Scullyfied Simpsons: "Treehouse of Horror IX" (Season 10, Episode 4)

Airdate: October 25th, 1998

Last October, I reviewed “Little Gift Shop of Horrors”. The November before (which is close to October), I reviewed “Treehouse of Horror VIII”. Three Octobers ago, this blog didn’t exist. Since we are coming up on Halloween, I figure it’s time we review the ninth Treehouse Of Horror trilogy. (SPOILERS BELOW.)

First Segment: Hell Toupee


Snake gets arrested for smoking inside the Kwik-E-Mart. As per Springfield’s strict three-strikes policy, he is executed (live on FOX), but not before declaring his intention to get revenge on the witnesses – Apu, Moe, and Bart. Shortly after the execution, his hair is grafted onto Homer as part of the transplant. That night, the hair takes over his mind, giving him the mentality of Snake.

“Hell Toupee” actually has an interesting idea behind it – that of the impact appearance has on behavior. Even if this episode handled it in a science fiction-y way, it does pose the question – can changes in one’s appearance create an impact, direct or not, in the way they interact with people? If so, what in the name of psychology is the end result? It’s a very cool idea, which science fiction and fantasy can examine on a literal and figurative level. Since THOH is SF/Fantasy/Horror, they essentially have carte blanche to do so to their hearts content.

It wasn’t the stronger of the specials, however. You have a decent amount of plot, examined rather thinly. That, and the suspense wasn’t as strong with this one as it was with other halloween specials – once Homer turns into Snake the first time, it’s rather predictable. Had they not shown the hair literally takeover the brain, I think there could’ve been more suspense as to where the plot would’ve gone – whether the murders were psychological, or caused by the hair itself.

Still, there were quite a few funny scenes (c’mon, World’s Deadliest Executions is GOLD) and lines (“That was self-defense!”) that make this worth at least a look.

Score: 7.

Second Segment: “The Terror of Tiny Toon”


Defying Marge’s edict to not watch the Itchy and Scratchy Halloween Special, Bart and Lisa decide to add plutonium to the remote control. (To quote Homer, “Mama took the batteries, size AA.”) However, the plutonium gives the remote and the TV properties that send Bart and Lisa into the special. There, they laugh at Scratchy’s pain… causing the cat and mouse team to team up to eradicate Bart and Lisa. No amount of cartoon cliches can save them.

Another segment with an interesting premise – that which examines cartoons and the various insanities and cliches within. Through the Itchy and Scratchy, there are many things that don’t make too much sense, such as a sudden shift in locations, completely unnecessary violence, and strange unnecessary cameos by characters that are supposed to have died on their way to another planet. I’d like it… if this wasn’t the track that The Simpsons took from, well, this point on. This segment comes of as kinda hypocritical, in fact, given what would come later – a show that lost the balance between cartoonishness and realism (or at least, changed the balance so haphazardly.)

This episode also contains a minor plot hole in the beginning of the episode – why didn’t they just use the knobs on the TV? They were right there! No evidence to suggest that they’re broken. This irritated me a bit. Granted, people often act without thinking, but this stretches believability. There’s also the idea that Marge still might not have gotten the message from the last time she banned the kids from Itchy and Scratchy. (Granted, THOH isn’t canon, but still, try and keep the characters at least somewhat in character).

As far as Itchy’s reasoning for joining up with Scratchy to “teach the kids a lesson” about laughing at Scratchy’s pain, I think this was an attempt to showcase a bit of hypocrisy on his part. I hope. Worst case scenario, the writers just wanted a reason to see Bart and Lisa get chased by the cat and mouse duo, and put down the very first thing that came to their mind.

Ah, at least there were a few funny jokes. Regis and Kathie Lee, anybody? (“Dom Deloise can interview himself!”) That, and I did laugh at the quick appearance of Poochie, amongst other things. (A bit ironic, given what would happen to Homer through this season. Foreshadowing, or just irony?) Still, not the most tightly-produced outing in the THOH canon. You might like it more than I did, though, and I welcome an alternate opinion.

