215. Sunday, Cruddy Sunday

(originally aired January 21, 1999)
With a title that’s very much an omen, this episode is pretty bad. But I’ll be honest with you, I was expecting a lot worse. This is one of those episodes that stuck out to me as being absolutely atrocious, but it didn’t feel that level of terrible upon re-watch. Where shows like “Kidney Trouble” and “Viva Ned Flanders” were particularly offensive, this one was just kinda… whatever. Its lack of story and absolute squandering of its cast was disappointing, sure, but never to the point that I became upset. For its bombastic setting and cavalcade of guest stars, it was just very banal. The “fun” begins when Homer crosses paths with some schmuck named Wally Kogan, a travel agent with no real discernible personality who invites Homer and his buddies on his bus to Miami for the Super Bowl. Before long, a collection of notable secondary characters are on their way to the game. We see a lot of familiar faces who make sense as football fans, but also many who don’t. Sideshow Mel? Comic Book Guy? Reverend Lovejoy? Burns’ lawyer? Something’s not quite right with the whole line-up.

But really, none of that matters since every single character exhibits no real personality throughout the episode, they’re just mindless sheep in Homer’s insane Super Bowl mob. While I suppose the point is that they’re like revved up football fans psyched for the game, it still feels like such wasted potential. You have a show filled with so many great side characters and not give any of them their time to shine? Instead they’re identity-less, with each one saying a token line of expository dialogue here and there (“I can’t believe it! We’re actually in the winning locker room!” Thanks a lot, Ned, I didn’t notice.) It’s kind of amazing how much is in this episode, and yet how empty it feels. The whole second half of the show is Homer and co. running from set piece to set piece, with isolated guest appearances from the likes of Dolly Parton and Rupert Murdoch. Nothing that happens is particularly funny, or in the least bit interesting. It’s just like a bunch of random crap that happens. Like I said earlier, nothing I can get too angry about, it’s just a bunch of dead air.

There’s something about this episode that feels very ominous; a show filled to the brim with useless guest star appearances, with the hopes that they’ll be funny and eat up enough screen time that they don’t have to write as much story. But in the end, it all feels sort of empty. And it doesn’t kill enough time at all, so the writers have to cram in a sub”plot” involving Marge and Lisa coloring eggs. I barely have much to comment on the main story, so I got nothing for this one. It’s just inoffensive and dry, with only the ridiculousness of Castallaneta’s Vincent Price impersonation to help it along. The writers (all four of them!) then try to cover their asses by having Pat Summerall and John Madden comment on the absurd and nonsensical nature of the episode, but that only serves to make the show out to be even worse in retrospect. “What a way to treat the loyal fans who put up with so much nonsense from this franchise!” No kidding. It’s a pretty damn awful show, but some sporadically placed laughs help it slightly. Very slightly.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The post office opening is pretty much laugh-free. There’s also a pretty crass line where the postman assures them the days of disgruntled mailman shooting up the place are in the past, and Skinner comments, “Well, I’m just glad I work in an elementary school.” Now this episode aired a few months before the Colombine massacre, and what seemed to be a growing number of school shootings (not actually true, but from a media stand point anyway). I guess I can’t blame the writers for this being questionable in hindsight, but it’s a pretty distasteful joke nonetheless.
– I did laugh at Homer mistaking ‘colonic’ with ‘colada,’ and singing “Escape” to that effect.
– Wally Kogan is of course named after the classic era writing team Jay Kogan and Wally Waladorsky. I’m sure they must be honored to have one of the dullest characters in the history of the series named after him. And poor Fred Willard with absolutely nothing to work with.
– I get the bit with Homer, Wally and Moe holding the mugs up to their mouths while mentioning the team names, a meta joke about how they can just dub in whatever year’s teams with no concern about lip sync. But it kind of felt too meta, it was just too absurd and inside in practice than it probably was on paper.
– I love Shearer’s nondescript Lenny noises when Homer pleads with him to go to the Super Bowl (“Naaaaaaah…”)
– The bit with Marge coming in saying how glad she is Homer’s going to the Super Bowl feels kind of off, kind of like a sign of things to come where she’d become more and more enabling of her husband’s insane hijinks.
– Like how Jerry “Lightfoot” McGee seems to be Castellaneta doing his Grampa voice from Hey Arnold, a show created by Matt Groening’s brother-in-law.
– The only guest appearance here I like is Troy Aikman as a caricaturist; I love his bizarre insistence of drawing everyone on dune buggies because it’s so stupid and random (“Everyone likes dune buggies!”)
– The absurd Super Bowl ad for the Catholic Church got the show in a lot of trouble back then. The joke is so obvious though, but you know how uptight fundamentalist groups are about things like humor and fun. It’s a pretty good gag, especially Lisa’s confused, slightly disgusted reaction.
– Dolly Parton’s explosive make-up, the gang running out of Murdoch’s skybox Looney Tunes style, winding up in the locker room… the third act is absolute shit. The only bit I like in it is after they get out of jail, we get a montage of them running around like maniacs to “Song 2” by Blur, which is cut short by Moe stopping and saying, “We’ve been running around cheering for an hour! Where the hell’s the game?” It’s just really well timed and delivered.

