Season Eight Revisited (Part Three)

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.”

696. Diary Queen

Original airdate: February 21, 2021

The premise: Bart gets a hold of Edna Krabappel’s diary, and upon finding her writing about his belief in his untapped potential, turns over a new leaf to be a better student. Lisa discovers Edna was actually writing about her cat, and struggles to keep the secret to herself.

The reaction: Almost eight years following Marcia Wallace’s death, Edna Krabappel’s departure from the series has always felt like this weirdly unresolved issue. I absolutely understand the apprehension given Wallace’s untimely death, but considering she was a pivotal character as not only Bart’s teacher but also Ned Flanders’ wife, it felt all the weirder as years and years went by with no in-series acknowledgement apart from a short tribute shortly after her passing. Eventually, Ned ended up the new fourth grade teacher, but I can count on one hand the number of episodes where we’ve actually seen him in that role. But now, finally, we have what feels like our Farewell to Edna episode, and while the intentions were pure, it’s a big schmaltzy mess. Bart ends up with Mrs. K’s diary, and is surprised to find a passage about Edna’s “spiky-haired after school buddy” he assumes is about him (“Sometimes I have to be tough on him so his behavior gets better, but he’s smart as a whip.”) Invigorated by his former teacher’s faith, Bart resolves to do better of himself, eventually leading to an actual A on a test. Lisa, however, finds that Edna was writing about her cat, and drives herself into an anxiety spiral to keep the secret. The back half of the episode is Bart giving long speeches about how he actually likes being good now while Lisa literally drives herself sick with guilt. It’s all so strange. I guess Bart just stopped reading the diary over however many days pass after reading that previous passage. Meanwhile, Lisa’s motivations are muddy: she starts off suspicious and weirdly jealous about Bart’s A, and that’s before the school carries Bart off like a hero for getting the “Most Improved Student” award or whatever. Is this still based off of just one test? Bart’s resolve is shown that he’s more kind and helpful, not that he’s working harder academically. At the start of act three, Bart feels confident enough to enter the spelling contest, and now Lisa is motivated to stop Bart before he fucks up and humiliates himself. Would he be a school wide laughing stock for misspelling a word? Why would anyone at the school care?

When Lisa finally exposes the truth, Bart starts crying and runs away. It’s pretty pathetic. In the end, Ned Flanders comes to the rescue, telling Bart a story about when he was planning to leave Springfield (for what reason, we’re never told), but Edna was the sole “no” vote, believing she needed to stay because students like Bart needed her help. And… I’m not buying it. Sorry. I can kind of understand why some people might find this touching, but it just stinks of manipulative re-characterization. Like most Springfieldians, Edna may have entered her profession with hope and optimism, but for the course of the entire series, she was completely apathetic about her job, desperate for any opportunity to cut corners and get the hell out by the final bell every school day. Again, we’re never told why Ned wanted to leave, but it’s an opportunity that I think Edna would have leaped at if given the chance. The ending also attempts to put a sweet bow on Nedna (you know, that relationship nobody cared about?) by having Ned thumb to a page in Edna’s diary (“Now that I’ve been with Ned a year, he’s made my life a living… dream come true.”) Following this we get a sweet photo montage of Edna moments, ending with the “We’ll Really Miss You, Mrs. K” chalkboard that was used shortly after Wallace’s death. There’s so much irony-free sentimental bullshit here I was surprised this wasn’t a Matt Selman show. Now, I don’t want to come off like a heartless asshole. Wanting to give Mrs. Krabappel a send-off show is a nice idea, and hoping to give it a level of earnestness is a good thing. This show used to be a master at balancing genuine emotional moments within its own crapsack world perfectly. We’ve seen more caring and vulnerable sides of Edna in the past (“Bart the Lover,” “Grade School Confidential”), so it’s possible to create some kind of narrative that gives her a farewell that feels within character. Even having to rely on using archive audio of Wallace, it could have been done. Instead, they went the easy route of retroactively framing Edna as an incredibly caring teacher who really loved her new husband and what a wonderful woman she was and it’s so sad she’s gone. Marcia Wallace was an incredibly talented performer, and most likely a wonderful woman beloved by the whole crew, but translating that great affection onto her character creates too big of a disconnect to me. For as pure the impulse seemed to be, it came off way too forced and disingenuous.

Three items of note:
– More recasting shit: flamboyant gay stereotype Julio is now voiced by singer Mario Jose. Honestly, I don’t think anyone would have been upset if they just quietly retired that character. Also, Dr. Hibbert is still being voiced by Harry Shearer, having already made two other appearances (I think) this season. Did they just forget to recast him at this point?
– The episode opens with a musical number of everybody in Springfield waking up excited to head on down to Ned’s garage sale, since he’s such a pushover, they can get really good deals on all his stuff. Within the song, it’s implied that Ned “always” does this, so I guess he’s held multiple garage sales over a long period of time? The sale barely starts before Ned blows up at the bullies for smashing the Norman Rockwell commemorative plates they just bought. He vows to not sell one more item unless it’s going to actually be respected. So we spend two whole minutes on an opening musical about Ned being too nice, and then immediately undercut it. And it’s not like any of it has any point. Bart sweet-talks Ned into buying a box of books, one of which is Edna’s diary, unbeknownst to either of them, but he could have done that with Ned being his normal too-nice self. Pointless. Also, the song just sucks. The jokes aren’t funny, all our favorite characters do an elaborate choreographed dance number… just boring, transparent padding.
– Ned shows up at the very end to save the day, but it’s funny how we don’t see him at all in the middle chunk of the episode as Bart excels and impresses at school. He gets an A on a test in art, I guess presumably because they wanted to save Ned’s appearance until the end, but why not have it be in Ned’s class? Bart could be indirect when questioned about his new change-of-heart, which would make Ned curious, setting up the ending more. Later, when Bart discovers the truth and runs off crying, Lisa could go to Ned’s classroom and explain everything, leading right into him finding Bart to comfort him. But no, instead, Ned is nowhere to be found in Springfield Elementary. He’s not in the teacher’s lounge where we see the rest of the staff working telemarketer jobs, he’s not at the big assembly to award Bart… why make this change if you’re not going to do anything with it? Ned is literally Bart’s new teacher, the classroom being a huge series set piece for one of the main characters, and in three years since this “big” change, I can only remember one time we’ve seen Ned at school (“Crystal Blue-Haired Persuasion.”) It’s yet another big change in the series that actually doesn’t change anything, unless the writers randomly remember it sometime later. We literally just saw this in the last episode, where years and years after giving Comic Book Guy a wife, they finally decide to make an episode about it. By that standard, I guess in season 37, we’ll finally get an episode featuring Ned actually being a teacher. Can’t wait!

Season Eight Revisited (Part Two)

7. Lisa’s Date with Density

  • As a kid reading the Simpsons complete guide, I never understood the title. I thought it was “Destiny” and they made a typo. Even after seeing Back to the Future, it was still a bit of time after that I read the title again, and was like… oh. Now I get it.
  • In maybe like his sixth or seventh major appearance, the show is already making fun of Chalmers’ “SKINNER!!” This is the point where you would dial back the running gag after getting self-aware of it, but no, we’d be in for decades more of “SKINNER!” (and uninspired variations of it) being one of Chalmers’ only two jokes.
  • Everything about the telemarking scam subplot is an ominous harbinger for stupid and wacky Homer antics to come. Silly one-off stories like this or Homer’s sugar business in “Lisa’s Rival” work perfectly fine on their own, but it wouldn’t be long past this point where that exaggerated cartoony version of Homer would just be his “regular” character, an eccentric maniac who acts completely on impulse and gets off scot-free from all his crazy adventures.
  • “When she sees you’ll do anything she says, she’s bound to respect you!” Boy, this quote doesn’t bring back any painful high school memories at all!
  • “Guess who likes you” is still a very popular shitposting macro to this day. It also gave us this wonderful looping gif.
  • The premise of this episode is fairly simplistic, but it feels incredibly human, especially the scenes where Lisa and Nelson just kind of stand in silence not really knowing what to say with each other. Childhood romance is incredibly awkward, since neither of them don’t really know what they feel or what to do with those weird feelings. It all feels like it comes from an honest place. Lisa has this odd infatuation that she wants to control to suit her, but cannot, and Nelson, in the end, admits he humored Lisa because he appreciated deep down that she actually saw some good in him. Coming from a clearly broken home, it adds just a drop of emotionality to the character that really works. Eventually, Nelson’s “poor kid” label would become his thing, either to be the subject of scornful ridicule, or to elicit sympathy, sometimes both in the same episode. It sucked.
  • “You kissed a girl!” “That is so gay!” Every time in the mid-to-late-2000s where an episode would use “gay” as a punchline (which was quite often), I’d always think back to this line as another reminder of what actual clever writing used to be like.
  • Skinner yelling at Agnes to not look at the window at the mooning bullies feels like a good example at how the Seymour-Agnes dynamic was a bit more developed back then. There’s an obvious pathetic sadness to Skinner living with his mother, more or less under her thumb, but in moments like this, or in episodes like “Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baaadaaasss Song” and “Grade School Confidential,” we see how Skinner is also acting as caregiver for this old woman, and has some kind of controlling hand in the household. In later shows, he’d become absolutely submissive to Agnes, which worked to heavily neuter the character, robbing him of his position of authority as the head of the school and Bart’s archenemy. …boy, I really didn’t mean to bitch this much about the modern-era show in this specific episode. A lot of stuff in it just ended up reminding me of how far things had fallen since this point.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “One of the best Lisa-based episodes ever, but more time should’ve been spent on the subplot (Homer’s telemarketing scam). I was glad to see that Nelson never actually showed any sign of changing his character, as the kiss was without sincerity. I own a Honda, so I particularly liked the beginning, but a Lisa episode is still a Lisa episode, and the best of those still only gets a C-.”

