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Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 16’

Blessed art thou among syrups


The Father, the Son and the Holy Guest Star

Couch gag: The family are balloons who drift towards the couch. The Homer balloon scares the cat, who claws and pops him.

Director: Michael Polcino

Guest Voice:
Liam Neeson as Father Sean

Synopsis: After being expelled for a prank he didn’t pull, Bart is enrolled into a Catholic school where he and Homer are seduced by the religion.

Discussion: Hot on the heels of Homer predicting Armageddon comes this Catholic romp. This episode originally aired way back in 2005 just after the death of the very popular Pope, John Paul II. I must say that this depiction of Catholicism isn’t particularly offensive, but you know how sensitive people are when famous people die.

Anyhoo, the last 5 minutes of this ep are the best. From the moment Bart steps into the paintball game, the episode shines. It’s almost enough to make you forget how stupid the previous 15 minutes were.

Now, Catholicism isn’t very exciting and has some very strict rules, which Homer disagrees with (“No meat on Fridays? What do they eat, lightbulbs?”) but he’s seduced by the pancakes and bingo. Let’s face it, it’s probably the only way you could get Homer into religion. I don’t see Bart’s motivation for joining the religion though…

Lisa’s observance about religion is about what you’d expect from her, but the real shining point is right at the end when, 1000 years in the future, a great battle emerges between two factions of Bart’s teachings are fighting over whether he was a messenger of peace and understanding or love and tolerance. This sequence is the biting satire one expects from The Simpsons and the perfect way to finish a season.

I can’t see my own shrink a dink


Home Away From Homer

A booger is not a bookmark

Couch gag: The Simpsons’ couch is hooked onto the lure of an anglerfish

Director: Bob Anderson

Guest voice:
Jason Bateman as himself

Synopsis: Ned rents out a room to two college girls, who are secretly broadcasting sexy scenes over the internet. Humiliated that Homer knew and told the town, Ned moves to another town. Homer’s new neighbour is the exact opposite of Ned and Homer begs Ned to return. 

Discussion: Newsflash! Homer takes advantage of Ned’s good nature. This has been the central theme of many episodes, and the dissonance between the two characters is always worth a look. This episode is on par with the best Homer-Ned episodes. 

It doesn’t matter how the two college girls ended up at Flanders’ place, the point is that they do and they’re sexy. Once the town finds out that this is going on in Ned’s house without him knowing, he becomes a laughing stock. The best line in the whole ep is when Ned kicks out the sexy girls and finds the whole town standing outside, cheering for them. Moe informs Ned that Homer’s the one what wised them up to the sexy goings on and Homer replies, “I had no choice. It was just so funny.” It’s a perfectly delivered line, absolute deadpan (which is difficult to do in animation) and it works brilliantly. 

Ned’s new town is chosen from Ned’s cute collection of figurines. He quickly becomes the dark horse in the town because he’s not clean shaven. I wonder what would have happened to Ned had he chosen an Amish village to reside? Combined with Homer’s impassioned plea to come home to Springfield, all is returned to normal. 

This is a classic example of how all the elements can really work together: by Lisa winning the movie tickets, Maggie needs to be babysat by Ned, leading to his collectibles from a particular town and Homer’s remark that he could rent out a room, which is the basis for the entire storyline. In terms of writing, this episode could not have been better. Personally, I think Coach could have been more annoying… but that’s just me. 

Overall, this is technically perfect: all the elements are there. In terms of characterisation, it’s also a really good exploration of fish-out-of-water (not just for Ned, but Homer, Bart and Milhouse as well). Highly enjoyable ep!

Nice rapture, Einstein


Thank God, it’s Doomsday

couch gag: All the Simpsons have Moe’s face.

Director: Michael Marcantel

Guest voices:
Baha Men singing the haircut parody of their song, ‘Who let the dogs out?’
Los Lobos performing the end credits

Synopsis: After watching a movie about the Rapture, Homer predicts the apocalypse.

