464. Judge Me Tender

judgemetenderOriginal airdate: May 23, 2010

The premise: Moe discovers an impressive talent: being able to scathingly judge things, to hilarious effect. The crowds love him, eventually leading to him being on American Idol. Meanwhile, with Moe gone, Marge finds herself smothered by Homer being stuck in the house all the time.

The reaction: Wherein the Simpsons staff willfully presents and takes it in the ass in the name of FOX synergy. Way, way back, the show did an X-Files crossover, but its focus was on telling an interesting story, managing to skewer and honor the sci-fi show in the process. Here, it’s just Moe does American Idol. The show even already did a sort of Idol parody when Krusty had his Star Search rip-off in season 16 or something, and even that had a helluva lot more teeth than this. We have all our judges and Ryan Seacrest do voices, and the show feels even more dated since Ellen and that other broad aren’t on the show anymore. But their characters are just themselves doing the things they do in real life, and such cutting jabs like making fun of Simon for always wearing a black shirt! And Ellen dances a lot! Ooooooh! No satire about themselves or the show, it’s just whorish cross promotion, as plain and simple as can be. Since there’s not enough plot to fill with that, we have the Homer-Marge thing… like…… whatever. I’m reminded why I’m ending this blog with this episode.

Three items of note:
– So two shows ago we had Moe’s being the hippiest bar in town, and now we’re back to people being so disgusted with him, they’d rather burn the chair next to them than allow him to sit next to them. So forget inconsistency from show to show, we can’t get consistency within the same scene. Moe heckles Krusty twice, to big laughs from the crowd. Then when Moe is offered to get on stage, everyone applauds wildly. Boy, what an easily swayed group. The scene ends with the crowd cheering his name and Moe scoring with Lindsay Naegle. What?
– The agent listing off all the fake reality show names probably took up a good chunk of time in the writer’s room. Time well spent, guys!
– I’m pretty sure Homer’s “They charge you for parts and labor! Pick one!” joke has been done a good four times at this point.

One good line/moment: Nothing.

463. The Bob Next Door

bobnextdoorOriginal airdate: May 16, 2010

The premise: The Simpsons get a new neighbor, and Bart suspects that he might be Sideshow Bob in disguise. But when none of his plans to expose him work, and Marge takes him to confirm that Bob is indeed still in prison, his concerns are placated… but it turns out that he was right all along.

The reaction: As I’ve said many times before, season 8’s “Brother From Another Series” feels like the final Bob episode to me. But beyond that, season 19’s “Funeral for a Fiend” also felt like a second capper, where Bob fakes his own death, and ends with his wife, son, brother and parents all behind bars. But there’s still more of that dead horse to beat yet! So the idea of Bob assuming his prison cellmate’s identity when he was up for parole and posing as him isn’t that bad, I suppose; a lot of the episode just plays out by-the-numbers, checking off all of the Bob staples. But the faces peeling off… my God… and between the operation and both characters having their faces fall off, it’s just relentless grossness. I guess it’s trying to be shocking, but it ends up feeling like a Treehouse of Horror bit with no punchline. Wrap it all up with an irony-free Bob scheme to ultimately do Bart in which makes no sense, and we have yet another completely lifeless Bob outing.

Three items of note:
– Bart’s flashbacks to previous Bob episodes where he recognizes his neighbor’s memorable voice are kind of odd, since they’re fullscreen and not in HD. Also, it, of course, makes me wish I was watching those other episodes.
– The guard instigating the prisoners lewd cat calls felt kind of awkward considering Marge had Bart in tow with her. The convicts immediately backing off when Marge announced she was married made me smirk, but it’s a joke that was executed a lot better in “Marge on the Lam.” (“Listen, baby, I always get what I want.” “I said no!” “Oh, did you? I completely misunderstood, please accept our apologies.”)
– Bob’s scheme of police jurisdiction not being able to cross at the five corners already doesn’t make any sense, but then at the end, the cops that cuff him just walk across two lines. It really does feel like no one’s paying attention at all when they’re making this show, which I guess they expect no one in the audience is either.

One good line/moment: Marge criticizes the clarity of Walt/Bob’s warnings on the prison wall, to which he replies, “I’m not a writer.” Homer follows it up, “And I’m not a locksmith!” and proceeds to pry a door open with a shovel.

