“So have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanza, a tip-top Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan. Now a word from my god: our sponsor.” – Krusty the Klown
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 “coccyx”).
Today’s episode is 1109, “Grift of the Magi”. Tomorrow will be 1110, “Little Big Mom”.
Charlie Sweatpants: Shall we get started?
Mad Jon: Let’s go.
Grift of the Magi?
Dave: Blech. Yes
Charlie Sweatpants: Yeah, this episode is all over the place.
Mad Jon: And right out of the gate too.
It really didn’t screw around.
Dave: Pretty schizophrenic. And not particularly enjoyable either.
Mad Jon: No, I felt like Milhouse when he was being chased by the Christmas time ozone layer hole sunbeam thingy.
Charlie Sweatpants: The sunbeam from space is a little lame, but at least it doesn’t take long. And the kids hanging out around the house isn’t too bad. But once we head for the hospital, and then the school, and then Fat Tony walks out from behind the tree, things go to shit and stay there.
Mad Jon: Ditto the butt bone problem.
Charlie Sweatpants: The whole Fat Tony (what, 2 minutes or so?) is just a waste of time and space.
Mad Jon: Although I did enjoy when everyone chuckled at "coccyx"
Charlie Sweatpants: From a story point of view, all they need to do is get the school poor so that the evil company can come in. They didn’t need to go through all the histrionics to get there.
Mad Jon: Agreed
Charlie Sweatpants: The play for Burns, for example, is particularly stupid, especially in that it has Weak/Stupid Burns instead of the always funnier Evil/Smart Burns.
Mad Jon: I can’t stand that scene.
How the hell did they get in?
Dave: Yeah. Excruciating.
Charlie Sweatpants: The "Rat Poison" one is the worst. This is a man who actually consulted his lawyers about whether or not he could poison a lazy employee with a donut.
Mad Jon: That is such a Simpsons joke. Charity, children, old people, nobody gets into Burns’ mansion.
But Zombie Simpsons? We’ll just let that go I guess.
Charlie Sweatpants: And then they have this emergency meeting about closing the school, because apparently no one noticed all the construction.
Mad Jon: A catered meeting at that
Charlie Sweatpants: And why the hell is Moe there?
Mad Jon: Gutsy question.
You’re a shark.
Charlie Sweatpants: Then allow me to revolutionize outside the box for a second. As a "huh?" type moment, it’s pretty minor for this episode, but it’s still too weird not to be noticeable.
Furthermore, it’s part of the show’s overall devolution into Zombie Simpsons, where characters who have no business being places be there because . . . well, because we had a joke we kinda liked and were too lazy/apathetic to come up with something that fit in with the story, the characters, or Springfield as we know it.
Dave: That more or less sums it up.
Mad Jon: But the scene did give Homer a chance to stuff his pants full of free appetizers.
So we got that going for us.
Dave: Lindsay Naegle, in her various incarnations, shows up way too much in this and in future episodes.
Mad Jon: She does show up a bunch in this epoch of seasons…
Charlie Sweatpants: I’ve always thought she’d have been a great character if she’d been introduced in Season 6 or 7. As it is, she came along too late. She’s got some decent lines in a few episodes, but she never had that one killer introductory episode where she became a real part of the show.
More specifically to this episode, there’s just too damn much going on here.
Mad Jon: I know, look at all the insanity to this point, and we aren’t even to Gary Coleman.
Charlie Sweatpants: You could have a toy company that infiltrates the school, fine. You could have a for-profit school, fine. You could have a must-have robot toy, that’s okay. But to have all those things, plus killer robots, Gary Coleman, Homer breaking into houses, the list goes on.
Things just keep getting further and further out of hand until they actually have to have a narrator come on to squeeze everything in.
Mad Jon: If Funzo is designed to kill other toys, why don’t the Funzos try to kill each other?
Then we could have a Funzo fight club or something.
Charlie Sweatpants: Don’t give them any ideas.
Funzo could’ve been a decent idea if all it did was suggest to kids that they buy more Funzo crap.
Mad Jon: I am just saying. There were 30 of them in the bag that Homer had….
Charlie Sweatpants: Instead they stretched it long past the breaking point by having it snap Malibu Stacey in half and toss her into the fire.
Mad Jon: Don’t forget the two heads on pencils.
That was creepy.
Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the burning, melted kinda gross one that Coleman fights was my personal "wow this is really not like Simpsons at all" moment.
Mad Jon: Just couldn’t help themselves, I guess. Had to throw one more visual gag in there.
Also it got Gary out of the shot, so he could stand by himself before the dinner invite.
Charlie Sweatpants: Stuffing this one with anything and everything with little to no regard for editorial control did seem to be the order of the day here.
I do like Krusty’s non-denominational holiday special, especially his "Now a word from my god, our sponsor" as he bows down.
That’s some enjoyably old school Krusty shilling, right there.
Mad Jon: That was funny. I also liked the court room show. "Donde Esta Justice" was a good name.
Dave: Donde esta justice was the highlight of the show for me
Charlie Sweatpants: Right. But for everyone one of those, there were five total wastes of time, like that odd discussion Homer and the kids have with Coleman, or Lenny for some reason wanting a Funzo even though he doesn’t have kids.
Take the end, for example. It’s kinda funny that Burns went through "A Christmas Carol" and Moe did "It’s a Wonderful Life" (the "No Funeral" sign on his back is good). But why did they have to rush over to the Simpsons house?
Mad Jon: Yeah, agreed.
Forcing more wrap up style stuff.
Dave: Yep, they found a loose thread and had to either snip it or put it back in place
Charlie Sweatpants: I like the idea that Fat Tony’s construction company is called Valdazo Brothers Olive Oil, but that doesn’t mean I needed to see him work on the school right away.
Dave: Yeah that happened absurdly quickly
Not that the benefit of additional time would’ve improved things
Charlie Sweatpants: Same old. For every thing that’s good here, there’s a lot more that’s bad, and many of the good things get stretched much too far.
Shall we move on to fake leprosy? (There’s something I never thought I’d have to say again.)