355. Home Away From Homer

(originally aired May 15, 2005)
I forgot FOX had these three weeks of double-episode Sundays, I guess they ran out of time and had to cram as many episodes possible into the season. I mention this only because I can’t think of a way to open this review. To raise some extra money, Flanders opens up his spare room for rent, and takes in two college women as tenants. Unbeknownst to him, they are actually softcore webcam whores, using his home as their new studio. Homer soon finds out, and makes it his mission to inform the whole town about it. I wouldn’t say Homer working to humiliate Flanders like this is entirely out of character, but it’s kind of uncomfortable to watch. I also find it’s a bad sign when Homer spends most of the running time smiling and laughing; he chuckles when he shows Moe the smutty website, then cut to an exterior of the church with him still laughing, then we see him at a pew playing with a bobble head Moses. Homer used to be downtrodden, and dare I say humble, and that’s why we loved him. Now he’s just this giggling moron who fucks things up for everyone, and we’re supposed to like him?

When Flanders finds out the truth, and that the town has been mocking him behind his back, even his “best friend” Homer, he is crest-fallen. He ends up moving to Humbleton, PA, a town as saccharine sweet and wholesome as the Humble (Hummel) figurines they produce. Meanwhile, the Simpsons’ new neighbor is a hardass coach who berates and abuses Homer. He’s arrogant and abrasive, sure, but on the whole we see he’s no worse a neighbor to Homer as Homer was to Flanders (“By the way, I borrowed some gas from your car.” “But I siphoned that gas from Flanders!”) So ultimately Homer goes to Humbleton to beg Flanders to come home. This is usually reserved for Homer-Marge episodes, but this is another show that ends with Homer’s pleas to not be out of love or respect, but to beg the other person to put up with their bullshit and do absolutely nothing to change their dickish ways. And Flanders accepts! For some reason! Then he comes back and is shocked to find Homer’s ripped the organ out from the church and put it in his backyard. That’s our craaaaazy Homer! I don’t understand how any character tolerates him anymore, I really don’t.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Jokes feel so clunky now. There’s an NPR radio contest to give away tickets to some foreign film, and Lisa frantically calls in, thinking there will be many, many others doing the same. Then we see the broadcaster, after prattling on for a few more seconds, stop dead in her tracks (“Holy crap, someone’s actually calling!”) As well as a giant red flashing “INCOMING CALL” sign. So laborious and so obvious. Compare this to “Radio Bart”: Homer watches the Superstar Microphone commercial and hears supplies are limited. “Limited?!” He frantically dials and asks if there are any left. Then we see a disinterested employee with an entire warehouse full of boxes, shot at a bit of a low angle only to emphasize how many he has. “Yeah, a couple.” It takes half the time, and even if we can predict the joke, it’s still funny for other reasons.
– Flanders takes a bath in a bathing suit. Why? “So I can’t see my own shrinky-dink!” I sometimes think what characters would be like if they were created at this point down the line. Flanders would be some kind of celibate weirdo who’s afraid of his own dick. How did he have two kids if he can’t look at his fucking penis?
– The satire at the beginning is so lame. Foreign films are weird! And of course Lisa eats it up as a pretentious liberal arts student, and not an eight-year-old girl (“It’s Albanian, but the producers added subtitles to make it commercial.”)
– I do like Milhouse’s incredulous reaction to the dirty website (“Two girls? Who would want that?”)
– Homer fesses up to Flanders, who then presumably boots the two girls as soon as he finds out, and then all of a sudden there’s a huge crowd there hooting and hollering as they go. Why do all these people care exactly?
– When the writers get stuck in a corner where they have to make the family angry at Homer, and perhaps then he’ll realize he did something wrong, the solution is to make him brain dead (“You’ve totally humiliated the best friend the Simpsons ever had.” “You’re right. But you know who the real victim here? Ned.” “That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you!” “Oh, yeah.”) Then Homer finds Flanders’ note that he left and cries to the heavens (“He’s gone! And it’s all someone else’s fault!”) Wonderful.
– Humbleton is boring and weird. If they were so viciously against Flanders’ mustache, enough to make the front page of their newspaper “Hair Fuhrer,” why don’t they kick him out? And why doesn’t Flanders leave, given so much scorn?
– Jason Bateman, a funny guy and a great talent, is wasted with two lines on ten seconds of a stupid TV parody. I think this is right off of Arrested Development too, and the thought of that being cancelled while this garbage is still being aired makes my blood boil a little bit.

