- Every time I force myself to clean the house, I always think of Homer in this episode (“What’s the point of all this cleaning? Are we so vain?!”)
- Bill Clinton’s cameo is pretty “unrealistic,” but as he’s playing his sax with the little girl group Lisa was supposed to meet up with, it works as a payoff to that earlier set-up that now Lisa is stuck at home cleaning when she could have been jamming with the President.
- The shot of the revolving door to the kitchen revealing it to be completely trashed again within less than a second is amazing. There’s been a couple of jokes over the years that magically place a door between the kitchen and TV room that’s never been there before, but a lot of the time, it’s worth the minor inconsistency (the only other one I recall is in “Treehouse of Horror IX” when Bart slams the door on hobo Homer’s harmonica song, which is a great joke too).
- Nice touch when Bart is waiting for the phone to ring, he’s eating just the chocolate section of the neapolitan ice cream. Could he have been the guilty party all along from that old joke of Homer annoyedly opening up two packs of chocolate-less neapolitan?
- We get Bill & Marty’s first, and only (correct?), extended appearance within an actual plot, and it’s damn good. The on-air yucksters are quick to try to cover their ass and gloss over any controversy, but can’t do damage control quick enough before the station manager threatens them with her secret weapon: the DJ 3000. I love the mild characterization that Bill is the slightly dimmer one, who is instantly impressed by his possible new replacement (“Don’t. Praise. The Machine.”) Also, whenever I read a political news report I don’t quite understand right away, my mind always goes to “Those clowns in Congress did it again. What a bunch of clowns.”
- The Jurassic Park shot is another perfect use of parody: completely recontextualizing a famous movie moment so it’s an actual joke if you get the reference, but also works if you don’t.
- The second act is basically a bunch of bits related to the Simpsons’ new life living with an elephant, but it’s mostly pretty silly and funny, so whatever. My favorite moment is Homer’s adoption of a little bird to help groom his delicate two hairs (“Mmmm… elephant fresh.”)
- As we saw with “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacey,” we have Lisa’s advocacy cries fall upon deaf ears, which is logical that Homer would barely understand her complaints about animal rights let alone care about them. It’s the perfect balance where we have Lisa acting as the smart, concerned party, but having her righteous concerns rebuffed by an ignorant populus makes sense in the crapsack world of the show. Later seasons would treat her crusades with much greater seriousness, which kind of ruins the joke aspect of it.
- Kirk demanding Homer get off his property after he attempts to shake them down for money is probably his boldest moment. It’s all downhill from here, Kirk, get ready for a decade of suicidal single dad jokes!
- “Lisa, a guy who’s got lots of ivory is less likely to hurt Stampy than a guy whose ivory supplies are low!”
- Stampy marching through the RNC (We Want What’s Worst for Everyone, We’re Just Plain Evil) and the DNC (We Can’t Govern, We Hate Life and Ourselves) is the greatest political gag of the entire series, and the fact that it plays even stronger today than it probably did in 1994 is very depressing. Although maybe not so much about the Democractic establishment hating themselves, a lot of them probably do in secret, but there’s a whole lot of inflated self-importance in there too.
18. Burns’ Heir
- I wonder what those Extra Fancy Potato Chips Burns is eating taste like…
- I like that the episode gets Smithers out of the way of the plot regarding who will inherit Burns’ estate, with Burns revealing his intentions for them to be buried together. He paid some sculptor to make that terrified Smithers figure.
- The THX bit was repurposed and used by THX to play in movie theaters for a while in the late 90s. I’m pretty sure I saw it in the theater at least once.
- Mr. Burns’ pitch trailer to find the heir to his vast, vast, VAST fortune (vast) is great, but also a weird dated reference to the teaser trailer for the film Toys where Robin Williams stood in a field and just riffed for a minute and a half. Boy, we were just absolutely over-the-moon for his stupid impressions in the early 90s, huh? I watched Mrs. Doubtfire for the first time in decades a few months back and it gave me a headache.
- It’s great that even in Marge’s wildest fantasy, she’s very demure and timid, simply replying with “Ummm, sure” when Lee Majors proposes to sweep her away. I also love that we cut back to her with her eyes closed still fantasizing, so Homer and Bart just continue their conversation without her. I love whenever this show snaps back to reality after a fantasy sequence and everyone else is just awkwardly standing around waiting for them to come back to.
