“Mr. Sparkle, a joint venture of Matsumura Fish Works and Tamaribuchi Heavy Manufacturing Concern.” – Mr. Sparkle Video
In an attempt to fill the summer with love, hate and pointless Simpsons commentary we at the Dead Homer Society are going to spend some time overthinking Season 8. Why Season 8? Because Season 8 is when The Simpsons really began to deteriorate into Zombie Simpsons. That’s why. Because we’re cutting edge and ultra-modern we’re using a newfangled, information-superhighway fad called a “chatroom” to conduct our conversation. This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (surprisingly enough NOT on “St. Eleutherius of Nicomedia”).
Charlie Sweatpants: So, In Marge We Trust?
Dave: Let’s do it
Mad Jon: I have generally been a fan of this episode, but recent viewings have its appeal beginning to wither.
Charlie Sweatpants: The first two segments are almost perfect, the third? Not so much.
Dave: Jon, you read my mind. I’ve watched this the better part of a half-dozen times in the past week, and I’m left with this uneasy feeling
and Charlie, you hit the nail on the head. It just ends terribly
Mad Jon: Wow, I had a long speech all prepared and you guys wrapped it up in 4 sentences.
In all fairness, my speech probably only would have been 5…
Charlie Sweatpants: You didn’t scrimp much then, don’t feel bad.
Dave: My love for Mr. Sparkle, however remains undying
Charlie Sweatpants: The simple fact is that this is excellent Simpsons right up until Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney chase Flanders for no reason.
Mad Jon: Marge as the “listen lady” is an interesting idea; it strays a bit from the standard values, but there is enough hilarity in the jokes that I am willing to pardon it.
I agree with you Charlie, and ending for the sake of an ending.
Charlie Sweatpants: Then it has its weird “action” ending that makes no sense.
Dave: Right. Very contrived series of events
Mad Jon: And yes Dave, Mr. Sparkle still makes me wet myself. Especially the commercial.
Dave: All I know about Japan comes from this episode, and I’m okay with that.
Charlie Sweatpants: Well, I think we can agree that the B plot is “lucky super best wash” awesome. There’s nothing wrong with it.
Mad Jon: There you go fish bulb.
Although I will say that the reason for finding the soap box is iffy.
Charlie Sweatpants: The VHS tape, the look the librarian gives to Homer as he sees him dialing an impossibly long number, the broken English of the guy who answers the phone, it just goes on and on.
Agree with that last thing Jon.
Mad Jon: The dump? really? and Lisa went too?
Charlie Sweatpants: There are definite shades of Zombie Simpsons in the dump scene, especially Homer’s little freak out at seeing the box.
Dave: Shades, but not enough to make me call foul play
Mad Jon: And the phone sequence was the first time I noticed a time filler gag. I was only 9 or 10 the first time I saw this one, but I knew it then for sure.
Charlie Sweatpants: I never thought the phone gag felt like filler, though it did have shades of repeating itself from “Bart vs Australia”.
Dave: Shades of the rake gag, too
Charlie Sweatpants: I don’t think there are really holes to poke so much as a glaring lack of an ending.
Mad Jon: I dunno, he dials the phone for like 20 seconds or so…
the look from the librarian is good, but…
Charlie Sweatpants: Like when trains collide and the cars at the end look normal, it’s just the ones up front that are FUBAR.
Mad Jon: And the rake gag lets us enjoy a few extra seconds of Kelsey Grammer dragging himself down to the level of slapstick, which is kind of a higher level of joke then a repeat of number punching after homer straight up lies to the guy about the local call.
But as I stated in the beginning, this has always been a good episode in my mind. But something is definitely off.
Charlie Sweatpants: Well yeah, but I really think it’s only at the end.
Mad Jon: And the lack of a good ending may be it, but I can’t help at look at the other transitory elements from classic Simpsons to the shell of a show that it is now.
Charlie Sweatpants: Though that may be the fact that the first two segments are amongst the best religion takedowns the Simpsons ever did.
Mad Jon: You are absolutely right about that.
Dave: Yeah, later Zombie Simpsons satires on religion have fallen a bit flat
Like that stupid episode where Homer is a missionary and licks frogs for some reason
Charlie Sweatpants: From the boring sermon, the disinterested pastor, the angry saints, the whole thing is just dead on.
Mad Jon: Well, nowadays they always involve Armageddon or some shit like that. Even a good writer can’t keep Homer off of the ledge in those ones.
Charlie Sweatpants: Good point.
