“They’re a ravenous swarm of locusts just eating and screaming and grabbing and poking and pulling and drooling, and two have cradle rash. How do you get cradle rash when you sleep in a suitcase?” – Apu, describing the confusing realities of having children.
Airdate: November 21st, 1999
Written By: Matt Selman
Plot: A meeting with the Simpson clan at the Shøp department store gives Apu and Manjula baby fever. In spite of their efforts, they wind up having trouble conceiving. Thankfully, an attempt involving a poorly-written script winds up successful, and with the help of everybody giving Manjula fertility drugs (including Manjula herself), an attempt at one baby leads to eight children. The initial shock is later replaced with stress, as the media coverage eventually collapses, leaving the duo on their own.
Full disclosure – no, I’m not using this review to analyze The Problem With Apu and the Simpsons recent reaction thereof in a manner of “is Apu a caricature”. I’m not South Asian, I’ll let them come to a democratic consensus on whether or not Apu (or at least modern Apu) is beyond the pale. All I’ll say is that the writers’ response in a recent episode was so poorly executed in terms of characterization and dialogue, as well as so childishly ham-fisted, that it would’ve destroyed any point they made. Even if they admitted fair play to Problem With Apu, they likely would’ve done so in a way that sunk the show.
Moments like that make me embarrassed to have become a Simpsons fan in the first place, and that recent response honestly made me contemplate reassigning the spot of “favorite show” to either Gravity Falls or Red Dwarf again, because at least those shows didn’t call their critics jackasses while producing some of the most incompetently written television of all time.*
“Movie tickets? That’s hardly worth destroying a car!” – Homer Simpson. To be fair, that is a fine piece of logic, that I’m sure will carry through the season.
Airdate: September 26th, 1999
Written By: Mike Scully
Plot: An electric car manufacturer entices potential buyers to test drive with possible gifts. Homer’s reward for test-driving (read, destroying) the car is two tickets to a test screening of Mel Gibson’s newest movie, Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. While Marge (who is infatuated with Mel) loves the movie like most of the audience, Homer is much more critical. It’s Homer’s critique that gets through to Gibson, however, and the duo embark on a controversial edit of the film to amp up the action.
Wow! I’m actually impressed! I can tell from this episode alone that Season 11 is going to be haphazard. That takes a special kind of effort, writers, but you showed it! Good for you – enjoy my somewhat neurotic rant on this episode.
Yup, Season 11 starts off on a rather… less than satisfactory note with the aptly-titled “Beyond Blunderdome”. (They tried to make a punny, and they made a funny in ways they didn’t imagine.) So, what do we have here? Jerkass Homer? Homer getting a job? Zany schemes? Jerkass Homer getting a zany job? Well, you guess right if you got the latter, but there is one big issue with this episode that would damage it, even without the Mike Scully cliches.
“Greats are always trying new things, like Michelangelo, or Shaquille O’Neil!” – Marge Simpson. Maybe I should frame this quote and send it to Al Jean.
Airdate: April 11th, 1999
WrittenBy: Al Jean
Plot: Homer’s attempts to build a backyard barbecue pit go rather awry when the parts and the instructions fall into the cement. (“Le Grill? What the hell is that?”) After his attempts to return the… barbecue, I guess… fail, it winds up crashing into the car of Astrid, a member of the local “Original Art” scene. Taking an interest in the disaster, she invites Homer to a local gallery, where Mr. Burns buys his art (to collect the royalties, presumably). Thus begins his new career as an artist.
Season 2 of The Simpsons is one of the show’s more underrated seasons. I mean, yeah, seasons 2-8 were (with one or two examples later on) sublime all around, but Season 2 is often skipped over, as far as I can see. It doesn’t seem to have the rubbery charm of 1, nor is it acclaimed like 3. It’s a shame because, in my view, Season 2 is when The Simpsons really began to kick into top gear.
Among the episodes in season 2 is “Brush With Greatness”, an episode that explores Marge’s artistic talent. The episode focuses on Marge rekindling her high-school interest in art – one that was crushed by a callous teacher. Her big challenge in rekindling her love is trying to reconcile her technique – focusing on one’s inner beauty and goodness – with a mandate to paint Mr. Burns for his new wing at the museum. It’s a fantastic episode, although I could say the same for most of Season 2.
Now, we get something of a sequel. Eight years on, and the overall tone of the show has changed dramatically. Rather than an ensemble focusing on the Simpson family as a whole, we instead get a sequel focusing on Homer’s accidental foray into absurdist modern art. So, is this episode a genuine Mr. Burns, or a quick painting of a sad clown? Continue reading →
Synopsis: Dust from the demolition of Burns’ casino sends the Simpsons to the car wash. There, Homer finds out that Ned uses the seniors’ card to get a discount. At church, Homer gets a confession out of Ned – he’s actually 60 years old. His youth comes from a rather clean lifestyle. However, Ned comes to think about his point in life – that he just might be a bit too predictable.
Upon seeing Homer act like an idiot, he tries to get advice from the man. Homer’s advice involves going to Burns’ Casino… which was blown up. Therefore, the two take a road trip to Las Vegas. Homer’s lifestyle eventually makes an impression on Ned, and the two wake up the next morning hungover, in a suite, and married to two cocktail waitresses.
Review: In the season 5 episode “$pringfield”, the town decided to legalize gambling, with Mr. Burns as the main investor in the initiative. With Burns’s Casino, “$pringfield” lampooned the entire casino establishment – the encouragement of gambling even towards addicts, the incompetence at trying to quell problem gamblers from their worst urges, and even the hidden vices that are found in the most unlikely of characters – in that case, it was Marge that turned out to be a gambling addict. It was a quirky episode, and a fun one at that.
In this episode, “Burns’s Casino” is blown up. And while it’s unintentional, I can’t help but feel the irony, as this episode does a damn good job spitting on the classic era.
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.