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Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 18’

Two rules of TV: Don’t swear and don’t whip it out

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You Kent Always Say What You Want

Couch gag: Flashback to 20 years prior when the Simpsons incarnated as they looked on The Tracy Ullman Show. The opening sequence is replaced with the short: ‘Family Portrait’.

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voices:
Ludacris as himself
Maurice LaMarche as Birch Barlow

Synopsis: Kent Brockman says a Very Bad Swear on live television and is fired, causing him to use Lisa’s webcam to speak out about liberal media.

Discussion: As the “official” 400th episode (the previous ep, ’24 Minutes’ was slated to be the 400th, but aired prior to this one in a special one hour slot), I have to say that it doesn’t tick all the boxes. The opening sequence is fantastic; a throwback to the Tracy Ullman days when the family looked and sounded very different to today. However, the main plot of Kent getting fired falls quite flat.

The episode is a satire of liberal media, taking quite a few digs at Fox in the process. But hey, when you make as much money for your network as The Simpsons does, you pretty much have a free rein to say what you like!

There is a lot of truth in the criticisms of the media, and if we think we have a free media, we’re delusional. Often on social media comes a meme where thousands are killed in Syria yet the media is currently focused on a royal baby. I’ve mentioned before that I am a university student; I’m not majoring in journalism but a lot of my units are journalism units. There’s a lot of theory about what journalism is and should be, but in reality, we have no free media and no journalistic ethics. Media prints what people want to see: for example, in the 1980s and 90s, Australian magazines printed anything they could on the antics of Diana, Princess of Wales. Every time Diana was on the cover, the magazine was guaranteed to sell over a million copies (which is massive sales; remember that Australia has 1/10th the population of the US). When Diana died, the media corporations were bombarded with vitriolic remarks such as “You killed her!”, in reference to the paparazzi’s alleged involvement in her death. But… people bought the magazines, leading to the paparazzi’s big payday every time they sold a picture… Wake up!

Anyhoo, I digress. Kent Brockman is fired and joins the many people who have spent a night sleeping on the Simpsons’ couch. Truthfully, I found the storyline a bit dragging. I was hoping for a bit more substance; what would happen if Homer became anchor for Channel 6 news? He could have Bart and Lisa doing the work for him… it would be hilarious. But no. Someone, somewhere, decided a dig at liberal media would be much better. For that effort, I have to give it an average mark. Bart’s antics with a drugged up Skinner and Marge recognising Maggie’s drawings were much funnier than the main plot. Good luck with season 19!

Pink frosting fixes everything

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24 Minutes

Director: Raymond Persi

Guest Voices:
Kiefer Sutherland as Jack Bauer
Mary Lynn Rajskub as Chloe O’Brien

Synopsis: The bullies are set to release a stink bomb during the school’s bake sale. It’s up to Lisa and Bart to stop them.

Discussion: In a world where The Simpsons are making some very sucky episodes, I’m not going to complain about some cross-promotion, which is what this is. There’s nothing wrong with a bit of parody when it’s this clever.

Keeping in mind that I’ve never watched an episode of 24 in my life, I probably missed a lot of references, even though I know there’s a lot of split screens and timers ticking down. This ep is full of both, which gets a bit annoying in the space of 20 minutes but at times it serves the tension well. Yes boys and girls, this episode has tension… although it probably shouldn’t.

After making an extremely potent stink bomb, the school bullies are on their way to disrupt the school’s annual bake sale, responsible for 90% of the school’s funding. Meanwhile, Marge realises she only has 25 minutes to bake a cake to participate in the sale. Whatever will she do??

The episode is very well done, with jokes galore while keeping the general tone close to that of the seminal show. The cameo appearances by two 24 characters is a nice touch although it doesn’t really add anything. Jack Bauer rocking up at the school after Bart’s prank call is a bit on the silly side but hey, where else are they going to go with that?

The ep has it’s moments when you wonder why they bother, but overall it’s very well done. A nice change of pace in both style and narrative although the credits run to over 7 minutes into the episode. Cutting back on the opening credits would have been nice as they take up almost the entire first act and are very distracting. Nice work for the 400th episode.

Wagon wheels were the internet of the 19th Century

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Stop or My Dog Will Shoot

Pearls are not oyster barf

Couch gag: The Simpsons sit on the couch, and more and more Simpsons clones fill the room, then the spill from the house.

Director: Matthew Faughnan

Guest Voices:
Stephen Hawking as himself
Maurice LaMarche as the horn stuffer

Synopsis: Santa’s Little Helper becomes a police dog and Bart gets a new pet, a python.

