1. Stark Raving Dad
- Ah, the forbidden episode. I don’t really have much to say about the specifics of this show getting pulled, but its omission from Disney+ poses a larger question as to what exactly streaming services are. They’re not really media libraries or archives; at this point more than ever, they’re a replacement for television, and as such, their content “needs” to reflect the concerns and sensibilities of a modern audience. But if you’re watching an older movie or TV show, you kind of have to be cognizant of the time of which it was made, and to some extent, accept it. But I could argue back and forth with myself about this forever, so I’ll just say it’s a bummer in the case of this episode, since it’s really, really good.
- “Something’s wrong. Dad died!” “No no, he’s fine!” “Well, whaddya know, I’m relieved.” The opening exchange between Bart and Lisa is so charming, where Bart teases his sister about the horrors of getting older (“Your legs start to go, candy doesn’t taste as good anymore…”) while Lisa innocently browbeats him into submission to agree to actually get her a birthday present this year.
- I love that you pay two bucks for the Krusty Hotline to listen to a clown laugh and laugh and laugh and then disconnect the line (“Thanks for calling, kids! A new message every day!”)
- What a shot.
- Marvin Monroe appears once again to promote his personal psychiatric brand in the form of his specialized personality test (“Twenty simple questions that will determine exactly how crazy or ‘meshuggeneh’ someone is.”) The good doctor has another season or so left in him before he fell off the face of the series, which is a shame because I’ve enjoyed all of his appearances thus far. I don’t know if Harry Shearer complaining how hard the voice was to do was the catalyst for writing him off, but either way, it’s a bit of a shame.
- There’s a quick bit where we see Marge at her vanity using hairspray on her enormous beehive. She empties a can, then opens a drawer filled with more, and starts on a new can. We also see several emptied cans strewn over the top of the vanity. It’s a really solid joke that doesn’t draw too much attention to itself, which almost makes it better; this is just a regular routine for Marge that we’re looking in on.
- I’m sure I mentioned this in my original review, but casting Michael Jackson, the biggest celebrity in the history of anything, as a deluded mental patient is absolute brilliance. Given the chance to get the King of Pop on their show, any other series would have turned it into a fawning celebrity jerk-off fest, but not The Simpsons. Well, not yet anyway (see “Lisa Goes Gaga,” and a hundred other episodes).
- I remember thinking the joke with the Chief was funny long before I even saw One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, back when the show knew you had to make parodies funny in and of themselves, instead of just copying popular movies shot for shot and calling a reference a joke.
- “I’m with your father in a mental institution.” “Uh huh. And is Elvis with you?” “Could be. It’s a big hospital.” Michael Jackson isn’t much of an actor, but his unaffected, almost innocent (so to speak…) delivery ends up helping some of the punchlines (“You’re nothing but a big fat mental patient!” “You’d be amazed how often I hear that.”)
- Pretty dark joke with Bart fondly fantasizing about his drooling lobotomized father (still wearing his pink shirt, nice touch). But of course, he snaps out of it (“Well, there’s probably a down side I don’t see.”)
- Bart playing with the phone cord is another of those little acting moments I really appreciate. What kid hasn’t twanged that cord while on the phone? (except kids born after 2000 or so who have no idea what a landline is.)
- It’s so funny hearing one of the upset crowd members react to “Michael Jackson”’s reveal with “He’s white!” Not only is this years before Jackson’s, shall we say, pigment transition, but the man is clearly yellow. It’s always strange when characters on this show are referred to as “white,” I get it when they’re making a joke about “white people,” but it does kind of break the reality of the show a little bit.
- It’s a great touch that Bart wakes Lisa up by plugging her nose in her sleep, just as she woke him up at the beginning of the episode.
2. Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington
- Of course Homer is the sort of dunce who would believe a phony sweepstakes check is real (“See where it says VOID VOID VOID’ and ‘This is not a check’, ‘Cash value one twentieth of a cent,’ ‘Mr. Banker, do not honor’…”)
- I love the drawing of the Reading Digest cartoon. It’s always so interesting whenever this show depicts what comics, cartoons and animation looks like within an already animated show. Also great is the title, Motoring Ms.-Haps, a cartoon seemingly entirely about how women are awful drivers. It’s like The Lockharts, but worse.
- The first act is a shining example of how Homer’s mind works. When he takes an interest in something, not only does he become completely obsessed with it, it’s almost like he can’t remember a time without it, as we see him admonishing the kids for being glued to the TV, something he himself was surely doing mere days ago. All of this also makes it all the funnier when Homer is just as quick to jettison his new love, as he tosses his Reading Digest in the trash upon being ineligible for the essay contest, despite spending every waking moment of the last few days fawning over the magazine.
- There’s a very lovely scene where Marge tries to help Lisa, who’s frustrated with her essay. She suggests she take a bike ride, but is unsure whether that’s “cool” anymore, or even if saying “cool” is cool. Lisa chuckles while assuring her mother that those things are in fact cool. It’s just so sweetly acted between the two characters with Lisa politely humoring her mother.
- “We the purple? What the hell was that?”
- “Brevity is… wit” has got to be one of the greatest sight gags of the entire series.
- The VIP badges scene between Homer and Faith, the editor of Reading Digest, is so funny, but also really serves to show how damn good Maggie Roswell is, her increasing level of frustration at Homer’s questions is just perfect. Around the time FOX fired her, Tress MacNeille would later slip in to perform a bulk of the show’s one-off female characters, and she is a tremendously accomplished voice actress in her own right, but her characters are typically a lot more blunt and caricatured, missing some of the more subtle nuances of Roswell’s voices.
- The ending of act two is really powerful with Lisa sobbing and tearing her essay up as she witnesses blatant government corruption play out before her own eyes. Sadly, all I could think about while watching it, at the time I’m writing this, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo posted the gif of Lisa in that scene in response to something at the DNC, I don’t really know what. Without opening up a political can of worms, I’ll just say something I hopefully believe everyone can agree: conservatives are not allowed to use Simpsons memes. I remember in 2016 when I tragically watched forty seconds of that video of Ted Cruz doing Simpsons impressions, that disgusting little worm made me want to puke. But as I said, I don’t want to get political…
- Lisa’s jaded fantasy of the fat cats and swine in government is so beautifully animated, with the cross-hatched New Yorker style played against “Yankee Doodle Dandy.”
- The ending where Lisa’s scathing essay gets Bob Arnold expelled from Congress within the day was intentionally absurdist in depicting how quickly, efficiently and righteously the US government operates (“You work fast.” “I work for Uncle Sam!”), but watching it in 2020, it almost feels sad how completely alien the scene feels. You can just imagine the upswing of support Tom Arnold would get by his colleagues, screaming about how people are trying to “cancel” him…
- “Imprisoned Congressman Becomes Born-Again Christian”
- “Cesspool on the POTOMAC” was robbed. Trong Van Din can suck it.
3. When Flanders Failed
- “Look, I don’t care if Ned Flanders is the nicest guy in the world, he’s a jerk, end of story!” From the get-go, this really does feel like a sequel to “Dead Putting Society,” featuring Homer’s blind hatred toward Ned. I don’t think it’s quite as good as “Putting,” but hey, it’s a high bar.
- Homer is such a huge prick in the first act, but at least some of it is excused by being motivated to come to the BBQ in the first place through sheer gluttony, as he grabs a plate of burgers and goes to eat them under a tree like a child. I love that at the end of the act, when he laughs maniacally with his mouth full of food, Ned and Maude look on and then turn away, looking visibly concerned at their crazed neighbor.
- The random French waiter dog tripping on Scratchy’s severed head at the end of the I&S cartoon always makes me laugh.
- One of the game cabinets in the background at the mall arcade is Robert Goulet Destroyer, another game I wish existed in some real-world form.
- “No, I do not know what Schadenfreude is. Please tell me, because I’m dying to know!” An absolutely perfect line reading from Dan Castellaneta, just dripping in sarcasm. Also he mispronounces it of course, sounding more like schaden-frawde.
- Homer’s war against vending machine apples lends itself to such a great scene: his sternly written note, the fact that there’s only two notes in the complaint box, suggesting regular employees don’t dare rock the boat and risk upsetting old man Burns (one of the notes is a fluff note from Smithers as well, “Keep that handsome owner out of sight, he’s distracting the female employees,”) and Mr. Burns mocking Homer on his way out (“Tell my secretary that you could have a free apple!”) It’s just so damn petty, but perfectly in line that Burns would ridicule such a ridiculous request from a lowly subordinate.
- “I’m sure you did nothing to discourage this, you scavenger of human misery.” Damn, Lisa don’t play.
- I love the Barney’s Bowl-O-Rama jingle on the TV (“For entertainment and exercise!”), it feels like they had to kill a few seconds without animating anything and just came up with it on the fly.
- Homer comes off pretty cruel through a lot of the episode, but what makes the episode work is that we see him slowly come around to considering helping Ned out before he reaches his lowest point. When the bill collector erroneously comes to his door instead of Ned’s and complains about his right-handed ledger, Homer is about to tell him about the Leftorium before he gets interrupted. Later, he returns all the stuff he bought from Ned only to find their house has been foreclosed. So when Homer vows to finally help Ned, it was actually built to that point.
- “Hello, Jerry? Homer Simpson. Remember last month when I paid back that loan? Well, now I need you to do a favor for me!”
- I love how quickly this guy springs to life off the couch after hearing the call to action. “Ned Flanders is in trouble?!”
- The ending is already pretty schmaltzy in its tribute to It’s a Wonderful Life, but closing on the big “Put On A Happy Face” sing-a-long feels like pushing it too far. I actually shut it off right when the song started.
4. Bart the Murderer
- From the very first time I saw it as a kid up till now, I love the Chocolate Frosted Krusty Flakes slogan, “Only Sugar Has More Sugar!”
- Just a wonderful piece of animation of Bart running to the bus. The POV from inside, the bounce in his run, the pitch perfect timing of it slamming shut just as he gets up to it… brilliant.
- “Bart Simpson, you’re late. Go fill out a tardy slip.” “But I’m only five… ten, twenty… forty minutes! That’s pretty damn late!”
