356. The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star

(originally aired May 15, 2005)
Another show that I really have no idea what it’s trying to say; it’s supposed to be satirizing Catholicism, I guess, but ultimately all I see is an episode clumsily lifting elements from previous shows. The first act involves Bart getting expelled, just as he was in “Whacking Day.” Except here, it happens during a big medieval fair at the school, and the big prank isn’t actually caused by Bart, he just takes the blame. The school is so damn poor, how do they have the funds to put on this pretty elaborate fair? And why? Who is this for? Anyway, Willie enacts his revenge and Bart takes the fall, but I’m not sure why it’s constructed like this. The only way this comes into play is much later Bart warms up to Father Sean because he believes he was innocent, but they could have played that ten different ways and it wouldn’t make a difference. Is it to make him seem more sympathetic? Even despite his prank in “Whacking Day,” Bart’s plenty sympathetic; he’s just a rambunctious kid who ultimately didn’t mean to ram Chalmers in the ass. …boy, that sentence doesn’t sound very good, does it?

The only place that will have Bart and is cheap enough is a Catholic school, and it isn’t long before he’s swayed by the faith, through ultra-violence religious comic books. Homer goes to straighten things out, but ends up turned himself thanks to pancake dinners and bingo. Marge teams up with Lovejoy and Flanders to reclaim her son and husband to the “right” religion. So it’s kind of like “The Joy of Sect,” but where the Movementarians were actually a despicable, untrustworthy cult, the Catholics… well… we won’t get into religious discussions here, but for the purposes of this show, they’re definitely not negatively portrayed. Marge wins Bart over with material possessions like “Sect,” here paintball instead of hover bikes, but it feels so clumsy here. There, Bart was brainwashed, here, Bart seems to be truly invested in his faith, then drops it as a goof, then comes back and delivers one sentence of a resolution, and everyone’s minds are completely changed. One line that’s surely been said a million times over stops the conflict between Christians and Catholics. I’m not sure what the point of this show is… another episode where I’m just confused more than I’m annoyed.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The show finally takes a shot at Dubya with Homer prattling about what America’s next great war will be (“Anything’s possible with Commander Cuckoo-Bananas in charge!”) Not funny, yeah, but it’s strange that after so many shots at Clinton we have basically nothing at Bush Jr.’s expense. On a commentary, Jean mentions that they never did many jokes because public opinion of the President kept changing every six months or so that they didn’t want to do it. Well, one, I recall that opinion of him was quite low for most of his presidency, so I don’t know what that was about. And two, if you wanted to take a crack at him, what do you care about public opinion? What’s with the show and its lack of balls now?
– This is a nice runner between the teacher nun and Bart, who’s been forced to pose like Christ on the cross and hold heavy books in his hands (“Now think what it would be like if you nails in your hands.” “Well, I guess they’d help me hold the dictionaries up.”)
– With not much material to work from, I think Liam Neeson did a good job as Father Sean. I like his recounting of how he got his faith: face down in the gutter after a brawl with his father, St Peter appeared before him (“‘Sean, you wanker,’ he says, ‘Repent of your wicked ways or sod off!’ And he gobbed in my face and turned back into a street light.”)
– I’m really not sure what this show’s stance on Catholicism is… or that they even have one. The montage of Homer and Bart’s new faith is indicative of that. We see Bart using a rosary, them rejecting meat on Friday, more pancakes and bingo… like, is that all? Oh, and of course they make a priest molesting kids joke. I knew they couldn’t resist it.
– Marge’s heaven daydream is so long, and ultimately just more time killing. And if that’s her worry, then why isn’t she just as concerned with Lisa’s move to Buddhism? Couldn’t she have had a line or something where she was concerned of being the only Christian family member left?
– The entire last act echoes so closely to “Sect,” but the tone is completely different. Marge, Flanders and Lovejoy feel so unbelievably petty, trying to force Bart back into Christianity. Though this is a great line from Lovejoy (“We’re here to bring you back to the one true faith: the Western branch of American Reformed Presbyterianism.”)
– “It’s all Christianity, people! The little stupid differences are nothing compared to the big stupid similarities!” That’s it. That’s all it takes to stop the entire conflict. Everyone is completely swayed, and Father Sean alerts all to abide Bart’s message of peace. But first, a line from Flanders (“He’s right! Can’t we all get together and concentrate on our real enemies: monogamous gays and stem cells?”) Then he mentally notes to re-bless his hand after shaking it with a Catholic. I hate Flanders now. And if there’s one character that shouldn’t elicit a hateful response, it’s motherfucking Flanders.

