Posts Tagged ‘Saddlesore Galactica



01
Aug
12

Crazy Noises: Saddlesore Galactica

Saddlesore Galactica1

“Okay, we’ll do a different song.  Who cares?  They all end up sounding the same anyway.” – Mr. Largo

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 “hemorrhagic”).

Today’s episode is 1113, “Saddlesore Galactica”.  Tomorrow will be 1114, “Alone Again Natura-Diddily”. 

[Note: Dave couldn’t make it again this week.  I’m beginning to think this “job” of his is just an excuse not to watch Season 11.]

Charlie Sweatpants: Ready to begin?

Mad Jon: I am

  Saddlesore?

Charlie Sweatpants: Very sore.

The best part of this episode is the beginning, and even then it’s all things that have been done better in earlier episodes.

Mad Jon: Agreed. This is a straight downhill episode. Shaun White would love it.

Charlie Sweatpants: That’s Winter Olympics, man.

Mad Jon: Yeah I know, but I don’t know any summer athletes who would enjoy a downhill…

That being said, Homer started at the bottom.

Charlie Sweatpants: Even the best parts at the beginning are retreads. Largo only wanting to play the same old standbys, the Simpsons at a fair, Homer making 1970s rock references. They were all things that had been done by the show not that long before.

Mad Jon: The Vietnam vet crap was a prelude to a Jerkass-ness that just, wouldn’t, stop.

Charlie Sweatpants: Case in point, the OmniGogs, which are one of the better jokes in the episode, feel like leftovers from "Twisted World of Marge Simpson".

Mad Jon: Agreed again, that would have been a great franchise in that episode.

Charlie Sweatpants: The Jerkass levels here are head splitting, almost literally when Homer imagines himself eating pearls.

Mad Jon: This man deep fries his shirt within minutes of the beginning.

Charlie Sweatpants: And screams at the band, which naturally makes them do whatever he says.

Mad Jon: Of course.

Charlie Sweatpants: And that’s before things really get going once they get the horse.

Homer’s various money making schemes are all dumb, then it gets ratcheted up even higher with them racing against professional jockeys, and then it gets even worse with the jockey elves, and then it gets even worst with the jockey elves firing a cannon and chasing Homer through the fucking streets.

Mad Jon: Disclaimer that I should have probably given before we started:

Once they went to Jockyland, I quit.

Charlie Sweatpants: Really?

Mad Jon: I left the episode on in the background, so that I wouldn’t be lost, but I left to clean the kitchen.

I just can’t stand that part.

  I just can’t stand it.

  It is so awful.

Charlie Sweatpants: So you didn’t get to experience the hemorrhagic joys of the chase scene and the super soaker ending?

Mad Jon: I remember that part, but the only note I have after the suicide note I wrote when Homer went into the jockey locker room is a question about how any sanctioning body would allow a 10-year-old to compete professionally.

  Oh, and something about Clinton being the worst.

  This episode could have fit in 5 or 6 seasons later.

Charlie Sweatpants: Agreed.

Mad Jon: I think my heart rate is up 20 bpm right now just thinking about the end.

  And I watched it several days ago.

Charlie Sweatpants: It keeps asking us to overlook more and more inane crap, and then it ends.

There’s no payoff for all that crap, you get the feeling that if it’d gone on another five minutes the jockeys would’ve become zombies and then Homer would need to visit a wizard to stop them. It was on a very sharp upward curve.

  It just ran out of time.

Mad Jon: Good call. I shudder to think about where this could have been if they let it go a littler longer.

I wonder if they would have ran out of horse related Jerkass-ness with Homer…

Charlie Sweatpants: Well, the horses all seemed to be sentient as well, so why not have them start talking?

Mad Jon: That was probably the last part to miss the cut.

Charlie Sweatpants: "Duncan" in this episode is basically like Air Bud, only without any of the intelligence.

Mad Jon: At least a golden retriever is cute. This thing had a nose ring.

Charlie Sweatpants: Like I said, things kept getting zanier and zanier.

  At first he was just racing fast, then he started beating other horses, then they stopped even running after him.

Mad Jon: But then they did, and there was a fight where Duncan stole their whips and hit them, or something.

Charlie Sweatpants: Always gets worse. There is a kind of geometric perfection to it, albeit one that is increasingly boring to watch.

This is an episode where, very late into it, you’re not even sure how it’s going to end, you just want it to end as quickly as possible.

Mad Jon: I feel like I am at a movie I didn’t want to go to anyway, and I am super drunk so I just keep telling myself it’s almost over and someone will take me home.

Charlie Sweatpants: It is an unpleasant feeling.

Mad Jon: That being said there are a couple of good lines. Not as many as even a poor episode would have, but there are a few.

Charlie Sweatpants: I do like the one jockey asking the other if he’d like to race clockwise.

Mad Jon: I particularly like the rich guy who has broken his third monocle this week.

  Also the jockey who wants to race clockwise, agreed.

Charlie Sweatpants: The rich guy is good. I also like Largo’s "fuck it" statement when he storms off saying they all sound the same anyway.

  It’s a pity the episode didn’t follow that up and actually have the school band sound like, you know, a school band instead of professional musicians during the competition.

Mad Jon: I am particular to Wiggum’s "I just want the horse to have a good home or be food" as well. Mainly because of how lazily he delivers it.

