Scullyfied Simpsons: "Mayored To The Mob" (Season 10, Episode 9)

Airdate: December 20th, 1998

Those aren’t Idaho Potatoes!

Synopsis: A trip to the Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con goes horribly wrong when Mark Hamill doesn’t talk about Star Wars at his panel. With a riot breaking out, and Mark and the Mayor’s lives threatened, Homer barges through the nerds and rescues the duo. Quimby promptly fires his old bodyguards and replaces them with Homer. This, however, leads to trouble when Homer winds up discovering that a deal with the Mafia to send low-quality milk to schoolchildren went too well (read, the Mafia was using rat’s milk.) With the ring busted, Fat Tony threatens Quimby’s life.

Review: OK… Homer gets another job. Over the previous eight episodes, he’s been a grease jockey, an inventor, a personal assistant, a hippie, and a coward on the Ship of Lost Souls (although that last one only lasted mere minutes before he got thrown out.) So, why did the writers give him another job? I think, in reality, Mark Hamill just walked by Ron Hauge at some restaurant in LA, Hauge thought of an episode where Homer and Mark met up, and before you know it, Homer’s a bodyguard.

Anyway, this episode was better than “Kidney Trouble”. Then again, a test pattern would’ve been better than “Kidney Trouble”.

In a bizarre way, I think that this episode could’ve worked better given the right circumstances. In fact, it did work better at one point – Season 6’s “The Springfield Connection”.

In “Springfield Connection”, Marge joins the Springfield Police Department after feeling a rush from bringing down a petty criminal. There, she gets a first hand look at the incompetence and corruption within Springfield’s Finest.

On the surface, these two plots are similar – a Simpson parent enters the public service. However, in “Springfield Connection”, there are many nuances that make it stand out – the episode features an analysis of corruption, incompetence, familial abuse of power, gender roles (to a certain extent), society’s perception of law enforcement – even the idea of reform vs punishment is brushed upon. That, and Marge’s desire to enter the force and actions within stemmed from her character – a personal repression of her more “adventurous” side that exploded when trying to capture a perp, yet also was nuanced with her refusal to participate in the abuses of power the other members of the department engage in.

Here, beyond the retracing of bribery and corruption, there’s no nuances here. It’s just a simple action-esque plot, beat by beat. Nothing new is seen, and it seems like the plot controls the characters, instead of vice-versa. For example, Homer’s reasoning for entering the force? Mayor Quimby pointed to him, and he accepted. Why? There’s nothing in his character that would indicate that this should work. But, he accepts, because that’s what Captain Wacky does. He also becomes way too focused on his job, because, again, Captain Wacky.

That’s our Captain Wacky, taking an unstable job and using a sleeperhold on his kids!

Even the ending shows a stark difference in how to wrap up plots. “Springfield Connection” had Marge examine the hypocrisy (or at least incompetence) of the SPD, and gave her a personal reason to resign – the man that attacked her family was being let off the hook, and she felt like there was too little hope for reform. It’s a brilliant ending, having Marge reinforce the values she lives her life by.

In another “Homer Gets A Job” plot, “Colonel Homer”, Homer leaves his job as country musician manager after a close analysis of his relationship with Marge, which was strained for a good chunk of that episode.

Come the end of “Mayored”, Homer leaves his bodyguard job because… he’s an idiot. It’s a bit funny, but there’s little to get from his character besides “Homer is an idiot.” Real creative and deep.

Now, it seems like I’m harping on this episode a lot. Thankfully, there are a few positives.

For example, I loved Mark Hamill’s performance here – it practically saved the episode. Unlike the Basinger/Baldwin debacle of a couple of episodes ago, not only does it not overtake the plot, but there are actual jokes regarding the man – how he’s now reduced to selling cell phone plans, doing community theatre, etc. Hamill’s character even comes off as a bit egotistical and callous – a fine bit of self deprecation. Read, Mark Hamill has a personality.