Season 16 Final Thoughts
Another season, same old shit.
In fact it’s actually getting worse in that episodes are becoming more and more forgettable. Normally with these season round-ups the worst episodes stand out to me, but now I have to go through the list and remember which ones pissed me off the most. It’s all becoming just a big wash, but thankfully there’s only four more seasons of this banality left to do.

The Best
“The Heartbroke Kid,” “A Star is Torn”

The Worst
“She Used to Be My Girl,” “Mommie Beerest,” “There’s Something About Marrying,” “On a Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister,” “Mobile Homer”

22 thoughts on “356. The Father, The Son and The Holy Guest Star

  1. I remember this was the episode that caused a big ol’ hullabaloo because Pope John Paul II died the week it was supposed to air, so they shunted it to the end of the season because they thought it’d be in poor taste to show an episode trashing Catholicism so soon after that. Can’t say I blame ’em, frankly.

    And so Season 16 staggers to a bland and utterly forgettable close. As I mentioned, this was the season where even I had to admit that The Simpsons was not very good anymore. I had clung on throughout Season 13’s insanity, Season 14’s bitterness, and Season 15’s what-the-fuckery, but this was the season that finally started to break me. Three weeks into Season 17, I finally gave up on new episodes. Still, some kind of morbid curiosity occasionally provokes me into watching a premiere, but I always end up regretting it. Like when I had the misfortune to witness Season 23’s “Lisa Goes Gaga” this past summer. I still haven’t fully recovered.

    1. Oh come on, Lise Goes Gaga was not that bad of an episode. They actually did something with Lady Gaga instead of having her be on there for 3 words like they have with others such as Blink 182. In fact, the episode is pretty fun due to the Lady Gaga songs, even if it is no where near the level of the classics. Personally, I think Gaga was the best season finale since “You Kent Always Get What You Want” in 18.

      1. It was so that bad of an episode. They took a hugely popular and bizarre celebrity personality who’s just screaming to be made fun of and instead praised her for half an hour. The episode is basically a weak-spirited ripoff of “Lisa’s Substitute”, but with Lady fucking Gaga of all people in place of Mr. Bergstrom. It was a cheap attempt to grab ratings and the writers didn’t give a goddamn flying fuck about the story or the characters. Pure shit from beginning to end.

      2. That they did, but when the episode is pretty much 22 minutes of kissing Gaga’s ass, that’s not really saying much.

  2. Season 16 was a -slight- improvement over season 15, but that isn’t saying much. It still doesn’t compare to the classic era, or even the Scully seasons. Favorite episodes were “The Heartbroke Kid”, “Mommie Beerest”, “Pranksta Rap”, and “Treehouse of Horror XV”.

    As for this episode, I don’t remember much about it except thought Marge’s fear of her son turning Catholic was really petty and controlling.

    And I too hate what’s become of Flanders. There’s an interesting theory that Flanders has slowly started to lose it ever since Maude died (i.e., Maude was basically the one thing that kept him on a fairly even keel), but I think it’s more lazy writing; it’s easier to write a bunch of super conservative stereotypes.

    1. There was something to support that theory in I Kent Always Say What You Want; Rod and Todd basically point out how crazy he’s acting and that he needs a new wife. Buuut yeah, that’s seasons away. At this point I agree with you in that it’s lazy writing.

    2. Hmm. Flanders has always had a dark side, imo. Sexy Maude DEFINITELY kept him together because when she wasn’t around, he was insane, and now is again. But it was a lot more interesting when Flanders was kinda questioning his faith (like in “Hurricane Neddy”) instead of him just being Captain Wacky Christian like he is now. Nearly all the characters before the zombie era were deep, or at least memorable beyond a single joke or line, whereas now even the most complex characters are almost exclusively reserved to represent a stereotype, or only defined by a line (“Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeees.” … forever … though no character is more annoying than Gil, who was never very deep or interesting before, but is just positively unwatchable now with his whininess). Lame.

