Image yoinked from here.
“Tell you what, you come with me to an N.R.A. meeting, and if you still don’t think guns are great, we’ll argue some more.” – Homer Simpson
- By Hank Pumpkins of Love in the Time of Sausage
“I’m so hungry, I could eat at Arby’s”. That one line, delivered by Sherri—or maybe Terri—worked wonders on my young, impressionable mind, and only nearly eight years later, on a dare in college, did I finally try Arby’s. It turns out, the fries are pretty good. There’s a secret shame in admitting that The Simpsons held such political sway over my taste-buds, but in the years since, I’ve come to see I haven’t been the only one—which makes me wonder if there was a marginal dip in sales after “Das Bus” came out.
It’s probably overstated that The Simpsons has always had a cache of consumer power, both as an economic consumer power and as a commentator of consumerism. From its early days the show has been keenly aware of dual-life it led as a biting satire on American economics while also being prostituted out on everything from t-shirts to “blues” records to Butterfinger bars. For a show with such sheer size and success, unparalleled with, well, pretty much any other television show, ever, they did a fine line of playing both roles, though looking back at the last thirteen years, it seems inevitable that the show would eventually teeter, then topple on one side.
It’s not surprising which side that ended up being.
Season 9 is about as good a place as any to see the axis tilt on The Simpsons for a variety of reasons, but what concerns me are the ominous signs that point to the philosophical sea-change which, to me, signaled the point where The Simpsons lost their bite and settled down into somewhat inspired, but mostly mediocre entertainment filler.
Season 9’s plots seem to constantly revolve around battles for integrity. Homer needs to choose between buying a saxophone or an air conditioner; Lisa fights the town on the angel; Homer gets into a brawl over a sports car while Marge struggles to make a sale; Bart burns down the Christmas tree, including the sausage for little Homer; Homer and Bart become carnies and learn their wicked carnie games; Movementarians; and, to cut basically a list of all of the season’s episodes short, “The Last Temptation of Krust”, which literally revolves around Krusty realizing he is, has been, and always will operate not as a comedian, but as a shill. In a season rife with issues of integrity, and a show already feeling the strain of its own success and legacy, “The Last Temptation of Krust” feels like a breaking point where the show seemed to run completely out of steam. Krusty’s conflict was his battle with integrity, and his resolution is a quiet, somewhat disconcerting acceptance that he is a whore. Doubtful that the writers were mirroring their own show, or being prescient about the lazy, belabored comedy to come in years hence, but as The Canyonero commercial plays, and drags on and on, it’s difficult for Future Me to watch and wonder, “Oh. That explains it.”
Compare Krusty in season 9 with another episode dealing with integrity over money: “Lisa Vs. Malibu Stacy”, aired four years prior, where in the end, Malibu Stacy seemingly wins—except for the one girl who takes the Lisa Lionheart doll and cherishes it. We get the usual cynical Simpsons nod that our world is run by money, and baseless corporate greed which slakes its thirst on the naïve and unwitting, but at least there’s a sentimental twist to the end (which is pretty well earned, I’ll add).
There aren’t many times I bother to check in on The Simpsons anymore, but when Banksy’s guest couch gag went viral, I couldn’t help but be intrigued. True to Banksy form, it had a nasty anti-consumer bend, but it felt out of place as a Simpsons gag. The show had long ago lost its teeth, and instead of being a purveyor of biting satire, it felt like an outsider was just doling out a blow, and the show could care less, as long as it got the ratings boost. In the past thirteen years, The Simpsons lost a lot of credit and value it once so richly earned. When the tight walk between sharp consumer satire and consumer salesman gave way, the show gave a weary, resigned “meh”. And now, it’s just a truck with four wheel drive, smells like a steak and seats thirty-five.
Lisa Lionheart is dead; all hail Malibu Stacy.
“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.
“Principal Skinner, how’s your transportation project coming?” – Lisa Simpson
“Oh, excellent. Not only are the trains now running on time, they’re running on metric time. Remember this moment, people, eighty past two on April 47th, it’s the dawn of an enlightened Springfield.” – Principal Skinner
“You’ve gone from hip to boring. Why don’t you call us when you get to kitsch?” – Gunter
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 “snorkels”).
Today’s episode is 1019, “Mom and Pop Art”. Tomorrow will be 1020, “The Old Man and the C Student”.
Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we begin?
Mad Jon: Sounds good.
Mom & Pop Art?
Charlie Sweatpants: Yes.
Which strikes me as one of the more peculiar episodes in Season 10.
Mad Jon: How do you mean?
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s dumb pretty much all the way through, has premises and twists that even by the standards of Season 10 are lazy and poorly conceived, and yet it also has more really excellent lines than almost any other episode in the entire season.
Mad Jon: Well put.
The insanity is quite thick, but I don’t really dislike it at all.
Charlie Sweatpants: I should hate this episode a lot more than I do. I mean, it’s brimming with Jerkass Homer, the entire town floods for no reason, and Homer gets a new job.
Yet, whenever I’m skimming the list of Season 10 episodes, this one always seems like one of the better ones despite all of that.
Mad Jon: I really don’t mind it, but there are many terrible problems.
I specifically hate the Homer the artist vs. Marge the artist wannabe crap.