- Just love this shot.
- Regarding the horse race scene, it’s great that this early in the series, the show is making fun of its own popularity and its more gimmicky elements, like Bart’s various catchphrases, which polluted commercials and merchandising far more pervasively than they appeared in the actual show.
- I remember from the audio commentary of this episode, they mentioned how the FOX censors forbade them from showing Bart mix drinks on camera, so they staged him hidden behind the bar, which honestly I think is much funnier, as you see just the top of his spiky head shaking up a drink.
- I kind of miss the slightly more competent Chief Wiggum who would angrily go toe-to-toe with Mayor Quimby and who sort of, kind of knew what he was doing. Sometimes characters are funnier when they’re brazen and confident, while simultaneously being distracted and kind of clueless (“Fat Tony is a cancer on this fair city. He is the cancer, and I am the… um… What cures cancer?”)
- Flowers By Irene. That’s all.
- On a similar note as Wiggum, Principal Skinner also used to be more serious and authoritative, which made him a much greater foil to Bart. Hell, in this episode, he doesn’t even flinch when the goddamn mafia looms into his office (“You Skinner?” “I’m Principal Skinner, yes. And how, may I ask, did you get past the hall monitors?”) Again, a grown man way too invested in the marginal amount of disciplinary authority afforded by his job is far more interesting and funny than the spineless little turd he’d eventually devolve into.
- It’s really wonderful how the kids of Springfield Elementary immediately cheer upon hearing Skinner is missing, presumed dead, and later speculate on his cause of death on the playground, acting exactly like shitty little kids would.
- Bart’s nightmare is a really fantastic sequence, and as always, pulls no punches in making jokes about the execution of a small child, placing a couple phone books on the electric chair to put Bart at the proper height. We’re at episode 30 and we’ve seen Bart get killed, what, three times? Four if you count the “Deep, Deep Trouble” music video?
- “Did you kill my principal?” “Uh, Chinese guy with a moustache?” I like that no bones are made about it that, yes, Fat Tony does indeed kill people. A lot of people.
- Great newspaper art.
- Skinner’s ridiculous story always cracks me up in how exhaustively detailed it is, and how proud Skinner is to recount each and every one of those details. The best is how he talks about making a game of how many times he could bounce the basketball, just as he informed Bart at the beginning of the episode of how many envelopes he could lick in an hour. Skinner truly is that fucking boring.
5. Homer Defined
- The Krusty card is one of those jokes that gets funnier and more absurd the more you think about it. How did this get produced? Was Krusty hungover and a tad bit horny when he approved it? What did Bart think when he bought it? I also love that it’s specifically a card for a ten-year-old, just to make matters clear that, hey, this nice pair of bongos is just for you, kid.
- I love love love the scenes of Burns and Smithers just chit-chatting about their respective weekends. Even in the show’s heyday, it was still uncommon to see a couple of non-Simpsons just living their lives and talking amongst each other. We get an insight into Smithers’ sad but content bachelor life with his ironically named Yorkshire terrier, and we get to hear Burns’ critique on modern day cinema (“Call me old-fashioned, but movies were sexier when actors kept their clothes on. Vilma Banky could do more for me with one raised eyebrow…”) We get a similar-ish scene when Otto high-fives Apu walking into the Kwik-E-Mart and the two have a brief back-and-forth. Even this early into the series, Springfield is filled with colorful characters, and seeing how they react to one another is all part of the fun.
- “Simpson, eh? Good man? Intelligent?” “Actually, sir, he was hired under Project Bootstrap.” “Thank you, President Ford.” Definitely a joke I didn’t understand as a kid, for obvious reasons. I remember reading it quoted in the Simpsons Complete Guide and doubly not understanding it, as it’s hard to read Burns as sarcastic when it’s in print.
- Here’s another great additive acting moment; when Marge is praying, Maggie mimics her mother and does prayer hands, and quickly falls to the floor in a thud. It’s never addressed, and I don’t even know if I really picked up on it before, but now that I have, I love it.
- “Will I ever see you again?” “Sure, baby. Next meltdown.” Ahh, now that’s good sleaze.
- “This reporter promises to be more trusting and less vigilant in the future.” Pretty much sums up most of the major new outlets.
- The key component of this episode is that Homer feels tremendous shame and knows he’s a fraud, something that would barely register in modern depictions of Homer. He’d wolf down that prize ham without a second thought, but here, it’s even funnier that he’s so overwhelmed in self-loathing, not even food can cheer him up (“How are you enjoying your ham, Homie?” “Tastes so bitter, it’s like ashes in my mouth…” “Hmmm. It’s actually more of a honey glaze.”) I also like how his guilt is pushed even further by Lisa’s newfound admiration toward him, making him more embittered with himself (“What is it? What are you doing?” “Looking at you with quiet awe.” “Well, as long as it’s quiet.”)
- “Mrs. Van Houten? I’m Bart’s mother. We met in the emergency room when the boys drank paint?” I like that Marge’s plea to let Bart hang out with Milhouse again is openly admitted to his mother that their sons are misfit losers who don’t have any other friends besides each other. Also, the ending of this subplot is the absolute perfect example of this show having its cake and eating it too in regards to balancing earned sentimentality with raw comedy. Bart is thrilled that Milhouse wants to hang out again, and knows it was his mother’s doing (“Thanks for sticking up for me.” “What makes you think it was me?” “Who else would?”) It’s an honestly sweet and heartwarming moment. Then Marge tells Bart to play nice, and we all know where this is going. Bart unboxes his BB gun from under his bed, cocks it with very loud and ominous sound effects before he bolts off to cause some godforsaken mischief. Truly great stuff.
6. Like Father, Like Clown
- I always get a little curious the incredibly rare times we see Krusty’s other sidekicks, Corporal Punishment and Tina Ballerina. What are their roles on the show? Considering how great a character Sideshow Mel is off-camera, who are these people? What are they like?
- Speaking of Krusty’s people, we get to meet Krusty’s lovesick yet beleaguered assistant Ms. Pennycandy, who is just great with her limited screen time. She’s clearly fed up with her boss (“How can he hurt someone who loves him so?” “Oh, Mrs. Simpson, I’ve wasted my womanhood asking that same question.”) But when she lays down an ultimatum and Krusty begrudgingly caves, she goes right back to fawning over him.
- I like that we had a direct callback to “Krusty Gets Busted” in that Krusty agreed to have dinner with Bart in thanks for helping clear his name, but we’re also told this is the fifth time he’s canceled that engagement, so it’s almost like the year and a half between the airdates of “Busted” and this episode has actually passed, even though of course it hasn’t since nobody’s aged.
- “I always suspected that nothing in life mattered. Now I know for sure.”
- I laugh every time when Krusty does his “Shave and a Haircut” knock, horn honks and laughs, Homer blankly asks, “You think it’s him?”
- Another gag I never got until years later was the good Rabbi catching his son spraying himself with seltzer in the bathroom. I haven’t seen The Jazz Singer, but I assume this isn’t a parody of the scene where Jerry Lewis’ father catches him jacking off and shooting a money shot all over himself.
- “A rabbi would never exaggerate! A rabbi composes. He creates thoughts. He tells stories that may never have happened. But he does not exaggerate!”
- What a miserable scene at this bus station. The conceit of a rich and powerful celebrity feeling empty inside isn’t exactly novel, but it feels a little more potent when it’s a guy who never takes off his clown makeup.
- I love this bit of animation of the DJ when the first “Gabbin’ About God” caller asks the panelists if they still firmly believe in God despite all the hurt and suffering in the world. Just in his reaction, you get the sense that he fields this same dumb question almost every single show, and he’s just tired of it. Also bonus points for his Foghat T-shirt.
- I never noticed it until now, but the shop where Bart gets his Rabbi costume is Yiddle’s, the same joke shop that enamored Krusty when he was a child. The owner (Yiddle, presumably) is even shown to be a much older man, presumably having this store for decades. As he admits, he loves his work.
- “What’s the one thing rabbis prize above everything else?” “Those stupid hats?”
- I love that Krusty introduces the Rabbi as his “estranged father,” followed by the kids cheering wildly for his elderly holy man appears behind the curtain. They’re as excited about this serious family reunion as they would be for any of Krusty’s goofy pratfalls.
15. Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?
- “You Have The Right To Remain Dead” really feels like it should be a Bond title.
- I love all the small interfamilial moments in these early seasons, when the show was a bit more leisurely and could make the time for it. Bart and Lisa bicker at the dinner table, Homer tells them to knock it off, so the two pantomime (or “panta-ma-mime” as Homer puts it) their insults to each other. That alone is great, but what’s even better is that they both laugh about it. They’re just little brats trying to annoy their dad a little, and it works. Such a pure moment.
- There’s a lot of risque material in these early years, but explicitly showing Abe paid for sex and impregnated a prostitute has got to be the craziest example. I also love that Abe doesn’t even try to sanitize the story, openly talking about how he “dunked the clown” with this carnival floozy. Also, baby Herb has a beard line, because of course he does.
- Danny DeVito is an absolute powerhouse right out of the gate, just nailing the opening boardroom scene. And as belabored as it gets by the end of framing the scene to explicitly not show his face, it still works pretty well. And finally, I love that at the end when Herb deflates and admits he’s just a lonely guy, we cut back to this dumb guy’s dumb face for no real reason.
- “All born in wedlock?” “Yeah, though the boy was a close call.”
- One of the biggest sins of post-classic Simpsons is the change in Homer’s self-esteem. He became an absolute maniac who believed he could do anything and be praised for it, but what made him so likable and relatable was how insecure and vulnerable he could be. This is evidenced by Herb trying to build Homer up to get him to take control of building his own car. When Homer mumbles that he “sort of” understands Herb’s pep talk, Herb demands, “Say it like you mean it!” to which Homer loudly repeats, “Sort of!!” Then he proceeds to go nuts on Herb’s build team, but this is only after he’s been riled into it, so it feels appropriate.
