Three bonus episodes (plus two more)

Yeah, I did more than three. To elaborate, me doing these extra reviews is partially to placate those who want me to continue through the rest of the series, but I really don’t see the point for a couple reasons. First, why beat a dead horse? The show’s deader than dead at this point, there’s really nothing new or illuminating to say that hasn’t already cropped up in over two hundred bad episode reviews. Second, the point of the blog was to rewatch all the episodes I had seen, to view them from an older, more streamlined perspective in seeing them all in a row, as the series declined into total slop. And now, I’ve accomplished that goal. But, just as a bullshit bonus, and by popular demand, here’s a few more for you. I ended up choosing five: two that some claim aren’t that bad, two that are notoriously terrible, and the recent 500th episode milestone.

492. The Book Job
The Book Job(originally aired November 20, 2011)
I guess when you stop being able to write original stories… you can just lift them from other movies. This episode isn’t aggressively terrible, but felt so unbelievably one-note. I’ve only seen bits of pieces of Ocean’s Eleven, but I was able to pick up some of the references, like Homer and Bart’s cool repartee, and the montages, but that’s basically the whole joke for the entire twenty minutes: Homer and the gang are suddenly this super cool and collected gang of swindlers who can write a book and later perform a complicated heist like it’s no big deal. This is also married to the show’s attempts to be current, despite always being about two years late due to their production schedule, since the scheme is to manufacture a hit tween novel, a la Twilight or Harry Potter… I mean, Angelica Button. They “parody” the common tropes of these series by having the characters flat-out explain what they are repeatedly; it’s like I’m reading an angry thread on a message board instead of a TV show written by allegedly professional writers. Also, more of making Lisa smug and unlikable, as she attempts to write a book herself, ends up procrastinating while the others finish theirs, and sells out by putting her name on it as their cover. But she was actually in on it the whole time. What a twist! The only thing in the show I really liked was Neil Gaiman, once we get past the obligatory name drop and shortlist of his credits (here embarrassingly done in the library, where we see a big cut-out of him, his name and some of his works, right after Moe had already listed some off), he still gave an admirable performance. But besides that, everything else just seemed very lazy and felt wrong.

498. Moe Goes From Rags to Riches
Moe Goes from Rags to Riches(originally aired January 29, 2012)
Yeah, the talking bar rag episode. Even despite the enormous amount of vitriol, I wanted to give this one a chance, as I could at least give it some credit for breaking formula with something bizarre and weird. But after seeing it, no. No, I cannot. The bar rag retelling its sorted history through the years all over the world is basically a series of sketches that feel like the three-story episodes, so we keep seeing Homer and co. playing different roles in different countries over history. Also, a lot of Treehouse of Horror-level violence of people getting hung, beheaded, stabbed, etc… And none of them have any connection thematically; the whole “point” is that the rag was cut from a tapestry that foretells future events, but that whole angle was completely dropped halfway through. The rag itself really focused on either, since normally it has nothing to do with the story, and in some cases isn’t even in the story. So what’s the flipping point to all this? Moe realizing he has friends besides his filthy bar rag, because Marge took it upon herself to wash it for him, since I guess they’re friends despite his bar being the sole reason she barely sees her husband every day. Alongside this is Milhouse getting upset with Bart’s mistreatment of him, and Bart desperately trying to make amends. It distracts from the absurd, fourth-wall-breaking A-story to have to cut back to this shit, filled with dialogue that’s both painfully self-aware and totally not how ten-year-olds fucking talk, especially Milhouse. And if you wanted to tie the two plots in, why not make the rag’s tale about how he gained and lost friends, and how relationships need to be tested and bound together or something? Whatever. I’m really at a loss with this one; I can’t figure out what the point of it even was, or what it was trying to do. It was just twenty more minutes of my time completely wasted. I hope you guys are happy I’m doing this.

