Scullyfied Simpsons: “Maximum Homerdrive” (Season 10, Episode 17)

“If you wanna be my lover
You gotta get with my friends
Make it last forever
Cos friendship never ends…”

“Don’t you have school?” “Don’t you have work?” “Ah, touche.” – Homer and Bart, recognizing just how silly these plots are getting.

Airdate: March 28th, 1999
Written By: John Swartzwelder.
Plot: The Simpson family (bar Lisa) go to the Slaughterhouse, a steakhouse where the waiters kill the cow in front of the patrons. One menu item is a 16lb steak that only two people finished – Tony Randall and trucker Red Barclay. Homer decides to take on Red… but while Homer loses, the contest doesn’t end too well for the trucker. Feeling remorseful, Homer decides to take on Red’s last route to Atlanta, and Bart hops on for the ride.

Meanwhile, Marge and Lisa decide to install a new doorbell – one that plays “Close to You”. Their patience to have somebody ring the doorbell wears thin, however, and eventually Lisa takes the plunge… one that will ultimately prove detrimental to the neighborhood’s sleep schedules.

Review:

Oh, yeah! Set your amps to max, turn your hairdryers to Max Power, switch your radio over to Max FM, and take your son Max over to Lake Destiny, because we’re in for our second Maximum episode in a row! Time to shift it into “Maximum Homerdrive!”

Through my life, the “road trip” has been a favorite pastime of mine. Thus, episodes of TV shows revolving around road trips seem to lure me in. And I have to admit it – “Maximum Homerdrive” is actually an episode I rather like. Yeah, it’s silly, contains a rather thin plot, and probably the pinnacle of “Homer Gets A Job” plots that dominate Season 10. But, for some reason, I get a nostalgic feeling with this episode.

Under a critical lens, though… how does it hold up?
Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: "Lard of the Dance" (Season 10, Episode 1)

Airdate: August 23, 1999

Synopsis: At the dawn of a new school year, Lisa has to meet up with a transfer student. Unlike the previous transfer student, this new transfer student, Alex Whitney (Lisa Kurdow, Friends), is a fashion-oriented, modern “adult”-like child in the same grade as Lisa, who still enjoys the pursuits of childhood.

Meanwhile, Homer gets the first of many, many, many jobs this season when he realizes the market value of grease. He and Bart try and usurp grease from various sources… including the school.

Review: The tenth season premiere is, in some ways, a bit of a “Deja Vu” moment. By which, I mean, it’s all but a remake of “Lisa’s Rival” – Lisa meets a new girl and has a rocky relationship with her, and Homer enters a money-making scheme.

It’s how these two episodes execute their plots, though, that differs vastly, and in the case of the “Homer” plot, makes this episode weaker in comparison.

Lisa’s plot revolves around what seems to be an attempt to treat children like tiny adults in society. It was relevant then, and it’s relevant now. We see children given access to cell phones, allowed to operate credit cards, dressing up in styles more suited for adults, etc. It’s a bit concerning, given that the mind of a child is not as developed as the adult mind. I’m glad that the show addressed this. Honestly, this shows that even the Scully era – one lambasted by reviewers for transitioning the show to a mindless sitcom – could tackle social issues. It’s early yet in Scully’s tenure, though.

My problem, again, comes from the execution, which seems a tad bit uneasy.

On one hand, I can appreciate the idea that Lisa does have a more “childish” streak – we’ve seen it in earlier episodes, and it makes the character more believable. However, here, it seems like they stuck in traits that the writers thought second graders like Lisa had. The end result is an ending monologue that has some issues with character – I don’t really buy into Lisa supporting the idea of “talking in church” and “chewing with her mouth open”.

I also find her being appointed manager of the school disco and her bouts of maturity including watching The McLaughlin Group, while somewhat funny, to be a bit of a harbinger of her future characterization as an overt political activist who acts like a college student… which is a bit ironic, if you think about it. Of course, it could be (and probably is) a stab at the aforementioned show, but I just thought the coincidence muddled some of the comedy.