Discussion: Forgive me, Father, for I am about to blaspheme. What in the name of Jesus Christ was this shit?

After watching a movie called Left Below, Homer starts to panic and predicts the Rapture using numerology. His first prediction doesn’t come true but his second one, in which no one believes him, proves to be true… or at least, a very vivid dream.

Homer’s battles with religion are nothing new to The Simpsons. He’s started his own religion, he’s sued the church and taken residence, he’s taken active protests against going to church. Seeing a movie glorifying the Rapture which scares him into believing it could happen any day (and coincidentally, next Wednesday in particular) is completely out of character. Lisa’s quip about many predictions of Doomsday being incorrect is the most intelligent thing about this episode.

Coincidentally (or is it?), as I was watching today’s episode, a couple of Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door. They wanted to talk about what happens to people after they die and not the Rapture, but if they did I would have found it amusing for the coincidence. Spooky.

Anyhoo, back to the episode. Homer has dreamed about meeting God before, and Heaven does seem like a rather nice place but Homer being able to get there… well, it’s not going to happen because Homer just isn’t that pious. Surely wishing for the angel concierge’s head to explode proves that?

The Simpsons and religion go together well. This isn’t one of those well-done episodes. What if it were Marge who predicted Doomsday?

PS: Today is the anniversary of watching The Simpsons. Read about the past year here.

It’ll make Moon River sound like a farting orangutan


A Star is Torn

Couch gag: In a parody of Get Smart, Homer goes through a series of doors before dropping through a telephone booth to the couch.

Director: Nancy Kruse

Guest Voice:
Fantasia Barrino as Clarissa Wellington

Synopsis: Lisa is entered into a singing competition with Homer as her manager, but he embarrasses her and is fired.

Discussion: This episode parodies American Idol type shows as well as manager-parents. Homer has been a manager before (remember Lurleen?) but somehow screws things up for his little girl and she fires him.

How this ep was expected to go: An all-out battle between Lisa and Clarissa which ends in backstabbing and Homer winning Lisa’s love again. How this ep actually was: Clarissa being kicked out and Homer representing Cameron, a cute kid with a winning smile and a dumbass song (written by Homer in order to be voted off).

Clarissa is voiced by the talented Fantasia Barrino, herself a product of American Idol. Why she only sings one song before falling off the face of the planet, I don’t know. Did Fantasia not want to speak in the role? Was she unimpressed and the character was cut? In any case, Clarissa falls through the Buzz Cola trapdoor, leaving Lisa and Cameron to be finalists.

Once you get over What-Happened-To-Clarissa? the ep is actually quite sweet. It’s yet another attempt at bonding between Homer and Lisa, which, as we’ve seen many times previously, never goes to plan. This is probably the closest it has ever come to a fully functional relationship.

Be gay on your own time


The Heartbroke Kid

Couch gag: The Simpsons are thrown in a trebuchet

Director: Steve Dean Moore

Guest voice:
Albert Brooks as Tab Spangler

Synopsis: After eating too much junk food from the school’s vending machines, Bart is sent to fat camp and the family are forced to take in backpackers to foot the bill.

Discussion: Ah, vending machines! I remember when my high school replaced the water bubblers with Coke vending machines. Back in ye olden days (those blissful mid-90s), obesity wasn’t an issue and the only thing people worried about was the effect of sugar on one’s teeth. Still, when those machines went in, no one kicked up a fuss… until kids started putting blu-tacked 5c coins together to resemble a $2 coin and broke the machine…

Anyhoo, Springfield Elementary has new vending machines which have healthful-sounding names but are actually packed with all sorts of addictive garbage. Bart gains a lot of weight because of it and is sent to fat camp. Welcome back Albert Brooks, who was The Simpsons‘ first guest voice and hadn’t been on the show for about 10 years when this originally aired. Brooks voices the director of the fat camp, where Bart cheats (who wouldn’t?) and is forced to see how his parents are paying for his weight loss.

