“We made it, son. International waters – the land that law forgot!” – Homer. Well, the law might forget what happens on international waters, but the Review Nebula always remembers.
Airdate: January 23rd, 2000
Written By: John Swartzwelder.
Plot: After former “Springfield’s Oldest Citizen” Cornelius Chapman dies at the Springfield Pride Awards Ceremony, new record holder Mr. Burns decides to have his health checked out. To have his house kept during the weekend, Homer and the Simpson family stay over. Homer, ornery over not being recognized at the aforementioned ceremony, takes well to the fancy life. Indeed, to celebrate, he decides to throw a party, one that ultimately sends him into international waters to circumvent alcohol laws… and sends him into conflict with pirates.
“Monty Can’t Buy Me Love” remains one of my least favorite episodes of the Mike Scully Era of The Simpsons. In short, it encapsulates a lot that critics dislike about the show – established character traits are all but forgotten about, the characters began to revolve around a more insolent and moronic version of Homer even when the script didn’t call for it, celebrities that were once lampooned were now being treated with kid gloves, and the third act goes completely off the rails for reasons I can only assume were thought up under the influence of rotisserie chicken.
The complete character assassination of Mr. Burns, in particular, remains tragic. He was one of the show’s central agents of conflict, and by nullifying that, character-driven plots were tossed aside in favor of the slapdash and outlandish plotting we see at the moment. “The Mansion Family” is his first episode since, well…
…unfortunately, this episode is not that much better. In some ways, it’s slightly less egregious. In others, it’s even more obnoxious.
Particularly since this episode also serves as a sequel to a classic episode, “Homer the Smithers.” Continue reading →
“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.
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 →
“In the event of a water landing, I have been designed to serve as a flotation device.” – Data. That’s the best piece of dialogue in the whole movie.
Premiere: December 11th, 1998.
Written By: Rick Berman and Michael Piller. (Directed by Jonathan Frakes.)
Plot: The Federation has to deal with a conflict on a planet that seems to generate youth. The Ba’ku and the Son’a are in cahoots, and the Federation seems to side with the Son’a. However, Picard and Co. seem to have a conflict with this arrangement, particularly after hearing the Ba’ku’s side of the conflict… and encountering the youth-generating properties of the new planet themselves.
There’s a general consensus in Star Trek fandom that Season 1 of The Next Generation is, well, not up to par. Various reasons have been cited, but the one that seems to take precedence was the overly moralizing tone that the first season had. Granted, Star Trek has always been about exploring the human condition, but there was a certain smugness to the first season of TNG – this idea that humanity had reached perfection, and the mere thought that earlier civilizations or those that had different ideas (read, those that went against Roddenberry’s socialistic utopia) were wretched and needed to be talked down to. Considering that this show was made in the Reaganite/Thatcherite era, it’s a small wonder that it didn’t get axed after one season.
Thankfully, Roddenberry was kicked upstairs and the show’s reputation improved dramatically. It became less pretentious, the characters became far more likable, and hell, conflict between the characters began to pop up. By the time TNG ended seven years later, it had etched itself as one of the most beloved TV shows of the late 80s/early 90s time period.
By 1998, the Star Trek franchise had evolved, with Deep Space Nine adding far more character complexities and an over-reaching plot – the Dominion War – to the entire Star Trek universe. Still, evolution doesn’t necessarily mean perfection – DS9 was coming to an end the year after, having been punted to poorer timeslots due to the decline of syndicated drama; the consensus was that Voyager massively underperformed in terms of writing, with some accusing it of the same smugness that seeped through early TNG; and ratings for both never reached the heights of TNG. There was this slow feeling coming in that the franchise was starting to run out of steam.
First Contact, though, was a resounding success commercially and critically – guaranteeing a 9th movie for the franchise. To keep up, Trek would need to continue to build its universe on a larger scale, keep in tune with the events of Deep Space Nine, to learn from the writing flaws of Voyager, etc. Frakes was back in the director’s seat, and Rick Berman was teamed up with Michael Piller to pen the new movie. Would the franchise that gave us Kirk and Picard boldly go into the 21st century?
Well, Insurrection came in and gave us our answer.
Far, far more boring than TMP. Yes, I went there – I was more fascinated by The Slow-Motion Picture than Insurrection.
“Cellular service is all about communication and unity. Community!” – Omnitouch Executive, trying to convince Lisa that having a cellular tower in her room is a good idea. She’s not the most infuriating character in that scene.
Airdate: February 28th, 1999.
Written By: Brian Scully.
Plot: Lisa undergoes a day from hell when her trip to a traveling history exhibit goes sour. All thanks to Homer, who manages to damage the Constitution, because comedy. To pay for it, he has to put a cellular tower on top of the roof – taking out Lisa’s bedroom for the machinery. (Turns out the government privatized our nation’s treasures.) And it all goes down for her from there…
Wow, it’s been a while since I took a look at the start collapse of The Simpsons. Now that we’re in the depth of the show’s decline, may as well come back to see if it’s still falling over…
…yup. Still falling over. Alright, everybody – tuck your pants into your socks, cos this is gonna be a whopper of an episode. And by whopper, I mean my god, is this one a trainwreck. Continue reading →
Synopsis: Kochanski is having trouble adjusting to life onboard Starbug, being that she has to deal with the more laddish Lister and a robot that hates her. Not to mention, the accommodations are less than stellar; the pipes are loud, or, in Lister’s case, the shuttle is too hot. Kryten gets more and more jealous of the two… just in time for the ship’s functions to shut down completely. To fix the problem, they have to climb through the ducts.
