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Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 16’

Queerly beloved

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There’s Something About Marrying

Couch gag: The Simpsons, battered and toothless, are ice hockey players skating around the couch holding a trophy

Director: Nancy Kruse

Synopsis: To promote tourism in Springfield, gay marriage is legalised, leading to Marge’s sister Patty to come out.

Discussion: The Simpsons has always pushed the boundaries of social and political issues, and this episode is one of them. Bart and Milhouse have offended a roving reporter, who gives the town a low score on his news show. In order to bring tourism back to the town, gay marriage is legalised. Realising there’s money to be made, Homer becomes an ordained minister via the internet and performs such marriages, including that of his sister-in-law, Patty.

Despite being a hot political issue both when it screened (2005) and now (2014), the episode is given the full Simpsons treatment. There’s religious protests (Ned Flanders was conspicuously absent) and Marge being uncomfortable with her sister’s sexuality. Homer can sometimes be very smart, and I would have loved him to retort Rev Lovejoy’s criticisms with a quote from Leviticus (which is full of gems) about not wearing clothing made from mixed fabrics (yes, I know it’s Moses-era law which was overturned with the death of Jesus blah blah blah. Go lock a menstruating woman in a shed).
 
Patty’s fiancee, Veronica, is revealed to be a man named Leslie (why couldn’t he have kept the name? Leslie is also a female name). At the altar when Leslie’s true identity is revealed, Patty chooses not to marry him, exclaiming that she likes girls. I’m not entirely satisfied with this ending: while Patty may be attracted to females, would she fall out of love with Leslie simply because he is a man? Falling in love with a person regardless of gender is an entirely different issue, one which I don’t really want to get into here. Still, Patty and Selma work best when they’re being sisters, so marriage will probably never work out for either of them.
 
So while this ep is classic Simpsons, it doesn’t really reach the heights of earlier seasons. I applaud the show for taking a step in gay equality, because all humans deserve to be treated as equals. And if homosexuality offends you, don’t watch the show. Simples!

Lousy American made dog

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Pranksta Rap

Couch gag: The Simpsons are chess pieces, hopping to the couch.

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Guest voices:
50 Cent as himself
Dana Gould as Barney Fife

Synopsis: Bart sneaks out to attend a rap concert, but pretends to have been kidnapped, leading Chief Wiggum on a hunt to find the kidnappers and be rewarded with the position of Police Commissioner for his efforts.

Discussion: Oh look, The Simpsons are trying to be cool. This episode starts off well: Bart sneaks out to a rap concert and is invited to rap on stage with one of the stars (I’m not going to attempt any rap-speak, I’m not that cool). Marge and Homer are very angry that he’s disappeared so Bart stages an elaborate kidnapping hoax involving Milhouse’s dad. Wiggum solves the case and is promoted, but Lisa finds the truth, threatening to ruin everyone’s new lifestyle.

Whatever the ep is trying to do, it falls flat. Whenever the show is trying to look cool, it uses current music to do so- remember Homerpalooza? This ep feels like a mish mash of random things thrown together with a thin thread of Bart’s supposed kidnapping. It’s like the writers sat in the room, and picked out three scenarios from a hat. Hmm, what if Bart sneaked out to a concert, Chief Wiggum got promoted and there was a fake kidnapping? Oh, and we’d better put Lisa’s brain in there as well to make Yeardley Smith earn her pay check that week…

Sorry, I’m not buying it. 50 Cent’s appearance is a mere cameo and he could have been made a bigger part of the episode. Instead there’s Alcatraaz who throws a house party in the hope that everything is OK after video footage of Bart at the concert surfaces (sorry, did that footage not end up on YouTube?) It’s just all a little too stupid.

I enjoy brief moments of lucidity

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Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass

Couch gag: The Simpsons pile on top on one another, like a totem pole

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest Voices:
Tom Brady as himself
LeBron James as himself
Michelle Kwan as herself
Yao Ming as himself
Warren Sapp as himself

Synopsis: After a video of Homer dancing goes viral, he’s invited to choreograph victory dances for sportspeople, culminating in producing the Superbowl halftime show. Meanwhile, Ned Flanders makes biblical films.