And here’s where it all gets a bit silly. Marge and Homer are running around cleaning up after German backpackers and Homer sings the original German version of 99 Luftballons. What? Tab Spangler is a character who doesn’t seem well-rounded. He’s making comments to clarify earlier comments and then backtracks- he’s not a straight talker which is what the show needs.

On their own, each plot could probably work but tying them together makes the ep feel disjointed and missing some zing.

His dandiness will slowly return


Don’t Fear the Roofer

Couch gag: Someone is putting together a jigsaw puzzle of the family and swaps Homer and Maggie’s heads.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest voices:
Stephen Hawking as himself
Ray Romano as Ray Magini

Synopsis: Everyone thinks Homer has an imaginary friend when he starts talking about the unseen Ray.

Discussion: There’s something not quite right with this episode. OK, there’s a lot wrong with it. It starts off well: there’s a storm in Springfield and the Simpsons’ roof is leaking. Homer ruins a surprise party for Lenny and finds a new bar, meets a roofer named Ray, and they hang out together.

It all goes awry when Marge starts making accusations about Homer’s sanity, believing Ray to be an imaginary friend and sending Homer to a mental institution to have electroshock therapy. Ray rocks up, everyone’s surprised he really does exist, and Stephen Hawking reveals he’s been working on mini black holes in the hardware store which is why Bart couldn’t see Ray.


I love Stephen Hawking. He’s arguably the smartest man alive, defied all odds (having been told at age 21 he only had two years to live, he turned 72 on January 8) and, judging by his appearance in The Simpsons and The Big Bang Theory (among others), he has a fantastic sense of humour as well. But really, who thought mini black holes in a hardware store was a good plot point? The eye injury had been done (the bartender at the Hooters-type bar had lost an eye) but maybe Bart’s wielding of a chainsaw could have been the plot point instead. And I hate to nitpick at Stephen Hawking, but if the black hole was between Ray and Bart, why could Homer still be seen and heard? Just saying is all.

The ep is weird and stupid. Ray Magini is a good character… but the storyline doesn’t do him justice.

No one’s gay for Moeman



Couch gag: Toys drive to the couch and turn into the Simpsons, a la Transformers.

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Guest Voices:
Amy Poehler as Jenda
John DiMaggio as Bender

Synopsis: Professor Frink shows Bart and Lisa what they’re like as teenagers.

Discussion: This is the third (so far) episode which focuses on the future, after Lisa’s Wedding and Bart to the Future. This time, Bart and Lisa are attending their prom; Lisa is graduating two years early and Bart is… graduating. Maggie is vacationing on the beach in Alaska where it’s warm and sunny due to climate change. Cue the usual teenage dramas: sex on prom night, breaking up, choosing second best, parents’ separation and something about Milhouse’s muscles…

It’s good to have a different focus other than the kids for a while. In that, I mean they’re still kids, but older kids. There’s only so much you can do with an 8 and 10 year old (but yet they keep trying…)

This ep is pretty good but Milhouse’s melancholy and borderline paranoia are just plain weird and would have done better with just one mention straight up, and possibly the narrative closure of Bart saving Lisa from a life with Milhouse. Maybe Jenda could find Milhouse attractive instead? I would have liked to see more depth in the ep, I felt like it was skimming over the possibilities and going too far with the future technology- back in 2005 when this was first broadcast, there was no way we’d have fancy garbage collectors and hover cars within 8 years. Just saying is all.

It’s a worthy inclusion in the future-themed trilogy of The Simpsons.

Lights out, weirdos


Mobile Homer

Couch gag: Homer pulls off his face, revealing himself to be Sideshow Bob. Wielding a knife, Bob chases Bart around the living room.

Director: Raymond S. Persi

Synopsis: Fearing Homer might die in an accident, Marge starts saving money as a nest egg. Homer spends the money as a down payment on a RV.