8. Hurricane Neddy

  • “The weather service has warned us to brace ourselves for the onslaught of Hurricane Barbara. And if you think naming a destructive storm after a woman is sexist, you obviously have never seen the gals grabbing for items at a clearance sale.” “That’s true… but he shouldn’t say it.”
  • The onslaught of panicked customers raiding the Kwik-E-Mart definitely gave me March 2020 vibes trying to go into any grocery store.
  • There’s a great attention to detail when the National guardsman is trying to get Abe to leave the nursing home, he does a perfect heel turn when he goes to leave the room.
  • It’s on-screen too long to be a “blink-or-you’ll-miss-it,” but I love that Homer has ripped off the back door to nail over his back window and it’s never highlighted as a joke.
  • The death row convict blowing away, then getting shocked by the power lines to everyone’s elation is such a crazy, grimly wonderful joke.
  • Fun animation of the Simpsons getting swirled around in the eye of the hurricane.
  • “Neddy doesn’t believe in insurance. He considers it a form of gambling.”
  • “God Welcomes His Victims” has got to be the greatest church marquee joke in the whole series.
  • There’s so many great moments as Ned tours his shitty new house: the toilet in the bathroom (“Ned, you ever try lugging a toilet up a flight of stairs?,”) the load-bearing Krusty poster, the upstairs replacement flooring… (“We ran out of floorboards there, so we painted the dirt. Pretty clever!”) It serves as the perfect last straw for Ned, showing on full display this entire town of absolute morons who are completely incompetent, yet they came out of the storm completely unscathed. Hey, have I mentioned Dankmus recently?
  • I love everything about the first two acts, misfortune after misfortune befalling Ned (he himself specifically compares it to the story of Job) until he finally, after eight seasons, loses his cool. However, I still don’t like the ridiculous explanation of his childhood therapy, which retroactively turns his “okily-dokilys” into suppressions of his incredible rage. I am absolutely all for an episode exploring what made Ned try to shut out all negative emotions in his life and how it deeply affects him, but the year-round spanking treatment felt way too silly when I would have rathered a more character-specific exploration. Ned admitting he hates his parents and the episode immediately ending feels like the ending of “$pringfield,” but rather than it feeling like a clever joke about addiction (“Maybe I should get some professional help.” “No, no, that’s too expensive. Just don’t do it anymore,”) to me, it just feels like teasing an interesting plot line that never actually happens. But despite my bitching, we do get the ever-useful classic line, “We’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas!”
  • “Ned Flanders, I mock your value system. You also appear foolish to the eyes of others.” “Past instances in which I professed to like you were fraudulent.” “I engaged in intercourse with your spouse or significant other. …now that’s psychiatry!”
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “It’s a waste of time to make an episode centering on a minor character. This format necessitates too many Simpson-less scenes. Also, the Ned-talk resulting from therapy is inconsistent with ‘Lisa the Vegetarian’ in which the clan talked like Ned. The slam at my alma mater didn’t help.”

9. El Viaje Misterioso de Nuestro Jomer

  • I like the framing in the opening scene at Homer looking through the cut-out newspapers to each of his suspects. We also get this ever-useful reaction image at Marge’s limp excuse for why she’s suspiciously holding the scissors.
  • Since getting a dog a few months ago, I have had many a dog-dangling afternoon. I highly recommend it.
  • “Of course everything looks bad if you remember it” is yet another incredibly handy phrase this show has given us.
  • The cowboy Smithers scene was a syndication cut, and seeing it for the first time on DVD really baffled me. I still don’t have any idea what it’s supposed to mean. I guess his costume is pretty flamboyant, but he’s affecting a macho voice while asking Marge to dance… anyone want to explain this to me?
  • I really liked how Ralph was kind of lucid in this episode, innocently giving Homer the idea to use the candle wax. There’s a line between making him dumb and simple, and making him a braindead one-liner generator, and this show would very soon cross it.
  • Kudos to Dan Castellaneta for reading wax-lipped Homer’s dialogue with his mouth slightly open, really selling that he’s talking through the wax.
  • I like that right before Homer’s freakout begins, he laments how Marge wasn’t there to see him triumph over Wiggum. He grumbled about Marge’s no-beer promise when the two parted, but he still loves and values her company, even if he’s doing something all for himself. His great victory means less to him since he wasn’t with Marge, almost like she’s his soulmate! It’s a small, but important touch.
  • The animation in this episode is really just gorgeous, with so many great trippy visuals.
  • A while back, I was absolutely obsessed with the game “LEGO Dimensions,” a toys-to-life crossover game featuring many different franchises like Back to the Future, Harry Potter, Adventure Time, Doctor Who and so forth, where you collected the actual LEGO figures that appear in-game when you put them on the gamepad. The Simpsons was one of the first expansions released, with Homer, Bart and Krusty as playable characters, and the bonus level was based on this episode (you can watch it here.) The thing was, the game publisher was able to get the Simpsons license, but could only secure the voice rights of Dan Castellaneta (while playing as Homer and Krusty will trigger random quips, Bart is left a completely mute character.) In regards to making a game level using only existing show audio, this feels like the only possible episode they could have used, since the plot is really only focused on Homer. They dodged around it well enough, with Marge conspicuously left mute in the opening. They were still able to use Johnny Cash’s voice, so I guess his estate wasn’t hard to deal with.
  • While barely featured in this episode, Bart and Lisa get two fantastic scenes: Bart’s “Time for Chili” hat, and “So I says to Mabel, I says…,” which I’m still not completely sure what it’s a reference to or why it’s so funny.
  • Homer desperately running around the never-rotating Marge and her blowing away like sand is honestly kind of chilling imagery. 
  • Johnny Cash is the perfect wise voice for the Space Coyote, and he even does really great coyote growling and gnawing noises!
  • “We don’t have anything in common! Look at these records: Jim Nabors, Glen Campbell, the Doodletown Pipers. Now look at her records! They stink!”
  • I really love how act three is fueled by Homer’s insecurities. Unlike future Homer-Marge episodes, where Homer would do some incredibly stupid shit and get forgiven by Marge for no real reason other than the episode was almost over, it’s great that here and in “A Milhouse Divided,” Homer is more introspective about his relationship, wondering if he’s truly deserving of a saintly woman like Marge, a much, much more sympathetic portrayal than his future Captain Wacky de-evolution. The resolution is incredibly sweet, as Marge gives her believable and funny reasoning as to how she found Homer, revealing to him that she knows him better than anyone. The elation in Homer’s “Oh, Marge!” when it all dawns on him is palpable, it’s so endearing.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Bad animation, mostly flat jokes and a story that lacks depth makes this an all time clanger, to me. Homer’s quest for his new soulmate is handled rather improperly. I, myself, am tired of seeing stories about Homer and Marge’s relationship in jeopardy. The ending is so predictable and forced that it just totally falls flat. I didn’t too much care for the animation or most of Homer’s hallucination either. A few good jokes, but a story that leaves much to be desired.”

10. The Springfield Files

  • It’s pretty obvious from the start that this is an Al Jean/Mike Reiss show, considering almost half of the first act is just isolated scenes of characters talking about how it’s Friday. It’s a writing style that’s held firm since their years running the show, as well as The Critic, which can result in some funny individual moments, but makes the episode itself feel kind of thin and underdeveloped. This show feels like one of the “worst” examples; if you only left in the scenes that actually progressed the story, it’d probably barely be ten minutes. There could have been ways they could have beefed the story up a bit more, although, to be fair, I don’t really know how much further you can develop a plot as thin as “Homer sees an alien.”
  • The score at the end of the first act is really great. I don’t know if it’s meant to be specifically evocative of any music from The X-Files (besides the actual theme music when the “alien” appears), but it sets a real unique and ominous mood as Homer gets more and more lost and out-of-sorts.
  • I’ve never seen one episode of The X-Files, but I’m aware enough of the characters of Mulder and Scully to go along with their roles in the story. It’s also pretty curious that two years prior, Matt Groening cried foul at “A Star is Burns,” but I guess he didn’t have a problem with this. I guess he softened a bit in the time between, but it’s pretty interesting, especially since both episodes are Al Jean/Mike Reiss joints.
  • I’m still torn about the alien line-up gag. It’s kind of funny, but it kind of shoots a gigantic hole in the reality of the series to just have five aliens standing there in a police line-up. Also, Mulder and Scully are there to verify if Homer’s wild claims of actually seeing a real alien are true… yet they’re able to drag in Chewbacca and Marvin the Martian at the drop of a hat? The joke is a little too muddy. Also, since ALF is there, I’ll plug Phillip Reed’s ALF reviews again, since I just finished re-reading them for the fourth time and laughed my ass off just as hard.
  • “I’m like the man who single handedly built the rocket and went to the moon. What was his name? Apollo Creed?”
  • Even though I just bitched about isolated gags, I still love the man waking up from a 23-year coma bit (“Do Sonny and Cher still have that stupid show?” “No, she won an Oscar, and he’s a Congressman!” “Good night!” [dies])
  • The reveal of the Burns alien feels like such a classic moment, and part of me still loves how stupid an explanation it is, but really, what’s the deal here? Smithers explains how Mr. Burns gets all of these debilitating and disillusioning procedures done every week… and then just lets him wander around defenseless in the woods? I guess he just picks him up later in the night? It’s really kind of pushing the boundaries of logic a bit.
  • It’s odd that there’s no real wrap-up for Mulder and Scully. They reappear in the crowd at the very end with no dialogue, but it feels like they should have had an actual role in the third act, like they come back to Springfield after the alien footage gets released. They could still be skeptical, react in shock when the “alien” appears, then have some kind of conclusionary remarks before the big song. It would definitely make this feel more like a real crossover; instead, they’re just around for a few minutes in act two and leave.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Ugh, ugh, retch. I’m sorry, I really expected something funny out of this episode, but aside from the Nimoy intro, the exploding lie detector and a couple other small things, this episode’s jokes were predictable, corny, cheesy, dated, poorly thought-out and just plain embarrassing. The premise? Done to death. The crossover? Anticlimactic. I really hate to say this, but this episode blew.”

