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!
Couch gag: The Simpsons are chess pieces, hopping to the couch.
Director: Mike B. Anderson
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.
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
All’s Fair in Oven War
Couch gag: The Simpsons and their couch are launched from a trebuchet
Director: Mark Kirkland
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.
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!