- “I guess I’ll have to leave all my money to the Egg Advisory Council. Eggs have gotten quite a bad rap lately, you know.” Between this and “Homer the Great,” I think around this time, there was discussion about whether eggs were actually good for you or not. Is that correct?
- “You can have anything you want to eat. Even some sort of gelatin dish! It’s made from hooves, you know.” It’s funny hearing Burns pitch Bart on some gelatin when in one of his first appearances, he was absolutely sick of the stuff after everyone at the company picnic brought nothing but Jell-O. Maybe he’s just got a ton of it leftover in his giant freezer and wants to unload it on someone.
- “Being abusive to your family is one thing, but I will not stand idly by and watch you feed a hungry dog!”
- It’s impossible to hear Homer yell “Go ahead, do your worst!” and not immediately think Burns is about to unleash the robotic Richard Simmons. It definitely feels like a quick edit, since we cut right on Burns and Smithers walking inside. I do love Homer’s incredulous high-pitched “He locked the door!” And before all that, I always laugh when Homer mows down Bart’s bike at the start of the scene.
- “You know, we should really stop hiring him.” I love how Lionel Hutz’s appearance in this episode is condensed to the end of act two, where it’s just a distilled version of how incompetent he is, where he loses the case as bad as possible, and has taken to mending shoes as a side business. Again, the show is openly acknowledging and commenting on its overused elements, but still in a hilarious way.
- Burns’ hustle to kick the football ending up knocking out Smithers and himself is such a great piece of animation.
- Is the Homer actor supposed to actually be Michael Caine? Either way, it’s hilarious. I also like that his Homer voice kind of sounds like the early Walter Matthau-esque Homer. It’s odd that at the end, the Simpsons tell Bart that the actors followed them around to study their characters, like why would they let them do that, and effectively aid Mr. Burns in his scheme to brainwash Bart? But whatever, it doesn’t matter.
- “Homer, I want that thing out of my house.” I love the rare moments where Marge has just had it and stops being nice, and Homer compulsively kissing a confused senior citizen’s forehead definitely feels like one of them.
19. Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song
- “How would you like it if, twenty years from now, people were laughing at things you did?” Twenty-six years and counting from this episode!
- Santa’s Little Helper keeping himself under the box while walking behind Bart, and then staying stationary until he takes the box off, reads as absolutely hysterical to me now that I recently got a rambunctious puppy.
- “My geode must be acknowledged!” I really love Martin, he’s kind of becoming like a dark horse favorite character in this latest rewatch.
- I love that as we see Skinner’s day get worse and worse, it already started out pretty horribly, as we first see him sweaty and disheveled in his office trying to put out a fire with some angry parents (“I know Weinstein’s parents were upset, superintendent, but… but I was sure it was a phony excuse! I mean, it sounds so made up, Yom Kipp-pour!”)
- From moment one, Willie is just so fucking happy to see that dog. I also like that Willie getting greased up for the vents is done as a joke (“Grease me up, woman!”), but then actually becomes how he ends up catching the dog, in the great sequence of him building up momentum to slide fast enough to catch up with the mutt.
- Great performance by Marcia Wallace as Mrs. Krabappel taunts Skinner by telling him Chalmers is coming. Just absolute gleeful torment as Skinner is having his worst day ever.
- Ah, Leopold. Two appearances with the same exact joke both times. It’s a great voice by Dan Castellaneta, and I like that he seems weirdly protective of his boss Chalmers when he leaves in a huff (“Now look what you’ve done, you little freaks!”)
- We get some great glimpses into Skinner’s psyche in this show, where he goes through all the different detergents, carefully considering which to try, and him mime-composing classical music in his room. I also kind of like the more kindly Agnes in this episode, she hadn’t turned into a complete vicious crone yet, which definitely helps to make Skinner seem more sad.
- “Nobody’s mentioned me, have they?” “I thought I heard someone say your name in the cafeteria, but they might have been saying ‘skim milk.’”
- Skinner walking past the school at night and remembering his past is a scene that should feel more schmaltzy than it is, but the strength of the characters and how much you care about them really helps it feel like it has weight. Those humanizing moments for Skinner I mentioned earlier and Harry Shearer’s great performance really makes you feel bad for the guy.
