213. Viva Ned Flanders

(originally aired January 10, 1999)
One of the Scully years’ biggest crimes is making me hate Homer. Or rather, the exaggerated cartoon version of himself he had become. But another aspect that made it even worse is that no one seemed to comment that his behavior was anything unusual. As obnoxious, inconsiderate and downright brain dead as his comments and actions were, no one around him would call him out on what really is clinically insane behavior. There’s so much wrong with this episode, rotten almost to its core, but what baffled me the most is that it seemed to center around canonizing this new cray-go-nuts Homer, almost like a spiritual sequel to “Lost Our Lisa,” but instead of just the last three minutes, it’s the entire episode. But even before all of that, our episode begins where Flanders is goaded into a confession at church, revealing that he’s sixty years old, and has kept his youth by living a tame, risk-free life. This whole idea feels so silly, considering it steps on the idea he was raised by beatniks, but honestly, the episode gets so much worse from this point it’s the least of my worries.

Ned feels he’s squandered his life by playing it safe, so who does he turn to? Captain Wacky, of course, who all of a sudden has in place a program for living on the edge, and decides to take Ned to Las Vegas. Much of the back half of the episode consists of Homer doing something incredibly stupid and irresponsible, and Flanders either not reacting to it at all, or asking how he could be so stupid and irresponsible, not out of anger, but of reverent amazement. I was really just plain stunned more than anything watching Homer not even bat an eye as he makes reckless turns through town, gambles away all of Ned’s cash and credit cards, and inadvertently cause the death of Captain Lance Murdoch. He’s really beyond a cartoon character, because in a cartoon there are at least some clear motives for what someone is doing. Here, I really don’t understand what Homer is doing through parts of this show; he doesn’t act like anything closely resembling a human being. And again, no one seems to comment on this. Ned has become Homer’s sidekick, which is something that makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

So our big third act climax is that during their wild Vegas night, Homer and Ned get remarried to two cocktail waitresses. Okay. Well considering they’re already married, then this new one is presumably not legally binding. So that’s it. They straighten it out and leave town. End of episode. Or we can have a big dumb chase sequence that makes absolutely no sense that ends with the two of them having to walk home through the desert. Yeah, that’ll work. I’m hard pressed to really add on or elaborate on anything; most of the entire episode as I’ve said is Homer doing some absolutely moronic and Ned acting as his lapdog lackey. From this, I assume that the writers think that Homer’s behavior in this episode was so hilarious that it could act as the crutch for the entire show. If that’s the case, then we are in big, big trouble from this point on. The throne for worst episode gets refilled and “Kidney Trouble” was only two shows ago. Oh dear.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I hate the beginning with blowing up Burns’ casino. The writers tried to cover their asses about how it makes no sense for it to still be there after they moved the town, but it just serves to remind how much it wouldn’t make sense for them to move it, and also how the ending of that episode made no fucking sense. It’s just like they were saying, remember how that made no sense, and neither does this? Well let’s remind you. And then for some reason Don Rickles was still in the building when they blew it up. Okay.
– Perhaps the only good line from the episode comes from Reverend Lovejoy (“And, once again, tithing is ten percent off the top. That’s gross income, not net, please people, don’t force us to audit.”)
– The craziness starts when Homer stands up in church to put Ned on trial about apparently lying about his age, making a humungous, overly dramatic speech which everyone in church just sits quietly for and listens to. And all gasp in unison when appropriate. Why is this happening?
– An episode about Ned wanting to live life more dangerously is feasible, but… it just doesn’t work here. I don’t buy his wanting to be more risky, and I certainly don’t like how he words it that he feels he’s wasted his life. That’s not the Ned I know and love.
– I guess Homer barbecuing a chicken over the chimney is something we expect is normal for him to do now. I don’t get it, when did he become Homer the Daredevil? When did this become normal behavior for him? If Homer wants a chicken, he whines for Marge to cook it for dinner. I don’t think he’d even have the energy to climb the ladder to the roof on his own volition.
– Homer talking to Ned in the car about living life impulsively pretty much mirrors the scene with him and Lisa in “Lost Our Lisa,” except it’s even more terrifying here since it’s happening with more than half of the episode left to go.
– Murdoch’s lovely assistant appears to be the replacement Lisa from “Spin-Off Showcase.” Just interesting to note.
– So during Murdoch’s stunt, Homer hilariously sits up from the ‘X’ to make sure Ned doesn’t spill his beer. Murdoch is startled and reacts, and ends up crashing his bike. His head is still encased with a safe, though probably a lightweight one to hold on his shoulders, but he flies off the bike and hits that wall so hard. Just from seeing it, and maybe it’s just me, but I think he’s dead. That impact felt so final to me, there’s no way he survived. And Homer walks away not giving a shit. At that point, my hatred towards him was seething.
– Alright, what’s left… Ned attempting suicide, wacky chase scene atop slot machines… oh, one last thing that was pointless was the Moody Blues cameo. Homer addresses them by name, and each band member gets one line each. In the coming seasons, we’ll be seeing that over and over and over again. Ugh…

