Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 3: "Lisa’s Sax"

Airdate: October 19, 1997

 

Synopsis: Lisa’s saxophone gets destroyed in an accident. While Lisa is mourning her companion cube, Homer recounts the time Lisa got her saxophone. Two stories are then told: the first one connecting to the second one.

In the story, a 5-year old Bart loses his enthusiasm for school because his kindergarten teacher was apathetic and callous. While talking to the school psychologist, Homer and Marge note that Lisa is gifted. With no money to afford private school, Homer and Marge worry about Lisa’s creativity being channeled in the cultural wasteland they live in. Meanwhile, Bart has to deal with his depression. Yes. Depression.

Review: This is going to be a slightly shorter review than normal, partially because there is not a whole lot to talk about. This is also the last episode until season 13 that did not have Mike Scully at the helm. Enjoy it.

Why? This might be the best episode between season 9 and season 13. It actually feels like a classic-era episode, with that sense of cruelty and heart that the show demonstrated during those wicked early years. The development given to Lisa and Bart is not only brilliant, it is also quite sad. Bart was depressed by a teacher, got ignored by his parents, and became America’s Bad Boy because of it. We get to see how Lisa was put down by society and class, and how she got to channel her intelligence in the cultural wasteland called Springfield.

Might I also add that the humor is on par with what one would see during the Oakley-Weinstein Era. A bit sad, given the next episode had Mike Scully take over and launch his reign of terror.

It is truly a brilliant episode with few flaws. If there is only one episode to watch from season 9, make it this one.

Favorite Scene: The All in the Family parody opening. That might be even more hysterical because of the Sheriff Lobo reference.

Least Favorite Scene: Homer and Marge not paying much attention to Bart’s Depression is a bit cold of them. Granted, The Simpsons is not an overtly-sweet sitcom (at least not when this episode aired) but still.

Score: 9.

Next Simpsons review… we delve into the Scully Era. Be afraid. Be Very afraid!

Depressing Tribute Time: Last Saturday, Marcia Wallace, the voice of Edna Krabappel, went to the great comedy club in the sky. This is, of course, depressing, and has shaken the show to its core. Al Jean has announced that the character will be retired. Gotta give Jean respect for that.

The Red Dwarf Reviews Are Going on Hiatus.

Well, this news will make Mr. Flibble very cross.

Look, I have effectively plowed through half of the original Red Dwarf (1988-99). I don’t want to go too fast in my reviews of this show. Also, I am currently a bit busy right now, and I’d figure I’d take a minor break from this show to renew my energy.

I will still update the blog with other reviews, maybe a few “Not Another Top X Lists”, maybe do some other segments, just to keep the pace flowing. Still, I’d figure I’d take a break from Red Dwarf for a brief time.

So, what I am saying is that, until at least Christmas, my Red Dwarf reviews are going on hiatus. Again, I might do a few specials, and I might be back earlier, but don’t count on it.

Now, about the rest of the shows I review, here is the deal.

  • Gravity Falls airs in rather decent rotation stateside on Disney Channel. So, those episodes will be easy to review. Still, once episode 20 (“Gideon Rises”) is done, that show will not be reviewed until next year (because episode 20 is the end of the season, and next season will debut… next year.)
  • I own seasons 9-13 of The Simpsons on DVD, so those reviews will continue. Oh, joy. I get to watch one of the greatest shows of all time utterly disintegrate. Episode. By. Episode.

Red Dwarf Review: Series IV Wrap Up

Well, we have reached the end of Series IV of Red Dwarf. We are, in terms of series amounts, halfway through Red Dwarf‘s original run. (In terms of episodes, we reach the half point after “The Inquisitor”.)

So, what do I think? Well, not much, other than this series was wonderful.

Sure, some episodes were weaker compared to the high standards of the golden age (Camille, anybody)? Overall, however, this season produced some wicked good episodes, including the uber-memorable “Dimension Jump”. All of the other episodes, however, are very much brilliant.

