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: "Homer to the Max" (Season 10, Episode 13)

Airdate: February 7th, 1999

Plot: One of the midseason shows, Police Cops, features an Ace-type detective named Homer Simpson. This gives Homer a burst of popularity because of the similar names. However, a retool turns the detective into a lout, turning Homer into the joke of the town. After a plea to the executives falls less than flat, he finally decides to sue them. After that court case is thrown out, he asks for a name change to Max Power. With that name, he gains the attention of the A-List in Springfield.

Review (SPOILERS): Can television characters become deeply ingrained in our national psyche? Of course. Can it get to the point where it affects the lives of people with similar names? Likely. This is the topic that the episode was trying to take on, I think. Unfortunately, it’s execution is quite a bit wonky, leading to a rather silly third act conclusion. Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: "Sunday, Cruddy Sunday" (Season 10, Episode 12)

Homer in Super Bowl Jail.
These nutjobs have earned the prestigious honor of Smooth Jimmy Apollo’s Lock-Up of the Week!

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”?

UHF Wheel of Fish


…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 it’s 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 it’s 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 punshiment… 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 it’s 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.

Seth MacFarlane.

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 it’s 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.

Tidbits:

  • 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 afterwards, 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. 
Zaniness Factor: 3.5. Silly twists and nothing of substance.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3.75. Obnoxious, bombastic, and he barely gets any comeuppance – if any. (I did like the joke about him talking to President Clinton, if only because he did it before, in “Deep Space Homer”.) 
Favorite Scene: I guess I liked the scene at High Pressure Tire Sales. We’ve all been pressured to buy unnecessary stuff before.
Least Favorite Scene: The only scene to really infuriate me was John Madden’s aforementioned quote. Were they trying to get hate mail? Honestly, they should’ve just given up the slot to a second Family Guy episode. 
Score: 3.5.

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: "Homer Simpson in: "Kidney Trouble"" (Season 10, Episode 8)

Airdate: December 6th, 1998

Truly a heartwarming moment… that will be spoiled in two seconds.

Synopsis: The whole family (plus Abe, for reasons needed to generate the plot) take a trip up to Bloodbath Gulch, a ghost town turned tourist trap. There, Abe drinks way too many sasparillas, and Homer refuses to stop for a rest stop on the way home. End result? Abe’s kidneys blow out, and Homer is the only available donor. While initially willing to go through with the procedure, fears brought on by his friends cause Homer to bolt from the operating table.

Review (SPOILER): To paraphrase Futurama, Mike Scully, you raised my hopes and dashed them quite expertly, sir! Bravo! Yup, two steps forward with “D’oh-in” and “Lisa Gets an “A””, and one moonwalk back with “Kidney Trouble”, among the most despised episodes in The Simpsons history. So, my expectations heading into this episode were lowered quite a bit.

And I still left, not only disappointed, but disgusted.

When Homer’s transition from “loveable, if somewhat insensitive and self-serving goofball” into “obnoxious madman cartoon” is discussed, this episode often comes off as an event horizon of sorts. Something about, I dunno, letting your father die because you don’t want to take the risk of a kidney operation comes off as more than a bit callous.

However, before I utterly tear apart the writers for massacring one of the greatest characters in sitcom history, I do want to play “devils advocate”, or at least, try and play “devils advocate”.

The big hangup people have with complaints about this episode is the fact that none of the risks were exposed by Doctor Hibbert beforehand. On one hand, no, Homer was not made aware of the risks until his friends informed him, and the nurses wanted him to sign a liability waiver so that the hospital wo

However, not only did the fat jackass shoot down Hibbert’s attempts to give advice (we can assume that the doctor was going there with his “long wait-list” thing), but his reasons for being petrififed were as follows – he wouldn’t be able to handle getting drunk, and his organs would be harvested after he died. (And besides, even if Hibbert didn’t care, that’s a rather bit off for his character.)

Let’s see… the “Abe being a rather ineffective father” defense? Well, that would’ve at least been interesting (if rather macabre) if it was explored beyond a flashback, and if Abe was a nuisance in this episode. And even then, Homer’s treatment of Abe crosses a line itself, so that piece of “devil’s advocate” is shot. (At least, in my view.)

Oh, there’s the “friends focus on bad and are idiots” argument… shot down by the fact that, really, Homer ignored the Doctor’s warnings about negative side effects in the first place.

Other than that… yeah, nothing here in the sympathy department.