- “How do I get out of the army?” “No problemo. Just make a pass at your commanding officer.” “Done and done. And I mean done.” So, Skinner as bi confirmed?
- This episode really openly displays Chalmers’ absolute disdain toward children, first with him storming out of the assembly hall after not getting any laughs from his jokes (“It’s just a damn popularity contest with you kids!”) and then at the end with his absolute ambivalence toward getting Springfield Elementary back from the brink of anarchy (“The way America’s public schools are sliding, they’ll all be this way in a few months. I say, lay back and enjoy it! It’s a hell of a toboggan ride!”) That’s actually kind of been my viewpoint on America during this past year, funnily enough.
20. The Boy Who Knew Too Much
- I continue to be impressed with how many varied expressions they’re able to create with such simple characters. I love Otto’s haunted, sinister expression driving the prison bus; with his slow head turn, it’s pretty disconcerting (“Now take a seat before I blow your heads off!” “Otto!” “Oh, sorry. This bus and I have sort of a Shining thing going on.”
- “Now unfortunately, our school clocks have been running fast all semester. So today we all have to stay two extra hours to make up for the time we lost!” This line alone is great in further piling on how much Bart wants to skip school, but the reveal that it was actually his fault from a prank biting him in the ass (Li’l Bastard Clock Tampering Kit) makes it even better.
- Lisa giggling at Skinner and Willie doing Good Cop, Bad Cop is a really sweet moment. Over time, Lisa would end up becoming a surrogate member of the faculty, talking with Skinner and company about school matters like they were boring equals, so it’s sweet to see her in this setting acting like a little kid.
- When Bart is running from Skinner, for some reason, they reuse shot from “Kamp Krusty” of him running from Mount Avalanche. I guess they wanted to have a different shot of him running last minute and didn’t want to pay to animate something.
- I love that this episode features Skinner as a genuine threat to Bart. As I’ve said before, their dynamic is much funnier if it seems like there’s actual risk in Bart’s mischievous deeds. That Skinner goes from woefully misguided (“There are no children here at the four-H club, either! Am I so out of touch? …no, it’s the children who are wrong,”) to doggedly pursuing Bart up a mountain to bust him is tremendous; it doesn’t feel like those two depictions conflict with each other at all.
- Freddy Quimby basically sounds like if Mayor Quimby sucked some helium. Also, his loud, obnoxious laugh is just wonderful.
- The drawing of Homer’s face when his mind is singing the Meow Mix song is so damn funny. Also I assigned that sound clip as my shutdown noise on my old PC when I was younger, so I’ve heard him sing that song a lot.
- Freddy Quimby’s lawyer sounds like the Blue-Haired Lawyer, but it’s not him, which is kind of weird, considering he always represents the powerful and well-to-do. It’s also interesting that an unnamed female judge is subbing in for Judge Snyder. I feel like she made one other appearance, but I like that we see that there’s actually more than one judge in Springfield, be it very briefly.
- I’ve always loved Bart’s cafeteria nightmare; “Watch the potty mouth, honey” was another quote my best friend and I used to say all the time, much to the annoyance of anyone around us.
- “Justice is not a frivolous thing, Simpson, it has little if anything to do with a disobedient whale.” This line goes by so quick, but I love Skinner’s bizarre, yet natural disdain toward Free Willy.
- McGonigle makes his triumphant return, and basically is semi-responsible for the grisly murder of a child (“Well, McGonigle, Billy is dead! They slit his throat from ear to ear!” “Hey! I’m trying to eat lunch here.” This is immediately followed by another child death when Homer watches the Free Willy Director’s cut (“Oh no! Willy didn’t make it! And he crushed our boy!” “Ewww, what a mess.”)
- The animation of the waiter’s ridiculous pratfalls in the kitchen is really well done, it’s a fantastically staged sequence.
- Skinner’s confrontation with Bart outside the courthouse is probably my favorite Skinner moment of the whole series. The pause between “three months detention” and “Wait… make that… four months detention” always kills me.
21. Lady Bouvier’s Lover
- The episode opens with Homer and the kids watching TV in the elusive “rumpus room,” a sort-of play room that’s appeared in a couple episodes, most notably “Three Men and a Comic Book” with Homer in his bean bag chair. Could they not have staged this scene in the TV room because of the credenza joke?