Also, after a brief hiatus, I’ve kicked my DreamWorks blog back up again, starting with the fantastic Kung Fu Panda. I don’t know if anyone even reads it, honestly, but I’ve mostly just been enjoying watching these movies over again. Which is most than I can say for this crap series.

16 thoughts on “355. Home Away From Homer

  1. This episode had one of the funniest Homer “Mmmm”-isms:

    Flanders: The Bible says to cast thy bread upon the river, but all I got was soggy bread.
    Homer: Mmmm, soggy brea-
    Flanders: Don’t say it, Homer, this is not the time!
    Homer: …eeaaaaaaad.

    Other than that, and a few choice jokes here and there that work (“You sullied the internet by putting PORNOGRAPHY on it!”), it was another mediocre episode. Though it was certainly better than “Doomsday”.

    One thing that particularly bugged me: These two college-aged girls are supposedly lesbian web cam whores, right? Well in their webcast, we don’t really see them doing anything all that nasty, or even showing that much skin. I know The Simpsons has more or less become a “family-friendly” show now, at least by comparison to Seth’s offerings, but it does show how much the show has shied away from being as subversive and boundary-pushing as it was in its early days. I mean, come on, they’re just hitting each other with pillows while in lingerie. That’s not porn, that’s titillation, and there’s a big difference.

    1. You’re right about them not actually showing porn, but that can be pretty accurate. A lot of sites do live free advertising, and things only turn X-rated after paying a high fee for a private session. The women even say a line about getting to watch them explore their sexuality “without restraint,” which I took to mean as them soliciting the free watchers to sign on for a session. I get your point about this not pushing any boundaries, but I think it’s true to certain aspects of the internet, and it’s not like being more risqué would have made things funny.

    2. Good point about the site. And this is the show that did “Natural Born Kissers” and in “Treehouse of Horror XIV” had a completely nude girl (with bare ass visible) as part of an establishing shot of Stockholm.

  2. I remember being confounded by FOX’s three weeks in a row of double-features. And I’m guessing that running out of time for new episodes was what convinced them to go back to putting the season premieres in September the following fall.

    Also, good to hear DDD is back in business! I’ve been checking weekly and commenting on the films I’ve seen. Your analysis has really helped in my decision on which DreamWorks films to seek out – as I’ve mentioned before, I never know what I’m gonna get when I watch one of these things.

  3. The sad thing is Dan Castellaneta had a wonderful guest spot on Arrested Development earlier in the season. I guess they wanted to balance it out by giving Jason Bateman a small part with nothing to work with.

      1. It’s funny cuz I was like “hey, isn’t that Dan Castellanate?” and then he said “D’OH!” and I was like “I knew it!” too. Weird when a television show can sorta read its audiences’ mind(s). What a work of art AD is. Was. Is.

  4. Most of my friends are in grad school, and they all loved the dig about grad students making terrible life choices. That’s the biggest compliment I can think of for this ep.

  5. I kinda don’t hate this episode. Hah. Mainly because it’s actually sorta memorable for a zombie era ep. It’s not “good” — though the concept isn’t bad, in and of itself — but I do think this review is a little hard on it, no offense or anything. I thought the stuff with the foreign film wasn’t bad — certainly, Lisa’s character at this point WOULD think it was ‘commercial’ to add subtitles, which is actually kinda funny — though didn’t they kinda do a similar (and better) joke in “Homer and Apu” whilst watching the foreign film? Anyway…

  6. So basically these episodes manage to either start well, then fall apart completely in the third act, or be a complete mess throughout.
    I think I get madder when an episode actually has some potential but goes completely wrong by the end.

