Not Another Top (X) List: The Nine Worst Episodes of The Simpsons Season 9

(Author’s note: Meant to post this for a long time. Was too lazy to include the pictures until now.)

Well, after an update schedule that makes that of The Venture Brothers look stable in comparison, I have finally completed season 9 of The Simpsons– the first in a four-part series looking at the Mike Scully Era.

Truth be told, it was sorta what I expected. Character was indeed a bit haphazard, but that was mainly limited to Homer. Amazingly, this wasn’t too zany a season- there were a few wacky moments, but nothing too extreme.

On one hand, I did expect the show to still be relatively decent, even in it’s weaker episodes. That proved true- the show was still largely funny, still seemed like it had something to say, etc. On the other hand, I expected a few duds.

Indeed, there were quite a few duds- no major trainwrecks, but more than a few mediocre episodes. That’s what we’re covering here.

Unlike other lists of this nature, for the most part, these will be listed in order of airdate. The exception is the standout bad episode of the season- it goes at the end.

Oh, and please don’t refer to my reviews posted before February 2014. They’re boring and relatively poorly-written.

Here we are…

The Principal and the Pauper


Even without Mike Scully touching it, this was not the best sign for the season to come. It permanently altered the backstory of one of the characters in such a dramatic fashion. As well as the plot was handled, the plot itself was bad from the word go. I give it credit, though- it was pretty funny when the initial shock of “Armin Tamzarian” wore off. “Keep looking shocked, and move slowly towards the cake.”

The Two Mrs. Nahassapettapetalons


One of many episodes this season that wasn’t memorable. As interesting as the plot could’ve been, it was a relatively boring episode in terms of execution. Having Apu married off seemed like a big change, yet I doubt it had a long-term impact on character development. I’d certainly watch this again, though- Andrea Martin and the late Jan Hooks did put on good performances.

Realty Bites


As funny as Phil Hartman is, something about Homer getting in a car chase with Snake bugged me a bit too much. I give it credit for it’s snarky take on the realty industry, but I remember comparatively little from this episode.

Miracle on Evergreen Terrace


There was nothing horrendously bad in this episode- some Jerkass Homer and some schlockness, but nothing wretched. Except for the humor – with the exception of the ending, it is a dull, color by numbers episode. “Liar Revealed”, other characters out of character for the sake of a cliche plot, and a dearth of humor all hurt this episode. The second of three episodes I would likely skip in a marathon.

Bart Carny


Basically, the episode can be summed up as “Carnies are jerks”. No substance. Oh, and Homer gets a job for a few minutes because. Boy, that’s a good sign. One of three episodes which, during a marathon, I would likely skip. What a waste of Jim Varney.

The Trouble with Trillions

What could’ve been a funny satire on bureaucracy in the government (especially the IRS) instead turned into a “Captain Wacky goes on a zany adventure” plot- one that also feebelized Burns into a complete idiot. Oh, and to quote Mike Nelson: “Did they even need to go to Cuba?”

Trash of the Titans


As funny as the satire of extreme populism is, this is the quintessential Jerkass Homer episode- one where he gets a job and goes bonkers. Oh, and acts vindictive and whiny throughout. Thank you, Steve Martin, for making this more watchable.

Lost Our Lisa


Homer survives horrendous drawbridge injuries, and makes a speech that seems to cement him as Mike Scully’s own Mary Sue- an invincible mouthpiece for the writers and their fantasies. It came at the expense of a plot with a lot of potential.

Now, these were all pretty subpar. But, what was the most subpar? To clarify- what is the episode I am least likely to rewatch?

All Singing, All Dancing


Wow, was this pretty weak. The singing made little sense (or at least wasn’t funny), the clips reminded me of better episodes, there was virtually no comedy, very little character development… it was not memorable. Definitely one of the three episodes I wouldn’t rewatch- at least “Trillions” had some funny lines.

Oh, and for clarification purposes, my three favorites (read, the ones I would be most likely to watch again) are, in order, Lisa’s Sax, Girly Edition, and The Joy of Sect.

So, that wasn’t too bad. Not too good, but eh- you could chalk it up to first-season jitters… something which prior showrunners didn’t have, however.

Here we are – Season 10. Starting whenever.

Gravity Falls Review: Season 1, Episode 1: "Tourist Trapped"

(Given that Gravity Falls won’t be back until June, I figured that I may as well follow up on a promise I made last year and re-watch pretty much the entire first season. What else do I have to do, anyway?)


Airdate: June 15th, 2012

Synopsis: Twins Dipper and Mabel Pines are shipped off one summer from their home in Piedmont, California, to the center of nowhere- Gravity Falls, Oregon. There, they are to assist their great uncle, Stan, in working at his gift shop. While running an errand for Stan, Dipper locates a mysterious book, labelled “3”, which contains many secrets to the town. “Remember, in Gravity Falls, there’s no one you can trust.” Meanwhile, Mabel has a goal: find an epic summer romance. She finds a moody dude, and the two hit it off.

Ne’er the twain shall meet? Dipper suspects something’s off instantly.

Review: First episodes are always going to be off- characters have yet to be fleshed out, plots may still need to be ironed out, and in the case of animated shows, the animation may look a bit… cheap at first.