24 thoughts on “213. Viva Ned Flanders

  1. I still hate The Kidney episode more. It’s so unfunny the whole way through, where at least I got some enjoyment out of this one. I dislike what it does to homer’s character, but it’s been a slide and we are there.

    If you are throwing your hands up in disgust at this one you are in for an awful few years.

  2. This episode is wacky as hell, but I think it’s meant to be seen that way. The Scully era is a different kettle of fish to the classic era, and I personally can at least make it through a Scully era episode by watching it in a relaxed, comedy driven fashion.

    That doesn’t mean the Scully era is good. Cos it’s not – it’s a shadow of seasons 1 – 8. But it still can entertain me for a half hour even if the writing’s bad or something doesn’t make sense or whatever. That’s more than I can say for seasons 17 – present, where the writing’s bad and stuff doesn’t make sense, but it just bores me to death.

    Just a personal viewpoint though. I grew up with a mix of classic/Scully episodes (mainly classic, but a good portion Scully), so maybe I’m just used to it.

    1. Yeah, I’d agree with the assessment of wacky vs. boring. I’ll take anger over apathy any day. I also grew up with a combo of classic reruns and first-run Scullys so I was hoping nostalgia would have helped me a little bit through these years. Not working so far, but there’s lots more to go.

  3. I think it’s interesting that your post on “When You Dish Upon a Star” is getting more responses than this one or “Kidney Trouble.”

    It’s easy to look at that kind of episode and just get pissed off at the guest stars, but in the latter kind of episode the blame can only be put on Homer. And that’s just kind of uncomfortable, because we all love Homer. It’s a lot more painful to watch a character deteriorate than to watch the storytelling deteriorate.

  4. I like this episode (for what it is). I’m not sure why you still get so winded up about Homer acting zany… if he started becoming too “zany” after season 8 or so then that means Homer has been zany for most of the seasons and that is how he is a majority of the time.

    Saying phrases such as “the exaggerated cartoon version of himself” is silly.. he IS a cartoon lol. You point out all the “unrealistic” stuff about the episodes, but… it’s a cartoon. That’s kind of the beauty of it, the writers have some freedom as to what they make the characters do.

    Don’t see this as me bitching, just my two cents. It hurts seeing you bash all of these episodes. Even if you don’t like them there is SOME good you could focus on. Then again I can go write my own blog if I don’t like what you write …

    Anyways, I enjoy your posts nonetheless. Keep em coming

    1. “You point out all the “unrealistic” stuff about the episodes, but… it’s a cartoon.”

      I think Mike would agree with this…this show was more than just a cartoon. That’s what made it special. If you don’t see that, then you enjoy this show for different reasons than I do. I also think he’s well within his rights to bash these episodes. An episode like this might fit in with a lesser show, but the Simpsons is held to a higher standard, and rightfully so.

      And yes, unfortunately with the length of the show’s run Homer has now been “zany” for more seasons than he hasn’t, and that’s why me and many others wish this show would have ended long ago. Season 9 was the cutoff point, everything that needed to be said and done was already said and done, after that it’s just filler. I actually think Summer of 4 ft. 2 at the end of season 7 would have been a nice finale, but I like season 8 so let’s go with season 9.

      1. TRASH OF THE TITANS seemed like a good way to end the show imo, with Springfield moving and all that jazz and it being episode 200 and all.

        …Until I started reading blogs like this one, I never realized anyone thought season 9 was weak (“Principle and the Pauper” notwithstanding).

    2. There being more shit than good is not a great way to defend the slide. Zany homer is not the only problem, but it is a problem. If they had a different show with some zany fat piece of shit that would be fine but homer simpson was at least well meaning most of the time and not a crass buffoon that everyone inexplicably loves now.

