Scullyfied Simpsons: “Beyond Blunderdome” (Season 11, Episode 1)

 

Homer yelling at Mel Gibson in "Beyond Blunderdome"
Our hero – proclaiming his wife as property because Mel Gibson is at the front door. Were these writers trying to make him unlikable?

 

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.

Review:

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.

It’s a love letter.

To Mel Gibson. Continue reading

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Scullyfied Simpsons: “The Old Man And The “C” Student” (Season 10, Episode 20)

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Oh, dear! Now you’ve done it!

          “I want some taquitos!” – Jasper. No, not that one…

Airdate: April 25th, 1999

Written By: Julie Thacker

Plot: The IOC’s plan to give Springfield the 2000 Summer Olympics falls apart when Bart’s comedy routine offends the entire committee. As punishment, Skinner forces him to volunteer at the Retirement Castle. He finds the environment there overly restrictive to the elderly. Lisa, a frequent volunteer there, disagrees and argues that the environment there caters to their desires. Cue a One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest parody.

Meanwhile, Homer’s attempts at making a mascot – Springy – collapse with the Olympics bid. With an entire crate of springs to sell, he decides to embark on – guess what – a new career selling springs. It does not go well – particularly for Lenny’s eye.

Review:

Let’s be real here – the elderly aren’t treated well in The Simpsons. I mean, when this show was on all four cylinders, nobody was (“nuts and gum” was not a compliment), but man, oh, man, did the elderly get the shaft. Rather than wise and learned elders, they tended to be crotchety, senile (“I SAID FRENCH FRIES!”), dumped into decrepit retirement homes where they decline in more depressing ways than ever before… even the most successful senior in the show is not only a ruthless and heartless businessman (for now, at least), but hysterically behind the times in some areas. (“I’d like to send this letter to the Prussian consulate in Siam by aeromail. Am I too late for the 4:30 autogyro?”) It’s all about waiting out the clock until they die, which knowing The Simpsons, is a long, long, long time.

Since I compared the last Simpsons episode I reviewed to a Season 2 episode, may as well do the same here – this time with one of my favorites, “Old Money”. There, the Retirement Castle is dilapidated, everybody wants to take the elderly’s money, their families them on token trips while ignoring their interests, etc. Should somebody ever accuse The Simpsons of being weaksauce, I will throw on episodes like “Old Money” – which manages to fuse brutal social satire with a rather sweet ending – to inform them that this show once had guts.

Speaking of which, “The Old Man and the “C” Student”. 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: "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. Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: "Viva Ned Flanders" (Season 10, Episode 10)

 

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“Couldn’t we have gone to Branson instead? C’mon – you can’t hate Andy Williams!”

 

Airdate: January 10th, 1999

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.

Continue reading

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

Movie Review: Star Trek V: The Final Frontier

This movie’s name was almost prophetic.

Premiere: June 9th, 1989

Synopsis: A Vulcan by the name of Sybok promises the desperate eternal knowledge, with just one requirement – they need a spaceship to get to the source. Thus, they decide to storm the capital city of “The Planet for Galactic Peace” and hijack the ship that responds. Hilariously enough, the ship is the still broken-down Enterprise A. Sybok lures the crew of the Enterprise in, and through the power of reading “hidden pain”, directs it to Sha Ka Ree.

Review (SPOILERS):

Wow. Two hundred posts. Not a major milestone, but still a bit cool. If I celebrated my 100th with the best Star Trek movie, I may as well “celebrate” by looking at what many fans consider to… not be the best movie.

But first, being that this is something of a minor landmark for this blog, I figured I’d start with a mention of the show that really started it all.

I’ve mentioned time and again that Red Dwarf is, if not my all-time favorite show, one of my top five favorites. If I might give a brief elaboration on my favorite episodes, some of them, in hindsight, are quite theological. “The Last Day” questions whether people should constrain themselves strictly to their religion’s set of values, if they subscribe to said values. “Lemons” gave something of an analysis of Jesus – to many, he is the great prophet, and to many others, the greatest teacher ever. Most importantly, “The Inquisitor” wonders whether or not we should actively strive to live life to the fullest, and whether we get another shot.

What made these all stand out is that they all did so while being downright hysterical. Whether the comedy connected to the theology, or divulged from it, I was rolling.

Star Trek V: The Final Frontier also tried to mix theology with comedy. The results? Let’s just say, it almost killed the franchise stone dead.
Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 5: "Only The Good"

Airdate: 8 April, 1999

Synopsis: Don’t care anymore. I just want to see this series end.

Oh, alright. A micro-organism makes it’s way aboard Red Dwarf, thanks to a refugee from a derelict. Said microorganism destroys ships. For some strange reason, Rimmer goes into an alternate universe to try and find the cure for the micro-organism.

The crew are also on probation. A misunderstanding between Kryten and Lister gets Lister and Rimmer’s probation in jeopardy. Oh, and Death gets involved.

Review: It’s the last episode of the series (thank smeg), and for ten years, it was the last Red Dwarf episode ever made. And, yet again, it ends on something of a cliffhanger. What is it with Doug Naylor and cliffhangers?

