08
Oct
14

Compare & Contrast: Bonding at Sea

Boy Scoutz 'N the Hood15

“Dad, I know I’ve been a little hard on you the last couple of days, but if I had the strength to lift my arms, I’d give you a hug.” – Bart Simpson

As is often the case with Zombie Simpsons episodes, it’s easiest to understand the many, many horrible problems of “The Wreck of the Relationship” by looking at a single moment and pulling all the loose threads that dangle from it.  And, since Zombie Simpsons literally always repeats The Simpsons, we can also see how the exact same thing was done vastly better many years ago.  The screamingly obvious choice is Homer and Bart’s reconciliation out at sea, something handled much faster and funnier back in Season 5’s “Boy Scoutz ‘N the Hood”.

Before getting to that shared moment, however, take a minute to consider just what it is that Bart and Homer are fighting over in each episode.  In Season 5, Bart joins the Junior Campers in the midst of a squishy bender.  He tries to bail, but is sucked in by his desire to play with knives, and then stays because of all the cool skills he acquires (“ooh, floor pie”).  He doesn’t want Homer on the rafting trip because he knows (quite correctly, as we see) that Homer would be an unmitigated disaster and a total embarrassment.  There’s a complex and dysfunctional relationship at work, with Bart trying to escape Homer.

Boy Scoutz 'N the Hood13

Bart knows his father well.  

In Season 26, Homer and Bart get into a spat over whether or not Bart will eat a piece of broccoli.  Then they argue about it for days.  Then they get mysteriously kidnapped.  And then, after all that time spent doing so very, very little, we see something similar to what happens in “Boy Scoutz ‘N the Hood”: Bart starts learning new skills and actually likes it.  The closest Zombie Simpsons can come to showing us this is a montage followed by one of their trademark expository conversations,* but for the briefest of moments there’s something akin to a real character moment.

*(Sample dialogue: “You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?/So what if I am?”, “You’re my son and you will hate what I hate.”, “I like being a sailor.”)

The problem (well, one of them) is that this lasts approximately five seconds before Homer and Bart revert to what they were doing before.  The twist, if it can even be called that, is that now Homer is the one being disobedient since Bart is now (for whatever reason) an officer.  And just like that we’re back to one note scenes that repeat the same argument over and over again.  If this was studded with killer jokes, that’d be one thing, but it’s mostly people dancing around, an octopus jumping on Homer for some reason, and other one off nonsense.  And that’s before the ending, but we’ll get to that in a moment.

the-wreck-of-the-relationship-promo-2-108138

This is the promo picture they released.   It’s a static image and it still overstates what actually goes on.

Back in the halcyon land of Season 5, not only do we actually get to see Bart both learn and apply the new talents that make him love the Junior Campers, but the rafting trip they go on actually follows from what we’ve seen instead of involving a bunch of kidnappers breaking into the house.  The trip itself is Homer at his unthinkingly destructive best.  He’s the one who loses the map, sending them down the wrong fork in the river.  He’s the one who confidently asserts that the current will take them back to land, getting them stranded.  He’s the one who botches the flare gun firin’, loses the last cheese doodle without tying off his fishing line, and even gets the raft punctured.  None of it is malicious or willful, he’s just being his inadvertently catastrophic self.

We can laugh at all these things because the show itself never insults our intelligence by pretending that there’s any real danger.  Mixed in with all of that are dolphins taunting them about their forthcoming demise, the police calling off the search because their boat doesn’t have beer and cold cuts, and, the savior of the day, a Krusty Burger on an unmanned oil rig.  All of these are perfectly absurd, but they aren’t random flights of fancy or weird one off gags, they’re natural extensions of the show’s reality.  In Springfield, the police really are that incompetent and selfish, the animals tend to be very smart, and Krusty is exactly the kind of autocratic buffoon who would open a burger joint where there’s no one to buy any burgers (and over the objections of his employees, no less).

Boy Scoutz 'N the Hood14

Ugh. He’s taking a bath on this.

By contrast, the crap at the end of “Wreck of the Relationship” is a grab bag of “huh?” moments and weird tangents.  The captain suddenly becomes a juggling drunk.  A net full of “therapy bears” we hadn’t seen before takes out the radio we also hadn’t seen before.  Even the storm itself descends out of nowhere.

OverboardAndBack

Homer goes overboard for the third time, then comes right back. This is their climactic ending.

Everyone gets suddenly panicked and scared, except for Homer who becomes instantly sober and decides that he’s going to lower the anchor (huh?) until Bart magically produces a piece of broccoli that convinces him to abandon the plan.  I suppose it’s nice that they’re at least trying to tie the story together (Jebus knows they often don’t bother), but they’ve constructed such a one-note conflict that the end is almost written for them.  Homer and Bart spend most of the episode basically yelling the same thing at each other over and over, so when it comes time to patch things up, the only move they’ve left themselves with is to have both of them just reverse their positions from earlier.

The ending of “Boy Scoutz ‘N the Hood” both fits their characters better and has enough room in its story to let Bart and Homer reconcile without black and white declarations of respect and admiration.  Not only do we see Homer and Bart in far more extreme circumstances (without the useless drama), but Homer has a reason to produce his little item.  (He stole it from that Borgnine guy.)

