680. The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby

Original airdate: April 19, 2020

The premise: Mr. Burns forces Homer to go undercover to swindle Cletus out of his natural deposit of helium, but he finds it difficult to go through with it once he befriends the amiable hillbilly. Meanwhile, Marge arranges a play date for Maggie with her young love Hudson, but is quickly irritated by his trendy, overly safety-conscious mother.

The reaction: Well we’re back, with a whimper of an episode featuring two stories fighting for dominance, neither of which are particularly interesting. Firstly, when Homer brings some of Cletus’ fancy roadside balloons to work, Mr. Burns starts gunning for his helium reserves, using Homer as his man on the inside, or rather someone to pose as a seemingly innocent fellow yokel to gain Cletus’ trust. But, we see at first that Cletus offers the balloons to Homer to bring to work with him, so he must know that he’s not a fellow hillbilly. Is Homer pretending to be someone else or not? He’s putting on a Southern drawl and acting as such. But at this point in the series all these characters know each other, Homer and Cletus have had run-ins before… oh whatever. The two become fast friends and Homer ultimately comes clean with Cletus, who then eventually strikes a fair deal with Burns after he and his family have him at gunpoint. Pretty dull stuff. The other plot involves Maggie and her little boyfriend Hudson, as previously seen in the theatrical (for a week) short “Playdate with Destiny,” in the continuation of this relationship I’m sure everyone has been dying to see more of. Their cutesy antics were tiresome after a minute or so in the short, now we get more of them? Holding the plot up is Marge’s displeasure with the baby’s mother, a rich, trendy snob who insists on knowing Marge’s health records and sexual history, and babyproofs Maggie’s hair spikes. She ends up taking Maggie home, cutting off her relationship. She later gets into a conversation with the baby, trying to rationalize her decision, but it’s never like she’s just talking and trying to convince herself, she’s just literally trying to have a conversation with a one-year-old. It’s weird, and not intentionally so. I think. Eventually, Marge gets over herself and the two baby lovers reunite. Maggie carries Hudson across the threshold into their little backyard playhouse as “The Wedding March” plays, and I proceed to cringe ever so much. In “Playdate” and now this episode, this relationship of theirs is just so incredibly saccharine, the kind of thing this show would mock in its prime. The fact that they made this episode in tandem with “Playdate,” playing this up as the “sequel” that fans would excited for, to see more of the romantic adventures of Maggie and Hudson… it goes back to my question of the show’s present day audience. Who is watching this show, and why? What is The Simpsons to them? I feel like I should have some sort of idea, having watched all this crap, but I honestly and truly can’t give a straight answer to that.

Three items of note:
– At the beginning, we get another guest couch gag from animator Michal Socha, his third outing, this time presenting the Simpsons doing extreme sports. I’m not really sure why… He previously did that trippy sequence inside Homer’s mind all in red and black, which may be my favorite guest couch gag just from how cool the visuals are. After that, he did the IKEA-style “Build-Your-Own-Couch Gag,” which was okay, and now this, which looks kinda cool, but feels a bit empty and pointless. I dunno. I mean, as always, it’s more entertaining than the show itself, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
– As its theatrical life was sadly cut short thanks to the nightmare world we now live in, “Playdate with Destiny” recently followed its companion Onward onto Disney+. Having gotten a free trial of it recently, I always see the promo for it on the top banner opening it up, and boy oh boy is it still really, really difficult for me to wrap my mind around The Simpsons being a Disney property. I’ve been thinking a lot about the brand identity of Disney+ and how it’s really just a hodge podge of different disparate media elements that don’t go together, but it’s not exclusively Simpsons-related and I don’t really feel like yammering on about it. There are some who fear that Disney wants to soften The Simpsons to make them more family friendly, but I really don’t think that’s the case. But I do think they want the show to be presented as such, and that’s seemingly why it’s on Disney+, on top of being a huge feather in the streaming service’s cap to entice viewers with a humongous amount of content. The header image on the Simpsons page on Disney+ is Bart, Lisa and Maggie dead center having a fun time on the swings. The description includes this lovely nugget: “Homer is not your typical family man. He does his best to lead his family, but often finds that they are leading him.” What in the hell does that mean? Does that sound like The Simpsons to you? The content is as you remember it (aside from the aspect ratio being fucked and no “Stark Raving Dad,” there aren’t any episode-specific cuts that I’m aware of), but the veneer of the show has been sanitized a bit. It would be sad if the show hadn’t been ruining itself for the past twenty years… but it’s still a bit tough to see anyway.
– The episode cuts to credits eighteen and a half minutes in, so to kill time, we have Homer and Cletus singing a “””funny””” parody version of Queen’s “My Best Friend,” having a rootin’, tootin’, daggum blast of a time. I feel like there’s been a previous episode or two of Homer and Cletus being friends and hanging out, but I don’t care enough to look back into specifics. It’s all just so boring, they’re chums because they’re lazy and drink a lot… Speaking of, Cletus really is one of those one-dimensional joke characters the show occasionally tries to do more with, and it always lands with a thud. Like, maybe you could do something more with this character successfully, but you’d need a strong story hook to take Cletus out of his element and really examine another side of him. Instead, it’s all the same fucking jokes we’ve been doing for decades. He talks funny, he eats roadkill, Brandine’s giving birth to more kids, he drinks his blinding moonshine… boy howdy, the mileage they get off these REALLY GREAT JOKES!!