495. Holidays of Future Passed
Holidays of Future Passed(originally aired December 11, 2011)
This is the only show on this list I’d watched before; I remember No Homers blowing up when this first aired. People absolutely loved it, with more than a couple claiming it even trumped “Lisa’s Wedding.” Wondering if all the current fans had simply snapped and gone mad, I decided to give it a watch. Like “The Book Job,” it isn’t awful, but I don’t much care for this one either. Although this takes place in the farthest future we’ve seen yet, it’s more of the kind of material from “Future-Drama” where we’ll do as many outlandish future gags as possible, some of which that would feel more at home in Futurama than here. There’s some emotional bits here that work; I like that Homer is actually a pretty fun granddad, and even a bit of Bart and Lisa’s drunken conversation in the treehouse, but the resolutions to their stories feel as hackneyed and hollow as any other episode. The stories seem like they could be interesting, but ultimately kinda… aren’t, with Lisa’s frustration with her teenage daughter, and her mother’s advice, and Bart’s estranged relationship with his kids. I just feel all of that gets distracted and swallowed by stupid future joke after stupid future joke. Sentient trees, robot lovers, super-evolved pets, Ned marrying Maude’s ghost… it all just felt so stupid to me; again, none of this feels like things that could happen in the near future like in “Lisa’s Wedding,” just a bunch of weird shit because it’s the future. Also, Lisa married Milhouse, which I never like to see; she honestly couldn’t do better? And she went through a lesbian phase too. Funny! Though to be honest, I can see that happening. And Maggie never speaks, except it makes absolutely no sense for her not to. And Mr. Burns is still alive, somehow. I feel the show had potential, but there’s a lot of stuff that just bugged me, and every stupid future gag fell completely flat. “Lisa’s Wedding,” this fucking ain’t.

508. Lisa Goes Gaga
Lisa Goes Gaga(originally aired May 20, 2012)
Dead Homers did a compare & contrast with this episode and “Stark Raving Dad,” and it couldn’t be more apt. Both shows star a larger-than-life celebrity trying to help out a Simpson kid, but they are both complete opposites in dealing with their guest star, and the emotional weight of the show. At the time, Michael Jackson was just as huge a star, if not more so, than Lady Gaga, but the writers were shrewd about casting him. His role as Leon Kompowski was inventive and memorable… two things that cannot be used to describe Gaga’s. This is the complete other side of the coin: Gaga comes to Springfield, being as over-the-top as possible, to cheer up Lisa, she succeeds, and then she leaves. That’s it. Gaga effectively stalks Lisa, spouting empty platitudes and self-affirmative bullshit to try and cheer her up, without once even asking what’s wrong and why she’s upset (wouldn’t have mattered anyway, since why everyone hates her makes no sense). The only bright spot in the show is when Lisa tells her off; she claims to care but clearly all she cares about is being as gaudy and show-offy as possible. That’s what the entire episodes feels like it’s boiling to; Lisa is getting more and more despondent the more urgent Gaga is and the more elaborate her entrances get. Then at the end, she catches Gaga before she leaves and apologizes. For no reason. And by that, I mean her attitude literally changes on a dime; one shot she’s still bummed out, the next she has her big revelation and she’s happy. She just needed someone to vent her frustrations at! Lisa actually loves Lady Gaga! Get the fuck out of here. There’s so much more to bitch at, like the embarrassingly, almost insultingly pandering Gaga-Marge kiss, the stupidity of the start of Lisa being depressed, but I just can’t be bothered. I shut it off a few seconds into the end song with Lisa, I just couldn’t bear it. What bothers me the most is the complete lack of imagination; with such a high profile guest, the best they can come up with is put her on a humungous pedestal, and “joke” about her extravagant costumes and eccentric nature. But they’re just replicating the kind of shit she does in real life, and in some cases, things we’ve seen, like the meat dress and her being hatched from a giant egg. Between all of that, and having her do a song in the middle which isn’t so much a parody as something that sounds like a track from her new album, it’s just a big love fest for Gaga. The writers took some shots at Jackson, but you could tell they still liked and respected him; here, it’s literally just twenty minutes of them licking Gaga’s asshole. I expect this from tabloids and teen blogs, not the fucking Simpsons. An extraordinarily depressing episode.

