I watch, and blog, and watch and blog and watch. It's the Simpsons every day!

Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 19’

90% of success is showing up on time

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All About Lisa

Couch gag: The family are placed on the couch by a cursor, then dumped into trash, which is then emptied.

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest voice:
Drew Carey

Synopsis: Lisa wins Entertainer of the Year and Sideshow Mel narrates the backstory of how she got there.

Discussion: Underneath the glitz and glamour of a technically well-done episode lies the kernel of crapness. Of course, Lisa’s not the only Simpson kid who has been employed by Krusty in a pleb job only to become famous, and it was a lot funnier when Bart did it. Or is that, didn’t do it?

Meanwhile, Bart and Homer are bonding again, this time they’re collecting coins. Wow, exciting. There are a few giggles at their collecting escapades, but really, how much excitement is there in coin collecting?

One thing I did really like about the ep was the narration of Sideshow Mel. I’ve said before that I wished we had some sort of back story for him and my wish was half fulfilled in this episode. He’s always destined to be a sidekick, never the main character, but to have some sort of background for him is very satisfying: we know a lot about every other character except Mel. As a whole, the episode just wasn’t that great. It was deja vu and lacked any real spark of creativity.

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Did you win those at the Tour de Pants?

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Mona Leaves-A

This punishment is not medieval (in medieval writing)

Couch gag: the evolution of Homer

Directors: Mike B. Anderson and Ralph Sosa

Guest voices:
Glenn Close as Mona
Lance Armstrong as himself

Synopsis: Homer’s mother Mona returns again for one last hippy stunt.

Discussion: I’m torn, dear readers. Mona returns to the Simpson household, and Homer is upset because every time she returns, she leaves again. This time, Mona assures him he’s the most important thing in her life now, but Homer is still very upset. When he goes to apologise, Mona has died so the last things she heard Homer say were how mad he was at her.

In itself, this is quite sweet, but I’m also a bit mad at Mona for dying and leaving Homer all alone… again. Mona was in the episode for far too short a time and then came some silliness about ashes, a Swiss army knife and foiling a nuclear waste experiment. But that’s what The Simpsons does- takes a sweet, poignant moment such as death and hides it away under metaphorical carpet: remember Maude Flanders’ death when Homer got Ned into the dating game mere minutes later? The ep also has dedications to Dan Castellaneta’s mother and Harry Shearer’s mother at the very end, but I felt the episode overshadowed the real grief felt when someone loses their mother.

Mr Burns’ under-mountain lair felt a lot like Hank Scorpio’s lair, and I expected him to come busting out of somewhere with some crazy plot. Instead, Mr Burns appears with some weird thing about sending nuclear waste to a rainforest via rocket. Mona’s ashes foiled that plan but I still felt cheated that a) Mona died so early in the ep, b) her death was overshadowed by Mr Burns’ waste plot and c) the touching tribute to Mona at the end still made her seem like a whacked out hippy who cared more about the Cause than Homer… Hadn’t we already established the last time we saw Mona that she was over all that nonsense?

Anyhoo, because I felt such polarity, this episode is classed as “average”. It’s like having hot feet and a cold head- on average you feel fine.

 

We’ll have a kid who did a thing

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Any Given Sundance

Couch gag: The Simpsons are in a pop-up book

Director: Chuck Sheetz

Guest voices:
Jim Jarmusch as himself
John C. Reilly as himself

Synopsis: Lisa enters a documentary about her family into the Sundance Film Festival.

Discussion: *snore* Oh, it’s over already?

You’re forgiven for thinking you’ve seen this episode before (even if you haven’t). Springfield has had a film festival before, and the kids have made movies/comics/other general media about their parents before. For some reason I didn’t quite catch, Lisa’s attempt lands her in the Sundance Film Festival, where people go nuts over her family’s dysfunction. Call me cynical, but her movie doesn’t capture anything we know or love about the Simpson family. What would happen if she let the tape run and it turned into a Paranormal Activity-type thing? What would happen if her family didn’t do anything exciting and the Sundance audience hated them? Get it, it would be satirising America’s falling out of love with the show? Huh?

Anyhoo, there’s nothing special about this episode. Nelson’s short film, entitled Life Blows Chunks, is similar to Barney’s entry into Springfield’s film festival but lacks the same heart. Nelson’s family life sucks but he’s OK with that and makes friends with people whose parents are in similar situations, like when Marge went to jail and he bonded with Bart on the bus.

I can’t really say much about this ep. It sucks.