Discussion: Aww look, Santa’s Little Helper is a cop dog with a cute widdle uniform and everyfink! Unfortunately, that’s where the fun ends. It’s an average episode, which means I don’t wanna poke my eyes out but I can’t think of much to say about it.

In fact, the most interesting part about this ep is the omission of Rudy Giuliani, who was apparently supposed to appear in the graduation scene but was cut due to his presidential campaign or something. I doubt his appearance would have lifted the episode or mattered much in his campaign… Anyhoo, this production note is still more interesting than the episode.

One notable highlight is the use of Korn’s ‘Freak on a Leash‘ when Santa’s Little Helper is trying to find Homer in the maize maze. I thought that was rather clever and I was surprised that I recognised the song; I’m more of a top 40, pop and 80’s wuss rock kind of girl.

I’m the bum of the future

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Crook and Ladder

I will not look up what teacher makes

Couch gag: The Simpsons are on a conveyor belt going through a carwash.

Director: Lance Kramer

Synopsis: Homer becomes a fireman, and along with Moe, Skinner and Apu, start stealing valuables from places they save.

Discussion: You know when you’re channel surfing and after 20 channels, you start forming your own narrative to link them together? That’s what this episode feels like: a series of disjointed narrative events that take half the episode to get to the point and stay on the same lame premise for the remaining 10 minutes. Boo!

If I died tomorrow, I wouldn’t leave this episode to my worst enemy. I respectfully disagree with Robert Canning, who called the episode “delightful” and “well-crafted”. This ep was all over the place: Marge overreacts and takes away Maggie’s dummy (sorry, pacifier for my US readers) and Maggie goes nuts. Cue smirk for lashing out when object of addiction is taken away. Unable to sleep due to Maggie’s new suck toy, the squeaky dog bone (eww), Homer starts taking a sleeping pill, does some crazy things, destroys the fire dept and ends up as a fireman. This is not “well-crafted”, this is “we have five ideas that can’t be fleshed out so let’s smoosh them together and hope for the best”. The first clue was the opening sequence: when the episode runs a minute or so ‘over time’, the opening sequence is shortened whereas this ep had the full sequence plus a few extra seconds of couch gag where the family went through the car wash. It’s all to eat up time.

There’s nothing fun about the character interractions except for when Apu plays a gag on Moe and Homer, pretending to have died and been reincarnated as a cat, then quipping, “You’ve been Apu’d”. As always, there’s a moral to the story and the kids’ sad faces convince Homer to give up his life of stealing but thankfully it’s short and sweet. Not even Homer’s kooky night time pranks liven the episode.

OK, so I didn’t love the episode. It doesn’t have any great ideas and feels like a bunch of ideas thrown together to make a mediocre episode.

You stink like a Dutchman’s throw up

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The Boys of Bummer

Couch gag: The Simpsons are playing musical chairs and Homer is left out when the music stops.

Director: Rob Oliver

Synopsis: Everyone in Springfield hates Bart because he dropped the ball in the baseball final. Meanwhile, Homer gets a job selling mattresses but ends up in a fight over his own mattress (yes, you read that correctly).

Discussion: I’m always sad when I see a really sucky Simpsons episode. Not just because the glory days are long behind us, not because I’ve wasted a whole 22 minutes of my life that I’m never getting back, but because a lot of people put effort into this piece of crap and no one told them they’re wasting everyone’s time.

Everyone hates Bart. This would be a perfect opportunity to bring back the Bart Simpson we know and love to win people over. Have him Do the Bartman in the town square. A thousand hours of community service where he has to bring fun into people’s lives and remind them that sport is a gigantic waste of time and money (remember the bit where I’m not a sports fan?) But no. The viewers and the town are subjected to a do-over of the fateful game where Bart dropped the ball, with various unfunny mishaps ensuring Bart still doesn’t catch the ball, and then reminiscing with Milhouse sixty years in the future about the one catch in the do-over game that NO ONE CARES ABOUT. Somebody, anybody, please scrape out my eyeballs with a rusty spoon!

The subplot is one of the worst plots ever. Homer is a mattress salesman, which turns out fine until Reverend and Mrs Lovejoy don’t love their bed and start making whoopee on Homer and Marge’s mattress, starting this bizarre bed war so the two couples can get their freak on. WHAT THE HELL? Who thought up this lame excuse for plot filler? Let’s cut up the Simpsons’ mattress and have them fight for it, ending with Homer and Marge gettin’ jiggy wit it behind a billboard while a hobo looks on.