15 thoughts on “680. The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby

  1. Holy shit! 9 episodes with not good moments at all? Looks like we have the worst season yet and I hate to say It wont be the Last

    1. Oh this season has been attrocious. I’m slowly catching up and I’m wondering if I should have ever bothered. I probably wouldn’t have had it not been for this quaratine. The episodes aren’t even bad because they suck ass, they’re bad because they’re utterly forgettable and boring. I can at least have fun with how bad something is, but I can not have fun with boring.

    2. That’s just terrible! Season 28 had less episodes with no good moments at all. Don’t take Bobby It’s Cold Outside for granted. That is the latest episode with any good moments or laughs in it. Treasure that one and all that came before – unless they are episodes that have no good moments to speak of on this blog, like Friends and Family and Kamp Krustier.

  2. Holy hell, you have this out already? I was just going to post about the STEM school episode since I watched that and this one tonight. This is actually the first episode since Dec I caught while it aired, so I get to be part of the conversation while it is relevant. YAY!!!

    Anyway, this episode made little sense to me, but I guess that is just a broken record at this point, isn’t it? Cletus freaking knows who Homer is at this point for fuck sake! His daughter dates Homer’s son from time to time. How does he not know Homer? Is it trying to say Cletus is so dumb he doesn’t know the man he has bonded with many times? Also, given that this version of Cletus doesn’t know Homer, why would he just suddenly trust him out of the blue? Why not play off of the whole, “Well my daughter loves you son, so I don’t see why you would cheat me,” aspect?

    Did we really need the popping out kids joke again? And what was up with that song before the credits? It went on forever. It could have been funny had it been like a 10 second gag, but nope, it was like 2 minutes long. My god.

    The couch gag was interesting, albeit weird. Still, it was better than the entire episode. However, I need to ask, is it just me, or do the opening credits seem to be missing from most of the episodes this season? Like when I watched the STEM episode just prior to this one it just jumped right into the action and it isn’t the first of the ones I have been watching over the last two weeks to do that.

    So that WAS the baby from the short before Onward. I thought so, but I figured it would be too soon for that. Sucks that they took a cute little short and ruined it by turning it into an annoying subplot with a terrible mother. Now they just competely ruined what made that little thing special. God I hate Fox!

    I don’t get your issue with Disney owning The Simpsons now though. If anything, maybe Disney can actually save the show from the Hell its been in over the last decade.

    1. I really don’t think Disney has any reason to try and “fix” the show. Multiple crew members have said that Disney personnel told them they don’t want to mess with the show, that they love it and want them to keep doing what they’re doing. There’s no “saving” this show. Disney would be pushing for a full reboot in five years before attempting to jumpstart this twenty-years-dead engine.