11. The Twisted World of Marge Simpson

  • Women don’t really have many robust roles on this show, but what we do see (at least in this era) was very good. The Investorettes is a great idea, this collection of bored housewives and single women exerting some independence via meager, quick-on-return investments. But when Helen wants to up the ante a bit, it’s too much for Marge to handle (“I’m not wild about these high-risk ventures. They sound a little risky.”) Most Marge episodes boil down to her wanting more excitement out of the house, which this episode kind of is, but I like that the framing of it is completely different, where she pushes herself out of her comfort zone to go toe-to-toe with her fairweather friends.
  • The pancakes in the mail joke is such a fantastic double-joke, carried over two scenes with two separate characters. Helen sternly telling Marge she’ll get her pancakes in the mail is funny on its own, then when we cut back to Marge having finished telling the family the story, Homer asking about the pancakes is even funnier, because of course that’s the one detail of the story he would hone in on. Also, bits that carry over from scene to scene really work to make the story feel more cohesive, as small as they are.
  • Fleet-A-Pita’s blatant whitewashing to rebrand scary “ethnic” food as an exciting “specialty” business venture makes for such a great scene. Cautious suburbanite Helen is cautious (“I don’t know about food from the Middle East. Isn’t that whole area a little iffy?”) but the saleswoman wins them all over thanks to “flavor sauce,” “crunch patties,” and her world-class chef “Christopher.” This episode is over twenty years old, and you still see this kind of white American-ization of foreign dishes, the scene plays as strong as ever.
  • Jack Lemmon does a great job, just the perfect person to convince Marge to invest, a simple, kindly man who forgoes flash for wholesome values. It sets up the perfect David and Goliath between her and the Investorettes. Fleet-A-Pita, the flashy new worldly food option with a heap of money behind it, and Marge’s made-in-American, family-run Pretzel Wagon.
  • The family helping Marge’s business out lends itself to some really sweet and funny scenes, from the phony ticker tape parade to avoid littering laws (“Welcome back, space girl!,”) Homer diligently acting as pretzel inspector, with a taped on label over his work shirt and helmet, and Homer actively talking up the Pretzel Wagon to his co-workers as she arrives at the plant (“Why, it’s one of those pretzel wagons the movie stars are always talking about!”)
  • Something about Cletus yelling out his enormous list of kids paired with their incredibly slow walking out of the house and into place on the porch makes that scene extra funny, capped off by Cletus’ big goofy grin at the end, extremely pleased to have outsmarted his way to free food (“I should’ve said limit one per customer.” “Should’a, but didnt’a.”)
  • “‘Copyright 1968.’ Hmmm, determined or not, that cat must be long dead. That’s kind of a downer.”
  • Whitey Ford’s unconscious body lying on the field is such a hilarious image.
  • Frank Ormand being dead, and the reveal of his executor being dead as well (“They were in the same car!”) feels a bit too dark, which is saying something in a season with both Shary Bobbins and Frank Grimes. Maybe because both those episodes ended with the guest star’s death (one built up to, one a shock joke), while here, it’s a scene where we find out the kindly old man is dead, and the ending twist is another old man is also dead. Not quite as funny to me.
  • This feels like one of the last great appearances by the Springfield mafia. Their third act montage of muscling other foodstuffs off Marge’s turf is full of great gags (Legs removing the little table from the pizza and smashing the box, escorting the Girl Scouts out of town by gunpoint), but even better, they use the Mermaidman and Barnacleboy music! Up, up and awaaaaaayy!
  • “You have twenty-four hours to give us our money. And to show you we are serious… you have twelve hours.”
  • Marge’s reconciliation with Homer at the end feels like a great summation of her love for him: “I don’t hate you for failing, I love you for trying.” Homer getting the mafia to help Marge without her knowing is an insane and dangerous idea, but, being the saint she is, Marge knew how it came from an absolutely pure place of earnestly wanting to help. It’s such a pure moment surrounded by the crazy Yakuza ending.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “If I could sum up this ep in a word, it would be ‘weak.’ Even before I realized Jennifer Crittendon wrote it, I started thinking that it was like the Country Club episode. I am seriously starting to wonder if maybe a female writer can’t capture the essence of The Simpsons correctly. And is it me, or has it been awhile since we’ve seen much of Bart or Lisa?” (surprisingly, this was written by a woman.)

12. Mountain of Madness

  • I’m not a coffee drinker, but Burns’ reaction face makes me want to be.
  • The unnamed ranger is this episode’s understated MVP. I love his measured voice, almost like a more muted version of Hank Azaria’s Adam West-esque beekeeper from “Lisa’s Rival.” 
  • It’s weird seeing Smithers with blue-tinted glasses in this episode. I don’t know at what point this switch was made permanent, but at some point, Smithers went from normal white eyes to having them slightly blue due to his glasses, which never made any sense to me, since that logic doesn’t apply to fellow eyeglass-wearers like Ned or Milhouse. It’s similar to another random design change where Professor Frink’s lab coat changed from green to white. At least in that instance, I understand the logic, as a white coat makes him easily recognizable as a scientist, but I still miss that green coat! #NotMyFrink– I love how irritated Smithers gets by Bart and Lisa. We typically only see him as Burns’ ever-obedient lapdog, but there’s undeniably some repressed feelings building up in him, both from the stress of his overbearing job and his eternally unrequited feelings. I also like how Bart and Lisa are both annoying in their own distinct ways: Bart is of course a dim little shit, searching for gold and not knowing how a watch works (“Wh-what comes after twelve?” “One.” “No, after twelve,”) while Lisa tries to tend to each and every woodland critter with a bum ankle or a light cough (”Aren’t there any healthy animals in this forest?!”) Has Smithers ever had any extended screen time with these two before or since? I can only think of Lisa getting Stacy Lovell’s address from Smithers in “Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy,” but that was pretty quick. It’s a pretty unique pairing, another reason I really enjoy these scenes.
  • “I’ve always felt that there’s far too much hysteria these days about so-called cheating. If you can take advantage of a situation in some way, it’s your duty as an American to do it. Why should the race always be to the swift or the jumble to the quick-witted? Should they be allowed to win merely because of the gifts God gave them? Well, I say cheating is the gift man gives himself!”
  • “From the mightiest Pharaoh to the lowliest peasant, who doesn’t enjoy a good sit?” Harry Shearer nails each and every one of these Burns lines.
  • Like in “Bart After Dark,” I’m reminded once again of Rocko’s Modern Life, which did their own trapped-in-a-cabin-by-an-avalanche episode, and a really great one at that. Seriously, guys, Rocko really does hold up pretty damn well.
  • I love the build-up right before Homer and Burns finally throw down, where their ghost armies close in on each other, the tension increases… and then they fade away as the two start fighting, their grandiose delusions melting away to just show these two cold and tired men attempt to kill each other.
  • The rocket cabin is a little dumb, but it’s absolutely worth it for Lenny’s ”Something’s wrong with its brakes!” I fucking love that line.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Stupid TV… be more funny! I find myself saying that a lot lately. I had thought this season’s biggest problem with the bad episodes was that they wrote the plots around the jokes. Well this week my words come back to haunt me, because this week there were few jokes at all. A few of the slapstick gags (which seems like the writers’ humorous element of choice for it these days) got me snickering but that was about it. And yet again Bart and Lisa are pretty much ignored except for a few inane lines. Still, it had a few moments, which were a few more than that horrible abomination of last week. C’mon writers, let’s get back to the dialogue and satire that made the show what it always was which is relatively absent most of the time these days.”

13. Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D’oh-cious

  • Seeing Lisa pull one of Marge’s looooong hairs out of her soup really shows what an enormous hassle her giant beehive must be. Those drains at the Simpson house have got to be clogged at least once a week.
  • As Homer attempts to expose the “man in drag” at his door, I’ll just say I recently watched Mrs. Doubtfire for the first time in 15 years, and it 100% does not hold up. Just an annoying and ugly movie.
  • All the songs from this show were on the soundtrack CDs, and I’ve heard them so, so many times. In “Minimum-Wage Nanny,” after Lisa yells at Bart for interrupting, I always misheard when he replies, “Just cutting through the treacle.” Never having heard the word ‘treacle,’ I heard it as ‘treehole,’ which makes absolutely no sense. Treehole like in the cover of To Kill a Mockingbird? To be fair to my young self, Nancy Cartwright doesn’t really emphasize the ‘k’ sound, so it almost kind of sounds like “tree-hull.”
  • Speaking of the soundtrack, it contains a full song cut from this episode featuring Patty and Selma, “We Love to Smoke.” I don’t know if it ever even got to the animatic stage; it’s a nice little song, but I understand why it was cut, since it’s completely separate from Bobbins and the main family. Also, the final line of the song, “Although we’ll croak before 2003,” would have only gotten funnier with age.
  • This is another episode I’ve seen a ton of times in syndication, and this moment always stuck out to me. During the slow push-in on the window where we first see Shary Bobbins, we hold on Marge’s incredibly dumb-looking face as the magical music swells, which kind of taints the moment a little bit. Couldn’t they have had Marge looking sad or defeated or something?
  • Maggie Roswell got a separate “Starring” credit for this episode, and it’s absolutely earned. Of the supporting cast, Roswell may not have gotten meaty regular roles like Pamela Hayden or Tress MacNeille, but her talents shone through in recurring characters like Maude Flanders and Helen Lovejoy, as well as a cast of random no-name one-off characters. Shary Bobbins was her spotlight show, doing so great a job that the producers decided to let her voice the character rather than Julie Andrews herself. Hearing her incredible talent here makes her later contract battle with FOX a few years later all the more aggravating.
  • This episode has my absolute favorite Willie scene. Him doing the Flashdance dance and him screaming at a not-blind Shary Bobbins (“It’s good to see you, Willie.” ”That’s not what you said the first time you saw me!!”), either one of those bits would have been enough to make it an all-time great scene, but both of them together? They’re just spoiling us.
  • Another misheard line I’ve listened to a hundred times: Abe’s “I think we got our umbrellas switched!” Great line, great act break, took an embarrassing number of times watching as a kid to understand what he was saying. Maybe it’s just me, but like Bart’s “treacle,” I can’t hear the “r” in umbrella, and the back half of “switched” fades out very quickly since Abe’s out the door by that point, so I can kind of see how I got confused.
  • If I may praise one specific moment of Roswell’s performance, it’s most definitely her exasperated “D’oh-re-me-fa-so…” under her breath as she scurries back to the kitchen.
  • Where the sizable amount of “filler” scenes in “The Springfield Files” bothered me a bit, I don’t really mind them here, since they’re mostly all stuff the Simpsons are watching on TV, reinforcing their sloth-like nature. Included is one of the best Itchy & Scratchys, the Reservoir Dogs parody where Itchy slices the head off of Quentin Tarantino. Asked to voice himself, Tarnatino apparently was slightly offended by his dialogue and turned it down, so I guess he got what he deserved.
  • The episode doesn’t really resolve Marge’s problem, but that’s kind of the point, as she explains she’s just going to emotionally disassociate and go with the flow from now on. “Happy Just The Way We Are” is a card-carrying ode to the status quo, and it’s wonderful for what it is, though it feels like another illuminating example of the Oakley & Weinstein years feeling like the would-be final years of the series. In another world, maybe they would have been. We can only imagine…
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “As fate put it, I couldn’t watch the episode live, and had to tape it; during any subsequent viewing, my thumb just ached for the ‘forward’ button, which speaks in volume. It’s not that I dislike music in the Simpsons universe, but I find myself uncomfortable around musical numbers, where people start singing out of the blue for no other apparent reason than to make sure it’s a real musical number. So, when facing song after song of ‘we’re bad, we’re rad, we’re a mess and we love it,’ I grabbed whatever humor was left, silently waiting for the real Simpson family to be back next week.”

Season Eight Revisited (Part One)

1. Treehouse of Horror VII

  • The Simpson kids forming a human ladder is a cute little piece of animation.
  • It doesn’t rain much in LA, but when it does and I have to drive somewhere, I invariably think, “Who needs a car-wash when you can just drive around in the rain?”
  • I love Marge’s surprised scream at Hibbert’s appearance is followed by Hibbert screaming like back. It just kind of happens and we just move on without highlighting it, which makes it even funnier to me.
  • “I think I’ll bottle feed that one” is yet another joke I didn’t get until like my fifth viewing as a kid.
  • I don’t know for sure, but it sounds like they electronically deepend Nancy Cartwright’s voice for Hugo. She can get pretty low register at times, but watching this episode ago, Hugo sounded a little bit artificially sweetened to me.
  • I like that if you’re really paying attention, you can figure out the “twist” ending of Bart being the evil twin, since we see what side Bart’s scar is on right before the flashback.
  • Bart’s teasing of Lisa on her petri dish society of “You trying to grow a friend?” feels like the most authentic big brother taunt he’s ever said.
  • The sequence of the mini fighter jets flying up to Bart to attack is pretty neato.
  • Neat touch that we see mini-versions of the college nerds alongside mini-Frink after Lisa is first shrunken down. 
  • I know he did Bill Clinton on SNL, but Phil Hartman doing Clinton here is a little distracting, considering how similar he sounds to his other Simpsons characters. I like that Kang and Bob Dole are both voiced by Harry Shearer, and I thought it would be more appropriate if Dan Castellaneta voiced Clinton, since he also voices Kodos. He had voiced Clinton in previous episodes, but in future appearances in seasons 10 and 11, Clinton was voiced by Karl Wiedergott, which is kind of weird. Why bring in a guest voice when one of your main cast members can do a serviceable job?
  • “Aliens, bio-duplication, nude conspiracies… Oh my God! Lyndon LaRouche was right!”
  • The “abortions for some, miniature American flags for all!” scene is still a classic, but I was more struck by the beginning of the scene, where for some reason, Dole is introduced as “73-year-old candidate Bob Dole.” I was a little kid during the 1996 election, did Dole consider it a point of pride that he was the oldest Presidential candidate? It’s even funnier now since last fall, we had two candidates who were older than Dole, and now have the oldest President ever to be elected. Boy, living in a gerontocracy sure is great!
  • “I am looking forward to an orderly election tomorrow, which will eliminate the need for a violent blood bath” was a quote that popped up a lot last November.
  • The “third party candidate” bit at the end is so great, but it’s bizarre that the line is said by Skinner’s doppelganger. Did his model sheet get accidentally mixed into the crowd pile and they didn’t have time or want to spend the money to do a retake? It’s weird that a pretty big mistake like this could happen as late as season 8.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “I thought this was a horrible special. Every single episode had no, or a very sketchy, bad ending, unlike nearly all of the previous specials. I was very disappointed with this episode, and if it is an indicator of what’s ahead, look out.”

2. You Only Move Twice

  • “I’ve dug myself into a happy little rut here and I’m not about to hoist myself out of it.” “Just bring the rut with you, honey!”
  • I like that after Bart shoves Lisa out of the way, the next shot she’s annoyedly rubbing her arm. I like when small stuff like that carries over past the joke; they could have easily had Lisa just standing there, or not had her in the next shot at all, but I like the added detail. Similarly, we see the collapsed chimney in exterior shots of the house, when it could have just been ignored past the goofy gag.
  • I love the end of act one where we get our entire cast saying goodbye to the Simpsons. This being the season premiere, it’s almost angling itself like this is the start of a whole new revamp of the show where they move to a new town with all new characters and situations. It’s also funny that the second character to say goodbye after Ned is everybody’s favorite side character, the Blue-Haired Lawyer.
  • Ah, Hank Scorpio, hands down Albert Brooks’ best Simpsons role, and one of the best one-off characters ever. Almost every line of his is quotable. The character itself is brilliant in his conceit, that a Bond villain would also angle themselves as the world’s best boss, but on top of that, the excellent writing and Brooks’ performance elevates the character to a whole new level. It may be somewhat of a front that he genuinely cares for Homer at all, but I like to think that he does. Why else would he have worked so hard on his coat bit if not to earnestly try and impress Homer?
  • Cypress Creek Elementary School being so impressive as to have their own website is most definitely a time capsule joke. Also, in case you’re wondering, does not exist.– I always laugh at the dramatic music stings at Marge drinking the wine.
  • It doesn’t seem very logical for business to have so many identical stores in one place, but man, that hammock distinct sounds mighty comfy.
  • “Maybe it just collapsed on its own” is one of many random lines I find myself saying quite a bit, in reference to anytime I or someone else messes something up.
  • Another signal Scorpio is actually a nice guy: despite having his goons ruthless gun down his arch nemesis James Bont, he still intends to pay for his funeral. A cheap one, but still.
  • They tried their best to come up with big reasons why the other Simpsons would hate Cypress Creek, but really, even Homer could have figured out how to help them, especially if he had the help of Scorpio. Surely there are effective allergy medications Lisa could take, Bart could have been transferred to a different class, maybe even held back a grade, and if Marge couldn’t bother to find a new hobby or something else to occupy her time, just rip all the automated shit out of the house and let her down the housework again. But whatever, it all works well enough
  • Watching this again, I once again wonder why the hell they didn’t just make Albert Brooks’ role in the movie Hank Scorpio. He could have still been the head of the EPA and had some kind of throwaway dialogue about how he infiltrated the government, but not so much as to alienate casual fans who wouldn’t know who he was. But hey, why throw the fans of your show any bones when you’re trying to appeal to the widest demographic possible? I think after season 11, I may do a Revisted of the movie to cap things off.
  • “Scorpio!” is definitely in the top 10 songs of the series. Even though they had to speed it up a bit to fit in the credits, it’s still fabulous.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “One of the more forgettable episodes I’ve seen; this one just wasn’t as well written as I’ve come to expect. The only big laughs come from Bart’s remedial class and a climax that parodies just about every 007 movie ever made. Worst of all was Homer’s new boss, who was just plain annoying.”