500. At Long Last Leave
Screen shot 2013-01-21 at 10.28.07 PM
(originally aired February 19, 2012)
“The most meaningless milestone of all!” spouts the opening titles. You’re not kidding. I guess they were trying to do a larger story with a deeper meaning involving the family and the town, except none of it makes sense. My first big issue is it paints the Simpsons as a blight on the entirety of Springfield, which is aggravating for two reasons. First, we’ve gone from the family just being just regular characters living in a big world to all of a sudden becoming prominent members of their community. The Simpsons are these downtrodden losers trying to survive in society, now all of a sudden they’re a plague on this town and need to be exiled. Their reasoning for it? Primarily, Homer and Bart’s reckless behavior is racking up property damage. Springfield is a town that quite often resorts to violent mob mentality, but I guess it’s just the fault of one family now. Mmmyep. So the Simpsons are booted out of town, and conveniently come across some backwoods redneck community known as the Outlands, so they live there. What is the Outlands? We never really see. We’re there for like a few minutes, the only other resident with a speaking role has no name, and we never figure out why the Simpsons like it there, let alone why the whole goddamn town wants to move there at the end of the show. I guess they figured having them dress like they were from Mad Max and giving them helicopters and roadsters to ride, it would be enough. By the middle of this episode, I was just getting bored. So, so, so bored. Watching these five, my fears were basically confirmed, that the show had continued to get worse. Following the trend from season 20, these episodes were just so goddamn uncreative, boring and thin. Even “Gaga,” with all its irritating elements, at its core, is lazy.

444. The Great Wife Hope

The Great Wife Hope(originally aired October 11, 2009)
It’s finally here, the last episode. As I mentioned at the very beginning, my departure of the series came not with a bang, but a whimper. The show just didn’t interest me anymore, and it’s episodes like these, and the many seasons prior, that explain why. The template for this one seems to be lifted from “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge;” Marge is outraged by a media outlet affecting her children and protests against it. Except that episode actually had points to make about glorified TV violence, censorship, stifling creativity… this one is really about nothing. The subject of Marge’s scorn is basically MMA fighting, via the cleverly titled Ultimate Punch Kick and Choke Championship. She raises a stink about it, but in such on-the-nose dialogue that makes her out to look like an idiot (“Call me a killjoy, but I think that because this is not to my taste, no one else should be able to enjoy it.”) When she calls out the creator of the sport, he agrees he’ll shut down his company, if she can best him in a fight in the ring.

So, that’s the episode: Marge has to train for the fight, the fight happens, Marge wins. That’s all that happens. These plots are so goddamn thin; we used to get shows so, so, so much meatier than this watered-down imitation gruel. The ending is so predictable too, where Marge’s motherly instincts kick in when Bart jumps in to fight the guy, and she kicks his ass. Yawn. There’s really not much left with this one to mention, it barely even registers. And that’s exactly what happened when I watched it. I was busy so I had it playing in the background while I was doing some work. Then later in the day, I had forgotten what had happened in the episode. Sundays at 8pm used to be an event, now they were like this time-tested obligation that I was shackled to. All the excuses evaporated away by the simple fact that I just wasn’t entertained anymore. So that was it, I just thought, “Y’know, I think I’m done here.” And that was it. And now, this is it: the last Simpsons I ever watched first run.

Tidbits and Quotes
– The jokes come slow and obvious: Homer relishing at one of the fighter’s self-inflicted pain, then he pokes his eye with a straw! Lenny and Carl comment about how homoerotic the sport is! Marge is thankful Homer isn’t there to see Bart’s fight, and we pan over to see him chanting with the other kids! Then there’s the whole runner with Nelson’s dream of being an event planner… whatever the fuck that was about.
– Marge and the other women with the protest signs really echoes “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge,” but again, without any of the meaning or satire. Moe’s “Bring Back Wagon Train” sign is truly missed.
– Marge’s training is just one boring set piece after another. We get a return from Akira, who we haven’t seen in a while, and she bouts with Burns for no reason, just another outlet for the pathetic old man to become even more sad and nonthreatening.
– Really unpleasant joke where Krusty cavalierly admits he’s been seeing Sideshow Mel’s wife for eleven years and wants to dump her. It feels so hateful and disturbing…
– Marge is about to enter the ring and possibly get the shit beaten out of her, but brainiac Lisa astutely recognizes a word of encouragement from Bart is actually a haiku. Sure, why not?
– Homer waves the American and Canadian flags for some reason when Marge gets her groove back… whatever. Thank God I’m done with this garbage… almost.

Bonus episodes coming soon, then a wrap-up.

