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Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 17’

I’m whacking this one for you, baby

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Marge and Homer Turn a Couple Play

Have a great summer, everyone

Couch gag: All the couches in Springfield turn into monsters

Director: Bob Anderson

Guest voices:
Mandy Moore as Tabitha Vixx
Stacy Keach as Howard K. Duff

Synopsis: Marge and Homer provide marriage counselling to a baseballer and his superstar singer wife.

Discussion: The premise of the episode is pretty good, but there’s something missing to make it a great episode. Maybe it’s that I tuned out when sport was mentioned, or maybe Tabitha and Buck aren’t interesting characters. In any case, this episode never lifts above mediocrity.

When Marge and Homer are caught on the stadium’s Kissing Cam, Buck Mitchell, a baseballer for the Springfield Isotopes, decides to rock up on their doorstep and reveal that his marriage isn’t going well. Surely there’s a better reason for him to rock up besides a random Kissing Cam moment? But no, here he is and the next thing you know, Marge and Homer agree to provide counselling.

The counselling sessions themselves provide few laughs but a lot of cliches and obvious reasons as to why they’re not happy in their marriage. There’s no playing around with these characters- they do exactly what they’re expected to and end up together after Homer pulls a stunt involving a blimp and a loving message to Buck while he’s playing. OK, so it was mostly to ensure Buck had a good game but there’s no reason the audience cares at that point. What if they stayed together for multi-million dollar magazine photo shoot or publicity stunt or a myriad of any other lame reason? Instead it’s just these two uninteresting characters who have wandered in and decided to stay together for some strange reason known only to themselves.

This ep brings us to the end of season 17. There were a couple of really good episodes, a few really painful ones, and plenty of average ones. This ep was bordering on painful.

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Was mommy a monkey

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The Monkey Suit

Je ne parle pas Francais 

Couch gag: A series of family portraits from 2006-2013

Director: Raymond S. Persi

Guest voices:
Melanie Griffith as herself
Larry Hagman as Wallace Brady

Synopsis: After discovering the evolution exhibit at the local museum, Ned Flanders encourages creation to be taught in schools. 

Discussion: As I type this, there is a debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham about whether creation is a viable option of origins in today’s world (I’ll post the link when it’s finished- it’s currently live and probably finished by the time most people read this). 

Anyhoo, the subject of science vs religion is not new to The Simpsons. We’ve seen Lisa getting her head around the angel fossil, for example. This episode doesn’t bring anything new to the table and although the ep was praised for “biting satire” and “encouraging critical thinking”, I don’t see it. What I do see is how the episode dodges all the main points of either point of view (POV). The central theme in the ep is Charles Darwin (something that Ken Ham is literally talking about as I type). Marge’s obsession with On the Origin of Species leads to her giving Homer a beer bottle in the court which somehow proves that Homer is related to a monkey, and to get Ned to admit it. 

Oh puh-leese! 

I get it, it’s supposed to be funny and satirical, but it comes across as a lame attempt to resolve the issue within the 20 minute constraints of the episode. Did we need this episode? No. It’s been done before, and sure, it’s a topical issue (particularly in Australian schools in 2014) but I don’t think The Simpsons is the correct place to be airing these sorts of issues. When you’ve got two polar opposites like Ned and Lisa, neither are going to budge on their belief systems so the episode cannot move forward nor add anything to the canon. 

Having said that, there is so much more that can be added. What I’d really like to see is Lisa vs Ned on say, the book of Leviticus. (If you haven’t read Leviticus, it’s full of gems.) 

You used to love my non sequiturs

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Regarding Margie

I will not leak the plot of the movie

Couch gag:  Five vehicles zoom into the living room and they turn into the Simpsons.

Director: Michael Polcino

Guest Voices:
Sal Bando as himself
Gene Tenance as himself

Synopsis: Marge develops amnesia. While she remembers her children pretty much straight away, she has no idea who Homer is so Homer tries to jog her memory and win her affection.

Discussion: Homer once had amnesia, way back in season 3 which ended up being a clip show highlighting all of Homer’s injuries. This could have easily been the same premise, but the writers had given up doing clip shows several seasons ago. So we’re left with an episode that moves in an entirely different direction than expected.