He trashes his father’s kidneys, leaves him to die on the operating table, is concentrated on his own shame when he tries to go to sea, comes back apparently remorseful, leaves Abe again, and then wants to poach his ten year old son’s kidney at the end. Certainly no Ace Rimmer we’re dealing with.

Not helping is that, yes, everybody fawns over the idiot over the 22 minutes for being “brave” and “courageous”. Yes, the kidney transplant has risks, but Homer blew out his dad’s kidneys in the first place. Even his cowardice is treated more with a sense of mild-to-moderate disappointment from his family rather than the utter disgust that it should’ve been treated with. And everybody is so forgiving at the end of the episode…

It would’ve been more tolerable if this episode tried to have a consistent tone. The story tries to be this sobering one about an old man whose kidneys blow out, and what is a plot point? Homer disgusting a ship of lost souls. That’s about as insane and loopy as any prior episode, it bears little bearing on the plot… it’s just like the writers wrote themselves into a corner, and needed to kill two minutes. It clashes with the episode, and doesn’t alleviate from the utter misery that is a beloved character on his deathbead, thanks to the main character.

What else can I say? I came in with rather low expectations, and was blown away with how inept this episode was. We still have almost 3 seasons to go, people.

Tidbits:

  • Look, I know that Abe has been something of the butt of many jokes regarding how the family treated him – stuffing him in a retirement home and all that. Thing is, here, it just seems to cross a line of discomfort, where the entire family hates him despite not being as annoying. (And even if I did factor earlier episodes in, no, that is not a justification for letting him die of kidney failure.)
  • I did find Homer’s declaration that “the sea forgives all, unlike those unforgiving mountains” rather interesting. Not only a decent use of continuity, but the mountains were where Homer found out that Abe took a rather cowardly way down the Murderhorn. Ironically, there, Homer realized that he couldn’t beat the shame of that. In this episode, I think he did. (And no, Abe wanting to eat McAllister is not a justification for leaving him to die.)
  • The closest thing to medical satire that I could find is Marge saying that by donating his kidney, Homer cut his life expectancy significantly, so Abe could get a slight extension. Three problems, though. First off, coming out of Marge, it sounds rather callous of her. Second, Homer had his kidney stolen from Dr. Hibbert (which is rather off for him.) Third off, he didn’t sacrifice his kidney, and threatened to steal it back. How can you defend this man?
  • OK, there was the liability waiver joke.
  • I’m not even angry that the writers flunked biology, since kidneys don’t explode that way, but that’s only because the rest of the episode is so bad.
Zaniness Factor: 3. It would’ve been a 2, but the episode tries to combine a serious story with something as out there as “The Ship Of Lost Souls”.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 4. Oh, is Homer a selfish coward in this entire episode. Easily the most odious he’s ever been… so far.
Favorite Scene: Again, I did like the liability waiver joke. That, and “Bloodbath Gulch” was cute, at least for the first couple minutes.
Least Favorite Scene: There are so many scenes in the third act I could choose, so I’ll just go with the end – Homer reaching for his son’s kidney. Loveable character, writers. Who wrote this junk…
John Swartzwelder?
One point deduction, because I expect better from him. (Not that I would be too much more lenient towards a rookie, but still.)
Score: 1.5. The half a point is for a couple minutes at Bloodbath Gulch – and even then, you could just watch “Selma’s Choice” for similar jokes and not want to punch your TV screen. An utterly deplorable episode.

Scullyfied Simpsons: "When You Dish Upon a Star" (Season 10, Episode 5)

This is as close to a mockery as Alec Baldwin gets. It’s all downhill from here.

Airdate: November 8th, 1998

Synopsis: While parasailing at Lake Springfield, Homer literally crashes into Kim Basinger and Alec Baldwin’s house. Rather than call the cops or the paramedics, they befriend the idiot. Apparently, the two hang out at the summer house to try and escape the press. Homer quickly becomes their personal assistant, yet has to check his impulses that could expose them to the media.

Review: While we have seen Homer’s character begin to slip over the past season, in my opinion, Season 10 had three key episodes that cemented the change in character from “lovable everyman” to “obnoxious Creators Pet/Jerkass Homer”. These include “Homer Simpson in Kidney Trouble” (cementing his callous actions as practically normal), “Viva Ned Flanders” (cementing his omnipotence and role as centerpiece in the town of Springfield), and today’s example in how to tarnish the legacy of the most treasured sitcom in American history, “When You Dish Upon a Star”. Here, we focus on Homer not only meeting up with celebrities, but also becoming their assistant… despite damaging their house.

And that’s just the start of the episode’s problems. Continue reading

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.