Scullyfied Simpsons: “Simpsons Bible Stories” (Season 10, Episode 18)

lovejoy-reads-from-word-one
From word one… word… one.

Airdate: April 4th, 1999

Holy Macaroni, another anthology episode! Twice in a season, this is the start of a decade-long trend that would have the show producing at least one extra “three-part anthology” episode every year or so… at least, it felt like it. This certainly isn’t the first one – that went to “The Simpsons Spinoff Showcase” in Season 8 – but is the first one to keep the fourth wall intact.

Between Season 10 and 19, and discounting the Treehouse of Horror there were nine “three-story” episodes – averaging out to nine per year. The trend was broken with the bizarre decision to split the third act in half – there was a “four-story” anthology in “Four Great Women and a Manicure”, but that was the last one. (Side note – I swear to god that the four-act structure was sabotage on somebody’s part to try and kill the show faster.)

With that in mind… “Simpsons Bible Stories”. Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: “Maximum Homerdrive” (Season 10, Episode 17)

“If you wanna be my lover
You gotta get with my friends
Make it last forever
Cos friendship never ends…”

“Don’t you have school?” “Don’t you have work?” “Ah, touche.” – Homer and Bart, recognizing just how silly these plots are getting.

Airdate: March 28th, 1999
Written By: John Swartzwelder.
Plot: The Simpson family (bar Lisa) go to the Slaughterhouse, a steakhouse where the waiters kill the cow in front of the patrons. One menu item is a 16lb steak that only two people finished – Tony Randall and trucker Red Barclay. Homer decides to take on Red… but while Homer loses, the contest doesn’t end too well for the trucker. Feeling remorseful, Homer decides to take on Red’s last route to Atlanta, and Bart hops on for the ride.

Meanwhile, Marge and Lisa decide to install a new doorbell – one that plays “Close to You”. Their patience to have somebody ring the doorbell wears thin, however, and eventually Lisa takes the plunge… one that will ultimately prove detrimental to the neighborhood’s sleep schedules.

Review:

Oh, yeah! Set your amps to max, turn your hairdryers to Max Power, switch your radio over to Max FM, and take your son Max over to Lake Destiny, because we’re in for our second Maximum episode in a row! Time to shift it into “Maximum Homerdrive!”

Through my life, the “road trip” has been a favorite pastime of mine. Thus, episodes of TV shows revolving around road trips seem to lure me in. And I have to admit it – “Maximum Homerdrive” is actually an episode I rather like. Yeah, it’s silly, contains a rather thin plot, and probably the pinnacle of “Homer Gets A Job” plots that dominate Season 10. But, for some reason, I get a nostalgic feeling with this episode.

Under a critical lens, though… how does it hold up?
Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: "I’m With Cupid" (Season 10, Episode 14)

“Both of my ears are filled with nougat!”

“You told me that it was an American tradition to work all the time and not see your wife!” – Manjula, to Apu. Give it 17 years, Manjula.

Airdate: February 14th, 1999

Plot: In 2005, in response to developments regarding Anglo-American relations, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe penned “I’m With Stupid”, a satire on a theoretical romance between British Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President George W Bush.

Whoops – this is a television episode… Patrick is afraid that his parents will mock him for being rather stupid. Therefore, SpongeBob decides to take up the role of “The Fool”.

…I’m sorry, this is “I’m With Cupid”, not “I’m With Stupid.”

Apu’s relationship with Manjula is on the rocks. Apparently, the life of a convenience store manager isn’t exactly conducive to free time. To make it up to her, Apu goes all out in his Valentines Day celebrations. This, though, alienates the wives of Springfield’s men. They all proceed to sabotage the actual Valentines Day celebration.

Review:

Two years ago (because I am a lazy bum), during my coverage of Season 9, I reviewed “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons”. There, my complaint lied in the fact that the episode revolved around Homer’s antics, and was overall rather pedestrian. In hindsight, though, I can recognize some of the character development in that episode, even if I would’ve preferred more. That, and it was a pretty funny episode.

“I’m With Cupid” serves as a follow up to that episode… but it ultimately feels a bit underwhelming. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "Weirdmageddon II – Escape From Reality" (Season 2, Episode 19)

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It may be better than perfection, but is it better than life?

