“I can’t think of a better place to spend a balmy summer’s night than the old ball yard. There’s just the green grass of the outfield, the crushed brick of the infield, and the white chalk lines that divide the man from the little boy.” – Lisa Simpson
“Lisa, honey, you’re forgetting the beer. It comes in seventy-two ounce tubs here.” – Homer Simpson
Good morning and welcome to the sixth Simpsons-Beer Marathon. Today we’re doing Season 2. As with previous efforts, I will make use of the pause and reverse buttons to get a quote right or take a screen grab, but the fast-forward button will go totally unused.
Since I’ll be in no condition to do it later in the day, Chapters 11 & 12 of the book are on-line right now. That gets us through the bulk of the text. Most of the appendices are short, and I’ll put them up sometime next week. Serious thanks once again to everyone who has read the book, found one of my mistakes, linked it somewhere, or actually bought it. And now, it’s been Simpsons-Beer Marathon day for hours and I’m still not drunk yet, so let’s get going.
1. Bart Gets an F
- And we start off with Martin’s book report, which is simultaneously flattering to Hemmingway and making fun of people who take him too damn seriously.
- “I will not fake my way through life”
- They made all those crappy video games based on this show, and yet they never made Escape from Grandma’s House in real life. For shame.
- This show that jokes about school bus crashes. That is all.
- Ah, faking sick to leave school.
- “As a result, Bart is an underachiever, and yet he seems to be, how should I put this, proud of it?” – Less than ten minutes into Season 2, and they’re already making fun of “Bartmania”.
- The defeat in Martin’s voice as he retreats to the “forecastle of the Pequod” is just awesome.
- Speaking as someone who was the same age as Martin and Bart when this episode was first broadcast, I can’t say enough about how recognizable the two of them were to me and my friends. We didn’t get into as much shit, but they felt like real kids to us.
- Case in point for the above: waiting for the radio guys to announce if school was closed. These days they do it by e-mail and there’s no suspense, but at the time that’s exactly how it happened.
- It actually says “Diamond” on Quimby’s podium.
- “John Hancock’s writing his name in the snow!” Yet another great example of how they snuck things past the censors. Joking about bodily functions is right at the top on the list of things that aren’t allowed, and they did it with the Declaration of Independence.
2. Simpson and Delilah
- “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader” was/is (not sure if it’s still on) yet another case of life imitating The Simpsons. Hitler, North Dakota?
- I love how the doctor is willing to sell him the Hair in a Drum even though he knows it doesn’t work.
- “It’s in the union contract, sir. One token promotion from within per year.”
- It’s great how Marge tells Homer to hire Karl without realizing that he’s much more of a sexual threat than any of those bubbly women who make kissy faces at her husband.
- Homer in a suit with a real haircut looks just like Herb Powell.
- “Management Caves In To Condiment Outcry”
- The transition from the executive bathroom floor (with the ultra-deferential towel guy) to the office tower is gorgeous.
- The scene in the back yard where Marge worries about a rainy day always used to get cut in syndication. I’d completely forgotten it existed by the time Season 2 finally came out on DVD.
- Great callback on the ivory backscratcher, which is itself two jokes in two words.
- Homer calls it a “dirty trick” when Bart says he loves him. It’s just fantastic.
- Hey, Zombie Simpsons, you’re twenty-two years behind the times:
3. Treehouse of Horror
- Marge’s intro to this, about telling people not to write letters, is a really fantastic piece of satire. They take a character who would very likely hate their show if she were real, and use her to preemptively respond to the arguments actual critics make.
- The entire Bad Dream House segment is them flexing their new animation capabilities. It’s lit and colored wonderfully, and still looks creepy by today’s standards.
- The house’s voice is exhibit four and a half thousand or so of Shearer doing brilliant, original work on this show.
- And they snuck in a quick “Bitchin!”. You’re watching FOX.
- The first appearance of Kang and Kodos!