- I love how openly Unky Herb just digs his own grave in letting his empty-headed half-brother have free reign, brought to its ultimate level by ignoring his head engineer and forcing him to lie to Bart and Lisa (“Homer Simpson is a brilliant man with lots of well thought out, practical ideas. He is ensuring the financial security of this company for years to come. Oh yes, and his personal hygiene is above reproach.”) It’s actually really sweet how Herb does Homer a solid by making him look good to his kids like that. Also at the end of this scene, he looks like he’s got Bender teeth.
- The moral of the story, of course, is that what the common man wants is usually very stupid and probably should be ignored. I love how expertly the episode is geared toward building to the point where Herb views Homer as the solution to his problems, but ultimately becomes his undoing.
- The Homer costs $82,000, which is roughly $150,000 today. I guess considering it’s stated that Powell Motors is getting killed in the marketplace, that might be enough to bankrupt the company. But to bankrupt Herb personally? It feels like a bit of a stretch, doesn’t it? Ah, who cares. Also, the turntable animation here is really excellent, given the complex design of the car with Homer waving inside it all had to be tracked.
- “As far as I’m concerned, I have no brother!” “Maybe he just said that to make conversation.”
18. Bart’s Dog Gets An “F”
- Great visual of SLH digging a perfect circle in the radius his chain will allow him.
- “Not that I’m angry, but how did you get my home number? …I see. Quite ingenious.”
- Homer getting angrier at Mrs. Winthrop on the phone is one of Dan Castellaneta’s greatest performances. I love how his irritation builds as he’s just so sure that the dog is out back, only to be swiftly proven wrong. The fact that there’s barely a pause between his rantings and the “D’oh!!” upon seeing the empty yard is just perfect.
- Sick Lisa calling Homer at work is a really cute scene, with him teasing Lisa about having “the kissing disease” and her laughing, and Homer agreeing to get her her slightly scandalous reading material (“Teen Steam Magazine? Well, okay, you’re the sicky.”) It’s sweet to see Homer be an actually good dad.
- Marge turning her hand to show off her sewing finger has always stuck with me. The hands on this show are pretty simple shapes, but the turn is just so fluid and perfect.
- It goes by really quick, but I love the slogan for the Assassins sneakers, “Join the Conspiracy.” It feels like such a solid joke that perfectly encapsulates the projected brand attitude, the idea that you’re part of a secret club railing against “the Man” by buying a product, and such a gag goes by in the blink of an eye.
- Right on the heels of DeVito last episode, Tracy Ullman delivers her own tremendous performance here, just owning every scene she’s in. I assume she did a lot of characters on her sketch show, but I can’t say I’ve ever seen anything she’s done, or honestly would even recognize a photo of her, despite being an instrumental person responsible for my favorite show of all time. What a surreal position to be in, where you decide to give airtime on your show to these weird little cartoon bumpers, only for them to later be this monstrous hit and cultural phenomenon. I know she initially sued FOX to get a bigger cut in the merchandise, I think, but I’m pretty sure she still gets a yearly check to this day. And hey, why not? She deserves it.
- The dog-vision throughout this show is really well done, with that great fisheye lens effect and the limited color scheme.
- Ah, nothing like watching a nice animated family sitcom where a man gropes a dog’s genitals, with the mutt yelping in reaction.
- I feel like this episode suffers a bit in that it doesn’t feel like there’s enough focus on Bart and his relationship with SLH until the back half, and then he has to fight screen time with Homer trying to sell the dog. But there’s one moment that rings incredibly true, after Bart still can’t get the dog to obey and uses the choke chain after Winthropp bellows at him, he hugs the poor mutt and says, “I’m sorry, boy. You can’t help being dumb.” Considering “Bart Gets An F” earlier this season, and with this show sharing a title with it, this feels like very meaningful, where Bart sympathizes with SLH since he’s a fellow screw-up like him. A moment or two more like that, and this episode would have been all the stronger for it.
17. Old Money
- Abe starts out the show as ornery as ever, but softens upon laying eyes on Bea. But I love that even with him attempting to be more congenial, the crotchety fire still burns deep (“I was wondering if you and I you know, might go to the same place at the same time and… jeez,you’d think this would get easier with time!”)
- “Nothing says ‘I love you’ better than a military antique. Let’s look at the bayonet case.”
- It’s great that the first act is mostly Abe’s story, as we see a microcosm of his month at the home with Bea (like “Principal Charming,” it’s great seeing a side character operating solo of the Simpsons). Everything seems to be going fine until that pesky Simpson family shows up to ruin everything.
- The scene at Grandma’s World where Abe buys a wool shawl, prompting the clerk to call in a price check on “active wear” goes by so damn fast. I’d say this is another pause-your-VCR moment, but I say it goes by too fast, the scene starts with VO from Herman, then goes right into the clerk’s line, it’s literally only a few seconds long, and the way it’s phrased makes it more challenging to put the joke together. Or maybe I’m just dense, I don’t know.
- I love how pissed Abe is during the whole Discount Lion Safari trip, even when it becomes clear that they’re in real danger. This shot in particular is awesome, the composition of Abe’s irritated head bouncing in the center of frame is so great.
- “Has it ever occurred to you that old folks deserve to be treated like human beings whether they have money or not?” “Yes, but it passes.”
- Whelp, this hasn’t aged well.
- This episode is a great example of how Homer’s attitude, and the audience’s feelings towards him, can effortlessly change on a dime. We see him mock and tease Abe about his “imaginary” girlfriend, unintentionally making him miss her last day on Earth, but then once Abe “disowns” him as a son, he’s absolutely devastated, and despite him being kind of a dick earlier, we really feel bad for him. Even though this episode is all about Abe, we still get in this little arc with him and Homer that wraps up rather quickly, but still feels sweet and earned.
- The cavalcade of characters begging Abe for his money feels like a pivotal moment in the series. We’ve developed to the point that we have a stable of lovable side characters populating this town that we can have a series of scenes featuring the likes of Otto, Moe, Mr. Burns and so forth, and as an audience, we love to see these familiar faces. We even get our first appearance of Professor Frink (my favorite character as a kid, tied with CBG), who is flummoxed when Abe asks if his death ray can actually be used for good (“Well, to be honest, the ray only has evil applications. You know, my wife will be happy. She’s hated this whole death ray thing from day one!”)
- “I’m looking for Abe Simpson. It’s important I get a hold of him. I have to tell him that I don’t care about his money and I love him!” “We get that a lot.”
- What a great shot, and I love how he runs to camera, getting down to eye level with the roulette wheel as it settles, his eyes tracking the chips as they cross the table.
- It’s great that the very end of Abe using the money to renovate the retirement home is completely tracked by making the place look like even more of a dump throughout the entire episode. But it never feels too overt that it feels weird, or you can too easily predict the ending.
18. Brush With Greatness
- Krusty’s plea to the kids about coming to Mount Splashmore (“I told them you would! Don’t make me a liar!”) leads into the Kroon Along With Krusty song, which I love so much (NOW NOW NOW NOW NOW!) Lisa even openly identifies it as a “rather shameless promotion,” but admits it worked on her anyway, a sentiment I feel in more advertising than I care to admit.
- The sign gag is literally on screen for a second, now this is a pause-your-VCR moment. I remember this more from being featured in the Simpsons Guide to Springfield book, which was like a fake travel guide with write-ups on all the great things to do and see if you were to visit Springfield. Does anyone remember that book?
- I love this bit of animation of Homer going down the tube, since it’s just a static image of him jittering about the frame. Combined with his warbling excited sounds, it’s so damn funny.
- “Am I just a little bit overweight? …well, am I?” “Forgive us, Dad, but it takes time to properly sugar-coat a response.”
- We don’t even get to the main plot until act two, which is a criticism levied at the show mostly started in the Mike Scully years, but here, we see the two plots (Homer’s diet/Marge’s paintings) living side-by-side with Marge’s award winning painting being of an exhausted Homer on the couch, and her breaking point with Burns being his vicious insults lobbed at an excited Homer reaching a new goal weight.
- Professor Lombardo may not be as immortal as Artie Ziff or Llewellyn Sinclair, but I still love how simple a character he is, a man who is endlessly positive about everything, even announcing he’s got to take a leak (“Now if you’ll excuse me, nature calls!”)
- Another fantastic piece of animation, set to wonderful faux-Rocky music. I love that the cat gets spooked twice in a row by the falling weights before fleeing the room.
- I remember for my last re-watch, season 2 is where I really fell in love with Mr. Burns, and I’m experiencing the same feelings now. He’s just such a fucking great character, you can tell that the writers just love coming up with material for him to say. And as with all the characters, he’s multi-faceted; as despicable and evil as he is in all other regards, there’s that killer line in this episode where he earnestly and honestly looks Marge in the eyes and asks, ”Can you make me beautiful?” And you really feel it, he means it.
- Ringo’s “Gyeeaahh!” was worth whatever they had to pay him to guest star.
- The reveal of the Burns portrait is just phenomenal, in one of the best endings of any episode. It’s perfectly exemplary of the series’ best quality, of being able to have its cake and eat it too in regards to balancing thoughtfulness with humor. Marge’s defense of her portrait is genuinely touching, and completely in line with her character, but we still get our final line where she admits she purposefully mocked an old man’s genitalia in her depiction. I feel like I love this episode a little more each time I watch it, it might be my favorite of the whole season, and there are a lot of contenders.
19. Lisa’s Substitute
- It’s really hard for me to picture Mr. Bergstrom bursting through the classroom door firing off blanks as a joke now. All I can imagine is children screaming, the police being call, Mr. Bergstrom getting arrested and the episode being over after two minutes.
- Dustin Hoffman of course is great as Mr. Bergstrom, but Yeardley Smith gives such an incredible performance in this episode. Her first line to Bergstrom, her quieted “I know the answer,” really strikes me, timid, humble, slightly taken aback by this strange new thing called engaged learning. I also love her little giggle after Bergstrom compliments her for getting her first point right. Their interplay is full of moments like these; I’m pretty sure Hoffman and Smith didn’t record together, but it sure feels like it.
- Ladies and gentlemen, the singing dorkette!
- My wife is a teacher and she has literally pulled a Mrs. Krabappel and sent irritating kids to the principal to keep them busy, or have them run a lap around the field to blow off some steam. I also love that the kids cheering for Bart eventually just devolves into mindless hooting.
