290. The Frying Game

(originally aired May 19, 2002)
As of late, this show has seemed to be very unconcerned whether its stories contain little things like logic, or sense, or cohesion, or reason. Certain elements or plot turns of recent episodes are so baffling that the writers couldn’t have not noticed them; they must have figured they were funny and wanted you to laugh at them. But this is the grand motherfucking daddy of them all, the ultimate batshit insane episode, with a plot that is so convoluted and ridiculous, all leading up to the most insulting cop-out ending I’ve ever seen. So let’s jump right into this fuck fest. Homer buys Marge a koi pond, which ends up being the chosen habitat for an annoying little creature called the screamapillar (three guesses what it does.) An EPA agent informs the family they have to care for it, as it is an endangered species. How does he show up? He just appears out from behind a far-too-thin tree. This has happened previously with Fat Tony in “Grift of the Magi,” but at least there, it worked a little since Tony is a shady character waiting for opportunity to rear its head. The EPA agent just shows up in the backyard, and then again landing with a giant fucking helicopter in the middle of the night. Who is this guy? What is happening?

Homer accidentally crushes the annoying bug, and ends up serving community service, specifically Meals on Wheels. On the job, he builds a report with a nice old lady Mrs. Bellamy, who ends up being an emotionally manipulative woman who turns Homer and Marge into her servants. This turn… makes no sense, and is so totally sudden since there’s so much shit to cram into this show. She calls Homer at work for a favor, then the next scene we see he’s been run ragged, Marge goes to talk with her and she exposes her true colors. Then all of a sudden Homer and Marge are in fucking maid outfits in her house. Why? They initially don’t want to be rude to this nice old lady, but it soon became very clear that she’s a using bitch, so what’s keeping them there? One night, Mrs. Bellamy is stabbed, and Homer and Marge witness the killer escaping. But with her will recently being changed to leave them her inheritance, they are quickly made top suspects. After killing time with Homer abusing the fact that people think he’s a murderer, police search the Simpson house, and after finding Mrs. Bellamy’s diamond necklace, Homer and Marge are arrested.

So here’s the thing. As far as this episode goes with this, the audience knows Homer and Marge won’t be put to death, or get life in prison, nothing bad will happen. We know this, but on the same coin, the character don’t. Think back to “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish,” where Homer was going to die, and it’s treated with a tone to match, but still managed to be hilarious and fantastic. Here, Homer doesn’t seem the least bit worried about anything, since he’s being his wacky cartoon self. The only point in which he gets saddened is on the walk to the electric chair, though really only because they wanted to do a Green Mile parody. The foreman of the jury cracks a joke with Judge Snyder, the Catholic priest and Lovejoy have a fist fight, Homer pressures his wife to have sex between prison bars… the story isn’t treated with a lick of seriousness or care whatsoever. If none of the characters care about their situation, then why should we? But here comes the ending… Homer’s in the chair, the switch is thrown… and it turns out it was all a ruse, the whole thing was being filmed for a wacky FOX reality show, “Frame-Up.” And nobody knew about it. The questions are endless: how did no one notice any cameras? What kind of magic full-body suit did Carmen Electra wear to make her look like an old woman? Did they infiltrate the police force and the jury system to get the desired results for their program? And on top of that, wouldn’t Homer, Marge and everyone else have to sign agreements allowing FOX to use their likenesses on television? After this whole charade, you think anyone would be receptive to that? They’d have shot all that footage, wasted all that time, all for shit they can’t use. But maybe it could have worked. The episode would have been just as insulting, but they could have had Homer decry the producers for manipulating with people’s lives like he does here, then when one of them shoves a contract under his nose saying he’ll be on TV, he signs up immediately. They do it kind of with Wiggum, but in the capacity of explaining how bullshit the ending was and try to sweep it under the rug. But with Homer it would work since he was the most affected. Instead we’ll just have him stare at Electra’s breasts. Hysterical. Mind-numbingly awful from start to finish, I hereby dub thee the newest worst episode ever.