This episode had a ton of potential for a finale: what if Rimmer was the captain of a ship? How would he run it? We sort of saw that during the first six series, where he was technically the most senior officer on the ship (despite being a dead second technician). However, there, he was balanced by the more rational Kryten and the more humanist Lister. We also saw him take some level of total control in “Meltdown”, where he becomes the leader of “Arnie’s Army” and leads them to a brutal pyrrhic victory.

Seeing Rimmer in control of a mining ship, even in an alternate universe story, might have been decent. Seeing the crewmembers in reversed roles might have been good. It had so much potential.

But not like this.

The big problem was that there was far too much material in this episode. Let’s go through the plot: Rimmer wants to be captain, he and the vending machine have a feud, Kryten gets confused about Kochanski’s “time of the month”, he pulls a prank on Lister after realising the misinformation he got, Lister and Rimmer have to drink pure alcohol, have to get hospitalised, try and escape, discover a deadly virus, go back to warn the crew they tried to escape from, get left behind, and try and find a cure for the virus… which involves going into the mirror universe.

It’s bad. I’m not sure what’s worse: “Krytie TV” for being a useless episode with no merit, or “Only the Good” for flushing it’s potential down the toilet.

This episode seems to confirm what we have long feared: this series was never about character. Lister, again, used to have some level of respect, and a strong moral center. Here? He tricks Kryten into holding a party for Kochanski’s “time of the month”. Nevermind the horrid minute or so that follows: it is the lowest Lister ever sinks. I could imagine Lister pulling a trick of that caliber on Rimmer, but on Kochanski?

All of the characters have been stripped to milk out another vulgar joke or utter slapstick… and yet we’re supposed to feel for Rimmer at the end of the episode. At that point, I was just glad that the series was almost done.

I used to care about this show. I used to care about the characters. When the crew faced death in “Out of Time”, I wanted Rimmer to make the ultimate sacrifice. We spent six series building him up. Now, I could care less. I felt for Lister in “Timeslides” because we still knew that he was a decent, if flawed, man trapped in a bad situation. Now, he’s so inconsistent, that I don’t care when he’s left behind to be eaten by a virus. I was genuinely scared for Holly when he was in a massive chess battle, or she only had seconds to live. Now, he can go with the ship. (No wonder why Norman Lovett quit).

I used to care. The characters didn’t revolve around the plot: the plot revolved around the characters. It was fantastic. It was the reason why I consider Red Dwarf one of my favorite TV shows ever. The same claims against this show could be used against other franchises well past their prime, like The Simpsons. At least Red Dwarf was put out of its misery for a few years.

Sure, the final minute is pretty stupid, but give it some level of credit. It sums up the series in a nutshell: it was a massive kneeing to the fanbase.

At least I can finally say… Series VIII is done.

Tidbits:

  • It gets bumped up a point for euthanizing this train-wreck of a series.
  • Another point is bumped up for displaying traces of a decent plot.
  • Even the acting seems to be off in this episode. Everything is exaggerated. It’s hurt the Cat, for one: he just comes off as irritating in his attempts to get into the hospital.
  • Oh, and Death? Played by Ed Bye, the director.

Favorite Scene: Let’s put it this way…

Least Favorite Scene: Kryten celebrating Kochanski’s biology. That is the worst Red Dwarf joke ever. It’s sexist, lowbrow, and just pointless.

Score: 3.

…wait a second…..

…my god…

…it’s over.

IT’S OVER!!! I NEVER HAVE TO WATCH THIS DISASTER OF A SERIES EVER AGAIN!

Red Dwarf Review: "Pete" (Series VIII, Story 4)

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Airdate: 25 March, 1999 (Part I), 1 April, 1999 (Part II).

Synopsis: Lister and Rimmer finally drive Hollister up the wall one too many times, including pulling a prank on Warden Ackerman and slipping a drug into the juice of a basketball team led by Hollister to hinder their performance in a game against the convicts. (Yes, there’s a basketball scene in Red Dwarf, why do you ask?) After their punishment in Spud Duty makes Hollister bald, the two are put in “the hole”, where they meet a professor with a bird. Meanwhile, the Canaries discover a time wand on one of the derelicts. The two paths meet, and the professors bird turns into… a T-rex. “Hilarity” ensues.

Review: I think I’ve mentioned this episode in passing once or twice. It’s often brought up as the nadir of Red Dwarf. As “Back to Reality” is considered the zenith, this is the bottom of the barrel. In both of the surveys launched by the Ganymede and Titan website, Part II of “Pete” ranked dead last in the polls: the 2013 survey put Part 1 just ahead of Part 2, while the 2008 survey put it a few spots ahead. The question is this: does either episode deserve the bad reputation they’ve gotten?

Well, yes, sort of. Continue reading

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 1: "Back in the Red"

Airdate: 18 February, 1999 (Part 1) 25 February, 1999 (Part 2), 4 March, 1999 (Part 3)

Synopsis: Starbug crashes into the newly reconstructed Red Dwarf. The crew find out that the nanobots also reconstructed the original crew, and made the ship the way it was intended to be constructed before budget cuts came in. Naturally, Lister and Kochanski are placed under arrest for playing Grand Theft Starbug, as well as hauling two stowaways. Kryten is classified as a woman and put in Kochanski’s bunk, he is forced to be reprogrammed to try and preserve his innocence, and the Cat’s biology baffles the doctors. Lister wants to get the files to try and save the crew. He has to go to Rimmer, recreated… and more of a smeghead than ever before. The deal involves him warming up to Captain Hollister, who might have a trick or two up his sleeve.