- I’ve seen a few real-life versions of Marge’s special cake for Homer to ruin, they’re pretty cool.
- It’s funny that Maggie’s baby nemesis Gerald appears in two episodes in a row, then disappears for who knows how long. But thankfully we can see him every single week in the new opening titles where Maggie lifelessly shakes her fist at him!
- Maggie’s horrifying POV of the family holding cameras and the candle flames is really cool.
- I love the Armor Hot Dogs/Chicken Tonight scene, it feels very appropriate that the Simpsons (and the Bouviers) have no real family traditions that don’t revolve around commercial jingles.
- Another scene with endless shitposting potential: “Can I come too?”
- Homer’s vision of his freakish inbred children is actually pretty disconcerting, I’m not gonna lie.
- It’s pretty shocking how many delivery men have no qualms about punching a child square in the face (“Don’t write no more letters to Mr. Sinatra.” “Stop stealing golf balls from the driving range!”)
- Nelson having an out-of-body experience in order to laugh at Bart from across town feels like the ultimate version of the “Haw haw!” joke. Nelson would keep laughing regularly throughout the rest of the classic years, mostly just played straight, but as the years would go on and on, all the Haw-Haw subversions they’d do would always feel so unfunny to me. And they still do it; last season, Nelson had Milhouse stuffed in the freezer and laughed, “Thaw thaw!” Just awful.
- Is the “Play It Cool” sequence a reference to anything specific? I like it even if it feels kind of random and strange. I never quite got Homer’s giggle after Abe tries out his yawn-and-stretch move; is he actually trying to give his dad dating advice, or is he just messing with him?
- Smithers’ quiet (and not so quiet) annoyance at Mr. Burns’ courtship in the third act is wonderful, from him purposefully tricking Burns into calling Homer and Marge the Flintstones, to his reciting of a poignant, heartfelt message for Burn to write as a MASH note (“That’s marvelous! How did you think of that so fast?” “I sent it to you on your birthday!”)
- Bart’s ketchup and mustard gun gambit is actually pretty clever. I love that Bart’s animation cel B-story had been completely separate up to that point, but bringing Burns into the A-story gives Bart an opportunity to get back the money he owes Homer perfectly organically. And of course, Homer is none-the-wiser (“Three hundred and fifty dollars! Now I can buy seventy transcripts of Nightline!”) Remember when buying scripts of TV shows was a thing? What was up with that?
- I want to know the story of Mr. Burns’ only friend, an older German with a Kaiser helmet.
- I always forget about “The Sound of Grampa” over the credits. It’s one of the only classic era songs to not make it onto any of the soundtrack CDs, I guess because it’s a direct parody of an actual song?
22. Secrets to a Successful Marriage
- “Every time I learn something new, it pushes some old stuff out of my brain!” As I get older, I find this quote to be more and more accurate.
- Moe’s Funk Dancing for Self Defense class is definitely the MVP scene of the episode.
- I guess it makes sense that we go from Homer feeling bad people think he’s stupid to him wanting to be a teacher to get respect, but him proceeding to showboat and brag about it for multiple scenes feels very Jerkass Homer to me. Then seeing him actually in class just standing there and not doing anything… I dunno, it’s just not very funny to me. It helps if Homer is actually driven by something in his own story, not if he just feebly falls into the next plot turn.
- I like the miniature game of telephone as Homer’s, “I told Marge in bed this wouldn’t work” is turned into Moe’s “So something wasn’t working in bed, huh?”
- Homer’s obnoxious movie-quote monologue to Marge is still pretty annoying. Despite that, it’s a very passionate performance from Dan Castellaneta, and actually, when I was in school for 3D animation, I used that long audio bite for a lip sync assignment on a character model.
- For a while, I wanted to use Homer’s “Webster’s Dictionary defines ‘wedding’ as ‘the process of removing weeds from one’s garden’” as the opening line for my future wedding.
- The act two climax of Homer’s class gathered around the Simpson dinner table furiously writing in their notepads strikes me as bizarre. They like his class because he dishes out juicy gossip, that makes sense, but what scandalous news are they hoping to gain from openly hoarding in on a family dinner?
