Scullyfied Simpsons: “Kill the Alligator and Run” (Season 11, Episode 19)

KillTheAlligatorAndRun

“This family has hit a new low! We’re on the run from the law, totally lost, no car, no money, no clean clothes, and it’s all your fault.” – Marge. Spoiler alert – the word “divorce” is not mentioned once in this episode.

Airdate: April 30th, 2000.

Written By: John Swartzwelder

Plot: After taking a test in a book of self-improvement quizzes, Homer begins to fear that he only has three years left on his lifespan. Emotionally disturbed, he goes off the deep end, to a point where a psychiatrist recommends that he takes a vacation down in Palm Corners, Florida.

OOPS, SPRING BREAK TIME! It sends Homer insane, to the point where he commits a couple of misdemeanors in the process, but gets off easily thanks to the town sheriff. After Spring Break, he is so excited, that in the midst of his party, he runs over the town’s mascot, the alligator Captain Jack. With the whole family facing arrest for something Homer has done, they decide to hide out in plain sight as workers at a diner in the middle of nowhere.

Review:

For the past five and a half years, I have been taking a look at the Mike Scully era of The Simpsons. In many ways, it is the dorkier equivalent to the study of the implosion of the Roman Empire. Everybody has their theories – some rational, others more theoretical, a scant few completely insane and rooted in somewhat odious rationales. What I ultimately am looking at in terms of analyzing the collapse of The Simpsons is what the symptoms reflect.

Right now, what I’m sensing is that the show collapsed due to a fatal combination of arrogance, inexperience, and the limitations of the traditional story engine, sourced from the writers’ room and the FOX Network executives, at war with both increasingly disillusioned fans and worn-down staff (animators and voice actors, respectively.) Sometimes, the writers thought they could go to war with fans. Other times, they thought they could juggle an ability to tell an emotionally moving story with revenge against an errant voice actor and the quest for ratings. As you can probably gather, the writers didn’t do a good job at many of these forays, because even in normal episodes, the show was becoming increasingly outlandish in lieu of silly, callous instead of merely cynical, and downright incompetent in terms of framing a story, characters, et cetera.

With around 60 Scully-era episodes under my belt, I’ve mulled over quite a few contenders for the show’s event horizon, the moment when the show’s collapse was cemented forever. And I’m not going to restate my arguments here, since it would be a waste of time for all involved.

All I know is that this time, I have watched a Simpsons episode that I sincerely believe would’ve been better off if it was penned and edited by a room full of cocaine users. It is so insane, so incoherent, so mad, and so incompetent that, for the first time in my years of reviewing this show, I have to sincerely question the sanity of Mr. Michael Scully.

I don’t know how else to guess the thought process that was behind “Kill the Alligator and Run”. Continue reading

Advertisements

Red Dwarf Review: Series VIII, Story 3: "Krytie TV"

Airdate: 18 March, 1999

This is what money does to you, guys. You become involved in the stupidest TV ever made. Damn you, BBC!
Synopsis: When Kill Crazy (amongst the other males in prison) finds out that Kryten has to shower with the women, he is reprogrammed by the prisoners. He goes from a pro-feminist who refuses to exploit his fellow prisoners to a nasty media mogul, who’s lowbrow comedy and programming (under the name Krytie TV) make him wealthy… thanks to beer cans.
Review: …what the hell was that?

This episode is one of the saddest episodes of Red Dwarf ever made… and not in a good way. A solid 90% of the positives that this episode has are nullified due to the pathetic writing. Simply put, as much as “Cassandra” felt like a classic Red Dwarf episode, this feels like nothing of the sort. It feels like I threw on a bad American sitcom.

Remember when Red Dwarf used to have complex characters that I cared for? No, I don’t either. This episode dismisses the development that every character has had the past six, seven seasons to make everybody either sexist, perverted, a jackass in some other form, or some combination of the three. Lister used to have honor and some respect for his friends, and while he lusted after Kochanski, he used to try and do it in something of a respectful manner. He also used to have something of a moral center. Here, the mere thought of Kryten in the women’s showers is considered attractive to him, and he keeps looking at the video of the shower for three hours, barely trying to move out of the room. Why does he want to move out of the room? It’s not because Kochanski and the rest of the women are being violated, no. It’s because it will smeg up his appeal. And as we learn later, it’s an appeal that only deals with his own self-desires. When did Lister become such a selfish git? (Oh, yeah, “Tikka to Ride”).