- I am physically incapable of thinking about “If you wanted to make Sarak the Preparer cry, mission accomplished” without giggling.
- It’s been said before, but the James Earl Jones rendition of “The Raven” has made more kids get this poem than thousands of English teachers.
- The shadow effects as Homer investigates his chamber door are really well done. They even fade as they get further from their source.
- As great as Jones is, Castellaneta totally holds his own: “Take thy beak from out my heart, and take they form from off my door!”.
- Clausen deserves a lot of credit here as well. The music as Homer’s chasing the raven is pitch perfect.
4. Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish
- Speaking of Clausen, the music in this episode goes through an enormous range of emotion and feeling with aplomb.
- Love the inspection team and the bribe.
- “Why are my teeth showing like that?” “Because you’re smiling.” “Ah, excellent, this is exactly the kind of trickery I’m paying you for.” It takes a real villain to be unfamiliar with smiling as anything other than a trick.
- An actor portraying Charles Darwin!
- “So far the only negative thing we have found is from some guy who dated her when she was sixteen.” “Ah, and?” “He, uh, he felt her up.” “Bah, not good enough!”
- “I love dogs, babies too.”
- Burns’ barely concealed contempt for regular people, voters, and everything else he has to do to be governor is perfectly him. He sees the whole thing as an inconvenience.
- It’s great how Lisa gets up and leaves the table before Burns is even done answering her question with his well worn catchphrases.
- I always thought it was kind of unfair for Marge to serve him the head, but it does make for a great visual.
- And now, a first tier, hall of fame, etch-it-in-stone Burns quote: “Ironic, isn’t it Smithers? This anonymous clan of slack jawed troglodytes has cost me the election. And yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That’s democracy for you.”
5. Dancin’ Homer
- The comedy density of these episodes cannot be overstated. They’re starting a flashback with a bus arriving at a stadium, and they turn it into Otto escaping from the cops and skid marks on the parking lot. If they’d actually shown the chase it would’ve sucked, but just referring to it makes it hilarious and takes less time.
- “Springfield Savings, Safe from 1890-1986, 1988-”
- The digitizing effect on “Jumbo-vision” is another subtle piece of animation that does a lot to make things feel more realistic and recognizable than they otherwise would.
- “I felt an intoxication that had nothing to do with alcohol. It was the intoxication of being a public spectacle!”
- The blink-and-you-miss-it look of annoyance on Big Bill McClosky’s face when the PA guy calls him “mediocre” shows once again how much they paid attention to every frame and detail.
- Yet another little touch: the beefcake posters on the walls where Helen the organist plays.
- Hey look, Homer asked to leave the plant before taking a new job. That doesn’t happen much these days.
- Tony Bennett! And it isn’t contrived or dumb!
- Great guest voice from Tom Poston.
- And the player’s ex-wife sitting right behind Bart sounds suspiciously like he does.
6. Dead Putting Society
- God I love old Flanders. He’s just as much of an unwitting tormentor to Homer, but he’s also a recognizable human being.
- The first call to Reverend Lovejoy. That was a tremendous running gag. Damn Flanders.
- Lovejoy’s sleeping mask (frilly pink trim!) is just fantastic.
- “Homer, I couldn’t help overhearing you warp Bart’s mind.”
- That is exactly the sound that one hand clapping makes.
- Bart doing the Crane on top of the trash can is a great little joke. Incidentally, The Karate Kid has aged really well.
- It’s great how terrified Bart is when Homer wakes him.
- Words fail to describe how hilarious the British announcer guy is. Half of his lines aren’t even jokes, and yet everything he says is funny because golf announcers are masters of unintentional self parody.
- After the boys declare their draw, the way they cut to a reaction shot of the Lincoln robot while it makes that little noise is another deft touch of genius.
- And I have finished my first 72oz tub. Only two and two-thirds more to go.
7. Bart vs. Thanksgiving
- Ah, the inanity of parade announcers.
