Summer of 4ft 2
Couch gag: The couch spits out a fax copy of the family.
Director: Mark Kirkland
Christina Ricci as Erin
Synopsis: The Simpsons head to Flanders’ beach house for two weeks and Lisa makes some new friends.
Discussion: Hands up if you were unpopular at school. Keep your hands up if you tried to be different and still didn’t make new friends. Uh huh, I hear you.
Lisa isn’t terribly popular but she does have a few friends, such as Janie. They’re mysteriously absent in this episode but that’s OK, Lisa needed new friends anyway. She decides to get trendy with some new clothes and speaking tween speak. Like you know, whatever. (Had the ep been made today, surely she’d say LOL and Oh Em Gee too.) Her new friend Erin is voiced marvelously by Christina Ricci, who does a great job. Christina does some varied roles: in some, she is the standout character but here she chooses to be quieter and let Lisa lead the episode. It’s a good choice (you’ll see what I mean later when Lisa Kudrow guest stars; her character is designed not to let Lisa shine and Kudrow absolutely plays to that).
It’s also nice to get away from Springfield. Bart brings along Milhouse so there’s some familiarity and scenes that play on a role reversal where Bart isn’t the popular kid (is he really that popular back home anyway? He’s always getting beaten up). Milhouse, well, Milhouse is never popular and it seems that he is also Bart’s perfect date. Who knew??
It’s a great episode to leave season 7 with. Season 7 was short on the chalkboard gags but we had some laughs. Tomorrow, we begin season 8. See you there 🙂
couch gag: The family are sitting in a darkened room with metal music. Homer turns on the light and everything is normal.
Director: Wes Archer
Smashing Pumpkins incl. Billy Corgan
Synopsis: After being branded uncool by Bart, Homer gets tickets for Hullabalooza, a music festival. He’s invited to become part of the freak show when he takes a cannonball to the stomach.
Discussion: Two things: 1) I chose the picture above just because I love Homer’s expression in it. He’s just told Marge about his offer of becoming a freak in the show. 2) This episode is pure 1990s: from the music to the grungey teenagers to the dancing. It fits in perfectly with the mid 90s when it produced, but in the wider canon, it doesn’t. But we’ll get to that episode eventually; I believe it’s in season 19 when Homer recalls his time in a 90s grunge band.
Anyhoo, I digress. As a teenager in the 90s, I fully understand the appeal of being cool (even though I was severely uncool), music festivals and having daggy parents (sorry mum and dad). I went to Big Day Out when Red Hot Chili Peppers were headlining (it was too weird when they headlined again only a couple of years ago). However, I wasn’t a fan of any of the bands featured in this episode. I’m more a mainstream and pop kinda girl. ANy new fans watching this today are likely to shake their head at how uncool it (probably) seems to them today.
There is one particular line which is hilariously funny now:
Homer: It was put on by that guy from Apple Computers
Random: *What* computers?
History lesson: Apple wasn’t always cool. Back in ye olde 90s, they were the lamest, crappest, uncoolest computers around. Trust me, I’m over 30.
Anyhoo, this episode is warm and familiar from a time when life, and music, were simpler. Actually music wasn’t simpler, it was depressing and weird and smelly.
Much Apu About Nothing
Couch gag: Marge, Lisa, Bart and Maggie are mounted heads on the wall while Homer is a rug on the floor. A hunter sits on the couch smoking a cigar.
Director: Susie Dietter
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony
Synopsis: Apu admits to being an illegal immigrant and tries to avoid being deported.
Discussion: The beginning of this episode is sheer brilliance, but then loses pace in the middle and later stages. There’s a bear wandering the street and Homer proposes a bear patrol to keep away other bears. However, he doesn’t like paying the tax to pay for the bear patrol. The mayor’s solution is to deport Springfield’s immigrants and Proposition 24 is up for public voting. Apu admits he is living in America illegally and it’s up to the Simpsons to find a way he can stay.
Firstly, the two catch cries in the start of the ep have become part of everyday vernacular: “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” and “We’re here, we’re queer, we don’t want any more bears!” (I encourage each of you to utter at least one of those phrases today in general conversation. Go on, you know you want to. It’s like homework, but way more fun.)
Then there’s Apu. He’s become a much loved character on the show and to the Simpson family. Apu’s attempts at becoming American are hilarious. Decorating his store with American gear is just plain funny, but Homer’s tutelage in American history for the citizenship test is hilarious. The 13 stripes on the flag are for good luck.