Tidbits and Quotes
– When Lenny and Carl ask him for advice on marriage, Homer rattles off some joke answers off the top of his head (“Surprise her with a pasta salad! Put a mini beret on your wang!”) And now that’s all I can picture… Goddammit.
– All the screamapillar stuff is so annoying… I mean, outside the screaming. It’s such a convoluted and stupid way to get Homer doing community service. But then you think about the ending and think, well, did FOX plant the screamapillar there to get the ball rolling? At what point did this whole plot begin? Then I stop thinking about it because my head hurts. Then the bug appears in court with a neck brace, and again at Homer’s execution, laughing hysterically. Because of course bugs can do that. Fuck. I did like Homer being charged with “attempted insecticide and aggravated buggery,” a nice subtly dirty joke for once.
– Homer’s stuck doing Meals on Wheels. First up, the home of Crazy Old Man. Except he lives in the Retirement Castle, right? Well why should we come up with a new old character to use in a twenty second scene when we can use one of our regulars? Nobody will notice. Or care. And if you do, then you can suck it.
– The first act break is the biggest fucking cheat. Homer hides in the closet and finds a skeleton there. An actual, physical skeleton. Then after the break, Bellamy reveals it’s just a costume, like it’s a fully shirt and pants with a skeleton just painted on. But it was an actual fucking skeleton. We just saw it. People watch this shit before they put it on the air, right? And Bellamy using a gigantic axe to cut through her steak is just absolutely insulting. What about a big knife? Just… whatever.
– Mrs. Bellamy is voiced by Cloris Leachman, and then later is exposed to be Carmen Electra, who not only is wearing the world’s most convincing prosthetics, but deserves an Emmy (in-universe) for her work here. She sounds just like that old lady! Now, here’s a thought: why don’t we get an actress, who can be well-known, but who can do a convincing old lady voice. That way when you do your ridiculous reveal, at least I can meet you halfway. But no, that’s too much work, let’s just do more stunt casting
– The scene where Homer gets Burns to cover for him is just dreadful. Burns as a character is essentially dead to me. Who was once a convincing and compelling villain is now just a cheap joke, much like every other character now.
– Even the simple jokes don’t make sense anymore. Marge informs Homer of the chores he hasn’t finished, like filling up the aquarium. We see the fish tanks is overflowing with a fish clinging on for dear life. So… no one could have just turned off that hose? Ridiculous.
– So Mrs. Bellamy has some guests over for an old lady get-together: Agnes Skinner, Mrs. Glick and the wealthy dowager. Again, we’ll just use all the old ladies we have at our disposal, regardless of what sense it makes. Bellamy is openly a mean old witch at this point. Agnes makes sense to be there, and maybe even the dowager, but kindly old Mrs. Glick laughing derisively at Skinner? I don’t see it.
– Exposing Wiggum’s pathetic attempts at interrogation, Homer contently says, “Book ’em, Lou!” So Lou puts Wiggum in handcuffs and leads him out. This is fucking crap, Lou’s supposed to be the competent cop, why is this happening? If it were the reverse, maybe I would buy it, but this crap don’t work.
– Every scene here makes no sense. Here’s a perfect example. At Moe’s, everyone is talking about how shocked they are at Homer being a murderer. Homer walks in, haphazardly saying he’d “kill” for a beer. Seeing Moe quickly and nervously give him one, he decides to abuse this privilege and get more stuff out of fear. Now this is an alright set-up, albeit a little dickish from Homer, but it works because it comes from the characters acting somewhat genuine. Then we have this (“Give me some peanuts!” “Ah, ah! You didn’t say you’d kill me!”) Now that the writers have made the characters acknowledge the bit, the scene is ruined, since it’s not real anymore. This happens all the time. Is it that hard to understand?
– Wiggum personally searches through all of Marge’s underwear, so I guess he’s a pervert now. I don’t like that.
– I briefly mentioned all the shit leading up to the ending, and the ending itself, and I really don’t feel like talking about it anymore. It’s really the biggest middle finger the writers have ever given to the audience, like “The Great Money Caper” times a thousand. But before that, we have the only good bit in the entire episode, where Wiggum tells a scared Homer who’s strapped in the electric chair (“Chin up, Homer. We gotta put an electrode there to ground the brain stem. Thank you.”) The only laugh I got this whole show. One small pearl in a sea of shit, I guess.

19 thoughts on “290. The Frying Game

  1. Yep. Really really don’t like this one at all. I actually think this is worse than a lot of Scully episodes done in a similar vein.

  2. You know how I know this show wasn’t being written by professional writers anymore? Because they decided to go with THAT third act twist. Any twist ending is a delicate thing, because in order for it to work, it can’t fall apart upon further inspection. This one, of course, falls apart without even hardly thinking about it. You mentioned all of the ways that this twist ending falls apart, and any writer worth his salt would have realized that too and put the kibosh on this ridiculousness. At this point, the show is just a bunch of amateurs throwing shit at the wall and thinking it’s funny.

    A not-so-fun game to play is to imagine what classic episodes would look like if they were written post-season 8. One Fish Two Fish would get a twist ending like this one (Homer was never really going to die, surprise!). Imagine how awful Deep Space Homer would be. That episode, in terms of realism, hangs by a thread, and there’s no question it would have been trampled upon in later seasons.

  3. Ah, but don’t you see? It didn’t matter that the episode had no logic and made no sense whatsoever because it was all just a reality show! Isn’t that nutty? …Yeah, fuck this episode six ways to Sunday.