- On my .avi rip, the Bart Thanksgiving parade balloon lasts only 27 frames. Not seconds, or even tenths of a seconds. Frames. That is quick comedy.
- I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: nobody got it worse on this show than old people. The joy on Mrs. Spencer’s face because her family sent her a fax is cruel, heartbreaking and hilarious.
- Nice touch having Bart sing the FOX fanfare as he comes in to destroy Lisa’s centerpiece.
- The “ruined Thanksgiving” line is devastating but as brief as it could possibly be. It’s masterful storytelling.
- “Things like that always happen in this family.” “I’ve noticed that too.” Meta jokes before anyone knew what the word “meta” meant.
- Ah, the corner of Croesus and Mammon.
- The security guard is reading Les Miserables! This show viewed wasted screen space as a grievous sin.
- Support for the above, there’s scare quotes around “Massage” parlor and the liquor store has a sign that says “Yes! We have rot gut!”.
- Hey, it’s Lou sounding like Eddie!
- “Children need discipline! You can ask any syndicated advice columnist.”
- I love the happy endings of Season 2. They set the bar for family success so low that seeing the Simpsons struggle to cross over it really is both sweet and funny.
8. Bart the Daredevil
- The dirt riding dunk masters always get me.
- Skinner’s casual drop that it’s the start of a series of concerts, and Homer’s moaning “series?”, are just more wood for the pyre of Homer’s life being something he hates. Miserable Homer is and always will be funnier than happy Jerkass Homer.
- “Sunday: Bear Baiting”
- I laugh every time the lion pops up to pull him back into the tank. Every time.
- Love the scrawl:
- “But the fact of the matter is, bones heal, chicks dig scars, and the United States of America has the best doctor to daredevil ratio in the world.”
- The Homer-gorge scene is the best argument for how you can do insane things with these characters so long as you do it well. The ambulance hitting the tree is such a great joke that the callback to it in the movie is one of the two or three funniest things in that whole bloated film.
9. Itchy & Scratchy & Marge
- This is about the part in the marathon where I get amazed at the unrelenting excellence of these episodes. This is a famous classic, there hasn’t been an even vaguely weak episode yet, and the next few introduce Troy McClure and Lionel Hutz. I have loved many television shows other than this one, but I don’t think anything can compete with The Simpsons in terms of an unbroken streak of consistent excellence.
- Ah, the way Scratchy’s limp body falls into the crater just before they pile onto him.
- Psycho is a famous enough movie that I got that reference even though I hadn’t seen the movie the first time I saw this episode.
- The one that’s cut off at the top is “Cats Blown Up” with three checkmarks next to it:
- “And the horse I rode in on?” That’s as close as you can come to saying “fuck” on network television. Fuck yeah.
- Bring Back “Wagon Train”
- More great work from Clausen and company in this one.
- Gotta love the dry, understated execu-speak for “drop an anvil on her” and the like.
- Marvin Monroe is in Vienna! Of course he is.
- Alex Rocco for the win in this one: “It’s different, I’ll give you that”.
- “It’s a tool that every home handyman needs. It’s a jigsaw, it’s a power drill, it’s a wood turning lathe, it’s an asphalt spreader. It’s sixty-seven tools in one!”
- More small notes of care: the massive pupils on Itchy and Scratchy for the opening of their “love and share” episode.
- Well done, Ludwig.
- Also, the marbles animation is spectacular.
- “It’s filth! It graphically portrays parts of the human body, which, practical as they may be, are evil.”
- More subtle touches, the sign that says “Kancel David” at the house is the same one that had “Kancel Krusty” at the studio. The Simpsons is in the details.
- The ever more gigantic pistols are great.
10. Bart Gets Hit by a Car
- Satan uses a Mac. Just sayin’.
- Love the quick sight gag of the guy who looks like Jacques getting nervous while the doctor puts on the rubber glove.
- And we have a Wizard of Oz joke, because why not?
- It’s the second season, and they’re already making little jokes at their own expense for never letting Burns remember Homer.