Also notable is that, well, there wasn’t any awkward mistreatment of death to sully the comedy. Thus, I laughed quite a bit, such as…

  • Roger Corman’s Titanic.
  • Quimby’s old bodyguards just looking at the blue skies outside as a riot breaks out at Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con.
  • Seargent Leavelle singing “I Will Always Love You”. He ain’t Whitney, that’s for sure.
  • “Rats? I’m outraged! You promised me dog or higher!”
  • Cruel as it was, Homer’s dismissal of Milhouse’s safety (or at least sense of taste) was a decent bit of dark comedy. Poor kid.
  • “Luke, Be a Jedi Tonight!”
So, is this episode worth a watch? Maybe once, if only for Mark Hamill’s performance. Otherwise, not much to recommend here, other than if you have to choose between this and “Kidney Trouble”.
Tidbits:
  • The Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con is a pretty interesting gag – mainly, it seems to indicate that this small town is some sort of midpoint for science fiction.
  • Some fans were critical of the fact that various secondary characters (Willie, Lenny) were at the Mark Hamill panel. I am willing to play devils advocate, and think that the writers were going to symbolize the wide appeal that Star Wars Episode I had at the time of release, that is broke into the mainstream. But, yeah, it does dilute the secondary characters into more of a mass than as individuals. Springfield is the quintessential American town, but in the past, the characters were identifiable by their likes and dislikes. Not so much here.
  • I figure I should bring up the mafia aspect of the episode. It’s rather stupid, and even playing around with a few cliches didn’t help this episode much. Word to the wise – watch “Homie the Clown”. In fact, “Mayored” is that, but less clever.
Zaniness Factor: 3. Stupid Mafia plot is stupid, Captain Wacky is Captain Wacky. 
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3. No less than four times does Homer use the sleeperhold on his own family. That, and his rather casual dismissal of Maggie during the Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con riot was pretty cruel. Try watching this episode after “Lisa’s First Word”. You’ll weep… at how far the writing has shifted.
Favorite Scene: Strange as it seems, I did like the Bodyguard Boot Camp. That, and c’mon, “Luke, Be A Jedi Tonight” is brilliant.
Least Favorite Scene: I’m going with the sleeperhold scenes. All of them tie for scenes that amused me the least.
Score: 5. Thank you, Mark Hamill.

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

Scullyfied Simpsons: "The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace" (Season 10, Episode 2)

Airdate: September 20th, 1998

Synopsis: Reaching a midlife crisis, Homer becomes despondent on life. After a projector breaks down, Homer rhetorically asks “who invented this thing?” Lisa responds, and Homer has a new goal – be the new Thomas Edison. He becomes obsessed with the man… and, when it turns out that Edison invented something that Homer seemed to invent – a chair with an extra set of legs on hinges – Captain Wacky becomes hellbent on destroying Edison’s chair.

Review: Sounds like a Scullyfied Simpsons. Ain’t been reviewed onto nigh for two months.

Tsk, tsk, tsk – trouble a brewin!

Homer’s sorta pitiful life is the centerpiece of the greatest Simpsons episodes. Even when he is involved in something landmark (such as going into space), there’s this tinge in the writing that he got there by the thinnest of margins (aka, Barney going insane and falling off the top of a mattress factory). Despite this, he almost always maintained a love for the simple things you’d expect a 40-year old to love – TV, Duff, all that jazz.

Indeed, deconstructing his simple life by putting him in a midlife crisis seems like tough ground to tread. It doesn’t seem like Homer would be the one to encounter that, but I’d be willing to excuse that somewhat as a deconstruction of what his life has been.

Then Lisa brings up Thomas Edison, and the episode becomes… a tad bit more haphazard.

Look, Homer trying to invent something doesn’t seem like a bad idea… it’s just that it was done before. Can you say, “The Homer”?

For those unaware, in “Oh, Brother, Where Art Thou”, Homer’s half-brother, Herb, is the founder and head of a floundering car company. After meeting Homer, he starts to believe/realize his fellow suits are trying to imitate the Japanese and European car makers, and commissions Homer to invent “the American car.” The end result?