    Flanders leaving, and having a new neighbour move in who treats Homer like he treats Flanders is actually a good idea, but is ruined by the way it was executed, and of course having Flanders change his life just to suit Homer.
    Reminds me of how Flanders took the Simpsons back in as tennants in that later episode after they treated him like shit, just to keep the status quo in order 😦

    I don’t want a two parter but they’ve made heavy changes like Apu getting married and having children so why not have more episodes set where the Simpsons live somewhere else or Flanders has left Springfield, etc.

    Permanent changes like that would really give the show some new material it badly needs.

  7. “Now he’s just this giggling moron who fucks things up for everyone, and we’re supposed to like him?”
    Have any writers or show-runners of recent seasons talked about this at all in interviews? I’m curious whether we really are supposed to like Homer or not. I would assume so since the entire town loves the guy until he screws up, but then why is he written this way?
    At least with the jerkasses of other shows they’re treated fairly realistically. Peter Griffin isn’t all that well liked and people don’t put up with too much of his crap (except Lois, but that’s a whole other discussion), and Eric Cartman is pretty much loathed by most of the town.

  8. I tried to read your blog about Dreamworks(and Disney Pixar) because I really respect your opinions, but I still can’t believe people find something good about those “animated”(CG is never animation) movies. In every single movie the characters are always identical, with the same plastic weird look, hybrid CG movements, and eyes of a mime who is desperately trying to be funny; the characters are always bland or annoyingly exaggerated for comic purpose(because we always need exaggerations to understand something!); the dialogues and visuals are full of pop-culture reference(yawn); and the humor, when is not the most basic toilet humor, is the most predictable sit-com-y one.. I can predict any joke the are going to do, from a facial expression to a one-liner joke.
    These movies are just like Zombie Simpsons; the only difference is that they have a solid story around, which means nothing when there’s nothing entertaining anyway. The Toy Story saga are the only really great movies in CG “animation”(the hybrid CG here works because the characters HAVE TO be plastic and act in that hybrid way), the only movies on par with the masterpieces of animation pre-1980.

  9. “Flanders would be some kind of celibate weirdo who’s afraid of his own dick. How did he have two kids if he can’t look at his fucking penis?”

    Don’t let the writers hear you asking that. We’ll get an episode where Rod and Todd turn out to be adopted. Or Homer’s kids. Or products of a virgin birth (” guest starring Roseanne as the resurrected Maude Flanders… With hilarious results!!!”)

  10. One minor quibble I forgot to mention in my first comment years ago: Homer’s line “I feel like Roger Ebert or his kiss ass new partner” makes no sense for anybody even remotely familiar with “Siskel & Ebert” after Siskel died. Richard Roeper was anything BUT a kiss ass, as he was not afraid to disagree with Ebert and the two often got into memorable debates.

    The joke MIGHT have worked back in 1999 and early 2000 when he had on all those guest hosts, but even then, there were plenty of critics who came to blows with him (remember the legendary disagreements Joyce Kulhawik had with Ebert over “Gladiator” and “Pokemon: The First Movie”?).

    Nitpick over.

  11. I don’t get the big deal over the website either. Even if you had to pay to see the actual porn stuff, it’s not like that is what Bart and Homer were doing in the first place.

    I feel like they took an already bad episode, Hurricane Neddy, and wanted to make it even dumber. It’s a shame that this is the best they can do with Ned. When he’s not a religious pyschopathic nut like he was in Hail Mary’s Pass, he’s a pathetic loser like he was here. Homer was also an utter asshole. The dude watches his kid at the last minute, finds that Homer broke his collection and never told him, and then Homer treats him like dirt by humiliating him. What the fuck?

    I don’t know what I can really say about this episode that I haven’t mentioned throughout the rest of the season at this point. I guess I liked how Homer was getting a taste of his own medicine and Bart’s reaction to a movie with subtitles (as I know people who are like that).

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