Otherwise, I think that it was relatively “color by numbers” – Lisa is unpopular, and there’s something like a “be yourself” message at the end. Granted, this is more complex than “Lisa Goes Gaga”, in that it takes on a social issue, but still. I think “Summer of 4’2” was an overall more inspired, unique take on the idea, with a somewhat more “involved” plot involving sibling rivalries and the dynamic of geekery. Here, it’s a bit… simpler. Lisa is ostracized for being uncool, but is right all along because the cool kids don’t know the first thing about the “adult” things they’re supposed to do.

But, because I l want to end the discussion of the plot on a positive note this time, I will say that Alex Whitney is actually a fresh twist on the old “uptown girl” cliche – she’s sweet, not actively harmful, and seems to be more unaware of the realities of a new demographic than anything else. She’s sympathetic, and Lisa Kurdow does a fantastic job playing her. (I’ve never really watched Friends, but now I’m tempted to watch a bit on Netflix.)

Bizarrely enough, the title of the episode comes from the B-plot. A harbringer of the “Homer Gets A Job” cliche, Homer (and Bart, because writing) try and make money off of recycling grease. Minor in the grand scheme of things, it’s still quite a bit lackluster. It’s full of the typical “Homer Gets A Job” cliches – Homer acts like a jackass or an idiot, does something that is obviously not going to make him money, and gets hurt while doing so. “Lisa’s Rival”, again, handled this in a better light,

What bugged me is the idea that this behavior was normal. Even in episodes like “Deep Space Homer”, Homer’s trip into space was treated realistically, with other characters acting like real people despite the zaniness of the situation. Here, Homer is all but egged on by the entire universe. Back in my review of “Lost Our Lisa”, I mentioned that Homer’s rant at the end showcased that the character was being transformed into something of a Mary Sue – one that the writers would use as a vehicle for their fantasies. It isn’t too bad here – he doesn’t come out the victor, is relegated to the B-plot, and doesn’t meet a celebrity.

Still, to see Marge suggest somethings for his “zany scheme” is a tiny bit out of character, and shows the universe start to bend to his will. In the show’s defense, Marge’s suggestion of an “emu farm” indicates something that is relatively tame. I think – I don’t know much about Emu farming. Oh, I also forgot to mention Homer gets hurt – he’s beaned with a shovel, punched, strangled with a hose, and having an eyeball pop out. That last part, I did not make up. That’s something I’d expect out of a show made by Seth MacFarlane. He survives all of this with nary a scratch.

Again, because I want to end on a positive note this time, I will say that the episode had quite a few great jokes:

  • “North Kilt-town”
  • Skinner recognising right off the bat that Lisa’s probably the only person raising her hand – a tad bit silly, but whatever.
  • Homer takes note of the large amounts of grease on the fast food worker’s forehead. “My god, you’re greasy!”
  • Homer forgot to attach the barrels to the car before his trip to the school.
  • Even Lisa’s paramecium insult her by pairing up.
  • “Acne Grease and Shovel”
Despite this, the episode is relatively lacklustre, and not one I would be too quick to watch again.
Tidbits:
  • In an age where mobile phones are commonplace, it’s worth noting that having a cell phone was seen as something of a “white collar” thing during the 90s – as in, generally speaking, people who primarily made decent money in the finance sector had cell phones. This stands in something of a contrast to today, where most people have cell phones. Thus, the allure of Alex having a cell phone is much stronger if viewed from a “1998” perspective.
  • There’s something a tad bit confusing about Groundskeeper Willie using the school’s kitchen as a sort of shower. I know he lives on school grounds, but at first, it seems like he was just there because the plot needed a conclusion. However, given that he’s the only janitor at the school, he might be doing some overnight cleaning work (or at least, on the clock for it).
  • This was the last episode directed by Dominic Polcino. Not the greatest way to leave.
  • This episode actually aired as a special episode. Y’see, in America, broadcast TV shows are normally contained from September to May, when the ratings system is most active. The reason, according to Wikipedia, was to get a good lead in for the pilots of That 70s Show and a Holding the Baby. The former became something of a cultural icon – ironically enough, it launched the career of Mila Kunis, who became the second voice of Meg in oft-accused Simpsons ripoff Family Guy. Holding the Baby’s success can be measured in that it’s Wikipedia Page barely has information on the show, and according to it, the show didn’t live to see whether President Clinton would be acquitted or not. (Oh, and it was based off of a somewhat – at least – obscure Britcom.)
Zaniness Factor: 2, mainly from the cartoonish fight between Homer and Willie.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3. Zany job, virtual invincibility to pain, and pulling Bart out of school to work a blue collar job? Yeah.
Favorite Scene: Have to go for Lisa trying to force Milhouse to go with her to the dance as a date… before realizing what she’s become. Even if the rest of the art in the episode is somewhat dry, the reflection in the glasses is a good, if slightly cliche, film/animation direction technique.
Least Favorite Scene: The entire third act has several scenes, but it’s a dead heat between Lisa’s somewhat uncharacteristic end monologue, and Homer and Groundskeeper Willie’s overtly cartoonish fight.
Score: 6.5.

