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Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 12’

It’s like a hootananny in my mouth

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Simpsons Tall Tales

I should not be twenty one by now

Couch gag: The family are sitting on a subway station and catch a passing train.

Director: Bob Anderson

Synopsis: On a train to Delaware, the Simpsons meet a hobo who tells them three tales.

Discussion: This isn’t the first non-Halloween episode to have three different segments involving the Simpsons as different characters. Here we find the family having won yet another trip, this time to Delaware. Homer refuses to pay a small tax and the family are forced to hitch-hike on a train (I don’t think that’s the right word…) They meet a singing hobo, not one of those stabbing hobos you hear so much about. In exchange for a sponge bath (or three), he tells them some tall tales to while away the hours.

Now, I have no idea who Paul Bunyan is (or I didn’t, before Wikipedia told me) but Homer’s story reminds me of the creation stories from the Australian Aboriginal people… but less pretty. Homer, as Paul, is quite a disgusting character, e.g. using Marge as a giant cotton bud to clean out his ears. Eww. The blue ox story fascinates me as well. I find it original even though the stories probably are just an exaggeration of the mythology of Paul and Babe.

However, I am familiar with the story of Johnny Appleseed, thanks to a book I read as a kid. Lisa’s portrayal as Connie Appleseed fits with her vegetarianism but the family changing their name to Bufflekill as a sign of their prowess of killing buffalo is, well, a bit gross. Many of the buffalo deaths occurred off-screen, but it’s still quite confronting for a Simpsons ep. The main part I have a problem with is that, and I’m stand to be corrected, buffalo still roam over the plains of the US. Since this is a tall tale, maybe changing buffalo to something mythological, rare or extinct would hold up better?

Finally, Bart and Nelson portray Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Lisa notes that this isn’t a tall tale, it’s based on a novel. She’s right (and I highly recommend both novels, BTW). There are elements from the novels as well as Simpsons-esque embellishments. It’s probably the most enjoyable segment out of the three of them.

Still, I don’t really love the episode. It just doesn’t feel original or fresh. The idea has been done before, the stories aren’t instantly familiar and it just feels tired. Then again, it’s the last ep of the season so maybe the writers desperately needed a break…?

It’s all burping and neglect

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Children of a Lesser Clod

Today is not Mothra’s Day

Couch gag: The family are crash test dummies who are thrust into the TV set

Director: Mike Polcino

Synopsis: Homer starts a day care centre after injuring his knee. Bart and Lisa feel Homer is neglecting his own children and plot to sabotage his Good Guy award.

Discussion: Although this episode follows a plot (which is more than I can say for most of seasons 9-12), I’m still thinking, “What the hell?”

During free classes at the local YMCA, Homer tries basketball and injures his knee. The ep takes a while to get to the point and when it does, it still feels like it’s missing something. A point, maybe? It feels like an afterthought that Lisa and Bart are neglected while Homer cares for other kids, although anything they decide to do together usually ends up succeeding, and here is no different.

The two best parts about the ep are: Ned going to a “Christian rock concert” which is actually a Chris Rock concert, and Arnie Pie-in-the-Sky chucking a tantrum because just once, he wants to be the news instead of just reporting the news. Fair enough, I suppose.

Anyhoo, this ep falls flat but unfortunately, this is entirely expected. It’s rare now to find an episode that pushes all the right buttons. One of the aims of this blog was to find out where Simpsons went wrong; I can see (using the power of hindsight) that it was probably season 9’s ‘Principal and the Pauper’- the series never really recovered. Oh well, one more ep of season 12 and we’ll see what delights season 13 brings.

You’re going to feel a slight chocolatey sensation

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I’m Goin’ to Praiseland

Genetics is not an excuse

Couch gag: A cement mixer pours a cement family onto the couch, but Homer breaks in half.

Director: Chuck Sheetz

Guest Voice:
Shawn Colvin as Rachel Jordan

Synopsis: After finding Maude’s sketchbook, Ned decides to make her dream of a Christian theme park come true.

Discussion: This is the episode that had to happen. After the disappointing ep where Maude Flanders died and Ned pretty much moved on straight away, this feels like a narrative closure in every way. Ned meets up with Rachel Jordan again, who first appeared just after Maude’s death but Ned wasn’t ready to move on. He thinks he’s ready now, but the furnishings in his home suggest otherwise. Cue the Simpsons to “sort” through it all and prod Ned to create the world’s lamest amusement park.