Score: 6.5, mainly because it made me laugh quite a few times.

Third Segment: “Starship Poopers”

Maggie loses her “baby legs”, sprouting tentacle legs in their place and confusing Dr. Hibbert (he suggests fire to remedy the situation). While the rest of the family is perplexed, she sends out a signal via a pacifier to a UFO. There, Kang and Kodos fly themselves to 742 Evergreen Terrace, to meet their daughter. Forced to confront “the truth”, Marge notes that she was impregnated (via a scanner to the brain, thank god) after being kidnapped by Kang and Kodos for a cross-breeding program. Before the situation can get more insane, Bart suggests that the two parties take their claims to Jerry Springer. Read, the lowest form of TV.

Finally, a segment I liked quite a bit. There is a bit of psychological tragedy to this, realizing that your child isn’t actually yours, per se, but there’s also more genuine horror with the reveal that Maggie is an alien (the alien fang, the tentacle legs, etc.) Also, the show manages to balance the horror of Marge being kidnapped for breeding purposes with some fine, fine comedy (especially the scanner that seals the deal). Oh, and as strange as it may seem, I personally liked the Jerry Springer segment – it is a near-perfect send up of the stupidity of the show. Granted, The Simpsons isn’t that much better nowadays, and it does seem like an attempt to be a bit topical (which still works, given that trash TV is still occupying the airwaves), but I’ll give it a pass.

Score: 8.5.

Overall Review: Yeah, this was a bit of a step down from last year. The first two segments, while having some very good jokes, were a bit too awkwardly written for my tastes – the first being a tad predictable, the second a bit hypocritical and plot-hole-y. I wouldn’t discount it entirely, but it’s definitely not a good sign for the season that the storied Treehouse of Horror is a bit off.

Honestly, though, the scariest part of the entire special is the fact that the next episode up is that one with Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin.

Happy Hallowe’en!

Steven Universe Review: "Frybo" (Season 1A, Episode 5)

This is one of the reasons why I don’t trust fast food mascots. Except for Jack Box. He is awesome personified.

Airdate: November 18th, 2013

Synopsis: After rescuing his jeans from the negative effects of a Gem Shard – used to animate articles of clothing, amongst other inanimate objects. – Steven goes into town. There, he meets up with Peedee Fryman, a disillusioned fast food mascot man working for his father’s fry business. Feeling sympathy for Fryman Jr, he takes the gem shard and animates the costume. Unfortunately, the effects don’t include “sell more fries” as much as it does “attack the patrons.”

Review: Over the past four episodes, Steven has established himself as one of the most idealistic characters to ever make his mark on TV. He’s warm, affable, and does things such as make breakfast for his guardians/roommates/whatever-they-are-at-this-point. Satisfied with his lot in life, his largest desire (so far, at least) is that he wants to be more involved with the Crystal Gems and their various adventures. His largest flaws, thus far, are his naiveté and inexperience. His idealism would make him fit right in amongst, say, the Bartlet administration.

So, just to emphasize how optimistic he is, let’s pair him up with Peedee Fryman, a character so nihilistic, he gives the Underwood administration a run for its money. Oh, and also, have Steven’s idealistic viewpoint deconstructed to the point where his actions help damage a small business. Continue reading

Review "Schedule" Update

Just informing you that, due to some things I have to do for school (and some overall busyness in my life), my review of the newest Gravity Falls episode, “Weirdmmageddon Part I”, might not be out until sometime early next week. I do intend to have the “Treehouse of Horror IX” review out by or on Halloween, though.

Sorry for any inconvenience.

Movie Review: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

This movie’s name was almost prophetic.

Premiere: June 9th, 1989

Synopsis: A Vulcan by the name of Sybok promises the desperate eternal knowledge, with just one requirement – they need a spaceship to get to the source. Thus, they decide to storm the capital city of “The Planet for Galactic Peace” and hijack the ship that responds. Hilariously enough, the ship is the still broken-down Enterprise A. Sybok lures the crew of the Enterprise in, and through the power of reading “hidden pain”, directs it to Sha Ka Ree.

