14. The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show
- I love that we just see the end result of Krusty’s one-man pie fight. It’s a great example of something that’s funnier seeing the aftermath than the actual action.
- There’s a great note on Krusty’s door that you can barely read on screen: Cleaning Crew: The Liquor is Not For You.
- The hierarchy of power between Krusty and Roger Meyers, Jr. has swapped a few times, but it seems to make more sense that Krusty would be the “boss,” since the I & S cartoons run on his show. I love their dynamic in their first scene, where Meyers, Jr. effortlessly gets Krusty distracted from his chewing out session (“What happened here? Lightning hit the transmitter?” “See, that’s what I thought at first, but then… hey, shut up!”)
- “Please refrain from tasting the knob.”
- “So, you want a realistic, down-to-earth show that’s completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots?” Sounds like they’re describing Futurama a few years early. Although, sadly, you could not win stuff by watching, at least as far as I remember.
- Lisa’s speech about Itchy & Scratchy not having the staying power they once had is one of many overt meta references in this episode on how long this show has gone on and the inevitability of it growing stagnant. Oakley & Weinstein really felt that season 8 would possibly be the final one, and it shows clearest here than any other episode, and it’s pretty funny (not in a good way) watching this while knowing there’s over two decades more seasons to come.
- I love Krusty’s boardroom suggestion that the new character be a gangster octopus. Now I want to see a drawing of that…
- A lot of this episode is reflective of the writers’ views and efforts, but I like that we get a bit devoted to the grievances of the artists, as an animator who looks suspiciously like David Silverman is subject to Krusty, Lindsay Naegle and Roger Meyers, Jr’s incessant design by committee. I’m sure there are plenty of artists on staff who had similar nightmare stories about producers who think they’re creative coming in and fucking their work up.
- Roy’s introduction reminded me, was there a story about FOX suggesting the show could add a new character at some point? I might be remembering that wrong. I know James L. Brooks’ presence killed a fair share of network meddling, but I wonder what notes and creative direction came through from the network over the years. I’m curious how horrible they must be, and how thankful we all should be that they never got enacted.
- A scene I still don’t quite get is during the auditions where Roger Meyers, Jr. is absolutely enraptured by Otto and Troy McClure’s auditions (“You’re perfect! In fact, you’re better than perfect! Next to you, perfection is crap!”) I guess it’s supposed to make him seem easily impressed that it makes Homer’s harsh rejection sting all the more, but it doesn’t seem to fit his character to see him so complimentary to Otto of all people.
- The college nerds are the perfect avatars for the 90s-era Internet obsessive cartoon nerd (gifting us the classic line, “I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder.”) As big a cartoon fan as I was, I don’t think I was ever at this level, and I was a 2000s-era adolescent, but it’s kind of fascinating hearing and reading about adult men’s obsession with the likes of Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs. I mean, I enjoy a lot of cartoons ostensibly meant for children, but this interest seemed like it was on a whole other level.
- Great bit of (ad-libbed?) ADR before the Poochie premiere, we hear Barney in the crowd comment, “You know, Poochie’s based on me!”
- I find myself saying “You’re missing the jokes!” if someone’s talking while we’re watching a comedy, particularly if it’s a shitty comedy.
- I both love and hate the Bart/CBG scene; it’s a perfect encapsulation of CBG’s character and the sense of fan entitlement, but Bart’s rebuttal is kind of strange. His impassioned defense of professional TV writers really makes him feel like the writers’ mouthpiece (“They’re giving you thousands of hours of entertainment for free. What could they possibly owe you? If anything, you owe them.”) I totally get how frustrating it must be to work incredibly hard on the show, only to have self-righteous Internet dwellers shit all over it seemingly without a second thought, but saying “you owe us for writing this show” is kind of on a whole other level. Plus, as mentioned before, this scene rings more and more hollow the more shit seasons of this show keep piling up.
- “One, Poochie needs to be louder, angrier, and have access to a time machine. Two, whenever Poochie’s not onscreen, all the other characters should be asking ‘Where’s Poochie?’” I love Roger Meyers, Jr’s stone face, he can’t even be bothered to look at Homer when he’s giving his dumbass suggestions.
