“Fire can be our servant, whether it’s toasting smores or raining down on Charlie.” – Principal Skinner
For the fourth summer in a row, we here at the Dead Homer Society will be spending some time discussing twelve year old Simpsons episodes. This year we’re doing Season 11. Why Season 11? Because we’ve done Seasons 8, 9 and 10 already, and it’s time to take an unflinching look at the end of the show. Since Skype and podcasts didn’t exist in 1999, and we want to discuss these episodes the way the internet intended, we’re sticking with the UTF-8 world of chat rooms and instant messaging. This text has been edited for clarity and spelling (especially on “Focusyn”).
Today’s episode is 1102, “Brother’s Little Helper”. Yesterday was 1101, “Beyond Blunderdome”.
[Note: Dave fled again, but I am assured that he will be back in custody soon.]
Charlie Sweatpants: This episode always bothers me a little, because I get the feeling that if it had been made just a season or two earlier it would’ve been pretty good.
Mad Jon: This would have been a top episode in season 10.
I still think it is well above the bar for this season.
Charlie Sweatpants: Oh, it’s above average for Season 11, for sure, but I meant, if they had made it even just a year or two earlier I think a lot of the problems would’ve been eliminated.
Mad Jon: I would go so far as to say I generally like it.
But that doesn’t mean I don’t have some issues with it.
Charlie Sweatpants: For example, they go back to Homer freaking out after eating the drugs twice. There was no need whatsoever for him to freak out a second time right before they go to commercial, and I really don’t think that would’ve been left in had this one been made earlier.
Mad Jon: Definitely a problem.
I also think they try to cram so much visual effect into the end that they water down the ending. Not to mention that the ending itself was subpar, minus a few choice lines.
Charlie Sweatpants: The ending is a perfect example of that kind of filler. Even if you spot them the tank (which you shouldn’t, but for the sake of argument), there’s the yammering Army guys, the useless suspense as Bart aims the turret at different things, his conversation with Marge.
The scene goes on and on and yet doesn’t serve or advance the story and doesn’t make sense.
Mad Jon: Yeah, I am not a fan of the ending so much…
Charlie Sweatpants: This one either needed to take the time to make the A-plot much more coherent or it needed a B-plot.
Mad Jon: I agree.
I think the opening is good. I would say great except for Homer’s dialogue in Skinner’s Office.
Charlie Sweatpants: I dunno, the opening with Bart flooding the gym strikes me as another thing that’s too exaggerated to actually be funny.
Like Skinner standing there and saying all the equipment names for just Bart and Lisa. What sense does that make?
Mad Jon: Ok, I’ll spot you the gym floor, but look at the quality of the jokes. Lots of quick lines, standard Simpsons opening kind of scene, even a Chalmers-less school scene.
The fun poked at the ‘stop drop and roll’, nowadays you wouldn’t even have a fire to lead to the discovery that Bart took the fire house to flood the gym.
Skinner’s explanation of the uses of fire….
There is plenty to chuckle at here.
Charlie Sweatpants: "Raining down on Charlie" is funny, as its Ned and Maude’s ineptness (though the replacement Maude voice is really off putting).
But it’s like the Focusyn itself or Bart’s instant paranoia, it’s too wacky for it to really bite. Good Simpsons parodies are crazy and unexpected, but also recognizable and on some basic level plausible. This is just a little too zany, like it’s working too hard.
Like I said, these are the kinds of things I think would’ve gotten smoothed out had it been made a year or two before.
Mad Jon: You are probably right about that.
And I agree with the general zaniness of the episode.
And I agree that there are some bad habits showing up here, like the repeated Homer freakouts.
If you could take out Homer, I would be fine with this episode right up till Bart loses it. Then it gets pretty nutty.
Although I always enjoy the realization that the MLB really is spying on them, pretty much around the clock.
Charlie Sweatpants: That’s another perfect example though. Having Major League Baseball spy on them constantly is funny, it also doesn’t require a tank or a shot down satellite.
Mad Jon: No, no it doesn’t
Charlie Sweatpants: And, much like Gibson in the previous episode, the Mark McGwire jokes look a bit different in hindsight.
Mad Jon: Well, Big Mac wasn’t much of an actor, but that’s fine. And I think the current insanity of Gibson trumps McGwire’s issues.
And I always wish they would have ended the episode at McGwire shoving the print out under his hat and them shifting his eyes about.
Charlie Sweatpants: Well yeah, but it’s just funny that McGwire made a joke about distracting people with "dingers" and then the people not caring, which is pretty much exactly what happened afterwards.
Mad Jon: True true.
Charlie Sweatpants: In general though, I agree that this is one of the better ones in 11, but it’s still frustrating to watch.
Mad Jon: Frustrating indeed, when watched as part of the Simpsons series. But this is as good as it gets till the end of this season, and although I probably haven’t watched this one since it was last in the cycle of syndication, which may have been 10 years ago by now, I still am partial to it.
Charlie Sweatpants: I feel the same way. There are enough things here that crack me up that I don’t mind it overall. When Sir Widebottom says, "Sure I’m alive, but why?", that always gets me for some reason.
Mad Jon: I also like the time burglar line, as well as the "I am now one of them."
I generally enjoy the scientists, as well as their demo of the hamsters.
Although it’s not about slavery…
Charlie Sweatpants: And Homer thanking Skinner for getting him out of work.
I use that pretty much any time I’ve ditched work.
Mad Jon: The Navajo boy, the trade scene when Milhouse has Claritin…. There are plenty of good chuckles thrown about.
Bart’s thank you card for Marge.
I liked the Carboxyl group joke, until Homer started choking the model.
Charlie Sweatpants: As you said, the scientists in general are pretty good. When they go to incapacitate Homer and Marge it’s funny, then Homer gets the air shot for no reason.
Still, there is a lot of good stuff here.
Mad Jon: Yeah, didn’t really need to stop his heart, valium would have been fine for both…
But now we are asking a hamburger, though satisfying enough, to be a rib eye.
Or whatever type of steak you would rather have.
Charlie Sweatpants: Indeed, it’s take what you can get in Season 11.
Anything else here?
Mad Jon: Nah, I think we covered it.
Charlie Sweatpants: Nope. I’m content to sit back and let the MLB’s marketing algorithms analyze this text and report back my need for more merchandise.
Mad Jon: Excellent, just try to keep your squalor index below 97 ok?
Charlie Sweatpants: No promises.