- All the garbage scavenging stuff is just to kill time until Homer ends up at Moe’s and the plot actually starts. A few gags work (Cletus and Brandine, CBG shooing nerds away from his trash bins), but then we get to Homer and his fire-breathing Talky Tiki, who flees the scene as the fire spreads too quickly. We see the fire traveling back through the shoddily rerouted gas line back into the house, and Homer just runs off to a bar as his wife and kids stand there aghast right before their house could fucking blow up and kill them.
- In a season filled with unnecessary series changes, this feels the most unnecessary of all. Barney’s entire character is being the drunk at the bar, that’s his primary function. If you’re going to make him sober, you’d better have an actual story in mind to tell, and give the character something new to be their thing that’s interesting and makes sense. Neither of those things happen here. Barney goes to AA to get sober and he learns to fly a helicopter. That’s it. We learn nothing else about him, and between a B-plot and Homer monopolizing almost every single scene, Barney doesn’t feel like he has a lot to do in his own episode.
- Case in point, the first thing Barney does in act two is ask Homer for help. I’d say this is somewhat better than Apu and Ned Flanders coming to him for guidance since Barney used to be Homer’s best friend, but that role has basically been completely diminished at this point, so it just feels arbitrary. Homer takes Barney to AAA by mistake to make a joke, he sits in on Barney’s AA meeting and does his little stand-up routine as Barney just stands there… like I said before, this season is filled with “When Homer’s not on screen, everyone should say, ‘Where’s Homer?’”
- The B-plot of Bart and Lisa trying to win the phone book picture contest is pretty dull. You’d think that an episode featuring a major life change regarding one of the oldest, most iconic characters on the series would warrant an entire episode about him, but I guess not.
- Act two ends when Homer acts like a petulant child to Barney and runs off crying, which is fucking annoying. Barney talks about how he values his memories at Moe’s, but “I don’t want to do that stuff anymore.” Well, what do you want to do, Barney? Now that you’re sober, what life do you want to lead? New job? New hobbies? Anything? He learns to fly, maybe he decides he wants to be a pilot? Something, anything I can latch onto here as an actual plot.
- The two plots merge at the end where Barney has to pilot the helicopter to save Bart and Lisa from a forest fire, but so much of it makes no sense at all. Bart and Lisa were walking away before the fire started, how did they get trapped? Barney is nervous about flying, but then lands his copter on a bridge with expert ease? Also, just like in “Faith Off,” we have Homer getting completely wasted, then sobering up when the need calls for it. He drinks an entire six pack in seconds, getting totally fucked up, then when a bear tries to climb up the rescue ladder, he’s totally cogent as he cuts the ropes, then immediately afterwards he’s wasted again as he walks out of the helicopter, hooking his leg on the rail and flipping it around in a circle, with no real consequence.
- Barney trading one addiction for another with coffee is an amusing idea, but again, if this episode were actually about Barney, maybe it would have been interesting to actually put into the story, like that he’s got an addictive personality or something. But it’s all a completely pointless exercise anyway. Giving Apu kids and killing off Maude didn’t change much, but they were changes that the writers had to address in some way. With Barney, despite his lamenting his wasted years at Moe’s, we’d still see him perched at that bar stool for seasons to come, only with a coffee mug in his hand in place of a beer stein. Then in season 14, they did a joke about him relapsing, because why the hell not. Absolutely pointless.
- Simpsons Archive retro review:It’s great to finally see an episode with a logical story. This episode had a nice, believable storyline and a nice Bart and Lisa sub-plot. It was a good experience to see an episode that revolved around Barney for the first time. I liked the many good alcoholic jokes in this episode and the entire beginning sequence was nice. It’s good to see an episode where the story works nicely. The Simpsons writers need to continue writing episodes of this quality.”
19. Kill the Alligator and Run
- I honestly wasn’t expecting to laugh out loud at the very start of this episode, but I forgot all about Homer’s Montana Militia money (“It’ll be real soon enough…”)
- Here we see the “great” brief running joke to come out of Maude’s death: Homer repeatedly forgetting she’s dead. Just like Frank Grimes, he has a very short memory when it comes to the people he’s inadvertently killed.
- Re-watching “Wizard of Evergreen Terrace,” I forgot they had inched Homer’s age up even further from 38 to 39, with Marge telling Homer his birthday was coming up, and now this episode “confirms” his new canonical age is 39. I know this was the result of the aging writing staff feeling horrified that they were becoming as old or older as the originally 34-year-old Homer, but I don’t like that he’s that old. Marge found out she was pregnant when the two of them were directionless young adults, turning their carefree lives upside-down, but now Bart would have been born when Homer was pushing 30.
- Mr. Burns acting nervous around the health inspector and giving him kiss-ass compliments feels incredibly wrong. The real Burns would have insulted him while stuffing bribe money in his jacket pockets by now.
- Structurally, this episode is a humongous mess. Homer is an anxious mess fearing death, then he instantly becomes a spring break party animal, then the family become fugitives, and temporarily adapt to being country folk. There’s nothing to hold onto. Right after Homer’s insomnia is miraculously cured after they arrive in Florida at the end of act one, George Meyer pipes up on the commentary, ”You’re usually in trouble in a story when you don’t take your own premise seriously.” Well, shit, that statement applies to the majority of episodes nowadays.
- Kid Rock just performs what I assume is a typical concert for him, in another boringly normal guest appearance. Even his schtick with pouring a gigantic 40-gallon on a curb they wheel onto the stage doesn’t feel ridiculous enough. “Homerpalooza” featured some pretty big-name bands who all brought their own quirks to the party, while here, it’s just a Kid Rock concert played straight.
- I really like the idea of the local sheriff being paid off to look the other way during spring break, I wish it had worked its way into a more effective joke than him just bluntly saying it aloud.
- Falling asleep in the car being dragged by a train, working at a diner in the middle of the woods, catering a fancy dinner party in shackles… they really had no fucking idea what to do in the third act and decided to just throw everything and the kitchen sink in.