The Car Built For Homer
“Whatever Homer wants… Homer gets….”

It cost $82,000 – far beyond the means of the average American, yet even those that could afford it probably wouldn’t touch the car with a 39.5′ pole. Worse, because it was promoted as the flagship/comeback car of the company, Powell Motors loses whatever credibility it had, is bankrupted, and Herb winds up taking residence under a bridge. It was realistic, had a coherent plot, and more than just two-dimensional, satirizing the auto industry and the perceptions of the “average American”.

Admittedly, though, the inventions that Homer considers could be taken as a satire on just how insane companies would go in attempts to make lives “simpler”, when in reality, their inventions would add more complications to their life.

If you watch The Simpsons for satire, it’s not bad.

However, as I mentioned in my discussion for “Oh, Brother”, this show used to do a damn good job at balancing both. Here, the writer decided to focus more on the satire rather than the character, and the end result is somewhat empty. In my opinion, to make a strong script, you need strong characters… and this episode doesn’t really have that.

Here… Homer exposits about Thomas Edison’s life, which seems unlike him; manages to comprehend complex math problems, and other stuff that seems unlike him. Jokes like “Women will like what I tell them to like” are a good satire on the seemingly sexist viewpoint on the marketing industry, but coming out of Homer, it makes him look more disturbingly misogynistic than ever before. (Didn’t the writers expose Homer as not especially misogynistic in “Homer Badman”?)

As for the rest of the characters, Marge is reduced to something of a doormat. Ignoring Homer’s wacky desire of the week, she seems to go a tiny bit soft with Homer when it comes with his stupid – if not outright dangerous – inventions. Remember, she told Homer to “shut up” over lack of theatre etiquette in “Colonel Homer”, so this seems somewhat regressive.

Bart, meanwhile, seems to act as a mere assistant in Homer’s schemes. While I don’t mind the idea, here, the execution is very dry – there’s little to bounce off each other. If I can recall, I did sorta like the season 17 episode “We’re on the Road to D’oh-where”, and it was probably because it had Homer and Bart bounce off of each other, and not have Bart serve as a mere sidekick to Homer. Granted, I haven’t watched the episode in a few years, but maybe I’ll check it out one of these days.

As for the plot… it’s pretty much just an excuse for “Homer acts like an idiot” jokes. The pacing is off, the twist at the end came out of left field, and the second act seems a bit vapid.

There’s more I could talk about, but in the end, this is an episode that I have mixed feeling over. It has decent satire, but I feel like it could’ve been better with character exploration – or at least, consistent characterization. Here… not so much.

Tidbits:

  • Personally, I found that getting William Daniels – the voice of KITT himself – to be a bad sign as far as character. It makes Homer out to be the centre of the universe, or something to that effect. Homer is supposed to be just this working class guy who occasionally got into strange situations (such as going into space), and who managed to get a realistic response from everybody. Getting KITT reneges on that in a sense.
  • This was also written by John Swartzwelder, well known for his relative reclusiveness amongst the writers. He actually wrote some of the most critically acclaimed episodes of the show – “Rosebud”, “Homer at the Bat”, and all that. He penned “The Cartridge Family”, which was known for it’s relatively neutral stance on Gun Control (Swartzwelder is a conservative, and pro Gun Rights). However, in 1994, he was allowed to submit his drafts from his home, what with the backlash against smoking. Thus, some have speculated that this gave the writers and showrunners free-reign to manipulate the scripts.
  • This was also the first episode to premiere in the 1998-99 season itself – the season that gave us Futurama and Family Guy. Some have speculated that the show’s shift into zanier territory was motivated by Family Guy. The timing, though, leads me to disagree somewhat.
Favorite Scene: Admittedly, I loved the scene with Homer at the school library. I don’t really know how Homer got into the school – although that might be because I live in world with stricter school security – but I liked his explanation on why he wasn’t at the public library. “There was some… unpleasantness. I can never go back.”
Least Favorite Scene: KITT’s appearance, for the reasons above.
Zaniness Factor: 1.5 – the half point is for the Homer’s attempt to destroy Edison’s stuff.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3 – was waffling between a 2.5 and a 3, but then I remembered just how boneheaded his inventions were, and the fact that the writers made KITT himself celebrate him, and bumped it up.
Score: 6 – mainly for the satire. Character… not so much.

