Marge in Chains
I do not have diplomatic immunity
Couch gag: The Simpsons are tiny.
Director: Jim Reardon
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz
David Crosby as himself (Lionel’s AA sponsor)
Synopsis: Osaka Flu has hit Springfield and everyone is sick. Marge is tired and stressed and forgets to pay for a bottle of bourbon from the Kwik-E-Mart. Apu charges her, the case goes to trial and Marge is found guilty.
Discussion: Poor Marge. Her family are sick and whiny and she forgets to pay for Grandpa’s bourbon. Chaos ensues when she heads to jail for 30 days. Not only is the Simpson house in trouble, the whole town is heading for riots!
This episode demonstrates (again) that Marge is the glue that keeps people together. The ep utilises a classic Simpsons trait of having something seemingly irrelevant and linking it to the main plot- in this case, Homer buys a Juice Loosener from an infomercial on TV and the town ends up with the flu, which leads to Marge’s predicament. Sometimes this ploy isn’t used so well… but we’ll get to that in later episodes.
I think the ep works well. Based on a plausible premise of the town getting sick and stressed-out Marge can’t be expected to remember everything, there are many great moments. The court scenes are the highlight of the episode but also the inclusion of I Can’t Believe They Invented It! (Why don’t the writers use similar shows-within-shows to lengthen episodes rather than that pointless Everyone Loves Ned thing?)
I also want to make one more point- twice in this episode we see males dressing in female clothing. Bart imagines himself in a cocktail dress seducing the warden and stealing keys to free Marge, while Homer runs out of clean clothes and wears a wedding dress he found in the attic. While these scenes are played for laughs (and it works), I believe there’s also an important point being made: gender doesn’t depend on what clothes you wear. (And screw you, Laura Mulvey!)
**Note: This post originally had a clip of the Juice Loosener embedded. The clip was deleted by YouTube on copyright grounds. I’d done everything right: I acknowledged the original copyright owners (Fox), and declared I was not using the clip for monetary gain etc. It was still blocked. I’m disappointed. “Juice Loosener” is the search term most often used to get to this blog, which is just a hobby. I make no money from it and it exists for the pure enjoyment of Simpsons fans. I understand copyright is important, but when a clip is not used commercially and Fox retains the right to monetize it (by using ads etc), I’m not sure why I’m not allowed to show a small clip of a very popular episode.
I will return the seeing-eye dog
Couch gag: The couch is missing so the family sit on a stool
Director: Jeff Lynch
Barry White as himself
Synopsis: Bart is expelled from school. The town of Springfield celebrate Whacking Day, when snakes are driven to the centre of the town and clubbed to death.
Discussion: In everything I’ve read about this episode, they say the episode is anti-animal cruelty. It sure takes a long time to get there, and if you blink you’ll miss it.
In fact, the whole episode is disjointed. The main plot of the ep doesn’t start until the second act. Bart’s expulsion from school and subsequent home schooling/learning is worked into the main plot rather successfully though, so can be forgiven. Lisa, as always, stands up for the rights of the snakes (which Springfield sure has a lot of) and rescues them from a bloody fate with some help from Barry White.
Although not mentioned in the episode’s Wikipedia article, this ep shares similarities with St Patrick’s Day. St Pat’s Day is supposedly celebrating chasing all the snakes out of Ireland. In reality, these “snakes” were pagans and St Paddy was bringing Christianity to the masses. The ep also mentions that Whacking Day was invented in the 1920s as a way of beating up Irishmen, which was what St Pat et al was doing to the pagans (allegedly).
This episode isn’t a favourite. As mentioned, it feels disjointed and the main message of animal cruelty almost seems like an afterthought instead of a theme (despite Lisa’s best efforts). The highlight of the episode is Homer’s “I am evil Homer” sequence. It’s just as disjointed as the rest of the episode but nonetheless hilarious.
I will not sell miracle cures
couch gag: The Simpsons dance and are joined by a circus (the third time this season… Just sayin’)
Director: Rich Moore
Brooke Shields as herself
Synopsis: Bored with how crap their favourite cartoon has become, Bart and Lisa write some Itchy & Scratchy episodes under Grandpa’s name. Meanwhile, Homer goes back to night school in order to get his high school diploma.
Discussion: With the general crapness of recent seasons of The Simpsons, perhaps the writers should take a leaf out of this episode and invite new writers into their world. What can go wrong? Turn the search into a reality TV show, kill two birds with one stone, wham bam thankyou ma’am and gimme my cheque for a million dollars as I came up with this idea.
