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Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 9’

We probably should, you know, rock the Casbah

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Natural Born Kissers aka Margie, May I Sleep with Danger?

I was not the inspiration for “Kramer”

Director: Klay Hall

Couch gag: The Simpsons are frogs (Maggie is a tadpole). They jump onto a lilypad and Homer flicks on the TV using his tongue.

Synopsis: Homer and Marge’s love life is a bit dull but they discover the secret to spicing things up is making love in public. Meanwhile, Bart and Lisa find Grampa’s old metal detector and find a whole bunch of useless trash. 

Discussion: This episode is a sequel to the season 6 ep ‘Grampa vs Sexual Inadequacy‘. Homer and Marge are again experiencing some “technical difficulties” in their love life. Marriage and sex just aren’t as exciting as Marge pictured it. 

As with the season 6 episode, this is a real-life situation faced by many couples. Not everyone, however, gets to have a literal roll in the hay or the chance to land naked in a packed football stadium in their quest to be a little more spicy. (I do hope that the blog search for “overcoming sexual problems” which led to my earlier post about Homer and Marge’s sex life was valuable to the person who read it…)

This is classic Simpsons: take an everyday experience and turn it into a complete spectacle. I’ve mentioned here several times that the original idea of the show was to show a typical American family: 2.4 children, financial problems, marital problems, house falling to pieces… and this is yet another example of the realism but also of the classic sitcom format to elicit laughs from extraordinary situations. Win!

Regular readers will also know that one of my favourite topics is the Production Code. I shall just briefly mention it here, and there’s a point to it so please bear with me. Bart and Lisa find an alternate ending to Casablanca, one of the most well-known classic films known to man. In this version, Hitler pops up, tries to kill everyone and is thwarted by a parachuting Ilsa, whom Rick then marries. Although the original ending to Casablanca may be unsatisfying to some viewers, it was wholly necessary in order to comply with the Code. Ilsa was not allowed to commit adultery, and in fact all direct references to Ilsa and Rick having sex were omitted from the final script. 

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I don’t think my face is as hilarious as it could be

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Lost Our Lisa

I am not the new Dalai Lama

Couch gag: The Simpsons try to sit on the couch but Nelson pulls it away from them. 

Director: Pete Michels

Last appearance of:
Lionel Hutz (he’s a passenger waiting for the bus but doesn’t speak. The character was retired after the death of Phil Hartman)

Synopsis: Lisa wants to see an Egyptian exhibit at the museum, but Bart’s prank forces Marge to take him to the hospital instead of taking Lisa to the exhibit. Lisa takes a bus, but it’s the wrong one and it’s up to Homer to find her. 

Discussion: Hands up if you’ve ever been lost. It’s a terrifying feeling for a kid (just ask my sister, whom sorta got lost in a Kmart on her fifth birthday…) Who’s to know that Bus 22 becomes 22A on alternate days? Certainly not Lisa, and she’s quickly lost. Pity she doesn’t understand Russian, she would have made it to the museum before it closed and Homer wouldn’t have slight brain damage from being caught in a drawbridge. 

This is one of those warm and fuzzy, daddy-daughter bonding episodes. Homer is genuinely concerned about the fate of Lisa and gives the cherry picker man a lovely bunch of balloons so he can look for her. Balloons are underrated- more people should give free balloons just to be nice. Anyhoo, he finds Lisa and they break into the museum to see the exhibit. 

It’s not a bad episode, but fails to shine just like so many others this season. The highlights are Bart gluing novelty items to his face, Homer’s quest to find Lisa, and Lisa’s terrifying foray into Little Russia. Oh, and the singing orb, of course. 

It’s (usually) hard to define exactly why a show jumps the shark. I’ve not been able to find an explanation so far, yet season 9 definitely seems to be the season where the plots become plain stupid and the episodes fail to ignite. Maybe the writers just couldn’t be bothered? Maybe they ran out of ideas (no, that’s not it. There’s plenty of original ideas) Maybe they were burned out from 8 seasons and thought this was too hard? Who knows? We’ve one more episode this season before we see what season 10 brings. 