- Homer stuck in that treehouse, getting dirtier and smellier each time we see him, is pretty disturbing. But just like when he tried nothing as a teacher, he’s also trying nothing to get Marge back in most of act three. His only attempt is the scene where he tries to emotionally manipulate Marge in the car, pretending to be her inner voice. It’s a pretty gross moment.
- Silver medal for best moment goes to Moe’s gobsmacked face when Homer returns home after he just attempted to pick up his wife. The two frames of Homer and Moe have also become famous in the shitposting world.
- After this episode left kind of a bad taste in my mouth almost a decade ago, I was curious how it would hold up seeing it again, and yeah, I feel about the same. The ending with Homer’s eureka moment about providing “complete and utter dependence” just doesn’t work for me. The world of this show is dripping with cynicism and defeat, and you could say the same about Homer and Marge’s marriage, how Marge really could have possibly married a better man for her, but highlighting her sorry lot in life of picking up after this absolute slovenly oaf this sharply as the emotional climax of the episode doesn’t feel right. On top of that, Homer’s assurance he’ll never lie to her again after Marge feebly asks, “How do I know I can trust you?” really falls flat considering the amount of bullshit she would have to put up with for twenty-plus more years. Too much of this episode feels like I’m watching the selfish, asshole Homer of the Mike Scully years.
11 thoughts on “Season Five Revisited (Part Four)”
The THX parody is great, but it’s not what I think of when I see that logo. That honor goes to Tiny Toon Adventures. (“The audience is now deaf.”)
I’m also glad I’m not alone in not loving “Secrets of a Successful Marriage.” I know there have been episodes revolving around Homer and Marge’s marital troubles since the first season, but this really felt like the harbinger of all those later episodes where Homer does a horrible thing, Marge kicks him to the curb and then easily takes him back. Definitely in the bottom tier for me when it comes to classic-era episodes.
That said, I don’t want to live in a world without Moe’s Funk Dancing for Self-Defense Class, Homer’s rant on learning and “Yes, Lisa, Daddy’s a teacher.”
“Lisa, you will respect your new mother. Now give her a kiss! KISS HER!” remains one of my favorite isolated moments in series history, particularly when Homer drops the plant and transitions immediately to an alibi.
Oh, amen. Secrets of a Successful Marriage is my least favourite “classic era” episode for pretty much the same reason. There are a handful of episodes I consider objectively weaker (like the ones focussed on Santa’s Little Helper), but I find the conclusion this one reaches almost unwatchable in its odiousness. It’s even more egregious if you listen to Mirkin’s musings on the DVD commentary – he starts out by saying that the episode was conceived specifically to address the long-standing question as to why Homer and Marge would stay together, and states upfront that the answer is, “they just do”, it’s true to life, people fight but they make relationships work, etc. And then at the end he’s all, wow, this is a really bad basis for a relationship, if you follow Homer and Marge’s example you have a recipe for unhappiness. Which somehow doesn’t strike me as the conclusion the mission statement was exactly reaching for.
I can’t help but feel that the episode also fails with Mirkin’s other mission statement, which was for Marge and Homer to have their biggest fight to date. Clearly, he equates “biggest” with “most overblown”. Earlier marital crisis episodes like Life on The Fast Lane and War of The Simpsons had a lot more teeth because they were genuinely interested in exploring how the characters would handle the prospect of their marriage being in real danger and (LoTFL in particular) understood the principle that less is more. The way the drama plays out in Secrets is just way too bombastic to have any ring of authenticity.
The hero of the episode is Moe, whose shameless efforts to move in on Homer’s territory are at least funny and keep the third act from being a total write-off.
I guess I’m alone in this, but “Secrets of a Successful Marriage” never bothered me that much. Probably because of all the classic scenes in it, but I don’t think this episode is unsalvageable. The problem is that it goes from Homer wanting to prove his worth and find something that makes him special to him having to win Marge back. And he’s also aware that Marge doesn’t like what he’s doing in class, but he keeps doing it, which seems out of character for him (at this point). It’s funny how despite Mike Scully having joined the writing staff in season five, he didn’t write this one because it definitely feels like him.
I think the episode could have been stronger if they kept the plot of Homer being a teacher, but they dropped the marriage aspect. Maybe something like “Homer Defined” where his students respect him, but he feels like he’s cheating them and he isn’t as good a teacher as they think.