14 thoughts on “215. Sunday, Cruddy Sunday

  1. i dunno, using song 2 kinda rubbed me the wrong way… it just felt like something that you’d see in any other show.

    1. That reminds me of another thing that bugs me about ZS: the gratuitous montages with licensed music. It’s as if the producers are saying “Look what we can afford to do!”

  2. I know I HATED this episode when it first aired. The B story was much more interesting that the super bowl shit. I remember being really angry at the end, because john madden or whoever literally shits on the episode, and it’s like, motherfucker I just watched that. If you KNEW it was bad you should have shredded the script and wrote something better.

  3. I hate this episode. I hated it when it aired, and I still hate it to this day. I hated the whole covering the mouths with the glasses and crap to.

  4. Yeah, this wasn’t a great episode, but I did get a kick out of Rupert Murdoch (voiced by himself) introducing himself as a “billionaire tyrant.”

  5. I never liked this one, though relieved it’s not just the fact the hole american football thing loses me.

    one odd feeling i always had, was that Wolly Cogan was a cammio from some other series, I kept wondering it was a The Critic stile crossover since the story seemed to be all about him and he knew people like Dolly Partan, but just didn’t seem to fit in the simpsons.

    Either I agree that Vincent price’s “Oh that infurnal clutch!” is probably the best line in the episode.

  6. I liked the scene with Dan Marino, if only to see Jerkass Homer get what he deserves. After being an asshole and intercepting a pass meant for Bart (“This is the greatest day of my life!” “And Homer Simpson with a pick!”), it was absolutely cathartic to see Homer get gruesomely tackled by 2 hulking players (“Bubba, Hacksaw, get that moron.” *grr!* “Uh-oh. Lateral to Bart! AUUGH!” *crick* “My spine.”) Oh, but that doesn’t stop him from stealing the fucking Lombardi Trophy (surprised he didn’t get tackled again after that.)
    “And may the wandering Oakland Raiders someday find a home!” Still rings true today.
    And i liked a few parts at the post office: Bart dicking around after the mailman says it’s “your post office”, “Legends of Comedy, my tuchus! What has Fatty Arbuckle done that i haven’t done?”, and the dead mail scene (Milhouse finds his letter to Santa, and Ralph finds what he thinks is dog food, after a security dog starts sniffing the package- too easy, but honestly, it was an OK joke.)

  7. This episode has enough funny material in it that I’m willing to forgive the dumb plot.

    -When Lisa questions the citizen relocation codes: “Should I flood the chamber?” “Not yet, let’s get some lunch.”
    -“I’ll cap it off with a smooth, refresing colonic.”
    -“The road to the Super Bowl is long and pointless. I mean, when you think about it.” “Heh heh, football’s so great.”
    -“Feh, “bye weeks”. Bronco Nagurski didn’t get no bye weeks, and now he’s DEAD. Well, maybe they’re a good thing.”
    -Homer’s daydream: “That was my last quarterback! What am I gonna do? You!” “Me?” “Yeah, you. Get your hand off my wife’s leg!”
    -“Come on.” “Nah.” “Come ON!” “Nah.” “Oh COME ON!!!” “Nah?” “Yes! With Lenny down, Carl will fall like a domino.”
    -The group of men letting themselves go, but sucking their bellies back in when they see they have a woman bus driver.
    -Rudy’s “too small” to go to the Super Bowl.
    -Homer’s spine being cracked by Bubba and Hacksaw when tackled.
    -Homer tries to smooth things over: “My friends-” “They don’t have the tickets!”
    -“Here comes the kick!” (Homer gets kicked in the butt) “As a doctor, I’d say he’s had enough. But, as a football fan…” (Hibbert kicks him again)
    -“Springfield, O-hiya, Maude! Come on in!”
    -“I’m Dolly Parton.” “I didn’t ask for your life story, just give me the key!”
    -“Homer, we’ve been running around cheering for an hour. Where the hell’s the game?!” “You guys were following me? I was following Flanders!”
    -“I’m Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire tyrant.”
    -“Whoo! I’m going to Disneyland!” “Really? ‘Cause I’m a travel agent and I’ve heard nothing but bad things.”

  8. The third act is pretty bad, yeah. And the ending is stupid. Like, why did they get rings? Did they steal them? It’s implied since Homer made off with the Lombardi Trophy. And since when the hell does Carl have a wife? Anything for an obvious joke, I guess(it’s their anniversary, of course)

  9. Currently going through season 10 and I can’t say I mind this one. Silly but inoffensive and light-hearted romp. Much worse Simpsons eps have higher than ‘only’ a 7 on IMDB.

  10. In contrast to the last episode, this one is a big mess. It’s one of the first times characters aren’t characters, but rather props for the episode. They all act as a mindless hive mind and don’t really exhibit too many signs of their own character aside from the occasional lame joke. The story is pretty bonkers and also somewhat unfocused, and the B plot with Lisa and Marge is just time killing and not interesting. There isn’t even that many good jokes to save it, and many of them (like the mouths behind the mugs, for example) fall flat quite hard. Yet another episode I absolutely hate and think is one of the worst.

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