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

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

simpsonsoldmanandthecstudent
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.

Mike Scully actually joked that they slapped it together in the commentary. Here’s the thing – it actually does come off as rather slapdash. I think they got word that they would get the slot at the end of XXXIII, failed to come up with a good idea, and threw something together just to appease the FOX executives.

Thing is, they were placed in a timeslot where they needed some of their best work. For those that live in another country, the Super Bowl is the single biggest sports event in America, and gives the World Cup a run for it’s money in “biggest sports event in the world”. So, maybe this episode was intended as a prank on the audience?

Well, sort of. If so, it’s a pretty daring prank. It probably could’ve almost worked if it wasn’t for certain factors which I will mention later.

However, I’m grading this episode on it’s own merits. So… let’s start with the characters. Oh, sorry, I meant “random townspeople that run around with Jerkass Homer”.

On one hand, I get the variety, so to speak, of characters that are on the Super Bowl bus. I’d argue that the game is one of our great national unifiers. No matter what your political alliance, your favorite TV show, watching football is one of the most shared interests, and again, more people watch the Super Bowl than any other TV event on a year-to-year basis. That said, there seems to be little variety in the characters and their interactions. Outside of a line or two, they largely act like “football fans following a moron”. Idiots.

In particular, Wally might be among the biggest character wastes (except for a lot of Bart’s girlfriends.) There is very little about his character that is particularly memorable. I think that his role as a character was that of a loser travel agent who easily fell for scams and is self-depreciating, I guess. Still, there’s so little to work with as far as his character interactions go. Fred Willard does an acceptable job with the subpar role he’s given, but still, rather annoying.

Oh, and Homer is in full blown “bombastic” mode. It’s irritating. Thankfully, he gets a decent dose of punshiment… until he and his crew wind up in the winning locker room.

Now, the plot. Um… there was so little of consequence, I can’t even comment. It was just silly moment after silly moment, and the plot was very, very loose. Honestly, the only thing that really interested me plot-wise was Rupert Murdoch chasing the gang out of the skybox. It’s wacky, but at least it almost had substance.

If there was a good aspect of this episode, I did like some of the Super Bowl related jokes. The halftime shows were cheesy at the time this episode aired, the pre-game entertainment is even cheesier, the commercials have little to do with the product, and the game is pretty flipping brutal. Too bad there were too few of them, and we got more bombast from Homer and Co… which is made worse by the boring plot.

So, yeah. On it’s own merits, it’s a pretty subpar effort from the writers. For a Super Bowl episode, this is pretty bad. However, on a larger level, there is one major strike against this episode.

Seth MacFarlane.

This episode was the second part of Fox’s 2-part lead-out. The first part was the debut of Family Guy – the episode “Death Has A Shadow”. Truth be told, that was not a bad episode. I’m not a huge FG fan, but that episode had pretty effective (if more “blue”) comedy, a plot that had substance, and it didn’t flat out insult the intelligence of it’s audience at the end.

I don’t think “Death Has a Shadow” would draw in too many disillusioned fans of The Simpsons. However, for first time viewers of both shows, watching this after Family Guy probably didn’t impress them. (There’s nothing that says you can’t watch both shows, however.)

A poor episode at the worst possible time, not a whole lot more needs to be said about “Sunday Cruddy Sunday”. In the words of John Madden at the end of this episode, “It was kind of a ripoff! What a way to treat the loyal fans who put up so much nonsense from this franchise!” And the nonsense isn’t going to end anytime soon.

In short, watch “Lisa The Greek” instead. That’s my warp of the week for the best football-related Simpsons episode.

Tidbits:

  • Oh, yeah, there was also a subplot where Marge and Lisa paint eggs with the Vincent Price kit. It was intentionally constructed to be as boring as possible. It succeeded too well.
  • Skinner repeating a boring trip, while not joke-free, was done better in “Bart Gets Famous”. “My boy’s a box!” Oh, and there’s a rather awkward joke about Skinner being safe from shooting rampages as an Elementary School principal. It was awkward before Columbine, really awkward afterwards, and in the wake of Sandy Hook, the joke makes me wonder what the four writers (yes, four people made this) were thinking.
  • The jokes involving covering up the mouths when announcing teams was pretty silly. I know The Simpsons is intended to be a satire on our everyday world, and putting two other teams could’ve backfired badly, but I honestly would’ve jokingly put two subpar teams in that slot just for comedy purposes. It was funny when they did it with the President, if only because they made a joke later on about Al Gore measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.
  • I did find Lisa’s comment about the Catholic Church commercial (and Super Bowl commercials in general) interesting, given that, three seasons later, she went through a crisis of faith because of the commercialization of the First Church of Springfield. (Before you ask, on the FXNow edit, it’s simply referred to as “The Church”. Apparently, specifying the church caused a bit of a tizzy.) 
  • Oh, and the “big” guest stars include Willard, Madden, Pat Summerall, Rupert Murdoch, Dolly Parton, Troy Aikman, Dan Marino, and Rosey Grier. 
Zaniness Factor: 3.5. Silly twists and nothing of substance.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3.75. Obnoxious, bombastic, and he barely gets any comeuppance – if any. (I did like the joke about him talking to President Clinton, if only because he did it before, in “Deep Space Homer”.) 
Favorite Scene: I guess I liked the scene at High Pressure Tire Sales. We’ve all been pressured to buy unnecessary stuff before.
Least Favorite Scene: The only scene to really infuriate me was John Madden’s aforementioned quote. Were they trying to get hate mail? Honestly, they should’ve just given up the slot to a second Family Guy episode. 
Score: 3.5.

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

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!