 The episode wasn’t a complete waste of time. There were some very good one liners uttered by various characters and KBBL’s Bart Simpson Sux marathon was entertaining for the 30 seconds we saw it. It’s still not good enough to save the episode nor a reason to watch this train wreck.

Let me enchant your pants

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Marge Gamer

Couch gag: A newspaper headline reads: Couch Gag Thrills Nation

Director: Bob Anderson

Guest Voice:
Ronaldo as himself

Synopsis: Marge discovers the internet and becomes enthralled with a role-playing game online. Meanwhile, Lisa discovers soccer and Homer becomes her referee.

Discussion: Marge is a bit behind the times and only just discovered the internet. That’s OK, we forgive you. It’s when your parents discover Facebook that things get weird… Anyhoo, Marge clicks on a banner ad and finds an online role-playing game called Earthland Realms. It seems most of the townspeople are also involved with the game, including Bart, who is a character named Shadow Knight, feared by everyone in the game.

This episode is really interesting. It involves the whole town but in a different way, similar to those episodes with three stories contained within. It’s expanding the parent-child bonding themes with both Marge/Bart and Homer/Lisa involved in different plots. Homer and Lisa’s soccer plot starts about halfway through the episode but this relationship is a little different to what we’ve seen before: this time, Homer’s doing his best and succeeding at it, while Lisa is the one in the wrong. Marge and Bart’s relationship follows previous themes where Bart disappoints Marge, then makes it up to her. Either way, the family dynamics are further explored in this episode but with twists of a different place (the role-playing game) and Lisa doing something wrong instead of Homer.

Overall, it’s a very well-done episode and mostly enjoyable. As soon as soccer was mentioned, I groaned. I’m not a sports fan and I thought the main plot was interesting enough to take the whole episode and that we didn’t really need a subplot… but then Homer and Lisa aren’t doing anything else in the episode so may as well put them to good use. This subplot turned out to be pretty good anyway, although Ronaldo’s guest appearance felt awkward.

Weeeeeeeeee I’m sorta rich

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Homerazzi

Global warming did not eat my homework

Couch gag: Homer goes through the process of evolution, beginning from a unicellular organism to his present-day self. After the 1 min 30 seconds sequence, Homer plops himself on the couch and Marge asks him why he took so long.

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest voices:
Betty White as herself
Jon Lovitz as Enrico Irritazio
JK Simmons as the tabloid editor

Synopsis: Whilst recreating family photos, Homer snaps a celebrity in a compromising situation, leading to a new career being a paparazzo.

Discussion: Homer has yet another career, this time as a paparazzo. Homer has had contact with a lot of celebrities yet he’s kinda turned on them, prodding them into situations which can earn him a small fortune from a tabloid.

This ep has the foundation of a good episode, but never quite pulls it off. From the title, I already guessed the ep was about paparazzi but from the first few minutes, I was hoping it would be another ep about Homer’s health (my fave ep of all time is ‘Homer’s Triple Bypass‘ from season 4). Maybe the two concepts could have been meshed together with Homer is hospital and reporting the plastic surgery of Springfield’s rich and famous?

There are still plenty of celebs to be seen, only a few of which have speaking parts. That’s still OK, the visual humour is the main thing although it’s only outside a dry cleaning store. Jon Lovitz makes his ninth appearance on the show, this time as a fellow paparazzi promising to take compromising photos of Homer. I just don’t get that part- it’s completely nonsensical without the usual social commentary otherwise seen in the ep (By that I mean the constant fight between the paps and celebs). Enrico Irritazio doesn’t add anything to the episode although he’s a lot less annoying than other Jon Lovitz characters. It may work in the small town of Springfield where everyone knows Homer, but translated into a real-world scenario doesn’t work and doesn’t have that associated humour either.

I must mention fellow Australian Kylie Minogue, whose song ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head‘ features in the episode. Always great to see Aussies doing well on the international stage and to have a song played prominently within a Simpsons episode is a fantastic showcase of Kylie’s talent.

Overall, it’s a good commentary on the culture of celebrity and how the public eat up whatever gossip they can get. The execution of the episode leaves room to improve but I’m happy to give it a slighty-above-average rating.

You’re not open casket material yourself

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Rome-Old and Julie-Eh

Couch gag: The Simpsons parody the opening to Bonanza

Director: Nancy Kruse

Guest voice:
Jane Kaczmarek as Judge Constance Harm

Synopsis: Abe and Selma find love, while Lisa and Bart build a fortress out of cardboard boxes.