- The magical whipping man thwarts the Simpsons’ escape by trapping them in a ring of fire, and their response is to applaud, impressed. Then a few seconds later, the fire is just gone. This is a great episode.
- As someone who lived in Florida for five years, the biggest sin this episode commits is completely wasting their shot to rip apart what an awful state it is. Large portions of act three made it just seem like they were in the deep South, while Florida folk are like a whole other breed of Southern maniacs. Months after this episode aired, the 2000 election would result in Florida becoming a national punchline, but they could have beat them to the punch, but per usual in this era, they didn’t even try as far as satire is concerned.
- Simpsons Archive retro review:This episode is so crazy, it’s SUPERCRAZY! I mean, Homer has yet ANOTHER mid-life crisis, so he goes to see the plant shrink. Shrink tells him to go to Florida with his family. Then it starts getting funny. Very funny. The humor went a bit south in Act 3, but it’s no big deal. Heck, I think ALL 233+ episodes are funny, and I’m not going to sugarcoat that thought for the sake of sounding like a critic. In that wise, my grade for BABF16 is A+!”
20. Last Tap Dance in Springfield
- Homer screams his lungs out getting laser eye surgery, just as he did with the leprosy treatments earlier this season. I recall a later episode where he screams while going to the dentist. Anytime they can get Dan Castellaneta to yell himself hoarse, it’s comedy gold to the writers, I guess.
- “Tango de la Muerte” is pretty excellent, both as a piece in itself and Lisa’s adorably childlike enthusiasm watching it. Even something ridiculous like Mexican Milhouse is pretty funny. This exchange always makes me laugh (“Only one man was crazy enough to dance that dance, and he is dead! “My twin brother, Freduardo. But where he died, I shall live… in his apartment.”
- This episode is held up on the shoulders of Little Vicki, who is really a very funny and entertaining character. I feel like I grumble a lot at Tress MacNeille’s overuse on this series, but she’s obviously an incredibly talented voice artist, and she’s just fantastic as Vicki. Almost all of her jokes land, and her discouragement-with-a-smiling-face to Lisa is great throughout (“You’ve just got to turn that frown upside-down! …that’s a smile, not an upside-down frown. Work on that, too!”)
- The Little Vicki sign of her rotating finger against her cheek scraping against the metal is fantastic too.
- The mall subplot is some light fun. Bart and Milhouse clowning around the mall at night feels similar to them messing around the abandoned factory in “Homer’s Enemy.” I’m not completely clear on the timeline though; the cops are called after their first night trashing the mall, then they stick around while the mall is closed and the police are bumbling around? Why wouldn’t they just leave since the heat was on? The mountain lion chase and Lou thinking the yarn in his mouth is the giant rat’s tail is kind of a whimper of an ending, but everything leading up to it was mostly enjoyable. Even Wiggum getting slammed with the ACME anvil got a laugh out of me.
- Homer and Marge unknowingly pressuring Lisa to keep dancing even though she hates it still feels pretty contrived, like they needed a reason to explain why Lisa just doesn’t quit but didn’t bother weaving it into the story.
- I feel like I’ve used “This plot is hard enough to follow as it is!” a number of times when I’ve had friends over to watch a stupid movie and they talk over it.
- Even a simple story about Lisa taking up dance of course needs an over-the-top climax where her self-tapping shoes go out of control and she freaks out the audience. It’s certainly not bad by Scully era standards to be fair, and I like how it’s resolved by Homer just effortlessly tripping her, so that’s good. But then we get our actual ending where he gets shocked by Frink’s weasel ball and screams in agony. Man, those writers love to hear that man scream!
- Looking back at my season 11 recap, why in the hell did I leave this out of the top 5 in favor of “Pygmoelian”? Did I hit my head or something?
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “This is a lousy episode disguised as a neo-classic, using the formula of giving ATSers what they keep saying they want (more Lisa, less Jerkass Homer, Baby Gerald, etc.) to hide the fact that the writing is lazy and the script is a schizophrenic hydra spliced together by committee writers. Vicki is inconsistent and unlikable and the plot follows the road most traveled by. ‘Tap Dance’ reminded me of that old Alaska Airlines commercial where cheerful stewardesses on a competitor’s airline serve hungry passengers a measly bag of peanuts surrounded by plastic garnish. Bon appetit, my fellow Lisa lovers.”
21. It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge
- Otto’s engagement to Becky is pretty solid: the flashback to Woodstock ‘99, Otto’s skull ring, and the kids cheerily wildly out the windows as the STOP sign waves back and forth. The first three minutes of this episode are actually pretty good… until it isn’t.
- Who is Becky? Does she have any family? Any friends? She appears to have no family present at the wedding, and is reliant on this family of strangers to take her in. She’s an absolute nothing of a character, an amorphous figure in the Simpson house to drive Marge off the deep end for no discernible reason. It’s not Parker Posey’s fault; at least she got to be in a much better Futurama episode around the same time.
- Act two opens with a joke about Moe leaving Otto’s wedding. You remember all those great Moe-Otto scenes of seasons past? Man, those two work great off each other.
- Why does Marge believe Patty and Selma’s bullshit about Becky wanting to kill her and steal Homer? The whole second act is this increasing build-up of Marge’s paranoia, but it honestly feels like we’re supposed to feel a bit uncertain about it too, with Marge’s cut brakes not going explained until the end by Homer. We do see him working on the car earlier, so it does connect, but maybe instead of making sure their bullshit mystery all connects, they could have focused on making Becky an actual character.
- Wiggum is this episode’s MVP, with all of his appearances being genuinely funny, from when Marge first comes to her and refuses to help (“How about this: just show me the knife… in your back. Not too deep, but it should be able to stand by itself,”) to later when he apprehends her (“I thought you said the law was powerless.” “Powerless to help you, not punish you.”)