Also, fun fact: This wasn’t supposed to be the season finale, but the Northridge earthquake delayed production on “Bart of Darkness” so they had to go with this one.
“This wasn’t supposed to be the season finale, but the Northridge earthquake delayed production on ‘Bart of Darkness’ so they had to go with this one.”
Whoa, I actually did not know that! That would make an excellent Simpsons trivia question.
Ahh, the Stampy episode. It’s not perfect story and structure wise, but I don’t care, I still love this one. That cleaning story may your typical first-act mini-story that has nothing to do with the main plot like many ZS episodes, but fuck it, it’s got some of my favorite jokes in the episode (Such the aforementioned Clinton bit) and though not as effective as “Lisa’s Pony,” I still was able to be emotionally invested in Bart’s relationship with Stampy. It’s amazing how such a wacky gag-driven episode can still have such a strong emotional core. The scene with Stampy and the mammoth statue with Bart assuming he’s lonely is strangely moving and powerful which is then followed by, of course a hilarious “Sound of Music” reference with the Simpson car destroying a deer statue. For some reason these two differently-toned scenes flow together really well.
The Simpson actor scene is easily my favorite part of “Burns’ Heir” and of course, we got the Estonian Midget out of it, whom I like to think of as the mascot of the Mirkin seasons. I love Estonian Midget, I wish he became a regular.
That badass song sung by the sweet Seymour Skinner feels like an early preview of Season 7: A sweet, grounded character-driven story revolving around a secondary character that still manages to have tons of hilarious jokes and wacky moments that don’t deviate from the more serious stuff. I always loved Principal Skinner, but this episode made me love him even more. Oh, and it was also the introduction of Luigi. I’m so happy they made him a regular.
Now onto “The Boy Who Knew Too Much” which is probably my favorite episode of the final batch of Season 5, just because it’s so masterfully created. Everything connects, and this story about a boy fearful of telling the truth as it will get him in trouble (Think of how many times you’ve seen this plot in any family sitcom in teevee history) manages to feel fresh and new and given a very Simpson-y twist. Oh, and the “It’s the children who are wrong” line just feels so accurate to society now. It’s certainly aged like fine wine.
“Lady Bouvier’s Lover” is such a goddman underrated episode and Grampa being in love with his daughter-in-law’s mother makes waaaaaaaaay more sense than him being in love with his daughter-in-law’s sister (Ugh, fuck that episode) I’m sad you didn’t mention the bit where Grampa thinks he’s in love, then he thinks he’s having a stroke. Cut to an ambulance where he realizes that it was love which leads to the paramedics angrily throwing Grampa out of the ambulance. The act-break joke where he’s cruising down a busy highway on a hospital bed crying “I’m in looooooove!” is impossible for me to watch without even smirking the slightest.
“Maggie’s horrifying POV of the family holding cameras and the candle flames is really cool.”
So THAT’S the basis of the Minion design. Makes sense to me. The Simpsons predicted the Minions. Also, I hate Minions and I hope society leaves them behind in the 2010s.
I was looking forward to your “Secrets of a Succesful Marriage” review seeing as it’s this blog’s equivalent of “Marge Be Not Proud.” A lot of people actually really enjoy this episode, myself included but you’re not wrong when you say Homer is the episode’s biggest flaw. Yeah, this episode has problems but I think it all depends on your thoughts on the presentation. Some people absolutely love this episode, others think it’s one of the few duds of the classic era. And you know what? I think it’s A-OK! I don’t like Homer before the scene before Marge kicks him out of the house, but despite the fact that he deserves it, I still somehow manage to feel for him afterwards. And while Homer and Marge getting together at the end feels forced, I still really love the complete and utter dependence speech. Also, Homer’s disheveled design is great. I look forward to the re-review of “The Canine Mutiny,” the other classic episode that Mike doesn’t like (I like it, but I will admit it’s probably one of the weakest episodes in a season with some of the weakest classic episodes)
Well, Season 5 was a really fun ride, and I’m going to dearly miss it, but now it’s time for Season 6, my favorite season! It’s so hard for me to pick favorites for that particular season because there’s way too many!
It strikes me that Secrets is the anti-Homer’s Enemy. Whereas the latter has Homer’s antics taken for granted by the cast, to purposedly ridiculous heights, this one has his hijinxs scrutinized and called out; Bart even reacts fittingly angered at the impromptu strangulation gag for a change. This, coupled with Mirkin’s penchant for playing with how omedy tropes would play in real life all through the season, makes me think Homer being shown in such a bad light is no accident.
