684. The Way of the Dog

Original airdate: May 17, 2020

The premise: When Santa’s Little Helper starts exhibiting signs of extreme trauma, the Simpsons enlist the help of a renowned dog psychologist (voiced by Cate Blanchett) to figure out what’s wrong with him.

The reaction: Nothing like ending the season of your comedy program with an over dramatic tale of the family dog’s newly emerged traumatic past. Also it’s a Christmas episode! They couldn’t have saved this shit for December? The Simpsons are concerned when Santa’s Little Helper starts acting depressed. Enter Elaine Wolff, a woman who delves deep into a dog’s psyche, seeming to prefer them over human beings. The episode is all seemingly centered around the big reveal of what the fuck SLH’s deal is, as the family worries over him and the dog shrink agrees to take their case. She takes SLH back to her dog institute or whatever and monitors him, trying to get to the core of his traumatic affliction. At this point, we’re getting multiple scenes of her and the dog, and then her would-be suitor voiced by Michael York tries to propose to her and she refuses… I honestly hadn’t a clue what the hell I was watching. Does anyone really give that much of a shit that the dog is sad? I say this as a huge lover of dogs, but really, this story is just so boring. Finally, the dog shrink starts to crack the case: SLH was initially triggered by a Santa hat Marge took out of the Xmas decorations box, the very same hat that Bart wore thirty-one years (or however much time has gone by in-universe) to the dog track when they first got the mutt in the first place. They track down SLH’s original owner at his farm to get some answers. Turns out SLH misses his mother, as we see in flashbacks of him and his siblings as pups. Previously we saw the dog staring at a stain with three dots on the side of the cupboard morosely, which we find were meant to remind him of his mom’s teats, which is a bit strange. The show ends with SLH and his mother reunited, as everyone, including SLH’s original bastard owner, looks on teary eyed as Barbra Streisand belts out “The Way We Were.” Hey, isn’t this some kind of comedy show? What is this disgustingly saccharine display? When Bart realizes the fateful origins of his Santa hat, we cut to a clip for reference from “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” and really, what an utterly revealing compare and contrast. The very first Christmas special, a biting send-up on overly emotional and empty-headed holiday affairs, wherein Homer, our lovable every man hero, can’t catch a break in this horrible, cruel world, but through dumb luck manages to stumble into a happy ending by bringing home a dog for Christmas. SLH leaps into his arms and Homer takes pity on him, a sweet moment that feels genuine and motivated by everything he’s gone through in the story: he sees himself in the dog at his lowest point (“He’s a loser! He’s pathetic! He’s… a Simpson.”) Six hundred and eighty three episodes later, we get this show, a super dramatic build-up to showing the depressed dog actually has PTSD after being separated from his mother, leading his previous owner to be tracked down, slapped and admonished repeatedly, and then the dog reunites with his mommy and everybody’s happy. What in the ever loving mother of a fuck is this? The very little strands of DNA that this show still shares with its most formidable years are so few and far between, but this may be the episode that feels the most removed from the original show that I’ve ever seen.  At times it’s not even trying to be funny, playing SLH’s distressed state and the dog shrink’s methods and practices completely straight. Like, I’m kind of at a loss in how to even talk about this, it was just so bizarre. Last week I talked about how this show is basically doing nothing but regurgitating ideas it’s already done, or from other shows or movies, but this certainly feels new to me, in that the original series, or any other good comedy, would never try and do something this unabashedly schmaltzy and treacly. Pair this with “Playdate With Destiny” for the perfect double feature of anti-Simpsons. What a way to close the season.