- Homer’s impassioned speech in defense of Poochie sets up one of the greatest bait-and-switch endings of the whole series. I don’t know how they did it, but they managed to make me feel kind of emotional about the fate of a gangster surfer cartoon dog (“But if everyone could find a place in their hearts for the little dog that nobody wanted, I know we can make them laugh and cry until we grow old together.”) Poochie’s rejection is Homer’s rejection, so that’s why it still feels affecting, but it’s still crazy to me that I always get a slight chill hearing that speech. Then, of course, it all comes smacking Homer in the face with the actual cartoon, where his line is unceremoniously dubbed over by Roger Meyers, Jr. himself, they didn’t even bother paying to animate Poochie’s outro, and Krusty’s announcement of his permanent death is met with rapturous applause by children everywhere, including Homer’s own kids. Just fantastic. One of the biggest casualties of this show’s decline was its ability to switch gears from genuine emotion to completely undercutting it without undermining it, and making it look completely seamless.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “Either the writers are trying too hard, or they just don’t give a damn anymore. This episode was utterly predictable and not funny. I wouldn’t call it the worst episode; I would rather see it than Bart Gets an Elephant. Still, the idea of having a ‘cool’ dog with Homer’s voice is just absurd.”
15. Homer’s Phobia
- Like “Date with Density,” this is another title I didn’t get as a kid. It’s so damn good, it’s as if Homer got his name for the sole reason of making this genius pun title.
- “These campaign buttons are all partisan. Don’t you have any neutral ones? ‘May the better man win’? ‘Let’s have a good, clean election?’ That sort of thing?” “No… but we do have some old shirt buttons. They’re kinda kooky and fun!” “Missy, you just talked yourself right out of a sale!”
- John of course is just John Waters. Hell, it might actually be him moonlighting as owner of a kitsch store in a small town during his off-time. Contextually within the story, the casting and characterization is perfect.
- Lisa’s quick interjection when Marge gives John the Confederate statue (“Please don’t construe our ownership of this as an endorsement of slavery”) is another great example of showing her believably wise and enlightened beyond her years. A moment like this in a modern day show would have Lisa give a mini-monologue about how aghast she is that Marge treasures such a problematic heirloom and that slavery is wrrroooooonnnng you hear me wrrrroooonnng, but here, she gets to make her point, but her quickly getting the comment in right before John might pass judgement on them is a nice little joke along with it.
- I love that John’s embracing of the Simpsons is based on their world basically being camp in and of itself (”Pearls on a little girl? It’s a fairy tale!”) In yet another meta examination this season, it’s the first big magnifying glass held to the show in how it’s starting to feel dated a year since the characters’ creations. That age starts to feel even greater in 2021, while new characters look and dress like “normal” people, Lisa’s still got those pearls and plain red dress.
- It’s such a delicate line keeping Homer from being unlikable with his ignorant views on gay people, but it still manages to work just because of how blindindly stupid he is on the subject (“Think of the property values! Now we can never say only straight people have been in this house!”) It never gets way too silly, but it never goes too aggressively homophobic either. Homer’s panic comes from ingrained societal expectations that he himself can’t even understand, so they’re really less his views than him just parroting what middle-aged men in the 90s would latently believe on average.
- Smithers being pissed that John blew off their date for lunch with the Simpsons tells so much with so little. It makes sense that a live wire like John would find straight-laced Smithers kind of boring. I guess Malibu Stacys just aren’t his thing.
- Anytime I hear about white people being pissy they can’t say the n-word when black people can, or any other kind of slur, I always think about Homer being equally whiny over the word ‘queer’ (“I resent you people using that word! That’s our word for making fun of you!”)
- “Well, it’s been two hours. How do you feel?” “I dunno. I kinda want a cigarette.” “That’s a good start! Let’s get you a pack. What’s your brand?” “Anything slim!”