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 22: "Trash of the Titans"

CURSE YOU, RECYCLING CALENDAR!

Airdate: April 26, 1998

Synopsis: After OFF celebrates “Love Day” (a second Valentine’s Day meant to make more money for big business), there is a heap of trash. Failing to get the trash out in time, Homer insults the garbage men, causing service to be cut off. Weeks and piles of trash later, Marge finally writes an apology letter. Rejecting this claim, Homer goes straight to the top – Sanitation Commissioner Ray Patterson (Steve Martin), and after getting thrown out, decides to run for Sanitation Commissioner himself. Running on a populist platform of “can’t somebody else do it”, he wins in a landslide… and his policies threaten to bring down the town.

*WARNING: SPOILERS IN REVIEW”Review: Great. Right out of one of the better episodes of the season, we get an episode that showcases probably the most blasted aspect of Scully’s era- mischaracterization of Homer Jay Simpson. And this is the two hundredth episode. That’s a good sign, eh?

Actually, taken as a whole, this episode seems to continue with the satire found in “Girly Edition”- picking apart an aspect of American society. This example is somewhat more over the top than “Girly Edition”- this time, we take a look at the pitfalls of populism.

American society is practically built on pseudo-populism. It was a bunch of “average joes” that drove the British Empire out of the land now part of the United States of America. America was one of the earliest “modern’ (read- post Renaissance) nations to experiment with a representative democracy, and a head of state that was from the people, not a monarch. The anti-federalists, representing the populace, managed to get a Bill of Rights in the constitution, guaranteeing basic freedoms for the people.

Unfortunately, populism has it’s drawbacks. Given that the average joe is often less aware of the risk factors when it comes to certain ideas, their plans can often end in disaster. For one, you can’t expect low tax while maintaining the same level of public services- you either have to cut services or raise taxes. Often, people believe that everything should be done to their exact beck and call, and that they shouldn’t have to pay the piper.

(Full disclosure: I consider myself a liberal/social democrat- you know, tax the rich and nationalize certain necessities of life, such as health and water- although even I don’t think that ideals such as Homer’s are sustainable without changes.)

This episode sends up those populist ideals- Homer runs for sanitation commissioner, wins on his populist ideals, tanks the budget on his wacky plans within a month, doesn’t think to ask for a budget increase, and ultimately trashes the town.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Dude, this episode sounds pretty decent. What’s wrong with it?”

Character.

Thing is, this episode seems like it was “plot first, stick characters wherever second”. Homer was the centre character- they stuck him in. It’s pretty awkward. It’s hard to see Homer get this arrogant, this angry, this active. His behavior during the campaign is brazen- cutting Patterson’s brakes? Yet, the town (and freaking U2) spontaneously break out into song about how his administration is going to be awesome… I think (I’m not sure if it was a dream by Homer).

On one hand, this could be seen as a mockery of the overt populist ideals exhibited in American society. Yet, I can’t see Homer putting this much effort in political participation, and being this callous in doing so. It seems like everybody eggs on his behavior a bit too much- even Lisa doesn’t stop Homer from the fateful trip to City Hall. Granted, the town is populated by idiots, but it still stretches believability. Thankfully, there is actually a realistic backlash- the money is blown through rapidly, Homer’s plan to make money back fails, and he is deposed. Oh, and he’s not a mouthpiece for the writers. Yet.

Ray Patterson is actually one of the more confusing one-off characters that the show has had. He spends the episode blasting the extreme populism that Homer exhibits, and the fact that people are cheering him on. Once all is said and done, he high-tails it. On one hand, he’s pretty damn sympathetic, as well as hysterical. On the other hand, it seems to be a recognition by the writers that Homer’s becoming this “centre of the universe” character, and that they don’t really care.