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 11: "All Singing, All Dancing"

Airdate: 4 January, 1998

Synopsis: Homer claims to hate musicals, revealing his disdain after renting a musical that Homer thought was a Clint Eastwood western. The rest of the Simpsons note the irony of this, stating the mere fact that the family (and the entire town) tend to break into song on a semi-regular basis. Meanwhile, Snake tries his hand at robbery… and reveals his distaste for musicals.

Review: This will be a short one; it’s meh. It’s a clip show; what more do you expect? I’m not really going to go into depth here, though.

First, let’s get this out of the way; the clips themselves are sublime. The first eight seasons of the show featured some damn good music. My favorite would have to be a tie between “In the Garden of Eden” from “Bart Sells His Soul” and “We Do” from “Homer the Great”.

Now the original material. It starts out great: “Paint Your Wagon” was pretty damn funny. However, by the start of the second act, it runs low on gas. While most of the characters are, well, in character, for some reason, I just can’t see Snake backing off as easily as he does. Maybe it was an attempt at character development. Maybe they just realized they needed something to keep the plot moving. Who knows?

It’s also worth noting that not even the writers wanted to do this episode; the ending makes this pretty clear. Worth noting that this episode came out shortly after the release of the CD Songs in the Key of Springfield. Thus, I blame FOX executives for the dryness of this episode.

That’s really how to sum it up: it’s just a largely forgettable episode. I’ll give it a pass, but only because it wasn’t as nonsensical as “Miracle on Evergreen Terrace”, and it reminded me of more entertaining episodes. If you want to watch a good clip show, watch “So It’s Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show”, “Another Simpsons Clip Show”, and “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular”.

Tidbits: Just two.

  • At the end, a shotgun is fired during the credits. Two blasts are heard on one occasion. Said occasion is when Phil Hartman’s name comes up. Five months and change after this episode aired, Hartman’s wife shot him dead before turning the gun on himself.
  • David Mirkin was credited as the executive producer. For once, Mike Scully is absolved of blame.

Favorite Moment: “Gonna paint your wagon, gonna paint it good…” SING ALONG!

Least Favorite Moment: Snake leaves because he figures that the family would not make good hostages… because they sing. Just seems a bit off for him.

Zaniness Factor: 1.5, mainly for the singing.

Jerkass Homer Meter: 1. (That’s a first, I think).

Score: 5.5.

Gravity Falls Review, Season 1, Episode 9: The Time Traveler’s Pig.

Airdate: August 24th, 2012.

AAAAHHHHH!!!! PETE’S BACK!!!

Synopsis (Spoilers): During a funfair, Dipper tries to win a stuffed animal-thing for Wendy. Dipper, however, can’t throw, causing Wendy to have a black eye. A series of events manages to have Wendy go out with Robbie. Meanwhile, Mabel wins a pet pig. Also, a time traveler called Blendin Bladin leaves his time machine (tape measure) laying down. Dipper and Mabel use it to try and get the stuffed animal for Wendy. After many failures, Dipper manages to get the stuffed animal… at the expense of Waddles.

Mabel and Dipper get into a fight, and begin to mess around with time. They wind up in the present, where Mabel is in a severe funk over losing a pig. Dipper resets things back to the way they were before, Wendy goes out with Robbie, Mabel gets a pet pig, and Blendin goes to jail.

Review: Be warned. This is going to be long, and may cause all 2 of my readers to chuck tomatoes at me. Because…

God. I. Hate. This. Stupid. Episode.

Never expected somebody who likes science-fiction to say that he hates an episode that revolves around science-fiction and time travel, huh? Well, not in this case.