- What more could I possibly say about The Anvil? One of the greatest scenes in show history. I also love how act three immediately opens with Homer at Moe’s sadly commenting, ”And the entire steel mill was gay…” If you had just tuned in at the commercial, what could you possibly be thinking was going on?
- Moe and Barney are more lowkey bigoted in this episode as Homer is to serve the third act, but they’re even dumber than Homer is, so their ridiculous beliefs feel just as delightfully ignorant (“You still got that other kid, Lisa. Let’s take her out hunting tomorrow, make her into a man.” “She’d never go. She’s a vegetarian.” “Oh, geez! You and Marge ain’t cousins, are you?”
- I never noticed before, but in the time lapse of Homer and company in the woods, we see Homer has shot a smiley face into a nearby tree out of boredom, with his gun still smoking.
- Homer getting tenderized by the pack of reindeer feels like an early sign of the “hilarious” scenes to come in the Mike Scully era and beyond of Homer + pain = funny, but it works here almost as an amends to how he’s treated Bart and John, taking the brunt of the harm he’s caused.
- “Well, Homer, I won your respect, and all I had to do was save your life. Now, if every gay man could just do the same, you’d be set.”
- Dedicated to The Steelworkers of America. Keep Reaching For That Rainbow!
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “This was indescribably horrible. Just when I was beginning to get optimistic from last week’s inside joke-themed ‘Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie,’ along comes an episode full of lame, ‘In Living Color’-style routines about homosexuals. Did Ron Hauge win a ‘Write a Simpsons Episode’ contest or something? This was the first episode where I’ve ever hated any character, and here I had three to choose from: Homer, in super-doltish Al Bundy mode; Moe, who had nothing but lame bile and not one good line; and John Waters, who is the last person I would choose to do a voiceover. His ‘hoo!’s had me muting the TV halfway through. Simpsons episodes are about memorable lines, and this one had absolutely none. Please, get Ron Hauge a writing partner.”
16. Brother From Another Series
- Krusty’s song at the prison was another track on the soundtrack albums, one I never really understood as a kid (“I slugged some jerk in Tahoe/They gave me one to three/My high-priced lawyer sprung me on a technicality” aren’t exactly lyrics a ten-year-old can really grasp.) But I love how quickly Krusty recovers and wins the convicts back.
- I know I harped on this the first time around, but this really should have been (and at times feels like) the last Sideshow Bob episode. Bart running to his room in fear at seeing Bob on TV was so refreshing to see. The next Bob episode “Day of the Jackanapes” would do a big joke that Bart was no longer afraid of Bob since they’d done their song-and-dance so many times before, and each ensuing appearance almost drew comical exasperation from the Simpsons, wanting him to explain his new plan and just get on with it. Here, Bart is believably acting like a ten-year-old boy seeing the man who tried to kill him twice. The realism is still there… but not for long.
- “He explained his reasons for trying to kill us all, and I assure you, they were perfectly sane.”
- The Bob/Cecil dynamic is wonderful right off the bat. I’ve never seen any of Frasier, but I assume Grammar and Hyde Pierce naturally kind of fell back into the same dynamic, and they’re very convincing as bickering brothers (“Hydrological and hydrodynamical? Talk about running the gamut.” “Snigger all you like, Bob.” “Thank you. I believe I shall.”
- “Free comedy tip, slick: the pie gag’s only funny when the sap’s got dignity!” Interesting how this comedy philosophy didn’t carry over when Bob actually joined the show, replacing his sophisticated suit with a bare chest and hula skirt.
- “Shake it, madam! Capital knockers!” So fucking funny. Kelsey Grammar kills it in this episode, this might be his best Bob performance.
- “Hey, you said we were going to Dairy Queen!” “I lied. Now help me rummage through Bob’s trash for clues. Then I promise we’ll go to the waterslide.” Yet another example of Bart and (especially) Lisa just talking and behaving like kids. Also, could the waterslide comment be an intentional foreshadow of the ending where they make their escape down the water pipe?
- Wonderful attention to detail: the dumpster Bart and Lisa search through isn’t a dumpster at all, it’s a Trash-Co waste disposal unit, as seen in “The Otto Show.”