It’s one of the narrative conventions of comedy: give a character amnesia so they forget their family and themselves. In reality, this is extremely rare but hey, never let facts get in the way of a good story! The build up to the premise is long and awkward- something about another prank by Bart and getting someone else’s mail… and Marge cleaning her house so the housekeeper won’t bitch about how untidy they are. What?

Then we get to her amnesia. Instead of being a sweet episode where Homer tries to win her back, there’s a lot of pollution from Patty and Selma trying to get Marge a new man who turns out to be a nutter anyway. I think the episode would have been better split into two separate stories: Focus on Homer trying to win her back (I know, it’s been done before but she was mad at him, not forgetting who he was) OR Patty and Selma trying to fix her up with a new man- cue every nutter in Springfield, including Moe. Maybe she remembers Moe, maybe she doesn’t. Either plot would work in a 20 minute episode, but not both. The show’s strength comes from these really sweet episodes which focus on the family unit of the Simpsons; by dividing it and adding some random speed dating dude ruins the whole thing.

One another thing that’s annoying me: when Marge first wakes up from her accident with amnesia, the family are introducing themselves and Homer mentions he and Marge are the same age. It was established very early in the series that Marge was 34 and Homer was 38, but then there’s a long list of episodes where they were in the same class at high school blah blah blah. I get it- change what you need to in order to suit the circumstances but really, it just complicates the issue. Or maybe I’m overthinking it.

Don’t start a puke war you can’t finish

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Girls Just Wanna Have Sums

Couch gag: The Simpsons walk in to a surprise party, Homer has a heart attack.

Director: Nancy Kruse

Guest Voice:
Frances McDormand as Melanie Upfoot

Synopsis: When Skinner remarks that girls are less smart at maths, the school is split into a boys’ school and a girls’ school. Finding that the girls’ classes aren’t mentally challenging enough, Lisa dresses as a boy and infiltrates the boys’ classes.

Discussion: Despite the blindingly obvious flawed premise, this episode is quite good. Gender equality is a hot topic in the education system and this ep plays on that by challenging Lisa to be a boy in order to have a decent education, well at least where maths is concerned.

Along the way, Lisa has to learn to be a boy, which is basically beating up other boys and playing pretend guns all the time. Her secret double life is discovered by Bart, who, instead of teasing her, offers to teach Lisa the mysterious ways of the Boy, which includes eating french fries off the floor because they have “extra toppings”.

The opening sequence is a parody of Broadway’s The Lion King stage musical, featuring Itchy and Scratchy with songs from other musicals such as Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s actually pretty funny and shows that a little bit of musical parody goes a long way. Overall, the episode explores the differences in boy vs girl learning, but (hopefully) highly exaggerated. The concept that girls can’t be smart is, of course, stupid as girls are proven to be better academically than boys, at least in elementary school aged kids anyway. But girls can be academically successful as well, such as Danica McKellar and Mayim Bialik, who are well known in the entertainment industry but are also really, really smart.

 

I do not approve of your fleshly gaze

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The Wettest Stories Ever Told

Couch gag: The family are represented in a jigsaw puzzle, and the unseen person swaps Homer and Maggie’s head before realising the mistake.

Director: Mike B. Anderson

Synopsis: Three tales of nautical adventure: The Mayflower. Mutiny on the Bounty and a Poseidon Adventure  parody.

Discussion: Here’s another episode where three stories are told. I don’t mind these episodes, it gives a break from the canon of the series and sometimes they’re quite entertaining. Maybe I don’t like ships or history, but I didn’t love this ep.

The wraparound story involves the Simpsons going to the Frying Dutchman and waiting for their food. Bored, they start telling stories of the sea. Really? Is this the best way they could think of to start the tales of moist adventure?

Mayflower Madman: I’m not an expert in American history, but I do know about the Mayflower, pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving (thanks to 35 years of exposure to American TV and movies). Truthfully, the story has been done so many times and this doesn’t add anything interesting. On its own, it’s mildly enjoyable if only for the olde English (with American accents) and double entendres.

The Whine-Bar Sea is a retelling of the mutiny on the Bounty where Skinner is Capt Bligh and Bart overthrows him. Again, nothing new to add to the vast array of media on the topic. Homer and Marge as the Tahitian tribe leaders was kinda cool though.