- Aww, Grau and Hartman in the same scene.
- Dr. Nick’s degrees are hilarious. “I went to medical school for four years and all I got was this lousy diploma”.
- Credit to Azaria for nailing Dr. Nick’s voice right from the get go. It never changed from this one and didn’t need to.
- Love the quick look Bart gives to Hutz as he says he sometimes wishes he had been killed.
- “What are you looking at me like that for? You believed his cock and bull story.”
- Marge on the stand could’ve easily been heavy handed and boring, but they pulled it off.
- Homer trying to keep himself mad at Marge in Moe’s is the same way.
11. One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish
- This episode is a useful reminder that it wasn’t that long ago that karaoke was considered weird and insane.
- “No need to panic, there’s a map to the hospital on the back of the menu.”
- “Well, if there’s one consolation, it’s that you’ll feel no pain at all until sometime tomorrow evening when your heart suddenly explodes.”
- Homer’s progression through the stages of acceptance needs no further praise from me, but . . . damn, that’s funny.
- Those three little sentences of father-son advice have definitely helped at times.
- On the other hand, I’ve never had any luck with toilet paper to stanch shave related bleeding.
- Homer loves “When the Saints Go Marching In” but doesn’t even know the chorus.
- This episode has an emotional dexterity that borders on surgical. Homer goes from not caring about his Dad to wanting to make up with him and back to being sick of him in no time flat.
- The “atmosphere” harmonica guy also always gets me.
- I know I said this last Saturday, as well as two bullet points above, but the way this episode handles sadness and death is amazing. Even Marge’s desperation can be funny when Bart asks why they’re really waiting for Homer. And it’s not just a matter of making a joke for the sake of making a joke, the comedy is totally in character and part of the story.
- And then there’s the bowling announcers, who are just dead on, “Well, he’s an erratic bowler”.
12. The Way We Was
- The first McBain clip: “I don’t want to hear it, McBain!”
- This is also the first time we get a look at one of Hibbert’s period haircuts, in this case a giant, late 70s afro.
- There’s no way not to enjoy the petty authoritarianism of Dondelinger, especially since I’m not in high school any more and I never had to be there in the 1970s, when it was probably even worse.
- Marge takes a stand about not taking a stand.
- Among the many great firsts of this episode, we get to see that Grampa was just as terrible a father to Homer as Homer is to his kids.
- More attention to detail, check out the outfit on the debate teacher. That is 1970s chic:
- Kavner does a really great job in this episode of making Marge’s voice sound younger even though it’s basically a rasp.
- Artie says “Aachem!” (or however it is you spell Jay Sherman’s catchphrase/catchhack).
- The sarcastic limo driver is such a great part that the same voice became a recurring character. His “okay, but I’m only paid to drive” never gets old.
13. Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment
- “Good evening, Zohar the adulterer, my wife sends her warmest regards.”
- And then Zohar starts hitting on that woman as soon as Homer tells everyone to look busy because Moses is there.
- Cable companies are big faceless corporations, which makes it okay.
- And there’s Troy McClure, today he’d like to talk to you about a pleasant tasting candy that actually cleans and straightens your teeth.
- Hey, it’s also the first time we get to see the shopping cart rolling backwards into the street.
- When Homer stands up at the ad for Watson-Tatum 2, Lisa gets dumped on the ground. It’s funny precisely because it’s understated. If they’d made a big show of him being such a jerk to his daughter it would’ve been creepy and bad, instead it’s just funny.
- “You haven’t lost the common touch, sir.”:
- Gotta say, if I ever caught my son charging admission for other kids to see soft core porn, I might have to act mad for the other parents, but I’d likely be proud of him. That’s enterprising as hell.
- Even the police don’t care that the cable hookup is illegal.
14. Principal Charming
- One of the all time great wedding welcomes, “Friends, relatives, work related acquaintances”.