443. Bart Gets a ‘Z’

Bart Gets a 'Z'(originally aired October 4, 2009)
The opening to this episode is kind of interesting, where we just focus on Mrs. Krabappel’s morning and her lonely, sad sack life, reminiscent of “Bart the Lover.” You would think this show would have more focus on her, illuminate more of her personality, but most of the running time is focused on Bart’s wimpy, empty guilt about getting her fired and other stupid random shit crammed in to fill time. This series has such a vast universe with so many established characters, I don’t understand why at this point, twenty-four seasons in, they don’t take a chance and just devote episodes to side characters. I mean, why not? Instead, we only scratch the surface of Mrs. Krabappel; she’s a frustrated teacher who just wants to help kids, but it really barely comes across. After taking away the kids’ cell phones, Bart spearheads a revenge plan by getting her drunk, which ultimately gets her fired. He deals with an ethical dilemma of wanting to help Mrs. K, but is also won over by her replacement: a hip young substitute whose curriculum hinges on new technology and social media.

The plot progression in this episode is mind boggling. Bart tries to get Krabappel back on her feet with a bogus self-help book “The Answer,” apparently a parody of the real-life bogus self-help book “The Secret.” If anyone knows what this is, feel free to comment how badly the show tried to make fun of it. So what’s Edna’s dream? She writes it down: “I want to own a muffin store.” Why? She never says. Cut to the next scene, she opened the goddamn store. How did this happen? Next scene Bart, who I guess works work Edna, confesses he was the one that spiked her coffee, leaving her livid (“My real dream was to be a teacher, and you got me fired! Now I’m up to my eyeballs in debt with this stupid store!”) Maybe you shouldn’t have followed the career urgings of a ten-year-old then? Also, why the fuck did you open a muffin store at all? What’s happening? Why is none of this explained? Oh, whatever. From that point, we get namby-pamby Bart who feels bad and comes clean to Skinner, but by a convenient contrivance, the substitute is drunk and screaming in the hallways and Edna gets her job back for some reason. What a piece of shit.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I think the ‘Z’ in the title refers to Generation Z, the current crop of youngsters born in the early 2000s (of which Bart technically is one of now, I guess), who have grown up the most accustomed to the Internet and other media technologies.
– The general premise of this episode actually isn’t bad; it’s just completely bereft on laughs, interesting character stuff… any character stuff, really. That, and it feels so thin, parts of the story just draaaaaaaag. Drunk Krabappel takes up over two minutes, and later the drunk substitute, at the ending where things should be wrapping up quickly, lasts almost as long. It’s really uncomfortable how much some of these scenes are stretched; what you’re watching isn’t funny or moving the story along in any way. It’s just complete dead air.
– Many tasteless cracks have been made about Mr. Largo’s alleged homosexuality, but there’s actually a pretty good one here as a drunken Krabappel hits on him (“Give me one night, Dewey, I’ll get you off Broadway.” “Never!”)
– “Then Zach Skyped us, live-blogged our spelling bee and then friended us on Facebook!” We know about new technology! We’re hip, right?
– Krabappel watching the faux Rodney Dangerfield Back to School movie feels wrong to me; hearing Hank Azaria do that imitation when the real Dangerfield has both been on the show and is deceased… I dunno. Oh, also it’s not funny and just serves to kill more time.
– Castellaneta’s vocal chords get another workout with a twenty second sequence of Homer screaming and wailing to the substitute.
– The ending with the drunk Zach… seriously, it just kept going… and going… and going… and nothing was happening. And none of it was funny. Why keep writing a show if you have absolutely no material?

442. Homer the Whopper

Homer the Whopper(originally aired September 27, 2009)
Just like Ricky Gervais before them, this episode was written by two guest writers: Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, the comedy duo behind Superbad and Pineapple Express. And just like last time, I’m sure there’s about 3% left here from their draft after getting ripped to shreds after many rounds in the writer’s room. Why get comedy writers to write scripts for you if you’re going to water them down to be as innocuous and indistinguishable as the rest of the slop? Bart and Milhouse find out Comic Book Guy has a secret hobby: penning his own superhero comics, and they encourage him to self-publish them. They are, of course, instantly successful, and he manages to print them in large quantities and sell them to comic shops all over the globe… and in space. Bereft of ideas, Hollywood options Everyman is a movie, and CBG demands he be able to choose the actor who plays the lead. Guess who gets the part? Whoever could it be? Homer the movie star! Ugh.

