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Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 13’

OK old people, out of my morgue

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Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge

Couch gag: The family find Blue Man Group performing on the couch

Director: Pete Michels

Guest voice:
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony

Synopsis: With rioters on the loose in Springfield and the police powerless to stop them, Homer forms his own security firm.

Discussion: Welcome to the season finale! I’d love to think that it’s good riddance to a mediocre season, but I fear it will only get worse from here on in…

Anyhoo, Homer has had a lot of jobs (boxer, mascot, astronaut, imitation Krusty, baby proofer, trucker, hippie, plow driver, food critic, conceptual artist, grease salesman, carny, mayor, grifter, bodyguard for the mayor, Country & Western manager, garbage commissioner, mountain climber, farmer, inventor, Smithers, Poochie, celebrity assistant, power plant worker, fortune cookie writer, beer baron, Kwik-E-Mart clerk, homophobe and missionary) but today he’s Springfield’s solution to crime (and to be fair, I’m not sure he was actually paid for some of those “jobs”).

Riots, which were sparked by a Carl and Lenny crashing their cars into a store during blackout caused by Homer when he plugged in one appliance too many during a heat wave, cause the townspeople to go nuts and loot every store they see. Half the episode later, Homer gets the bright idea that he’s the one to protect the citizens from crime. Cue Lenny and Carl as Homer’s helpers in this endeavour and Fat Tony’s illegal operation involving ferrets as toy poodles, a shootout at the Simpsons home, and you have yourselves a convoluted attempt at winning back a bored audience.

At best, this episode is mediocre. Literally half the episode is wasted, waiting for Homer to reach the inevitable conclusion of protecting the town himself. Homer listing his previous jobs is the highlight of the ep, but at least the ending to this one is vaguely within the ballpark of reasonable. After all, Maggie does have a history with weaponry…

You must be some kind of marriage super-genius

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The Frying Game

Couch gag: The Simpsons are characters from silent films

Director: Michael Polcino

Guest Voices:
Frances Sternhagen as Myrna Bellamy
Carmen Electra as herself

Synopsis: Homer and Marge are sentenced to death after the murder/robbery of an elderly woman.

Discussion: This episode must be one of the more forgettable ones; I know I’ve seen it (I remember the screamapillar) but had no idea about the rest of the ep. And boy, am I ever glad I forgot it.

Mrs Bellamy seems like a kindly old widow but she sets about putting Homer and Marge to work as servants before a mysterious man stabs her and steals her diamonds, which are later found in the Simpson home. This leads Marge and Homer to be tried and convicted of her murder, with a sentence of death by electric chair. Oh my, how the dickens are they going to get out of this? (Considering the show is still going, it’s not much of a spoiler to know that they do indeed escape death).

This has to be one of the worst endings for an episode in Simpsons history. The premise is fine: Marge and Homer are accused of murdering an elderly widow for her money. The set-up is annoying, I’ve still got the voice of the screamapillar echoing through my brain. The ending is such a pointless cop out that it barely deserves mentioning.

There aren’t many good things to say about this episode. The screamapillar, being sexually attracted to fire and requiring constant reassurance, is the catalyst for possibly the best line in the ep: “Are you sure God doesn’t want it to die?” (uttered by Homer). Marge’s serene koi pond is also lovely and I’m sad that it isn’t seen in the backyard after this episode. Lisa, Bart and Maggie’s pending adoption by Cletus and Brandine is also a highlight, with the yokels wanting to change the kids’ names because “dem’s (got) city names”. Other than that, let’s just bury this ep deep inside the memory, never to be released again.

 

What’s a million plus a million?

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Little Girl in the Big Ten

couch gag: The Simpsons walk in to find Squeaky-Voiced Teen kissing a girl on the couch

Director: Lauren MacMullen

Guest voice:
Robert Pinsky as himself

Synopsis: Lisa finds intellectual equals at an gymnastics class, while Bart is encapsulated in a bubble as he’s contagious from a Chinese mosquito bite.

Discussion: Lisa is failing gym and wants to hang out with the intelligentsia. What else is new? Meanwhile, Bart has panda virus and is highly contagious, so he’s put into a bubble where he can be of no threat to anyone.