 

Blow her a song of love

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Apocalypse Cow

A person’s a person no matter how Ralph

Couch gag: A medieval tapestry showing the Simpsons versus Flanders over a couch

Director: Nancy Kruse

Guest voice:
Zooey Deschanel as Mary

Synopsis: Bart is forced to marry Mary Spuckler in exchange for keeping his cow alive.

Discussion: Did I watch the same episode as everyone else? This ep won a writing award, Matt Groening says it’s his favourite episode and some other critic gave it 7.5/10. Did I miss something??

I’d never heard of 4-H, but apparently you raise cows only for them to be slaughtered, and drive combine harvesters. Bart is given a cow to look after, it wins first prize and is now first in line to be slaughtered. In order to save the cow, he gives it to Cletus’ daughter, which in hillbilly land, means he wants to marry her. In case no one else noticed, this is the most ridiculous “plot” since Bart and Homer trained Duncan, the racehorse. I counted myself audibly groaning three times in this episode. Three!

There was nothing endearing about this episode at all. Lisa’s atop her moral high ground, pushing vegetarianism. Bart finally utters the phrase, “I’m glad I had a cow, man” to close the episode (we all knew it was coming) and Homer, dressed as a cow, is a whisker away from being slaughtered. Do cows have whiskers…?

This is easily one of the stupidest episodes ever. Even the minute or so of Zooey Deschanel (who is annoying at the best of times) can’t save this train wreck of stupidity.

All I see is a gut with knees

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Papa Don’t Leech

Couch gag: An artist paints the Simpsons onto the couch

Director: Chris Clements

Guest Voices:
Beverley D’Angelo as Lurleen
The Dixie Chicks as themselves

Synopsis: When Springfield goes broke (again), Mayor Quimby calls on residents to pay their back taxes, including Lurleen Lumpkin. Discovering Lurleen has self esteem issues rising from her father’s abandonment, Marge tracks him down.

Discussion: We first met Lurleen waaaay back in season 3, when Homer was her manager. Lurleen hasn’t aged a day yet has been divorced three times (she married men who all look like Homer) and is haunted by her father’s abandonment when she was a child. Marge tracks him down, there’s a catchy song and Royce Lumpkin abandons his daughter again, selling her catchy song to the Dixie Chicks.

Lurleen was a memorable character and it’s been far too long between visits. I feel her appearance here is overshadowed by the Dixie Chicks’ apology song in which they claim they’re “patri-otter” (patriotic) again, but overall the episode is harking back to the original feel of the show. When the show first started, creator Matt Groening said he wanted the show to have a somewhat realistic theme around it (never mind their yellow skin). It was to contrast the happy families on TV at the time such as the Cosbys and the Keatons. The picture I chose to represent the episode shows this realism clearly: there’s a large crack in the wall behind Homer. (If I was doing some more analysis on the picture, I’d also point out the division between Homer and Lurleen, and their truce in the laundry which is traditionally Marge’s domain… but I digress).

God knows what attracts Lurleen to Homer, but Marge quietly threatens her at the end and tells her to never come near her husband again. I wonder what would happen if all Homer’s ladies got together? You’d have Lurleen, Mindy, Homer’s Vegas wife Amber (or Ginger, I never remember)… That could be very interesting!

Overall, this is a thoroughly enjoyable episode although the opening sequence of Homer and Grampa’s car crash is quite disturbing and doesn’t fit with the theme of the episode or the series. I did comment a few days ago about disturbing imagery creeping into the show. Maybe this a theme that will continue? I hope not.

It’s time for Operation Crazy Plan

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Smoke on the Daughter

Couch gag: Wile E Coyote paints the couch, the family crash into it and Maggie “meep-meeps” like the Road Runner

Director: Lance Kramer

Synopsis: Marge encourages Lisa to become a ballet dancer, while Homer takes revenge on raccoons who have stolen his secret jerky business.

Discussion: If I start snoring, just poke me gently in the ribs.

We begin today’s train wreck of an episode with the Simpsons lining up for the last book of the Angelica Button series, a parody of the Harry Potter series, along with the midnight releases of new books. This sequence is dead on the mark, but unfortunately the ep declines quickly after it. Marge sees an ad for a new ballet school and auditions, but finds she’s a bit long in the tooth to be a ballerina, however Lisa has perfect posture and is accepted as a paying student.

Firstly, we’ve seen Lisa-as-dancer before. Tap-a, tap-a, tap-a! Secondly, the main plot of Lisa becoming addicted to cigarette smoke (although she’s never actually seen smoking one) doesn’t really execute the point it’s trying to make. In ye olden days before it was public knowledge that cigarettes would kill you (although the cigarette companies and doctors knew), ciggies were marketed to women to keep their bodies trim. If you’re smoking, you can’t be putting sweets in your mouth and sweets make you fat. So there’s some precedent to the young ballerinas smoking.