Airdate: November 23rd, 2015

Synopsis: Dipper, Wendy, and Soos venture into Mabel’s bubble prison… the happy land of Mabeland. Pop music fills the air, 80s cartoon characters thrive, lawlessness rules, and waffles guard Mabel’s office. Thankfully… waffles guard Mabel’s office, so the trio are able to get in. There, Mabel all but bribes Soos and Wendy with their desires, leaving Dipper to try and avoid any sort of temptations brought on by the bubble.

Review (SPOILER-TASTIC): The announcement on the Friday before “Escape From Reality” aired that Gravity Falls was to reach it’s denouement after two seasons was, let’s face it, not that shocking. There had been speculation from the moment Season 2 was announced that the show wasn’t long for this world (DisneyXD’s scheduling made it seem longer than it was), and Alex Hirsch’s Tumblr post this past Friday simply served to put whatever speculation there was to rest. In fact, it’s actually a good thing at the end, because we don’t get to watch the show rot into a charade of guest stars and recurring “marriage trouble” episodes, nor do we get to see it smash a mirror, screaming “How’s Annie” with no word on what the hell is going on.

Kudos to Hirsch.

Anyway, before we go out, we get a second (and last) penultimate episode of the season that delves into the mentality of one of the central characters. Last season, it was Stan. This time, it’s Mabel. Continue reading

Gravity Falls Review: "The Stanchurian Candidate" (Season 2, Episode 14)

Uh… let’s just say that the GOP Election Debate was more sane than this.

Airdate: August 24th, 2015

Synopsis: With President Barack Obama being constitutionally prohibited from running for a third term, many people apply for the most powerful office in the Western World. These include a social democratic populist, the spouse of a controversial former president, an eccentric right-leaning populist billionaire, and the brother of a controversial former president, among many, many others. “Hilarity” ensues, especially concerning cloths, servers, and hairpieces.

Uh, I mean, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has Governor General David Johnston call elections so he can get a fourth consecutive mandate. However, he faces critiques from the public and his competitors, which include a bearded dude, a hippie, and the handsome son of a former politician, over his controversial justice legislation, his questionable handling of the economy, and his somewhat awkward management of the nation’s institutions and public services. Said handsome son, hippie, and bearded dude, meanwhile, face questions on their leadership and whether they’ll split the vote… again.

Uh, I REALLY mean, Stan decides to run for mayor of Gravity Falls, after the long-serving mayor dies. He does so because of insecurities that have surfaced after Ford came back. He runs against Bud Gleeful… whose son was locked up, thanks to Stan. Unfortunately, he’s more gaffe-prone than his poll numbers (starting at zero and bottoming out in negative numbers) will allow. To try and salvage Stan’s candidacy, they try and commit mind theft via a tie that Ford invented for “Reagan’s Masters”. Bud’s campaign manager, some dude that’s in prison, one-ups Stan by literally overtaking Bud’s mind with a spell.

Oh, that dude in prison? Gideon.

Review (SPOILERS): Politics! Is there a word more thrilling to the human soul? Since the dawn of time, decisions had to be made. One idea of governance is Democracy – allowing for more than just one person to decide. The Ancient Athenians laid the groundwork for (very limited) democracy. The Roman Republic established separate houses to (in theory) balance the wants and needs of the experienced versus those of the common man. The English Parliament (later the Parliament of Great Britain), the American Congress, and the Assembly of the First Republic kick-started the modern democracy we all know and love… even if the latter didn’t last long.

While the system is generally kind – let the average joe and jane send representatives to voice their interests – there are a lot of awkwardnesses in the campaign process, and within the after-effects of said elections. “The Stanchurian Candidate” exploits the idiosyncrasies that are found within the races and campaigns – this time, with the end goal to be the mayor of a small town. How does that go?

Unfortunately, as far as the writing for this episode goes… not the greatest. Continue reading

Movie Review: Star Trek: The Motion Picture

Released: December 7th, 1979

Eh… I can think of at least a few comparisons. (Taken from Wikipedia.)