3. The Homer They Fall

  • Homer pulling Marge at the mall (“Homer, please! You’re hurting my arm.” “No, I’m not!”) feels like an early sign of Jerkass Homer to me. 
  • The designs for Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney’s dads feels a bit silly to me. I get you want to make them instantly recognizable they’re the bullies’ parents, but Jimbo’s dad is literally wearing his son’s exact same skull shirt and purple hat.
  • Fun background detail in Moe’s “office” on one of his old fight posters: Szyslak vs. Oakley (complete with a little caricature of showrunner Bill Oakley.) Also advertised is Kirkland vs. Silverman, referencing show directors Mark Kirkland and David Silverman.
  • I wonder if the producers actually tried to get Don King and he said no, so they decided to just make their own stand-in character (“He’s exactly as rich and as famous as Don King, and he looks just like him, too!) They might talk about this on the commentary, I’m not sure. Either way, Paul Winfield is fantastic as Lucious Sweet, caricaturing the Don but still playing it straight when needed in the story.
  • Glad to see Dr. Hibbert keeps his surgical 2x4s sterilized in their own packaging before use.
  • At the precipice of endless Homer-gets-a-job episodes, this episode gets a pass for two reasons: first, there’s believable reason and explanation as to why Homer both wants to do this job (working with Moe, money) and why he’s actually good at it, and second, the story is really Moe’s, as we get a look into his past and his struggles to reclaim his former glory in exchange for his friend’s well-being. 
  • More words I learned from this show: verticality, fustigaton.
  • Homer having no idea who Drederick Tatum is still feels like a big pill to swallow. I don’t care about it as a continuity error given him watching his big fight in “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment,” but even if Homer didn’t know a thing about boxing, Tatum, being a Mike Tyson expy, is such a well-known public figure that even Marge knew who he was. 
  • I really hope someone made a T-shirt of the fist coming toward Homer’s face.
  • Some of the melodrama in act three gets to be a little much: Moe tossing away the towel, the backend of the fight as Tatum pummels Homer and prepares for the final blow. There’s a few jokes peppered here and there, but it still felt like it needed a bit more sweetening.
  • “I can’t remember where we parked.” “That’s all right. We’ll just wait till everyone else leaves.”
  • Moe as the globetrotter altruistic Fan Man is such a bizarre ending. Is this any kind of specific reference to something? I feel like an ending with Homer and Moe at the bar giving a final coda to the story would have felt more appropriate.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “There’s very little to say about this episode at all, aside from the fact that it’s riddled with continuity errors. Janey’s voice is wrong. Homer’s age is 35, not 38. Homer’s dealing with Bart’s getting beaten up is COMPLETELY inconsistent with ‘Bart The General.’ And Moe has SO had a woman in his establishment since 1979. Furthermore, I don’t believe that’s even the real Drederick Tatum. This episode is quite frankly the biggest piece of sh*t I’ve ever seen dubbed as a Simpsons episode.”

4. Burns, Baby Burns

  • Homer’s body crumpling to the ground after his brain floats away is such a funny moment. Similar to Krusty collapsing after getting brained by a golf club in “Class Struggle,” this show mastered hilarious fall animations before Family Guy showed up with their own crappy version of it.
  • I really like the mini-running joke of Marge’s mis-pronounciations. First she gets mildly annoyed at her daughter correcting her on “foliage,” then later she makes her feel better by saying it correctly… but then messes up again (“I can’t excape Lisa, our little walking liberry.”)– Another great line I think about often for no reason: “If this stuff’s too nice for you, I’ve got some crap!”
  • I used to have a big collection of the Playmates Simpsons figure line when I was younger, most of which I ended up selling. Two of the figures I still have are Larry Burns and Hank Scorpio, two characters who have nothing in common, yet I have them standing right next to each other anyway, being two fantastic season 8 characters.
  • “This guy’s got more bread than a prison meatloaf. He’s rich, I tell yah. I never seen a place with a walk-in mailbox. …hey, who am I talking to?” I can see some people not like that Larry is basically just Rodney Dangerfield, but I still like that it works within the context of the story. If there’s any friction to be had from a long lost son of Monty Burns, it would be because that son is a light-hearted and uncouth jokester that he has no idea what to do with.
  • “Under the smiling eyes of four stuffed Eskimos, we expressed our love physically, as was the style at the time.”
  • According to the commentary, the Snoopy puzzle that Homer frantically wipes off his console was designed to not actually show Snoopy’s head, as to not incite the ire of Charles Schulz’s lawyers. Was he that litigious about stuff like this? A couple years after this, South Park would feature a gag where Snoopy beats a naked Charlie Brown with a baseball bat. Also, was there any specific reason it was a Snoopy puzzle? Why even do it if they were afraid they might be sued? Why am I obsessing over this five second shot?
  • There’s a great little moment in the dinner scene, after Larry tells his father to “make with the yakkity-yak-yak,” Burns grumbles and under his breath, mockingly refrains “the yakkity-yak-yak…” It’s such a well performed moment, clearly showing that he’s just about at his wit’s end with his undignified son and his ridiculous manner of speaking.
  • The phony kidnapping feels a bit like a Mike Scully-era Homer hairbrained scheme. I feel like if there were a few more lines where Homer and Larry come upon the idea and rationalize it a bit, it would have played off better. Instead, Homer just says, “There’s only one sure way to make him realize how much he loves you, and that is a phony kidnapping!” Like he just had that idea at the ready, because he’s such a wacky character! The idea of trying to get Burns to actually admit he loves his son is what we need from act three, which leads to great moments like Burns only caring out of principle that someone stole from him (”I’m missing one son! Return it immediately!,”) but kicking that part of the plot into gear was a little too abrupt.
  • Really cute moment where Bart mimes readjusting his tie after delivering a Rodney-style zinger to Marge.
  • “You know how I feel about hoaxes.” “Still?
  • The timing of Hans Moleman’s incredibly slow walk back to the lobby, then cut right to all the squad cars speeding up outside the theater is so fantastic.
  • I really love how we don’t get a sentimental reconciliation between Burns and Larry. After seeing so many modern episodes featuring a completely neutered and defanged Burns with schmaltzy bullshit endings, it was so refreshingly honest that we see Burns attempt to hug Larry, but then pull back, acknowledging that he just doesn’t have it in him to exhibit any actual human kindness. The best he can do is wish Larry luck living somewhere else far away from his property, and his parting words to his own flesh and blood are completely self-serving (“It’s good to know that… there’s another kidney out there for me.”)
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Losing only to ‘Two Bad Neighbors,’ this is the worst episode in the last 6 seasons. I found it hard to sit through a second time because Larry just wasn’t funny. His cutdowns give a very brief chuckle, but there isn’t a single line that sticks out as notably funny afterward. Include that with a poor plot and significantly less Homer humor than usual and you’ll get a deadly combination which earns this episode an F!”

5. Bart After Dark

  • The episode opens with a V-chip joke, which I really only know about from the South Park movie. I was a kid during the 90s, so I never had any direct consciousness of Clinton-era morality policing and legislation over movies, TV and video games. I’m kind of glad I was none the wiser, because as an adult, it would have driven me nuts. Rot in peace, Jack Valenti.
  • The first act features another great depiction of Lisa as a bleeding heart activist, who is also a distractible little girl with a childish mindset. Going to help clean up the oil spill is a righteous cause, but Lisa, appropriately, is incredibly excited to clean and cuddle cute little baby seals and otters. Marge wisely calls Lisa out on her flighty interests, alluding to the peach tree in the background she presumably wouldn’t stop talking about and quickly lost interest in. This leads to a fantastic performance by Yeardley Smith of Lisa pleadingly play-acting how much she loves the peach tree until Marge just throws her hands up and relents.
  • Bart’s childish fascination with the Maison Derriere is played well, his suggestion that he can sort through bras toes the line of him being a little brat, but also subconsciously acting out some prepubescent hormones. That attitude falls away as the plot continues and the days pass, as Bart becomes more comfortable at his new job, as the normalization of him just being a “normal” employee at this burlesque becomes more of the joke. An episode like this stands in great contrast with many Bart episodes in the last decade or so, where they either write him as incredibly sexually immature or more direct like a teenager, and in some cases, both within the same episode.
  • One of the greatest looping gifs to ever come out of this show. I also love the little added yelp Abe gives when he sees Bart before he turns around.
  • “President Eisenhower celebrates 40th wedding anniversary. Not pictured, Mrs. Eisenhower.”
  • I love the callback to Mel Zetz when Homer confronts Belle. It’s another one of those examples as a kid where I figured that was an actual celebrity, instead of a purposefully comic name they made up.
  • Skinner’s “I was only in there to get directions on how to get away from there!” is fantastic, but it’s even better that it seems that he was literally crouched behind Lovejoy and popped up just to deliver his line.
  • One of the most illuminating Marge lines: “Sleazy entertainment and raunchy jokes will never be as popular as sobriety and self-denial.”
  • “Mayor Quimby!!” “That could be any mayor!”
  • Abe and Jasper apparently both frequent a local bordello. So there’s a nice mental image for you.
  • “We Put the Spring in Springfield” is one of the great show stopping numbers of the whole series. Since the song is about the town as a whole, it’s appropriate that so many characters get verses (the highlight being the bullies, “We just heard this place existeeeeeddddd!”) The big finish, involving as many wacky sound effects as possible, is also really fun. It’s also great when Marge arrives and they have a semi-meta discussion about how their spontaneous song just kind of happened impromptu and they can’t really do it again. It reminded me of the Rocko’s Modern Life episode “Zanzibar” (which actually aired the same year) where Rocko is similarly disillusioned by the townspeople’s coordinated musical numbers (Heffer informs him they spent weeks rehearsing, unbeknownst to him.)
  • Where did Marge get that little dummy of herself made? It looks well crafted. Also, as crude as it was, I found it weirdly kind of sweet that Homer yelled, “Take it off!” Is that weird? The man really loves his wife.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Well, actually, it seemed to be going well. Then, unfortunately, we get More Musical Mucilage. I despise this ‘musical’ ‘comedy’ that we see in ‘Animaniacs’ all the time. I’m not making fun of ‘Animaniacs,’ I just hate the songs. And to see this on OFF, altogether too many times (also the terrible ‘Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart’ ruin-the-whole-episode-thing). Without the song, it’s a B — but as it stands, a D.”