However, Lisa’s addiction begins with her believing that smoking is making her a better dancer. It’s a premise I just can’t buy into, and smoking is such an emotive issue as well. I feel like the writers were heavily censored in the making of this episode and can’t really say all the things they wanted to. As a result, the episode feels half-arsed.

Then we have Homer’s subplot. He’s secretly making beef jerky but the business model collapses when his basement is raided by raccoons. Eventually the raccoon saves the ballerinas from their smoking addiction… but otherwise it’s a pointless subplot which adds nothing to the ep. There’s nothing remotely entertaining about this subplot although it does serve as a cute little bonding session between Homer and Bart.

I didn’t like the episode. It’s a rehash of previous episodes (i.e. Lisa dancing and Marge being a stage mother) with an extra stupid plot of childhood cigarette addiction. Maybe it is a big problem in the US, but in Australia cigarettes are tightly regulated and heavily taxed which makes smoking unattractive to children in Lisa’s age group. But above all, I just don’t buy the premise that smoking is making the dancers dance better. Without believing the premise, you can’t believe anything else about it.

After it’s evidence, it’s a shirt again

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Dial N for Nerder

Couch gag: Professor Frink pours water on 5 capsules, which become the Simpson family. Homer is only half size so Frink pours a bucket of water onto him.

Director: Bob Anderson

Synopsis: Bart and Lisa accidentally cause Martin to fall off a cliff, while Marge forces Homer to diet.

Discussion: Oh no! Is it true? Have The Simpsons killed off another character? On an innocent trip to Springfield’s National Park (now smaller than ever), Bart and Lisa come across Martin Prince hunting to fossils. Bart plays a prank which backfires, sending Martin to his death over a cliff. Wracked by guilt, Bart and Lisa pretend everything’s OK while the town mourns their lost nerd. However, Nelson is on the case: why would Martin be on a cliff if he was scared of heights?

Meanwhile, Homer is suffering weight-related lethargy and Marge forces him to diet, but when he gain seven pounds, she calls in a TV show about cheaters to see what Homer is really up to.

Firstly, Homer’s weighty plot started out a bit ho-hum. How many diets has he been on before? The introduction of a TV show about cheating was a very good idea. But it really should have been obvious, no one likes bell peppers that much! (By the way, here in Australia, we call them capsicums.)

Secondly, the main plot of Martin’s death is very well done and having Nelson as the detective hot on the trail of Bart and Lisa is pure genius. Let’s face it, with Martin gone, who else is going to play the part of Columbo?? Nelson makes sense to me, particularly at the end when the game is up and Lisa tries to flirt with him again in exchange for his cooperation in letting the truth be told.

The episode turns out to be pretty good. There are some fantastic one liners and memorable moments. However, if you’re a vegetarian, I advise you to skip the Homer and kebab meat in a hotel sequence. It’s just a little bit wrong.

You’ve reached the snug bug

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The Debarted

The art teacher is fat, not pregnant

Couch gag: The family and couch are on a Lite Brite machine

Director: Matthew Nastuk

Guest Voices:
Topher Grace as Donny
Terry Gross as herself

Synopsis: Bart has a new friend at school, who has actually been employed by Skinner as a rat. Meanwhile, Marge crashes Homer’s car and he’s left to drive a very fancy loaner until the car is fixed.

Discussion: The name Donny hasn’t been this cool since Donnie Wahlberg. Here’s another rare episode which is just plain fun to watch and you wonder why this simple idea wasn’t thought of earlier.

Much of the episode is a parody of the film, The Departed. Donny was employed by Skinner and Super-nintendo Chalmers to infiltrate Bart’s plans and snitch to Skinner. All goes well until Willie spills the beans. The subplot of Homer’s new loaner car is so simple yet so effective. He’s not used to such fancy cars and he makes the most of it before realising that his old pink bomb car is really the one he loves.

Topher Grace isn’t his usual self in this episode. Every time he speaks, it’s like he’s being forced to under threat of breach of contract; his heart just isn’t in it. However, the character of Donny is a great addition and it’s too bad we don’t see more of him in the future. Or maybe we do, how would I know? Donny could be a great mate to Bart and they could get up to pure evil on a bigger level- Bart’s usual prank buddies aren’t that smart so it would be good to see someone with a brain be a sidekick.

It’s a fantastic episode, well done and much enjoyed. Just goes to show that sometimes, it’s the simple ideas which work the best.

Let’s get Snicker faced

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Love, Springfieldian Style

Couch gag: The family rush into the living room and attach themselves to a giant mobile, but Homer’s weight crashes them down.