As I said in my preview, this season often gets overlooked, sandwiched between the critically acclaimed series 3 and 5. This series, however, was just funny. Granted, the series began and ended with two of the weaker “classic” episodes (“Camille” and “Meltdown”), but even those episodes were very, very funny.

Like series 3, the development given to the characters is awesome. Rimmer gets the brunt of the development, however. We get to see just how deranged he is in episodes like “Meltdown”, yet get to see how self-pitying he is and “Justice”. Making a character that is sympathetic, annoying, and funny at the same time is a hard feat. Red Dwarf simply excels at it.

The plots also got better and better, and more into the sci-fi territory. We had “Dimension Jump”, which analyzed the idea of alternate universes; “White Hole”, which used a kooky twist on sci-fi that only Futurama could do better; and “DNA”, which showed Kryten go from machine to man, with hilarious consequences.

This series is just a joy to watch. If you have iTunes cash, buy it. If you have actual cash, get the DVD. If you have a Netflix account, watch it.

Red Dwarf Review: Series IV, Episode 6: "Meltdown"

Airdate: 21 March 1992.


Synopsis: As Rimmer is boring the crew of Red Dwarf to death with his stories, Kryten discovers a matter transporter device in the research lab of Red Dwarf. It can convert an individual into digital information and then transmit them in the form of light beams to another point in space within 500,000 light years. The crew decide to explore the nearest planet with breathable air, 200,000 light years away. Rimmer and Kryten go first to see if the atmosphere is breathable and send the device back, but are then chased by two Adult Gappas, then taken prisoner by a gun-toting Elvis Presley and the Pope. Lister and the Cat follow but accidentally end up in what appears to be the Third Reich and are captured by Adolf Hitler, whose men take the device.

It soon becomes apparent that they have traveled to Wax-world — a Wax-Droid theme park that has been abandoned for millions of years, during which time the droids have broken their programming and gained sentience. Now the droid replica inhabitants of Villain World are waging war against Hero World, in “the ultimate battle of Good versus Evil”. The evil Waxdroids use the heroes’ wax to make more of their own kind. Thanks to this, the heroes are on the verge of defeat. Rimmer takes up the opportunity to turn the tide of the war.

Review: This episode gets a rather weak rap on Red Dwarf polls, as it is often cited as being too hokey and a bit unlike Red Dwarf.

And I can see where they are coming from.

Not only are there some shifts in character that are not explained well (the writers tried to keep Rimmer like a human, yet he is turned into a light bee that can practically stop him at any time), but the anti-war message at the end was pretty blatant. Not Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue blatant, but still pretty blatant.

Does that mean this is a bad episode? Not really.

This is not an episode that will place tops on the Best Red Dwarf Ever poll, but it still is a pretty funny episode. I actually like the idea of a two-plot structure seen in this episode, as it shows what happens when the Posse are split up. The end results are hysterical.

Not only is Rimmer training the Good Wax droids funny, but it also exposes an aspect of his character. He does not like being a leader so much as he likes a desire for control. He also does not give a lot about what happens to his soldiers: as long as he gets the personal feel of victory, all is right in the world of Arnold Judas Rimmer. That’s why he is obsessed with war: he does not like the historical aspects or the mechanics or the ethics. He likes to control. He thinks that he is leading, but he is controlling. His dialogue with the Wax Droids shows it all. Also, he has no idea how to lead anybody. “We attack tomorrow, under cover of daylight!” And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Plus, Lister and the Cat’s antics are pretty good. The scene with them in the jail cell is hilarious. There is the Cat flipping out, Lister watching the worst people come out and build gallows, and then…

They’re tyin’ him to a stake… it’s Winnie the Pooh! […] It’s Winnie the Pooh, I swear! He’s refusing the blindfold.

(after watching Winnie get executed, he simply steps down, completely fazed). That’s something that no one should ever have to see!

Also, Elvis Presley as one of the good droids that kidnap Rimmer and Kryten? Brilliant! And the bad special effects of dinosaurs? Wonderful!