- I love that not only are Marge and Lisa folding laundry during their conversation, making the scene more visually interesting and believable, that we also get a little bit of Snowball II leaping up and rubbing on the sheets, with Marge picking up the cat annoyed. Such a wonderful little addition.
- More asbestos! More asbestos! More asbestos!
- In high school, I helped make posters for a friend running for student council, and I considered replicating this poster for probably longer than I should have.
- Another landmark first, Homer’s first time fighting with his brain, which admonishes him for being stupid (“You’re trapped! If you were smarter, you might think of something, but you’re not!”)
- Homer’s absolute glee at the baffling concept of a “suggested donation” at the museum always cracks me up. I also love that this is Mr. Bergstrom’s first exposure point to the father of his most esteemed pupil, being cheerfully urged not to give to charity (“You don’t have to pay! Read the sign!”)
- Homer is a clueless oaf, but once again, it’s funnier, and more sympathetic, that he knows it and is ashamed of it. I love how quickly he breaks under Mr. Bergstrom’s delicate inquiries about Lisa’s lack of a male role model (“She looks around and sees everybody else’s dad with a good education, youthful looks, and a clean credit record, and thinks, ‘Why me? What did I do to deserve this?’”)
- Psychosomatic: one of many, many words I learned from this show.
- I remember seeing the Dewey Defeats Truman photo in a grade school history book and it blowing my mind. What a great gag to cap out the B-plot.
- Bergstrom’s greatest lines to me come in his last scene, with him talking about his life as a substitute (“He’s a fraud. Today he might be wearing gym shorts, tomorrow he’s speaking French or pretending to know how to run a band saw, or God knows what.”) Also when he just flat out tells Lisa that yeah, I’m the best teacher you’ll ever have, I know this for a fact.
- “You are Lisa Simpson” is one of the most fondly remembered emotional scenes, but Homer making up with Lisa is the scene that really gets me. Him feebly trying to cheer Lisa up as the music box plays always tears me up a bit. Him pretending to be a monkey as Lisa giggles at her dad’s silly antics, and then the two do eskimo kisses? Fuck, that’s adorable.
20. The War of the Simpsons
- The opening of Homer drooling over “hors doo-vers” warped my mind, that the first time I saw hors d’oeuvres written out, I had no idea what I was reading.
- This image of Homer “having fun in bed” always cracks me up. I love that expression.
- “Anybody mind if I serve as bartender? I have a PhD in mixology!” “Pfft. College boy.”
- Homer’s memory of the party as a classy Algonquin group is so beautiful looking, with the Al Hirschfeld-inspired designs and limited color palette. I also love the 360-degree rotation that goes faster and faster as the stylized characters slowly morph into their normal forms. This art was all done by hand, so I wonder how long that cel was for the entire long pan, and whether it would fit on my wall (probably not)
- I always laugh at Bart smiling, sitting patiently, patronizing his father as he attempts to sugar-coat and explain his drunkenness from the night before, before bluntly admitting he gets it (“I understand why, you were wasted.”)
- Is that Hitler sitting in church?
- “Queen of the harpies!! Here’s your crown, your majesty!!”
- “He blows his nose on the towels and puts them back in the middle!” “I only did that a couple of times!”
- I love how brutal the impact of that hole in the wall is. This is probably my favorite McBain clip, just perfectly encapsulates the ethos of the lawless renegade movies they’re parodying. “Bye, book.”
- “As a trained marriage counselor, this is the first instance where I’ve ever told one partner that they were 100% right. It’s all his fault, and I’m willing to put that on a certificate you can frame.”
- Yet another line I can’t believe they got away with, from Otto: “Cherry party, Bart. Any chicks over eight?
- The ending never quite works for me. I never really got why Homer gave that much of a shit about catching General Sherman. I get that he fancies the idea of succeeding where others failed, and it’s his selfishness vs. caring for Marge, but it never really clicks with me. He tosses the fish back when Marge gets upset, and him using that as his only point of argument that their marriage is fine doesn’t hold that much water considering the joke where Marge literally lists Homer’s faults for hours until her voice is hoarse. There are plenty of episodes where Homer is a dick, but believably makes good by his wife and family by the end, but this isn’t one of them.
21. Three Men and a Comic Book
- The Casper/Richie Rich connection is a really brilliant observation, as is Lisa’s dark explanation (“Perhaps he realized how hollow the pursuit of money really is and took his own life.”)
- It’s a great little touch that Bart throws a crumpled bill on the ticket counter rather than hand him the bill.
- Comic Book Guy makes his first glorious appearance, sucking the nacho cheese off his fingers before presenting our heroes with the object of their desire: Radioactive Man #1. Also, a rare act of compassion that he brings the price down to $100 for Bart (“Because you remind me of me.”) Although considering he was bringing it down from Bart’s exaggerated “million dollars,” this might just be a sales tactic. Also, I wish “Freakin’ kids” took off as CBG’s catchphrase.
- There’s two “twister mouths” in this episode, where a character will jerk their head one way but their mouth will stay the other way while talking. I feel like this was a somewhat common animation goof in the early seasons, but this is the first one I noticed.
- I don’t know how many people actually use the expression T.S. for “Tough shit,” and I’m guessing the censors also didn’t know it, because there’s no other explanation how they got away with saying it at least two times (“Kamp Krusty” being the other episode, at least that I can remember)
- I love the juxtaposition between the smiling, clean and professional Krusty Burger employee on the sign, and his haggard, smoking real-life counterpart.
- At the money exchange counter, Bart drops his handful of coins on the counter as well as a bunch of bits of broken glass from the smashed case. One, how was he carrying that without cutting himself, and two, how have I made two separate observations about Bart giving someone money in one episode?
- Another first: Nelson’s “Haw haw!” He did a similar laugh in the last episode after hotfooting Abe, but this feels like the first real “Haw haw!” It’s also one of the greatest, I love how leisurely Nelson bikes by in dead silence before letting out his immortal guffaw for the first time.
- Not only do Eddie and Lou take beer from a child while on duty, they happily chuck their cups on the street when they’re finished.
- What a nice family friendly cartoon, featuring an old woman admitting a soap opera is getting her horny. “Filthy, but genuinely arousing.” Her reaction is quite similar to Martin watching porn from “Homer vs. Lisa,” actually.
- “I fished a dime out of the sewer, for God’s sake!” I always loved this briefly crazed animation from Martin, combined with Russi Taylor’s great line reading. Any time Martin gets upset and his hair gets ruffled is very funny to me.
- The boys not knowing the true origin of Radioactive Man feels like an innocent little time capsule. I was a kid during the early days of the Internet, and even in those primordial years, you could still look up pop culture spoilers on Geocities fan pages and stuff. But back then, an out-of-print or elusive comic would be the stuff of legend. Now, you can pull up anything you want in a microsecond.
- The third act is absolutely beautiful, everything feels incredibly cinematic. Sequences like those are an absolute tribute to the production that they could get animation at such a high quality on a network TV budget and schedule.
- “We worked so hard, and now it’s all gone. We ended up with nothing because the three of us can’t share.” “What’s your point?” “Nothing. Just kind of ticks me off.” And we end on a nasty skewering of moralizing in kid’s cartoons. Just great.
22. Blood Feud
- Core Explosion, Repent Sins
- In the last two episodes, we’ve seen Mayor Quimby start to be characterized, specifically as petty and vindictive in defense of his cushy job title (“Nobody leaves Diamond Joe Quimby holding the bag!”)
- “Bart, it’s not like I’m asking you to give blood for free. That would be crazy!”
- It’s such a dumb joke, but I love the guy holding the blood bag in the elevator forgetting to hit the button. It’s timed just long enough to break the flow, and I love his humming to himself before he finally comes back down to Earth.
- I love the separate cut closer in on Burns’ face when he says “the blood of a young boy.” I think I made this observation ten years ago, but it really makes it seem like he absolutely relishes the idea of harvesting more blood from young children to revitalize him more.
- What a beautiful mural. Now more than ever, we stand by our USPS.
- “You always told me I was going to destroy the family, but I never believed it.” “That’s okay, Bart. Nobody really believed it. We were just trying to scare you.”
- Simple details make all the difference, I love how disheveled and distressed Smithers looks here. I also love that Burns’ hired goons are just working schmoes doing a job, as we see that Joey and Homer are on name basis with each other when the former throws the latter out (“Homer, I don’t tell you how to do your job, okay?”) It’s just business; they play poker with each other, but he will beat the crap out of him if Burns requests it.
- “Judas!!” The Burns/Smithers scene is one of those perfect tonal balances where they exaggerate a scenario to comedic levels without sacrificing or undermining the characters or the story. It’s so hard to dissect scenes like this, because they just make it look so easy.
- Bart’s prank calls were so funny to me as a kid, but as an adult now, they’re more charming than anything else, except I guess for the subversion in “Flaming Moe’s” with Hugh Jass. The one in this episode “Mike Rotch,” the audio was used in “Weird Al” Yankovic’s parody of TLC’s “Waterfalls,” entitled “Phony Calls.” Listening as a kid, I remember being delighted hearing, after the second chorus, all of a sudden, it was Bart and Moe! Ah, memories.
- I like that when Mr. Burns comments, “What did you think I was going to do, have you beaten to a bloody pulp?,” he smiles and winks at Smithers, like it’s a fun in-joke between the two.
- No better way to finish an episode than the characters openly admitting there was no point to the story. “It’s just a bunch of stuff that happened” indeed.
8. Bart the Daredevil
- I love how the one wrestler pulls a huge wrench out of his shorts, kept in place… somehow. It’s also great how this is called back later by Dr. Hibbert mentioning a child in the hospital whose brother hit him on the head with a wrench imitating that very move.
- I don’t know if I blame Homer for getting antsy to leave a three hour elementary school band concert. The ending where he’s lifting Lisa out of her seat to leave, but still cares enough to dart back on stage so she can bow, is very adorable.
- Homer’s frantic driving to the truck rally is pretty neat, with the colored lights in the background and the Simpson car darting far and away from camera. The Bleeding Gums cameo is an additional nice touch.