This episode is like the antithesis of “The City on the Edge of Forever” from Star Trek The Original Series. The thing is, in “City on the Edge”, time travel was used to try and save the common good, yet there was also a selfish motive for Kirk, his love for well-meaning peace activist Janice Keller. Yet, the other option is quite clearly positive, making it possible to see why he would give up the love of Keller. In this episode, Mabel is JUST as, if not more, selfish than Dipper. Is she really flipping out… over a smegging pig? WHY WOULD YOU FLIP OUT OVER A SMEGGING PIG?

The worst part? She does not learn! She does not learn about the meaning of sacrifice the way Dipper had to learn. This episode makes her out to be an annoying, immature brat!

Oh, and Dipper’s not a whole lot better. Changing time and altering the past just to get a girlfriend? Holly from Red Dwarf put the idea of changing time best:

“What about causality, then? What about determinism? You just can’t go messing about with history!” -“Timeslides”

Congratulations, Dipper. A computer with an IQ that’s only the same as 12000 car park attendants knows more about causality than you. That’s incredible.

Granted, this does help kick-start a series of episodes where Dipper’s self-serving behavior manages to slowly overtake him and control his actions. Still, how come a boy that book-smart did not question the idea of causality once in this episode?

Strangely enough, Dipper’s selfish behavior in this episode is more justified. Not 100%, as he does come off as a bit of a smeghead, just more justified. To explain why, we have to compare to Star Trek again. Kirk’s selfishness from “City on the Edge” worked because he went into time travel with a purpose: to try and save the future and rescue Doctor McCoy. However, he falls in love with Edith Keeler, and has to decide on what seems to be his true love or the needs of the many in the future. Unlike with Dipper (who had to choose between impressing Wendy and Mabel getting a pig), Kirk’s stakes were much higher, and ultimately, when he sacrifices his selfish behavior, he does a good for the world (even though it initially provides a lot of bad for self).

Dipper’s stakes were much, much lower. Therefore, his selfishness could be justified. Mabel could have learned that you can’t always get what you want. But she does not. She almost is the villain in the episode, and if that is so, then the villain wins, hands down. The solution would be to have Mabel get Waddles before Dipper tried to impress Wendy. It’s a rather simplistic solution, but considering that the other option is for Mabel to have a pet smegging PIG while Dipper has to sacrifice a chance at love, it makes some sense.

The worst aspect of the entire series is the triangle that is forming between Mabel, Dipper, and Wendy. We see this more in “Summerween”, although that episode executes it better. When Mabel and Dipper’s friendship is pitted against Dipper’s desire for Wendy, it makes the episode that much worse. Oh, and the twins manage to ruin Blendin’s life. No comeuppance for that. Their actions screwed up a poor guy’s life.

And I will be blunt as can be here… I detest Robbie. Partially it’s because of the shipper deep in me, but Robbie is just a prick, put in to try and give Dipper some motivation to try and go out with Wendy. That is his raison d’être. Oh, I also hate Waddles. The pig contributes nothing to the plot. He is just there to screw Dipper over. Nice character, Alex! (Prepares for Waddles fans attacking me.)

This episode does not get a score lower than what it gets mainly because it contains some funny moments. The Oregon Trail reference was creative, and there are some call backs to prior episodes, as well as some funny foreshadowing. Also, the method of Science-fiction is pretty damn creative, and quirky. And I personally love Blendin as a character. He is just so sympathetic and still a bit funny.

Still, outside of the humor, the episode barely passes. Barely.

Favorite Scene: The Oregon Trail scene was pretty funny.

Score: 5

Note: If I got anything wrong in this review about causality, or if you disagree with me, please comment. I would just like to wonder if I got anything wrong, or if you have a different opinion as to who was in the wrong.

Edit as of 16/2/14: You might notice that I have changed the score of this episode. When I first reviewed it, I gave it a 4, which indicates a failure. Upon rewatching, I appreciate what the writers were going for in the Dipper-Mabel conflict, and now feel that I was too hard on the episode. I have decided to bump it up a point, and give it a pass.