- I’ve always liked these two shots toward the end of Bart, Lisa and Bob’s chase. Just some nice visual direction to break up the scene a bit.
- Bart sicing Lisa on Bob (“Get ‘em, Lis!”) and her barreling at Bob with an intense growl is absolutely adorable, as is Bob’s lack of response in just holding her head at bay as he continues to process what’s going on with the shoddily built dam.
- The misdirect with Bob through the entire show is really well done, and I love how it culminates in his awkward team-up with Bart and Lisa to escape and save the day. As much as I wish this were the final Bob episode, there are definitely still ways they could have brought him back somehow. I thought the premise of “The Great Louse Detective,” having Bob act as a Hannibal Lector type in assisting the capture of a wanted man was a promising one, it’s the episode itself that blew.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “This Frasier crossover turned action adventure, was not the worst episode ever, but it was pretty close. The good, kind bob didn’t work, and his brother playing a sinister mastermind out to destroy the town didn’t work either. The writers need to save these action episodes for a spinoff series. I don’t want to see Bart and Lisa look through dumpsters, sneak through offices, run around a hydroelectric dam and then save a city. The show can sink much lower after the ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos’ Bob saves Bart ending.”
17. My Sister, My Sitter
- Kent Brockman referring to the boardwalk prostitutes as “allied tradespeople” is a great line.
- Lisa and Janey read “The Babysitter Twins,” an obvious reference to the “The Babysitters Club” in name and cover design. This kind of “Funtendo Zii,” same-name-but-tweaked-slightly stuff I usually rip on, but I give this a pass since it helps set up the premise of Lisa being interested in babysitting, and for convenience’s sake, just making a stand-in “Babysitters Club” makes more sense than creating an all-new thing.
- Another great church marquee gag: No Synagogue Parking
- Eight-year-old Lisa the successful babysitter is a bit of a pill to swallow, but the episode puts in the legwork in the first act to build her trust within the neighborhood and her parents. Her first job is for Ned, who is only talked into it since Homer and Marge would be next door in case of an emergency. From there, I was able to just go along with her being trusted by the other parents by Ned’s recommendation. The only thing that’s a problem is that Marge might be okay with Lisa watching Bart, but definitely not one-year-old Maggie. It’s not a huge deal for me though.
- A very cute exchange where Lisa tries to mollify her father’s worry about his unwashed tuxedo (”Can you see the pie stains?” “…it’ll be dark.”)
- I love the slight Doppler effect on Mayor Quimby’s “Stop, you idiot!” as Homer drives past him.
- I like that as big of a brat Bart is to mess with Lisa, she throws it right back at him. It makes it more satisfying to watch than Bart just making Lisa’s life a living hell and her not being able to take it.
- Homer and Marge walk the Squidport past all the different stores, reminding me of the Squidport expansion of the Tapped Out app game I had an unhealthy obsession with years ago. Having to wait 24 hours per boardwalk tile… man, fuck that game. Good thing I had it cracked for near unlimited donuts.
- “This isn’t faux-dive. This is a dive!” “You’re a long way from home, yuppie boy. I’ll start a tab.”
- I love that the sub delivery man just flies off screen as Krusty bursts his way through the door.
- Great design of the Dr. Nick phone book ad.
- Yeardley Smith is fantastic in the third act as Lisa gets more and more panicked and exhausted. Two highlights are her “Maaaagggiiiiieee!” right before she puts the wriggly baby in the pet carrier, and her extremely elongated struggle noises as she slides all the way down the cliff with the wheelbarrow after Bart.
- Patient Diagnosis list: Unusual sex practice, looter’s hernia, Mexican stand-off, prison tunnel syndrome, armed homeowner, allergic reaction to mace, pepper spray or bullets, liquor store robbery, or John Gotti’s disease.
- Smithers’ “situation” at Dr. Nick’s is a joke that feels a little too far. For the gags about Smithers’ sexuality outside of his unhealthy obsession with Burns, I prefer lighter stuff like him being miffed at being stood up by John Waters rather than him going to a back alley emergency room to have God knows what removed from his rectum.