Watership D’ohn aka The Neptune Adventure was probably the most interesting of the three segments, but that’s not saying much. It’s a parody of The Poseidon Adventure but there are elements of Titanic in there as well. The best part about this segment was encountering the skeleton crew of the Bounty from the second segment as they still searched for Tahiti.

Overall, it was an average episode. The interest was short but at least it kept moving (or sailing) along. And… did the Simpsons ever get their food??

Guess who made MacGyver burgers?

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Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore

Couch gag: Cards featuring the family are dealt to the couch; it’s a royal flush.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest voice:
Richard Dean Anderson as himself

Synopsis: When Mr Burns outsources the nuclear power plant to India, Homer is sent over to train the new employees but becomes drunk with power. Meanwhile, Patty and Selma kidnap their idol, Richard Dean Anderson, and get more than they bargained for.

Discussion: This episode is actually pretty funny. It was written by the voice of Homer, Dan Castellaneta, and his wife Deb Lacusta. It’s a tight script with two separate plots which don’t need to work together but they get the ep moving along nicely. Richard Dean Anderson is a brilliant addition to the episode and shows that he doesn’t take himself too seriously.

Patty and Selma’s obsession with RDA is long acknowledged in the series, but this time they’ve caught him by kidnapping him during a Stargate: SG-1 convention and taking him to their own MacGyver convention. He turns a bit weird and insists on being placed in ever stranger predicaments to see if he can really escape in true MacGyver style. Feeling he’s a bit too weird for them, they decide to bore him with travel photos and he jumps out a window. His MacGyver-style mullet is never really explained though…

Homer’s trip to India is also pretty good. For once, it’s not an offensive trip overseas (although he does offend the Indians when wrestling with a cow who stole his iPod). Thinking he’s a god is a bit weird, but makes sense in context so I’ll forgive it. I wish there was more Lenny and Carl involved with the episode- perhaps the three of them are made team leaders with different leadership ways which conflict and Homer’s team is in front so he still thinks he’s a god…?

Apu’s cousin Kavi makes an appearance and again, I think he could have been utilised a bit more. Changing seamlessly through his accents when answering phones was funny and just the cushy job Homer aspires to.

A rare gem in the later seasons and well worth watching, even if it’s just for Patty and Selma’s plot.

Can we bring outside food?

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Million Dollar Abie

I will not flip the classroom upside down (The classroom is upside down)

Couch gag: A menu screen pops up and “delete recording” is chosen

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest voices:
Rob Reiner as himself
Michael Carrington as Jock Centre Host #2

Synopsis: Grampa considers euthanasia when everyone in town hates him, and then becomes a bullfighter when the assisted suicide doesn’t go to plan.

Discussion: Yes, dear reader, you read that sentence correctly: Abe Simpsons considers euthanasia and then becomes a bullfighter.

I don’t even know how this monstrosity gets there- something about a new football team, Grampa capturing someone he thinks is a burglar and, next thing you know, he’s hooked up to the Die-Pod. WTF? Seriously, WTF? You know the episode is garbage when I have three lines written down for possible blog titles and “Can we bring outside food?” is the best one.

There is absolutely nothing good to say about this episode. I want to wash my eyes out and pretend I never saw it (I will keep the memory of seeing it, just so I remember never to watch it again).

Episodes like this have me wondering how they ever get on screen. Does no one realise that the episode is utter rubbish? At what point does someone read the script, look at the storyboard and OK the project to move ahead? Does it give them nightmares? Are they tempted to hook the show to the Die-Pod and finally kill it off? How do episodes this bad ever see the light of day?

 

Disembowel me with your pointy, pointy words

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Homer Simpson, This is Your Wife

I will not eat things for money

Couch gag: The entire opening sequence is recreated using actual people, shown here on the left hand side:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MvSnNpawWiI

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voice:
Ricky Gervais as Charles

Synopsis: Homer signs up the family for a Wife Swap-type show in order to win enough money to buy a high definition plasma TV.

Discussion: I know the world is in love with Ricky Gervais, a comedic genius who turns everyday into funny, but I’m not a fan. He wrote and guest starred in this episode, which centres around Homer wanting a HD plasma TV like Lenny has, and winning the money for signing up to a Wife Swap-type show.