Well, where do we start? Above all else, this episode lacks zest. It’s familiar themes rebranded into something “new” (Lisa hasn’t hung around college campuses before). The subplot of Bart in a bubble is an OK one, but not enough had it been decided to carry the ep on its own. I don’t feel like either plot has enough substance to carry a whole episode.

If it weren’t for Homer’s brilliant home karaoke of ‘Tubthumping’, this episode would be instantly forgettable. At best, it’s mediocre with a last-minute excuse to shove Lisa into a chocolate cake. And, while I’m at it, why is Lisa’s hair and dress affected by wind as she’s falling in the bubble?

It’s gonna be a rough couple of lifetimes

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The Sweetest Apu

I will never lie about being cancelled again

Couch gag: Repo men take away the couch and Homer cries.

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voice:
James Lipton as himself

Synopsis: Homer catches Apu kissing the squishee lady and tries to get their marriage back on track.

Discussion: The Simpsons are tackling another real-life issue: Apu is cheating on his wife. Poor Manjula finds out via CCTV tape from the Kwik-E-Mart. Naturally, the Simpson family take matters into their own hands in order to get things the way they should be.

Now, this episode has all the right ingredients for a great ep. It seems that the real-life misadventures end up as the best shows. What goes so wrong here?

Firstly, there’s waaaay too much filler. The first act is largely made up of a civil war re-enactment (which I don’t really understand anyway. I’ve never seen Australian recreating any of the wars they’ve been in, but then again, we’ve never staged a war aga8inst our fellow countrymen) and after Homer discovers Apu and Squishee Lady, there’s more filler. Concentrate on the story at hand and you’ve got yourself some hilarity.

Secondly, it’s very rushed. Affair -> thrown out of home -> do a list of stuff to win Manjula back -> cue a bedroom scene. In ye olden (and golden) Simpsons days, this state of affairs (‘scuse the pun) would take up a story arc of its own. Think Luann and Kirk, Milhouse’s parents. Milhouse mentioned in the previous ep that his mother was remarrying, and this plot line has been going for several seasons. What’s wrong with making Apu miss his family over the course of a few episodes? Drag it out a bit. It’s too good a storyline to have it neatly fit within 21 minutes.

Speaking of story arcs, Barney has been sober for quite a while now, and this episode marks the first time he’s had a drink, thanks to Homer. Thankfully, to Barney’s credit, he does stop after just one drink, so kudos for that.

This ep has the potential to be a very good ep, but as it stands, it’s just mediocre. Unfortunately, that’s about the best we can hope for at this point.

Lousy minor setback! This world sucks!

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I Am Furious (Yellow)
Couch gag: A prize machine claw grabs Homer’s head, who yells “Ow! My brain!”
Director: Chuck Sheetz
Guest voice:
Stan Lee as himself
Synopsis: Bart creates a comic called Angry Dad, based on Homer.
Discussion: Just when you think The Simpsons is completely dead, along comes ‘I am Furious (Yellow)‘. Inspired by an illustrator at the school’s Career Day talks, Bart decides to create a comic based on Homer’s tantrums. It garners attention from an internet animation company, who put the series online, making Homer and Bart stars.
This is a fantastic episode. It doesn’t quite shine like earlier seasons, but it gets pretty darn close. Homer is at his angry best, pouring out his rage at the world, every moment being captured by Bart. This ep is character and plot-driven, making it a highlight of the season. Stan Lee is fabulous as himself, who has somehow found a home in the Android’s Dungeon, happily rearranging comics and figures to highlight his Marvel collection.
I don’t get the title reference; a 1960s Swedish art house film called I Am Curious (Yellow), but that’s a minor thing. The ep also references the so-called dot com bubble, which busted somewhere in the early 2000s when internet businesses all over the world suddenly went bust. This ep was produced after the bubble burst, making hindsight 20/20 as far as these things go.
Overall, it’s a great episode. It’s referenced again in a later season when Bart is offered the chance to make Angry Dad: The Movie. But we’ll get to that later. I’d have liked to see this internet comic/cartoon thing be a mainstay in the series. I think it would Bart a lot of good to become wealthy- that way, you can poke some fun at child stars who lost their fortunes due to bad parent-manager relationships (I’m looking at you, Macaulay Culkin).

Homer Simpson’s breath is strong, oh do dah day

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Gump Roast

Couch gag: The Simpsons are on a slot machine, which hits the jackpot and pays out.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Synopsis: Homer is the subject of a roast.