Mad Jon: The scene where Lovejoy is talking to the saints is funny.
Dave: “That’s my name, don’t wear it out.” – St. Eleutherius of Nicomedia
One of my all time favorite lines.
Charlie Sweatpants: There are definitely signs of weakness in the first two segments, Lovejoy seeing the light in the church basement window springs to mind, but it’s so minor that it almost doesn’t register.
Mad Jon: I still can’t get over the Marge centered A plot. It’s just not her role.
Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll disagree with that.
Mad Jon: It’s funny as hell, don’t get me wrong. But I’m a pessimist
Charlie Sweatpants: Volunteering at the church is exactly the kind of thing she’d do, and we know she’s an excellent problem solver having put up with Homer and Bart for years.
Mad Jon: Disagree all you want, but Marge would never go that far.
Charlie Sweatpants: The only serious problem I have with this one is the end.
Dave: I’ll half side with Jon here; I find Marge-dominated plots less interesting and generally less entertaining
Mad Jon: She would for sure volunteer, but taking over Lovejoy’s flock? That’s pretty ambitious.
Charlie Sweatpants: There’s no reason the kids would chase Flanders that far, there’s no reason he would hide inside the baboon enclosure, there’s no reason for Lovejoy to be there at the end, there’s no reason for Lovejoy to fight the apes, it all just sucks.
Yeah, you’re right about taking over the flock, but I didn’t think it was super out of line.
Admittedly, the ending does pave the way for Lovejoy’s self aggrandizing story at the end, but it’s not enough to salvage it.
Mad Jon: No, not super out of line, but like I said, when you spend your time bitching about how the show went downhill you tend to focus on the missing links.
Charlie Sweatpants: Good point.
Dave: I tend to lump Lovejoy’s story with the rest of the shitty ending
Mad Jon: Remember I studied evolution in college, and since I can’t use it to make a living I might as well use it here.
Charlie Sweatpants: You didn’t like Lovejoy’s “Conquest of the County of the Apes” thing, Dave?
Mad Jon: Oh god, the zookeeper’s explanation about how he can’t save Flanders is great.
Charlie Sweatpants: If they don’t kill the intruder it’s really bad for their society.
Dave: I didn’t, mostly because I didn’t enjoy the actual conquest
Charlie Sweatpants: I’ll give you that.
Mad Jon: But yeah, the fight scene is very post season 10
Charlie Sweatpants: Agree.
Okay, so I think we’ve got this one worked out. Excellent first two segments, albeit with a few minor problems, and a shitty ending.
Any high or low spots that we haven’t covered?
Dave: The highlight for sure is Mr. Sparkle, I think we hit all the lows
Mad Jon: Well, most of the episode was a high point. But the lows just peek their heads up, and its pretty hard to differentiate, especially for those who are not as obsessed as we are…
But this is still one of the better episodes of the season.
Dave: I found this episode’s bastardized take on Japan funnier than those in subsequent seasons
Charlie Sweatpants: I always liked “nobody is watching us” at the dinner table as a relatively painless 4th wall joke.
Mad Jon: Minus the ending of course…
Dave: I say this knowing you enjoy “Thirty Minutes over Tokyo,” Charlie
Charlie Sweatpants: And I don’t think it’s the show’s fault, but the joke about “Man Without a Face” is one that I bet a lot of people wouldn’t get any more.
That’s not even in the top 10 for memorable Mel Gibson movies.
Mad Jon: Definitely lower than Payback, and I can’t even remember the protagonists name.
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s a topic for another night, but yeah I do have a bit of a soft spot for “30 minutes over Tokyo”. It’s flawed, but there’s more there than there is in a lot of Season 10.
Dave: I loathe Mel Gibson and choose to ignore anything he’s been involved with.
Mad Jon: Even the original Lethal Weapon???
Charlie Sweatpants: Seems like a good way to end, shall we proceed into the dense thicket of Simpsons that is “Homer’s Enemy”?
Dave: Yeah, even the original Lethal Weapon.
Let’s move on before Jon kills me.
Mad Jon: Please, I need a reason to ignore Dave
Charlie Sweatpants: Okay, so, the Frank Grimes episode . . .
Nerd Alert: While looking up the spelling of St. Eleutherius of Nicomedia I came across his one line Wikipedia page and, to my utter astonishment, his appearance on the show wasn’t mentioned. So I made my first Wikipedia edit ever and in doing so contributed to the encyclopedia’s eventual pop culture heat death. Go me.