It is a strong episode all the way through, but I do feel it lacks originality seen in the bear scenes. Maybe originality is the wrong word. It lacks oomph, zest, funniness… Starts strong (and leaves the viewer wondering where this is going) and ends with a warm & fuzzy ending where Apu is a citizen and everyone’s happy… except Groundskeeper Willie.
Raging Abe Simpson and his Grumbling Grandson in ‘The Curse of the Flying Hellfish’
couch gag: Everything in the Simpsons’ loungeroom is sucked down a drainhole.
Director: Jeffrey Lynch
Synopsis: With the death of another of Grampa’s war cronies, he’s one step closer to inheriting a fortune. Only one person stands in his way: Mr Burns.
Discussion: It’s an adventure, Simpsons-style. Abe and Monty Burns were in the same unit in WWII and entered into a tontine featuring a bunch of stolen paintings. Monty and Abe are the last two survivors but Burns wants the fortune for himself.
Although there are many moments of brilliance in the episode, it’s not one of my faves. I like the premise, I like Mr Burns’ impersonation of Marge and Smithers’ of Bart, I like the animation and I like that Abe got to dishonorably discharge Burns from his unit. I also get that the paintings couldn’t stay with Grampa. I dunno, I guess it’s just because I’m not a war fan or something. And it’s just a bunch of paintings, which are certainly worth a lot of money, they’re just paintings. I was hoping for something a bit more exciting, a bit more quirky, Simpsons-esque.
It’s also the kind of episode that once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. Other eps can be watched thousands of times and still provide laughs. Others lose their magic after the first viewing and this is one of those eps.
22 Short Films about Springfield
couch gag: The family are sea monkeys who swim up to sit on a clam
Director: Jim Reardon
Synopsis: A series of short films about the residents of Springfield.
Discussion: This is an atypical episode in that it is a series of interconnected short films and not a whole 22 minutes of the same storyline. Also, although I usually give up counting around story #5, I understand there’s not actually 22 short films.
The entire ep was inspired by the episodic feel of Pulp Fiction. Here I shall reveal that I’m the only person on the planet who hasn’t seen this film, so (almost) all references to it are completely lost on me. I do, however, know about the burger comparison scene so I’m not completely clueless.
Again, I’m gonna have to disagree with the critics on this one. I don’t love this episode: I like the premise, I like the atypical canon, I just find the individual stories really boring. Lisa gets gum in her hair. Smithers is stung by a bee. Grampa goes ballistic in the hospital. Reverend Lovejoy’s dog takes a dump on Flanders’ lawn. And what the hell is Skinner trying to prove by lying about the localised aurora borealis in his kitchen??
I had no idea the people of Springfield were so boring. Take a couple of minutes from their day and nothing interesting happens to them. It’s kinds like watching a reality show- these are the people of Springfield going about their day and just being normal. Yawn.
Bart on the Road
couch gag: The family are placed on the couch like bowling pins
Director: Swinton O. Scott III
Synopsis: Bart creates a fake drivers license and hires a car with Martin’s money. Together with Milhouse and Nelson, they take a road trip to the Knoxville World’s Fair, but they’re a bit late.
Discussion: Road trips are always fun, and there are so many ways the writers could have taken this. Thelma and Louise style, for example. But no, they’ve gone with an unlikely group of Milton (sorry, Martin), Milhouse, Nelson and Bart travelling to a Wod Fir in Tennessee.
There are many good elements to the episode, but I feel it also lags a bit as well. Bart being a courier to get home feels a bit forced. Think of the adventures to be had on a circus train heading to Springfield! But I digress. While Bart and co have tricked their parents into thinking they’re at the grammar rodeo, Lisa is spending her Spring Break with Homer at his work. They have fun with candy machines and slumber parties and a roaring fire in a wastepaper bin. I bet going to work with my parents wouldn’t have been half as fun!
I don’t love the episode, but it’s good. It’s almost as if the writers had a really good premise but went home early and finished it in a rush. (And I bet my sister disagrees!)
A Fish Called Selma
couch gag: The family are malfunctioning robots
Director: Mark Kirkland
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure
Jeff Goldblum as Macarthur Parker
Synopsis: Troy discovers that his relationship with Selma makes him the hottest act in town.
Discussion: Episodes like these make me miss Phil Hartman. Selma is in love again and marries Troy, unaware that he’s using her in order to further his career. This ep is one of the most brilliant in the entire series. After Homer’s Triple Bypass from season four, it’s probably my favourite.