Review (SPOILERS):

Wow. Two hundred posts. Not a major milestone, but still a bit cool. If I celebrated my 100th with the best Star Trek movie, I may as well “celebrate” by looking at what many fans consider to… not be the best movie.

But first, being that this is something of a minor landmark for this blog, I figured I’d start with a mention of the show that really started it all.

I’ve mentioned time and again that Red Dwarf is, if not my all-time favorite show, one of my top five favorites. If I might give a brief elaboration on my favorite episodes, some of them, in hindsight, are quite theological. “The Last Day” questions whether people should constrain themselves strictly to their religion’s set of values, if they subscribe to said values. “Lemons” gave something of an analysis of Jesus – to many, he is the great prophet, and to many others, the greatest teacher ever. Most importantly, “The Inquisitor” wonders whether or not we should actively strive to live life to the fullest, and whether we get another shot.

What made these all stand out is that they all did so while being downright hysterical. Whether the comedy connected to the theology, or divulged from it, I was rolling.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier also tried to mix theology with comedy. The results? Let’s just say, it almost killed the franchise stone dead.
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Scullyfied Simpsons: "Bart the Mother" (Season 10, Episode 3)

Now to figure out which one is Chirpy Boy and Bart Jr. The madness! THE MADNESS!
Airdate: September 27th, 1998

Synopsis: Bart kills a bird, raises it’s babies, and it turns out it wasn’t the bird’s babies that he was raising.

More specifically, Bart defies his mother by hanging out with Nelson, who just acquired a BB gun at an arcade. One false move, and not only is a bird dead, but Marge finds out and decides to give up on trying to interact with him. Feeling utter guilt, Bart decides to raise the eggs as his own… and lizards wind up hatching.

Review: Ah, ZZZZZZ… oh, sorry, where was I? Oh, yeah, this episode. A pretty blasé, boring half hour… well, the first two acts, anyway. The third act, I don’t know what happened.

The first part of the episode is so boring, that I don’t think I’m gonna go in depth here. This might be my shortest review since I don’t even know when.

Basically, the first two acts are “Marge Be Not Proud”… but with BB guns and birds instead of video game theft and christmas. I think the use of Nelson was an attempt to show how bad first impressions can be, except that, it actually makes sense that Marge wouldn’t be a fan of Bart hanging out with Nelson. That, and at least “Marge Be Not Proud” actually used subtle emotions, instead of the dramatic over-explaining in this episode… as if the audience were too stupid to know that Marge was fed up.

What a sea change.

Not only that, but I think the character traits explored have been handled better in previous episodes. Marge’s over-protective, somewhat hypocritical principles were already touched upon in “Itchy and Scratchy and Marge”. Bart’s own self-doubt was already hit upon in “Bart Gets an F”, and his relationship with his mother, “Marge Be Not Proud”. All of these episodes handled those conflicts in more complex, interesting ways.

The moments after Marge gives up are definitely better – not that much, but still. Bart, feeling guilt, raises the bird for himself. While I don’t think Bart feeling a certain level of guilt is out of character (I refer you to “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song”, and his guilt over getting Skinner fired), here, it goes a bit too over the top, and thus, feels a bit out of character for him. Or maybe the episode’s boring-ness got to me. That, and it did give us a gold Troy McClure film strip… unfortunately, it would be the last ever. (See below.)

Now, the third act is actually pretty decent. As wacky a twist it was, the reveal of the lizards actually added some strange sense of life into this episode. Plus, having Bart try to defend his lizards actually creates an interesting parallel. In the end, I think that “Bart the Mother” was trying to put Bart in Marge’s shoes – that he will still defend what, to an extent, are his children, even if they give people some hell.

Oh, and I did like the twist on environmental balance. The lizards were an invasive species who were killing off other animals. To an extent, this provides the question – is it part of the circle of life? Are we really doing harm by leaving these animals/reptiles be? As far as I know, this environmental analysis was unintentional, much like the ending to “Trash of the Titans”, another episode that I have mixed feelings for. Kinda cool that we aren’t in the anvil dropping zone yet, that the writers can still do subtle social commentary.