Discussion: My bias precedes this episode: I am not a fan of either sports nor religion. Having said that, there’s not much that this ep offers anyway. We’ve seen Homer dancing in sports before, but this time he’s training others in victory dances. Still, there’s not much substance to this plot because the dances get more and more silly and completely lose the essence of Homer’s original dance.

Then there’s Ned with a video camera. Who let the Ned out? He starts making biblically-themed movies, but when they’re full of unnecessary and gratuitous violence, the townspeople (led by Marge) threaten to boycott Mr Burns (who is financing these productions) and all hell breaks loose. Or at least, the films stop being made. I suspect this is a dig at overly violent religious films (I’m looking at you, Mel Gibson) which focus on the best bits of the bible and not the overall message.

In any case, Ned’s films and Homer’s half time show come together in one huge monstrosity which leaves fans and viewers booing- and that’s not just the fictional ones in the show.

This ep is memorable for one particular reason though: the revelation of Comic Book Guy’s real name. The writers thought it would be hilarious to give him the most mundane name ever, finally deciding on Jeff Albertson. Creator Matt Groening stated that he wanted the name to be Louis Lane, forever haunted by Lois Lane. But when the lines came to be written, Matt Groening was out of the room and didn’t have his suggestion heard.

 

Come here, you beautiful hideous troll

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Mommie Beerest

Couch gag: The living room is made of sand, which collapses as soon as the Simpsons sit down.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Synopsis: Moe’s bar is closed by the Health Dept, leaving Homer to remortgage the house to bring the bar up to Code. Marge takes over the business, gets a little too close to Moe and Homer struggles to win her back.

Discussion: The Simpsons works best when there’s heart in the episode. This ep is full of heart: Homer loves Moe’s bar but he loves Marge more, and will do anything to win her back.

There’s quite a few brilliant moments here: the opening sequence where Homer has finally paid off the mortgage, the funeral for Moe’s bar, Marge’s costume as a British dame running a quaint pub, Homer on the crane trying to catch the plane, a CGI sequence as a movie trailer for the fictional film Cards and Homer’s business card saying “Plus Size Butt Model”. All these make the episode better than average and show there’s still some (not a lot) life left in the old girl yet. For the record, I was convinced I hadn’t seen this episode before, but seeing Homer’s business card convinced me that I had- I know this because I used Plus Size Butt Model as a handle on a forum that I frequent.

There’s always been a subtext between Marge and Moe, even if Marge has never realised it. This episode explores Moe’s unrequited feelings for Marge, which is something different. Until now, there’s just been inferences and implications with no real substance, so I’m glad that finally, we have something tangible. Moe’s always been unlucky in love but generally he’s not a bad person… as long as he’s not sitting around feeling sorry for himself. That bit gets real old, real fast.

We know Homer really loves Marge, he’d do anything for her and his mission to follow Marge to Aruba to win her back is just plain lovely. It’s always the simple plots that work the best in this show. Marge’s final speech to Moe is also nice; I wondered if she was going to set him up with Selma?

I sure like the cut of your gibberish

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Midnight Rx

Couch gag: The Simpsons sit on the couch and nothing happens. Lisa remarks, “What? Can’t we sit on the couch without anything happening?” Just then, Homer is impaled by a large spear.

Director: Nancy Kruse

Synopsis: When medications become too expensive, Homer and Grampa smuggle meds from Canada.

Discussion: Well, well, well. Aren’t we scraping the bottom of the plot barrel? Mr Burns cuts the subsidised medications for his employees, forcing Homer and Grampa to become drug mules to feed Springfield vital medications. What?

There’s nothing in this episode to hold interest. Lisa and Marge at the pharmaceutical company echoes my own feelings as they look silently at each other with a WTF? expression on their faces. Is this really the best plot the writers could come up with? Medication smuggling with some generic Canadian insults (and poorly done accents) thrown in. I am slightly amused at the biting satire of patriotism exhibited by Homer, but that’s fleeting and certainly not enough to carry the episode.

