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

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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

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

 

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This is as close to a full-throttle satire as Alec Baldwin gets against him. 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: "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.