Too bad this episode wasn’t that memorable.

Let’s just wrap it up here – it’s a rather boring episode. Sadly, I think it could’ve been sweet if it didn’t take a path that was far too similar to “Marge Be Not Proud”, and syphon the comedy from that episode. Analyzing Bart isn’t a bad thing, but they’ve done it quite a bit better. (Take a look at “Bart Gets an F”, or “Bart Sells His Soul”.) It passes, but that’s more because nothing in this episode really offended me.

Tidbits:

  • Interestingly, Nancy Cartwright has cited this as among her most-loved episodes, because of the soul searching. Not gonna bash her opinion… just disagree with her.
  • This was the last episode written by David Cohen before he left to create Futurama with Matt Groening. Interesting that around the same time Futurama premiered, The Simpsons began its fall from grace.
  • On a more somber note, as I alluded to above, this was also the last episode to feature Phil Hartman – this time, in the aforementioned Troy McClure film strip. For those unaware, on May 28th, 1998, Hartman’s wife shot him three times before turning the gun on herself. A coroner’s report suggested that she was under the influence of drugs. It was a shocking and grisly end, and silenced one of the greatest comics of the 80s and 90s. Out of tribute, the writers decided to silence their characters. For that, I give Mike Scully respect. Similar props to Al Jean, for keeping it up with Hartman’s characters.
Favorite Scene: The Troy McClure script. You will be missed, Phil.
Least Favorite Scene: Marge turning her back on Bart was done far better in “Marge Be Not Proud”, mainly because of subtlety.
Zaniness Factor: 2.5. Lizards? Really?
Jerkass Homer Meter: 1.5 – mainly for getting beaten up at the batting cage. Granted, I did like the lightbulb gags.
Score: 5.5

Gravity Falls Review: "Dipper and Mabel Vs. The Future" (Season 2, Episode 17)

The truth is… surprisingly, not that far out there. (Small note, but building that bridge must’ve required some awesome engineering.)

Airdate: October 12th, 2015

Synopsis: Mabel is ecstatic – the end of August marks her and Dipper’s 13th birthday, and she’s planning a celebration to mark both the occasion and put a massive cap on the summer. Excited for everything, her happiness is slowly quashed as the world she once knew begins to fall apart. Wendy pops her bubble about high school, there can’t be a party at the shack itself, and her best friends can’t come to the party.

Meanwhile, Dipper and Ford go looking for a super-adhesive glue to try and seal a crack in the globe that holds the rift between the universes. To do this, they wind up going under Gravity Falls… a town founded over a UFO. (Arnold Rimmer has been vindicated.) After a series of strange events, Ford offers Dipper a proposal – stay in Gravity Falls after the summer ends, and become his apprentice in mystery solving.

When the two plots intersect… the end results are not good, to say the very least.

Review (WARNING, LONG REVIEW. ALSO, SPOILERS FOR VARIOUS PIECES OF MEDIA): Shortly before the premiere of “Roadside Attraction”, Alex Hirsch tweeted something to the effect that “RA” was a “breather episode” before the epic episode afterward. Reading that, I thought that this episode would change the show’s status quo on a scale unseen since “Not What He Seems.”

Well, it turns out, I was wrong.

For “Dipper and Mabel vs the Future” has less changed the status quo… and more curled the status quo in a ball, flung said ball out the window, and sent it barreling towards the sun at speeds so fast, the Millennium Falcon wouldn’t be able to catch up.

I’m not even sure how else to put it, other than this episode is undeniably the most stunning in the history of the show.
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Note on the Gravity Falls Reviews

Just letting you know, I don’t think I’ll be doing the rest of my re-reviews of the first season until the show is done. That way, I can review said episodes more thoroughly, take note of elements that have become more important, and all that jazz.

Don’t worry, though – my reviews of new episodes won’t stop. Just a reminder, “Dipper and Mabel vs The Future” will air on Monday, at 8PM Eastern. Watch it – the canon of the show will likely be affected on a scale unseen since… five episodes ago.