- Why hasn’t there been some crazy millionaire Simpsons fan who made their own life-size Truckasaurus yet? Also, this is one hell of an act break.
- Speaking of the builder of Truckasurus, it’s great how the freak that built it refers to his creation as real, telling Marge that “Truckasaurus feels very badly about what happened.” He’s also a cheapass in offering the Simpsons a half-bottle of their branded champagne. Even better is you can see the foil has been torn off the neck, like this was a used bottle that was just sitting around the office that some dingus just took to placate these people into not suing.
- Murdoch’s crew quickly extinguishing him and running off as he starts to address the crowd while still on fire is so goddamn funny.
- “I never realized TV was such a dangerous influence.” “Well, as tragic as all this is, it’s a small price to pay for countless hours of top-notch entertainment.” “Amen!”
- It feels very realistic throughout this entire show that Bart just continues doing his stunts despite all the warnings he repeatedly gets. Seeing how many dumb kids get hurt imitating stuff off TV only incentivizes him to do it more.
- The reveal of Murdoch’s illegible scribble of an autograph is fantastic. The message he orates with the pen in his mouth is just long and thought out enough to make the punchline really hit, along with Bart’s awed reaction.
- We get one of the first wild mood shifts from Homer, as he goes from stern authority figure laying down the law on Bart, but when it proves to be ineffective (“The minute your back is turned, I’m grabbing my skateboard and heading toward that gorge!”), Homer immediately falls into despair (“He’s got it, Marge, there’s nothing we can do! He’s as good as dead!”)
- On paper, Homer effectively threatening to kill himself by attempting to jump the gorge to get Bart to stop sounds disconcerting, but in the episode itself, it completely reads as merely his last ditch effort after exhausting his other options (“I tried ordering you, I tried punishing you, and God help me, I even tried reasoning with you!”)
9. Itchy & Scratchy & Marge
- Itchy & Scratchy segments would later become more elaborate with subversions or movie parodies, but I love how all of the bits we see here are just so simplistic in their brutal depictions of violence, which of course best serves the plot of the episode. Itchy igniting TNT on Scratchy’s grave and shooting him point blank on his doorstep with a ballistic missile launcher are so damn funny, but my favorite short is at the very end as the two whip out larger and larger handguns until they’re larger than the Earth, resulting in a giant explosion propelling Scratchy into the sun. It’s just so dumb that it’s great, but also, being the last bit of I&S we see in the episode, serves to drive home how absolutely nothing has changed, and the show is just as violent as ever, if not more so.
- We get telling glimpses at Homer’s collection of how-to books, and his hammer with a price tag on it, that he’s never used any of this shit, presumably having bought them from some home shopping network with the intention of using them, but of course never did. And this all goes by without a joke explaining it further, the audience is left to fill in the gaps with the ingredients given. What a concept!
- The Psycho scene is a great example of how well executed the show’s usage of parody was. In addition to recreating an iconic movie scene in a ridiculously absurdist fashion, it feels even more appropriate given Maggie is mimicking something she saw on television, as the show itself is doing with this very scene.
- So many items of Marge’s list I want to see the examples of. “Brains Slammed in Car Door” is a big one, but “Dogs Tricked” is so great, and feels very appropriate that Marge would notate such mean behavior.
- “…and the horse I rode in on?!” Just the show casually alluding to the F-word in 1990, no big deal…
- “Twenty million women in the world and I had to marry Jane Fonda.”
- After the loud protest overtakes his latest show, we see Krusty nervously laughing before an irritated Roger Meyers, Jr. It’s odd how over the years these two have kind of flip-flopped regarding who’s “the boss” or not. Presumably Krusty should be in better standings, as the I&S cartoons run on his show, although I feel like it’s been referenced that I&S is such a huge draw that it’s almost keeping Krusty’s show afloat. But it’s funny either way seeing those two bicker with each other.
- “You know, some of these stories are pretty good. I never knew mice lived such interesting lives.”
- The Smartline segment is just top-to-bottom brilliant. The seemingly objective topical show is clearly biased in one direction from the start (“Are cartoons too violent for children? Most people would say, ‘No, of course not, what kind of stupid question is that?’”), and we even get Marvin Monroe live via satellite to lend some kind of “credibility” to the whole affair. Roger Meyers’ dismissive attitude toward Marge’s protests is fantastic, as is his counterargument which Kent Brockman plays into perfectly (“I did a little research and I discovered a startling thing. There was violence in the past, long before cartoons were invented!” “I see… Fascinating.”)
- A pretty sweet touch that we see Marge using the spice rack Homer made, as horribly crappy as it is.
- I’ve always loved this piece of animation of Krusty bursting through the banner, it’s almost like it’s in slow motion.
- “It’s filth! It graphically portrays parts of the human body, which, practical as they may be, are evil.”
- This episode really feels so ahead of the curve in taking down rabble rousing media watchdogs. This was surely made in response to the criticism the show itself was getting from such complaining viewers in its first season, but in terms of dangerous inimitable behavior, I associate that more with people crowing about violent video games in the 2000s, or later crude animated fare like South Park and Beavis and Butt-head (especially the latter, with that case of a boy burning down his trailer home after allegedly imitating the cartoon, even though it was later revealed the family didn’t even have cable). Ultimately the episode ends on an purposefully ambiguous note, where Marge acknowledges her own hypocrisy without recanting any of her actions. Even though the episode slightly villainizes her, it doesn’t go too far where you don’t feel sympathetic toward her plight and viewpoint. It’s a fine line the episode teeters on, and it pulls it off so well.
10. Bart Gets Hit By A Car
- I still don’t know why this episode has an on-screen title. It’s kind of funny that mere seconds after reading the title, we actually see Bart get hit by a car, but it feels weird to me.
- The tire tracks on Snowball I’s body is a great touch.
- What other show takes you to Hell and back within the first few minutes of an episode? Speaking of, I love the depiction of the Devil as this little shrimp who keeps track of souls on his Mac computer. And of course, Bart thinks this is the coolest thing ever, even as Satan gives him a parting farewell (“Remember: lie, cheat, steal, and listen to heavy metal music!” “Yes, sir!”)
- Great quick joke as Bart ascends through the various floors of the hospital, we see Jacques looking quite concerned as a doctor puts on rubber gloves. Gay panic seemed to be the theme of his random post-season 1 appearances; in the “Do the Bartman” music video, we see him dancing with a series of morphing female side characters before finally ending up with Karl, much to his surprise.
- We’re introduced to Lionel Hutz, and man, does Phil Hartman just knock this character out of the park. The friendliest sleazeball you ever did see, his phony smile and sweet talking manner makes rubes like Homer easy prey for him. I also love how he’s literally a shameless ambulance chaser, as we’re told he was doing literally that as Bart was taken to the hospital, and then later we see his ears perk up as he hears sirens in the distance from his law office in the mall.
- I really love these two shots, the staging alone making it very clear that Homer is the submissive party in this meeting to get a paltry sum from the powerful man that injured his son.
- Speaking of, I think this is the first instance of showing Burns’ incredible physical weakness, struggling to punch down on the check and straining to crush a mere paper cup. I love his clear satisfaction when he’s finally able to do so.
- “Clogging Our Courts Since 1976.” Before we had Saul Goodman, we had Lionel Hutz.
- Dr. Nick also has a great first appearance, just as competent a doctor as Hutz is a lawyer, both with offices full of phony degrees (Female Body Inspector, I Went to Medical School for Four Years and All I Got was this Lousy Diploma)
- I love this sequence of Burns imagining the fawning headlines after firing an ungrateful employee. His little satisfied “Hmm” noises just make it even better. Sometimes, obvious ADR lines feel unnecessary or like filler, but in this instance, it really enhances it.
- “Your honor, my client has instructed me to remind the court how rich and important he is, that he is not like other men.”
- The sequences of Bart and Burns’ sides of the story are both so great, really fun and well animated. I love that Mr. Burns doesn’t even try to hide that he’s reading his account off a piece of paper. Also great is that he even throws Smithers under the bus in his manufactured tale (“It’s not important, sir, let’s drive on.” “Why, you despicable, cold-blooded monster!”), that even he is pissed alongside the entire court when Burns is finished (“What are you looking at me like that for? You believed his cock-and-bull story!”)
- Alone in Burns’ lavish study, I love that Homer angrily spits on his fancy chair, but then in the next shot we see him dutifully wiping it off. Even trying to be defiant, Homer is spineless as ever.
- Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner give great performances as Blue-Haired Lawyer grills Marge on the stand. The overlapping interplay between the two as Marge slowly recounts Bart’s “mental anguish” and the Lawyer is just quietly agreeing as it’s all playing to serve his agenda is just wonderful.
- I’ve always felt the ending of Homer not knowing if he loves Marge anymore is kind of silly. It plays it straight enough that it feels like we’re supposed to care, but all-in-all it feels weirdly rushed and tacked on, especially given a lot of the build-up is told through Homer and Marge’s inner thoughts played over freeze-frames. Even then, it’s not without its moments; immediately after telling his wife he doesn’t think he loves her anymore, Homer clarifies, “But don’t worry, I’ll never let on, I’ll still do all the bed stuff. Maybe it won’t be so bad…”
11. One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish
- “You’re always trying to teach me to be open-minded, try new things, live life to the…” “What are you talking about? Nobody’s trying to teach you that!” Lisa’s pleas at the dinner table in the opening scene is a great example of the show striking the balance of having her wise beyond her years, yet still just a little kid. She waxes poetically about wanting some variety in her life outside of greasy Americana fare, but only convinces her father after parroting “Please, Dad” over and over again.
- “Fugu me!!”
- I guess Bart and Lisa singing the theme to Shaft is itself the joke, but cutting back to it three times for them to sing the whole song feels a bit like filler.
- It really is pretty damn risque they made Mrs. Krabappel into such a… liberated woman, as she appears here furiously making out with the head sushi chef in a car parked behind the restaurant. And lord help you if you disturb him (“My skilled hands are busy!!”)
- “No need to panic. There is a map to the hospital on the back of the menu.”
- I love this quick bit of animation of Homer in the “anger” stage. Later, we get a similarly great Homer freakout when he puts on aftershave.