- Another great if subtle piece of animation, see how the cross line on the “A” bleeds into the “R”:
- Selma cutting out the coupon for “Muffins” while complaining about Patty having “bosoms till Tuesday” is another time when the background makes the whole thing better.
- Barney is such a wonderful disaster of a person in this one. He’s a complete failure, and yet doesn’t mind in the least.
15. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
- So many 1980s action movies, so many evil drug kingpins, so many exploding tanker trucks.
- I mentioned this idea earlier, but Grampa’s contempt for Homer is not only funny on its own, but also a great explanation for why Homer is such a terrible father in his own right.
- Herb’s boardroom meeting, complete with pomegranates, is awesome. DeVito hits every note, pissed off, sad, exasperated, everything.
- “All born in wedlock?” “Yeah, though the boy was a close call.”
- More things that are funnier for not being on screen, Bart spitting on a guy from the hot air balloon.
- Herb making Homer say “Sort of!” with self confidence is magnificent contradiction.
- No further comment necessary: http://deadhomersociety.com/2010/01/04/quote-of-the-day-343/
- “To think I wasted my life in boardrooms and stockholder’s meetings, when I could’ve been watching cartoons! This old fool has wasted his life.”
16. Bart’s Dog Gets an F
- Nice dig at the Cosby clan with that shot of Hibbert at home.
- Gotta love the quilt square of the woman shooting the buffalo while ridding side-saddle.
- “How many of these guys are named Corey?”
- Like DeVito, Ullman owns every line she has. Even the ones that aren’t explicit jokes, she makes funny.
- “I just dip in and out. I’m only watching today because Brandy is coming out of her coma and she knows the phony prince’s body is hidden in the boathouse.” A better description of soap operas may never be written. “Father McGrath! I thought you were dead.” “I was!”
- The shoe store has a section called “Street Crime”.
- It takes a special kind of show to turn a little girl defending her dog into a joke about end of life care.
17. Old Money
- As bad as the old people usually get it on this show, this episode shows us how much they old people hate the young as well. No one and nothing escaped this show’s attention.
- “Nothing says ‘I love you’ better than a military antique. Let’s take a look at the bayonet case.”
- The second line after the announcement of Bea’s death is a gag. This show never lets up.
- The ordinariness of the unlimitedly sleazy guy who tells Grampa that money will buy him better care is yet another example of something that’s sad, cruel and hilarious.
- The scene where people ask Grampa for money is great both because of all the insane, stupid, greedy and inhumane requests (“I need the money to buy a baby”), and because Grampa considers all of them. It isn’t random, it makes sense because Grampa just wants to make people a little better off.
- To be honest, the ray only has evil applications.
- Funny to see the old people watching Itchy & Scratchy, even after they got upgraded.
18. Brush with Greatness
- After asking the kids not to make him a liar, “I want to go to Mount Splashmore. Take me, take me, take me, take me now! Now! Now! Now! Now! Now!”
- Ah, for the days when TV promos for upcoming episodes could use lines like, “This is a rather shameless promotion”.
- When they’ve got the pipe with Homer in it in the air, the clouds behind it are supposed to make it look like the pipe is moving, but it actually looks like the clouds are moving since there’s no fixed point of reference. One of the rare animation notes that bug me in Seasons 1-8 or so.
- It’s great the way Smithers’ first analysis of having Marge do the portrait is to note that she’ll be easily intimidated.
- “Beatles, eh? Oh, yes, I seem to remember their off key caterwauling on the old Sullivan show. What as Ed thinking?"
- Harvard, Yale, Oxford, the Sorbonne, the Louvre, this should hang in all of them:
- “He’s bad, but he’ll die, so I like it.”
19. Lisa’s Substitute
- A great Skinner moment is his absentminded meanness describing Lyme disease in front of Hoover.
- “Three, you seem to be of the Jewish faith.” “Are you sure I’m Jewish?” “Or Italian?” “I’m Jewish.”
- “And for the record there were a few Jewish cowboys, ladies and gentlemen, big guys who were great shots and spent money freely."