Rant aside, this is a very good episode. Bart and Lisa write episodes for their favourite cartoon, add Grandpa into the mix and you have one hilarious and presumably ironic take on animation creation. Marge and Homer’s high school reunion is very funny along with a line that inspires a later episode. Marge’s high school sweetheart, Artie Ziff, is very, very rich and quips he’d throw it all away for one night with Marge (technically it was Homer’s line, but Artie agreed). Homer flukes his final exam and graduates. Aww.
Personally, I think the worst thing about the episode is that it’s obviously run short so an unrelated short was added at the end. It’s a 60 second look at Ned Flanders and his sons. It doesn’t fit with anything else in the episode and absolutely succeeds as a “What the hell was that?” moment. On one hand, I wish there were more shorts- you can do a lot with random characters in 60 seconds (I’m thinking Apu and Barney for starters). On the other hand, I’m glad this is pretty much the only one (the only one that springs to mind at the moment, that is) and how hard can it be to add 60 freaking seconds to an episode? Make another Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, stick in another dodgy award that Homer wins, have Bart and Lisa fight over who gets to keep the cartoon writing award in their bedroom.
And for those playing Simpsons Logo Quiz, you’ll be able to add Principal Dondelinger.
So it’s come to this: A Simpsons Clip Show
No one is interested in my underwear
Couch gag: The Simpsons have the wrong heads and have to swap them around
Director: Carlos Baeza
Synopsis: After an epic April Fool’s Day stunt by Bart, Homer falls into a coma and the Simpsons recall moments accounting for Homer’s various injuries.
Discussion: Cue the spooky music! Today (according to Australian time) is April Fool’s Day, 2013. This episode first aired April Fool’s Day, 1993. This is by coincidence, of course… or is it?
Thankfully, I don’t have to go through all the episodes referenced in this episode, someone has already done it on Wikipedia. About half the episode is made up of clips from previous episodes with some new footage added as well. Not only the pranks and hospital but an extended sequence in which Homer falls down the gorge several times.
There’s not much to say- this is a clip show and I’ve already blogged the major points. The premise of an April Fool’s prank is inspired and works well as it creates a good segue into Homer’s injuries and the family’s responses of not spending more time with him or not being a good kid. One of the highlights is the 32 D’oh! sequence which really breaks the monotony of being a straight-forward clip show. God bless David Silverman.
Last Exit to Springfield
Mud is not one of the 4 food groups
couch gag: The couch turns into a monster and eats the family
Director: Mark Kirkland
Guest Voice: Dr Joyce Brothers as herself
Synopsis: The power plant’s union leader has gone missing so Homer fills the role. Lisa needs braces, but a dental plan has been scrapped so the workers strike until the issue is resolved.
Discussion: I think much of this episode‘s meaning is lost on younger kids (except maybe Paul Howes…) so the writers have done a good job in making a couple of memorable line in order to get kids understanding what’s going on. Hence the “Dental plan! Lisa needs braces” line which everyone know has stuck in their heads (sorry about that).
The real standout of the episode is Lisa’s dream while under gas to get her braces. Lisa in the sky (no diamonds though) has obvious references to a certain Beatles film, and is whacky and colourful and breaks up the density of the union strike. Lisa’s protest song as the workers are striking is also a highlight, then Lenny requests Classical Gas just for something different.
One last point: mud may not be one of the “four” food groups, but chocolate is so Happy Easter!
Goldfish don’t bounce
couch gag: The family run past the cel and go back to sit on the couch, where Maggie awaits.
Director: Jim Reardon
Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure
Synopsis: After being caught drink driving, Homer is forced to become sober for a month. Meanwhile, Bart ruins Lisa’s science project and she develops a new one to prove her brother is dumber than a hamster.
Discussion: Homer without beer is like a fish without a bicycle (or something). We’ve seen Homer drunk in countless episodes (sorry, I’m not going back to actually count them. Do that yourself and start your own blog!) and his favourite place to be is Moe’s Tavern. This episode deals with what happens when you take beer away from Homer… and sometimes, it’s just not pretty.
Meanwhile, Lisa’s science project with the hamster vs Bart is excellent. She examines each with a series of tests to see how they will react. It seems that Bart is indeed dumber than a hamster. Who knew? Milhouse’s project (“Behold the wonders of gravity!”) is impressive only that he can’t get a slinky to slink down a plank of wood. Bart’s eventual winner of the hamster looking cute in an aeroplane (the hamster doesn’t actually fly it) is also a standout moment which really pisses Lisa off.