    2. Disney saving the show… WHAT?! Disney saving “something”?
      I know you are the most forgiving fan in the world, but which planet are you living on? Or better, what kind of Disney you are talking about? Sorry to tell you, but these are not the late 80’s-early 90’s.

      Other than that, how could you think that The Simpson can be saved? And above all, WHY? Who cares about this shit?
      I just don’t understand why people are more fans of an icon, of a brand, instead of being fans of the quality of a product. The Simpsons is a 90s show, why you want to keep them torturing it? (apart from the fact that Disney co. are the greatest rapists or quality old movies\shows on earth, obviously).

      1. I’m sorry, but I don’t agree with you. Disney has given us some of the greatest comic book movies ever and most of their animated films are top notch. They are easily the best movie studio in Hollywood as they are the only studios who cares about quality. And please spare me the Star Wars spiel. Yes, Rise of Skywalker was garbage, but Star Wars has always had a shaky history ever since The Holiday Special. Disney did give us Rogue One, which is one of the best of the franchise.

        I agree The Simpsons should have stayed in the 90s though.

  3. You know this show is running out of ideas when they give the BABY of all Simpsons a love interest. I’m sure next season the dog will get a love interest too.
    “There are some who fear that Disney wants to soften The Simpsons to make them more family friendly, but I really don’t think that’s the case.”
    I agree with that, The Simpsons already has been softened 20+ years ago. I’ve been praying that Season 32 is the last season but by this point, it sounds like a wish out of desperation.

  4. Maggie having a love interest could have been funny if it were the eyebrowed baby Gerald and they mocked the hell out of this rating stunt.

    But no, it’s this Hudson jackass and it’s one more reason why the show should either die or wrap up. #MargeNeedsALozenge

  5. This show really is the Blondie or HI & Lois of animated TV, just a legacy show that hasn’t been relevant in years and keeps plugging away at the same old jokes.

    1. Legacy comic strips are very toothless, and the kind of stuff you’ll find mocked to hell and back on sites like The Comics Curmudgeon, though given the age of the medium’s readers, they are designed to be bland and inoffensive as sort of the last bastion of “the good ol’ days”, with a few of the more rebellious strips that still exist, like Kevin and Kell (a strip that legitimately features anthropomorphic characters engaging in toned down examples of sex and eating each other) and Lio (featuring a silent protagonist converging with Lovecraftian horrors) not getting much syndication for obvious reasons. Then you get stuff like right wing cranks such as Bruce Tindley (Mallard Fillmore), Scott Adams (Dilbert), and Stephen Pastis (Pearls Before Swine) who use the format to complain about That Which They Do Not Like And Refuse To Coexist With… and overall sick perverts like Brooke McEldowney (9 Chickweed Lane & Pigborn) who just keep drawing vapid characters doing it and professing their vanity (recently, his main character gave birth to twins, but spent far more time thinking about her career and deviled eggs than spending time in the NICU with her newborns… and then went to a lakeside estate). So, in the case of the newspaper, you’d rather just stick to the establishment due to who you have still reading it ‘coz I remember when Hi & Lois caught hell for using “plug and play” (an actual term in hardware standardization) as a punchline, and when Zits used the word “sucks”.

      I went on the tangent due to my least favorite character in the series is front and center in the episode.

      1. Wait, the Pearls Before Swine guy is a right wing crank? I don’t remember that strip having a conservative bent, but it’s been a while since I’ve read it.

  6. The only thing that short’s going to leave in my mind is that creepy Mickey-looking Homer at the beginning, that shit’s the thing nightmares are made of.

    As for the episode itself. It was pretty lifeless.

  7. The sanitized presentation of the family is an interesting contrast to how the show would portray itself (particularly Bart) in the promo material back when it was originally airing. i recall, in particular, the Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy episode. The ad for that episode was an image of Bart trying to peek up Malibu Stacy’s skirt, while the content of the episode itself was one of the smartest and funniest things the show had done.

    Whatever. I really don’t give a shit what the Mouse does with this property because there haven’t been any new episodes of The Simpsons since around 1999.

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