- The third act is so bizarre, with Marge getting declared insane and her going on the run within like a minute of screen time. While she’s on her own journey to dig up dirt on Becky, we cut back to the Simpsons twice just sitting on the couch doing fuck all to try and find or help Marge. Bart and Homer talk about schoolyard rumors about Marge, and Krusty does a whole sketch about her, so how many days have passed that they’re just sitting on their asses not giving a shit about Marge’s safety and innocence?
- The bait-and-switch-then-bait-again ending is so fucking terrible. The Simpson living room gets transformed into a dungeon… somehow. Where’d they get all those props? Complete with wallpaper that looks like cobblestone, I guess. Also, Marge would have been staring right at Lisa, who is revealed to be holding a video camera. But hey, I’m glad we paid off the running plot of Bart finding just the right thing to film for his school project. It’s so shitty that I can’t even muster energy to care about the reveal that Becky was planning on killing Marge. Like, who gives a shit?
- And the final moment of the last “canon” episode of this re-watch is Homer tranquilizing his wife, who’s been on the run and missing for multiple days. And so ends another episode I will be glad to never watch again.
- Simpsons Archive retro review:Talk about a perfect Marge episode. I have not seen anything like this since Marge went on the Lam. The way that Marge got in trouble is great, but including Patty and Selma, by having them make Marge paranoid, is classic. Becky’s upstaging of Marge at dinner, Marge being the victim of a cut brake line, how Marge stopped the wedding of Otto and Becky, and the Video tape project in Bart’s class, all happen to be Highlights of this episode which gets a perfect A+++ from me.”
22. Behind the Laughter
- I really wish this episode had no opening title sequence and just went straight to the Jim Forbes opening. You even have a fake out where you start with the Simpsons clouds and then it goes into the beginning of the documentary, it would have worked so much better if it didn’t start like a normal episode.
- Jim Forbes just absolutely sells this episode, taking the gig as seriously as any other Behind the Music episode and performing his role to a T. Referring to Homer as a “penniless peckinpah,” his insistence on “figurative” storm clouds, there’s so many small little moments throughout the episode that he just nails.
- I love all the different lower third identifiers for each interviewee (Krusty: Embittered Comedy Legend, Moe: Local Hothead, Abe: Coot)
- Simpsons Boogie obviously refers to “Simpsons Sing the Blues,” and I have to say, despite my lifelong obsession with the series and my engagement of all sorts of related media, I’ve never listened to that album. I randomly found “The Yellow Album” at a Best Buy and listened to that, being very confused as to why Homer and Linda Rondstadt were singing a ballad. I can’t imagine how much better “Blues” is compared to that. I’ve heard “Do the Bartman” and “Deep, Deep Trouble” thanks to the inclusion of their music videos on the season 2 DVD. “Trouble” is actually pretty damn catchy, it’s got a great hook, I guess thanks to DJ Jazzy Jeff.
- “I want to set the record straight: I thought the cop was a prostitute.” I feel like there are a number of ways you can interpret this joke, and none of them come out well for Homer.
- The joke about Lenny and Carl being paid to kiss is okay, but Jim Forbes coming in afterward referring to the Simpsons’ “reckless spending and interracial homoerotica” made me laugh out loud hard. I tell you, Forbes just killed it here.
- The only big wince I give this episode is the Homer getting hurt split screen, with the narration about how his addiction to painkillers “was the only way he could perform the bone-cracking physical comedy that made him a star.” The clips shown are all post-season 9, and I don’t recall much bone-cracking physical comedy out of the first few seasons, do you? It’s all terrible recent shit of Homer screaming in pain like an annoying asshole. Funnily enough, when we cut back to Homer talking, the clips we see on the TV are of older seasons (Homer clung to the wrecking ball in “Sideshow Bob Roberts,” Homer hit by the chair in the tub in “A Milhouse Divided.”) Now why are those bits so funny and the other clips suck? Why indeed.
- Marge’s scolding, personalized diaphragms is definitely a gag I did not understand watching as a kid.
- Ah, the “gimmicky premises and nonsensical plots” bit. Really sticking it to Oakley, Weistein and Ken Keller, just shouting at them “fuck you” for that Armin Tamzarian episode. In what must be a purposeful joke, I like how the “trendy guest stars” list includes the likes of Butch Patrick and Tom Kite. We also get our second instance of reusing Gary Coleman’s karate noises (or Sir Gary Coleman as he’s credited).
- They reference a Simpsons newspaper comic at the end that Homer allegedly writes, which I guess is just a joke, but a few years after this episode, Bongo Comics actually did syndicate a Sunday comic strip that lasted I think barely a year. I remember seeing it advertised in their Simpsons comics but it never made it to my local paper, sadly.
- “This’ll be the last season.” If only, Homer, my friend. If only.
- This episode is still great, especially given the season it’s in, but as a gimmick episode, I feel like it’s slightly diminishing returns each time I watch it. I remember when I was younger, I just loved this episode because of how unique and high concept it was, but now, I just see it as a pretty solid and entertaining experimental episode that would have made a damn good series finale.
- Simpsons Archive retro review: “What the hell was that? Why do they expect us to take them seriously when they no longer do so themselves? As a parody of the documentaries about old TV which is now the rage, this was passable, but as a canonical episode of OFF this was an abomination. When has it ever been suggested that the Simpsons are actors playing themselves on TV? This treatment of the Simpsons cast is not faithful to the dramatic context. I give it an F.”
Season 11 episodes I wouldn’t kick out of bed in the morning: “Brother’s Little Helper,” “Treehouse of Horror X,” “E-I-E-I-D’oh!,” “Grift of the Magi,” “Last Tap Dance in Springfield,” “Behind the Laughter”
17 thoughts on “Season Eleven Revisited (Part Four)”
I think even Al Jean said that “Behind the Laughter” would have been a good series finale. Now that I think about it, I feel like episodes like this would have been a great way to salvage the Scully era. Whatever it lacked in characterization and storytelling, it made up for in comedy and surrealism so maybe they should have leaned more in that direction. That’s what Family Guy decided to do in the mid-2010s.