Synopsis: The year is 2273. Monitoring station Epsilon Nine detects an energy being heading to Earth, destroying three ships of the Klingon Empire and said monitoring station en route. Starfleet dispatches the newly refitted Enterprise to investigate. Headed by Admiral (temporary Captain) James T Kirk, the departure is sullied somewhat by a dispute with Captain (temporary Commander) Willard Decker (Stephen Collins). Commander Spock also boards, noting that while on Vulcan removing his emotions, he sensed the energy being. Also aboard is Navigation Officer Ilia (Persis Khambatta), who once had a romantic relationship with Decker.

Being that this ship is newly refitted and that most of the controls need to be tested, you can probably guess that this will end well.

Review (SPOILERS, MAYBE): Y’know, for a movie which almost screams “disco” in its costumes and sets, Star Trek TMP is actually a rather slow, cerebral movie. It’s common knowledge that the movie has something of a reputation for its slow pacing and lack of “action” sequences, in favor of special effects and a 2001: A Space Odyssey experience. The question is – does this detract from the movie, or give it a charm?

Well, it depends on your viewpoint. In my view, the movie has a good idea, but it wasn’t meant to launch the movie franchise. Even if it had to launch the movie franchise, just a few edits could’ve really improved this movie… mainly in the special effects department. Continue reading

Scullyfied Simpsons: "Lard of the Dance" (Season 10, Episode 1)

Airdate: August 23, 1999

Synopsis: At the dawn of a new school year, Lisa has to meet up with a transfer student. Unlike the previous transfer student, this new transfer student, Alex Whitney (Lisa Kurdow, Friends), is a fashion-oriented, modern “adult”-like child in the same grade as Lisa, who still enjoys the pursuits of childhood.

Meanwhile, Homer gets the first of many, many, many jobs this season when he realizes the market value of grease. He and Bart try and usurp grease from various sources… including the school.

Review: The tenth season premiere is, in some ways, a bit of a “Deja Vu” moment. By which, I mean, it’s all but a remake of “Lisa’s Rival” – Lisa meets a new girl and has a rocky relationship with her, and Homer enters a money-making scheme.

It’s how these two episodes execute their plots, though, that differs vastly, and in the case of the “Homer” plot, makes this episode weaker in comparison.

Lisa’s plot revolves around what seems to be an attempt to treat children like tiny adults in society. It was relevant then, and it’s relevant now. We see children given access to cell phones, allowed to operate credit cards, dressing up in styles more suited for adults, etc. It’s a bit concerning, given that the mind of a child is not as developed as the adult mind. I’m glad that the show addressed this. Honestly, this shows that even the Scully era – one lambasted by reviewers for transitioning the show to a mindless sitcom – could tackle social issues. It’s early yet in Scully’s tenure, though.

My problem, again, comes from the execution, which seems a tad bit uneasy.

On one hand, I can appreciate the idea that Lisa does have a more “childish” streak – we’ve seen it in earlier episodes, and it makes the character more believable. However, here, it seems like they stuck in traits that the writers thought second graders like Lisa had. The end result is an ending monologue that has some issues with character – I don’t really buy into Lisa supporting the idea of “talking in church” and “chewing with her mouth open”.

I also find her being appointed manager of the school disco and her bouts of maturity including watching The McLaughlin Group, while somewhat funny, to be a bit of a harbinger of her future characterization as an overt political activist who acts like a college student… which is a bit ironic, if you think about it. Of course, it could be (and probably is) a stab at the aforementioned show, but I just thought the coincidence muddled some of the comedy.

Otherwise, I think that it was relatively “color by numbers” – Lisa is unpopular, and there’s something like a “be yourself” message at the end. Granted, this is more complex than “Lisa Goes Gaga”, in that it takes on a social issue, but still. I think “Summer of 4’2” was an overall more inspired, unique take on the idea, with a somewhat more “involved” plot involving sibling rivalries and the dynamic of geekery. Here, it’s a bit… simpler. Lisa is ostracized for being uncool, but is right all along because the cool kids don’t know the first thing about the “adult” things they’re supposed to do.

But, because I l want to end the discussion of the plot on a positive note this time, I will say that Alex Whitney is actually a fresh twist on the old “uptown girl” cliche – she’s sweet, not actively harmful, and seems to be more unaware of the realities of a new demographic than anything else. She’s sympathetic, and Lisa Kurdow does a fantastic job playing her. (I’ve never really watched Friends, but now I’m tempted to watch a bit on Netflix.)

