661. Woo-hoo Dunnit?

Original airdate: May 5, 2019

The premise: Someone has stolen Lisa’s stowed away college money, and on a very special Dateline: Springfield, the mystery becomes unraveled as to who committed the dirty deed.

The reaction: Format-bending episodes like these is a chance to delve into new, interesting territory you couldn’t get away with in the show proper. The last example of this, “22 For 30,” I recall being pretty decent, crafting a kiddie basketball scandal story that felt believable and was mostly engaging. Here… not so much. The big mystery here is that Lisa’s college fund, $650 stowed away in a cleanser can under the sink, has gone missing, and our Dateline narrator runs down the suspects and starts whittling them down to find who done it. It didn’t take me long to start getting tired. Honestly, who gives a shit about who stole the money? I mean, the episode is hyper-exaggerated on purpose, that this incredibly detail-oriented investigation is in the service of such a petty crime, but that kind of gag premise can only go on so long before it starts to wear thin. On top of all that, it becomes clear before halfway through the show that Marge is the one that stole the money. As the Dateline narrator starts to accuse each Simpson, we cut to Marge getting increasingly more and more indignant about them being scrutinized, until eventually she tosses the production crew out of the house. Yeah, no shit she’s the guilty party. In a very belabored scene, we discover she used the money to invest in a new product, little stick-on coasters that just attach to your cups (I think Karl Pilkington is entitled to some royalties for this idea…) She tearfully admits to Homer that she just wanted some excitement out of her life, and Homer, ready and raring to gloat to the kids that for once he didn’t fuck something up, feels bad and covers for her. They laid track for this reveal through the show in discussing Marge’s gambling past, and her adamant about the family using coasters on the nice table, but again, who really cares? Marge apparently bought a thousand of the little coasters, but that’s as much information as we’re given. Why did she buy so many? How did she try to sell them? Did she even try at all? Maybe she could have recouped her investment. But we never find out any of this. Marge wanting to get more out of life is a plot motivation the show’s been using since the beginning, none of this is anything noteworthy, apparently so given how throwaway this ending seems. Episodes like these seem particularly egregious in how absolutely disposable they are. This is a series with a rotating cast of at least sixty major secondary characters you can mine new stories out of, but instead, we get a show about who stole the money from the money jar? How unremarkable.

Three items of note:
– We discover Bart had stolen the money (then later returned it in full) to invest in his business of selling slime on the schoolyard. The bullies were in charge of production, and boy oh boy we get another loving Breaking Bad reference with the kids producing the slime in music video format just like the meth cooking sequences from the series. They don hazmat suits, the mixing/processing devices are similar, the slime initially is blue despite the final product being green (maybe they mixed the yellow in afterwards), we see the bullies taking a break to watch TV… am I supposed to be laughing yet? I’ve repeated this more times than I can count, but shit like this doesn’t count as a parody. There’s no subversion, no commentary, no purpose re-adaptation of the original source material. It’s just them doing their own version of a Breaking Bad cook scene, because they love the show. And at this point, the show’s been off the air for six years. How huge is their Breaking Bad boner after all this time?
– It took me a while to figure out why the table looks so strange in the above shot as we see it in a couple scenes. It looks extra short because we have rarely ever in thirty years seeing the Simpson kitchen seen the table without its blue tablecloth.   But also it looks like it’s placed right up against the counter instead of in the relative center of the kitchen. The framing just seems very weird… But why is the tablecloth inexplicably removed? Because they needed to have Marge get angry about rings on the table to set up the coaster reveal at the end. It couldn’t have been more obviously telegraphed from barely four minutes into the episode, hence my boredom waiting for the big reveal to finally rear its dreary head.
– Will Forte as King Toot makes a reappearance, scat singing a Dave Brubeck song for fifteen seconds. I love me some Will Forte, but man, what a waste of such a huge comedic talent. But what else is new…

One good line/moment: Ahhhhhhhh whatever.

13 thoughts on “661. Woo-hoo Dunnit?

  1. Umm… Thoughts on Ken Burns? Yeah, I got nothing for this. Maybe at this point, you should type in “BLANK” for the one good line/moment section when needed. Why did this show get renewed for two more seasons?

  2. Yeah, they very conspicuously changed a piece of furniture that was the same for over three decades. Way to be subtle, guys.

  3. “And at this point, the show’s been off the air for six years. How huge is their Breaking Bad boner after all this time?”

    Well considering Game of Thrones fans had to start nitpicking apart the ending of Breaking Bad to make themselves feel good about their shitty ass ending to their shitty ass series that really stopped being good during Season 4, there is clearly a hard on for Breaking Bad six years later around the table.

    Plus, Better Call Saul keeps people thinking about BB.

    Oh, and The Simpsons wishes it was Breaking Bad, a show that ended when it knew it was time to end rather than become the walking dead.

    I’ve got nothing to respond to on this episode, but it is funny you talk about this episode having a Breaking Bad reference when the next episode appears to be titled after a Breaking Bad reference.

    1. There is a difference between knowing WHEN to end and knowing HOW to end. How do you think The Simpsons should have ended years ago? How you do think The Simpsons should have ended after Behind the Laughter, at the end of Season 11?

    2. Also, can we please stop talking about other shows The Simpsons wishes that it was? I know one worse thing The Simpsons should be glad that it is not: The Emoji Movie. Or Fairly OddParents after it introduced Chloe Carmichael.

      1. I notice you bring up the Emoji Movie a lot, I assume because it’s become the benchmark amongst the online animation reaction community as the lowest of the low in terms of contemporary animation. I have not seen it, but if you locked me in a room and gave me a choice between the Emoji Movie or the first couple episodes of season 31, I’d pick the Emoji Movie. Aside from being visually more engaging (I assume it probably has some very good animation, being from Sony Animation), dissecting the movie in all of its corporate-mandated, product placement, creatively-bereft splendor, would be a much more entertaining experience than anything modern Simpsons has produced in a good long while.

      2. Yes, it is because The Emoji Movie is the benchmark amongst the online animation reaction community as the lowest of the low in terms of contemporary animation. If you watch it and it’s written worse than most modern The Simpsons episodes you have seen, then being “visually more engaging” can only get it so far when the character types themselves are more generic and cliché than the story itself.

      3. But if you find The Emoji Movie to be even more soulless and creatively bereft than current seasons of The Simpsons, then I can see why dissecting that would be more entertaining when there are more bad and more soulless things to dissect.

      4. Uh…I kind of have to disagree on The Emoji Movie being visually more engaging, because much of its visual design are things you can already see on your own phone if you opened Candy Crush or Just Dance. Do you know what is REALLY visually engaging and fun to dissect? Ralph Breaks the Internet. Even in eBay and Oh My Disney, they didn’t make the visuals look as paint-by-numbers as something we could already see from eBay and Oh My Disney in real life. They had a lot more detail and Ralph Breaks the Internet’s budget is 3.5x the budget of The Emoji Movie, so think about that. You watched Wreck-it Ralph. Did you watch the sequel 6 years later?

  4. “They laid track for this reveal through the show in discussing Marge’s gambling past, and her adamant about the family using coasters on the nice table, but again, who really cares?” I concur. Our Dateline narrator himself was angry about not solving the case and changing the format, and I hate these so-called “disposable endings.”

    1. Disposable because you asked questions that implied Woo-hoo Dunnit could have gone further into Marge’s coaster situation if it didn’t spend so much time on other things, and this whole “female Simpson does something bad they would normally not do but a male Simpson wants to cover it up to protect them” was done much better with Bart taking the rap for Lisa in Separate Vocations, is all I’m saying.

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