Charlie Sweatpants: Wiggum is great in that scene. His "I’d rather let a thousand guilty men go free than chase after them" is classic him.

Unfortunately, all of these lines are just speed bumps on ever increasing suck pit that is this episode.

Mad Jon: Yeah, the good lines aren’t even an apology. This is an episode that twice breaks the 3 1/2 wall.

  Stupid CBG.

Charlie Sweatpants: I actually like the second time he shows up.

Mad Jon: Meh.

Charlie Sweatpants: When Lisa thinks Marge is getting a gambling problem, and he says "I’m watching you". I dunno. I’ve always liked that.

Mad Jon: I hate the whole "We know we’re out of ideas, so we beat you to pointing it out" crap.

Charlie Sweatpants: I do too. The first time he shows up is very revealing.

It’s kinda funny, but it’s also clearly lost its bite. They made that joke, with Comic Book Guy himself, the first time in "Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie". It kinda worked in Season 8, when things were still strong. But by Season 11, there weren’t too many people left who were still saying it’s as good as it’s ever been.

They’re hiding behind Comic Book Guy, and in doing so are also showing just how out of ideas they really are.

Mad Jon: Yep.

Can’t really describe that any better.

Charlie Sweatpants: And don’t forget the Jerkass Homer, which also kept getting worse.

  Ready to bury Maude Flanders?

Mad Jon: I am.

31
Jul
12

On the Jockey Elves and the Land of Chocolate

Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk8

“Well, uh, I wish the candy machine wasn’t so picky about taking beat up dollar bills . . . because a lot of workers really like candy.” – Homer Simpson
“We understand, Homer.  After all, we are from the land of chocolate.” – Horst
“Mmm, the Land of Chocolate.” – Homer Simpson

There’s little doubt that “The Principal and the Pauper” is the most infamous episode in the history of the show, in no small part because it was one of the first episodes that was basically 100% boring.  Prior to Armin Tamzarian blazing his way into the history of the decline and fall of The Simpsons, even episodes that hadn’t been up to the show’s all but impossibly lofty standards still contained plenty of excellent material.  “The Principal and the Pauper” was so demented, however, that everything that might have resembled humor got squeezed out in favor of trying to make that painfully ditzy plot move along.  “Saddlesore Galactica”, coming two and a half worsening seasons later, had many more bad episodes to hide amongst than “The Principal and the Pauper”, but manages to make a strong case for second place on the infamy list by doing essentially the same thing: having a main premise that is elementally, painfully and incomprehensibly bad. 

At it’s most basic, having horse jockeys be subterranean elves is a decently Simpson-y idea.  Jockeys really are small, sometimes frightfully skinny people, and if one dressed as an elf for Halloween he’d be a shoe in for best costume at most parties.  Taking that stereotypical and mildly offensive similarity and making it funny is exactly the kind of thing The Simpsons did. 

The difference is that when The Simpsons put up impossible flights of fancy, it kept them fantastical and it kept them short.  When Snowball II and Santa’s Little Helper are watching the news late at night in “Bart’s Comet” and feign sleep as Bart walks by, it’s something that you know isn’t serious.  When Homer flings himself out of the power plant and crashes the car while singing the Flintstones’ theme in “Marge vs. the Monorail”, it doesn’t affect the story, it’s just a funny way to open the episode.  When they show Vishnu working switches at the center of the Earth in “Bart vs. Australia”, it doesn’t change any other scene, it’s just a background gag to keep things lighthearted.  As a concept, “all jockeys are really elves” fits in well with those.

But instead of being tucked safely into a real story like it should’ve been, the jockey elves were put on center stage and left out to dry.  This is the crucial failing of this episode, the one bad rivet that sends the whole bridge crashing down the ravine.  It’s so unexpected and plainly stupid that, like Skinner being an imposter and then everything going back to normal, you have to wonder how anyone, let alone professional comedy writers, could ever have thought it was a good idea. 

To illustrate just how bad this is, consider what “Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk” would’ve been like if, instead of being efficient German technocrats, Hans, Fritz, and Horst had actually been candy gremlins from the land of chocolate who chased after Homer through the streets of Springfield.  You could leave every other joke, even the entirety of the brilliant first act, in place, and that plot twist – real life candy gremlins chase Homer through the streets – would’ve spoiled the whole thing. 

Fantasy and Reality

The Land of Chocolate works between Homer’s ears, less so on Evergreen Terrace.

The same can be said for what “Brother Can You Spare Two Dimes?” would be like if it’d had a Tamzarian twist where the Herb who came back was the real Homer in disguise.  Similarly, Guy Incognito was funny as hell, but he also wasn’t Homer’s long lost brother.  The guy who was tired of people making fun of his giant hand didn’t use it to strangle anyone, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera. 

That the show felt that it was both necessary and okay to rest entire episodes on overly absurd ideas was still surprising in Season 11, which is why the phrase “jockey elves” sends shivers up the spines of so many Simpsons fans.  By Season 12, it was basically routine.  So episodes like “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes”, “The Great Money Caper”, and “New Kids on the Blecch”, which have endings that are just as insane and magical as the jockey elves, don’t register as much.  Since then it’s been pretty much the same, up to and including Season 23, where a super powered Lady Gaga, an immortal talking bar rag, and swarms of magic robots (twice!) are just par for the course. 




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