    This episode can’t help but fail. Sure, we know that Homer’s not going to die, but we knew that back in Season 2 as well, and “One Fish Two Fish Blowfish Blue Fish” still made us care. What is there in this episode to attach us to the characters and get us emotionally invested? Nothing, aside from the fact that the show has been on for thirteen years and we’re supposed to love it on principle, according to the writers. That’s why the writing is so goddamned lazy now – they figure just because this show has been on for-fucking-ever, that’s supposed to be enough to ground the characters in our hearts, but it’s not.

    I’m reminded of Homer’s “Women will like what I tell them to like” from “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace” – it’s like the writers are throwing all this shit into the script and cackling at us for expecting a modicum of effort from them. “The fans will watch what we tell them to watch! We’re the fucking Simpsons, dammit! We’re better than everyone! What are they gonna do, go on their precious Internet and complain? Don’t make me laugh!”

  4. For some reason I think the Jean era Swartzwelder episodes were just John’s old scripts shreaded up and put into a hat for all the writers to pick out words one by one, then the words picked out were glued together to make a new script. There’s no way in Hell he stayed this long. No wonder he never appears for the commentaries, he’s too ashamed.

    1. I thought it was because Swartzwelder is a recluse — unless he became that way b/c of the bad Simpsons episodes he did and the fact that he couldn’t smoke indoors.

      1. In the commentaries they usually describe everything as “pure Swartzwelder”, so who knows.

    2. Can’t help but notice that most of the commentaries feature people who have nothing better to do, even the VAs are rarely present

  5. “The Frying Game” will always be associated with my high school graduation, because I happened to watch it before attending the ceremony. It’s also one of the few season 13 episodes I saw in its original run (during 2001-2002, I was usually busy on Sunday nights).

    Anyway, it’s a bad episode. The screampillar is very unpleasant (and yes, I know that’s the point). We know Homer won’t die (though it would’ve been a gutsy move for the writers to actually kill off a main character!), so the third act is just a bunch of meaningless time wasting. The whole time, I was thinking, “Something will stop Homer’s execution, some last-minute, deus ex machina device.” And sure enough, it was all a reality show. Say what you will about the ending to “The Great Money Caper”, but at least it had a sense of freshness to it and, while far fetched, was -somewhat- plausible that the whole town would get together to teach Homer and Bart a lesson. By contrast, this felt like worn territory and was much harder to swallow, for the reasons Mike listed.

    Guy: John Swartzwelder stopped attending the writing room sometime during the classic era. He mailed in all his scripts from then until, well, he stopped. Of course, they were re-written as the writing room saw fit. I would love to see the original drafts of Swartzwelder’s scripts once he stopped attending.

  6. The weird/sad thing is that they do ANOTHER reality television parody where they live in an old house… or have they already done that? The seasons and episodes around this time kind of run together in their shittiness….

    1. That’s “Helter Shelter” from Season 14. Just six episodes after this one, no less. I remember watching that one when it first aired and thinking “Didn’t they already cover this ground last season?”

      1. *And* the TV-based fake-out endings of ‘Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo’ and ‘Missionary Impossible’ in the previous 2 series. Probably others, too.

  7. Er, I meant “The Frying Game” will always be associated with baccalaureate. I knew it was something graduation-related.


    I actually enjoyed a good portion of the episode because of its murder mystery, but the ending just absolutely ruined it in its entirety. I can never watch that episode ever again due to it. Unfortunately, it still isn’t the worst episode ever, as that has to go to the one in Season 17 when Homer thought Abe might not be his dad.

  9. They couldn’t have cast a real old lady instead of Carmen Electra because then we’d miss out on that hilarious and super-clever joke with Homer checking out her tits.

    Seriously, fuck this episode and everyone involved in its production.

  10. Yes, of course it’s shit. But at least it has one thing going for it: Homer sacrificing himself for Marge by testifying as the sole murderer. Even though it makes no sense and he’s stupid enough to think that she can do the same for him, it’s one of the few selfless things Homer does post-season 8.

  11. Behold everyone, this is the episode the killed The Simpsons. Everything that made the first 9 seasons of the show so special officially dies with this atrocious episode. This is the episode that made me say “This is no longer The Simpsons. This is now a very different show”.

  12. This episode was supposed to be crazy and ridiculous and I think it mostly worked … going from screamerpillar (particularly ridiculous and intentionally annoying) to the slight change to the absurdity as servants and then going to all the drama of police investigation, trial, execution was a huge shift and I think very much worked.

    Loved the stupid religious snobbery, insults and fight and of course Homer is now pretty wacky cartoony, no need to complain about it in every new episode, and I think here it was pretty toned down, and Marge was very much taking things seriously. And going from The Shawshank Redemption/The Green Mile-ish music to actually referencing Dead Man Walking on the Green Mile to actually having John Coffey was great escalation of reference.

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