Oh great, now the cat knows

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King of the Hill

couch gag: The Simpsons are in a snow globe, which is shaken and snow falls in their living room

Director: Steven Dean Moore

Guest voices:
Brendan Fraser as Brad
Steven Weber as Neil

Synopsis: Trying to impress Bart, Homer embarks on a fitness regime and attempts to climb Springfield’s highest mountain, sponsored by the company crediting themselves to be the source of Homer’s new fitness. 

Discussion: Hold the presses! Homer actually succeeds in something! *shocked gasp*

During a game of Capture the Flag, Homer doesn’t quite make it over the finish line. Bart is horrified and saddened, so Homer decides to do something about it and starts working out at the local gym (pronounced g-eye-m) and eating Powersauce bars for “nutrition”. Along comes the company, sponsors Homer to climb the Murderhorn and against all odds (such as being abandoned by the Sherpas), he succeeds. Aww!

There are several layers to this episode. Every dad wants to be a hero to his son, and Homer fails so often that Bart (and Marge) make fun of him. Impressively, Homer continues to work out under the tutelage of Rainier Wolfcastle at the gym and actually sticks with it. 

Then there’s the giant ad for Powersauce: sponsoring Homer to climb the mountain. This sort of thing has really taken off in recent years, with Red Bull being the brand that comes to mind with sponsoring sports madness to the extreme. Showing Powersauce “updates” is so cheesy but this is the world we live in now (was YouTube available in 1998?) 

Finally, having fired the Sherpas for helping when he thought he was doing it on his own, Homer actually makes it close to the top, accidentally breaks off the summit and plants a Simpsons flag… and finds his father’s old trekking buddy with a bite taken from his arm… Eww. 

This is the kind of ep that makes you root for Homer to succeed. It would have been so disappointing for everyone had he not made it. Homer is the anti-hero of society, a sort of Every Man. He tries his best and usually fails. He’s selfish but loves his kids and does want them to be proud of their dad. 

Lisa, do I have my pants on?

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Trash of the Titans

I will not mess up the opening credits

couch gag: The family run in but find Bart writing lines on the chalkboard

Director: Jim Reardon

Guest voices:
Steve Martin as Ray Patterson
U2 as themselves

Synopsis: After a row with the sanitation dept, Homer runs for sanitation commissioner and wins, but spend the annual budget in a month which leaves his department broke. 

Discussion: Without the appearance of U2 and a catchy song, what does this episode really offer? It takes a long time to get to the point, shows a few minutes of Homer’s ineptitude and then moves the whole town and makes a Native American cry. Based on this, the ep gets an average rating from me.

There are good bits. There’s a catchy song based on Candyman from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, there’s a special appearance from U2 plus a song from them, and Steve Martin. Plus a ton of memorable lines and images. 

Then there are the average bits, which is basically everything else. I can’t really say there are bad bits, because there aren’t. There are only bits which don’t shine. The extended scene of Bart and Homer competing not to take the trash out, the accumulation of a massive trash pile (including Diaper Hill) and the environmental message, which makes a Native American cry. My biggest question is: why is there a Native American there to begin with? Is this to drive home the enviro message when the writers didn’t specifically set out to create one? It’s very confusing. 

This is the show’s 200th episode. It’s a decent effort but doesn’t really shine. 

Pray for Mojo

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Girly Edition

couch gag: A hand spins the scene, leaving the picture blurred

Director: Mark Kirkland

First appearance of:
Crazy Cat Lady

Synopsis: Lisa anchors a kids’ news show and is jealous when Bart’s human interest stories are popular, so she exacts revenge. Meanwhile, Homer gets a helper monkey.

Discussion: There are many layers to this episode. Superficially, it’s Lisa vs Bart at a news desk where they try to outshine each other. And Homer has a helper monkey because he’s lazy.