Now, aside from the sentimentality of the ep, which is necessary for the plot and Ned to move forward, this ep is really rather good. Don’t listen to the critics, they’ve been sniffing natural gas. This isn’t just an excuse to bring back the “Christian Madonna” Rachel, this is a chance for Ned to see past divine miracles and get the logic centre in his brain working.

Springfieldians genuinely care for one another, and this ep demonstrates that… as  long as there’s something in it for them. Much like real life, really. When the gas leak appears and people start having visions of their own personal Heaven, the park becomes really popular, and provides a way to get a fourth wall for the town’s orphanage. Who can argue with that?

 

You’ll be conjugating in no time

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Trilogy of Error

Fore is not the cleanser

Couch gag: The family skateboards in, but Homer falls to the floor and the board hits him on the head

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Guest voices:
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony
Frankie Muniz as Thelonius

Synopsis: March 21 in Springfield, seen from three different points of view.

Discussion: Despite the re-used opening sequences for each act, giving the ep a touch of deja vu, this episode shines. Although I’ve seen it a dozen (or more) times, the only part I really remember is Linguo, the talking robot who corrects one’s grammar. Each viewing gives another layer, and you can see how each part is explained by something else in another day.

First, Homer’s day starts with him getting his thumb accidentally severed by Marge when defending her brownies. On the way to the hospital, a number of things go wrong, all of which are interlinked with both Bart and Lisa’s days.

Lisa’s day is highlighted by her science project, Linguo, which is likely to win her first prize… if only she can get to school in time. Being dropped at the wrong school, she meets a handsome nerd named Thelonius, who promises they shall meet again in high school.

Bart’s day was completely unexpected. Milhouse has found a stash of illegal fireworks, which leads the boys to Fat Tony and a police raid.

All three stories are interwoven with elements; for example, Lisa, being late for school, discovers her bike is missing. This is later explained by Milhouse riding Lisa’s bike as Bart is riding his own on their way to Milhouse’s exciting discovery.

It’s a brilliantly well-written episode, even though Mr Teeny’s assessment is entirely correct: the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense. But that’s not the point- it’s an exercise in showing connectivity and different points of view. Great episode.

So I noticed your home smells like feces

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Simpsons Safari

I will not flush evidence

Couch gag: The Simpsons dance and a circus is revealed behind them

Director: Mark Kirkland

Synopsis: After finding a prize in a 30 year old box of animal crackers, the Simpsons are off on an African holiday, where they meet a chimp “researcher”secretly running a diamond mine.

Discussion: This episode is dedicated to my sister, who travelled to Africa last year and loved it so much that she adopted an African child… OK, that last part may not be entirely true. She did see gorillas though (not sure if they were in a mist or not).

Anyhoo, the Simpsons are off on another family adventure with a free trip to Pepsi Presents: New Zanzibar (or, to those of us with an atlas more than 10 seconds old, Tanzania). The ep is “all over the place” geographically, with the family travelling to places that aren’t near each other. It’s deliberately done this way to annoy fans who want the series to be more realistic… apparently. But if you don’t know anything about Africa, it’s a moot point. Just sayin’.

Most of the cultural aspects are kept intact, with authentic Maasai dancing and jewellery (except for lip rings and discs). The ep pokes fun at the ever-changing nature of politics in African countries, demonstrated by Tanzania changing its name three times within seconds and the President being overthrown and replaced by the Simpsons’ tour guide. The ep is probably not as offensive to people as say, ‘Bart vs Australia’ or ’30 Seconds Over Tokyo’, which were just so ridiculously corny that one just has to cringe.

Having said that, the ep is low on laughs, big on sarcasm and a spit-your-coffee-at-the-screen moment when Homer, in a posh voice, mentions that Doctor Bushwell’s house smells like feces, and not just chimp feces. Look, I like this ep. The premise is great (even though I don’t understand why Americans need someone to bag their groceries) with Homer, starving, eating a 30 year old box of animal crackers. The Simpsons sure are well-travelled for a family of schmoes.

She thinks she’s Babe: Pig in the City

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Bye Bye Nerdie

I will not scare the vice president

Couch gag: The family zoom around the living room in dodgem cars, cornering Homer.

