Airdate: January 31st, 1999.
Plot: Through a series of barely connected events, Homer meets up with a travel agent who manages to get him and his friends to ride a coach bus to the Super Bowl, all for free. Thing is, their tickets have a problem – they’re fake. Their attempt to go to the game… well, just look at the above image and guess how well that fared.
Review: I am a fan of the New York Football Giants. I’ve never been to a game (because being in the largest media market gives you the right to charge $100 for a low-end ticket and god-knows-what for food and stuff), but I’ve been watching the team on TV practically every fall for the past twelve years. The 42nd and 46th Super Bowls were some of the greatest sports memories of my life. And even with the team’s recent malaise, I won’t give up hope that the Giants will reach the top of the Football Mountain once again.
What does this have to do with “Sunday Cruddy Sunday”?
…nothing! Absolutely nothing!
…I kid, I kid… the episode does feature Football. And, much like the end of the past four Giants seasons, it hurt to watch and barely held any connection to anything.
Mike Scully actually joked that they slapped it together in the commentary. Here’s the thing – it actually does come off as rather slapdash. I think they got word that they would get the slot at the end of XXXIII, failed to come up with a good idea, and threw something together just to appease the FOX executives.
Thing is, they were placed in a timeslot where they needed some of their best work. For those that live in another country, the Super Bowl is the single biggest sports event in America, and gives the World Cup a run for its money in “biggest sports event in the world”. So, maybe this episode was intended as a prank on the audience?
Well, sort of. If so, it’s a pretty daring prank. It probably could’ve almost worked if it wasn’t for certain factors which I will mention later.
However, I’m grading this episode on its own merits. So… let’s start with the characters. Oh, sorry, I meant “random townspeople that run around with Jerkass Homer”.
On one hand, I get the variety, so to speak, of characters that are on the Super Bowl bus. I’d argue that the game is one of our great national unifiers. No matter what your political alliance, your favorite TV show, watching football is one of the most shared interests, and again, more people watch the Super Bowl than any other TV event on a year-to-year basis. That said, there seems to be little variety in the characters and their interactions. Outside of a line or two, they largely act like “football fans following a moron”. Idiots.
In particular, Wally might be among the biggest character wastes (except for a lot of Bart’s girlfriends.) There is very little about his character that is particularly memorable. I think that his role as a character was that of a loser travel agent who easily fell for scams and is self-depreciating, I guess. Still, there’s so little to work with as far as his character interactions go. Fred Willard does an acceptable job with the subpar role he’s given, but still, rather annoying.
Oh, and Homer is in full blown “bombastic” mode. It’s irritating. Thankfully, he gets a decent dose of punishment… until he and his crew wind up in the winning locker room.
Now, the plot. Um… there was so little of consequence, I can’t even comment. It was just silly moment after silly moment, and the plot was very, very loose. Honestly, the only thing that really interested me plot-wise was Rupert Murdoch chasing the gang out of the skybox. It’s wacky, but at least it almost had substance.
If there was a good aspect of this episode, I did like some of the Super Bowl related jokes. The halftime shows were cheesy at the time this episode aired, the pre-game entertainment is even cheesier, the commercials have little to do with the product, and the game is pretty flipping brutal. Too bad there were too few of them, and we got more bombast from Homer and Co… which is made worse by the boring plot.
So, yeah. On its own merits, it’s a pretty subpar effort from the writers. For a Super Bowl episode, this is pretty bad. However, on a larger level, there is one major strike against this episode.
This episode was the second part of Fox’s 2-part lead-out. The first part was the debut of Family Guy – the episode “Death Has A Shadow”. Truth be told, that was not a bad episode. I’m not a huge FG fan, but that episode had pretty effective (if more “blue”) comedy, a plot that had substance, and it didn’t flat out insult the intelligence of its audience at the end.
I don’t think “Death Has a Shadow” would draw in too many disillusioned fans of The Simpsons. However, for first-time viewers of both shows, watching this after Family Guy probably didn’t impress them. (There’s nothing that says you can’t watch both shows, however.)
A poor episode at the worst possible time, not a whole lot more needs to be said about “Sunday Cruddy Sunday”. In the words of John Madden at the end of this episode, “It was kind of a ripoff! What a way to treat the loyal fans who put up so much nonsense from this franchise!” And the nonsense isn’t going to end anytime soon.
In short, watch “Lisa The Greek” instead. That’s my warp of the week for the best football-related Simpsons episode.
- Oh, yeah, there was also a subplot where Marge and Lisa paint eggs with the Vincent Price kit. It was intentionally constructed to be as boring as possible. It succeeded too well.
- Skinner repeating a boring trip, while not joke-free, was done better in “Bart Gets Famous”. “My boy’s a box!” Oh, and there’s a rather awkward joke about Skinner being safe from shooting rampages as an Elementary School principal. It was awkward before Columbine, really awkward afterward, and in the wake of Sandy Hook, the joke makes me wonder what the four writers (yes, four people made this) were thinking.
- The jokes involving covering up the mouths when announcing teams was pretty silly. I know The Simpsons is intended to be a satire on our everyday world, and putting two other teams could’ve backfired badly, but I honestly would’ve jokingly put two subpar teams in that slot just for comedy purposes. It was funny when they did it with the President, if only because they made a joke later on about Al Gore measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.
- I did find Lisa’s comment about the Catholic Church commercial (and Super Bowl commercials in general) interesting, given that, three seasons later, she went through a crisis of faith because of the commercialization of the First Church of Springfield. (Before you ask, on the FXNow edit, it’s simply referred to as “The Church”. Apparently, specifying the church caused a bit of a tizzy.)
- Oh, and the “big” guest stars include Willard, Madden, Pat Summerall, Rupert Murdoch, Dolly Parton, Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, and Rosey Grier.