There’s also the parody of the Chocobot Hour, where the show has become the advertising. Australia was heading this way before legislation banned it, and indeed, has banned junk food advertising in children’s programming altogether. However, established brands such as Barbie have been making movies for some time, which negates the legislation and is allowed to be shown. After watching the latest Barbie-is-a-princess movie, you can rush out and buy the doll. Not sure she comes with a chocolate bar though…

Then there’s the journalism angle. Regular readers will know that I’m doing a Communications degree and studying many journalism units (although that’s not my major). Lisa’s integrity to bring “real news” to the masses is a noble one. But do kids really care about chalk shortages? (Well, not anymore since schools switched to whiteboards!) Turns out kids identify with human interest stories… well, sort of. The popularity of Bart’s People is measured by the mail he receives from people wanting to be on the segment, rather than fan mail. Anyhoo, Bart is popular and Lisa’s hard news isn’t. As for Milhouse’s “Newz You Can Uze”, which deals with getting rid of the evidence that you’ve wet the bed, well, he’s right. It is news you can use and seems to be a popular real-life form of news. Put a different spin on the news, have it read by a panel of comedians and suddenly people will want to watch. I do have a bit of a rant about the sheer amount of news saturation, but this really isn’t the place for that 🙂

Lastly, this is a good episode. Homer gets a helper monkey. What can be better than that?

Well this is a kick in the knickers

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The Trouble With Trillions

I will not demand what I’m worth

Couch gag: Three old men are sitting on the couch, spooning water into a hot pit to create a sauna. The family, wearing towels, slowly back away.

Director: Swinton O. Scott III

Guest voice:
Paul Winfield as Lucius

Synopsis: Homer is selected for a tax audit and as part of the deal, is wired to listen to illegal activity Mr Burns is up to. Specifically, where the trillion dollar note is hidden that was given to Burns to give Europe to aid recovery after WWII.

Discussion: Let me just say: What The Hell??

This uninspired, dull episode deals with Homer, Smithers and Burns fleeing America so they won’t be tried for grand, grand, grand, grand larceny i.e. refusal to give back a trillion dollar bill.

Firstly, it takes 11 minutes – half the episode’s run time – to get to Mr Burns and the trillion dollar bill. Clearly the writers were stuck for time because there’s a whole unnecessary scene of Ned Flanders doing his tax on New Year’s Day to prolong the ep. How about Marge nagging Homer for four months to do his taxes?

Secondly, escaping to Cuba and giving Castro the trillion dollars to look at? Mr Burns would never do that!

Thirdly, what the hell. Just… what the hell. This ep makes no sense, doesn’t have a clear point and takes half the episode to get to the plot. Dear season 9, what happened?

Can’t hear you Marge, I’m clapping

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Simpson Tide

My butt does not deserve a website

Couch gag: The Simpson family fall off the couch and grow into flowers in a parody of Rocky & Bullwinkle-style animation.

Director: Milton Gray

Guest Voices:
Rod Steiger as Captain Tenille
Bob Denver as himself

Synopsis: After being fired over a doughnut incident, Homer joins the navy and bumbles his way into becoming acting captain.

Discussion: I think this episode would make more sense if I’d seen Crimson Tide. Maybe I’m just not into naval rescues. Or maybe this ep is a bit crap. In any case, I don’t love it. Homer getting fired over a doughnut is pretty funny. Homer joining the Naval Reserve- what could go wrong? Nothing, except for firing the captain from the torpedo chute and not being court marshaled because the commanding officers are all indicted for something… Well, OK.

There are two highlights of the ep: Homer half-dressed as a naval officer and requesting permission to board in a role-play scenario with Marge, and Bart’s impromptu performance on the bus of Do the Bartman which was indeed released in 1991 as mentioned by Ralph.

Other than that, I feel the ep drags a bit. Apart from being called Mr Moe, Moe doesn’t really do anything; perhaps that role could have been done better with Barney? I don’t know, I can’t put my finger on it, but I don’t love this ep.

I found a moon rock in my nose

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This Little Wiggy

I was not told to do this

couch gag: Bart checks to see if anyone’s looking then graffitis his family onto the couch.

Director: Neil Affleck

Guest Voice:
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure

Synopsis: Bart is forced on a play date with Ralph Wiggum, who suddenly becomes a lot more interesting when Bart finds the police master key which opens every door in Springfield.

Discussion: Arguably, Ralph Wiggum has the best lines in the show and doesn’t disappoint in this episode either. Bart is having another trademark guilt trip between wanting to be cool and exploring the old state prison, and being friend to the hapless Ralph.

I like this ep. Poor Ralph only wants a friend who doesn’t tell him to burn things. Bart just wants to have fun. Together, they can cause mayhem when armed with nothing but a master key.