Discussion: Well, um, OK. This is a clip show, showcasing Homer’s best and worst bits during a roast. I don’t have anything against clip shows; sometimes they serve to further a plot (I happened to catch a clip show of Friends yesterday- it was the one where Rachel didn’t accept the invitation to go to Ross’ UK wedding and they were individually recalling the ups and downs of their relationship.) That clip show had a point. This one doesn’t. I understand that the show is in response to a pay dispute (which I remember vividly- all sorts of rumours about the cancellation of the show or hiring new voice actors were being bandied about) but really, does it have to come to a clip show which makes no sense?

Maybe it’s because I don’t really understand the point of a roast. Maybe it’s because Kang and Kodos are trying to destroy the planet. Maybe it’s Dr Hibbert dressed as Darth Vader. Who knows? The point is, there is no point. It’s just an excuse to stick together a bunch of clips, some of which are 10 seasons (or more!) old and are ingrained in the memories of every Simpsons fan. Wait- I know what I just said. Clip shows *are* just an excuse to stick together old clips. But hear me out. Remember Bart’s April Fool’s Day prank and the clip show served to get Homer’s memory back? That had a point. The clip show recalling the romance between Homer and Marge? That had a point. A roast where Homer falls into a drunken coma while Kang and Kodos are given reasons not to destroy the planet? What the…?

They call them fingers but I never see them fing

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Weekend at Burnsie’s

couch gag: A gardener shapes the family out of a hedge, topiary style

Director: Michael Marcantel

Guest voices:
Phish as themselves

Synopsis: Homer is prescribed medical marijuana as pain relief when his eyes are attacked by crows.

Discussion: If I remember correctly, this was a “lost episode” on Australian television for a while. The commercial network with rights to broadcast The Simpsons, channel 10, thought the episode too controversial and didn’t air it until some time later. When it was finally aired, it was branded “too hot!” for regular viewing times and relegated to the adult-appropriate time of 9.30pm on a weeknight.

Such is the issue of marijuana use. Homer is attacked by a murder of crows (who comes up with group animal names?) and is prescribed the wacky tobaccy for pain relief as his eyes recover. What follows is a glorification of the fun that may be had whilst using the drug. Everything is rainbows and laughter. Wikipedia tells me that the writers tried to show both sides of the argument, but I’m not convinced. Homer is having a great time, even listening intently to Ned’s reading of the entire Bible!

The subplot of Homer getting an executive vice president position in the nuclear power plant isn’t fully developed. Or maybe it’s over-developed… After the proposition criminalising marijuana is passed, Homer and Smithers take one last joint and perform a Weekend at Bernie’s-style number with Mr Burns at the investor’s meeting. This feels drawn out and disjointed (pardon the pun) to the rest of the episode. With a title of ‘Weekend at Burnsie’s’, one might expect that the episode would be based around this incident (or similar) instead of Homer’s marijuana-fuelled adventures.

In any case, I’d never heard of Phish until this ep, I don’t think the issue of medical pot use is a balanced view (neither is the GMO foods) and how the heck does Homer know his sperm count is up after ceasing use of the drug? Eww.

I’m high on sheep embryos

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Blame It On Lisa

Couch gag: The family are marionettes, who get tangled and fall in a heap in front of the couch. It is revealed they are being operated by Matt Groening.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Synopsis: The Simpsons travel to Brazil to find an orphan Lisa has been sponsoring.

Discussion: Let’s file this episode under all the others which poke fun at a country. It’s unfunny, slightly racist and full of bad cliches and flaming inaccuracies.

Anyhoo… the premise is simple enough. Lisa has been sponsoring Ronaldo, a young orphan who has gone missing. She’s called the orphanage and racked up a $400 phone bill, so the obvious solution is for the family to fly to Brazil to look for him. Of course! Cue every cultural cliche known to man and they call it an episode. Despite Ronaldo being the catalyst for the trip, he only appears for about a minute, and half of that is on a video sent to Lisa when she first started sponsoring him. Ronaldo is a cutie, why isn’t he prominently featured as a plight to draw attention to the slums of Brazil?