I also noticed that George Meyer was responsible for a lot of the weird shit that happened in seasons 9-12. He would pitch ideas for act turns and dialogue and they would just use them. He reminds me of John Swartzwelder in that they’re both insanely talented, but they need the right staff to filter them out.
No better way to spend Flat Fuck Friday than talking about alligators and other things.
* I guess I wouldn’t be too opposed to Barney’s sobriety if they did something with it, but this episode is just a blur in terms of anything funny or meaningful happening, and then Barney went back to being a boozehound anyway. Futurama did a much better episode revolving around an alcoholic character becoming sober, and the only funny thing I can think of from this one is the Burt Reynolds interview (which, like a lot of good jokes, was always a syndication cut).
* Not sure what else to say about “Kill the Alligator and Run” that hasn’t already been said. It’s just a dismal, nonsensical episode that isn’t really worth the effort. (I also don’t understand why the show aged Homer and Marge up, yet the kids stayed the same age. If they’re doing a sliding timeline, how is that possible?) The sheriff is an OK character, though, and this episode did give us Florida’s nickname of “America’s wang,” so that’s something.
* I’m glad you’ve come around on “Last Tap Dance to Springfield,” as that’s always been one of my favorites from this season. The stuff with Homer is pretty painful (except for “Don;t you remember camp? The old Vitamin Barn.”), but Little Vicki is one of the last great characters this show introduced and they thankfully didn’t let her outstay her welcome. (“Self-tapping shoes? I’m ever so pissed!”) That image of the cat rubbing its eyes with its (clearly fake) paws also gets me every time for some reason.
* “It’s a Mad, Etc., Etc., Marge” is an episode that seems to lean pretty heavily on Marge misinterpreting things, and those kinds of jokes, you have to try and make them work. Here, they just don’t. I also don’t see why Otto’s love of heavy metal would be a dealbreaker for Becky, seeing as she met him at a concert that had a lot of hard rock on its bill. Plus, don’t most couples have that one thing in a relationship they can’t stand but put up with it anyway? I’m just saying there could have been a better motivation. There are some good jokes scattered throughout though: “I don’t want to see 30 Blair Witch knockoffs,” the jab at the overpriced bottles of water (which sadly remains relevant, if you’ve ever been to a music festival), “All I can see is a horrible rainbow” and the stuff with Wiggum. Marge trying to come up with a comeback and only being able to muster up “Shut up, Becky” also feels very in character.
* I know I’ve seen a lot of people suggest “Behind the Laughter” as a possible series finale. I personally think it would have worked better as a penultimate series finale, with another really strong episode to close out the series, but I still think it works well as a gimmick episode. I know Behind the Music was huge back then, but I have to wonder how it will look to future audiences who may not recognize the parody. Still, a lot of great jokes throughout, and a great use of Willie Nelson too.
“Bongo Comics actually did syndicate a Sunday comic strip that lasted I think barely a year. I remember seeing it advertised in their Simpsons comics but it never made it to my local paper, sadly.”
Wow, I completely forgot about that! I remember seeing that same advertisement but never actually saw the strip in my local paper. It did have a Rugrats comic strip though.
Looking back, Wiggum in “Mad Mad Marge” is a bit of a chilling omen, as he’d just become possibly the worst character of all. They’d take their incompetent, if solid, cop, and just make him dumb and way too fucking arrogant. He’d deliberately hire so many animals (including a damn WHALE) and do absolutely nothing with them. He’d deliberately take attention from other people’s good deeds (HERO COP SAVES BOY). He’d straight up blackmail his witnesses to give him good reviews (“SOMEWHAT satisfied? Hmm, maybe I’ll just SOMEWHAT find your daughter!”) and literally brush her off just to look around a museum. He’d just outright LIE about his identity to get a cool jetpack, inadvertently burn down a church, and get away scot free. And oh, let’s not forget when he goaded a 10 year old to commit suicide because he blew a big baseball play. At this point he’s clearly a character who’s only around because he was funny AT ONE TIME. And according to the writers, that automatically gives you the opportunity to never be funny, ever.
God, these re-reviews honestly made me realize just how bad these modern episodes are. Seriously, the comparison is like watching the original Pink Panther and watching the Steve Martin version, they’re almost night and day, even if they look fairly similar.
I’d say Dr. Hibbert’s decline into quackery during the late teen seasons remains one of the worst characters in the series, with him constantly forcing patients to sign malpractice waivers, selling out to Pfizer, and being incompetent at his job in a series that already had an incompetent doctor(b). It wasn’t like Hibbert was always a straight man given he served as the show’s main access to jokes regarding the American health care industry, but it sometimes helps to have someone you could rely on to be trustworthy in a town of lunkheads and work off that instead of making him another wacky creature.
But Wiggum remains a close second. Remember “Simpsons Tall Tales” where in the Connie Appleseed segment, he looks at Homer when the group goes full Donner Party and says “You’re the fattest one here!” despite Wiggum clearly being the largest man in the caravan? That’s Season 12. I’m barely scratching the surface.
Season 11 truly was the point where the show up and died.
Part of me wishes that you would revisit seasons 12 and the beginning of 13 since that would cover all of Scully’s tenure, but it makes sense that you’re stopping here.
At long last, the arduous journey ends. We’ve reached the end of Season 11. While there are worse seasons in terms of quality, I still argue Season 11 remains the worst in terms of how worse things got compared to Season 10, cause while a bad Season 10 episode was very bad, you still saw moments in which a quality episode meant you were still watching something still worth following every week, whereas Season 11’s best barely reaches “whatever” status. It’s why Season 10 is in this nebulous ether where some people argue it deserves exemption as the final “Classic” season while others place it with Seasons 11 and 12 as the crappy Scully years, while Season 11 is firmly placed as the true beginning of Zombie Simpsons despite the warning signs beforehand.