- The Squidport reacting aghast to Lisa plays itself a bit too seriously, although it seems intentionally and exaggeratedly so (I always laugh at Quimby’s loud “What the hell is that?!”) I don’t like how the scene just fades out with no real ending; I guess the joke is supposed to be that Lisa’s paranoid nightmare came true with Dr. Hibbert saying exactly what she feared, but it’s not the best.
- The very ending feels very true to this show, that the parents of Springfield don’t give a shit about what Lisa did, as long as they can pawn their kids off to someone else, it’s all good.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “Worst episode ever, first truly to deserve that crown. A sadistic and hate-filled Bart torments Lisa for no apparent reason other than sheer malice (with maybe a touch of envy over her money making thrown in, not that that would excuse anything.) I honestly can’t think of any high points, although there might be some. But I haven’t the heart to watch this episode again. I’m marking the tape with a big black ‘X’ so I don’t accidentally see a few seconds of this episode while looking for something else.”
18. Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment
- Lisa goading on the kids to “attack” Bart in the opening is another great, believable kid moment for her (“No one’s pinching his legs!”)
- Drunk Bart is understandably played a bit seriously, but true to this show, it’s still undercut with the kids in the crowd cheering for him, and his pretty blaze attitude after the fact, announcing he’s heading off to Moe’s for a couple of beers (Homer gets up to follow, “I’ll come with!”)
- “Ladies, please, all our Founding Fathers, astronauts, and World Series heroes have been either drunk or on cocaine.”
- The only thing I know about Bernice Hibbert is that she’s a drunk. Is there any other appearance she’s made that illuminates anything else?
- Anytime some kind of mild to moderate inconvenience happens and then resolves within a small amount of time, I always end up saying, “That was a scary couple of hours,” subbing hours for minutes, or whatever other measure of time is applicable.
- This animation… wow. Is that top painted on Princess Kashmir’s chest?
- I don’t know why, but I’ve always thought Li’l Lugger, Springfield’s U-HAUL equivalent, was a really great name.
- The ball retrieval system from the bowling alley to Moe’s is just rinky dink enough that I can believe that Homer constructed it himself. Though did he have the permission from Barney’s Bowl-O-Rama to do it? It seems like it would be a natural connection to include Barney in the scheme, giving him access to his uncle’s business to run this scheme that ultimately benefits him with as much beer as he can drink. I guess it wasn’t an intentional connection, since we immediately see Barney get charged $45 for his first drink (“This better be the best tasting beer in the world! …you got lucky.”)
- “This isn’t a very happy birthday for Rex Banner.”
- At Moe’s “Pet Shop,” all the patrons raise their glasses and cheer, then quickly put them back behind their backs when Rex Banner turns his head back around, but we still clearly see that Eddie and Lou are still facing forward. Most likely just an animation oversight, but also, I can easily believe that Eddie and Lou don’t give a shit about enforcing the prohibition law, and are getting pretty sick of Rex Banner to do anything about it.
- I spent way too much time thinking if the Simpson basement could possibly fit forty-two bathtubs in it. I guess it could? They also managed to get Xtapolapocetl’s head down there, so none of this logistics shit really matters.
- I’m on the fence about the unceremonious expulsion, and presumed death, of Rex Banner. It’s unexpected and a funny visual, but it’s the only of the season 8 death quartet that was directly caused by a character, in this case, Eddie, now with blood on his hands. It’s funny how while I’m mixed on Rex Banner and Frank Ormand’s demises, I still love the final outros of Shary Bobbins and Frank Grimes, and even more interesting is I’m sure other fans have different feelings on this topic too.
- “To alcohol! The cause of, and solution, to all of life’s problems.” That’s got to be like top 5 most famous phrases from the show, right?