      The simpsons was an animated sitcom for many years, a CLEVER, brilliant, sitcom at that. Which meant it treated the characters as human beings and NOT cartoons. It’s used as a pejorative because the show INTENTIONALLY DISTANCED ITSELF from being a cartoon, and ended up as that as the series went on.

  5. I thought this episode was good for a long time but I recently rewatched it and found it pretty boring. While I just commented WIZARD OF EVERGREEN TERRACE is surprisingly funny, as you cover more season 10 episodes I have to keep going “Oh, that episode was season 10? Hm. Maybe season 10 did kind of suck, a lot…”

    I think, from here on out, there are 3 really good episodes… this season’s episode where Simpsons go to Japan, season 12’s “HOMR”, and season 13’s Homer-pot-smoking one. None are perfect episodes but they’re all funny and clever. And… There’s actually a couple season 18 (!) episodes I don’t mind as well. Other than that…. one or two good lines/sight gags an episode if we’re lucky.

    I’m sure this has been asked, but are you going to cover the Simpsons Movie at some point?

  6. i HATED the beginning. because by all logic, they should have just gone to the burns casino, but the writers just HAD to have vegas. so they had to get rid of the casino, which brought up the town moving deal, which really underlined how rapidly the show’s writing is falling apart.

    also, episodes where they go to an actual place, mr. lisa goes to washington notwithstanding, rarely sit well with me (look at capital city, terror lake, cypress creek.. their made-up places are so much better!). it always feels like they just cram in as many stereotypes as they can. australians are bizarre, new yorkers are rude, japanese people are obsessed with technology, and so on… here is no exception, we’re constantly being reminded that they’re in vegas. it gets very annoying.

    also, i just have to throw this in real quick – I like the way Snrub thinks!

  7. This episode is actually a big favourite of mine and one of the few wacky episodes that Mike Scully did an awesome job with. I was laughing alot and loved the premise and dream sequence with Homer and his two wives. The ending with Homer and Ned getting into the car saying “So long suckers!” just as they both get beaten up is one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen done in this show, so in conclusion this episode is really underrated and should have won the Emmy in my opinion.

    1. That would have meant that King of the Hill would never have won, to give it its full title, the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (for Programming Less Than One Hour).

      And I think it’s fair to say that that would have been an absolute travesty – especially as “And They Call It Bobby Love” is much more entertaining than Jerkass Homer doing stuff in Vegas that would surely land him in jail in real life, and he and the supposedly-sexagenarian Ned marrying a couple of unattractive floozies while raging drunk.

  8. I still get pissed off about the fact that they retconned Ned to be 60. In Hurricane Neddy, he’s specifically stated to be what? 38? (The psychologist mentions how many years ago it was that Ned was a child)

    Along with Principal and the Pauper and That 90s Show, it just goes to show that the writers have no god damn respect for the characters, the show, or the fans.

    1. Yeah, I never believed he was dead. After all, he did survive falling into water with sharks, mountain lions, and electric eels.

    1. Just so they could have an excuse for Homer and Flanders to go to Vegas, I think. If Mr. Burns’ Casino is still in Springfield, they could have just as easily spent the episode there, but of course they demolish it in the first minute so they can turn this into yet another crazy gimmicky travel episode. They’re literally going out of their way at this point to make the episodes make less sense.

  9. While the Moody Blues was a pointless cameo, I did get a kick out of Ray Thomas proclaiming “I’ve got fatty!” and that apparently he has a knife hidden in his flute.

  10. This episode is literal garbage. I hate just about everything about it. Homer’s characterization is yet again a big issue here: he has no motivation for his insane antics, he just does them because the plot calls for it. None of the other characters call him on it. In fact, they’re actually happy and supportive, which makes this episode even more infuriating. It’s an aggravating mess.

    Of course, there’s tons of other issues. There’s the stupid Vegas wives, the ridiculous opening with Burns’s casino (they moved the whole thing somehow), the fact that everybody believes Homer in church, the Murdoch bit, Flanders trying to kill himself, the stupid Moody Blues cameo that adds nothing to the story, and a ton of others. This episode is absolute trash from start to finish. I’ve hated it since it first aired, and it hasn’t become any better over 20 years later. One of the worst episodes, for sure.

  11. I agree entirely that the Moody Blues cameo is pointless – but that certainly wouldn’t stop me listening to their music. 🙂

  12. Marge’s line, “Now it’s Marge’s time to shine!”, was used on her character page on the show’s website for many years, along with “Nutty fudgkins!” from “Mr. Spritz Goes to Washington”.

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