Discussion: You know, there are some episodes where I really want to poke my eyes with a pen just so I don’t have to watch the end of it. It’s not even train-wreck TV, where it’s so awful you can’t help but watch. Still, I made a commitment and I’m gonna see it through.

Marge and Homer are fighting about money, and money spent on a RV. The Simpsons have owned a RV before, with hilarious results. Likewise, Marge and Homer have temporarily split up before, only last time Homer was living in the treehouse. They’ve also saved money before… in so many episodes I’ve lost count. So, the themes aren’t new but that’s OK, we expect some recycled ideas now.

What we don’t expect is for Marge to swap 300 cans of mushroom soup for her children. In sitcom world, humour lies between what is expected from a real-life situation, and what happens in the fictional world. But it can go awry: even though the audience doesn’t expect 300 cans of mushroom soup to be swapped for Bart and Lisa, it’s not funny. It’s pathetic (and, incidentally, the height of my urge to poke my eyeballs with a pen).

Typically, even in the worst episodes, there’s one or two redeeming features such as a funny line, image or song. Nup, not in this episode. Not even Homer’s battle with spiders in the garage and Bart’s weird predictive drawing of Homer lying under the garage door (WTF was that about?) I wish for train-wreck TV- that would be better than this.

Now we sleep for a thousand years


Goo Goo Gai Pan

Couch gag: The living room is dark, and when the light switches on, it’s a surprise party from the townspeople. Homer has a heart attack.

Director: Lance Kramer

Guest voices:
Robert Wagner as himself
Lucy Liu as Madam Wu

Synopsis: Selma and the Simpsons travel to China to adopt a baby.

Discussion: The Simpsons are off on another overseas adventure, but this time it’s Selma’s treat because she’s adopting a little bundle of joy. Awww! The catch is, Selma’s not allowed to adopt unless she has a husband and, lacking anyone better, writes Homer’s name. Hehehehehe.

Every time the Simpsons head overseas, the episode becomes embarrassing and offensive. In the “few days” Selma and the Simpsons have to experience Chinese culture before taking the baby, the viewer is again treated to Chinese culture as we’ve never imagined. OK, I concede the dragons are cute. The giant Chinese take-away box… not so much. Nor are the Chinese on pogo sticks trying to get over the Great Wall of China. Oh puh-leese!

What we end up with is two distinct parts: Selma (with Homer) trying to keep the baby, and filler. The filler bits don’t quite reach the embarrassment of other overseas adventures such as Japan and Australia, but given any more air time and it would surely happen. Retrieving baby Ling and keeping her are the episode’s highlights, especially Homer’s stint as a statue of Buddha. Madam Wu is delightfully disarming and even though her bureaucratic backflip is entirely predictable, Lucy Liu delivers the performance brilliantly.

It’s always nice to see someone other than a Simpson centred in an episode. Even though the family are an integral part of this ep, Selma and baby Ling steal every scene.

The world is my toilet


On a Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister

Beer in a milk carton is not milk

Couch gag: The camera zooms out past the house, town, Earth, Kang and Kodos, galaxies and transforms into atoms, molecules and finally, a spot on Homer’s head.

Director: Bob Anderson

Guest voices:
Gary Busey has himself
Jane Kaczmarek as Judge Harm

Synopsis: After Bart teases Lisa on a field trip, she takes out a restraining order.

Discussion: Yawn. We’ve seen all of this before: Edna’s trying to make Skinner jealous and Bart annoys Lisa and then she remembers all the nice things he’s done for her and they all live happily ever after.

There’s nothing new about this episode. I can’t really think of anything else to say; it’s all been done before and nothing here adds anything to the continuation of any storyline or family nature. It’s just siblings having a tiff, we all knew they’d get over it. I suppose, if I was really pressed, I’d say that the scene of Bart becoming wild like feral dogs was a tad amusing… but that’s a stretch.

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