Oh, this episode is told in something of a flashback… as Rimmer and Lister are bunking in jail, apparently livid over the fact that something was poured over Rimmer. OK, there goes the ending and any reason to watch.

Review (WARNING: SPOILERS FOR EPISODES… WELL, ONES THAT ARE ACTUALLY GOOD): People tend to give this episode a bad rap, citing lowbrow humor, poor pacing, scenes that made no sense and were pointless, character was weak, and the quality degraded as the episode went on.

They are right.

Actually, the first part seemed to have the least amount of problems. Hell, it was funnier compared to episodes like “Duct Soup” and “Beyond a Joke”. However, a main problem was that just one too many jokes were either stretched out too far (Kryten at the Psychiatrists office), explained (Lister’s definition of honor, according to Rimmer), or filler. Character wasn’t too bad, though. I sort of understood why Rimmer was more pompous and self-centered, as he was resurrected in his original personality. People complain about the “lemonade and a really large scotch” joke, but I think it fits Lister’s character: even after 6 or so years of development, he’s still skeptical about authority. I was more concerned about Lister being able to leave his quarters with Rimmer despite earlier being forced to wear a bracelet that gives him a shock if he tries to leave. Eh, must’ve been allowed because Rimsie is his superior. Who knows?

My question is how come everybody has their memory from before the accident, yet has no memory of their death? It’s never really given even a real mention (except for in that way-too-long scene with Kryten’s evaluation.)

The second part was a pretty damn steep drop in quality. It basically took the problems that were part of the first part, and made them into the second part. There was the infamous salute scene, Kryten’s physical, Kryten taking Kochanski’s advice too literally (to the point where he takes a bunch of scientists hostage), the elevator gag with the sexual magnetism virus (although I did like the ultimate punchline with that joke), and the moronic Data Doctor.  The “Dibbley Family” also confused me. Why would Cat want to become the man that represents everything the Cat hates right after blasting his “disguise”? Why? And why would the Scutters want to be Dibbleys? It. Makes. No. Sense.

The reveal on Captain Hollister and the psycho-analytic monitoring… I think it could’ve been an interesting twist… if the episode was far better. As it is, it leads to the aforementioned stupid scenes. Why would they think this stuff? It tries to be “Back to Reality”… and fails.

Rimmer also realizing how everything could backfire on him did keep in tune with his character: his actions that once seemed positive impacted him in negative ways. I did find the scene where he tries to reduce the impacts of the “sexual magnetism virus” stupid and pointless.

The third part was solid 92% filler… none of it was funny. It starts with another annoying entry similar to the first part when the entry in the second part was a recap by the Captain. There’s very loose (if any) consistency in this episode.

I tried to make heads of tails of the infamous Blue Midget dance. Apparently, it was the Cat’s ego overtaking his strategy. But why would he do something so monumentally stupid if he was in a “Back to Reality” scenario?

The thing is, “Back to Reality” worked because the twist was reserved until the episode’s climax, where “Jake Bullet” did the one thing Kryten would never do. It’s revealed in the second part of a three-parter. Thus, there’s no reason for us to care through the third part. Here, it’s just an excuse for horrid claymation and more stupid jokes.

I think this three-parter was trying to do some sort of commentary on the corruption and idiocy in the upper ranks. That’s fine. Yet, unlike the first six series, which used to hide that under a veneer of great comedy and character… there’s none of that to discover. This story is boring, stupid, and just a bad way to start the series.

Could it have been better? Maybe. There exists an edit of the episode that trims a good percentage of the filler and the pointless jokes. It would’ve been better if confined to 60 minutes. Instead, it’s 90 minutes of schlock.

Tidbits:

  • Actually, this story was supposed to be 60 minutes. However, several aspects of the story overran, and it was extended to 90 minutes. Yes, because we so needed the Claymation crew and the blue midget dance!
  • The CGI is back, and is as awful as ever. Apparently, the guy who does the CGI did it in his own house. Alright.
  • They actually built a model of Red Dwarf. It was too big. What, couldn’t dig up the original model? I know that this ship is said to be larger, but really, is it that big of a difference?
  • Dave Ross was actually hunted down to bring back the reprogrammed Kryten. Robert Llewellyn would wind up doing his own voice. He didn’t even try and imitate Dave Ross.
  • What is with Holly? Remember when he used to be just aged somewhat and senile? He’s gone beyond that into pure idiocy.
Favorite Scene: Rimmer and Lister’s first conversation after Lister gets arrested was quite a bit funny. Also, Norman Lovett still makes even the stupidest jokes funny.
Least Favorite Scene: Part. Three.
Score:
  • Part 1: 5.5
  • Part 2: 3
  • Part 3: 1.5
  • Overall: 3.3