The middle of the third act also shifts the show from a political satire to a “green” episode. It’s not too over the top, but it’s still a bit jarring. It does seem like the writers forgot where to go, and pumped in the last few minutes just to bring everything to a conclusion.

Admittedly, the comedy in the episode is good enough to downplay any potential flaws. Examples?

  • The concept of Love Day itself. Board member is fine with a dip in sales during the summer… and is promptly dragged out.
  • Kisses-Make-Me-Boogie-O-Lantern
  • “Dad, you’re always telling me and Bart to apologize!” “Yeah, but I’m always secretly disappointed when you do.”
  • During their stop at the PopMart tour, U2 plays “Pride”… as Homer gets dragged out of the concert and beaten up. This is broadcast on the mega-screen behind U2.
  • “I think I’ve got the perfect solution!” “You better, cause those garbagemen won’t work for free!” “D’oh!”
  • The Simpson family instantly thinks Homer’s plan to replenish the sanitation budget involves drugs. It does – drugs and weapons are brought in from New York City.
  • Once Patterson is reinstated, he goes up to the strains of the “Sanford and Son” theme, and, in a span of ten seconds, makes this speech… purely deadpan:
    • “Oh, gosh! You know, I’m not much on speeches, but it’s so gratifying to see you wallowing in the mess you’ve made. You’re screwed, thank you, bye.”
    • Cue the “Sanford and Son” theme as he washes his hands of the situation.
  • Plan B. Zany, but shocking enough to be hysterical.
Still, besides the comedy, the flaws in this episode are a bit hard to look past. Too much annoying Homer, the buildup is a bit far-fetched, and both of these combined makes this episode a bit of an “off” viewing experience.
Tidbits:
  • Steve Martin’s delivery as Ray Patterson is fantastic. I think he might be the best guest star in the Scully era. Granted, we have three more seasons, but I got a bad feeling about them.
  • U2, on the other hand, just seem to be in this episode to get “down with the kids”. Bono’s faux-pandering to Homer is funny, but the scene just seems superfluous.
  • Note to self: whenever somebody says something stupid, play “Fur Elise” in my head.
  • (Added as of 30 May): Fun fact: the city of Toronto once wanted to turn an abandoned mine n Northern Ontario into a landfill for Toronto’s stuff. Socialist leaning city councillors Jack Layton and Olivia Chow played this episode to the council, and they eventually reneged on their decision. Jack Layton would go on to become the leader of the socialist-leaning NDP, taking that party to their largest federal victory ever. Layton himself called the show “the single most important influence on progressive social commentary in the world”. Remember, this was back during the more “third-way” 90s.
Zaniness Factor: 3. Would’ve been a 2, but the last minute is bizarre enough to push it to a 3.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3. Would’ve been a 4, but he gets punished appropriately enough.
Favorite Scene: Anything with Ray Patterson.
Least Favorite Scene: I like U2 as much as the next guy, but their scenes were pointless!
 
Score: 6.

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 15: "The Last Temptation of Krust"

Airdate: February 22, 1998

“I just read the Season 15 DVD Review! THEY WERE RIGHT!”

Synopsis: At a comedy festival organized by Jay Leno, Bart convinces Krusty the Clown to do some of his standup. However, in contrast to the rest of the material, Krusty’s material is, well, outdated at best. Embarrassed, he goes into an emotional spiral, culminating in him passing out on Flanders’s lawn. While announcing his retirement from comedy, his rant on modern life manages to make the press laugh, and Krusty is back in business.

Review: There’s a nagging feeling I have about the episode… no matter how much I want to like it, it still seems… off.

I’ve taken Krusty to be a deconstruction of the typical kids show presenter: he was washed up, his material is trapped in the 50s, he’s callous off the stage, and only in the business for the paycheque. (Insert Zombie Simpsons joke here.) So why are we explicitly taking an episode out to deconstruct Krusty? It seems a bit expository, like “Hey, this is Krusty’s character!” Besides, as some pointed out, “Krusty Gets Kancelled” already deconstructed Krusty’s character, by having new, more organized competition blow Krusty out of the water. That episode, though, was one of the best in the history of the show. This episode… isn’t terrible, but it doesn’t live up to the heights of “Kancelled”. After all, stand-up comedians doing their schlock may provide the chuckles, but gags like Worker and Parasite and “Old Grey Mare” are timeless.