Of course, the critics of the episode do have a point when they criticize the “moral of the story” ending. Unlike in “Justice”, where it was mocked by having Lister fall down a pipe, there was no such mocking of the moral. That’s not really like Red Dwarf. When it does include a lesson, it’s pretty subtle. Granted, some anvils need to be dropped, but still; a bit jarring.

TL;DR? A wickedly underrated episode, and a good closing episode to series IV.

Favorite Scene: The jail cell scene. Just, the jail cell scene.

Least Favorite Scene: The whole “moral of the week” ending. What is this, Red Dwarf, or Captain Planet?

Score: 8.

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 2: Principal and the Pauper.

Airdate: September 28th, 1997

Synopsis: Springfield Elementary School is about to celebrate the anniversary of Skinner’s tenure at the school. Skinner is surprised at the glowing tribute given to him. However, a strange man (Martin Sheen) pulls up and enters the school, and announces that he is also named Seymour Skinner. Skinner concedes that he was an imposter (really named Armin Tamzarian) and that he took the real Skinner’s identity…. and, really, describing beyond that point would just be a waste of space.

Review: Oh, boy. This episode. To many people, this episode marked the very first signs of the show’s descent into hacktackularity. The plot alone is considered to be the worst one ever made up by the show.

Now, what do I think of this? Four words: bad plot, decent execution.

The idea itself just screams “moronic” right from the get-go. Really, taking a character that had been developed over the past 8 seasons, and then revealing all of that to be a fraud? WHAT THE?  To add insult to injury, this creates tons of plot holes in the show’s canon. (Who was serving with Abe in “Curse of the Flying Hellfish”? What else happened with Skinner in Vietnam?)

Also, with this, we get to see the show truly use a gimmicky plot that it would often mock. Granted, unlike other examples, I can see the idea of this (even though it was a stupid idea from moment 1), as a desire to experiment with the canon of the show. However, it still is stupid, and was a sign of things to come, with a lack of care for characters or interesting plots. So, yeah, this episode deserves a goodly amount of its hate.

Where is it redeemed? Well, it’s actually quite funny. I would not consider this the funniest episode ever, but there are plenty of scenes that will still elicit quite a few laughs. A few include:

  • The Road Trip to Capital City, with Agnes, Edna, the Simpson Family, Abe (also part of said Simpson Family), and Jasper.
  • “Is this the line for those who want to badmouth Sargent Skinner?” “And have 12 Items or Less!” “12, 11, 10, the man’s a weenie!”
  • “The judge offered me a choice. Jail, the army, or apologizing to the old man and the lady. Of course, if I knew there was a war going on, I probably would have apologized.”
  • Apu not caring what Skinner/Armin calls himself.
  • “Keep looking shocked, and move slowly towards the cake!”

Still, I can see why that this episode is quite controversial. The plot is stupid. Maybe, if they did not play it so seriously, it would work. That, however, is a failure that would also dominate later episodes, with cliches and/or stupid plot elements played dead straight. Even then, with the ending scene, they did tend to take the MST3K Mantra with this episode. However, with the fanbase of The Simpsons being as passionate as it is (seriously, log onto nohomers.net or deadhomersociety.com), I can see why they did not take kindly to this episode.

Favorite Scene (Spoiler): The very end of the episode, with the necessary deus ex machina (in which the town legally denies the real Skinner’s existence).

Least Favorite Scene: The reveal of Armin Tamzarian. Except for the “move towards the cake” line above.

Score: 6.5.

Behind The Laughter (According to Wikipedia): If you thought only the fans hated the episode… not so. Harry Shearer, who plays Skinner (Our Skinner), hated this episode. Matt Groening also was not a fan of this episode. Ken Keeler, however, declared that this episode was his personal favorite to work on. I personally prefer his other works, like “A Star is Burns”, “Two Bad Neighbors”, “Brother From Another Series”, damn near every episode he did on Futurama (such as all four series finales he did. Yes. He did all four episodes which, at the time of production, were supposed to be the end).