This season was notorious for episodes that were designed to upset the formula with drastic changes to the establishment, what with the Octuplets (who became props and were quickly showed away with Manjula before Apu became persona non grata), Maude Flanders dying cause the show was too cheap (and then decided to bring her back far more times than you would a dead person in any other show), and lastly… Barney going clean. This wasn’t a new idea; we saw glimpses of sober Barney before, either as meta commentary (like the infamous “Lost Our Lisa”) or to tragically highlight lost potential (“Mr. Plow” and “Deep Space Homer”). However, this started two trends in the series; one temporary, and one lasting, and I’ll get the latter out quickly; Dan Castellenta can’t write to save his fucking life. Despite this inability, he and his wife, Deb Lacusta, have written several episodes over the years and all of them are terrible. Like, stick to making funny voices on the mic; you have proved you never had what it takes.
The temporary one, which is controversial how you slice it, was Barney’s sobriety, in terms of how he got sober, his characterization in this episode, and how long he stayed this way. For the record, I love Barney. Barney’s amazing largely due to him not being drunk in a time in which alcoholism went from being funny to being the regular go-to for A Very Special Episode but also being a realistic depiction of a drunk (living in squalor, looking terrible, nobody of merit wanting anything to do with you) as it was a less mentioned element of the writers flexing their muscles in a field that was playing it safe, but over the years, I learned that many of the people in charge of the show do not like Barney. Barney was originally going to written out of the series as the one who shot Mr. Burns at one point. So, if it was established that Barney was unpopular to the point where the show phased out him as Homer’s main buddy in favor of Lenny & Carl, then why do this episode? Furthermore, despite Barney living a sad, pathetic life, he rarely looked the part. There was an ignorant bliss to his inebriated state, which many people have argued, including you. This episode decides that Barney is going to be sober, and he’s going to be miserable about it.
Barney is either defensive, apprehensive, or self-doubting in his new, sober state. While trying to get out of alcoholism is a struggle, the show presents it like he’s on the verge of a breakdown, often for a quick joke. There’s no emotional stakes in it due to how it’s all presented. What makes it worse is, in spite of this supposedly being a Barney episode, we spend way too much time on Homer and his feelings, as Homer comes off petulant and embittered, that his friend is suddenly better than him for deciding to no longer go through life in a stupor while Homer chooses to remain the boorish asshole instead. Season 11 Homer is incapable of empathy; he is firmly in Jerkass Homer mode, and Jerkass Homer has no interest in your problems unless they impact him directly. As for this change, like everything that was done in the past 5 seasons, it would all be undone by Al Jean between Seasons 13 through 17 as Jean believed the show worked much better as a sterile, predictable gruel that avoided potential conflict with the dreaded “C” word the show always has hated. Al Jean has stated in commentary that they try to show that he still struggles with sobriety, yet every time we see Barney after he went back to drinking, he’s drunk. They ran with sober Barney for a few years, Al Jean didn’t like it, Al Jean got rid of it. End of story.
Oh… was there an episode to talk about? Uh… Homer finds a random tiki head, I feel shame for laughing at Barney’s racist bit about “a planet for the French, a planet for the Chinese” when I was very young, the B-plot is a series of random scenes until the end in a rare instance of the show connecting the stories, drunk Homer is supposed to be funny but he’s not, syndication did a great job in cutting the Burt Reynolds interview from the episode, and the ending showed that Barney merely went from one vice to another in coffee addiction that could’ve been a nice piece of commentary about how folks often trade addictions instead of straightening their lives, only to go nowhere.
Why did I rant about that episode so much? Cause I really don’t want to talk about the next one. It’s “That Fucking Alligator Episode”. I hate it so much I downvoted TheRealJims’s video comparing it and “Simpson Safari” because he said it was better than Simpson Safari, even saying why. While “Kill The Simpsons As a Series” can no longer claim the title of “Worst Simpsons Episode Ever” (many fans argue it belongs to “Lisa Goes Gaga”, myself included, though others contend episodes like “The Boys of Bummer” and “Love is a Many Stranged Thing” deserve that ignomious title), it easily earns the title of “Worst Simpsons Episode During the Mike Scully Tenure” due to its “Dogs Playing Tennis in the Rain at 1am” lengths of bizarreness. “Simpson Safari” is equally guilty for bordering on utter nonsense, but what saves it from “Homer Took a Shit and Run” is… it has a competent story for the Mike Scully Era, and it doesn’t have FUCKING KID ROCK IN IT! Fuck that rich ass motherfucker who claimed to be trailer trash so people would buy his shitty CDs, fuck him for ruining it so I can’t get excited for “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon anymore, and fuck him for hoping to be yet another bozo running as a “family values, common sense” conservative politician when he’s anything but.
Homer gets a random quiz book… Homer becomes a quizmaster cuz why the fuck not… we make a crude joke about Maude Flanders’s death cuz why the fuck not… Homer becomes a basket case cuz he finds out he’s so unhealthy he’ll probably die soon (and throws a tantrum when Marge suggests not being a fat fuck)… pointless Charlie Rose cameo that really aged well… low-hanging fruit joke about “America’s Wang”… suddenly Homer goes from insomniac mental patient to superhuman frat boy, damn near killing his family… lots and lots of insufferable Homer antics… besides the Logan’s Run mention that went over a lot of people first time around, the Kid Rock segment is fucking ass cheeks, especially with the “We Built This City” running gag that starts here… Homer finally sleeps the drunk sleep… he refuses to stop partying, so more stupidity… family on the run, end up struck by train, Homer solution is “go to sleep”… car still pulled by train… contrary to popular consensus, I hate the “I like that” running bit… Homer refers to the jurors as “drunken hicks” in Florida; not surprised he didn’t immediately get executed by firing squad… dinner party is time filler, because they cut a very important scene earlier in the episode, it makes the resolution confusing… Simpsons go to North Dakota in Season 38. If John Swartzwelder hadn’t had the long-standing, masterful pedigree he did, I would’ve asked for him to run out of town like I do with Tim Long, Jeff Westbrook, and Gammill & Pross (I’d do the same with Castellenta and Wife, but who’d voice Homer?).