Three items of note:
– This episode vaguely reminded me of one from a few seasons back (or maybe like ten years back? Honestly, it’s hard to remember), the one that was about Homer missing his childhood dog that Abe got rid of because it bit Mr. Burns or something? I remember thinking how cloying and incredibly saccharine that was then, but I got a feeling this episode has that one beat. I hope they never make another SLH episode again, how can they possibly top this? If they did “Two Dozen and One Greyhounds” today, She’s the Fastest giving birth would be the climax, with loving shots of the proud parents and their puppies as the Simpsons look on adoringly. Holy shit.
– In trying to convince Homer to let them go to the dog shrink’s seminar, Lisa opts for a new tactic (“Dad, I need to tell you something, but I’ve come to the sad conclusion that you have difficulty hearing the female voice.”) So she has Bart ask Homer for her, to which he understands and accepts. Many have griped and complained about Lisa’s insufferable liberal/feminist/rabble rouser characterization, of which most of those criticisms have been pretty valid, but this “gag” might be one of the strangest of all. So Homer’s a big misogynist now? They have him dismiss Lisa after that first line (“Awww, I love you too, honey!”) but he’s not ignoring her “female voice,” he’s talking down to her as a kid. There have been plenty of gags at Lisa and Bart’s expenses of him not taking them seriously because they’re children, so I really don’t get it. Maybe next season that radical girl group that recruited Bart can teach Homer how to GET WOKE. I  CAN’T WAIT.
– The ending is just so bizarre, where the family confront SLH’s original owner, who talks about how he tore the poor pup from his mother to make him race, prompting the dog shrink and the Simpsons to repeatedly slap him over it. Like, yeah, he’s a piece of shit, that’s incredibly clear. It’s like this weird moralizing about how awful dog racing is? It’s just so fucking weird. The Simpsons used to exist in a world where most everything was pretty shitty, a world full of scammers, lowlifes and generally pretty dumb people, but the hope spots came in how the Simpson family and other characters would boost each other up to stay afloat. In “Open Fire,” it’s clear that SLH’s owner was pretty shitty, chasing him out of the dog park (“You’ve come in last for the last time!”) We didn’t need Bart to turn to the camera and say, he’s abusing that dog, man! Not cool! Ugh.

And there you have it, another season to toss in the garbage can. I’ve noticed some commenters either saying themselves or speculating about my thoughts that this is the worst season of the show yet. Honestly, I’m not sure. Season 28 still sticks out in my mind with that distinct honor. When I re-opened the blog a few years back, I covered seven seasons in nine months, with season 28 being the last, and even after being inundated non-stop by hundreds of awful episodes, season 28 still stood out as being particularly awful to me. The seasons that followed also had the benefit of spaced out over time since I watched them live, so it’s really hard to judge, especially since so much of the episodes have (thankfully) faded from memory. But make no mistake, this season was real shit, with “Go Big or Go Homer,” “Todd, Todd, Why Hast Thou Forsaken Me?,” “Bart the Bad Guy,” “Warrin’ Priests” and this season finale sitting atop the dung heap. We also had “Thanksgiving of Horror” as the sole bright spot in a dark season. Does that spell any potential hope in a better season 32? No. No it does not. Even if one good episode sneaks by, we’re still left with twenty-one brand new, absolutely ghastly half-hours. CAN’T WAIT FOR SEPTEMBER!

683. The Hateful Eight-Year-Olds

Original airdate: May 10, 2020

The premise: Lisa is excited for a sleepover at her new friend Addy’s house, but quickly finds herself the subject of ridicule of her snobby rich friends. With nowhere else to turn, Lisa enlists Bart’s help to rescue her and enact her own revenge.