6. A Milhouse Divided

  • The opening did a pretty serviceable job hiding Bart’s body in front of the TV for the joke about him lying around in his underwear (“This ain’t the Ritz!”) Definitely in comparison to similar jokes done by this and other shows where the framing is so obvious that you can easily predict the joke coming.
  • Pretty great detail that Homer is reading Hot Lotto Picks Weekly magazine in bed.
  • “Hey, Lis, check this out. Non-stick coating.”
  • Lovejoy’s first line about his missing coat is funny on its own (“My coat was stolen at last week’s interfaith banquet, so I helped myself to a few of the better umbrella,”) but I love that it pays off later when it’s revealed that Luann was the one who stole it.
  • This episode honestly performs a miracle in its instant characterization of Kirk and Luann Van Housten. For over 150 episodes before this, they were just Milhouse’s parents. We know next to nothing about them. But here, over the course of the dinner party, we learn so, so much about them individually and their relationship, emphasized even further by the powerhouse performances of Hank Azaria and Maggie Roswell. The Pictionary scene is one of the greatest scenes of the entire series, these two characters ratcheting up the tension more and more as everyone else gets increasingly uncomfortable. This and “A Fish Called Selma” are these beautiful hints at a future to the series that never happened, where we could pick from our wide array of supporting players and turn them into real, compelling, funny and human characters over the course of just one act. But, sadly, this did not come to pass… Also, Kirk and Luann have got to be cousins, right? How can they not be?
  • It’s funny how in the decade of seasons following this episode, Kirk became the show’s vessel for cheap, easy single dad/divorcee jokes, but they basically all get worn out in this very episode: his new home Casa Nova (A Transitional Place for Singles), his change in wardrobe, his new hobbies (“Today, I drank a beer in the bathroom!,”) his attempts to rebound with the lovely Starla (“Can I have the keys, lover? I feel like changing wigs.”) None of the jokes done past this point ever topped any of these.
  • “Crackers are a family food. Happy families. Maybe single people eat crackers, we don’t know. Frankly, we don’t want to know. It’s a market we can do without.”
  • Despite bearing his name in the title, Milhouse doesn’t factor in much of the episode. It’s implied that he’s enjoying being lovingly doted on by his parents trying to one-up each other, and that’s basically it. Then the episode turns into a Homer-Marge show, but in another miracle this show pulls off, it still all feels like it works. I love that the Homer-Marge strife has been played subtly through the whole episode with just minor annoyances, like Homer not getting dressed before the party and not going out with Marge when he agreed to it. The third act isn’t Marge being pissed at Homer and him having to make amends, like so, sooo many future episodes would be, it’s Homer remembering how terrible he’s been in the past and trying to make things right with an oblivious Marge. Their reunion at the end feels earned as a result, and their second wedding remains a sweet, memorable moment for their relationship. I also love the meta aspect about how this impromptu act of love doesn’t work for Kirk as he attempts to serenada Luann back to him. Unfortunately for Kirk, this show isn’t called The Van Houtens, no one gives a shit if they get back together. So they don’t, and Kirk gets the door. Brilliant.
  • Bart smashing the chair on Homer in the tub became a pretty popular shitpost for a while, and for good reason. Dan Castellaneta’s scream is so hysterical; you can hear in his voice when he switches from reacting in pure pain, then the confusion of what the hell happened creeps in, then finally to anger at Bart.
  • Is it gross that I kind of think butterscotch chicken sounds kind of delicious? Also, in “Blood Feud,” we learned that Bart is allergic to butterscotch and imitation butterscotch. BOY I HOPE SOMEONE GOT FIRED FOR THAT BLUNDER.
  • “Do you, Marge, take Homer, in richness and in poorness… poorness is underlined… in impotence and in potence, in quiet solitude or blasting across the alkali flats in a jet-powered, monkey-navigated… and it goes on like this…”
  • “Can I Borrow a Feeling?” is the perfect combination of funny: the lyrics are great on their own, and brought to another level entirely by Hank Azaria’s impassioned, yet pathetic performance.
  • I absolutely love the light jazz version of the end credit theme, it’s my favorite end credit variation, and yet it wasn’t on any of the soundtrack CDs, despite basically all the other end credit versions being on there. Scandal!
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:Poor Milhouse: he finally gets an episode named after him, but he hardly appears in it. Why give so much screen time to characters (the adult Van Houtens) we don’t even care about? There were a few good gags, enough to save it from a failing grade. Also, I give a major thumbs down to Bart bashing Homer on the head with a chair; I don’t see how you can call that funny.

Season Seven Revisited (Part Four)

19. A Fish Called Selma

  • As a diehard Muppet fan, I very much love “Muppets Go Medieval,” and it’s the perfect venue to depict Troy McClure’s status as an older celebrity out of the spotlight. Watching The Muppet Show as a kid, I never knew who any of the guests were, and in the case of a lot of them, I still really don’t. Also, Bart and Lisa having no idea what the Muppets are still stings, though they’ve basically been culturally irrelevant for decades, despite Disney’s many botched attempts to jolt life back into them in mostly misguided and tonedeaf ways (except Muppets Most Wanted, which was fucking great.) 
  • I get that Troy driving a DeLorean is supposed to make him look dated, but I always just think of Troy’s driving the Back to the Future time vehicle, as I’m sure a lot of other people do. Considering I was born seven years after the DeLorean Motor Company closed down after John DeLorean’s famous cocaine trafficking arrest, I can’t view the DeLorean as a “normal” car in any sense. Speaking of, has anyone seen that recent Framing John DeLorean documentary, that’s like part-documentary, part scripted re-enactments with Alec Baldwin, part meta-documentary with Baldwin and the crew talking about filming it? Was that any good?
  • We get our only (I think?) appearance of Fat Tony voiced by Hank Azaria, who sounds like a more gravelly Disco Stu. 
  • The dinner scene with Troy and Selma is so fantastic. Troy obviously doesn’t want to be there, but he also clearly feels awkward making conversation with another human being. Meanwhile, Selma isn’t just some fawning dolt head over heels to be out and about with a celebrity, she’s a bit uncomfortable herself, and best of all, she clearly understands the quid-pro-quo nature of the evening (“Thanks for holding up your end of the bargain. I had a pretty good time.”) Their mutual understanding of their chemistry-free relationship is established from the start, which carries through the entire episode.
  • I love that the first thing we see of Troy in private at his home, he’s sewing back together a bean bag. Just the most innocuous and meaningless thing, but it’s perfect, showing just how much listless time he’s got on his hands not working.
  • Phil Hartman is absolutely stellar in this episode. Troy McClure is recharacterized as not just a show biz phony who is just as shallow in real life, but a man who’s lived in his own bubble for so long he literally can’t feel things like a normal human being. It’s kind of tragic, really. Hartman’s scenes with Julie Kavner are so incredibly compelling, just two great actors bouncing off each other. Shortly before his death, Phil Hartman said he was interested in doing a live-action Troy McClure movie, and it’s a shame we never got to see it.
  • “Jub-Jub is fantastic! He’s everywhere you wanna be!”
  • Has there been a fan-created full musical of “Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off” yet? I think a full-length musical would wear the joke out a bit, but maybe like a one act production with like eight or nine songs would be fun.
  • Homer’s mind singing “Rock and Roll, Part 2” immediately made me think of this.
  • The running gag of Troy’s “fish fetish” gets repeated a little too much (as much as I love Troy’s elated “I’m going to Sea World!!”) but it’s all worth it for the bit where Selma asks point blank about his sexuality and Troy gets gravely serious about his “romantic abnormality” as ominous music plays. It’s so bizarre and I love it.
  • Act three is exclusively scenes from Troy and Selma’s perspective, which is really wonderful to see. Selma agrees to continue their mutually beneficial “sham” relationship once it’s revealed Troy has very few actual emotions (“Don’t you love me?” Sure I do! Like I love Fresca! Isn’t that enough?”) The ending scene of the two of them attempting to “initiate” and talking through their problems is just fantastic, as it feels like a true emotional conclusion to this story, as Selma realizes she can’t bring a new vulnerable life into their fake family (along with some great animated acting that really takes its time.) This is the kind of meaty material I wish the show would have done more from this point, really dig deep and explore the world of Springfield, but sadly, outside a few examples, the series instead would dig its heels into the same old formulas, staying hyper-focused on the family to a fault. We all know how that turned out by this point.
  • The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel.” That’s all.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review:This one’s almost not worth reviewing in my opinion. It was a case of too many missed opportunities. Troy in a full length show turned out to be a bore. Was it just me or did they forget to give him much of a personality? Also the fish joke was just tiresome. It was just flat and repetitive, and this is from someone who thought the rake scene in Cape Feare was classic!  Even things like the Planet of the Apes musical have been done better in other episodes. Sad.”