462. Moe Letter Blues

moeletterbluesOriginal airdate: May 9, 2010

The premise: Whilst on a getaway cruise with their kids, Homer, Apu and Tim Lovejoy receive a mysterious letter from Moe, who announces he will be leaving town forever with one of their wives in tow. The three men must think back to figure out what made their significant others so discontented that they would fall into the slovenly bartender’s open arms.

The reaction: I’m hesitant saying I think the writers were trying to make this a somewhat serious episode… but with all the “tense” moments and the attempts to link all of the flashbacks together in some way, it feels that way to me. Of course it’s all nonsense and none of it is emotionally impacting whatsoever. I mean, what am I supposed to feel, exactly? I know none of their wives are going to leave, and especially not with Moe; this might be believable with literally any other character but him. Plus, Homer and Apu’s family life we know, but we’ve barely seen any of Helen Lovejoy for many many seasons (and Jessica randomly appears?) But in the end, turns out it was Moe’s plan to help these three idiots save their marriage, but arranging incredibly nice things for all of them. Why in the ever loving fuck would he do this? So not only is he incredibly, cripplingly lonely, but he’ll go extremely out of his way to help the married folk of Springfield? This shit don’t make no sense to me.

Three items of note:
– The Homer/Patty and Selma dynamic has felt really, really off for over a decade at this point; the two sisters are much better making snidey comments that chip away at Homer then just blatantly insulting him to his face. Also, Homer’s retort in this show is calling them “penis-curling she-devils.” I never want to hear him say that ever again.
– Funtendo Zii returns at Moe’s, but this time with their DDR ripoff, Dance Dance Evolution. And apparently Moe had enough money to purchase the game system, dance pad and a giant flatscreen TV. I guess he’s got the money since Moe’s is so damn popular, as we see from the first scene, completely crowded with our regular characters, including those who make no sense to be there, like Burns and Quimby. Moe’s is a fucking dive bar that’s falling apart where sadsack losers like Homer go to waste their lives away. What is this shit I am watching?
– My God, the ending is so fucking tedious. Such unbelievably phony “tension” as we arrive at each house to see… that marriage is safe. We see the husband relief scene play out in its entirety all three times, and it does nothing but kill time, since we know nothing was going to happen anyway. Also, Marge’s mother understanding Homer was “innocent” because she knows Patty and Selma are “evil”? What?

One good line/moment: The boat smashing into the dock at Weasel Island and exploding. Random and stupid, but it was the only thing I smirked at the whole show. Also, it was a moment where something actually happened.

461. To Surveil With Love

tosurveilwithlove(enjoy the nightmares caused by this framegrab!)

Original airdate: May 2, 2010

The premise: When an incident of typical Springfieldian idiocy is mistaken for an act of terrorism, an English security consultant is hired, who proceeds to install cameras around the entire town. Citizens are hired to monitor them all, and none takes to it more than Ned Flanders, who revels in being able to correct the misdeeds and sinful acts across the entirety of Springfield.

The reaction: Another unfocused episode that feels all over the place. We start leading up to the national security incident, which involves Smithers sneaking nuclear material into Homer’s duffel bag for some reason. Then Springfield can apparently afford to hire an outside British consultant to help with their security problems and install cameras everywhere. So it’s an episode about the slippery slope of protecting one’s freedoms by invading their privacy and infringing on people’s liberties? This show can still do satire, right? Like that great episode “Bart-Mangled Banner”? Doesn’t matter, the show then ends up focusing on Flanders, who finds his dream job amongst the hundreds of surveillance screens, tsk tsking his way across town on whatever he deems inappropriate (read: everything). So more turning Flanders into the ultra-conservative mega-prude antagonist, lumbering along to a limp wristed “twist” ending, where the show once again shoots for nostalgia points with Prince Charles quoting a season 6 Ralph line. Same with the Shary Bobbins cameo… who turns into a Terminator for some reason. Oh, there’s also an unnecessary and empty B-story with Lisa’s discouragement that people joke about blondes being dumb. Le sigh.

