544. The Winter of His Content

Original airdate: March 16, 2014

The premise:
Marge lets Abe, Jasper and the Old Jewish Man stay with at the house after the retirement home gets shut down, but soon grows worried when Homer starts to adapt their elderly lifestyle. Meanwhile, Bart is inducted as an honorary bully and gets into hot water at a late night bully summit.

The reaction: Homer reaps the perks of being old… “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilions,” anyone? Marge brings the three old men home, and the writers cracked open their ancient tome of old people jokes and went to town. They take a whole bunch of pills! They eat bran and fart on the couch! They walk the mall for exercise! The humor is so friggin’ baseline. We see a montage of Homer continuously resuscitating the old geezers’ hearts, followed by Lisa admonishing him for complaining about it (“Dad, did it ever occur to you that we’re learning how to take care of you when you’re older by watching the way you treat Grampa?” Sweet, sweet exposition.) This leads Homer to hang out with the old men and slowly become like them, worrying Marge. Where is this going? No matter, because the B-story creeps in and engulfs the entire last third. The side story starts with a poor street urchin Nelson bit of him being embarrassed having to wear his mother’s second-hand pink underwear, and Bart standing up for him. For this, he lets Bart join the bully inner circle, and they go to a creepy bully summit after hours at Krustyland. They have beef with this other kid, he tries to frame Bart for attacking their leader with a slingshot, and then they have to get out of dodge before the other bully groups beat them up. I knew this was a “parody” from the get-go, but it took a while to realize they were doing a take-off of The Warriors. I have never seen the film, so I had no fucking clue what was going on. Of course in the olden days, the show would utilize character, entire scenes even, taken from classic movies and television, but they worked on their own within the show’s universe. You can watch “The Shinning” and enjoy and understand it completely without never seeing the source material, as I did when I was younger. But this is just insanity; this cabal of teenage bullies driving around in apocalypse tricked out buses and a radio station devoted to reporting on bully news… it’s just way too nonsensical and crazy. The rival bullies corner Bart and the others on the beach, and then finally, six minutes later, the A-story reappears with Homer and the old men walking and seeing the boys. Homer steps in, punches the main bully in the face, they all run off, Homer tells Bart, “Now let’s go home,” and then they do. And then that’s it. We get our now standard end tag of Homer and Marge making out, so I guess the Homer’s-getting-old problem just solved itself. But the three old men are still living there. What will happen with the Retirement Castle? Is Bart still a bully? I guess the writers have reached a point where they don’t even bother to reset. You know everything’s going to be back to normal by next episode, so why bother giving stories a resolution? Just have the two stories collide at the very end and call it a day. See you next week, you fucks!

Three items of note:
– There’s two weird orphaned references that felt a little weird. Homer waxes on about how Abe mistreats his own grandfather, to which Lisa incredulously asks, “Your grandpa’s alive?” Homer says yes. Then Lisa goes no further with this surprising revelation that she has a living great-grandfather she never knew about. I thought it was going to lead to something in the story, but of course it didn’t. Later on at the bully summit, Nelson is surprised to see his two former weaselly underlings from “Bart the General.” I certainly wasn’t expecting that, but I wasn’t surprised to hear them spout a lame joke and exist purely for fan service purposes.
– We get an Itchy & Scratchy episode, a “parody” of Downton Abbey. Didn’t the show already take their shot in the MacFarlane episode? This one in particular was especially gory, with the Itchys just brutalizing the Scratchys horribly and for no real reason. That could be the joke, but not when it’s just over and over and over again. In recent years when they can get away with more graphic violence, it seems they’ve been pushing the shock level up more and more with these, but that’s not really why I & S was funny. Plenty of the older cartoons had more elements to the humor, but nowadays, I guess we’re just meant to laugh at Scratchy’s bloody corpse as he’s mutilated, and that’s the only joke.
– Bart’s slingshot being a crucial part of the plot in the bully story got me to thinking about how antiquated it is. I’ve said before that as the show progressed through the decades, the characters never progressed with the times, leaving these old remnants of a 90s world in modern day, and they just don’t feel right. Entire characters start to feel bizarre and out-of-date, like Apu or Comic Book Guy. Give any fourth grader a slingshot nowadays, and most of them probably won’t know what the hell it is. But it’s one of his character hallmarks that you just can’t get rid of, even though it must feel completely alien to any kid watching now.

One good line/moment: As usual, the only humor I think is still fairly solid nowadays at sign gags. We got Count Branula cereal, and a sign hanging over Abe’s new bed for Neptune Outboard Motors (Three Pulls and You’re Off!)

5 thoughts on “544. The Winter of His Content

  1. “I guess we’re just meant to laugh at Scratchy’s bloody corpse as he’s mutilated, and that’s the only joke.”
    This is pretty much what I was trying to get at with my comments about suicide scenes in the show. You have Moe spend two minutes pleading for help before he attempts suicide, or Scratchy being mutilated, with no particular twist, joke, or context to give the audience a reason to consider the proceedings entertaining. It’d be like if Homer’s Triple Bypass featured two minutes of a top-down heart surgery scene where Dr Nick sliced Homer up and mumbled about not knowing how to perform surgery, and the joke was supposed to be that they were showing gory surgery on TV. And then Homer would still be all better at the end because that’s just how the show works.

  2. This is like the fourth or fifth Downton Abbey parody, none of which were particularly timely or funny. Or even original. I feel like every show on television had an episode parodying that stupid show at somev point.

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