Scullyfied Simpsons: “Faith Off” (Season 11, Episode 11)

(Note: for those looking for my review of The Prisoner episode “Arrival”, that will come out in the next couple of weeks. The schedule can be found on the intro post. So, a review of this and the Steven Universe episode “Super Watermelon Island” will precede the review of “Arrival”.)

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Heat makes metal expand. Now who’s talking mumbo-jumbo?” – Bart Simpson.

Airdate: January 16th, 2000.

Written By: Frank Mula

Plot: Homer’s attempt to pull a prank on the Dean of Springfield University as revenge for siphoning his money goes awry when a bucket full of glue lands on his head. While his driving is impaired, the resultant crash leads him and the family to Brother Faith, who claims to use the power of God to heal. He uses an enamored Bart to pull the bucket off Homer’s head, and Bart is intrigued with the flamboyance and fame of Brother Faith. As a result, he starts his own church, proclaiming to be a healer of his own.

Review:

The early 1800s brought with it a new wave of religious fervor to the United States. Labeled the Second Great Awakening, this wave of religion was in itself a reaction to the more logical elements of the Enlightenment era that fueled the Revolution. Many Christian sects were founded, particularly in the “burned-over” region of Northern New York, and these sects worked to try and solve the societal ills of the time. This wound up not only leading to the founding of the LDS Church, but the Second Awakening laid further seeds for the abolitionist movements in the United States, as it led to the rise of abolitionist preachers.

Likewise, the 1980s brought with it a small religious recovery on its own. So-called televangelists, taking advantage of the revival of conservatism during the Reagan era, began to use the apex of emotion to broadcast the word of their churches, all while acting in increasingly flamboyant ways. Of course, quite a few of these programs fell apart – largely thanks to tax laws. However, the influence still lingers today, in the form of Joel Osteen, for example.

So, what about “Faith Off”, an episode from the middle of The Simpsons Season 11? Continue reading

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Scullyfied Simpsons: “Little Big Mom” (Season 11, Episode 10)

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Bart: “Brains! Brains!
Homer: Use your delicious brains to help us. Your delicious brains…”
At the Flanders’ house. Oh, my god, they did become Zombie Simpsons!

AirdateJanuary 9th, 2000

Written By: Carolyn Omine’s

PlotA trip to the Mount Embolism ski resort goes awry not when Homer takes several mounds of snow to the groin, or when Homer gets incinerated, or Lisa gets threatened by deer, but when Marge takes a cuckoo clock to the leg. With Marge laid up in the hospital, Lisa tries to tackle domestic duties. However, the silliness of Homer and Bart wind up driving her to the brink of sanity.

Review:

Before I begin, we must take note of the fact that this was the first episode to air in the new millennium, depending on how you define the term.

The Mike Scully era of The Simpsons has become infamous for often stretching the definition of realistic plotting even further than the show’s classic era did. This is a combination of making the weirdness too central to the plot, as well as the eradication of the show’s other virtues (such as pacing and character development).

However, this does not mean that everything associated with the Scully Era is necessarily bad. In fact, sometimes, the show’s weirdness has hit a certain point where I actually do like it, or at least, am willing to tolerate it because the episode had other interesting or decently-executed elements. There was “Maximum Homerdrive”, “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner”, and the most recent review, “Grift of the Magi”. All of those episodes went above and beyond the silliness of the classic era, yet still had a decent father-son plot, intriguing critique on the art of critique (and a realistic Homer), and a scathing satire on private education and the commercialization of Christmas.

Now, though, we get an episode that actually seeks to enter a more down-to-earth plot. “Little Big Mom” reverts the show back to the immediate family and their interactions with one another. The big question is, can this episode keep the silliness toned down and follow through with a tight, down-to-earth plot?

Spoiler alert – not really. Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: “Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder” (Season 11, Episode 6)

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“Mr. Simpson bowled a perfect game without the aid of steroids, crack, angel dust, or the other narcotics that are synonymous with pro-bowling.” – Edna Krabappel. You heard her, kids – stay off drugs, you’ll get your 15 minutes of fame. (Hey, better than nothing… I guess.)

Airdate: November 14th, 1999

Written By: Al “Recession-Proof” Jean

Plot: Homer’s most recent attempt to brush off a rough day at work (which involved being told to eat toxic waste) not only proves successful, it nets him a perfect game at the Bowl-O-Rama. His accomplishment nets him a brief dip into local fame. However, ego gets to his head (again), and when his fifteen minutes are up, he’s left in something of an existential crisis.