“Last Tap Dance on Springfield” is fine. It’s arguably the final episode that features Lisa being a girl in the series, in my opinion, as well as an example of Lisa doing something and sucking at it, which is what people deal with; we all want to do things in life, often spur of the moment or in passion, only to face the hard truth that we’re just not good enough, but believe if we keep at it, something will happen. Doesn’t help she can’t quite tell her parents that she isn’t into it. Homer has some really awful, gruesome “jokes” with his poor vision, namely the infamous scene where his eyes crust over and he’s taken advantage of by the bullies. It also has a meaningless B-plot that just… ends. Like most B-plots now. At least it featured some memes like the cat getting its eyes rubbed with the fake paws and most of what Little Vicky does.
If there’s one thing that “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Marge” is remembered for, it’s that it’ll forever be synced as the counterpoint to a famous critique of the Mike Scully tenure of “The Simpsons” as what was considered at the time the nadir of the show’s writing, where Chris Sullentrop of Slate compared it’s ending to that of “Duffless”. And, discounting the end gag which justified said comparison… what the hell kind of ending was that, anyway?! Regardless, let’s backtrack a bit.
Marge rarely got episodes due to a lack of character development (and still doesn’t, though that’s due to a combination of Julie Kavner’s voice sounding like what Death must be and her being firmly positioned as a cantankerous and ungrateful bitch), as the staff soon settled on her being a spineless, potato-cooking housewife that can’t compete in the real world. This meant she had no friends, no social life, no free will. She was a doormat, end of story. As a result, Bart pretty much guilts her into letting a relative stranger have a wedding at their house, and is responsible for Otto choosing his rock music over Becky, his now ex-girlfriend. I do agree that it is stupid for Becky to have a problem with heavy metal given a good chunk of the acts at the infamous Woodstock ’99 event where they met were hard rock, nu metal, or heavy metal; all acts that would certainly qualify in that category, unless she was there exclusively for Alanis Morissette’s performance. By the way, this is the first time we get to see the style clash of “modern” Simpsons conflicting with established characters, as while characters in Seasons 10 and much of Season 11 have been given the fussy treatment to avoid excessive overbite and goofy features, they weren’t in too many scenes. Becky, on the other hand, is a central character, and her appearance and constant attire changes heavily contrast with our extremely simple Simpson men and the infamous-looking Simpson women (again, two women look like ladies of the evening from the town of Bedrock and Maggie’s onesie was stolen from Sweet Pea, discounting the hair). TL;DR, this is the first time you genuinely feel like a character was explicitly designed by horny people on the show, whereas other “attractive” characters, including Princess Cashmere, beforehand were just silly enough to avert all but the most perverted.
The family instantly bonds with Becky, pushing aside the old, stale nag that is Marge, and Marge becomes suspicious that Becky is trying to replace her despite nobody taking her seriously, leading to her going off the deep end and being committed. This tangent is poorly thought-out, considering Marge, despite a lack of depth, would often squash any attempts at considering thoughts of conspiracy by anyone around her. This is where Mike Scully proves that Mike Scully is incapable of doing anything besides “bonehead insipidness” as showrunner, as the rest of the family has no real concern that their mother and wife is being sent to an insane asylum, and later is an escaped patient, and the episode tries to paint it where Marge’s jealousy is what was the problem all along. But, no, we gotta do the “wacky as balls” ending where it turned out, uh oh; Becky DID want to kill Midge all along! ‘Cept she was just too lazy to follow through. Uh-oh, Spaghetti O’s! And that’s where we get Homer shooting her with the blow dart. Speaking of, this was the first time I genuinely felt Homer was… acting out of character as a child. I hadn’t paid much attention to earlier episodes like “Make Room for Lisa” (hell, I thought it was a “lost” episode) and “Kidney Trouble” that exhibited loutish behavior, yet between Homer’s elaborate siphoning of the wedding cake’s interior, telling Becky she’s fat, him treating Marge with scorn over mashed potatoes, not worrying about Marge’s mental state, and the ending… they love them some weird-ass Homer. This fails to mention the B-plot and it’s lack of resolution as Bart is just randomly shooting whatever for a school project (which the school shouldn’t even afford, despite cancelling geography), including an attempt to crush his own father (likely killing him) with a car, and suddenly they build a fairly adequate movie scene setting in the living room for whatever just so Marge could have one final freak-out? Man, fuck this episode.
The season ends with the experimental “Behind the Laughter”, based off of “Behind the Music” (or “Behind the Laughter” as Matt Selman kept butchering it when he described it on commentary, not able to separate episode from reality), which tried to paint the family as a family that played actors on a show called “The Simpsons” in a weird meta setting. Unfortunately, I was not in the target audience who watched “Behind the Music” on original airing, so I did not get the joke. Looking at it now, it completely makes sense and they understood “Behind the Music” very well, complete with tortured analogies, framing devices, a “Where Are They Now?” joke, and how the episodes typically had a format which depicted humble beginnings, the meteoric rise, catastrophic falls, and so forth. It’s surprisingly one of the best episodes from Seasons 11 and 12, but as I stated before, I don’t consider a “good” Season 11 episode a high quality Simpsons episode.
And… that does it. Ideally, I would prefer it if you had done Season 12, but I think I’ll post my thoughts on that myself since I want to close out the Scully Era eventually… maybe. I don’t have any thoughts on The Simpsons Movie besides that I wanted to see it in theaters but I couldn’t cause my mother didn’t trust me by myself, and despite it being viewed as a great film back in the late 2000s, it’s aged like milk due to it’s story structure and how much of an asshole Homer is.