Review: One of my personal favorite Red Dwarf episodes would have to be “Marooned”, from Series III. It’s a tad bit strange because you’d expect it to be your typical “bottle episode”, where two characters are stuck together. Personally, the “bottle episode” is one of my favorite (or at least my most forgivable) TV cliches, especially if done in a hilarious manner, and especially if one is interested in the characters. In “Marooned”, they took the heart and the soul of Red Dwarf and allowed them to showcase the best and the worst aspects of their characters when they were together, yet also allowed for the characters to gain some more depth. It’s one of the few times I came close to crying at Red Dwarf.
So, why not try and repeat that with Lister, Kryten, and Kochanski? Try and show some depth with that. A few problems…
A) There is far less tension buildup between Kochanski and Lister. In fact, we’ve just met her!;
B) Lister’s character has been inconsistent for the past three episodes;
C) The development of character in this episode is poorer than in its predecessor;
D) This script is pathetic, especially as a bottle episode. Hell, it’s barely a bottle episode.
Want depth to my bulletpoints?
For (A), the development in “Marooned” came from Lister and Rimmer already being stuck together both in the 23rd century and three million years in deep space, as well as their antagonistic relationship due to their vastly different personalities. Here, we just smegging met Kochanski. There’s no time to build up any tension. One episode she’s here: next, she’s trapped in the vents. Also, the adversarial relationship between Lister and Rimmer is not prevalent. Here, Lister does everything good for Kochanski.
Speaking of Lister, for the fourth episode in a row, his character is inconsistent. “Tikka” showed him as a selfish manchild with no respect for the crewmates he once had some modicum of respect for. “Clipper” showed him helping Rimmer achieve his great potential, although you could argue that he only did that to get Rimmer off the ship. “Ouroboros” shows him become a raging egotist who’s idiocy also clashes with a sudden realization about his backstory. And now, in “Duct”, he’s become a bland nice guy.
Character development isn’t just poorer… it borders on character derailment. The biggest problem with the character development here is that every single development is explained to us in bright, primary colors. “Marooned” was more subtle, yet also funny. Kochanski gets the best of it, as we finally see how hard it is to see a middle-class woman fit on a ship that contains a working-class lad: even then, not only does she spell everything out for us, but her interactions with the other characters barely shed new light on any of their relationships.
This episode is tragic for Kryten. I can understand him taking more laddish actions after being trapped on a ship with Lister… but here’s the deal. Kryten work because he was both the sanest man on the ship, yet he also had his own personality quirks to deal with, such as his older software causing him to have a weak understanding of humans and less understanding of emotions. We see that in the beginning with Kryten giving Kochanski the Heimlich Manoeuvre to stop her from crying. However, his jealousy overtakes him… and it’s pathetic. The bot who would once protect humans from anything (or at least try to protect humans) is reduced to threatening their lives to satisfy his own selfish needs. Character derailment, ladies and gents.
Thus, in an episode that follows a trope that requires good character, the three characters focused on in this episode are, at best, given weak development, and at worst, derailed.
Again, this is all exaggerated by the fact that the episode barely has any laughs in it. Jokes were either too long, or sitcom-style plots. The only thing I laughed at was Kochanski beating Kryten with a wrench… if only because I felt that Kryten needed some form of punishment. Also, the pacing in this episode was off… again, the culprit was the jokes that went on too long only to be explained to us. Heimlich Manoeuvre, anybody?
Overall… my god. Three out of the first four episodes of Series VII are some of the worst that Red Dwarf has to offer… I give up. May as well try and bang the rest of the series out within the next week or two. I have lost all hope for the rest of the series… and I have a bad feeling about Series VIII.
Worth noting that the three episodes in this series so far that were pathetic were written by Doug Naylor alone. “Stoke Me A Clipper” was written by Naylor and Alexander. Maybe I’ll just give Doug the “writing alone blues”. That, and a theory exists that Naylor, in his partnership with Grant, tended to focus more on the dramatic aspects of the show. Then again, if he was so good at drama in the first six series, why is the drama here so boring?
This episode was actually cut down by three minutes. They could’ve cut the length of some gags, such as the Heimlich, or the rushing water, or the wind, or some of the awkward discussion about the alternate Lister’s sexuality. They cut the opening credits.
This episode replaced “Identity Within”, an episode that would’ve developed the character of the Cat and would’ve elaborated on his species, because the series ran over budget. Methinks most of the budget went to the spectacular CGI prevalent through the series!
Oh, this is the first episode not to feature Rimmer in any way, shape or form. He isn’t even mentioned!
Favorite Scene: Uh, the credits? Maybe Kochanski beating Kryten with a wrench.
Least Favorite Scene: Uh, everything else? I’m going with the discussion about Lister’s sexuality, because it’s not only awkward, it’s not only pointless, it’s so boring.
Score: 2.5. Wow, we’ve sunk so deep. At least we’re officially halfway through the series.