I know Kryten is something of a neat freak, but come on. He’s not totally gullible… he should’ve known something was amiss with the trash. Nope. Instead, Kryten puts the trash away, and gets knocked out and reprogrammed by… maybe (see below) Kill Crazy! Yup, Kill Crazy, the character who just wanted to shoot stuff up, now knows how to reprogramme a mechanoid (maybe). Could it be character development? It would if we had cared about the character from day one… but read the “Tidbits” below on why I doubt that. Oh, and he loses all desire to shoot stuff. He’s just as much of a perv as the rest of the cast with a Y chromosome (except for Ackerman).

Back to Kryten, how the hell did he become a corrupt executive thanks to beer cans?

Sure, Kochanski gets a scene where she’s livid over the fact that her privacy being violated. But that’s it: she only gets one worthwhile scene. She only gets mentioned twice: once, she’s seen painting her toes with Kryten (who is painting his entire foot), and second, she’s mentioned having gotten over Lister (and, I guess, putting the invasion of her privacy) to date some schmuck who we don’t care about. A part of me is willing to forgive this lack of Kochanski, as Chloe Annett got sick during filming. Still, it’s pretty insulting to make an episode on peeping toms and not have a lot of representation from the “offended” gender.

Rimmer is tragically left in the dust, just there to aid Lister and get knocked down by the now self-centred Scouse. Yet, I don’t feel anything for this character. All of his development, even the one in the previous episode, was erased, and he’s back to being underdeveloped. He shows no defining character traits in this episode other than being a pervert.

TL;DR: the men are all perverts, or motivated by their perversion. Women are left in the dust. Both sides are hampered by sexism!

The humor? Barring a couple of chuckles, it’s all lowbrow, frat humor. I will admit to chuckling at the first “bunk scene” with Lister and Rimmer (post, anyone), and the “Attack of the Giant Savage Completely Invisible Aliens” is a bit funny (although I’ll explain later why I may not have found it as comic as others might have), but the rest of the episode’s comedy can be summed up as “men are perverts, Kryten’s a horrible mechanoid, and there are some visual puns.”

Plot? Shifts around too many times to count. So, Kryten’s humiliated because he has to shower with the women because he considers himself more of a man. Instead of appealing and trying to get switched into the men’s bunks, he continues on his merry way until Kill Crazy reprogrammes him and turns him into a Pay-Per-View mogul who films in the showers, amongst other things. Oh, Lister has an appeal, is too perverted to actively care about Kochanski, gets upset about Kochanski walking off, and winds up getting “Krytered”.

There has been quite a bit of debate on the internet on what the worst episode of Red Dwarf is. The most common answer seems to be our next story, “Pete”- specifically, the second part. At that rate, “Pete” must drive me close to the brink of insanity to be worse than “Krytie TV”. It’s staved off the 0 score on an interim basis. If “Pete” is better, “Krytie TV” will get the honor of the first 0 score. Not even a few chuckles can wash out the utter degradation of character, lack of coherent plot, and what feels like sexism against both sides of the coin.

Tidbits:

  • If the Red Dwarf Wiki is correct, this episode is actually said to have replaced an episode that would’ve had the Canaries discover a derelict ship where a sexual magnetism virus is in full effect… to the point where that’s how the crew aboard that ship died. It would’ve ended with Lister trying to kill Rimmer for trying to make love to Kochanski. Apparently, Naylor thought it would’ve been too inappropriate… so instead, this borderline (if not outright) sexist schlock was put on the air.
  • The official Red Dwarf website notes, in an “interview” with Kill Crazy, that Kill Crazy didn’t program Kryten: instead, it was a prisoner that we never saw. I’m a bit skeptical: how are we sure that he’s not lying through his teeth? It feels a bit cop-out-ish.
  • So, yeah, Kryten apparently makes his money off of beer cans. And not just money: his armor is gold, for one. Either it’s “faux-gold”, there’s scarce amounts of beer on ship, or the prisoners have a drinking problem.
  • Second question: HOW THE HELL ARE PRISONERS GIVEN ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES?
  • Third, why didn’t any officer stop the exploitation? Hell, where are the officers? All we get is Ackerman flipping out about the lack of his glass eye.
  • Now, about the B-movie parody. While I otherwise found it funny, I find it hypocritical that Naylor is blasting B-movies for stupid plots and poor special effects, when “Pete” is judged to have both a poor plot and poor special effects. (And no, I’m not buying into the “it’s a parody of a B-movie” camp.)
Favorite Scene: Uh, the credits? OK, the “Attack of the Giant Savage Completely Invisible Aliens” was alright.
Least Favorite Joke: Too much competition.

Score: 1… for now. This episode is on a pseudo-probation. 

Update 9 November 2014: Actually, giving it a score would give it too much dignity. I won’t give it the 0, but only because that would justify it as an episode of Red Dwarf.