Question, how far do you plan on going with these ‘revisited’ things. One would imagine you wouldn’t go beyond season 8 or so.
Season 11, that’s what I keep to on my Plex.
“Secrets of a Successful Marriage” is an episode I look back at for isolated bits (Homer being slow at the poker table, “They won’t let me live!”, “Take another bath in malt liquor?”, Moe giving the 411, “Sir, it’s a felony to tease the ordering box.”, Homer getting spat on with tobacco spit, Moleman teaching the orange eating class, Homer with the Marge plant, “Eat the pudding!”, and Moe encroaching on Midge.), but as a whole, it’s a very weak episode if you choose to dissect it structurally given that it meanders. Homer is worried about being slow-witted, so be becomes a teacher… to prove himself (“If he can teach he class, HE can teach a class… I mean I can teach a class!”)? But he’s an awful teacher, with the only way he can keep a class is by divulging personal info about his wife, which rightfully pisses her off, so ultimately Marge tosses him out, and almost immediately he becomes haggard and smelly. Yet, little effort is made on his part to win back her trust, almost exclusively hoping others will influence Marge’s decision for him. Remember, this episode began due to Homer being slow on the take.
Finally, it dawns on him that the only thing he can bring to the relationship is an unhealthy need for her to take care of him (“It’s only been a day and already I’m as dirty as a Frenchman. In another few hours I’ll be dead.”), meaning the marital relationship is supposed to be celebrated as parasitic. In the commentary, this is defended as being clearly an unhealthy resolution and therefore humorous take on conflict resolution; however as the show was still (mostly) grounded by this point, having a domestic episode end with one character resolve his flaws by admitting he is dependent entirely on the other to survive, and the other reluctantly accepting it feels like a “Nothing ventured, nothing gained” moment in the series, which given the “Homer and Marge’s Marital Troubles” format becoming the bulk of the episode formula during the Jean years, looks especially sour in hindsight.
As others have addressed, this could have worked if Homer had started out as more than someone who had to hem and haw through an entire session, only to quickly go back to the genesis of the episode, thus doubling down on the premise and leading to Homer accidentally giving away information instead of an apparent willingness due to his own failings. That direction the episode ends up going in execution not only makes Homer come off as selfish, it also presents him as sinister, which is one of the characteristics that makes Jerkass Homer so loathsome. In the end, it’s an episode from the early days, along with “Cape Feare”, “Another Simpsons Clip Show”, “Bart’s Girlfriend”, and “The Secret War of Lisa Simpson” that I don’t particularly go back to, if not avoid altogether.
As for this block, “Bart Gets an Elephant” is my favorite of the bunch due to… Bart getting an elephant. It’s such a dumb premise, but it remains one of my all-time favorite episodes as a result of it, particularly the third act when Stampy goes through a tear around the town and Homer is saved by the “feisty feline”. They were right for keeping Stampy as an ill-contempt creature that never fully bonds with him (“He does look like Al Gore!”), as well as highlighting the reality of keeping such an exotic animal in a suburban environment. Naturally, nobody could just have an elephant in their back yard, but that hasn’t stopped folks from getting horses, wild cats, alligators, and other massive creatures to live in such small, incompatible environments, plus with the popularity early in 2020 of “Tiger King”, that series only highlighted the fact we live in an age where exotic animals are far more likely to be in the hands of unstable individuals than capable zoologists. At least in this episode, they made an effort to illustrate the financial perils of keeping Stampy, while a lesser series would handwave those problems just so they could have a few elephant jokes.
Speaking of the elephant jokes, “Where’s My Elephant?” was my first Dankmus song I ever listened to. There’s a lot of tracks of his that don’t get the views on YouTube due to them being older in his discography as well as how the algorithm work, but that, “Tramampoline” and “It Begins” are all wonderful tunes from his early days. Unfortunately, we likely won’t get an embiggened version of “It Begins” as his laptop was stolen with those older tracks.
“I wonder what those Extra Fancy Potato Chips Burns is eating taste like…”
I’ll say this, if they ain’t kettle style then they ain’t fancy enough.