- “So You’re Going to Die” is only second to “So You’ve Ruined Your Life” for best Simpsons pamphlet.
- It’s really cute how Homer innocently asks Marge her term for them having sex. “When we’re intimate?” And then of course he misspells it (“Be intimit with Marge.”)
- I love this moment when Homer taps his knee to beckon his son for a heart-to-heart, Bart naturally figures he’s getting spanked and assumes the position. The animation is so damn funny, he just looks so nonplussed by it, swiftly drops his shorts and goes limp across Homer’s lap just wanting to get it over with. So fucking funny.
- I can’t remember when I last even heard the song, but it’ll always be “When the Saints Go Over There” to me.
- The harmonica wailing inmate in the cell purely for atmosphere. Just great.
- Originally Barney was positioned as Homer’s best friend, but the pair really only had a handful of moments together outside the bar before he basically just became a permanent fixture of Moe’s, with jokes solely based on him being a drunk. Here, Homer calls him for $50 to bail him out of jail (“Fifty bucks?! What’d you do, kill a judge?”) I like the small glimpses of his character we see in the early seasons, like his novelty answering machine and his filth-ridden apartment. I don’t know what other greater stories you could have told with Homer and Barney, but it definitely feels like a minor “what-could-have-been.”
- Gotta hand it to Smithers, despite being a gay man hopelessly in love with his boss, he does his best to hype up Burns’ ogling at women’s legs at the park (“Ring-a-ding-ding, sir!”)
- It’s such a simple look, but I love this expression when the weight of Marge’s poem finally hits Homer. The versatility of these simplistic character designs is really amazing at how many different expressions they can do with so few lines.
- I always thought it was funny that Larry King gives his NBA pick at the end of the Bible book-on-tape, which would immediately go out of date the year after he recorded it. But I’m probably thinking too much into this.
12. The Way We Was
- McBain really is the perfect movie parody. Despite “specifically” referencing Schwarzenegger/Stallone movies, the parody still works now over twenty years because the big dumb action movie starring a loose cannon who plays by his own rules is an evergreen genre. Sure, you’ve got plenty of movies that do their own takes or subversions or outright mockeries of the tropes of such films, but there’s still plenty of media that continues to play them straight, making the McBain segments still play perfectly even now.
- A bit on the flip side of that, you have the Siskel & Ebert parody, which is still funny, but the idea of watching movie critics on TV give their reviews in 2020 is kind of weird. But as a young teen, I remember loving Ebert & Roeper, and reading through all the negative blurbs of shit movies on a very early version of Rotten Tomatoes. I guess I loved schadenfreude, I don’t know. It was so intense that I remember I burned a CD of audio files of Ebert & Roeper’s most scathing reviews and listened to it a bunch of times. I was an… odd child.
- The magazine cover feels like it’s straight out of one of Matt Groening’s Life in Hell comics. I also don’t know if these jokes would fly nowadays.
- It’s a nice touch that the flashback begins with Homer scoffing at “Close To You” playing on the radio, and the first act ends with the song playing when he first lays eyes on Marge and falls in love. I also like that the motif is played right at the start of act two before Homer introduces himself. I don’t know why, but the song feels very appropriate as “their” song, as we see in a callback much later in The Simpsons Movie where we see Homer and Marge use it as their first dance.
- “I reached step one: she knew I existed. The only problem was, she didn’t care.” I remember cryptically posting this quote on my Xanga page in high school, referring to a girl I didn’t have the guts to ask out. Boy, this episode is reminding me of a lot of cringey shit I did as a kid.
- I love how absolutely shitty a father Abe is, which explains a lot about adult Homer’s insecurities and shortcomings. He imparts upon his son a very important lesson: “Don’t overreach! Go for the dented car, the dead-end job, the less attractive girl. Oh, I blame myself. I should’ve had this talk a long time ago…”
- I love this little bit where Homer haphazardly wipes the hair out from his eyes, it’s a very true teenager thing.
- The “makeout music” Homer plays is this great faux-Barry White track “Don’t Be A Baby, Lady,” I wish I knew who was singing it. But then it’s followed later with the real “Do the Hustle,” but I guess between that and “Close to You,” they may have blown their music licensing budget for this episode. It’s also funny since Barry White would appear on the show two seasons later.
- I love the Shelbyville Forensics Meet flyer, the crude school spirit drawing also feels very setting appropriate.
- “Where to now, Romeo?” “Inspiration Point.” “Okay, but I’m only paid to drive.”
- Artie Ziff: the original “nice guy.” I love that Marge compliments Homer for being unpretentious, which contrasts him perfectly with Artie, who is incredibly full of himself, the ultimate example being him urging Marge not to tell anyone about his “busy hands” (“Not so much for myself, but I am so respected, it would damage the town to hear it.”)
- I love that throughout and after the prom, Homer is always holding the corsage in his hand, almost like a tortured reminder of what he lost. But then, when Marge picks him up, he finally pins it on Marge, repairing her dress strap that Artie ripped. I never really thought it through like that, but that’s really, really sweet.
I also wore a powder blue tux to prom. It wasn’t retro-70s style like Homer’s, but I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t the inspiration.
13. Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment
- This episode has three just perfect line readings. First being in the opening flashback, Jacques/Zoar the Adulterer when Moses kills his line of work with “Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery”: “Well, looks like the party’s over.” He just sounds so bummed and defeated.
- “Myth: It’s only fair to pay for quality first-run movies. Fact: Most movies shown on cable get two stars or less and are repeated ad nauseum.”
- “So what you’re saying is, there’s a downside to the afterlife. How does one steer clear of this abode of the damned?” Martin’s Sunday School question prompting the teacher to introduce the Ten Commandments sounds like it was written on a card by Mr. Burns’ campaign manager.
- We get our first glimpse of Troy McClure, who of course would host many more hilarious infomercials to come. It also feels very appropriate that Dr. Nick is his partner in crime, as was Lionel Hutz, cementing these two Phil Hartman roles as affable con men in their own unique ways.
- The living room turning into Hell before Lisa’s eyes is such a beautiful sequence, it really drives the point home of Lisa’s moral dilemma, while not feeling too over-the-top or preachy, as it’s through the lens of a young child who isn’t cloying or annoying.
- Second perfect line reading: the grocery cashier when Marge asks him to charge her for the two grapes she ate: “Two grapes? Who cares?” I also like that Marge shoots Lisa an annoyed glance for making her do that; I like the instances where we see despite being eternally loving, even Marge can get fed up with her kids every now and then, just like any parent.
- “If you didn’t watch it in the theater, or rent it, or see it someplace else, we’ve got it on the Blockbuster Channel!”
- I love Mr. Burns’ colorful description on how he thinks the other half lives: “The screen door rusting off its filthy hinges, a mangy dog staggering about, looking vainly for a place to die.”
- So many great newly impure faces of the children watching “Broadcast Nudes.” I can’t decide whether Ralph’s or Martin’s is my favorite. The latter gets in a great line, seeming to enjoy what he’s seeing a bit too much (”Gross!” “Yet strangely compelling…”)
- It’s a bit funny that the gag where Apu shows up at the house after telling Marge he only invited a few of his closest friends doesn’t work so much anymore, since we consider the two of them friends nowadays. But back in episode 26, why the hell would Homer run the convenience store guy over?
- Third perfect line is Mr. Burns instructing Smithers to give Homer “the Cheet-O’s.” Very natural.
- Further making Lisa a one-woman island of morality, and speaking to how corrupt the entire town is, the police don’t even give a shit about Homer’s stolen cable, they want to watch the big fight as much as anybody.
- Another crowd shot that makes me laugh. My eyes are always drawn to Otto’s gigantic maw, it’s mostly open in motion, the upper lip just kind of flaps up and down a bit. Very strange, but I love it.
14. Principal Charming
- This is the first episode we get some kind of personality distinction between Patty & Selma; while the former is turned off by intimacy, the latter yearns for it, or as Marge perfectly puts it, “It’s Patty who chose a life of celibacy. Selma simply had celibacy thrust upon her.” You really feel for Selma right away, with the tragically on-the-nose wedding and her soberly singing Brandy to Lisa.
- “Since I’m sure you’d only resent the pity of an eight-year-old niece, I’ll simply hope that you’re one of the statistically insignificant number of forty-year-old single women who ever find their fair prince.”
- While he would later become more and more of a spineless wimp, I really like seeing Principal Skinner wield his authority. This episode illuminates the clearest that he’s really just a big stuck-up nerd who revels in his position of power. The Bart/Skinner dynamic lost a bit of its potency when Skinner’s edges started to get sanded off, it only works if Bart can actually be punished for something. Last season we saw him reveling in deporting the boy, now he yearns to be able to use the “Board of Education,” a paddle kept being glass in his office.
- There’s several scenes in this show that are just Patty & Selma talking back and forth that I just love. We see them go to the Kwik-E-Mart for smokes, Selma grills Patty about her date, these mundane things where we get to learn more about these characters. When Patty asks how she looks before her date, Selma sadly compliments, “Achingly beautiful.” She’s still bitter that it’s not her who got her man, but she’s also deeply insecure about herself and still loves her sister more than anything, which ultimately becomes the crux of the episode that neither sister can leave the other one behind. As we get more episodes featuring secondary/tertiary characters, it’s only going to make me wish we got more interesting character explorations like these, instead of the five thousandth Homer-gets-a-job episode.
- I love that the Australian Space Mutant has a little Joey mutant in its pouch.
- Considering these are two characters we barely know much about, the Skinner-Patty relationship really does seem to work. Skinner is just a lovestruck dork with a bumbling sense of courtship, while Patty initially is just barely putting up with this guy for her sister’s sake, but comes a bit around to him in the end. Their first date involves complaining about the restaurant they went to and the movie they saw (“Isn’t it nice we hate the same things?”) Patty laughs at this, then quickly catches herself, trying to purposefully extinguish this rare moment of joy.
- Kissing really is kind of gross when you think about it, isn’t it?
- There’s a great moment when Selma is at her lowest, grabs her nephew with the hopes that some kiddie nonsense he says will cheer her up. But when he tells her Skinner is planning on asking Patty to marry him, she’s just frozen, and a bit of ash falls from her cigarette. I don’t know why, but that makes the moment even more powerful than just silence.