Charlie Sweatpants: Right? It’s cheap, just cramming Homer into a situation where they can make him be wacky. Castellaneta screams so much I hope he had lozenges in his contract.
And yet . . . I know what I hate, and I don’t hate this.
Mad Jon: Quite apt.
I have "Homer crying…" several times in my notes.
Charlie Sweatpants: Burns’ line about "White Christmas", Moe offering to buy the bird, the video at Not Home Depot, the Eurotrash, and, of course, "Everything’s coming up Milhouse!"
Mad Jon: I especially hate when he cries and demands people should fear his wrath.
Charlie Sweatpants: Homer is in total ass mode here, and not in a good way.
Mad Jon: Milhouse and the Eurotrash are worth the watch alone.
Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t stand him when he’s this stupid and enthusiastically self centered.
And the rest of the cast just aids and abets him, like they know their job is to set him up and get out of the way.
Mad Jon: He took a hell of a couple beatings as well.
Charlie Sweatpants: He did.
I could definitely do without the dream sequence, which they staged in the fucking museum for some reason.
Mad Jon: And put a shotgun in Maggie’s crib. That was about the time I was fully onto the Homer the Jerk phase.
Charlie Sweatpants: There’s a lot of that here. When he tells Isabella Rossellini about the average out of court settlement you know he’s no longer a regular guy but an elastic cartoon figment. Ditto his screaming, "Not the Reichstag!", which always bothers me because a) yelling is usually what they do when they know shit ain’t funny and b) it’s such a weak contrast to his questioning of Lisa in "Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk" where he doesn’t even know Germany is a country in Europe and thinks we send them money.
Mad Jon: Being that this episode is more than a decade old, I am not surprised by this, but did it seem relatively homophobic by today’s standards?
Charlie Sweatpants: The Bart joke didn’t, "I’m flunking math and the other day I was a little attracted to Milhouse" just makes me laugh. But that sketching Lenny and Carl in the shower scene, yeah.
Homer was sketching them . . . why?
Mad Jon: I was going to exclude the Milhouse comment due to its hilarity, but still, he freaks out pretty hard.
Charlie Sweatpants: He does, but I chalk that up to general Homer freakout in this episode.
Mad Jon: Fair enough.
Charlie Sweatpants: The sketching Lenny and Carl thing, on the other hand, doesn’t really have a joke. It’s just Homer acting like a calm, slightly predatory closet case, and that’s a) not anything he’d do and b) not that funny regardless.
Bart trying to get a rise out of him is a very Bart thing, the shower scene not so much.
Mad Jon: True true.
That reminds me of how Homer decides to flood the town, but first he snorkels the animals.
Which, I think is a pretty good representation of the entire plot. We are going to do ‘A’ but first something else!
Charlie Sweatpants: Well, this was another one of those out of left field endings that really marked the end of the show giving half a shit about plot or story.
Jasper Johns "so long suckers" (a classic line the show liked using) gets me, but other than that the ending is just too bizarre to work.
Mad Jon: The ending is basically a non-ending. With one swift move, everything is back to good and nobody gets hurt.
And it takes less then a few minutes to do.
Charlie Sweatpants: Case in point, the "Heaven’s easier to get into than Arizona State" line. I’ve been to Tempe, I get the joke, but it’s the kind of thing that’s so cheap you expect it to be followed by canned laughter.
Mad Jon: Very Teeveeish.
Charlie Sweatpants: You’re right, though, it’s not an ending. It’s doesn’t resolve anything, it doesn’t have any consequences, it just happens and then it’s over.
Mad Jon: And then Homer and Marge go from a one-sided argument to kissing on the roof with freshwater dolphins and lions existing peacefully.
Charlie Sweatpants: Like I said, this was around the time they just stopped caring.
I haven’t listened to the commentary for this one, but on so many of the commentaries from this era they get to whatever shambling excuse they have for the third act and are just like "whatever". This feels exactly like those.
Mad Jon: I’d buy that.
All told though, the plethora of one-liners and whatnot actually cover for enough of the crap to keep this high on my Season 10 list.
Charlie Sweatpants: I, too, remain strangely fond of this episode. I like Picasso’s cranky letter to the editor, I like the snorkel on the bear at the feet of the Jebediah Springfield statue, I like the haplessly incomplete paint job on the garage door at the beginning.
Mad Jon: The Picasso letter to the editor is very very funny,
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s enough to make me overlook things like Homer shaving his shoulders and singing a song when his instant five o’clock shadow in Season 1 was so much better.
Mad Jon: Instant and silent.
Charlie Sweatpants: It’s even enough that I can overlook the drawn out Ray J. Johnson joke, if for no other reason than they actually had him on in Season 13, so I know that things still have a ways to fall from here.
Mad Jon: Quite a ways.
But that’s a later problem.
Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, though the next one is pretty bad. Ready to move on to springs and weak jokes at old people?
Mad Jon: Yeah, I guess so.
Charlie Sweatpants: Alright, time to angry up the blood.
“We are insured, aren’t we, Mom?” – Lisa Simpson
“Homer, tell your child what you bought when I sent you to town to get some insurance.” – Marge Simpson
“Curse you, magic beans!” – Homer Simpson
“Oh, stop blaming the beans.” – Marge Simpson