Synergy Pines for Its Lost Youth and Innocence

“There has been a shocking decline in the quality and quantity of your toadying, Waylon!” – C.M. Burns

Much like last week, this week’s IGN Simpsons “review” was surprisingly long on criticism within the text before giving it a good number anyway.  I don’t want to repeat myself too much, but this episode scored a 6.9 when the actual review was mostly negative even before I edited out the synergy.  What would it have needed to do to score less than that?  True, the tone is still that of a gently cowed subordinate, but the substance of this review is pretty damning. 

November 23, 2009 – "Pranks and Greens" was the tale of two stories. The first was an entertaining  a hacktacular mystery about a boy who was once better at pulling off pranks than Bart Simpson. The second was a boring, unfunny tale about Bart helping that boy become a better person. Guest voice Jonah Hill (Superbad) added little to the loser character.

The episode had a fun start. Bart and sidekick Milhouse were spending their time pulling off pranks around the school. Upcoming pranks they were working on in their brainstorming session included stunts they called "Night of a Thousand Skunks," "Tora, Tora, Toilet," and "Untitled Skateboard Project." It was goofy and fun and ended with Skinner’s balloon-elevated engine crashing back to earth onto the top of his car. Bart’s nonsensical punishment was cleaning the playground, which led to a snortingly funny bit with Ralph being launched off the very slippery slide a bunch of clock eating physical “comedy”. Bart’s bragging led prompted Skinner for some reason to reveal that the boy may be the best prankster of his era, but not of all time.

This set Bart off on a quest to learn the identity of this mysterious prankster, for some other reason. This, too, was quite entertaining. In a piece of unnecessary retconning Bart discovered that Skinner had once been a hip and happy young principal, only to become the Skinner we know today after an undisclosed incident. After some research, Bart approached Groundskeeper Willie who, for yet another reason, retold the tale of "The Night of the Wigglers." The prank got Skinner caught in a pool full of worms for three days and the retelling revealed the prankster to be… Andy Hamilton some guy.

Jonah Hill voiced Andy Hamilton some guy and it was basically straightforward stuff. Lisa rightfully characterized the character — now 19, not in school, unemployed and living with his parents — as a loser. Seeing that he was on a similar path, and giving a shit for yet another unfathomably out-of-character reason, Bart tried to help Andy turn his life around. Bart went to Krusty for help., and Krusty’s list of things he wouldn’t do was a good laugh: "I won’t read screenplays, that’s for your protection. Oh, and you can’t ride on my private jet. And I won’t give a struggling young comic his first chance. I won’t give a broken down hack his last chance…" But the storyline itself was short on funny. There was little to like about the character of Andy, and Hill’s voice work was too unexceptional to lift the character above the weak dialogue. The twist of Andy using his old worm prank to write a bit for the Krusty show was none too surprising, but I did enjoy roll my eyes at the phony self deprecation of Lisa’s continued use of the "loser" title now that Andy was a television writer.

Filling out the episode contractually obligated running time was a silly plot about Marge making the extra effort to buy healthier foods for her family and her Midday Mommies play group. The thing I most enjoyed here were the songs played for the kids in the group was the brief relief from watching Bart act like Marge.  "I’m not gonna poop in the tub" was a nice lesson, and we also learned that "doggies and kitties don’t last forever, but they do a lot better than fish." But the The food jokes felt too were 100% generic. Healthy food is expensive and tastes bad, we know. The only other standout line came from Homer telling Marge that "Lard Glug" contains neither lard nor glug.

The episode had a good start, but veered into a less than impressive direction more or less immediately. Marge’s storyline, while cute less nauseating than the main one in parts, was really just filler more than anything else. The pranks and the mystery at the beginning of the half hour seemed to be trying to setting up something, but twas all a waste better than Bart trying to help a kid we just met who didn’t really have any redeeming qualities. A few bits had their moments, including Milhouse imagining Andy’s sidekick and Willie as Swim Coach Willie, but it wasn’t enough to save the second half doldrums.

3 Responses to “Synergy Pines for Its Lost Youth and Innocence”

  1. 1 Celia
    24 November 2009 at 7:40 pm

    The “mystery” at the beginning of the episode took up half the time. I’m not saying a nice bit of backstory doesn’t go down well often, but it turned out to be a whole lot of buildup and fanfare for the sake of nothing very much, just this empty blah of a character. So many of the episodes are so nothing. Even the IGN people know it, although they’re presumably paid to be kind. Or maybe the internet’s just broken my brain enough that everything seems boring now. Or it’s just me being a miserable loser again.

    This episode could have explored the darker aspects of the kind of adult men that hang around with children. Not that I’m saying to make a Very Special Episode about Serious Business, just to make something less bland and featureless. Something with teeth that people’ll fucking remember. And if that means upsetting a few people, well…those people probably enjoy being upset about TV anyway. It’s sad when the episode summaries have this faint smear of potential that could make good TV, but just end up being a pot of nothing much because everyone had to get their own ideas in. You made a post a few days ago where you quoted Harry Shearer lamenting that there were too many writers working on the show nowadays, and I think he’s right. The plots do seem to be more diffuse.

    I think I’m rambling. Sorry. Thanks for letting me use your blog to ramble about The Simpsons.

    • 2 Charlie Sweatpants
      24 November 2009 at 7:53 pm

      Rambling is always welcome. Half the reason we started this site is the fact that any time anyone posts something even vaguely critical of Zombie Simpsons on nohomers.net or most of the other established Simpsons sites morons jump down their throats. Dead Homer Society is where you can come to complain in peace. Besides, pixels are free.

      • 3 Celia
        25 November 2009 at 9:07 am

        I find it’s either “damn Comic Boog Guys and their complaints about every little thing” or “The Simpsons is shit, why are you even watching it?” and no space in either direction to let me yap like a big yapping nerd. Better out than in, as they say.

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