Airdate: December 20th, 1998
|Those aren’t Idaho Potatoes!
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”.
In a bizarre way, I think that this episode could’ve worked better given the right circumstances. In fact, it did work better at one point – Season 6’s “The Springfield Connection”.
In “Springfield Connection”, Marge joins the Springfield Police Department after feeling a rush from bringing down a petty criminal. There, she gets a first hand look at the incompetence and corruption within Springfield’s Finest.
On the surface, these two plots are similar – a Simpson parent enters the public service. However, in “Springfield Connection”, there are many nuances that make it stand out – the episode features an analysis of corruption, incompetence, familial abuse of power, gender roles (to a certain extent), society’s perception of law enforcement – even the idea of reform vs punishment is brushed upon. That, and Marge’s desire to enter the force and actions within stemmed from her character – a personal repression of her more “adventurous” side that exploded when trying to capture a perp, yet also was nuanced with her refusal to participate in the abuses of power the other members of the department engage in.
Here, beyond the retracing of bribery and corruption, there’s no nuances here. It’s just a simple action-esque plot, beat by beat. Nothing new is seen, and it seems like the plot controls the characters, instead of vice-versa. For example, Homer’s reasoning for entering the force? Mayor Quimby pointed to him, and he accepted. Why? There’s nothing in his character that would indicate that this should work. But, he accepts, because that’s what Captain Wacky does. He also becomes way too focused on his job, because, again, Captain Wacky.
|That’s our Captain Wacky, taking an unstable job and using a sleeperhold on his kids!
Even the ending shows a stark difference in how to wrap up plots. “Springfield Connection” had Marge examine the hypocrisy (or at least incompetence) of the SPD, and gave her a personal reason to resign – the man that attacked her family was being let off the hook, and she felt like there was too little hope for reform. It’s a brilliant ending, having Marge reinforce the values she lives her life by.
In another “Homer Gets A Job” plot, “Colonel Homer”, Homer leaves his job as country musician manager after a close analysis of his relationship with Marge, which was strained for a good chunk of that episode.
Come the end of “Mayored”, Homer leaves his bodyguard job because… he’s an idiot. It’s a bit funny, but there’s little to get from his character besides “Homer is an idiot.” Real creative and deep.
Now, it seems like I’m harping on this episode a lot. Thankfully, there are a few positives.
For example, I loved Mark Hamill’s performance here – it practically saved the episode. Unlike the Basinger/Baldwin debacle of a couple of episodes ago, not only does it not overtake the plot, but there are actual jokes regarding the man – how he’s now reduced to selling cell phone plans, doing community theatre, etc. Hamill’s character even comes off as a bit egotistical and callous – a fine bit of self deprecation. Read, Mark Hamill has a personality.
Also notable is that, well, there wasn’t any awkward mistreatment of death to sully the comedy. Thus, I laughed quite a bit, such as…
- Roger Corman’s Titanic.
- Quimby’s old bodyguards just looking at the blue skies outside as a riot breaks out at Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con.
- Seargent Leavelle singing “I Will Always Love You”. He ain’t Whitney, that’s for sure.
- “Rats? I’m outraged! You promised me dog or higher!”
- Cruel as it was, Homer’s dismissal of Milhouse’s safety (or at least sense of taste) was a decent bit of dark comedy. Poor kid.
- “Luke, Be a Jedi Tonight!”
So, is this episode worth a watch? Maybe once, if only for Mark Hamill’s performance. Otherwise, not much to recommend here, other than if you have to choose between this and “Kidney Trouble”.
- The Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con is a pretty interesting gag – mainly, it seems to indicate that this small town is some sort of midpoint for science fiction.
- Some fans were critical of the fact that various secondary characters (Willie, Lenny) were at the Mark Hamill panel. I am willing to play devils advocate, and think that the writers were going to symbolize the wide appeal that Star Wars Episode I had at the time of release, that is broke into the mainstream. But, yeah, it does dilute the secondary characters into more of a mass than as individuals. Springfield is the quintessential American town, but in the past, the characters were identifiable by their likes and dislikes. Not so much here.
- I figure I should bring up the mafia aspect of the episode. It’s rather stupid, and even playing around with a few cliches didn’t help this episode much. Word to the wise – watch “Homie the Clown”. In fact, “Mayored” is that, but less clever.
Zaniness Factor: 3. Stupid Mafia plot is stupid, Captain Wacky is Captain Wacky.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3. No less than four times does Homer use the sleeperhold on his own family. That, and his rather casual dismissal of Maggie during the Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con riot was pretty cruel. Try watching this episode after “Lisa’s First Word”. You’ll weep… at how far the writing has shifted.
Favorite Scene: Strange as it seems, I did like the Bodyguard Boot Camp. That, and c’mon, “Luke, Be A Jedi Tonight” is brilliant.
Least Favorite Scene: I’m going with the sleeperhold scenes. All of them tie for scenes that amused me the least.
Score: 5. Thank you, Mark Hamill.