Bizarrely enough, the title of the episode comes from the B-plot. A harbringer of the “Homer Gets A Job” cliche, Homer (and Bart, because writing) try and make money off of recycling grease. Minor in the grand scheme of things, it’s still quite a bit lackluster. It’s full of the typical “Homer Gets A Job” cliches – Homer acts like a jackass or an idiot, does something that is obviously not going to make him money, and gets hurt while doing so. “Lisa’s Rival”, again, handled this in a better light,

What bugged me is the idea that this behavior was normal. Even in episodes like “Deep Space Homer”, Homer’s trip into space was treated realistically, with other characters acting like real people despite the zaniness of the situation. Here, Homer is all but egged on by the entire universe. Back in my review of “Lost Our Lisa”, I mentioned that Homer’s rant at the end showcased that the character was being transformed into something of a Mary Sue – one that the writers would use as a vehicle for their fantasies. It isn’t too bad here – he doesn’t come out the victor, is relegated to the B-plot, and doesn’t meet a celebrity.

Still, to see Marge suggest somethings for his “zany scheme” is a tiny bit out of character, and shows the universe start to bend to his will. In the show’s defense, Marge’s suggestion of an “emu farm” indicates something that is relatively tame. I think – I don’t know much about Emu farming. Oh, I also forgot to mention Homer gets hurt – he’s beaned with a shovel, punched, strangled with a hose, and having an eyeball pop out. That last part, I did not make up. That’s something I’d expect out of a show made by Seth MacFarlane. He survives all of this with nary a scratch.

Again, because I want to end on a positive note this time, I will say that the episode had quite a few great jokes:

  • “North Kilt-town”
  • Skinner recognising right off the bat that Lisa’s probably the only person raising her hand – a tad bit silly, but whatever.
  • Homer takes note of the large amounts of grease on the fast food worker’s forehead. “My god, you’re greasy!”
  • Homer forgot to attach the barrels to the car before his trip to the school.
  • Even Lisa’s paramecium insult her by pairing up.
  • “Acne Grease and Shovel”
Despite this, the episode is relatively lacklustre, and not one I would be too quick to watch again.
Tidbits:
  • In an age where mobile phones are commonplace, it’s worth noting that having a cell phone was seen as something of a “white collar” thing during the 90s – as in, generally speaking, people who primarily made decent money in the finance sector had cell phones. This stands in something of a contrast to today, where most people have cell phones. Thus, the allure of Alex having a cell phone is much stronger if viewed from a “1998” perspective.
  • There’s something a tad bit confusing about Groundskeeper Willie using the school’s kitchen as a sort of shower. I know he lives on school grounds, but at first, it seems like he was just there because the plot needed a conclusion. However, given that he’s the only janitor at the school, he might be doing some overnight cleaning work (or at least, on the clock for it).
  • This was the last episode directed by Dominic Polcino. Not the greatest way to leave.
  • This episode actually aired as a special episode. Y’see, in America, broadcast TV shows are normally contained from September to May, when the ratings system is most active. The reason, according to Wikipedia, was to get a good lead in for the pilots of That 70s Show and a Holding the Baby. The former became something of a cultural icon – ironically enough, it launched the career of Mila Kunis, who became the second voice of Meg in oft-accused Simpsons ripoff Family Guy. Holding the Baby’s success can be measured in that it’s Wikipedia Page barely has information on the show, and according to it, the show didn’t live to see whether President Clinton would be acquitted or not. (Oh, and it was based off of a somewhat – at least – obscure Britcom.)
Zaniness Factor: 2, mainly from the cartoonish fight between Homer and Willie.
Jerkass Homer Meter: 3. Zany job, virtual invincibility to pain, and pulling Bart out of school to work a blue collar job? Yeah.
Favorite Scene: Have to go for Lisa trying to force Milhouse to go with her to the dance as a date… before realizing what she’s become. Even if the rest of the art in the episode is somewhat dry, the reflection in the glasses is a good, if slightly cliche, film/animation direction technique.
Least Favorite Scene: The entire third act has several scenes, but it’s a dead heat between Lisa’s somewhat uncharacteristic end monologue, and Homer and Groundskeeper Willie’s overtly cartoonish fight.
Score: 6.5.