“Lard, ho! Tis a good sign, Homer’s unfastened the top button on his pants.” – Captain McAllister
“Uh, no, he’s been walking around like that since Thanksgiving.” – Akira
“I’m surprised he just doesn’t give it up and go for sweatpants.” – Captain McAllister
“He says the crotch wears out too fast.” – Akira
“Yargh, that’s gonna replace the whale in my nightmares.” – Captain McAllister
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 “comeuppance”).
Today’s episode is 1103, “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?”. Tomorrow ill be 1104, “Treehouse of Horror X”.
Mad Jon: Shall we start with "Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner"?
Charlie Sweatpants: Yes.
Any initial thoughts?
Mad Jon: I used to have a place in my heart for this episode, but I haven’t watched it recently.
And now that I’ve watched it recently, I think I have a place in my heart for certain scenes.
Charlie Sweatpants: I can see that. Dave?
Dave: It was honestly hard for me to watch.
Charlie Sweatpants: That bad, huh?
Dave: I haven’t watched the episode in years and it was more annoying and abrasive than I remember.
Mad Jon: There are a lot more minus signs on my paper than I thought there would be… That’s for sure.
Charlie Sweatpants: Well then, I may be in the odd position of being the far more positive one of us on this one.
It’s got problems, no doubts there. There’s lots of Jerkass Homer, plenty of unnecessary scenes, jokes that go too long, the plot could’ve been tighter, etcetera.
Mad Jon: Pretty much.
But other than that, there are some good lines and whatnot.
Charlie Sweatpants: But all of the problems are pretty run of the mill at this point, and I think on the whole they’re less pronounced here than in pretty much anything else this season or in Season 10.
Mad Jon: Which is why there was always a place in my heart, there are some excellent daily use lines here.
I just never realized how Jerky Homer really was in this one.
Because he is really Jerky.
Charlie Sweatpants: He is.
Dave: Totally jerky.
Charlie Sweatpants: But on the other side of the ledger, is a story that does (mostly) makes sense, a good guest voice, and quite a few quotable lines. There’s way more to admire here than in most episodes from around this time.
Mad Jon: I agree.
The story is pretty decent. And the editor reminds me of Ray the Sanitation commissioner.
Lots of lines, and several jokes that don’t get beat into the ground.
Dave: You guys are going to have to help me out.
I remember it being rather humorless.
What worked for you?
Mad Jon: Ok, Take the Uter references.
How about the certain % of recycled paper? Numerous threatening references to the UN?
Dave: Maybe I was just having an off/grouchy moment watching it.
I am happy to indulge your enjoyment, however.
Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t be so hard on yourself, one of the things we like about you is that "grouchy" is many of your "on" moments.
Dave: Aw shucks, thanks.
Charlie Sweatpants: But I agree with Jon here. The plus side of the ledger is shockingly long, especially so for Season 11.
Combine that with the fact that the problems here are a lot worse in most of Season 11, this one shines, relatively speaking.
Except for a few scenes that go off the rails, this one would fit nicely into the middle of Season 9.
Dave: Fair enough.
Charlie Sweatpants: I could’ve done without Gil, and without that weird scene where everyone is fat, and the view from the rotating restaurant is something they did way way better back in "Principal Charming".
But there’s just a lot of good quotes here, even before we get to the sweatpants/crotch hole/whale nightmare exchange, which is just fantastic. (And I’m only partially saying that because I can say, as an avid sweatpants wearer, that the crotch is always the first thing to go.)
"Gonna replace the whale in my nightmare" is one of those lines that you can use any time, even in front of people who don’t get the reference.
Dave: I’d replace wearer with enthusiast, but fair enough.
Charlie Sweatpants: I can’t get around the fact that this episode’s flaws, which are obvious and which I in no way shape or form deny, are relatively pedestrian, whereas its strengths are pretty original, especially given the whole "being in Season 11" thing.
Mad Jon: I can see that.
The misses are indeed obvious, I cite the bath scene that went on for 45 minutes.
But it could have been worse. And is definitely tempered by some of the better lines.
Or the stop the presses scene, which was immediately tempered by the editors reaction.
Charlie Sweatpants: That Ann Landers and Dear Abby are kept alive against their will to continue pumping out crappy advice columns is funny, and since Jerkass Homer is far more Jerkass for most of this season than he is here, on the whole I think we the audience come out ahead.
There’s also a lot of good sign humor. "Moleman’s Gruel" is great.
I’ll take that over the odd appearance of elephants as Homer is chased into the sunset.
Mad Jon: I didn’t pay as much attention to the signs as I normally do.
The chase scene bothers me.
Why are the critics still mad? Didn’t they want Homer to be more critical?
It was forced, it didn’t need to be.
Charlie Sweatpants: And he didn’t get his comeuppance.
Dave: A chilling sign of things to come.
Mad Jon: No indeed he didn’t, but I guess he got some exercise.
Charlie Sweatpants: This is a messy plot, but the ending is no worse than, say, the spontaneous party at the end of "Burns, Baby, Burns".
Mad Jon: That was the ending that came to mind when this one wrapped up.
Charlie Sweatpants: And, though I’m repeating myself, there’s just a lot of good lines here. The editor talking about "chick crap" in the lifestyle section is exactly what newspapers put in the lifestyle sections. The New York Times is notorious for this.
Mad Jon: This is generally a watchable episode. And until we started really parsing the problems of the last few seasons out, I could never put my finger on what was different.
That says something.
Charlie Sweatpants: It does.
Mad Jon: It would take a very well trained eye, as well as a cynical heart to hate this episode.
Charlie Sweatpants: You’re just taunting Dave, now.
Mad Jon: And a lazy man, such as my self, to nod as it passes by.
Dave: He sure is. But I’ll let it slide.
Mad Jon: Join the winning team man.