook is average, but does lead to the climax of a sober Barney flying the chopper to save them. It’s not a brilliant ep, but it does have a good plot and explores another side of Barney.

This ep screened right after a flash-forward ep; the previous episode in which Barney’s alcoholism was explored was his prize-winning film, which screened right before the first flash-forward ep of Lisa’s Wedding. Coincidence?

Finally, is Barney the long lost father of Nelson? Apart from the nose, they’re very much alike…


Moochy moochy


Bart to the Future

“Non-flammable” is not a challenge

Couch gag: A bouncer allows the family in but turns Homer away

Director: Michael Marcantel

Synopsis: Bart is shown a vision of his future when the family visit a Native American casino.

Discussion: OK, so the critics hated it, but this episode is hilarious and it just keeps getting better. At the time, it was pretty lame. People kept comparing it to Lisa’s Wedding, which is unfair; having the same theme (flash-forward) doesn’t mean it’s comparable.

Anyhoo, let’s get to it. Lisa has “some government job”; the first straight female President of the United States. Bart is the black sheep- a loser who is always waiting for that big payoff. Here’s the hilarious bit- the US is completely broke! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! As I write this is September 2013, the US is close to its debt ceiling (again) which means it is, effectively, broke (why not ask Bill Gates for a loan?). President Lisa’s solution is to hike taxes and Bart buys some time with the creditors.

This ep works because everyone knows someone like future Bart: the guy who was too cool for school and waiting for his big break in life. Everything satirised in the ep is coming true, which makes it much more hilarious now than when first broadcast (although Chastity Bono is now Chas, but who saw that coming?) Quite simply, this is a fantastic ep and one of the few episodes to hold up well against the test of time.

You can really taste the goat



Dodgeball stops at the gym door

Couch gag: Matt Groening’s name is written on the carpet. Marge scrubs it out but an animated Groening writes it in again.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Synopsis: After being censored as the face of the new Duff calendars, Moe has plastic surgery and begins a new life, being popular.

Discussion:¬†Poor Moe. He’s unlucky in love, in careers (being knocked back from a soap opera in his younger days because he’s not pretty enough), and ends up with the same pug fugly face he was born with. But hey, we love him anyway.

Despite the critics not loving this episode, I do. Based on the story of Pygmalian, Moe has plastic surgery when his face is deemed too ugly for print on the new calendars. It’s an age-old story and becomes poignant in a couple of moments, notably when Carl asks if Moe’s new face will still have bad feelings on the inside and when Moe ponders the great question of why his face went back to the old face instead of an entirely new one.

The subplot of Bart and Lisa chasing a pink elephant balloon through town… well… it depends on what mood I’m in as to how silly this is. Usually I find it charming satire on identity- pink elephants are often associated with drunken visions but here they’re also linked to gay Republicans (it’s no coincidence that the balloon floated into that office!). Today I just thought it stupid (possibly because I have a lot on my mind this week, but I digress).

This ep is a satire, plain and simple. Especially today, when there is so much emphasis on how you look and changing yourself to be “happy”, we see Moe’s transformation really is shallow. You’re the same person underneath and if people can’t accept you for you, you don’t need them anyway (unless you hurt animals or kill children, then we don’t need you…)

Save me, Jebus!


Missionary: Impossible

A belch is not an oral report

Couch gag: The couch is in a subway station and the family catch the train that arrives.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest voice:
Betty White as herself

Synopsis: Homer becomes a missionary in an attempt to escape Betty White and PBS after giving a fake pledge.

Discussion: It’s one of those episodes where the beginning marries perfectly with the premise. Homer wouldn’t voluntarily become a missionary, so being hunted down by PBS’ Pledge Enforcement Team seems perfectly reasonable. I’m also reminded about the Australian vernacular and how it’s a mix between UK English and American English. I forget that Americans don’t use the term “wanker” (or “fortnight”). But anyhoo…

This isn’t a brilliant ep but it does have its moments. Betty White is always popular, Lisa Jr is just the cutest and Homer’s attempts at creating a casino for the “savages” is pretty funny too. It could quite easily become another Lord of the Flies but the subtext is that Homer is trying to recreate a society based on what the white people did to Native Americans, because that’s all Homer knows. In fact, it goes deeper than that: Craig and Amy have been brainwashing the natives in order to Westernise them: when Homer asks about the naked chicks from magazines, the tribal leader replies that Craig and Amy have given them the gift of shame. There’s a whole dynamic about native peoples and Westerners that is explored very well within the time constraints. Not so sure about the toad licking though…

