530. Dangers on a Train

Original airdate: May 19, 2013

The premise:
Marge accidentally signs up on an Ashley Madison-type dating site, and ends up connecting with an unhappily married man voiced by comedy darling Seth MacFarlane. She’s aggravated thinking Homer forgot their anniversary, but he, meanwhile, is busy reconstructing an old mall train from one of their greatest dates.

The reaction: Honestly, it feels like these premises are just getting thinner and thinner. It used to be that episodes would feature crazy twists and go off the rails, but now, so many of these shows feel like barely anything happens in them. We start with Marge wanting to order cupcakes for Homer’s anniversary off of DollyMadison.com, but she’s shocked when her sisters point out she’s actually on SassyMadison.com. We then see she’s already put in all of her personal information, as well as a photo, onto this dating site for married people. This is really what we’re supposed to go with? How fucking dumb is Marge? We see the giant logo on the laptop screen, with the slogan “Cheat, Stray, Love.” But whatever. I guess because she’s anal retentive, Marge responds to each message she gets personally, until the last one Ben, who seems like a nice enough guy, who she continues to talk to. She ends up running into his at the supermarket, and then later goes for coffee, and then later has a cyber date with him watching the latest transparent “parody” Upton Rectory, airing on PBC. What could that be a take on? In every single scene, she just says over and over how she’s happily married, she doesn’t want to continue this any further, but then she does. But it’s not like she even acknowledges she’s on a slippery slope, or that she’s developing feelings for him or anything. It’s just “this can’t continue,” and then it does. Over and over. The plot mostly ends with her just dumping him in her mind. No progression, no emotional arc for Marge, nothing. The entire episode she’s pissed at Homer for seemingly forgetting their upcoming anniversary, while he’s been working in secret restoring an old train from the upscale mall from their first anniversary date. That, too, has no stakes. At one point, Homer gets a call that the engine car is damaged, but then that’s it. Both plots have no conflicts; Marge exhibits no real feelings toward Ben and nothing happens, and Homer wants to fix the train, then he does. The episode culminates with the reveal of the train, as the whole family takes a ride. Homer asks his beloved, “Do you think we’ll last twenty-five years?” To camera, Bart cheekily replies, “Nothing should.” The writers know how ramshackle this show is. They must know. They must.

Three items of note:
– I’m no fan of Seth MacFarlane. That’s putting it nicely. I hate just about everything he’s done. That being said though, I’m surprised they gave him such a bland, nothing role. It’s just his normal speaking voice he uses for Brian the dog, playing a character with no discernible personality. Then later they have him sing a crooning tune in Marge’s mind, because that’s a thing he always has to do (though to be fair, to me, his Sinatra-style singing is his strongest creative merit). Lisa Lampanelli also guest stars as his insufferable wife who barely gets any lines. Just throw those guest star names on the pile!
– The opening is pretty aggravating. It’s a flashback to nine years ago, with Homer, Marge and baby Bart taking a stroll in the fancy Springfield outdoor mall, the one we saw last season in the Facebook episode. Hadn’t it just opened in that show? It certainly doesn’t feel like a location from 2003, and as mentioned in that other review, certainly doesn’t belong in a dumpy town like Springfield. They run into Ned Flanders, who Homer happily lets watch Bart. Now, in continuity, they hadn’t moved to Evergreen Terrace until about a year later, but whatever. We also see Squeaky Voiced Teen in this flashback, but my theory is that there are hundreds of clones of him throughout time, so that’s fine.
– The Sassy Madison commercial has a stylized, kind of UPA, but not really, animation quality to it, which they use again for a song at the end to kill more time. I guess they really loved how it looked, but it felt very bland to me. It reminded me of “Saga of Carl” where Bart and Lisa watch a video about probability at a museum, which contained zero jokes. Commercial and film strip parodies used to be this show’s bread and fucking butter, and they can’t even make those funny or entertaining anymore. Where are the funnies? That they rhymed “commercial” with “Herschel”?

One good line/moment: Nothing again. Normally I write these reviews quickly after I watch the episode, but I saw this and “Carl” a day ago, and scanning through both, I really couldn’t think of a thing. That’s a bad sign, right?

12 thoughts on “530. Dangers on a Train

  1. Yeah, that’s a bad sign. This episode is the best season 24 has to offer.

    But… the seasons 21-24 are the lowest point of the show, and I noticed a significant improvement in seasons 25-27.

    1. If for “significant improvement” you mean “characters are detestable as always, the emotions are forced, there’s no laughs, animation is dreadfully stiff, but the plots of a couple of episodes TRY to make at least a little sense” then you may be right, those seasons are pure gold!

      1. Maybe a slight improvement but it’s like the difference between zero good episodes a season and 1 or 2 good episodes. I did kind of like Bull-e, and Halloween of Horror is possibly the best episode since season 12.

    2. I hate Bull-E, but Halloween of Horror is my favorite HD episode.
      In fact, seasons 25-27 have many episodes that stand out: Steal This Episode, The War of Art, Brick Like Me, I Won’t Be Home for Christmas, Treehouse of Horror XXV, Sky Police, Halloween of Horror, Barthood, The Marge-ian Chronicles…

      1. Admittedly, those episodes you mentioned are not utter shite, but as I already said, they just happen to have a coherent story, which any functional human being is able to write, and nothing more. Did you really ever laughed during one of those episodes? Did you ever found an emotion that was on an higher level than Mickey Mouse Clubhouse? Do you have any reason to watch them except the fact they happen to have the characters of a great old show in it?

  2. It’s amazing. Even before I read the synopsis, I somehow already knew just from looking at the screenshot up there that Seth MacFarlane did this character’s voice. Does he have some sort of rider in his contract that says he has to play a Frank Sinatra expy in everything he does?

  3. I know it’s a Family Guy episode, but have you thought about doing a review of “The Simpsons Guy?” You’ll most likely hate it, but I’m curious to hear your thoughts.

    And since American Dad is the show that MacFarlane is least involved in, what are your thoughts on it?

    1. Won’t be doing The Simpsons Guy, since it’s not a Simpsons episode. I only saw two clips of it, and that was more than enough.

      American Dad is definitely the most palatable MacFarlane show, possibly because of his minimal involvement, as you mentioned. I’ve probably seen a couple dozen episodes; I don’t hate it, but I’m certainly not interested in going out of my way to watch more.

      1. I don’t get the hate towards Seth McFarlane. I’m not a huge fan of his, but you can tell he loves what he does and does what he loves. I think that is far more important than trying to please everyone.

        I did like American Dad for its first few seasons, but the show got really weird when they had Snot and Roger make out. I dropped it after the Halloween episode with a jacuzzi that killed the entire cast as I felt that was the best time to bow out. 🙂

  4. I know you tend to hate anything from Seth MacFarlane, but have you tried watching “The Orville”? I’m just curious on your thoughts.

  5. We should be grateful we have this episode shortly before other bad Homer-Marge plot lines, like in Kamp Krustier, The Last Traction Hero and Moho House.

  6. Because even though there were no emotional stakes with Ben, Homer and Marge still genuinely care about each other like they used to in the 1990s.

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