      The shittiest thing about this time is the Simpsons had an equal number of bad (or at least not totally great) seasons compared to the golden seasons at this point. Soon enough, the bad episodes would outweigh the good. Either way, it increasingly became (and continues to become) the show where you go, “It’s my favorite show of all time……. BUT…. [or WELL…. or EXCEPT FOR… etc]” And that really fucking sucks.

  3. “Couldn’t [Marge] have had a line or something where she was concerned of being the only Christian family member left?”

    Does the scene where Marge turns up to church on her own count? It doesn’t really carry any emotional weight, but it does confirm that she’s the only Protestant left in the family, and shows her feeling embarrassed about being there alone.

    Though come to think of it, why wasn’t Lisa there? Didn’t she say that she’d still attend church regularly with her family at the end of ‘She Of Little Faith’? I frankly can’t see Lisa abandoning Marge to tag along with Homer and Bart…
    Hold on, why wasn’t MAGGIE there? Did Marge just randomly decide to leave her with a babysitter for that particular Sunday? Wut?

    Anyway, spot-on reviews as usual. They’re obviously getting more and more boring to do, but stay strong! You can get through this, even if by the end your write-ups have devolved into nothing but repetitions of the word “meh”. It’d be understandable. 🙂

  4. This season was absolutely terrible, and yet, it is better than next season. Next season contains the most insulting episode of the entire series, and that is saying a lot. Honestly, there is not much to really comment on anymore, just as you have started to decrease the amount of sentences you are using to describe the episodes.

  5. They also said at some point they never parodied Bush because of Fox. … Er, sorry, I mean, because no one could properly do George Bush Jr.’s voice, apparently. You know, they could do Nixon, Clinton, George Bush Sr., Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, etc etc etc pretty spot-on but NO ONE could do GWB’s voice? Riiiiiiiight.

    I do recall one crack at him from season 13’s “Weekend at Burnsie’s”…

    HOMER [talking about his medical marijuana smoking]: And it’s legal. I could walk up to the President and blow smoke in his stupid monkey face, and he’d just have to sit there groovin’ on it!

    1. Nobody could do Bush Jr.’s voice properly? Were they kidding? Did they not listen to Harry Shearer do his voice on Le Show for countless years? That’s a pathetic attempt at an excuse.

  6. Wow, the end of this season just seemed to pop about when I wasn’t looking!

    Reading through your articles, I can kind of see why there were people saying the show was “getting better” at this point. Because where before the show had been constantly shocking me with its terribleness, at this point the show had settled into dull mediocrity. So all the bad stuff just mushes together and barely even registers in your memory, but the few good moments shine through. So I can see how someone, looking back on season 16, would feel like the show wasn’t as bad as it used to be. But really, it was just that the show had set the bar so low for itself at this point that it never had the chance to fail spectacularly.

    1. I honestly never realized how bad the show was at the time. Like I knew I wasn’t enjoying the episodes as much as I used to by this time, but I am a creature of habit and kept watching it every Sunday night. I did so until Season 24 premiered.

      Nevertheless, I thought Season 16 was pretty forgettable. Season 17 is hands down the worst season in the franchise, though Season 29 came pretty close.

  7. – “On a commentary, Jean mentions that they never did many jokes because public opinion of the President kept changing every six months or so that they didn’t want to do it. Well, one, I recall that opinion of him was quite low for most of his presidency, so I don’t know what that was about. And two, if you wanted to take a crack at him, what do you care about public opinion? What’s with the show and its lack of balls now?”
    Part of this was forced by FOX executives. I know on another commentary Jean mentions that shortly after 9/11 one FOX executive told him that they can never make fun of the president again, ever.
    The only other reason I can think of is that with viewership waning as it had, the writers felt they had to actually listen and cater to public opinion to win it back.