The art of selling out as mocked here is also pretty ironic. The Simpsons used to relentlessly mock the celebrities that guest stared, or at best, portrayed them as suffering from human flaws. This episode gives Jay Leno a relatively light treatment, one that would be repeated for almost every other guest star since. Oh, and he goes into the house of Our Favorite Family, and helps Krusty. No questions. Remember when it was a town-wide event to see Michael Jackson come to town?

Now, some may be thinking: didn’t the Simpson kids talk with celebrities in “Kancelled” to try and salvage Krusty’s career? However, not only did every one of those celebrities had some form of development, or at least some awesome lines, but they actually tracked every celebrity down, interacted with them like most unfamiliar with celebrities would, and still made the episode a biting satire on its target (TV competition and comebacks). Here, Leno comes to the house just because Bart called in a favor, despite barely knowing him.

This episode is the second one to feature Gil Gunderson, a character whose main joke is that he is a complete and utter failure at life. Outside of the “sock” joke, I really didn’t find the scene with him funny… and it was at the beginning of the episode. Kinda drags the first act down a bit. Of course, it got better by the second half, with Krusty getting wasted and on Flanders’s front lawn and his failed comeback with his same old shtick. The third act was pretty decent, but still, there’s a nagging feeling that they were a bit soft on the modern stand-up circuit, that they were almost embracing them. Sure, “out there” stand up might be alright, but why not try and take them out on the negatives rather than the positives? Krusty quickly sells back out, however, thus cementing a theme that, no matter what, some people are just in it for the monay. Hey, status quo is god!

I did like this episode taking a bit out of the utter devotion that some fans have: they’ll buy anything with a face on it, even if it doesn’t work. However, it sort of backfires wherealizeealise that the rampant sale of merchandise keeps the show on the air, even when it’s well past it’s prime. (Ad revenues are down, though. There is a shot!) Hypocrisy, much? Eh, I don’t think even Scully had any idea that the show would be alive enough to see the 2010s.

There were some decent gags that buoy the episode… strangely, few of them are in the stand-up routine:

  • Kent Brockman filling in for Krusty. Boy, what a cheap station KBBL is.
  • Marge watching Spanish telenovelas, and Lisa translating them.
  • Krusty using one of his licensed swabs… which burns on contact.
  • “IMPEACH CHURCHILL!”
  • “Don’t you hate pants?”
  • “Here’s $42. It’s everything I have. Run home and bury it in the yard!”
  • Ah, the Canyonero ending. All of it. I would’ve put the last part at the beginning of the episode, in lieu of the Gil scene, though.
Sadly, this episode, outside of those gags, largely felt like it needed something else. It just didn’t feel full, or memorable.
Tidbits:
  • The network censors actually had a problem with Krursty’s act. The writers had to put it in context to get it through.
  • There was actually a scene planned that had Bart try and meet up Leno. That actually would’ve made some lick of sense. No, they just go to Leno just being at the Simpson house.
  • Strangely enough, there was a later episode (as in, Season 23) that actually had a decent idea reminiscent of this episode. In “The Ten-Per-Cent Solution”, Krusty, with his agent/lover Annie Dubinsky (Joan Rivers) decide to relaunch his show on cable to target an audience that wants to love things they enjoyed as children. Again, I liked the idea: Krusty deciding to relaunch his show to target a new audience, and mocking the “flashback” cycle that 30-somethings tend to have nowadays. Again, though, they wasted the potential, and made it more about Krusty and his relationship with his agent. End result? This is a better episode.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 2 He burns all of his money. How? He throws matches on the table. Nice one, idiot.
Zaniness Factor: 1.5 Leno showing up to 742 Evergreen Terrace after barely meeting Bart is certainly a bit… off.
Favorite Scene: CANYONERO!!!!! Canyonero!
Least Favorite Scene: I just couldn’t really laugh at the shoe shop scene. Utter canyon of joke-ness. (And I don’t care if I’m making up words at this point.)
Score: 6.

Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9 Episode 9: Realty Bites

Airdate: December 7th, 1997

Truly brings new meaning to the term “open-air” house.

Synopsis: Tired of either being cooped up in the house all the time or dragged on one of Homer’s outings (such as a police auction), Marge decides to take a career as a realty agent. Working for Lionel Hutz’s Firm, Red Blazer Realty, Marge’s career instantly goes south due to her brutal honesty. Fearing that she may be sacked, she realizes she might have to lie, up to and including lying about haunted houses to the Flanders clan.

Meanwhile, at the aforementioned police auction, Homer buys a convertible, loving every second of it. However, the convertible belonged to career criminal Snake, who vows revenge.

Review: The bad news is that Homer is turned up to “Jerkass” through the first and last parts of this episode. The good news is that the A plot is pretty good… when it involves as little Homer as possible.

The plot of “Marge wants to take a second job” is tragically nothing really new; “Marge Gets a Job” did it first (duh) and did it best, taking on a critique of the relatively misogynistic workforce that still exists (to an extent) today. “Realty Bites” is not as relevant, but I can still get the critique of the real estate market; in the late 90s and early-mid 2000s, property owners would do anything to try and move homes, just to make profit. Of course, this wound up collapsing in 2008, causing the property/financial crisis in (among other nations) the US, Greece, and Ireland.

Phil Hartman produces a bittersweet role here as Lionel Hutz, who has taken a break from the legal arena to concentrate on property. It really fits his role as a snarmy, desperate man out for a quick buck despite being incompetent. The “bitter” part comes in here… this was Hutz’s final speaking appearance. Five months after this episode aired, Hartman was shot dead by his wife, who proceeded to commit suicide. It’s ironic that one of the funniest actors in the show died as the show was slipping in quality, yet it makes the circumstances of his death no less sad.

Anyway, back to the review.

This episode’s A-plot is almost good, if somewhat pedestrian and rehashed. The B-plot, tragically… isn’t. The reason? Homer.

He literally does nothing except act like a complete and utter maniacal idiot during the entire episode. He buys Snake’s car, drives on the sidewalk (amongst other things), and gets into a long, boring car chase with Snake (who manages to walk out of prison.) Crazy crap happens, and the car single-handedly destroys a house… by crashing into the front, not damaging anything that might be a support beam. Reality? What’s THAT??? Nobody is arrested, and you can take a guess at the person that suffers from it. Here’s a hint; it ain’t Homer.

In the end, it’s a watchable, somewhat funny episode, dogged down by Homer being far too annoying… which would not get any better anytime soon.

Favorite Moment: As Lionel is showing how house flaws can be spun by realtors into positive traits, he shows Marge one particular house.

Marge: “That one’s on fire!”

 Hutz: “Motivated seller!”

Least Favorite Moment: Am I the only one who didn’t care for Kirk Van Houten’s arm getting sliced off? The worst part? According to Scully, that scene, when suggested, caused mass laughter in the staff room due to how unexpected it was. It just seems unnecessarily dark and THOH-ish.

Jerkass Homer Meter: 3.Homer drives on the sidewalk while his family is in the car. Yeesh!

Zaniness Factor: 2.5. The car chase. All of it. It’s. Just. Stupid.

Score: 6.5

Red Dwarf Review: Series V, Episode 5: "Demons and Angels"

Airdate: 19 March, 1992

Synopsis: Kryten creates a triplocator, a device that creates two additional copies of any object. However, it creates one copy that is divine and pure, and another that is vile and base. Thus, when Red Dwarf gets affected and the original copy is blown to smithereens, the crew have to board both the high ship and the low ship and collect both sides within an hour. The high ship contains everything perfect, such as well-lit rooms, kind crew members, and edible pot noodles. The low ship is broken and staffed by sadists, who want to torture Lister as much as possible.

Review: This episode could’ve worked.

Examining the high aspects and the low aspects of every character might have been a bit obvious (especially with Rimmer’s low aspects), but look at the potential! We could’ve taken a look at the high aspects of the characters for once – I point to Rimmer’s ambition, Lister’s kindness, Cat’s ability to take action, and Kryten’s scientific mind – and could’ve elaborated on how having these as a character’s only character traits is boring. We also could’ve elaborated on the lows, with each one being shaped to a character’s unique traits, such as Lister’s slobbishness, Cat’s vanity, Kryten’s OCD, and Rimmer’s ego. Sure, these have been elaborated on before, but seeing all of them at once at their lowest moments would’ve made for an impressive comedy of errors, as well as show us that, as bad as our guys are, they could be much more dysfunctional.