- Great shot:
- More asbestos! More asbestos!
- Hey, Zombie Simpsons, I want you to watch this scene with Lisa, Homer and Bergstrom at the museum. See how it’s relevant to the plot, character driven, and funny? Do at least one of those and you’ll only suck two thirds of the time.
- “That’s the problem with being middle class. Anybody who really cares will abandon you for those who need it more.”
- The “You are Lisa Simpson” note is great, but it would be weird and half-empty if Bergstrom didn’t already understand that Lisa needs Homer more than him, which we saw at the museum and which forms the end of the episode.
- By the way, all four family members give excellent voice performances at the dinner table for the baboon scene. There’s something that doesn’t happen much (if ever) on Zombie Simpsons.
20. The War of the Simpsons
- Moe resenting Flanders by dismissively saying ‘college boy’ always gets me. It’s one of those great double jokes, where the resentment is funny, but the fact that Moe doesn’t get it that no one actually gives Ph.D.s in “mixology” makes it even better.
- “Remember last year at the Winfield’s party when you threw up in the laundry hamper?” “No.”
- And Barney has his shirttail hanging out of his fly again.
- “You stink! You and your whole lousy operation stinks! I quit!”
- How I see myself doing these marathons (especially this late into one):
- How it probably looks:
- Queen of the harpies!
- And right after Lovejoy’s greatest success, he tips his hand with “Remember my saving your lives and bringing you happiness when we pass the collection plate next week”.
- One more McBain clip, “I don’t want to hear it McBain!”
- Another entry for the bulging file on I-can’t-believe-they-got-away-with-it: “Cherry party, Bart. Any chicks over eight?”
- You vile burlesque of irrepressible youth!
- “That’s right, you heard me, pretending to cry!”
- “I’ll never trust another old person.”
- For completeness:
Store Guy: Yeah, General Sherman. They say he’s five-hundred pounds of bottom dwelling fury, don’t you know? No one knows how old he is, but if you ask me, and most people do, he’s a hundred years if he’s a day.
Customer: And no one’s ever caught him?
Store Guy: Well, one fella came close. Went by the name of Homer. Seven feet tall, he was, with arms like tree trunks, and his eyes were like steel, cold and hard. Had a shock of hair, red, like the fires of hell.
21. Three Men and a Comic Book
- Yet more attention to detail, how “12th” is pasted over all the previous numbers.
- “I’m Bartman”. Gotta say, the original Keaton/Nicholson Batman movie has also held up remarkably well.
- Comic Book Guy when he was actually, you know, a comic book guy.
- Fucking Wonder Years.
- Nothing like a ten-year-old bribing police with alcohol.
- Ribbon candy is disgusting. It’s from a time when sugar was precious, which it isn’t now.
- Gotta love Mrs. Glick being genuinely aroused while she goes back and forth in her rocking chair.
- Great the way they have the narration pronounce “(choke)” as it’s being read.
- Ah, having a fight interrupted by somebody’s mom, like I said all the way back during “Bart Gets an F”, these kids were very recognizable to people who were kids at the time.
- Gotta love how the usual message of “sharing” is deliberately undercut by the ending here.
22. Blood Feud
- Core Explosion, Repent Sins
- I can’t usefully convey it, but the story of Hercules and the Lion is as great as something is possible to be. “How did a lion get rich?” “It was the olden days.”
- That Burns has hired goons is funny. That said hired goons are regular, if overly loyal, men makes it even better. “Yeah, nice guy, play poker with him once and a while.”
- And the plot turns on Smithers actually being a person instead of a cartoonish outline of one.
- Final animation note: Burns and Smithers going up the escalator with the mirrors behind them looks great.
- Love the Triceratops skull at Plunderer Pete’s.
- But no, it’s Xtapolapocetl!
- This seems a fitting way to end:
Lisa: Perhaps there is no moral to this story.
Homer: Exactly; it’s just a bunch of stuff that happened.