Wow, you really let these episodes have it! Which I do like, but out of respect for your hatred of “Kill the Run of the Simpsons Series” I won’t phrase like the old lady from that episode.
I hope, despite your dislike of these episodes, you enjoy writing about them like this, because I can’t wait to see your thoughts on Season 12.
I probably will write my thoughts on Season 12, as I should at least provide closure. I can’t ramble endlessly like I would want to since I’ll be conveying over 20 episodes in short order, but I feel that I have put in my heart enough to the point that I could make my own Simpsons or animated blog to express these matters.
” There was an ignorant bliss to his inebriated state, which many people have argued, including you.”
Honestly, I’ve never gotten a whole lot of positive energy from Barney. I would argue that he comes across as sadly oblivious to the fact that nobody can stand him, like a lot of heavily intoxicated people.
I don’t know, I can understand why so many of the writers had issues with him. To my mind, there is something very, deeply disingenuous about the character. While I think the intention was to have a drunk character who is gross and physically disgusting in order to depict something of the ugly reality of inebriation, it is, fundamentally, a very “cute” representation of alcoholism. Ultimately, Barney’s perpetual intoxication comes off as more of a character eccentricity than a devastating personal and social problem. His alcoholism hurts no one except himself (and, that one time, Wade Boggs) – he doesn’t have a wife he’s going home and beating or kids he’s failing to support, nor is he going out and causing trouble in his local community. He leads a squalid lifestyle, sure, but it’s seldom played for pathos; his main function, in the early seasons, was more as a foil who made Homer look successful and together by comparison. He’s a caricature drunk who is pure clown and deals largely in the inspiration of schadenfreude, which doesn’t strike me as a massively insightful take on the subject.
(It’s not my intention to dissuade you from liking the character, btw, I just wanted to provide the counter perspective.)
No problem at all. But, like I said, it wasn’t like Barney was being glorified as a drunk, or that being an alcoholic was presented as this good thing in his life. He was presented as a dark, dismal reality Selma would likely be forced to settle with in life in “Principal Charming” that is one of the reasons why Patty decides she can’t marry Skinner. He gets pepper sprayed several times by Patty & Selma just by talking to them. It’s viewed that he’s clearly the least successful person at the Springfield High School class reunion, with a fly buzzing around his suit and his cummerbund having fallen into the toilet.
I do agree that his characterization was that he was someone so pathetic that Homer looked successful compared to him, particularly so in cases where Barney was dressed up as a giant baby or the time he woke up naked in an empty apartment, but my “ignorant bliss” was about how you never saw Barney truly bemoan or gripe about his place in life. Yeah, it was a horrible place for him to be, and of his own design, but it was something that you observed as he would randomly drink varnish after declaring he’d never box. If he was an abusive father or a public disturbance, than the character would not be funny (and some shows have attempted to do this, not to mention other cultures still feature such characters, like Andy Capp), I am fully aware, but in terms of where he was positioned, he worked perfectly given that he was constantly destroying himself and seemed okay with it.
This episode really bothers me since the staff grew to hate Barney and could’ve done a fascinating exploration about him, but instead it’s about him dealing with anxiety the few moments we do see him in between bouts of Homer being a spoiled brat, whining that all of a sudden, Barney is better than him cause he doesn’t want to dress up like Marge and lick the carpet anymore.
I don’t think it’s fair to say that Dan Castellaneta can’t write, because the only episodes he’s written were in the later seasons when the show had long past declined and every episode ends up the same way. Keep in mind that the Barney episode was originally meant for season four, but Al Jean rejected it because they were already working on “Duffless” at the time. Dan and his wife rewrote the script then presented it to Mike Scully years later, who loved the idea.
I really think the Scully era did a number on the writing across the board. You notice how much worse John Swartzwelder’s scripts got around this time? Or George Meyer’s contributions? Who knows how much of the original Barney script made it into the episode? If “Days of Wine and D’ohses” was produced in season four like it was meant to, it would have been way better. But you’re only as good as the people you work with, and The Simpsons has always been written by committee, so you get what you get.
I think even George Meyer said that as time went on, you saw less of the writer’s individual voice in the episodes.
The fact that Dan possibly can’t write makes me wonder how he managed to get a “Consulting Producer” credit since roughly 2009. Are his contributions all the annoying shit Homer says and does?
As for the episodes themselves, Again, I’ve watched Season 11 again recently and yep, I think these reviews sum it up right here. “Wine and D’ohses” is just a pointless Satus Quo change that’s reversed come Early Al Jean solo-era, and the plot with Bart and Lisa was pretty pointless (I won’t lie, I did chuckle at Play-Doh Factory gag though).
Kill the Show’s Dignity and Run” is pretty much part of what I consider part of the unholy trio of Season 11 alongside “Alone Again, Natural-Diddly” and “Saddlesore Galactica”. It’s one of the dumbest, numbest and painful experiences to sit through and the abundance of Early 2000s culture really makes this episode stick out in particular *coughkidrockcough*. Add in an over the top sherriff that basically gives up just arresting them and tries to kill them at a party (which impresses them, why?), a bonkers Second and Third aces (even for Season 11 standards) and a completely pointless and inane subplot about Homer becoming scared of his pending mid-life crisis and Frankly, it’s an episode I’d rather wish to forget. Also if the Simpsons are banned from every state but two, and assuming they either live in Chicago or North Tacoma as the show likes to switch between the two whenever it feels like, then why are they still living in that state in question? Does that mean they really do live in Arizona? God this episode is hurting my brain.
“Last Tap Dance in Springfield” is an episode I remember seeing quite a bit when it aired on TV back in the day. While I wouldn’t say it holds up well upon rewatch, I can say that it is one of the better episodes to come out of this season. Outside of anything Homer does, there’s a lot decent gags to be had, and for once, the cartoony nature of the Scully seasons actually works in its favor with the Bart sub-plot. While I do agree that Tress gets super annoying in the later seasons, there are indeed a handful of episodes where she does work to the episode’s favor instead of just being “Every incidental woman this episode”. And this is definitely one of those episodes, and a lot of that is thanks to her delivery and the way they just went all in on the old-timey vocal tic of Little VIcky.