Three items of note:
– This episode is semi-notorious for its opening; in lieu of the regular title sequence, we get a new segment of everyone lip syncing to Kesha’s “Tik Tok,” which seemed to have infuriated nerds all across the Internet when it aired. Apparently it was a mandate from FOX, who was holding “FOX Rocks Week,” “encouraging” all their shows to include some kind of musical element. So how can we read “encouraging”? That they were forced to do this? Or the Simpsons staff just rolled over and slapped this together? Regardless, even if they did cave, you’d think they could come up with something more original, or even something that poked fun at the network mandate to begin with. But no, it’s just like a straight music video with little softball gags thrown in that tie into the song’s lyrics. Once again the show proves depressing in how amazingly uncreative it is.
– It really is so sad hearing Tress MacNeille voicing Doris. They retired the character and left her silent for a good decade, before bringing her back on a rare occasion. It’s almost as if they were waiting for the old fans to drop off, and the casual ones to not remember or not be bothered by it. Usually she’s given a token line, but here where she has a back and forth bit with Milhouse in complete sentences, it feel so, so wrong. It doesn’t even sound remotely like Grau. Why oh why didn’t they just create a new cafeteria worker? Because that would mean creating a new regular character, which the show clearly isn’t interested in. Who’s the last reoccurring secondary… hell, tertiary character they introduced that you can think of? The best I can come up with is Crazy Cat Lady from season 9.
– Almost as horrible as the bit of Smithers leaving and re-entering the bar to overhear Homer, Lenny and Carl badmouthing him, we have Marge finding the wild party in her backyard and muttering to herself in the front yard so Flanders can overhear her exposition (“I don’t want to get Homer in trouble, but it’s just plain wrong to use that blind spot to turn our backyard into a mecca of misdemeanors!”) Flanders then calls Rod to hold a mirror out the window so he can see. Also, it seems that guy’s at the surveillance HQ 24/7, what’s happening with Rod and Todd? Doesn’t matter, all characters are just props now and appear and disappear when needed.

One good line/moment: The opening with Duffman and the cheerleaders appearing at Moe’s, the direction at the start feels almost exactly like his first appearance in “The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson.” So basically I was pleased thinking about that episode. I guess the show’s nostalgia fumes work every once and a while.

460. The Squirt and the Whale

squirtandthewhaleOriginal airdate: April 25, 2010

The premise: A massive wind storm in Springfield causes a whale to become beached onto shore. Lisa of course takes a vested interest, but any effort to move the creature comes up short. When the whale dies, Lisa is crestfallen, before realizing there are baby whales to protect, currently being hunted by a troupe of sharks.

The reaction: As usual, there’s so little plot here. We don’t even get to the whale until literally the halfway mark, once we get through the show’s take/promotion of wind powered energy. The joke? Once there’s no more wind, there’s no more power! There really just isn’t anything here. They try to move the whale, it dies, we see Lisa is sad over a long montage, then she sees the baby whales. Homer inexplicably appears from nowhere to help Lisa, then some environmentalists block them, also coming from nowhere, looking to protect the sharks, because all sea creatures’ lives are equal. This one piece of dialogue causes Lisa to have a random change of heart, as illustrated by a push-in on her face during said dialogue. Then some stupid shit with Homer in danger, and a gigantic fucking whale picking him up out of the water and safely back in his own boat with no one acknowledging how fucking bizarre and crazy that is. Just another wacky day in Springfield!

Three items of note:
– The Energy Expo at the beginning is so sad. This is the kind of set piece you would relish in the early years, full of joke after joke after joke. I remember the similar energy convention from “Last Temptation of Homer,” with Hans Moleman’s solar energy booth being ransacked by big oil, and the subtitle of SNPP’s booth, “As Seen on 60 Minutes.” What jokes do we have here? Kid power by Ralph? Burp power by Barney? Really, guys? That’s the best you could come up with?
– Even with the main story as compressed as it is, we get so much useless time filler: Lisa’s dream of the whale being free, the town blowing up the whale and harvesting it for profit, and Lisa’s montage of being sad about the whale, in case you forgot that she was, I guess.
– I think Dead Homers pointed this out when it aired, but it’s pretty extraordinary. Homer’s being encircled by sharks, this is our “drama” portion of the show. Then in the next shot, Lisa and the environmentalists shout some stuff to him, and we see the sharks start swimming away. Yeah, they’re just leaving. What? And why is no one acknowledging this? Then Homer gets hit with a bucket and starts bleeding and the sharks come back. Couldn’t they have made this into a coherent gag? Like the sharks notice something else and start to leave, they try and throw Homer something to hold onto, he gets hit and starts bleeding, which attract the sharks back. Instead, it’s like no one’s even paying attention to the show they’re making. It’s really bizarre…

One good line/moment: Lisa pushes away Homer’s harpoon at the last moment, causing it to strike a seagull in the distance. It doesn’t just get killed, it literally explodes into a puff of feathers. It’s so quick and bizarrely violent, that it’s kinda great.