The ending chooses to be a feel-good ending where Ralph is applauded for having a pretty good idea… even though Lisa came up with the idea that actually saved the mayor. Even though it’s a bit weak, it still works because the audience loves Ralph and he does deserve his moment of appreciation. I’m sure Lisa is disappointed at her lack of credit but hey, she’ll make it up again tomorrow at school or something…

Wait, that’s not how you spell dumbening

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Lisa the Simpson

Couch gag: A vine grows in the living room and the family grow on it, appearing as vegetables.

Director: Susie Dietter

Guest Voice:
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure

Synopsis: Lisa feels she’s becoming stupider, and Grampa reveals there’s a defective Simpsons gene that ensures her intelligence will disappear forever. Meanwhile, Jasper freezes himself in the Kwik-E-Mart and Apu turns it into a freak show to make some extra cash.

Discussion: Poor Lisa is the last in the group to solve a brainteaser, leading her to believe that she’s getting stupid. This is confirmed by Grampa, and Lisa takes her brain on a last tour of intellectual activities.

This is something pretty much everyone (sample size: me) experiences at some point in their life. You wake up one morning and suddenly can’t seem to do the same things you did last week. Mental blanks are increasing and things you should know aren’t there. Luckily for Lisa, this is just a phase and the defective Simpsons gene is only on the Y chromosome, so only affects males. Simple!

I really like this episode. It’s full of memorable moments and shows the panic someone goes through when they think they’re starting to lose their marbles. Eight years old is a bit early… but when you’re talking Lisa Simpson, it’s entirely plausible.

Easily the standout scene is Apu’s freak show, capitalizing on Jasper’s decision to freeze himself in the ice cream freezer so he can experience the future (with a change of pants as fashion dictates, obviously). My favourite part is the haunted ATM which dispenses images of dead presidents. Brilliant!

You bunch of ungrateful ingrates!

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Dumbbell Indemnity

Silly string is not a nasal spray

Couch gag: The family sit on the couch and are squished into a cube by one of those things that squishes cars into cubes

Director: Dominic Polcino

Guest voice:
Helen Hunt as Renee

Synopsis: A woman is finally interested in Moe but he goes broke trying to keep her happy. 

Discussion: We all know Moe is unlucky in love (and for good reason, apparently). It’s nice to see him with a woman just to explore the lengths he would go to to keep her. Renee (voiced by Helen Hunt, who was Hank Azaria’s girlfriend at the time) is a sweet woman and doesn’t ask for all this extravagance unleashed upon her, but she doesn’t shy away from it either. Moe runs out of money, engages Homer in an insurance scam to get more money, Homer screws it up yadda yadda yadda. 

It’s not the first time Homer and Moe have fought. Remember when Homer made a delicious drink and Moe took the credit? Homer and Moe are more than friends, Moe is the person who gets Homer drunk. It’s a special bond. 

What’s great about this episode is Moe’s relationship with Renee. She’s a normal woman, for a start, and Moe’s character deepens within this relationship. He’s awkward. Not just around women, but with himself as well. He knows his shortcomings and he knows women won’t just like him for him (he may be surprised…) 

Homer’s stint in jail is a dark point in the episode, but when viewed as a whole it works. Out of context, it’s a bit out-there and doesn’t really add to Homer’s character. Homer is very much a What’s In It For Me? kind of person even though it mostly masquerades as a desire to help a friend. For example, after he’s stolen Moe’s car, he takes a detour to see a movie, All Hail the Chimp. Instead of taking the car to the railroad as planned, he’s decided to do something for himself, which ultimately screws the entire plan and gets him into trouble. Maybe it’s s good thing Moe spends the insurance money on a trip to Hawaii and not bailing Homer out; it shows Homer that sometimes friends are selfish as well. 

One last thing: this ep’s title is based on the movie Double Indemnity. I encourage you to watch this film, it’s really good. It was one of the first American film noir films and also made smack bang in the middle of the Production Code, which forbade it from showing all the juicy bits (this is why mutually attracted people are shown to smoke; it’s a symbol of smouldering sexuality). Also during the Code, all crime had to be justified- the criminal had to be caught. It’s a very interesting time in Hollywood and a really great movie. 

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