But… there must be something I liked, right? Well, the musical score was pretty good. The argument between Ned and Apu over deities was amusing for about five seconds, and Ned meeting his Canadian doppelganger was also mildly amusing. Given the chance, I’d happily wash out my eyes if it meant un-seeing this ginormous waste of time.

If blue is the colour of unimpressed

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Fat Man and Little Boy

Couch gag: The couch is attached to an anglerfish, who eats the couch and the family

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Synopsis: Bart’s humorlarious T-shirts are bought by a big company to be sold in most of their stores.

Discussion: This episode has a good premise, but the execution is off. Bart (and Homer) have some really good one liners, and Bart starts expressing his rage against the machine by putting witty sayings on T-shirts. It’s a big business and Bart’s designs are quickly bought and distributed by a weirdo.

Bart’s shirts are much classier than one shirt I saw last week which said, “Hang out with your wang out”. Bart makes some money, Homer loses his job and builds a mini nuclear power plant for Lisa’s science project… what?

There are several moments where I muttered WTF? For example, Goose’s car’s apology for hitting Bart, Homer’s lazing around and being kicked off the couch by Bart as a parallel to tired old lions, the loopy lawyers taking Bart’s designs and not paying a cent… Really? This level of nonsensical skullduggery insults the long-time fans. Sure, the show jumped the shark back in season 9 (IMHO) and there are episodes which are really bad, but there are still some gems… This isn’t one of them. Bart’s witty T-shirt designs are a good idea, why mess it up with other crap?

I’m growing ashamed of my penis

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She Used To Be My Girl

Poking a dead raccoon is not research

Couch gag: The family all have Moe’s face

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voice:
Kim Cattrall as Chloe Talbot

Synopsis: A high school friend of Marge’s returns to Springfield as a glamorous journalist who inspires Lisa but causes Marge to feel envy.

Discussion: Hands up if you’ve been to a school reunion (or just Facebook stalking old friends) and been a tiny bit jealous that someone is doing something cool and is successful? (Me? Nah, never…)

Marge’s old school buddy is back in town covering a sex scandal involving the Major. Sorry, Mayor. Lisa finds Chloe beautiful and inspiring, leaving Marge to feel envious that not only did her friend become successful, she’s also a huge role model to Lisa. Let’s face it, Lisa benefits from different female role models in her life.

Anyhoo, this episode is OK. Barney’s rescue in a helicopter is similar to the time he rescued Bart and Lisa from Mt Springfield when a wildfire was burning out of control… Lisa having a strong female role model, well, that’s happened a lot before. Kim Cattrall is fabulous as Chloe (I didn’t recognise the voice until the theme from Sex and the City played after she proposes pity sex to Barney). To me, the ep just feels a little contrived, I don’t entirely buy it. Maybe it’s the recurring themes, maybe it’s a female character that’s completely opposite to Marge and frankly, not very interesting despite what others think of her.

Duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck duck

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Sleeping with the Enemy

Couch gag: The couch is missing, but falls from the sky and squishes the family

Director: Lauren MacMullen

Synopsis: Feeling neglected by her own kids, Marge takes her mothering to Nelson. Meanwhile, Lisa is having issues with her weight after girls at school start teasing her.

Discussion: This little endeavour of mine sure is painful sometimes. Today we have two issues which are real-life situations but dealt with in a normal, non-Simpsons way.

Lisa is suffering body dysphoria, which is basically unhappiness with her weight even though she’s within average limits for her age and height. Every woman has felt this at some point. There’s some opportunity to have some biting satire in the scene where Lisa is looking at clothes in Saks Fifth Grade, but apart from the guy earning $4 an hour planing off the thighs, the satire is completely missing. After a stint of binge eating and humiliating her bullies, the issue isn’t resolved. I’m not sure I’m OK with this- sitcom convention of narrative says the issue HAS to be resolved in half an hour (or have a Part Two), however because weight IS such an issue and isn’t easily resolved, maybe it is OK not to have Lisa change her mind and be happy with her body image.