- Barney is the perfect disaster of a man to compel Patty to save her sister from. I love his bewildered reaction to his own bottle he brought with him: “Schnapps?”
1. Bart Gets an “F”
- Nothing like opening your season premiere with a ten-year-old talking about making love to a woman. Martin’s Old Man and the Sea report rules.
- I love catching new visual touches each time I watch these episodes. I don’t think I ever noticed Bart not looking and pawing for the chalk once before grabbing it the second time. I also love him dragging the chalk down the board at the end of his “9.”
- Why hasn’t anybody made an Escape From Grandma’s House arcade game yet?
- Homer is almost adorably supportive of Bart slinking off to study in the dead of night (“Burning the candle at both ends, eh, boy? Go get ‘em!”) I also love when he and Marge walk in on a passed out Bart in his books, Marge concernedly wonders why he keeps failing, to which Homer sweetly replies, “Just a little dim, I guess.” Honestly, one could have worse parents than Homer.
- “I got a big test today I am not ready for. Could you please crash the bus or something?” “Ohh, sorry, little buddy. Can’t do it on purpose. But, hey, maybe you’ll get lucky!”
- Ah, the joys of faking sick to get out of school. When I was a teenager, there was a good year and a half I was able to trigger my own nosebleeds, a power I only used for evil one time to get out of a math test. Clearly, I learned from the best.
- In case you needed more evidence on what a craphole Springfield Elementary is, Bart opens the nurse’s room door to find the highly trained medical professional picking up tongue depressors off the floor and putting them back in the jar.
- “Bart is an underachiever, and yet he seems to be… how shall I put this… proud of it?” I love how following the summer of Bartmania, the show immediately comes back with a sharp jab at it. That “underachiever” line was mass produced on many a T-shirt, something that most assuredly came from a marketing division and not come up with by the writing staff. Also, I love how Bart is sitting lifting his legs back and forth like a real fidgety kid. It’s adorable.
- We again see how completely uninterested Springfield Elementary is in actually helping children with their problems, with Dr. Pryor openly admitting that having Bart repeat the fourth grade will be “shameful and emotionally crippling.” Later when Bart bursts into tears upon failing the last exam, Mrs. Krabappel’s first reaction is to comment, “I’d think you’d be used to failing by now!” That and her attempt at making him feel better (“A 59 is a high ‘F’!”) makes her the perfect teacher for this series: one who has no idea how to deal with children.
- Everything with Martin in act two is so damn good. His bafflement at how his numerous academic achievements mean nothing to the other kids, his strict studying regiment for Bart (including a riding crop to keep his eyes glued to the books), and later, his crazed descent into hooliganism, capped off by pushing some poor sap into the girl’s bathroom (“The screams! The humiliation! The fact that it wasn’t me!”) Martin may not have had a ton of appearances over thirty years, but Russi Taylor helped create one of the low-key richest characters in the whole series. RIP to a real one.
- “Prayer: the last refuge of a scoundrel.”
- “Look, everyone! John Hancock’s writing his name in the snow!” Yet another joke that flew by the censors. And about our sacred Founding Fathers, no less!
- The ending of Bart triumphantly telling everyone about his D- is one of those perfect show moments, where you completely buy the emotional moment, but it’s simultaneously still funny given our happy ending involves our hero getting a near-failing grade.
2. Simpson and Delilah
- Homer desperately trying to blurt out the right answers to the TV trivia show is great, but the capper line of said show being “Grade School Challenge” makes it even better. Cut to a decade and change later and we got Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader? Boy, this show really DOES predict everything.
- “Hair… just like everybody else.” As dim-witted and buffoonish as Homer can be, this one moment of him staring woefully at the television completely humanizes him. All of his efforts through the episode are of him trying to gain back a part of himself he believes will make him whole, and even though it’s extremely hilarious and pathetic at the end to see him rub his scalp against the knocked over Dimoxinil soaking into the rug while sobbing uncontrollably, that just makes it the more sad the next morning as he solemnly stares back at his newly bald reflection.
- Background stuff I missed: a sign next to the power plant coffee pot, Honor System Coffee Refills: 25 cents
- I like how happy Homer’s old barber is to see him after all these years (“You got rid of the sideburns!”) I also like how casually Homer picks up and starts reading a Playdude. How many barbershops have you been in where customers are reading nudie magazines?
- It really seems like Karl shouldn’t work. He’s the Magical Negro character whose sole purpose is to help elevate this fat oaf of a man to a position he didn’t earn in the first place. But goddamn, does this show sell it. It helps that we see glimpses of Karl living his own life in his new position (seeing his elegant living accommodations, befriending “the gals down at the typing pool”), but it also really seems like Karl has sympathy for Homer, and genuinely wants to help him be the best man he can be. He’s the positive shade of yes man, who only wants the good in their employer to flourish and believes in them even when they don’t. Speaking of…
- In this episode, Smithers is presented as Karl’s antonym, a right hand man who accommodates their superior to a fault. He’s wholly devoted to Burns to the point that when Homer starts encroaching on his turf, he flies off the handle. It’s pretty great to see how petty Smithers gets in the third act, and kind of dark too (“Got that big speech in five minutes, Simpson. You’re not gonna hang yourself, are you?” he asks with a laugh).
- “Let the fools have their tar-tar sauce.” One of the greatest Burns lines ever.
- This scene transition from executive washroom to night exterior is just wonderful. Stuff like this really just shows the scope of this series. This kind of thoughtful staging and transition techniques were not only not done in regular sitcoms, but even in a lot of movies too.
- “I love you, Dad!” “Dirty trick.”
- “My reasons… are my own.” God bless Harvey Fierstein. He’s a big reason why the Karl character works. And yes, he really does believe in Homer, at least enough to lay a big smooch on him (now how in the hell did they get away with that?) I also love his quick butt pat on Homer’s way out.
- There’s lots of notable emotional moments on this show that fans talk about a lot, but the ending to this show is one I never hear mentioned. Marge cradling Homer and singing to him, letting him know he’s beautiful to her with or without hair… I am a humongous softie, and I’m honestly tearing up a bit just writing about it. What a lovely ending.
3. Treehouse of Horror
- Marge’s introductory warning about the episode is so damn good. The writers knew how out of the box this concept was, a non-canonical anthology horror show full of scary imagery, and not only did they do it anyway, but thumb their noses at whoever would get offended at such a thing right at the start. And having it be Marge instead of fan-favorite Bart makes it even better, as she’s exactly the type who would write an angry letter to the local TV station (as would be the basis of an episode later this season, in fact…)
- I love how desperately Homer tries to normalize the freaky stuff going on in the house because of what a great deal he got for it. Entering the room as Bart is being levitated in the air, choked out by a phone cord, surrounded by other floating objects, as an ominous voice intones, “GET OUT,” Homer’s first remark is to just reprimand Bart (“Okay, boy, let’s see you talk your way out of this one!”)
- What a trip it must have been to turn on primetime to see a cartoon featuring a family brandishing sharp objects about to murder each other, three of which being small children, one being an infant. I can’t even imagine a family sitcom getting away with that now, even in like a fantasy sequence or something.
- Homer on the phone yelling at the realtor is a hall of fame Dan Castellaneta performance. “Well, that’s not my recollection!” makes me laugh every time, like he realizes he screwed up, but he’s got to get in some kind of defense for himself.
- The house collapsing in on itself is such a great piece of animation.
- Even though there’s no canon within these specials, I like to think that Kang and Kodos’ ensuing malevolence was purely based on being insulted by the Simpson family, inspiring them to give up their generous nature.
- “I know that to you, we Simpsons are a lower order of life. We face that prejudice every day of our lives.”
- It’s great that the ever kindly Marge can barely bring herself to make Kang and Kodos feel better about their Pong game. “Your game is very nice,” she half-heartedly assures them as she looks away awkwardly.
- The Raven segment is just so damn beautiful, a tour de force for David Silverman and his crew. Hell, the whole episode is great-looking. I also love Dan Castellaneta’s performance, it’s pretty incredible how much passion and nuance some of his deliveries are, all while staying true to the source material and still true to Homer. The fact that he slips in a “D’oh!” in-between Poe’s words and it still feels seamless speaks volumes.
- I’ve always been struck by this final shot of Homer at the end of The Raven. It’s such a simple drawing, but it really comes off like he’s just lying there defeated and haunted. It’s great.
4. Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish
- “Keep those mutants comin’, Homer!” “I’ll mutant you…”
- A big focus in this episode is Mr. Burns’ complete lack of understanding of the common man, an obscenely wealthy plutocrat so far removed from regular society they might as well be another species. There’s the haves, and the have-nots, and Burns confidently feels he can make all his problems go away by just throwing money at the have-nots in the form of his comically blatant bribe. When the government watchdog refuses, Burns can’t even process such a thing, accosting the man and shoving bills in his coat (“Take it, you poor schmoe!!”)
- I also love how we see Burns at his most vulnerable, sorrily getting drunk in his office and aimlessly stumbling about the plant. Despite his immense wealth, he’s not as all-powerful as he wishes he was, perfectly setting the stage to be fed the idea of running for governor by a clueless Homer.
- Re-watching this episode in 2020, about a morally questionable wealthy businessman running for office solely for his own benefit, it definitely reads a little bit differently. Also, the fact that his campaign comes crashing down after his hypocrisy is exposed comes off as ridiculously quaint nowadays. That and the Engineered Public Confession trope need to be permanently retired. Although I love it that in this show, when Burns is recorded before his public address openly insulting the public, it doesn’t affect him at all, as he immediately bounces back with his openly pandering defense, and the numbskull masses just eat it up. Now that feels realistic in 2020.
- “Why are my teeth showing like that?” “Because you’re smiling.” “Excellent! Yes, this is exactly the kind of trickery I’m paying you for.”
- Homer’s unflinching support for Burns is wholly based on fear for his job. I always loved this line in retort to Marge’s mention of Blinky (“I bet before the papers blew this out of proportion, you didn’t even know how many eyes a fish had!”)