Director: Raymond S. Persi

Synopsis: Whilst stuck in a Tunnel of Love ride, the Simpsons tell three stories of love.

Discussion: Who doesn’t love Valentine’s Day? Well, OK, it’s a lame holiday… but full of TV gold. This episode is The Simpsons‘ offering from 2008 and one of the better episodes of the season.

Bonnie and Clyde , starring Homer and Marge as the title characters. Bonnie (Marge) is only turned on by violence, leading Clyde (Homer) to rob banks and pull in a civilian (Ned) to help. When Ned snitches, Bonnie and Clyde’s love ends in gunfire. The ending surprised me because it’s quite graphic for the show: the sequence lasts over a minute where Bonnie and Clyde are fired upon without dying or even bleeding. I understand the episode was heavily edited for UK audiences but I don’t know what happened on the original Australian airing (I’d long given up watching new episodes by this point). It’s not a very strong segment and the ending really is quite shocking. Despite bloody, gory deaths being shown on the show before (usually in Halloween episodes), this particular one was disturbing. Maybe it was the lack of blood and death which made it so eerie?

Shady and the Vamp is a parody of Disney’s Lady and the Tramp. The film is classic Disney and everyone knows the scene where Lady and Tramp are sucking on spaghetti. Here, Shady (Homer) and Vamp (Marge) have a fling but Vamp ends up with a litter of Barts and Lisas, who wander off to find their father Shady and wind up very close to the gas chamber of the local pound. Again, this is a little bit disturbing- no one likes to think about animals being euthanised. Being a Disney fan, I loved this segment, particularly the song sung by all the characters. The Siamese Cats (Patty and Selma) are just one of the highlights from this segment. I was sad to see it end!

Sid Vicious & Nancy Sid and Nancy’s story happened before my time, but even I know that they were destroyed by drugs. Of course, you can’t show drug dependency on The Simpsons so they’ve replaced heroin with… chocolate. Come on! Give the fans some credit! Get Nancy (Lisa) and Sid (Nelson) addicted to caffeine or some other mostly-harmless substance. The drug/chocolate scenes are numerous and overpowering so that their codependent love story is overshadowed, as I guess their real-life relationship was. At least this story doesn’t end with an alleged murder and death by overdose.

As a Valentine’s Day ep, it’s OK. It doesn’t get overly mushy and keeps that satirical edge throughout the episode. I found parts of it quite disturbing and am glad Sid and Nancy’s demise wasn’t shown, although I guess it could have been an interesting bookend to the Bonnie & Clyde non-death segment…

Everything penis shaped is bad

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That 90s Show

Couch gag: The camera zooms out to reveal the family sitting on the couch is a painting in an art gallery

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voices:
Weird Al Yankovic as himself
Kurt Loder as himself

Synopsis: A flashback to the 1990s, when Marge and Homer were a young couple living in Springfield Place before the kids were born.

Discussion: Ladies and gentlemen, what is the Golden Rule of narrative? DON’T MESS WITH CONTINUITY! By the time this episode aired in 2008, The Simpsons had been on air as their own series for almost twenty years. During that time, we’ve seen many flashback episodes chronicling the relationship between Marge and Homer: they were high school sweethearts who married straight out of high school because Homer had blessed Marge with the seed that would become Bart. Yes, the maths don’t work (Homer and Marge are 37 and 34 respectively, Bart is 10… so unless Homer and Marge stayed back a few years…) and this is where this ep fits in.

During the actual 1990s, the show was a staple on television even here in Australia so how is it possible for Homer and Marge to spend that time dating college professors and recording music?

Forgetting completely about the Simpsons’ timeline, it’s actually a pretty good episode. The ep is chock full of 90s references, including the emergence of grunge (apparently Homer invented the genre and Marvin Cobain called his cousin Kurt to pass it on). We’ve seen Homer singing before in a barbershop quartet but his grunge days as the lead singer of Sadgasm really stretch the character in a new way. Sadgasm really embody the spirit of the angsty music defining the decade and Homer’s fame parallels that of real-life Kurt Cobain. If you’re a 90s kid, you’ll get it.

Unfortunately I can’t forgive the interruption of the Simpsons’ timeline. You can’t spend 20 years creating a universe only to squeeze something nonsensical into it. If it made sense, then sure, it’s a great episode due to the many, many 90s references including Marge’s “Rachel” haircut. Messing with characters is the reason, I believe, that the show jumped the shark to begin with (as noted in ‘The Principal and the Pauper‘ in which Principal Seymour Skinner is revealed to be Armin Tamzarian). You can’t spend years building up your characters and then mess with them. It pisses off the fans and creates havoc with continuity.

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