The ending is deliberate. Homer and Lisa Jr are trapped in a burning, falling turret when it cuts back to Betty White asking for donations for the “struggling” Fox network. A panel of Fox celebrities are seen waiting by the phones, including owner Rupert Murdoch (again with the crappy Aussie accents!) who answers a call with a $10k pledge from Bart, who cheekily adds it’s not the first time they’ve saved the network. It’s the sort of comment you can only make when your show is the cash cow for the network…

Him’s a commitment dog


Alone Again Natura-Diddly

My suspension was not “mutual”

Couch gag: The Simpsons are in bumper cars and bump Homer into a corner

Director: Jim Reardon

Guest Voice:
Shawn Colvin as Rachel Jordan

Synopsis: Maude Flanders dies and Homer encourages Ned to date again.

Discussion: It’s not very often in sitcoms that a character dies. Well, a character in the show, that is. Often an unseen character dies and humour is based around it. Having a known character die is something unusual, and often because the actor has died in real life (think Coach from Cheers).

This episode sees Maude Flanders die, and the character only appears again in flashbacks. Her voice actor left the show after a pay dispute so Maude, just one of the characters voiced by Maggie Roswell, was permanently killed off. Was this controversial? Of course. The act of killing off a character, the way in which Maude died, having Ned date again in the same episode…

Maude dies when Homer invites a barrage of T-shirts to be fired at him, but bends down at the last second, leaving the shirts to hit Maude, causing her to fall off the grandstand and die. It’s awful in every way. Death by T-shirts. The scene is uncomfortable but it’s probably supposed to be.

Ned spends about 10 minutes grieving before Homer sends in a dating tape and Ned begins dating again. These dates are pretty funny, especially his date with Edna (SPOILER ALERT: they end up getting married in a future ep). Shawn Colvin’s guest appearance is a definite highlight. The song is pretty cute too, if you’re into that sort of genre. It’s a shame we don’t see more of Rachel Jordan (besides an appearance in season 12); she and Ned make a cute couple and just think of Ned’s world being turned upside down because of rock music!

One critic wrote that the three separate arcs- Maude’s death, Ned’s dates and Ned questioning his faith- could each hold their own episode. I agree with this assessment. The episode feels rushed, as if Maude is quickly swept under the rug, never to be spoken of again, and Ned gets on with his life.

I stand by my disappointed groan


Saddlesore Galactica

Substitute teachers are not scabs.

Couch gag: The family are dressed in karate uniforms and they karate chop the couch to pieces.

Director: Lance Kramer

Guest Voices:
Jim Cummings as Duncan
Bachman-Turner Overdrive as themselves
Trevor Denman as himself

Synopsis: At the state fair, the Simpsons encounter a mistreated horse and adopt him. Meanwhile, Lisa’s school band loses the competition and she appeals to President Clinton for help.

Discussion: Like many season 11 episodes, this one starts well and ends up, well, pretty craptacular.

Lisa’s school band has made it to the finals, to be held at the State Fair only to come runners-up to the Ogdenville band, who used glow sticks to punctuate their performance. Unhappy about unfairly losing, she appeals to then-President Clinton for help. Well, OK. If it helps to take away the absurdity of Furious D, I’ll allow it. Plus I think every kid needs a lesson in being a sore loser.

While at the State Fair, the Simpsons see a diving horse whose act is shut down for animal cruelty. Naturally, the Simpsons adopt the hapless animal, prompting Comic Book Guy to appear out of nowhere and remind them they’ve done this before. This time, to earn his keep, Duncan is entered as a race horse, trained to be a fighter and he wins races.

And now, get ready for the stupidity to start: Homer is kidnapped by jockeys, who are actually elves and live underground in a fibreglass tree! Not only that, they threaten Homer that they’ll eat his brains if his horse keeps winning! Oh, how hilarious! …Not. What a load of rubbish. Not even a song can save this scene. It doesn’t make sense at all. It’s a cheap, cop-out conflict, reminiscent of the truckies finding out Homer knows about the automatic driving dealy.

Not even the self-reflexive notions of Comic Book Guy are good enough to save this ep. Not only does he point out the similarities in plot from two previous episodes, he rocks up wearing a shirt proclaiming Worst Episode Ever. I disagree with him on this point: up til now I think the worst ep was Skinner being revealed as Tamzarian, and future episodes are pretty bad as well. Nonetheless, we move on.

Finally, one last point. When he accepts his trophy, Homer mentions that Hollywood is leading our kids down a moral sewer. Well thank you Mr Hays. Let’s bring back that Production Code, shall we? It worked so well the first time…

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