Then there’s the Bart-Marge-Nelson dynamic. It’s mildly interesting for about five minutes, but gets real old, real quick. Bart has been promised a party if he has a perfect score on a test. When he produces the goods, with validation from Mrs K that Bart didn’t exactly cheat (if the whole class looked at the map, is that still cheating?) Marge produces the world’s worst party. Feeling that the kids don’t need her, she finds Nelson eating tadpoles and decides to use her mothering skills on him instead. It’s a bit cutesy but never really hits the heights I know the show is capable of. And how exactly does Bart know that Nelson is singing Streisand??

It’s an average episode; capable of being a lot better but not really getting anywhere.

 

Let the blossoming of Milhouse begin

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All’s Fair in Oven War

Couch gag: The Simpsons and their couch are launched from a trebuchet

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voices:
Thomas Pynchon as himself
James Caan as himself

Synopsis: Marge enters a home cooking competition and cheats her way into the finals. Meanwhile, Bart and Milhouse find some girly magazines and transform the treehouse into a bachelor’s hangout for their friends.

Discussion: Moral dilemmas always work well in The Simpsons, and this episode is no exception. Feeling unworthy, Marge sabotages the other entrants in a cooking competition and Lisa disapproves. What happens between these characters is typical of a real life family situation, and in this case it’s Lisa pulling the guilt trip with a devastatingly cute card which compels Marge to do the right thing. You know it’s going to happen, it’s a narrative convention and it works well in sitcoms.

The B plot is also very interesting and, at times, threatens to overthrow Marge’s A plot. During the remodelling of the kitchen, Homer finds some old Playdude mags, Marge cuts out all the nude women and Bart finds the discarded magazines and does what every male pretends to do: reads the articles. From these 1970s magazines, Bart and Milhouse form an idea of what’s cool and set about to transform their treehouse into a rockin’ party pad, similar to Hef’s Playboy Mansion. Of course, it all goes pear-shaped when Homer gives the “facts of life” speech to Bart… with hilarious results.

It’s an above average episode, but only just. Marge’s plot seems a little forced at times, but there’s enough to hold interest for the entire 20 minutes. It’s well worth a look just for Bart’s B plot.

Let the commencement beginulate

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Treehouse of Horror XV

Director: Tell-Tale Silverman

Synopsis: The Ned Zone sees Ned Flanders given the ability to predict how people will die. Four Beheadings and a Funeral has Bart and Lisa in Victorian times solving a series of murders in England. In the Belly of the Boss, Maggie is shrunk and accidentally swallowed by Mr Burns, leading the rest of the family to be shrunk and rescue her.

Discussion: Despite me saying that I’m not a huge fan of Halloween specials, they’re growing on me in the past few seasons. This one isn’t particularly clever, but it’s enjoyable enough and doesn’t drag on like some episodes I could mention (hello season 15 finale).

This ep’s opening sequence shows Kang and Kodos in a fictional sitcom called Keeping it Kodos. It’s really funny and a great way to open the episode. The theme from Perfect Strangers plays in this sequence as well as over the closing credits. It’s a wave of welcome nostalgia.

The Ned Zone finds Ned Flanders having premonitions of people’s deaths. After seeing himself kill Homer, he tries to avoid it but circumstances lead a different path. The play between Flanders and Homer is always enjoyable, much more so when Ned is having ethical issues. Not a bad segment although the first 5 minutes (i.e. two-thirds of the entire story) is taken up by the opening credits. Bad form.

Four Beheadings and a Funeral has the potential to be the most boring piece of shite ever, but surprisingly, it’s not. Lisa (as Eliza) and Bart (as her assistant, Dr Bartley), are hot on the trail of the Muttonchop Murderer, based on the tale of Jack the Ripper. The story moves along nicely but encountered some censorship and rating issues in various countries by depicting Ralph smoking opium: here in Australia it was rated M for audiences over the age of 15.

In The Belly of the Boss is based on Fantastic Voyage and sees Maggie shrunk and accidentally swallowed by Mr Burns. The Simpson family have just 30 minutes to rescue her before stomach acids dissolve her. Marge gets to wear a revealing swimsuit, which dissolves even more as the acids get to her but, as Marge notes, they certainly know when to stop.

Overall, it’s a worthy addition to the Halloween specials and an above average episode on its own. Welcome to season 16!

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