Even better, Bart and Homer don’t have to have a manufactured moment of out-of-character respect for one another.  They think they’re going to die and then, at long last, Homer finally proves himself useful by sniffing out the Krusty Burger (which he initially calls “the foul stench of death”, one of those jokes you don’t even notice until a subsequent viewing).  When they do get to Krusty Burger, Bart admits he’s proud of Homer for saving them, but is brushed off because Homer is eating, which Bart promptly begins to do as well.

“The Wreck of the Relationship” has father-son reconciliation that’s dumb, nearly joke free, nonsensical, requires Bart to pull a piece of broccoli out of nowhere, and seems to indicate that Homer and Bart now respect each other, even though that’s anathema to their entire relationship.  “Boy Scoutz ‘N the Hood” has a reconciliation that’s bursting with gags, perfectly fits both the story and the characters (including leaving them in their default antagonism), and doesn’t rely on magic broccoli.  When Homer brings out Borgnine’s knife, it’s a joke (two, actually, after the cutaway to Borgnine himself), it makes sense, and it calls back to something Bart had wanted all along.  It’s the opposite of schmaltz, and it certainly doesn’t need Marge showing up at the end to ask them how they both feel.


8 Responses to “Compare & Contrast: Bonding at Sea”


  1. 8 October 2014 at 1:35 pm

    That exploding appendix makes my day every time.

  2. 3 Joe H
    8 October 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Boy Scoutz is also superior because it doesn’t suddenly turn Bart and Homer into raging assholes in order to construct conflict. Even the conflict was absolutely flimsy. Apparently Homer just wants to be “right” and Bart to listen to him. Though all we see is Bart resist on two very minor things (cleaning his room, eating broccoli)

    Now why does Bart like being a sailor? We can guess that it’s because he can make his own decisions, but Offerman just comes across as another bossy parental figure–just one that’s not completely retarded like his actual dad. The episode doesn’t bother to show us why he likes or would like being a sailor, he just does for the sake of the plot. Sure, Bart gets to be an officer (a job he’d naturally like) but we never get a sense that was his goal to begin with. In addition, one would think Bart would abuse his position as an officer for the sake of boyish pranks, yet he just turns into a boringly upstanding midshipman.

    Also the Flanders rivalry has been diluted to the point on non-existence. Flanders (and Borgnine) being a role model to Bart by virtue of being their scoutmasters, or successful parental figures to Bart in Homer’s eyes. It gave a very good reason for Homer to go out of his way to prove that he’s just as good of a parent and role model than those two. Hence, Homer digging them deeper and deeper is naturally funny. In comparison, Offerman doesn’t even seem to make Homer jealous as a father figure–just mad that he can’t order Bart around.

    Even “Bart Star” had better character motivation, even though Homer was more annoying. Homer initial involvement was due to the tried and true Flanders rivalry and the conflict arose from a believable misunderstanding in which Homer believed he was being a good father doing Bart a favor.

    In this episode, you never really get the sense that Homer loved Bart at all. Bart just ate the magically produced broccoli to shut the idiot up. Zombie Homer just needed Zombie Bart to humor his autocratic behavior and all was right in the world.

    Lastly, anyone kinda find it OOC for Homer to get so uptight over the “brief nudity”? Compare that reaction to when Homer learned Bart worked at a burlesque house in “Bart after Dark” where he encountered such risque behaviors on a daily basis.

    • 8 October 2014 at 3:17 pm

      Well said Joe, also I recall Homer being freaked out when Bart was watching adult tv shows on stolen cable.

    • 5 Sarah J
      8 October 2014 at 6:11 pm

      Agreed. One of the biggest reasons I hate Zombie Simpsons (this is saying a lot because there are many reasons to hate this show) is that the characters rarely act in-character any more. The writers aren’t thinking of ways for these specific characters to drive the plot forward; they’re just taking stock sitcom plots and forcing Simpsons characters into them whether it works or not. It’s terrible, and often results in missed opportunities. The Simpsons worked because it subverted a lot of the usual sitcom conventions. Having Homer and Bart get forced on a relationship trip COULD be funny, if Homer and Bart actually acted like themselves. Putting funny characters in new situations, that’s how you get comedy. But Zombie Homer and Bart aren’t funny characters. They’re just blank slates for the writers to do whatever they want with. I guess you could argue that any character is up to the writers, but characters are a big part of any TV show an we watch them because we want to see what they do next. If the character has zero consistent personality, traits, and so on, we lose interest.

    • 6 Karl
      9 October 2014 at 10:22 am

      Remember The Simpsons Movie? Suddenly Flanders was the ideal parental figure Bart has always wanted because he gave him pants, up until the very last minutes of the movie where Homer gave Bart the opportunity of saving the world… I mean, Springfield, from the nuclear bomb.

      Did it have sense? Nope, but Homer-Bart’s relationship stopped having sense a long time ago.

  3. 7 Stan
    8 October 2014 at 4:06 pm

    It sounds like the main storyline of The Wreck was written by Bart and Homer in a state seen in the first pic.


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