“It’s a Madx4 Marge”, outside of some of the more blatantly dumb things like Otto’s wedding, Marge losing her car’s brakes (and Homer’s later admission), and the ending, I don’t really have much to say about it. It’s nothing more than a mostly forgettable episode for me, and there’s nothing that’s standout on either end besides the moments I mentioned.
For those who say “Behind the Laughter” should be the show’s finale, I both agree and disagree on that one. Let me explain myself. While yes, it’d be nice to have the show go out on a high point like this, at the same time, I feel Season 12, for all the shit it also delivers, should at least have made the series feel more complete in the grand scheme of things. In a perfect world, this is how the run of the show SHOULD have gone: 7-10 seasons (depending on who you ask) of mostly good or decent episodes, one season where things go bad, then at least one season where there’s almost nothing but shit, but it’d be easily forgotten shit and the show would not be known as “the series that just wouldn’t die”. As for the episode itself, even when I wasn’t familiar with Behind the Music itself, growing up, I was always a fan of finding out out how shows and movies were produced, and this one got me interested. Now as an adult, I can appreciate it more thanks to my familiarity with the source. Jim Forbes is probably the only guest star next to BTO they don’t waste this season (Parker Posey, Dennis Leary and Jim Cummings especially were wasted on the material they were given. The latter was Duncan the horse ffs, just get Frank Welker back to do it instead and call it a day).
Speaking of voice acting and the Simpsons, I failed to bring this up in Season 10, but it kind of sucks that Karl Wiedergott barely got anything to do during his time on the show. He always just slipped into the background and barely got any characters of his own outside of that dumb prospector, some celebrity impressions, the fake ned voice from last season and briefly voicing Legs (and from what I can tell, German Homer in next season’s “The Computer Wore Menace Shoes”). I always wondered why he never actually took up a more active career in voice acting, or why he got replaced by Chris Edgerly (who the staff seems to be treating much better by comparison given he’s gotten meatier one-off character spots) after 2010.
Simpsons Sing the Blues is an amusing piece of early era Simpsons kitsch but The Yellow Album is hot fuckin’ garbage that everyone involved should be embarrassed to have been a part of.
I think every Simpsons obsessive should give both a listen through at least once though.
I know the Simpsons Archives reviews are chosen to contrast what you are writing, but they are such a highlight in a “are we talking about the same episode?” kind of way.
Glad to see some love for ‘Last Tap Dance in Springfield’, an underrated and overlooked gem because it’s buried at the back of season 11, wedged in between two pieces of crap.
Welp, bit late of a reply but who cares about that right?
“Days of Wine and (Annoyed Grunt)-ses” is probably one of the most pointless episodes in the show’s history. Like, why does it exist? You make Barney Gumble vow sobriety and literally seasons later you completely forget about it and make Barney go back to being a drunk. But it’s like I said earlier, Modern Simpsons just doesn’t give a shit about Barney like the classic seasons did. Lenny and Carl have pretty much completely taken over. And don’t get me started on how we’ve seen sober Barney done so soooo much better in classic episodes like “Mr. Plow,” “Deep Space Homer,” and “A Star is Burns.” At least this episode does have some choice good moments like the mailman tape and the Burt Reynolds cameo but in the end, this episode deserves a slip of morning-after stationary and write “for existing” below “I am deeply sorry for…”
“Kill the Alligator and Run” is one of the worst things to be shat out of the Scully dark age. The only Scully episode worse than this is “Simpson Safari.” I think everyone’s talked about how garbage the plot is so allow me to take a certain horrible line that I feel doesn’t get talked about enough. When Homer completes that stupid test the then bemoans that “I won’t even live to see my children die!” I fucking hate that line, if it doesn’t perfectly sum up Jerkass Homer, than I don’t know what does.
“Last Tapdance of Springfield” is at least decent. I’m glad to see how upbeat were about this episode considering your tone was a lot bitter from your original review of it, especially considering your more bitter tone with your re-reviews of “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?” and “Pygmoelian.” I personally don’t think “Last Tapdance” is as good as those other two, but it’s still one of the bright spots of this godawful season. I would kill for tappa-tappa-tappa.
“It’s a Mad x4 Marge” drives me absolutely mad in how awful it is. Sure, I guess there are a few choice laughs but seeing Marge go crazy over this nobody lady who she thinks is going to kill her is not fun at all. Oh, and the music video twist at the end is another instance of the show jumping the shark.
At least like last season we can end on a high note with the best Season 11 episode “Behind the Laughter.” Great parody of Behind the Music, Forbes was a great announcer, and why oh why did this not end the series? *Angry yawn*
I guess now I might as well briefly talk about Season 12. It’s not as terrible as Season 11. However, it’s also not as good as Season 11. Like the previous two disastrous seasons, there are plenty of good jokes scattered throughout, even in some of the shitty episodes. Plus, it gave us “Trilogy of Error.” But make no mistake, Season 12 is indeed the beginning of Zombie Simpsons. I like to call Season 12 “Zombie Simpsons: Season 0.” Basically, I see Seasons 10-12 to ZS as I see the Ullman shorts to Classic Simpsons.
Episodes from Season 10-12 that I will save from a burning bus in a scrap heap and not kick out of bed:
“Lard of the Dance,” “D’oh-in in the Wind,” “Lisa Gets an ‘A’,” “Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken,” “Mom and Pop Art,” “They Saved Lisa’s Brain,” “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo,” “Brother’s Little Helper,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Criticize Dinner?” “Treehouse of Horror X,” “Pygmoelian,” “Last Tapdance in Springfield,” “Behind the Laughter,” “Lisa the Treehugger,” “HOMR,” “Pokey Mom,” “Hungry, Hungry Homer,” “Trilogy of Error”