Director: Lauren MacMullen

Guest Voices:
Kathy Griffin as Francine
Jan Hooks as Manjula

Synopsis: Lisa discovers poindexttrose, a substance in nerd sweat that attracts bullies. Meanwhile, Homer has a baby-proofing business to protect the babies of Springfield.

Discussion: Although this episode received positive reviews, I’ve never loved it. To be more precise, I’ve never loved the Francine storyline; Homer’s baby-proofing business is much better.

There’s a new kid in school and she’s a bully. She targets only the nerds and leaves the cool kids alone. This leads Lisa to scientifically examine the sweat of nerds and isolate poindextrose, which sends Francine (and other bullies, as demonstrated by Nelson on heavyweight champion Drederick Tatum) into a bullying frenzy.

I think my main problem with this is that it’s making light of bullying, giving the bullies an excuse to be jerks: “Oh well, they can’t help it”. Bullying is a serious problem and it’s been made light of here. There are many reasons a kid is bullied. At school, I was teased because of my name, my weight (I was a skinny kid and, in the midst of AIDS fears, there was a rumour that I had AIDS), my marks and my hair (it was always oily). To suggest I was giving off pheromones attracting bullies doesn’t address these issues.

Besides, Bart isn’t smart and he’s often been bullied by Nelson and Jimbo, two professional bullies. I know, I know, it’s a TV show and continuity isn’t a strong point. I’m just sayin’.

Homer’s babyproofing business is much more fun, and lightens the ep considerably. A saleswoman comes into the Simpsons home and tries to sell Homer a system to baby-proof their house. It’s too expensive so Homer branches out and forms his own business. One of the funniest scenes is when Homer pours Jell-O into a swimming pool to prevent drowning. Hey, you can’t argue with logic like that!

Duff man is thrusting in the direction of the problem

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Hungry Hungry Homer

Temptation Island was not a sleazy piece of crap

Couch gag: The family, dressed in black belt karate uniforms, karate chop the couch to pieces.

Director: Nancy Kruse

Guest voices:
Stacy Keach as Howard K. Duff VIII

Synopsis: On a crusade to stand up for the little guy, Homer embarks on a hunger strike until the Duff Corp admit the Springfield Isotopes are being moved to Albuquerque.

Discussion: Firstly, I am impressed I spelled Albuquerque correctly on my first try. Secondly, this episode isn’t fantastic, although it is quite memorable.

Everyone remembers Homer going on a hunger strike, but can they remember why? Something to do with baseball… There’s no really memorable lines, apart from Homer’s dancing away the hunger pains song and saying “Me so hungy!” which every kid has said since the ep first aired. This ep feels meh- not much is happening, not even the first act when the Simpsons go to Blockoland as the premise to Homer standing up for the little guy’s rights. I get to the end of the ep and wonder where did the 21 minutes go? Something about baseball…

I think it’s a good premise to send Homer on a hunger strike. I had no idea he was quite so passionate about baseball in order to do it. What if the hunger strike was done ironically, with his favourite food being the subject? Maybe nachos could be made by a French company with fancy French sauces so Homer goes on a full hunger strike?? No? Well, I tried.

 

Yvan eht nioj

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New Kids on the Blecch

I will not buy a Presidential pardon

Couch gag: The family, dressed in prison uniforms, burrow their way to the couch

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest voices:
N Sync as themselves

Synopsis: Bart, Milhouse, Nelson and Ralph form a boy band as a recruitment ploy for the navy

Discussion: Sorry, gotta go. I’ve had a sudden urge to join the navy…

Bart is invited to join a boy band as the “bad boy” and, despite none of the members being able to sing in tune, gain some success. It’s a fantastic episode although it does lose pace once Lisa figures out the real meaning of the catchy tunes. And I know N Sync were the most popular boy band on the planet at the time this ep was produced, however it just feels dated now, especially when Justin Timberlake is saying “Word” after every line (all this time, I thought he was saying “wired”…)

So, to compensate for this dated feel, I imagined this whole episode with One Direction as the guest stars, and it made the ep 150% funnier (who doesn’t love Niall?) Can’t wait for an actual 1D episode of The Simpsons… But I digress. Bart’s boy band is really just a recruitment ploy for the navy, who are planting subliminal messages in the lyrics and film clips of the Party Posse. Shock, horror! Lisa’s discovery of this causes Lt LT Smash to go nuts and pull the plug on the Party Posse’s concert. Boo hoo 😦