Discussion: I’m not sure what to think about this episode. On one hand, it’s bucking against the grain in terms of surprises: we’ve not seen a couple this mismatched since Agnes Skinner and Comic Book Guy. On the other hand… Abe and Selma? Ewwwwwwwww. And then we have the almighty battle to save Boxingham Palace… What?

We’ll start from the beginning. Homer builds a rec room in the basement, and files for bankruptcy. In the phase of cutting expenses, Grampa is kicked out of the retirement castle to come live with the Simpsons. OK, OK, yes, good, I can deal with that. Homer and Marge go out for dinner and Selma is invited over to help babysit. Well… OK… And then Grampa and Selma start smooching, dating, and marrying. I think it’s a good avenue to explore- it’s completely unexpected but not without small inconsistencies. For example, Selma is called over to help babysit yet leaves her baby with Abe while she works very long hours. OK, so Grampa destroying the kitchen happens after they marry… but where’s the baby?

The subplot of Lisa and Bart building a fort from cardboard boxes is weak. The battle versus the shipping company is a parody of a battle from The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, but I’m not really buying it. At most, it’s only slightly interesting as Bart, Lisa and Nelson use cardboard weapons to deliver blows to defeat their enemy, who only want their boxes back. After the mighty battle, they hose down the fort until it’s nothing but a pile of soggy cardboard. What an anti-climax! 

I’m going to go with my first instinct here and say this episode is average. I’m torn between it being brilliant for the use of unexpected coupledom (even though we really don’t need to see it…) and it being really bad, mostly for the same reason plus the cardboard fortress is kinda lame.

Deep down, I want them to have a cow

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Yokel Chords

Couch gag: The Simpsons (and others) are in a vending machine. Ralph Wiggum chooses a Homer figurine and bites off the head.

Director: Susie Dietter

Guest voices:
James Patterson as himself
Meg Ryan as Dr Stacey Swanson
Peter Bogdanavich as psychologist
Stephen Sondheim as himself
Andy Dick as himself

Synopsis: When Bart tells fellow students about the Dark Stanley murders to get himself a free lunch, he’s sent to a psychologist. Meanwhile, Lisa is employed to tutor Cletus’ kids, who are then employed by Krusty for a travelling kids troupe.

Discussion: Let’s face it, there ain’t many episodes ringing my bell recently. This one is a gem and ticks all the boxes. There’s singing (parodies of songs from The Sound of Music), dancing, strange allusions (like Agnes Skinner as Mame), Bart delving into his deepest, darkest areas of his soul to try to understand why he’s a bad kid… Everything just works here.

Well, almost everything. There are moments when the episode looks like it’s about to the turn the corner into WTF but it picks itself up and carries on being utterly enjoyable. Bart’s made-up story of the Dark Stanley murders is exceptionally well done: not only the story but the animation as well. In fact, this ep is so good it doesn’t even need the myriad celebrity voices to lift it up. Meg Ryan sounds a lot like Michelle Pfeiffer when she voiced Mindy back in season 5, but Dr Stacey is a good character on her own even if she doesn’t have any memorable one liners like Mindy did.

Overall, it’s a really enjoyable, fun, silly episode that I would be happy to watch again. And… go Brandine.

Dreams dissolve like a muffin in the rain

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Springfield Up

Guest voice:
Eric Idle as Declan Desmond

Synopsis: Documentary maker Declan Desmond returns to Springfield every 8 years in order to film updates on the residents.

Discussion: Based on the popular English series Seven Up, Declan Desmond returns to Springfield every 8 years in order to interview residents of Springfield to see what they’re up to. Homer decides to pretend he’s wealthy in order to impress Declan and “stop making everyone else (in the doco) look good” by comparison.

It’s a good idea, but the execution of the narrative doesn’t quite get there. It very much feels like there’s two separate narratives here: one about the updates of Springfieldians and one about Homer feeling like a public failure. Homer’s story isn’t new; he often feels like a failure and there have been many episodes dealing with it. Borrowing Mr Burns’ summer home to show off is a new angle and worthy of its own episode. Trying to squish it in with a story about other townspeople forgets about those stories, which are also interesting. Eleanor, aka Crazy Cat Lady, holds a double degree in law and medicine but burned out and bought a cat… and then another cat. Why can’t we see the back-stories of how townspeople came to be in their positions? Sideshow Mel is shown as an 8 year old, and I’ve said before that having him as a central character could be really interesting. Why is he content to be a sidekick and not the main star?

A+ for being different, but C overall for cramming too many ideas into 20 minutes.

 

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