20. Bart on the Road

  • “Parent’s occupation… please note: homemaker is not allowed, as it is not real work, that’s why you don’t get paid for it.” What disgruntled Springfield Elementary staff member put in that acid-tinged remark?
  • As a kid, a not-so-small part of me wanted to try eating cereal with milk right out of the box. I’m sure the bottom would have given out much faster than it does with Bart here.
  • Martin’s tumultuous adventure playing the stock market definitely feels as fresh as ever after the Robnhood/GameSpot/AMC debacle.
  • Bart, Milhouse and Nelson ordering beers at Moe’s but leaving after observing the depressing atmosphere veers a bit close to PSA-territory, but it feels self-aware enough that it doesn’t seem weirdly preachy. Plus making Moe’s look like a demoralizing hellhole for emotional effect was already pulled off well by the ending of “Duffless,” so this wasn’t much different.
  • This computer-assisted camera turn shot still looks pretty impressive so many years later, as simplistic as it seems by today’s standards. I also like that we go directly from this cool road trip vibe with “Radar Love” to Milhouse fiddling with the radar knobs on the radio like a big dork. Pamela Hayden’s excited effort noises as he does so are so damn funny.
  • Bart calling Martin “Milton” is a great little moment, a reminder that he only invited this wuss to tag along because he had money to burn and was able to be manipulated. Episodes like this and “Lemon of Troy” throw different kinds of kids together, but actually gives us reasons as to why, and we see their personalities clash with each other. Later episodes would have Bart, Milhouse, Martin, Nelson and all the other bullies either friends or on the same team if the plot needs them to, without bothering to explain why these kids are putting up with each other.
  • As a lifelong fan of Disney theme parks, the kids choosing to go to the Knoxville State’s Fair over Disney World always baffled me as a kid. You pick the Sunsphere over EPCOT Center? Blasphemy.
  • Lisa and Homer’s power plant shenanigans are incredibly adorable (regarding jostling treats out of the vending machine, Homer tells her, “It’s a two man operation, and you’re the only man here I trust!”) I also like that Lisa’s quick thinking gets Homer out of trouble, promptly quieting Smithers’ questioning with a treat of his choosing (“Well, I am partial to Jolly Ranchers.”)
  • MVP of the episode is Dan Castellaneta’s psychotic father screaming at his rowdy kids. One cavalier slap from Nelson, and it’s “BACK TO WINNIPEG!!”
  • Hilarious drawing of Nelson completely enraptured by Andy Williams.
  • Homer getting Lisa to admit her crush’s name is such a sweet scene, where Homer promises he won’t tell anyone… because he already forgot his name. I also like the bit later where Lisa admits she doesn’t like her crush anymore, the fickle eight-year-old she is.
  • Marge being completely shut out of the story is a funny running gag, but it gets pushed a little too far when we get the extended scene of her looking at the empty rooms as sad music plays. It makes it seem like Marge getting abandoned is going to come into play in the story, but it doesn’t. I do love how she purposefully wakes Maggie so she can tend to her crying so she actually feels needed.
  • I like how Homer actually comes up with a creative solution in the end in ordering a new workstation. Also great is the dinner scene where Homer and Lisa are rightfully pissed at Bart, but Marge just gives a naive smile, completely none-the-wiser. At least until she gets inundated with calls late into the night (”Hello? Tennessee State Police? No, my son’s car was not crushed in Knoxville! I don’t know where to begin telling you what’s wrong with that!”)
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Not a *bad* episode, just a bit anemic. Weak premise, weak stories, weak gags. A few good chuckles here and there, and a welcome Homer-Lisa subplot, but overall, nothing all too memorable. Like Bart’s rental car, this one seemed to be on cruise control.”

21. Twenty-Two Short Films About Springfield

  • As we just saw in “A Fish Called Selma,” it’s clear how rich with potential the lives of the supporting cast is. This episode was a novel experiment, but it just leaves me wanting to see more of the Simpson-less lives of Moe, Apu, Mr. Burns, Dr. Nick and so forth. Inspired by this episode, there was some brief consideration at a spin-off show “Tales From Springfield,” but apparently was nixed as Matt Groening claimed they didn’t have a big enough writing team to handle two simultaneous series. Well… then hire some more? If a series gets greenlit, you can hire a whole new writing staff. Anyway, we’d see looks into secondary/tertiary characters past this point on occasion, but I really wish this episode was a much bigger harbinger for this series.
  • Another detail I never noticed: the man at the barbeque Apu attends has an apron that reads, “In My Next Life, You’re Cooking.”
  • I like that Apu being a lady killer has been a consistent characteristic, as we see him scoring with a woman at the BBQ in mere minutes (Don’t worry, I’ll tell everybody you were untouchable!”)
  • Dr. Nick propping a cadaver up in his carseat in order to use the carpool lane is pretty grim, yet, I’d almost like to see a whole Dr. Nick episode with that scene in it. Again, limitless possibilities. 
  • Is there anything new I could possibly say about the “steamed hams” scene? There are just so many great memes, but here are some particular favorites of mine. The craziest thing to me is looking back to find that the big explosion of Steamed Hams memes was three years ago, and despite that, I still see shitposts and image macros of the scene in brand new and clever ways. And again I’ll say it’s curious that one of the most celebrated and beloved scenes in show history involves a day-in-the-life of two non-Simpson characters. Clearly inspired by the meme, the show tried to capture some goodwill this season with “Road to Cincinnati,” a well-intentioned episode that sadly got bogged down in its own tracly, unearned sentimentality.
  • Deadbeat Dad Beat Dead. Home run newspaper headline.
  • The Pulp Fiction Krusty Burger conversation is a classic, and like all the greatest parodies done on this show, is funny and clever beyond its actual reference material. The Pulp Fiction dialogue is iconic in and of itself, but lying on top of that Krusty Burger’s absurdly literal menu (“Do they have Krusty partially gelatinated non-dairy gum-based beverages?” “Mmhmm. They call ’em ‘shakes.’” “Huh. ‘Shakes.’ You don’t know what you’re gettin,’”) but I also love the characters’ complete ignorance of a megachain like McDonald’s, living in their fictional universe (“I never heard of it either, but they have over 2,000 locations in this state alone.” “Must’ve sprung up overnight.”)
  • The rock version of the Simpsons theme playing in Snake’s car kind of reminds me of the music from The Simpsons: Hit & Run game. Ahh, memories.
  • Ned slamming Lisa’s hair with a hammer and her screams in pain is pretty disconcerting. I’ve also seen a few dark shitposts that take that scene to a much more violent place…
  • It’s kind of interesting how late in the classic era we’re seeing some of the most beloved secondary characters really come into focus. This season, it seems like almost every episode has had a Comic Book Guy appearance, and here we have “Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel.” He’s made a handful of appearances here and there, first appearing a mere two seasons ago, but this segment feels like it cements his status as a beloved Springfieldian. The entire scene was included on one of the soundtrack albums, and having listened to it so many times as a kid, having maybe seen this episode once or twice, I never really got what Cletus meant when he said, “Hey, what’s going on on this side?” A line that doesn’t quite translate in an audio medium.
  • I actually have two nice photo prints of the Sean Connery signed by Roger Moore portrait. I put one in a nice frame and gave it to a friend at work for Secret Santa. He was thrilled by it.
  • Very Tall Man is neck-and-neck with the Cayman Islands banker as my favorite one-off character (he made one or two other non-speaking appearances, but this was his moment.) His lumbering chase after Nelson, his hilarious voice, all culminating in a tremendous finale of Nelson getting his comeuppance for one of the show’s longest running gags. It’s just absolutely perfect.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “C-plus – I was expecting fast-paced plotless comedy. What I got was the occasional chuckle in what almost makes the two clip shows look good.”

22. Raging Abe Simpson and his Grumbling Grandson in “The Curse of the Flying Hellish”

  • Abe is at his orneriest at the start, which perfectly sets up his conflict with Bart. I love how he carefully lifts his feeble legs up onto the desk to get comfortable in telling his ridiculous stories, having full “command” of the room (“Now, I’d like to digress from my prepared remarks to discuss how I invented the terlet.”)
  • “This junk was hardly worth getting up for. Maybe if I go back to sleep for a few days, some good mail will build up.” This line definitely hits harder after ten months of quarantine.
  • It seems like a pretty simple effect, but I love the flashing lights and Abe’s silhouette before he runs through the door.
  • I don’t know if I can really explain why, but “It’s plenty moist!” is my favorite line of the whole show. The offended nature of his attitude as he smacks the cloth away from Lisa’s hand, it almost feels like a microcosm of Abe, this ever-agitated man who’s stuck ranting and raving as an old person.
  • You could say that Sheldon Skinner’s appearance contradicts Skinner’s later reveal as an imposter, but he doesn’t look and sound exactly like Skinner, so it’s possible that he could still have been the real Skinner’s father. But more importantly, who the hell cares?
  • “They took a photo of my keister for Stars and Stripes! …at least they told me it was for Stars and Stripes.” One of those great lines that tells a crazy story in so few words, that a gentleman’s magazine somehow convinced Abe to take pictures of his ass, with Abe thinking it was for a real-life reputable newspaper for some reason? Amazing.
  • A special kudos to Dan Castellaneta and Harry Shearer in the flashback scenes for making Abe and Burns sound younger. Young Abe we’ve seen several times, but I love how young Burns’ voice is just so subtly lighter and more measured.
  • There’s a line in this episode that I never understood. In the flashback where the Hellfish agree to the tontine, Burns instructs right before they sign, “Remember, you can’t all sign with an X.” What does that mean? I know an ‘X’ could be used to take the place of an actual signature, but why would anyone want to sign with an anonymous ‘X’ when they presumably all want the portraits? Am I missing something? Anyone have an explanation?
  • The third act of this episode is really beautiful, with the night time color scheme and the great shadow work throughout. I love how the characters’ yellow skin is tinted a shade of purple in the almost darkness.
  • Kicking Bart into the safe and it plummeting to his almost certain watery grave does seem a little too far for Burns, but the man’s pulled a gun on the boy at least two other times I can remember. I think it works as a genuinely shocking moment without feeling too crazy. Going along with that, I can get why some might think Abe becoming kind of an action hero in getting onto Burns’ boat and subding him is too unbelievable, but I don’t agree. We’ve seen Abe get temporarily spry when given actual motivation, and considering this episode is about him proving himself to his grandson, giving him a nice hero moment at the end feels earned. He doesn’t do anything superhuman or completely incredible, it still feels within the elastic reality of the show for me.
  • Ah, sweet, sweet generational wealth. A happy ending everyone can get behind!
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Sadly, the funniest thing about this episode is the title. Grampa went from senile idiot to lean mean fighting machine too quickly. Yeah, I know it was part of the joke, but it still didn’t make much sense. Burns was both too healthy and too evil. The WWII scenes were pretty amusing, but the entire third act was silly.”