So, how does this kind of thing stack up? Well, if you’d followed the link to YouTube, you’d now see that I’m a fan of Gruen Planet, which analyses marketing. Coincidentally, recently the Gruen team looked at advertising for defense forces and how the army is pitched to make people want to join. This was going through my head as I watched ‘New Kids on the Blecch’ and I think that targeting kids, particularly tween females, is probably a really good way to get them interested in a defense career. As with the 1D marketing of a perfume, you’re getting kids at an impressionable age and making them a consumer for life. In this case, you’re making a naval career appealing (even without subliminal messages, which are widely disputed as being effective) and ensuring the next stage of recruits for an important job. Simples!

As an episode, it’s a good one. It’s a great idea to put Bart in a boy band, although I wish some of the pitfalls of fame could be explored, such as tween girls stalking the band when they were trying to pee, or some such nonsense (during a recent visit to Perth, One Direction were performing in town and staying in a hotel nearby to where I was staying. Tween girls were going nuts trying to stalk the boys). Destroying the band and MAD magazine to avoid negative publicity is a bit weak as far as plots go, and eerily predictive since this ep originally aired just months before the destruction of the twin towers in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Still, the ideas of the ep hold up nicely.

God bwess you, Kwusty

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Day of the Jackanapes

The hamster did not have “a full life”

Couch gag: The family run in, Homer lies on the couch and says to the psychiatrist, “Oh doctor! I’m crazy!”

Director: Michael Marcantel

Guest voices:
Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob
Gary Coleman as himself

Synopsis: Krusty quits TV and Sideshow Bob takes the opportunity to exact revenge and kill Krusty once and for all, using Bart as a hypnotised boy-bomb.

Discussion: It’s been a while since we’ve had a Bob episode, and this one isn’t bad. Krusty, fed up with the network big wigs telling him what to do, quits show business for the fifth and final time. Sideshow Bob thinks this is a great opportunity to finally be rid of both his nemeses, and trains Bart under hypnosis to kill Krusty.

It’s probably only the fact we’ve not seen Bob for a while that makes this ep interesting. It’s much the same theme as every other Bob episode- trying to kill Bart and/or Krusty. Using hypnosis is a novel idea but I’m not entirely sold by it, especially as he’s foiled his own plan by getting all sentimental after Krusty’s tribute.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Kelsey Grammer’s Bob work is fantastic and it’s nice to have recurring voices after the retirement of Phil Hartman’s characters due to his death. It’s just… well… where do you go with the Bob character, especially after so many episodes about the same thing?

It’s better to watch stuff than to do stuff

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Tennis the Menace

I will not publish the principal’s credit report

Couch gag: The family ice skate to the couch. Homer and part of the couch fall through the ice when he sits down.

Director: Jen Kamerman

Guest voices:
Venus Williams as herself
Serena Williams as herself
Pete Sampras as himself
Andre Agassi as himself

Synopsis: The Simpsons install a tennis court and become socialites, entering a charity tennis tournament amid family rivalry.

Discussion: Like any great game of tennis, this episode is a bit hit-and-miss. The typical red herring at the beginning to throw the viewer from the eventual twist is actually one of the better ones and could probably be a storyline of itself. Being self-reflexive (i.e. Homer’s remark, “I bet you didn’t see that coming!”) gives the ep a little extra punch. The famous guest voices didn’t add enough to the episode to make it great, however they were all good sports about it (no pun intended).

The main theme of the ep is familial bonding, which is explored periodically with varying degrees of success. This ep shows Homer and Marge’s tennis partnership failing, which is great, and each parent teams up with a child in order to restore balance. Naturally, these partnerships also break down, leading to famous tennis players taking the Simpsons’ places in the tournament. There’s nothing wrong with this plot, but I feel the voice talent is wasted. What if these players showed up at the Simpsons’ home for a tournament? Perhaps invited on false pretenses by Kent Brockman and Stephanie the weather girl?

Personally, my favourite line is from Serena Williams: “*groan* I just ate a personal pizza!” although there are many great quips contained. Another favourite is Bart’s “We can wipe out BC (balcony collapse) in our lifetime!” or Homer’s “Try telling that to Killy McGee up there!”

Overall, this episode is above average for the season but doesn’t quite make it to the heights of previous seasons.

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