Enter Ricky Gervais as Charles, the husband of a soul-sucking beast, who falls in love with Marge. Charles is basically the same character that he plays on The Office, which again, I am not a fan of. This cross between British and American humour just doesn’t gel. Gervais nails the character and all his imperfect British ways, but the episode is almost painful to watch because it is so cliched: Homer takes the mickey out of Gervais’ character for being British but it’s not organic. It feels forced- forced humbleness, if you will.

However, it’s good to see Marge receiving some attention from a male who isn’t Homer or Artie Ziff. She hasn’t felt attractive since season one when she met Jacques, who taught her how to bowl. The song performed by Charles is painful. It’s classic British humour which doesn’t translate to an American audience (as an Australian, we’re caught smack bang between the two cultures, and the differences are both noticeable and hilarious to us because we are an impartial audience to both).

I suppose there are millions of fans out there who love this episode because of Ricky Gervais, but I’m not one of them. Maybe I just don’t get him, or maybe I just find him supremely irritating. Either way, I’m not loving this episode.

 

Ambidextrous- lefties in denial

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Bart Has Two Mommies

Couch gag: The living room is protected by a laser security system, and the family have to weave around them to get to the couch. Homer’s head is cut off by a laser. 

Director: Mike Mercantel

Guest voices:
Susan Sarandon as herself being the computer voice
Randy Johnson as himself
Antonio Fargas as Huggy Bear
Dave Thomas as Bob Hope

Synopsis: Marge babysits the Flanders kids and Homer looks after the Simpsons kids, taking them to the zoo of retire celebrity animals where Bart is kidnapped by an ape. 

Discussion: …What? This episode takes a long time to get moving and when it does, it still has no point. There’s a lot of cutesy Flanderisms and one liners but nothing of substance. Any emotion supposed to be here is completely missing and Lisa is given lines to explain what’s going on- in earlier episodes this feeling would have been obvious, not needed to be stated by a character. 

I guess the most interesting thing about this ep is the maturing of the Flanders boys. Rod and Todd have been sheltered all their lives, even more so since the untimely death of their mother Maude. Enter Marge, who lets them play Christian Clue (unfortunately Rod cuts his finger on the plastic weapon) and takes them to a game centre to climb walls and play in ball pits. It’s a dangerous environment but hey, someone has to take the kids into the real world. 

I’ve said it before, but the Flanders kids would be really interesting in the Real World. It’s a bit like that reality show where Amish teenagers experience all the hedonistic wonders on offer in the world. This ep gets halfway there, but the subplot of Bart being kidnapped by the ape really detracts from it. By the way, is it still a subplot when the title of the ep references it? 

Anyhoo, this ep sucked. There was no feeling in it and no point. Marge’s impassioned plea to Toot-Toot to release Bart was the lowlight of the ep. I do have one burning question though: How the heck does Ned Flanders know the lyrics to ‘Welcome to the Jungle’?? 

Hi ho Smithers- away!

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The Seemingly Never-Ending Story

Couch gag: Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are on the couch, which is on a conveyor belt. A claw drops Homer in place on the couch and the conveyor belt moves on.

Director: Raymond Persi

Synopsis: The Simpsons are on a nature walk to a cavern, where Homer gets stuck so Lisa tells him a story of Mr Burns telling a story about Moe’s story of treasure… Look, it’s a series of stories within stories.

Discussion: Here we are, halfway through season 17. The expectations are pretty low at this point; the most I hope for is “average”. It’s good to see that the show still has surprises up its sleeve.

I don’t know if it’s the format or the unexpected tales interwoven (think layers of plot a la Inception), but this is a FANTASTIC episode. Easily 5 stars (out of 5). I can’t think of any way that this episode can be improved. Very deservedly, it won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (Less than One Hour) as well as an award for the scriptwriter in the Annie Awards.

The style of the episode is different to a regular plot- there are stories within stories, layered to make a complete picture with a satisfying conclusion. We (partly) learn back stories of Moe, Edna Krabappel, the Rich Texan, Mr Burns and Snake. Their stories come together and end in a Mexican stand-off deep in the caverns where Homer has deliberately led them.

It’s just brilliant, more so because it’s so unexpected! These later seasons are universally regarded as rubbish, but this is a standout and a real highlight of the entire series.

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