- “Only a moron wouldn’t cast his vote for Monty Burns!” Perfect slogan, perfect jingle.
- “Is your boss Governor yet?” “Not yet, son, not yet.” I love that we come off of the energetic montage of Burns’ campaign building momentum, and we land right back in the present, where Homer and Bart, having lived through this in real time, are just waiting for this election to be over and done with.
- “Hello, handsome!” Homer looks so disturbing here. I also never understood who Burns’ campaign manager was referring to when he said Homer looked like Tyrone Power. Apparently he was a dashing leading man from the golden age of Hollywood. It feels like a reference that Burns himself would make, not his much younger manager.
- “Mr. Burns, your campaign seems to have the momentum of a runaway freight train. Why are you so popular?” The perfect canned question.
- “Lisa, you’re learning many valuable lessons tonight. And one of them is to always give your mother the benefit of the doubt.” I love how shrewd Marge is in this ending, remembering Burns’ bullshit defense of Blinky the fish and willing and ready to make him eat his words, literally. It’s one of her most shining moments of the series. Also, that reporter with his jaw dropping is one of the most bizarre and funniest things ever.
- “Ironic, isn’t it, Smithers? This anonymous clan of slack-jawed troglodytes has cost me the election, and yet if I were to have them killed, I would be the one to go to jail. That’s democracy for you!”
- The only weak spot in the entire episode is the ending, where Homer frets about Burns’ vow that his life will go unfulfilled. Up to this point, there have been a bunch of Homer-Marge in bed ending scenes serving to wrap the stories up, and they all worked fairly well, but since it’s Homer reacting to something said at the literal end of the episode, and not something that had been set up through the episode, it feels weirdly tacked on.
5. Dancin’ Homer
- It’s pretty great how the set-up of the episode (a Burns company event) is identical to “There’s No Disgrace Like Home,” but the two are still completely distinct and funny in their own rights. They even reused Burns needing cards to remember employee’s names and made a whole new funny joke out of it (“These must be Bart, Lisa and… expecting!” “The cards need to be updated, sir.”) The similar scenarios also allow us to better see Homer’s evolving personality; while “Disgrace” featured him trying to be as straight-laced as possible to appease his boss, here he’s ready and willing to have a fun, drunken night (“This ticket doesn’t just give me a seat. It also gives me the right, no, the duty to make a complete ass of myself!”)
- “You’re an inspiration to all of us in waste management, sir.” “Well, take your mind off contaminants for one night and have a hot dog!”
- Two pretty adorable moments before the ball game: Flash Baylor propositioning Marge (or as his teammate calls her, the ”mature quail”), which Homer reacts in awe by (“You’ve still got the magic, Marge!”) And Lisa being the only one happily standing for her idol Bleeding Gums Murphy’s twenty-six minute national anthem. Speaking of, there’s a lot of the Simpson family having a great time together in the first act, all of them laughing with each other at Burns’ pathetic first pitch. It reminded me of the opera scene from ”Bart the Genius,” it’s always great seeing the family genuinely enjoying each other’s company.
- The ballpark elderly organist’s room is filled with great touches: a broken window clearly busted by a flyaway ball, pin-ups of sexy hunks all over the walls, and a martini atop the organ. Quite a lot of thought for such a minor set.
- Mr. Burns and Homer do make a great team, with their competing jeers and two-person wave. It feels perfectly normal for the two to bond like they do, and it’s great to watch unfold as Homer gets more and more comfortable letting loose in front of his boss.
- There’s a lot of great animation in this episode, from the baseball game itself, the crowd shots and Homer’s lively dancing. My favorite bit is his reggae-style “Baby Elephant Walk.”
- Ah, the days when they would bother to write a scene where Homer formally leaves work to pursue a new wacky job. And it’s funny too! (“Sure, what would you like? Four years? Five years!”
- Tony Bennett has the honor of being the first celebrity to voice themselves, and really, if someone’s gotta be first, why not Tony Bennett?
- Another great background touch: the photo of Homer and Princess Kashmir apparently made its way to Capital City, and is now hanging in one of the player’s lockers.
- “My wife and kids stood by me. On the way home, I realized how little that helped.”
6. Dead Putting Society
- We’ve seen glimpses of it before this, but this opening just firmly cements the Homer/Flanders relationship: a man who is completely open and giving, almost to a fault, but all Homer can see is a man who makes his own feelings of inadequacy and personal failure burn all the brighter. If he weren’t so insecure, he and Ned would be great friends, and he could hang out in his man cave, drinking imported beer from Holland as much as he wanted.
- Pretty sweet moment where Marge refers to herself as her husband’s “best friend” while they’re talking in bed together.
- Another cemented relationship shown here is Flanders and Reverend Lovejoy. I love the balance it strikes where while clearly Lovejoy is absolutely (and rightfully) frustrated by Ned calling him, he still gives him a context-appropriate Bible passage to ruminate over before immediately handing the phone over to his wife to hang up. He’s a man of God who kind of gives a shit, as that’s much more interesting than one of the two extremes.
- I’ve always loved the little animation touch of Ned’s letter fluttering under the Simpson doorway as he bends down to leave it.
- Just like last episode, it’s always great seeing the Simpsons having fun together, and them all laughing uproariously over Ned’s heartfelt letter may be the ultimate example (“Bosom!”) Marge puts on a serious face, but she proves to be not so above it all as she leaves to the room to giggle to herself.
- As a kid, I always wished we had a mini-golf course like Sir Putts-a-Lot. I also love this moment where a frustrated Homer mimics the motions of the mechanical Kong obstacle (that also has a motorboard. Professor Kong?)
- One of the best things in this episode is just how whipped into a frenzy Homer is throughout the entire episode, completely blinded by his jealousy, doing whatever he can to one-up his seemingly perfect neighbor in at least one thing. I love how we see him sitting and watching Bart as he’s sleeping (seemingly all night), this sort of obsessive parenting would be almost disturbing if it weren’t over something so frivolous and dumb like a miniature golf tournament.
- Jeez, was Marge blind when she was picking out these outfits? Plus she only wears her green dress and hat to church anyway, maybe these get buried in the back of the closet for a reason.
- “Homer, I couldn’t help overhearing you warping Bart’s mind.” “And?”
- Honestly, Bart’s right on the money with the one-hand clapping thing. And yes, a tree falling in the woods does make a sound. Take that, Lisa.
- C’mon, kids, disgruntled civilian Krusty just wants to play pool at this seedy bar. Is that so wrong?
- I love the British announcer at the mini-golf tournament, and part of me doesn’t really know why. He’s not really saying any jokes, but the seriousness he takes his job and the dedicated coverage he gives these two dumb kids whacking putters is both incredibly funny, and actually makes the third act feel like it actually has weight, like there are real stakes, which makes it even funnier when Todd and Bart impromptu just agree to forfeit together.
- Of course, Ned is still in good spirits until the very end, finding the stunt of he and Homer mowing their lawns in dresses amusing, reminding him of “his old fraternity days.” Man, the days of Ned being like a normal guy were weird. Nowadays, there’d be some joke about him going to a Christian college where you were forbidden from looking at a woman or a man for more than five seconds or something.
7. Bart vs. Thanksgiving
- Nothing beats opening your Thanksgiving special with a close-up shot of removing turkey innards.
- Dan Castellaneta and Harry Shearer are so great as Bill & Marty, two yammering numskulls who frequently just talk without thinking. Their questioning of their own banter during the Thanksgiving parade is one of many great moments of the series of them breaking their performing personas (“Boy, now I know how the pilgrims felt!” “What are you talking about, Bill?”)
- Bart “helping” Marge is such a great scene, as I definitely remember many instances of me asking to help my mom in the kitchen as a kid that played out basically just like that. The animation of the cranberry sauce slowly dropping out of the can is great, as is the perfect timing between Bart walking away and the sauce quickly turning to red mush.
- I love those well-groomed go-getters of “Hooray for Everything” and their catchy “Dancin’” song. Their exit from the stadium prompts one of my favorite random one-off lines of the entire series (“In the Silverdome, now ablaze with flashbulbs, as `Hooray for Everything’ leaves the field! Of course, a stadium is much too big for flash pictures to work, but nobody seems to care!”)
- The pacing of this episode is so unique, the first act is nearly ten minutes and it’s just the family getting together for Thanksgiving dinner. Everything feels so personal, as the show makes jokes over the headaches and frustrations of extended family reuniting under one roof. The scene where we see Maggie sitting alone on the couch as Marge walks in and out is just incredible and I’m not even fully sure why, but I love that they decided to devote so much screen time to such a small moment.
- Great touch: one of the guards at Burns’ estate is reading Les Miserables while eating his meager Thanksgiving rations.
- Really great pan of Bart crossing over to the wrong side of the tracks (“We Have Rot Gut!” is a very welcoming sign). I also love the glee in Bart’s voice marveling he’s entered the bad side of town.
- “Twelve bucks and a free cookie, what a country!”
- Kent Brockman has his first appearance, doing a hollow fluff piece (the type of work he’d later describe that act to “tug at the heart, and fog the mind”) on the homeless shelter (“Thanks for your help, fellas. This reporter smells a local Emmy!”)
- I like that the show encroaches on “very special episode” territory in Bart feeling bad for his homeless chums, but it cuts through it when the two bums don’t hesitate for a second in taking money from a ten-year-old.
- Bart’s nightmare upon coming home is absolutely beautiful, maybe the most visually striking sequence the series had done at this point. It just exemplifies how the series utilized the great power of its medium to create something so visually evocative, all while serving the emotions of the story. Also, all the finger pointing at Bart reminded me of the ”Deep, Deep Trouble” music video, which if you haven’t seen it, is definitely worth a watch. “Do the Bartman” has the nostalgia factor, but “Trouble” is just as good, if not better, with some really quirky animation that manages to make even seeing Bart get executed by his family and sent to Hell fun to watch.
- The ending is genuinely sweet and feels earned of course, both Bart finally apologizing to Lisa, and Homer looking on from the bathroom window. And so, the family reunited gathers to attempt to celebrate the holiday once more (“Oh Lord, on this blessed day, we thank Thee for giving our family one more crack at togetherness.”)