This show doesn’t really have that problem.

Our main characters are introduced in such an eccentric manner- running from a massive gnome. Sad to say, their summer gets more insane from there. Establishing the characters comes after the opening theme- Dipper’s stern-ness and Mabel’s eccentric behavior are set up in such a way that doesn’t seem expository in the slightest.

Stan’s introduction is as bombastic as it is brilliant- scaring his own great-nephew. Even before the end of the first act, however, he says a quote about his fellow employees- “I’d fire you all if I could”- that seems to hint at possible demons inside of him, a secret that he might be hiding. Of course, he masks this by denying that anything in the town is strange through the entire episode- a precursor to the very last scene in the episode.

Same with Soos and Wendy- their introductions showcase the quirks in their character, yet also shows how close they seem to these two kids that they’ve never met before. It really is a bit of a feel-good moment when they assist the twins, yet still do so in ways that establish their characters. “Try not to hit any pedestrians”, indeed.

Mabel is quickly shaped up to be a three-dimensional character- moments of brilliance shine through her eccentricities. In fact, she formulates a plan that only she could know about- one involving a good old piece of lawn maintenance machinery. And at the end, she acquires something that showcases a small level of foresight and rationality inside her id-controlled brain.

Norman- the setup, the exposure, the aftermath- really is the first showcase of the twists that Gravity Falls will take. The hints at Norman’s true identity seem like such minute details, but when revealed, showcase that Gravity Falls is not a show that goes for the blindingly obvious details. (At least, except for the end of the season.)

The theme of this episode is the concept of trust- a concept re-explored in “Not What He Seems”. “Tourist Trapped”, in hindsight, contains many a scene that is cringeworthy in hindsight. It makes some sort of sense that Dipper trusts Mabel with the secrets of the journal, yet is reluctant to let her go out with her mysterious boyfriend without some sort of inspection. Whether it’s a brotherly instinct, or a neurosis that’s proven correct, is all up to viewer interpretation.

One thing that threw me was the use of narration- in a style similar to that of “How I Met Your Mother”. It seems like it was just there for basic exposition. The concept, so far, has not been revisited- the closest to a copy is “Little Gift Shop of Horrors”, with Stan’s links. Another aspect that threw me is the use of Family Guy style cutaway gags. Granted, these actually tied into the plot and character development. Still, the style of gags seen here will not be used in later episodes, if I recall correctly

Ending on a positive note, though… the voice acting here is already fantastic. Ritter, Schaal, Hirsch, Cardellini… all of the main cast give brilliant performances.

What else can I say? It’s a damn good pilot episode, with a cliffhanger that… well, let’s just say it really sets up the Myth Arc.

Watch it.

Tidbits

  • This episode actually got two nods at the Annie Awards- Ian Worrel for Best Production Design, and Kristen Schaal for Best Voice Acting.
  • Three more days. If Disney had waited three more days, the first episode would’ve premiered on June 18th.
  • I forgot to mention the comedy here- it’s pretty excellent. The “Rock that Looks Like A Face” gag is really the world-building that Gravity Falls needs- it’s brilliantly cynical.
  • Nikki Yang did storyboards for the pilot. She would go on (and has gone on) to voice Candy.
  • One more thing I feel like questioning is the scene where Wendy tosses the keys of the Golf Cart to Dipper. (“Try not to hit any pedestrians!”) Not that it was a bad scene- hell, no. In fact, it was brilliant. However, it makes the relative lack of development for Wendy all the more awkward- the two don’t necessarily have to always been in a status of romantic tension. I expected that Wendy and Dipper would settle into a role of two advisors to each other in the discovery of the town’s secrets, similar to Picard and Riker from Star Trek: TNG. Ah, a geek can dream.
Favorite Scene: Mabel’s gambit at the end of the episode shows a brilliance in the character that you would never expect.
Least Favorite Scene: Did we need to see a gnome puke up a rainbow? I know, the target audience would probably like that type of humor. Me… not so much. More personal tastes factor into this decision, though. 
Score: 8.75.

Not Another Top (X) List: Ranking the 1st Part of Gravity Falls Season 2

Boy, fate is really testing my fandom patience these past couple of years. The Orlando Magic are wretched. The New York Giants made me bang my head against the wall god knows how many times. (Jacksonville? Really?) And my favorite show goes on hiatuses that are so long, even Ayn Rand novels take up less time. Atlas Shrugged? That’s weaksauce compared to the length of Gravity Falls hiatuses!

Since we are effectively midway through season 2 of Gravity Falls, I figured may as well see how the season’s ranking up so far. So far, I must say this season is better- characters have been fleshed out, the animation has become better and better, the plots are sublime…

Is it awesome? Yes. Is it perfect? No.

For a more definitive look at how the season has played out, I bring you a ranking of the first half of Gravity Falls season 2.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: didn’t you rank Season 1 of Gravity Falls just a few months ago? The answer is yes. But, again, we’re in another hiatus. I think another quick ranking might not be such a bad idea.

(Oh, most images are taken from the Gravity Falls Wiki or my prior blog posts. Please don’t sue me.) Continue reading