Here’s some Hollywood history: In Old Hollywood, movie stars were given fake stories to boost their popularity. It’s well known that gay stars like Rock Hudson had sham marriages to make them more popular with their female fans. Liberace sued every publication that implied or said he was gay. Raymond Burr, another gay actor, was given a tragic backstory in which his wife was killed in a plane crash and a young son died from leukaemia. Even straight stars like Jimmy Stewart were given the PR treatment. For example, at the premiere of a new movie, the studio would plant a couple of people fitting the typical demographic. In Jimmy Stewart’s case, it was a forty year old married woman. These plants would be given lines by the studio, such as “I just love Jimmy Stewart! He’s so sensitive and charming, just like my husband Charlie.” The reporters would “overhear” these comments and publish them the next day, giving Jimmy Stewart and the movie free publicity. See, the idea is that by thinking the leading man is just what every woman wants, she’s more likely to see the film. (I do have references for this, but I can’t be arsed finding them right now. It was in a peer-reviewed paper for a screen unit I did last year.)
So, a washed-up actor like Troy McClure marrying Selma to further his career isn’t unusual. What results is one of the best moments in Simpsons history: A musical version of Planet of the Apes. We all know I’m a sucker for a catchy song, but this is just sublime. It’s perfect. “I hate every ape I see, from ChimpanA to ChimpanZ…” and the awesome Dr Zaius. There’s no way that this ep could be better. Except maybe for the implied fish fetish… that’s just weird.
The Day the Violence Died
Couch gag: The family are painted while sitting on the couch.
Director: Wes Archer
Kirk Douglas as Chester J. Lampwick
Suzanne Somers as herself
Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz
Jack Sneddon as the Amendment
Alex Rocco as Roger Meyers Jr
Synopsis: Bart discovers a homeless man created Itchy and cartoon violence, and sues Roger Meyers for back royalties, bankrupting the studio and killing off his favourite show.
Discussion: Another classic episode where Bart and Lisa… don’t solve the problem *gasp*! Bart has successfully won compensation for Chester but bankrupted the studio. Bart and Lisa stay up all night to find a solution but are beaten to it by a couple of kids who look suspiciously like themselves… Hmm… Add in a cheesy 70s educational video to the Krusty show and you have yourselves a great episode.
The premise is simple and executed well, with a twist of two other kids solving the studio’s financial problems at the very end. The ep parodies all sorts of ye olde cartoon culture (much the same way as Meyers’ previous episode parodied Disney’s creation of Mickey Mouse) and helps out a bum as well.
Overall, it’s a great episode.
Homer the Smithers
couch gag: The family drive in on motorised clown buggies
Director: Steven Dean Moore
Synopsis: Mr Burns sends Smithers on a vacation and employs Homer to fill in. Homer can’t keep up, loses his temper and Mr Burns learns to fend for himself.
Discussion: Despite the simplicity of the title, there’s actually a lot going on in this episode, easily conforming to three acts.
The first act is where Smithers feels unable to care for Mr Burns and is sent on a vacation, employing Homer as a replacement. The second act is Homer losing his cool and hitting Mr Burns, forcing Burns to take care of himself. The third act is Smithers returning to find he’s fired since Burns no longer needs an assistant, and finding a way to get Homer out of the picture and himself re-employed.
It’s a simple premise which, surprisingly, took seven seasons before it was explored. Homer is the perfect foil in this ep, and the scene where Marge tells the kids not to exploit their father is hilarious.
One of the better episodes of this season.
Lisa the Iconoclast
couch gag: The Simpsons appear in a Brady Bunch-like opening sequence, with the couch in the middle.
Director: Mike B. Anderson
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure playing Jebediah Springfield
Donald Sutherland as Hollis Hurlbut
Synopsis: While researching a paper about Springfield’s founding, Lisa discovers that the town’s hero has a dark past.
Discussion: Welcome to a history lesson about Springfield and the founding father, Jebediah Springfield, aka Hans Sprungfeld, noted pirate who tried to kill George Washington. Unsurprisingly, no one believes Lisa when she tries to make the knowledge public. Even the curator of the Springfield museum is unimpressed and pockets the famous silver tongue with the skeleton is exhumed. In the end, however, Lisa chooses not to reveal Jeb’s shady history and spoil the bicentennial celebrations. Sometimes it’s more important for people to be blissfully ignorant.
Episodes focusing on Lisa are a little extra nerdy. She’s always on a campaign for something- vegetarianism, Buddhism, recycling… It makes her episodes a bit repetitive in my opinion. There are exceptions, such as the future episode where she’s popular and not preachy about something or other. This ep doesn’t shine as much as it probably could. There’s nothing wrong with some history and it’s especially notable for popularising the words “embiggens” and “cromulent”, both of which have now been added to the dictionary. Imagine if Bart found the secret confession, the ep would probably have been a bit less preachy and a bit more fun.