23. Much Apu About Nothing

  • I love this drawing of Homer from the bear’s POV, this pathetic dope frozen in terror in his underpants.
  • “Won’t somebody please think of the children?!” was born in this episode, which feels very appropriate, as the first act features the townspeople whipped into a frenzy about a stupid non-issue that doesn’t really have anything to do with children.
  • The Homer-Lisa back-and-forth about specious reasoning is great, and I love how Lisa just gives up and takes the money from her father in exchange for the “magic” rock.
  • The mail person who delivers Homer his latest check is Lunchlady Doris… for some reason. We’ve never seen her in that job before, right? Maybe they had a joke line in there before, but had to cut it, as Doris Grau died around this time? It’s still kind of weird.
  • “Ducking this issue calls for real leadership!” This feels like an underrated Quimby line, as it can accurately describe almost every politician’s MO.
  • Abe’s story about his family immigrating to America is one of his craziest, second only to him performing for Hitler, mostly in that it’s just one silly thing after another. Talking about the Old Country, but not knowing what exact country it was, Abe’s father giving the “maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow” speech, then Abe saying later that very day, they went to America… and then showing them living in the Statue of Liberty itself, which is one of those great insane classic moments (“We had to move out once we filled the entire head with garbage.”
  • The Uncle Sam “I Want You Out” poster is a fantastic design, the perfect bastardization of a patriotic symbol for xenophobic purposes.
  • Apu offering Yoo-Hoo to the Ganesha statue to ward off protestors is kind of an odd moment (apparently this is a reference to a recent event in India of a Ganesha statue “drinking milk” when offered.) The Yoo-Hoo logo is accurately depicted and pretty prominent in the close-up shot. Compared to “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield” which had the ‘Chanel’ logo purposefully covered throughout, this almost felt like deliberate product placement.
  • Hank Azaria nails it with Apu’s “American” voice. At times it seems a bit too divorced from the Apu voice, but I still buy it. It makes sense that Apu has had a lot of time to study American accents working for years behind a counter. Also, similar to Krusty’s vocal transition from “Rory B. Bellows” back to Krusty, I love Apu’s pained transition back to his normal voice, unable to stomach his sacrifice of his spiritual beliefs in exchange for hollow American celebrity worship (“Who needs the infinite compassion of Ganesha when I’ve got Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman staring at me from Entertainment Weekly with their dead eyes?!”)
  • Great little piece of emotional animation when Apu takes off the big cowboy hat and his hair’s all bunched up. He attempts to muss it back, but can’t even muster the energy before bursting into tears.
  • “Maybe we should start all over with the electrical college.” My sentiments exactly.
  • The “just say ‘slavery’” gag was made even better after listening to the commentary where David X. Cohen says that scenario actually happened to a friend of his during his citizenship interview.
  • I absolutely love that after Homer starts his toast, “If I could just say a few words… I’d be a better public speaker,” Bart cracks up at it. It’s such a sweet moment that Bart got a genuine laugh out of Homer’s dad jokes.
  • “When are people going to learn? Democracy doesn’t work!” My sentiments exactly.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “Grade: C-. I dunno, I just like the old days, and there just wasn’t much to the episode…I might be flamed for this, but IMO if they can’t consistently put out better material than this, OFF should be allowed to pass on before it turns to utter boring sitcom-style drek…”

24. Homerpalooza

  • To get this episode’s plot started, we need to create a scenario that would result in Homer needing to form a carpool for the other kids. Therefore, the school bus needs to be out of commission, and because of that, we get the amazing sequence where it’s driven straight into a car crusher at the dump with the kids barely escaping with their lives. This hilariously smash cuts to Marge reading a letter from the school, covering their asses of any liability (“Due to yesterday’s unscheduled field trip to the auto wrecking yard, the school bus will be out of commission for two weeks. By reading this letter out loud, you have waived any legal responsibility on our part in perpetuity throughout the universe.”)
  • As a fellow lover of Grand Funk Railroad and 70s/80s music in general, I can very much relate to Homer in this episode. There’s many elements of this episode that make it a 90s time capsule, but the emotional core of the show is pretty evergreen, with Homer trying to relate to his kids and is devastated to find he’s culturally out-of-step, as encapsulated by Abe’s harrowing warning: “I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was. Now, what I’m with isn’t ‘it,’ and what’s ‘it’ seems weird and scary to me.”)
  • Suicide Notes (formerly Good Vibrations) has got to be top 3 of store names on this show.
  • What computers?” is definitely the most hilarious in hindsight moment in the entire series. If only Homer had bought some Apple stock then…
  • The flashback with young Homer trying to befriend the cool kids at their “Second Base-mobile” is great. He gets closer and closer with each flashing light, and I love how when he realizes he’s not wanted, it just cuts to him far off into the background, not even bothering to show him walking off.
  • “It may be bleak, but this music is really getting to the crowd.”
  • I really like the scene where Marge finds out about the freak show tour and is annoyed Homer agreed. Her saying “You don’t have to join a freak show just because the opportunity came along,” almost feels meta in a way. Like, yeah, of course he had to say ‘yes,’ otherwise the plot wouldn’t continue.
  • “My kids think you’re the greatest. And thanks to your gloomy music, they’ve finally stopped dreaming of a future I can’t possibly provide.” “Well, we try to make a difference.”
  • This is a little random, but one of the attendees in the crowd is wearing a Dr. Zaius T-shirt, the same design used from “A Fish Called Selma.” It feels like too specific of a detail to be random, I just don’t know why.
  • I love how Homer literally vibrates backstage thanks to the massive oomph of the giant stereo kicking in.
  • It’s kind of hard for any of the guest stars to make that big an impact, considering there are three bands with each member needing to say at least one line. Cypress Hill jamming out to the classical version of “Insane in the Brain” is a great moment. Peter Frampton probably stands out the most, seeming perpetually exasperated by his younger colleagues and his inflatable pig being sabotaged.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “To paraphrase a line from the episode, ‘Homerpalooza’ isn’t about writing or characterization. It’s about marketable guest voices. It was saved from a failing grade only by its rips on corporate America and its drug jokes.”

25. Summer of 4 Ft. 2

  • Similar to “Kamp Krusty,” the opening to this show really gave me lovely flashbacks to the last day of school, where you really don’t really do much but just mess around with your friends in class before you’re finally set loose for a whole three months. 
  • Damn, I really messed up not calling this Revisited series ‘Retrospecticus’ instead.
  • Nelson’s jab at Lisa regarding the yearbooks weirdly stuck with me (“If you hadn’t done it, some other loser would have, so quit milking it!”) It sounds ridiculous, but it kind of represents my feelings about people’s work and accomplishments at large. Yes, some people are uniquely talented and have a specific vision or a drive or a method of doing things, but I also feel for a lot of jobs, someone else can probably do it just as well. I’m speaking mostly of people in higher level positions who are less likely to be removed or change jobs because they’re “indispensable,” when there are probably lots of people who can do their jobs just as well if not better if given the chance. But I think I should quit while I’m ahead before this incredibly larger point gets even more rambly and unwieldy.
  • I really like Marge’s slight level of annoyance at the Flanderses in this episode, asking Homer if he’s sure they won’t be at the beach house, and her grumbling at the thoroughly labeled ice tray. She’s definitely the most cordial of the Simpson family to their friendly neighbors, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to be stuck on a vacation with those goody two-shoes.
  • “These are my only friends. Grownup nerds like Gore Vidal, and even he’s kissed more boys than I ever will.” “Girls, Lisa. Boys kiss girls.”
  • Being able to spell Little Pwagmattasquarmsettport would make a killer Simpsons trivia question. As a young fan, I memorized how to spell ‘Nahasapeemapetilon,’ brain space that probably could have gone toward something more important.
  • I really like how bratty and sarcastic Lisa is after she decides she wants to reinvent herself, first in deflecting Homer’s questioning of her light suitcase (“Maybe you’re just getting stronger.” “Well, I have been eating more,”) and later with Marge (“It must be exciting to make a different set of beds.” “I know you’re joking, but it is!”)
  • I like how the beach kids are a “tanner” shade of yellow than Lisa, it’s a nice subtle design choice.
  • When Bart shows up to show up Lisa, I love that in introducing him, Lisa does so as “Bart… tholomew.” It’s such a great acting choice, you can hear Lisa’s brain determine that it’ll make Bart sound less “cool” if she uses his full name.
  • Homer’s incredibly slow smile as he puts together the connection between Milhouse and the “dud” has always made me laugh. I was so incredibly happy when it became a huge meme in Simpsons shitposting. Homer’s smile and Burns’ “Yes” from “Rosebud” were two specific and minor moments that I didn’t know if they struck many fans like they did me, and seeing them take on new life with everyone talking about how fucking funny those moments are to them, really made me happy as a fan.
  • Every Fourth of July, when the fireworks start going off, I always think of “Celebrate the independence of your nation by blowing up a small part of it!”
  • Hilarious manic animation of Homer freaking out on what to do with the dynamite.
  • Marge washing the dishes her husband destroyed while vacantly staring at the sunrise with a big Stepford smile may be one of the saddest (yet still hilarious) shots in the whole series.
  • Absolutely fantastic performance by Yeardley Smith, ripping into her brother through gritted teeth at the breakfast table (her read on “meeeeeeeaaaaan little sneak” is a real highlight.)
  • I love that Milhouse is basically in the episode to just be abused through the whole show, from getting jammed into a carseat at the start of the trip, to being the unfortunate victim of friendly fire by Bart and Lisa throughout their whole carnival visit.
  • My best friend in high school wrote “See You in the Car” in my yearbook at least two or three years in a row.
  • Simpsons Archive retro review: “It’s hard to watch this episode and not come away with the feeling that it could have been better. A good concept — Lisa recasts herself to fit in with the hip crowd — is weighed down by her off-target characterization and a too- formulaic ending. It’s not so much that the script was bad, as it was that it wasn’t quite true to ‘The Simpsons.’ Amusing enough to score a B-, but just barely.”