“They cut out the best word!” – Bart Simpson
“Didn’t that movie used to have a war in it?” – Hans Moleman
“C’mon! You’ve been warned.” – Orderly
For the third summer in a row, we at the Dead Homer Society are looking to satisfy your off-season longing for substandard commentary on substandard Simpsons. This summer we’ll be looking at Season 10. Why Season 10? Because we’ve already done Seasons 8 and 9 and we can’t put it off any longer. Prior to Season 10, we watched as the show started falling over, this is when it fell over. And while the dust wouldn’t settle completely for another season or so, there is no bigger gap in quality than the one between Season 9 and Season 10. Since we prefer things to remain just as they were in 1995, we’re sticking with this chatroom thing instead of some newer means of communication that we all know just isn’t as good. This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “disheveled”).
Today’s episode is 1020, “The Old Man and the C Student”. Yesterday was 1019, “Mom and Pop Art”.
Charlie Sweatpants: Even though this episode isn’t really much worse than the typical dregs of Season 10, I have a certain dislike for it.
Primarily this is because when the show was still itself there wasn’t a single group on it that got it worse than old people. Here it feels like they’re getting kid gloves treatment, and I don’t like it.
Mad Jon: I was typing something to the same effect. It really REALLY angers me to see how things go down with the old folks in this one.
Yeah, they come out worse in older episodes, but at the same time, they are bitter, angry at the younger generations, and disagreeable in all ways. Which is what makes them awesome.
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s not so much that as it is the way their helplessness is played for cutesy points.
Mad Jon: In this one, they are basically wind up toys for Lisa and Bart to use in some pithy battle about what freedom means, or something.
Charlie Sweatpants: Yes.
Mad Jon: The old folks are funny in every classic Simpsons episode. They are not so here.
This wasn’t so much a bad episode as it was the destruction of an institution that I love and cherish.
This is why I hate this episode.
Charlie Sweatpants: That short scene in "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" where Homer picks up Grampa from the Retirement Castle, now there’s a joke on the truly horrific nature of retirement homes. It’s mean, sure, but it’s funny because it’s got teeth and isn’t afraid to pull a punch. I’ve spent time in old folks homes like that, and they are awful places I hope to fuck don’t exist if I happen to live that long.
Here, it’s too happy to be funny.
Mad Jon: Yeah me neither.
But the reality of the depressing nature of the old folks in the Simpsons is why it is great. That is all I am saying. When everything is "happy", as you say and I agree, it is not great. It is the opposite of the role that the old folks have always played in this show.
The bitter, disheveled, overlooked and I assume medicinally smelly nature of these characters is what makes them great, and this episode wiped all of that clean.
Charlie Sweatpants: Right. Here they’ve got things too good to be true residents of Springfield, especially marginalized residents of Springfield.
This episode apes "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest" more than a little bit, but there the joke was eventually on Jack Nicholson because it never occurred to him that the other patients didn’t want (or need) to rebel as much as he did. Here, Bart tries the same thing, but there is no joke. They just sort of blunder forward and nothing ends up happening to them.
Bear in mind that the ending involves the ship sinking (and lots of string music of suspense) and that whole thing wasn’t introduced until there’s only two minutes to go.
Mad Jon: Also the ending involves ~875 springs at the bottom of the ocean, and Jack LaLanne.
Charlie Sweatpants: I had forgotten the Jack LaLanne thing. Jebus what a lazy ending.
Mad Jon: I will point out that this episode again had some good written jokes, e.g. "Pickpockets call up reserves."
Charlie Sweatpants: Think about Bart and Mrs. Glick in "Three Men and a Comic Book", he hates her guts, but she gets the better of him without meaning to. Here, the old people are barely even characters.
I did like the "edited for seniors" ending to "Gone with the Wind", but there isn’t close to enough of that to salvage this.
Mad Jon: I especially liked the "Didn’t that movie used to have a war in it?" Followed by the orderlies telling him he’d been warned.
Charlie Sweatpants: When the drag off Hans Moleman is just about the one scene in the episode that has the old "Thank you for not discussing the outside world" bite to it.
And we haven’t even gotten to the B-plot, which is one of the lamer excuses they ever came up with for slightly gross and mostly boring pratfalls.
Mad Jon: The Springs that lead to homer and his friends getting repeatedly beaten and injured?
I can’t think of that so much as a B -plot as I do a continuation of the opening scene.
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s the worst of both worlds. The completely unrelated (and nonsensically dull) opening act combined with a B-plot that can’t go anywhere.
Mad Jon: Except down the shitter.
Charlie Sweatpants: Literally.
Mad Jon: Bit of a side note, when I was living with those dudes in the old farm house, whenever someone broke something or had another incident due to clumsiness, or more likely drunkenness, the accepted excuse was always "Two glass eyes".
So that always brings a smile to my face.
But it doesn’t cover the basketball game Homer has with Maggie as the ball.
Charlie Sweatpants: The spring scenes are like watching a beginners acting workshop. Hey, what can you do with something that makes people bounce and punctures their skin? How about have Homer become a punching bag, Maggie a basketball (which Homer dribbles like a champ for some reason) and Moe and Lenny become stuck in a way that’s just gross enough to be weird but well short of gross enough to be funny.
Two glass eyes is okay, for throwaway lines that are surprisingly useful I go with "I want some taquitos", which you can use pretty much anytime there’s food.
Mad Jon: Yeah, not much in the way of usable material in this one. Or much of anything in this one, the only other line that makes me laugh is the "wide-spread de-shawling".
Charlie Sweatpants: Meh. That line too falls flat compared to "Old Money" when Grampa and Bea flirt, or when she says she has to keep her "good eye" on him, or when they describe the wool shawl as "active wear".
Mad Jon: Can’t argue with that.
Charlie Sweatpants: That’s my big problem with this one. Much of the okay stuff feels like leftovers from years previous, and in between that is crappy slapstick.
Mad Jon: The defamation of the old people still trumps that for me, but I guess that’s a personal preference.
Charlie Sweatpants: I guess it is, but it still can’t redeem the ending. I mean, Lisa, Burns, Smithers and a helicopter just materialize.
Mad Jon: Ha, the ending is even less of an ending than Mom and Pop Art.
No redemption there.
Charlie Sweatpants: When the boat can’t even sink, it’s not a good sign.
Season 23 off the port bow!
Mad Jon: I think I just spontaneously developed an ulcer.