Despite my criticisms, there are a couple of good moments. Homer’s scrapbook of his kidnapping is disturbingly poignant, and the TV show Bart is watching, Teleboobies, demonstrates an early form of twerking (go on, watch the ep to spot it). Carnivale is an awesome spectacle and a highlight of the ep; it makes me actually want to see this live and in person.

Overall, however, it’s not a good episode. The writers’ ideas of “poking fun” at other countries is not cool. Every time they air an episode where the Simpsons go overseas, they end up with a lot of complaints about the way the country is portrayed. It’s not funny; some of these things are quite offensive to those living in the country. Other “jokes” are just plain stupid. Keep the family in Springfield where they belong.

When people get wood, they’ll think Trojans

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Tales from the Public Domain

Vampire is not a career choice

Couch gag: The Simpsons are on a flip book

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Synopsis: Homer gets a notice to return an overdue library book, and reads three stories from the book.

Discussion: This is another trilogy episode, where three stories are presented in the same ep. Here, Homer reads from an overdue library book he borrowed when Bart was born.

D’oh Brother, Where Art Thou? Inspired by Homer‘s Odyssey, this tells the story of Odysseus (Homer Simpson) presenting a wooden horse to the King of Troy (Ned Flanders) and the subsequent journey back to his fair maiden, Penelope (Marge). The best part is Patty and Selma being Sirens and luring Odysseus et al into their scary lair.

Hot Child in the City A re-telling of Joan of Arc‘s story starring Lisa as Joan. It leaves out the most awful parts, such as Joan’s rape while she’s imprisoned before her trial, and Marge says that Sir Lancelot saved Joan before she was burned, then eats the last page so the family won’t know what really happened. It’s the only segment which is based on a true story.

Do the Bard, Man Bart portrays Prince Hamlet in a much abridged version of Shakepeare’s play. Moe is usurper to the throne and murderer of Hamlet’s father, while other Simpsons characters portray the play’s other famous characters (my favourite is Rosencarl and Guildenlenny).

As far as trilogy episodes go, this one is one of the better ones. These stories which delve into classic literature/legends of olde are fantastic for bringing new audiences into a different world, one which existed before Twilight, one which actually had great stories to tell, epic adventures which we just don’t see nowadays. It was because of this ep that I finally read Hamlet… and I completely agree with Bart’s assessment of the play.

The Simpsons are masters of parodying, lampooning and re-telling stories which already exist. Some are obvious, such as this ep’s Hamlet, and some are only very loosely tied to their original source, such as the recently viewed ‘Half Decent Proposal‘. There’s nothing wrong with this, it still has elements of originality and creativity (Hamlet‘s ending is just a bit different to the ending portrayed here…) which makes for epic viewing.

He never even lived to be a vegetable

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The Old Man and the Key

Couch Gag: The Simpsons find Blue Man Group performing on the couch

Director: Lance Kramer

Guest Voices:
Olympia Dukakis as Zelda
Bill Saluga as Ray Jay Johnson

Synopsis: Grampa falls in love with new resident Zelda, but she’s only interested in men who drive.

Discussion: Finally, an episode with some zing! Who knew Grampa’s dating exploits could be so hilarious? New resident Zelda, who puts the ass into assisted living, knows what she wants- a man who can drive. Wahoo! Grampa, unable to see through this shallow facade, gets his license but has a few mishaps, leading to a climactic finish in Branson, Missoura (sic) with some washed-up and emphatically not dead celebrities.

Welcome back, funny. Welcome back, songs. Welcome back, plotlines that make sense. Oh how we’ve missed you!

Olympia Dukakis is seriously underrated. She’s hilarious and often plays characters who aren’t typical; remember Steel Magnolias, where her character is a senior citizen but is still very active both physically and politically. Anyhoo, I digress. Zelda is a hoochie; a shallow woman whose love can be bought in the backseat of a car. She’s a background character- her role in the ep is to serve as catalyst for Grampa’s fun with cars and car- related experiences (also yelling-at-cloud related experiences).

There are several hilarious moments in this ep: Scrabbleship looks like an awesome game, Grampa lying on Scrabbleship yelling, “I’m dead!” repeatedly when Homer says no to driving the car, and the township of Bronson is just too funny. Add in a song and dance number in Branson (musical numbers are sorely missed!) and you have yourself a fabulous episode. Definitely a highlight of the season.

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