Review:

It was pop artist and professional Soup Can icon Andy Warhol who infamously remarked that everybody has their “fifteen minutes of fame” – they enter the public consciousness for some reason for a brief period or something, and then they move on to the next unlucky victim.

Being as wide-reaching as it is, The Simpsons has touched on these topics before, notably in Season 5 – “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet” took on the concept by throwing four of Springfield’s most notable adult males and mixing it in with one of the best Beatles satires of all time, while “Bart Gets Famous” took on the art of the catchphrase and how it turns people into shooting stars, sending them high only to carry a huge burnout factor. They were insightful, funny, brilliant, tightly plotted, all that jazz.

Six years later, we got “Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder”… which is not really any of those things. At all. Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: “E-I-E-I-D’oh!” (Season 11, Episode 5)

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“That’s pretty clever, Dad. I mean, for a product that’s evil and deadly!” – Lisa, trying her hand at marketing criticism. Hey, she was a food critic, sort of.

Airdate: November 7th, 1999
Written ByIan Maxtone-Graham
Plot: Homer’s newfound penchant for declaring duels to get what he wants ends badly, when a Southern Gentleman takes up on his offer. Facing a duel by pistol, he and the family skip town and become farmers. Initially unsuccessful, they wind up tapping into an untapped market, thanks to some tobacco seeds, some tomato seeds, and radiation.

Review:

Over the past few seasons, The Simpsons has slowly embraced weirder, more outlandish elements in their plots. While there was always a cartoonish aura to the show, most of these elements in the first eight seasons were there for a quick joke, particularly in the David Mirkin era. Suddenly, with the Mike Scully Era taking hold, entire plots began shifting in the third act to a more cartoonish climax – ironically, as the animation became more stolid, and as the rest of the writing skills (characterization, plot development) began flatlining.

Season 11, in particular, is infamous for these more zany twists. Examples given include a swordfight between Homer and a motorcycle gang, Maggie gaining superhuman strength in a time of crisis, self-dancing tap shoes, and everybody’s favorite, the society of evil jockeys.

“E-I-E-I-D’oh!”, in particular, has a rather interesting “third-act twist” – one where Homer, during his new job (again) farming, becomes a tobacco baron. Thanks to tomatoes. And plutonium.

No, this wasn’t written on cannabis, as far as I am aware. Continue reading

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: "Marge Simpson in: Screaming Yellow Honkers" (Season 10, Episode 15)

“Anger is what makes America great. But you must find a proper weapon for your rage.” – Sgt. Crewe. Personally, I watch Simpsons episodes produced during the show’s decline and complain about them on a blog.

Airdate: February 21st, 1999

Plot: While trying to flee a variety show, Homer sees the four-wheel strength of the Canyonero. He goes to buy it, only to get the “F-Series” – a version of the car targeting women. His fear of being labeled gay has him toss the keys to Marge (read, has him hotwire her old car). Marge gets behind the Canyonero, and immediately gains some impulse. Unfortunately, this translates into road rage – one that gets her sent to Traffic Court. This proves ineffective, though, and eventually, her license is suspended… just in time for an incident at the zoo that, for some reason, requires her help. (Go on, guess why?)

Review:

As I mentioned in my review of “Coach Steven”, America seems to be the nation that runs on pure, unbridled Id. Power seems to permeate from every single thing we do – the biggest homes, the most powerful cars, the most passionate politics, etc. Granted, this is a broad generalization, but there is truth in the stereotype of the powerful American. Here, this episode takes a look at the SUV – arguably the most powerful type of car in existence – and how even the meekest of us can become power hungry. Unfortunately, it’s in execution where the episode falls apart. Continue reading

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

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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)

 

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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”?

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…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. Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: "Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken" (Season 10, Episode 11)

Those kids may need an optometrist.

Airdate: January 17th, 1999

Synopsis: The Springfield Isotopes win the league pennant, causing a gang including Homer and his friends to vandalize the Springfield Elementary School. The next morning, the blame is pinned… on the children of Springfield, who are promptly placed under a curfew. Infuriated at this, the children proceed to set up a pirate radio show, which serves as a tabloid-esque program leaking the secrets of the townspeople.

Review (SPOILERS): When I was younger, “Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” wasn’t necessarily my favorite episode of the show. I don’t know why it didn’t like it – it really just never endeared itself to me. Strangely, though, it’s cited as one of the better ones from Season 10. Now that I’m older, and have watched some really bad Simpsons episodes, has it gotten any better?

Continue reading

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

 

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Those potatoes aren’t from Idaho!

 

Airdate: December 20th, 1998

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”. Continue reading