The reaction: It’s pretty impressive that despite coming off an incredibly empty two-parter where it felt like nothing was happening, this episode felt like the most boring show I’ve seen in a while. We open with the Simpsons finally checking their mailbox after it’s stuffed almost to bursting, and Lisa discovers an invitation to a sleepover. At first I thought she would be bummed that she had already missed it since no one’s checked the mail in weeks, but I guess that opening bit didn’t matter, because next thing we know she’s packing her bags for it. Said sleepover is at Addy’s house, a girl she met at the library, who lives in a palatial estate with horses. There, Lisa meets Addy’s three other friends, girls who act like what the 50-year-old writer Joel H. Cohen assumes stuck up young girls nowadays act like, or rather what he and the other writers have seen on current teen shows like 13 Reasons Why and Riverdale (the girls are voiced by the actresses from that show). These little bitches immediately target Lisa to mock her, and Addy joins in on the bullying. Lisa repeatedly tries to call her parents to come get her, but they’re busy rocking out on a booze cruise so they’re of no help. This repeats like two or three times until she eventually calls Bart, who arrives via Lyft to help out. This being a Matt Selman produced show, the episode attempts to actually have two emotional pay-offs by the end: the show began with Bart and Lisa having a scuffle, with Lisa announcing she’s severing their sibling ties, and by the end, they’re back in each other’s corners. Bart helps Lisa prank the girls who ragged on her, and Lisa helps Bart get over his fear of horses (she helpfully narrates, “You didn’t let me quit when I was scared!”) They escape on horseback, but are quickly cornered by the four girls. Lisa convinces Addy to just be herself and not put up with the other girls’ having power over her, so she incapacitates them (she tells Lisa before she leaves, “You were my best gift!”) This is all well and good, but it’s incredibly basic storytelling we’ve seen a billion times before, and all done with characters and situations that I couldn’t care less about. Lisa is trapped in a house with a bunch of insipid stereotypes, but really, who cares? And all we know about Lisa and Addy’s relationship is they both like books, and reading books is totally not cool according to the three cool girls. Again, who gives a shit? This show is seriously just so boring, it’s all just regurgitation of stuff they’re already done, or things I’ve seen done on a hundred other shows. This season can’t be over fast enough…

Three items of note:
– As this series enters its fourth decade on the air, its portrayal of the cool kids changes with each passing generation. Bella Ella, Sloan and Tessa Rose are flat pastiches of privileged children the writers have either seen on TV or kids of rich celebrities they know, yammering on about kombucha, bronzer, and making videos go viral on InstaSnap. They represent nothing that mean anything to Lisa other than they’re just TV bullies who happened to be bitchy rich girls the commoner audience should automatically hate. We’ve seen a couple episodes over the course of the series featuring Lisa being thrust into whatever the current popular flock of girls is at that particular cultural moment, but the show I was thinking about during this was “Lard of the Dance.” First airing in 1998, this episode also featured Lisa feeling out of sorts fitting in with a more “modern” kid like Alex Whitney. And while it still featured then-relevant pop culture references to Calvin Klein and Titanic, most of them were pretty off-hand, and moreover, the episode was actually about something: the pressure for young girls to grow up faster, and Lisa feeling uncomfortable with that, and as a result, feeling left behind. Alex was a bit of a stereotypical character, but she served a story function that thematically played into the episode, and actually had a bit of nuance, portraying her as snobby, but always congenial to Lisa, despite her reservations. Meanwhile, “Hateful” is an episode about nothing, featuring stock characters who represent nothing going through a predictable story that I don’t care about.
– Homer and Marge rock out on a booze cruise in what I don’t know if I can even call a B-plot. Homer ends up fighting with the band and knocking the bar off the ship, the other passengers get mad, and Homer placates them with a speech and oh my God who cares. Also we initially see the Michael Rappaport character from the beginning of the season get onto the boat and I was terrified that he was going to have a reappearance. Thank God he was just a voiceless extra.
– The episode ends with Weezer performing the Simpsons theme song, which I just fast-forwarded through. It reminded me of the opening of The Simpsons Movie where Green Day performed the theme, and then again during the end credits, but their appearance actually introduced the environmental theme of the film, and also ended in their quick demise (a shockingly mean joke at a celebrity’s expense in the show’s modern era that I appreciated). Here, it’s just a random coda at the end of the episode of them performing on the booze cruise to rapturous cheering. I mean, I like Weezer, but they’re kind of an older band. Who is this for? How big of an eternally apologetic super fan must you be to be entertained about a minute segment of a band performing the theme song before the end credits? Pointless filler bullshit.