Thing is, we came close enough to that in “Polymorph”, where all their positive or negative traits were flipped and exaggerated. Instead, we are treated to high and low versions that are mostly stock characters. The high versions are perfect and uniform, with few differences. Give me PC-Rimmer from “Polymorph” before this guy any day! The low versions are but clichés with little connection to the characters they were based on. That’s the tragic part of it all; they could’ve done so much with these characters, and went for the same old route any other show would’ve taken.

Where this episode lacks in script strength, it more than makes up for in one-liner comedy and set design. There are a lot of jokes that, alone, are pretty damned funny. The set design is also pretty cool and colorful.

Yet, that’s not really what Red Dwarf is about. Red Dwarf is mainly about character comedy, of which there is little once we get to the highs and the lows; it’s replaced in favor of one-liners about pot noodles, as well as some of the most disturbing violence in the show’s history.

Overall, this is certainly an episode to watch if you want a few rapid-fire jokes. If you are looking for character comedy… well, there are far better options.

Favorite Moment: Holly’s warning to the crew.

Rude alert! Rude alert! An electrical fire has knocked out my voice recognition unicycle! Many wurlitzers are missing from my database! Abandon shop; this is not a daffodil! Repeat: this is not a daffodil!

Rimmer promptly responds by declaring that Holly’s unaffected. Fantastic character comedy there.

Least Favorite Moment: The entire torture sequence with the Low Dwarfers is quite uncomfortable to watch… and not in a good way.

Score: 6.

Red Dwarf Review: Series V, Episode 3: "Terrorform"

Airdate: 5 March, 1992

Ah, waltzing around on a swamp planet that’s literally powered by the brain. How bad could this be? Well…

Synopsis: Rimmer and Kryten wind up trapped on a psy-moon, a moon created by the psyche of any person, analyzing his subconscious and adapting it’s terrain and it’s inhabitants to fit said subconscious… up to and including the worst demons. Rimmer is kidnapped by the inhabitants, Kryten manages to use his eye and hand to get back to Cat and Lister (who think it’s a tarantula at first), and the three try and get Rimmer (now with a physical presence) back.

Recap (Synopsis): This episode was… not very good.

It’s not a total write-off by any means. The plot of this episode, as well as the concept of the psy-moon, had so much damn potential. The visual effects, for a BBC sitcom in the mid-90s, still hold up very, very well. There is a lot of humour involving the interactions between the Cat and Lister, Kryten’s actions, Rimmer being prepared to get eaten by his psyche (it makes sense in context), Cat’s idea of putting on the “jet-powered rocket pants” and going to “Junior Birdman the hell outta here” (which seemed to be the last one to feature the “X is excellent, except X and Y” gag), and tons of subtle visual humour.

Subtle, though, is not this episode’s strong point when it comes to characterisation.

This episode is another “Rimmer is a neurotic smeghead” episode. And, unlike “Dimension Jump”, “Better Than Life”, and “Meltdown”, where we get to see this through his actions and past, this episode is as obvious as possible with it. The only way it could’ve been more obvious if it flashed RIMMER IS A NEUROTIC SMEGHEAD across the screen for the last 15 minutes of the episode. It’s also not subtle with how much the others hate Rimmer, especially with the last three minutes.

Oh, and what the smeg was with the sword fight at the end? It just screams “we don’t know how to end this obvious episode, so here are some beings representing Rimmer WHO IS STILL A NEUROTIC SMEGHEAD fighting each other!”

Again, the concept of the psy-moon is excellent. If it had been applied to the Cat, or Lister, it would have made for excellent character comedy. Instead, it’s done with Rimmer. The situation is obvious, and the episode falls a bit flat.

Favorite Moment: Gotta be the “Tarantula” scene. Brilliant character comedy. To add to that, no words are spoken.

Least Favorite Moment: Again, the stupid swordfight. Worst. Dwarf. Ending. Ever.

Score: 6.5.