    – “But first, a line from Flanders (“He’s right! Can’t we all get together and concentrate on our real enemies: monogamous gays and stem cells?”) Then he mentally notes to re-bless his hand after shaking it with a Catholic.”
    As a Christian, you have no idea how much these lines made me want to scream. Also, my grandmother and aunts are Catholic, so fuck off, Flanders.

  8. I personally have to say that despite maybe two or three likeable episodes in this season, Season 16 is probably truly the, as Comic Book Guy would say, Worst. Season. Ever. On a Clear Day, I Can’t See My Sister is probably the most absolute garbage episode of this shitty season. Oh, and as for that one, seeing Bart’s buttcrack didn’t help matters much either. TMI, I know. But 11 years after seeing that piece of shit episode, I’m still traumatized by that particular scene (and perhaps the entire episode itself) to this day.

    Then again, it’s Fox. Give them 10 minutes, and they’ll give you an ass.

    1. Really? Come on. Showing Bart’s and Homer’s buttcracks used to be a staple of the show’s golden years.

  9. This episode is pretty uninteresting. I frankly find Christianity to be an utter joke. They claim they are following the teachings of Jesus and their ficitional book, but what they really do is just follow the teachings and passages that suit their life style. There are far more passages on what types of silks can and can not be worn compared to hating on gays, but they will blantantly ignore the silks stuff and act like gays are the worst things ever. Not to mention that defies the whole point of Jesus in the first place.

    Anyway, this episode did nothing for me as I don’t feel like they did anything with the material they were trying to convey. Liam Neeson’s character was just a caring individual who wanted to make everyone happy. How can I fault Bart and Homer for that? Marge was down right selfish in her thought process and then dragged Ned and Lovejoy into her hate filled delusions.

    Also, why the hell is she dreaming about Bart being dead in Heaven? I get if she is dreaming about her and Homer being dead, but Bart? Where was Maggie and Lisa in all of this too? They disappeared for pretty much the entire episode. Is she saying she would rather her son be dead than follow a different religion than she does? What a despicable woman!

    And then we have that ending that makes no sense whatsoever. Did they just do an apocalyptic future ending a few episode’s ago with the killer ipods? Or am I confusing myself with Season 18 (I’ve been switching back and forth between the two seasons so I could be)?

    Now how do I feel about this season? Well, it was pretty forgettable. Like holy shit forgettable. I will admit, I watched every SImpsons episode as it aired until Season 24 began. However, as I’m coming to realize, I don’t remember 90% of any of the seasons past 10 except for 18 and 19, and apparently I didn’t even remember 18 that well several of the episodes I’ve hated in 18 I thought were part of 17 for some reason.

    Thus, I felt like this was the first time I have really watched Season 16 (and except for the roofer episode, I’ve only seen these episodes twice before). I remembered Liam Neeson voicing a priest, but I couldn’t remember what the context was. I remembered The Simpson backyard having a full forest and river in it, but I couldn’t remember what episode it came from.

    Having now seen 16 again, I remember now why I forgot the vast majority of the season. Like I said above, it was pretty forgettable. Though, I don’t think I will ever forget it now.

    The only episode I can say I didn’t think was dreadful was “Pranksta Rap,” so that ends up being the best episode of the season.

    The worst episodes include:

    1. Don’t Fear the Roofer
    2. Thank God It’s Doomsday
    3. Homer and Ned’s Hail Mary Pass
    4. On a Clear Day I Can’t See My Sister
    5. Midnight Rx

  10. “Marge, Flanders and Lovejoy feel so unbelievably petty, trying to force Bart back into Christianity.” What the H? Wouldn’t “back into Presbyterianism” work better? I mean, it IS all Christianity indeed, just diverging derivations.
    I just thought I should point this out, since I otherwise agree with the assessment and the fact that the episode is pretty dumb.

  11. I just watched season 16 in in entirety only because at No Homers, a lot of people say it’s the best season since season 8 for some reason. Sure, seasons 9-12 were a big step down and were occasionally batshit insane, but at least they didn’t bore me to death. I’m not bothering with season 17, because even the most die-hard Jean apologists admit that’s when the show started going sour after an alleged renaissance.

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