This episode is about the production and release of an entire film, and it still feels like nothing is happening, and the little that is is ridiculous. CBG wanted a schlubby average Joe to play Everyman, but now the studio feels Homer needs to get into perfect physical shape. I guess they gloss over this by showing how CBG has gone Hollywood, but then later we see him protesting the disaster of a production. Whatever. Homer’s trainer is voiced by Rogen, and is another in a long line of disposable guest roles. What happens is that Homer gets ridiculously buff, then weeks into production is randomly tempted by a craft services cart, and then gets overweight again. None of the hundreds of people working on this major blockbuster film noticed or said anything as Homer ballooned into his normal obese frame, and worse than that, pushed the movie into release where his weight flagrantly fluctuates literally from shot to shot. I’ll say again for the thousandth time, I can’t take any of this shit seriously if the episode itself doesn’t. Having been gracious enough to give this series another shot, I remember watching this one, and just feeling nothing. The magic from this show I once loved was now completely gone. I have no idea why it took me so frigging long though.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Comic Book Guy was once shrewd and quick-witted, able to undermine all of his customers and their bullshit. Now he falls for Bart tricking him about not knowing Spider-Man was a comic before it was a movie.
– I couldn’t stop thinking of how shitty an idea Everyman the superhero was. I mean, I guess it works as CBG’s creation, although I think he would make fun of something like this. But then, how is it going to work as a movie if a studio would have to acquire the rights to all these other superheroes for him to absorb their powers from their comic books? It just doesn’t seem like it would work, but then again, I’m sure no one in the writer’s room even bothered to bring this up. Nor does it really matter, really. I’m more offended just that it’s a dumb idea.
– Outside Ginormous Pictures is a poster for Star Wars Episode VII: The Apology. Again, it’s the Star Wars-Cosmic Wars dilemma again, the poster even has that goddamn George Lucas expy on it we saw in that other episode… whatever his name was… ugh.
– Homer as Everyman looks nothing like CBG’s comic. They changed everything; you’d think this would be easy satire of Hollywood usurping a creative property and fucking up everything about it, but it’s barely even scratched upon.
– I did laugh at the shot outside the Kwik-E-Mart as Homer’s vomit plasters the inside windows, played in complete silence.
– There’s great, great irony on the Everyman test screening marquee (“Tell Us How To Do Our Job”) considering what happened with The Simpsons Movie, but I don’t think that was the intention of the writers…

Now, because I hate myself…

It’s almost over. I could only make it three episodes into season 21 before I finally threw up my hands and gave up on the series, thus ending my tenure as a loyal viewer. Given the quality of shows I’ve had to slog through, I have no fucking idea how or why I lasted this long. But that’s all she wrote. Since that point, I’ve only seen a handful of newer episodes. But, I must admit, there’s some part of me that’s morbidly curious about taking a look at some of these unseen shows. Part of it comes from a guest Crazy Noises I did for Dead Homers Society on last season’s “Them, Robot,” where I was absolutely flabbergasted at the awfulness of it. Of all the shit I’ve seen over 441 episodes, I’d say “Robot” is almost worse than all of them; I couldn’t believe the show had gotten even worse in the time since I had stopped watching. Was this just a particularly bad episode? It got me curious about the state of the show currently, and if it was even possible for it to sink even lower.

Now, I’m not going to continue my countdown to the current season, I just don’t think I can do it. But here’s what I will do: watch three “new” episodes, chosen by you guys. Anything past “The Great Wife Hope” up until the present, post a comment giving me suggestions of what to watch. Name as many as you like, and I’ll pick the three most chosen, or if there’s no unanimous winners, I’ll just pick whichever ones seem most intriguing. Now, you can name episodes that you thought were actually not so bad and examples of good modern shows, or you can name episodes that were fucking awful because you want to see me yell and scream about them. It’s your choice, and I will stand by the finalists. After “Hope,” I’ll do a post to briefly talk about these three “winners,” and much fun will ensue. And by “fun,” I’m sure I mean “excruciating pain.”