If you have a look on Dead Homer Society‘s blog now, you’ll catch A Day in the Life of Yeardley Smith, who voices Lisa. Well worth the viewing if you’ve got 8 minutes to spare.
I Love Lisa
I will not call the principal “Spud head”
Couch gag: the family dance and are joined by a circus
Director: Wes Archer
Synopsis: The second grade are making Valentines and Lisa drops one in Ralph’s basket because he had no others. Ralph mistakes this as being a real romantic interest and gives Lisa everything she wants.
Discussion: This is one of those episodes that thrive off a single quote: I choo-choo-choose you. As soon as you say it, everyone knows what you’re talking about and the pain of Ralph’s rejection at the Krusty anniversary special. Of course, the latter is heightened by Bart who has taped the show and can pinpoint the exact moment when Ralph’s heart is ripped in two…
Most of us have had a crush on someone and some of us had little presents delivered to our door by people who had a crush on us. Ask my sister about the kid who left presents at our door and rode up and down the street waiting to see if we’d found it yet. It was so cute! Anyhoo, this ep explores Ralph Wiggum as a full character. He was introduced in Moaning Lisa but his relationship to Chief Wiggum was not established til now. He’s also seen as a “magnificent” actor (according to Selma, or is it Patty?) but lacks intelligence; he isn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. This is probably the most depth we see to Ralph, from here on in he’s just a dimwitted ploy to get cheap jokes (but I’m not complaining, he’s hilarious).
This is a cutesy episode where one is gunning for Lisa to speak her truth that she doesn’t really like Ralph, but yet gunning for Ralph because he’s going to be crushed. Bart pausing the tape is sadly funny and both emotions are captured separately on screen by Bart (amusement) and Lisa (sadness and empathy).
Brother From the Same Planet
The principal’s toupee is not a frisbee
Couch gag: The couch and wall spin around, leaving a new, empty couch
Director: Jeff Lynch
Phil Hartman as: Tom, Nelson’s dad, sports commentator, TV announcer
Synopsis: Homer forgets to pick up Bart from soccer training so Bart calls Bigger Brothers to find a new father figure. Jealous, Homer volunteers to be a Bigger Brother and spends some time with the disadvantaged Pepi. Meanwhile, Lisa is battling an addiction to the Corey hotline.
Discussion: I’d like to have seen more of Pepi. He’s got the potential to be a really good character but it’s just not developed properly. On the other hand, Tom is fully played to all his strengths, which doesn’t really amount to much. he’s very much a one dimensional character with limited possibility although the fight scene between him and Homer is excellent.
Phil Hartman voices several characters through the episode and his voice still makes me sad 😦
(Just a short blog today, the computer keeps giving me hints that it really needs to do some updates)
I will not yell “She’s dead” during roll call
couch gag: the family are ensnared in a net before reaching the couch
Director: Carlos Baeza
Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz
First appearance of:
Jub Jub the iguana
Surly from the Seven Duffs
Synopsis: When great-aunt Gladys dies, her video will tells Patty and Selma not to die alone.Selma takes Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens, where they both get into trouble and Selma admits to Homer that she just doesn’t cut it as a mother.
Discussion: “I am the lizard queen!” proclaims Lisa after she’s drunk something she’s not quite sure is water. I suppose one could argue it’s also symbolic of Selma’s descent into accepting her failings as a parent.
It’s good to see another Patty and Selma-centred episode because although the Simpson family are the stars of the show, they are easily able to adapt into peripheral characters to allow others in the limelight. This isn’t entirely true for this episode; Homer is ill which splits the narrative into two parallel plots. While Selma’s busy with the kids at Duff Gardens, Homer is recovering from food poisoning and making Marge happy (nudge nudge, wink wink).
This episode has undertones of seriousness while still providing the funny stuff. Lots of women feel their biological clock ticking; sometimes there’s no maternal nudge and that’s OK.
The scenes within Duff Gardens are definitely the highlight though, and don’t detract away from the central themes of loneliness and parenting while still allowing Bart and Lisa to do what they do best- be kids.
It’s a great episode with some of the best lines in the series. Homer’s brain suggesting “legend of the dog-faced woman” and he cracks up is something we’re all guilty of. Thinking inappropriate thoughts is just another joy of being human.