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “Some funny lines, good routines, the Narrator was pretty funny and Lisa’s darling in a green dress, but the story for the most part sucked. It was just one big love letter to alcohol, and I, for one, am not for overuse of alcohol (for health reasons.) I also was disappointed in Swartzwelder for the various spots of characters out of character, especially Marge, and I really don’t think the Homer I once knew would be stupid enough to break so many laws for alcohol. And what’s with these morbid endings? First Sherri Bobbins killed in 3G03, and now Rex Banner killed. I can’t laugh at stories that end in such sick, black ways. Adding to the list of 19 worst ever episodes with a C- grade.”
19. Grade School Confidential
- “The bake sale to raise money for the car wash has been cancelled due to confusion.”
- Putting Skinner and Krabappel together feels like a natural idea, but I like the effort the episode puts in to make it feel that much more believable. Both are self-acknowledging sad, lonely people whose lives haven’t gone how they’d hoped (Edna’s is, though, “But then I was a very depressed child.”) We know Skinner is kind of an awkward geek play-acting as a disciplinarian, but this show gave him some more shades of innocence that appeal to Edna. It’s both heartening, and a bit sad, when Skinner explains how he’d always dreaded that he would end up with a woman like his mother, and that he’s glad he didn’t.
- We get a welcome appearance of a new unnamed cafeteria cook (“Good gravy!” “Oh, thank you, it’s just brown and water.”) Doris Grau passed away a year and a half before this episode aired, so this script was definitely written after her passing, and look! They wanted to make a joke with a cafeteria worker, so they just made up a new character! I kind of go back and forth as to whether retiring or recasting is a better option with these characters, but as I’ve mentioned many times already, it’s just curious which characters ended up retired (those voiced by “major” names like Phil Hartman and Marcia Wallace) and those that ended up recast (Russi Taylor, Doris Grau.)
- Chalmers the annoying moviegoer is one of my favorite syndication cuts. It’s just so stupid. (“You think they actually filmed this in Atlanta?” “I don’t know. I don’t think it’s important.” “Yeah…”)
- Toward the end of act two, it starts to get a little stupid how far Skinner and Krabappel push Bart. Like, they have to know how unreliable their alliance is, that he could blab at any second and it’s all over for them, so why are they forcing him to courier notes for him during school hours? Skinner forcing Bart to say, “I love you” in the middle of class is really, really dumb, but Martin’s jab at Bart that finally breaks him almost makes it worth it (“Now, Bart, you must promise not to fall in love with me!”)
- “Baby looked at you?!”
- “Willie hears yah. Willie don’t care.”
- I always laugh at Homer forgetting to pull the megaphone away from his mouth after he finds the remote, sheepishly pulling it from Marge’s face before repeating himself (“IT WAS… it was in my pocket.”) Such a nice little moment.
- Why exactly would the police choose to blast romantic music to try to drive a romantic couple out of the building? Who knows. The third act does get a little dull at points, I won’t lie.
- I love the contempt Chalmers has for the rest of the townspeople, and Sideshow Mel’s impassioned rebuttal (“Let us take our case directly to the townspeople.” “Oh, yeah, that’ll be real productive. Who do you want to talk to first? The guy with a bumblebee suit, or the one with a bone through his hair?” “My opinion is as valid as the next man’s!”
- Of all the show moments that made no sense to me as a child, Skinner’s admission to being a virgin is probably the biggest of them all, since it’s basically the resolution to the entire story, and season 8 ran a lot when I was big into syndication. I don’t think I even had a clue as to what Skinner meant when I first saw this. But I love it, how Chalmers can’t get away fast enough to escape the awkwardness, and also this excellent bit (“Hey, does this mean that Mrs. Krabappel is a virgin too?” “Ha!”) This also implies a kind of sweeter element to the story: we’ve seen Krabappel to be a bit… more open sexually in episodes past, but I guess despite their heavy make-out sessions, she still respected either Skinner’s hesitance to have sex or his desire to wait. How wholesome.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “A promising premise made for the worst episode ever (tied with 4F04). The birthday party and the standoff were the suckiest scenes I’ve ever seen (no pun intended), and Bart’s role seemed like nothing more that something the writers put in to keep us from bitching about OFF’s lack of screentime (like we did last year with 3F15). That and that fact that I don’t know which makes me wanna wretch more- this ep or 4F04.”