682. Warrin’ Priests (Part Two)

Original airdate: May 3, 2020

The premise: Having uncovered Bode’s most terrible secret, Lovejoy returns to Springfield to expose their newly beloved reverend, inflaming the town’s ire and shaking Lisa’s newfound renewed faith.

The reaction: So here we have part two, and I still have no idea why they made this a two-parter. After a brief recap, the entirety of act one is all just repeating information we already know: Bode is a hit with the people of Springfield, Lisa admires him as a wise man of faith, and Lovejoy discovers Bode’s secret in Michigan. While he rushes back home to reveal the truth, we get some time-filling fluff with Bode vs. Ned Flanders, which really doesn’t culminate to anything. They scratch the surface of what Ned’s gripes are, but he and Bode never have much of a back-and-forth that amounts to anything interesting. Instead, their showdown in church is interrupted by a musical number from Lisa about how much she loves Bode, more fluff to pad the runtime out. Finally, at minute 15 of the episode, Lovejoy returns for the big reveal: as part of a sermon as a young pastor, Bode burned a Bible. The congregation immediately turns on him, resulting in a “trial” between him and Lovejoy, where he doesn’t even attempt to try and give an explanation, nor does the crowd demand to hear one. Also, that was the big reveal? Why would the townspeople, who at the start of part one couldn’t get the hell out of church fast enough, care so deeply now about burning a Bible? I guess what the intention was is that Bode reinvigorated the townspeople’s faith, and this represents the ultimate betrayal of the religious tenants he stood for. I guess? But their reaction is less disillusionment and betrayal, and more just standard Springfield angry mob stuff (Moe yells out, “We’ve mobbed for less, people!”) Post-trial, Lisa meets with Bode where he finally explains himself: by burning the Bible, he was trying to illustrate how people put too much stock in the literal word and symbolic nature of the Good Book and not the actual message. Lisa rebuffs that symbolism like that is way too deep for her fellow dullard citizens. And so, Bode just leaves town and the episode is over. No resolution for Lovejoy, no final statement about any of the spiritual themes or meanings behind this two episode opus, just absolutely nothing. What a completely flaccid outing. As mentioned for part one, for all of the sermonizing Pete Holmes does in both of these episodes, I honestly don’t know what the point of all of this was. The concept of instilling Springfield with a practical, malleable version of faith could be an interesting one, but that idea goes completely unexplored and goes nowhere, over the course of two episodes. Both parts of “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” are chock full of set-ups and pay-offs, great character stuff, the building and unraveling of a mystery, and laughs, laughs and more laughs. “The Great Phatsby” buffered its two parts with two B-stories to kill time. But “Warrin’ Priests” is just the A-story, and it’s a pretty shocking display of how little they manage to fill the time with. A wholly unremarkable outing.

Three items of note:
– The couch gag this week was some bizarre home-movie style thing where the Simpsons are eating outside with some horses? I eventually surmised this must be a parody of a show I wasn’t familiar with, but “thankfully” the show just flat-out told me that, showing a Kent Brockman report with the on-screen title “SHOW PARODIES OTHER SHOW.” Afterward, I figured out this was their tribute to the opening title of HBO’s “Succession,” and once again I’ll say for the ten millionth time that a) recreating a thing doesn’t count as a parody if there’s not a lick of satire to be found, and b) a good parody should still play to the people who don’t specifically know the source material. Having never seen the show, I have no fucking idea what this was supposed to be. Any readers out there big “Succession” fans? If so, please let me know how loud you laughed at the opening of this episode.
– Marge warns Lisa not to get her hopes up too much over Bode, drawing her attention to the vision board of disappointment conveniently hanging in her kitchen. On it are photos of characters and moments from previous episodes: Mr. Bergstrom, Princess the pony, Bleeding Gums Murphy, Lisa teaching Mr. Burns about recycling, and Jesse Grass. All but one of these moments are from the show’s golden era, with the lone outlier being from season 12, an episode that aired almost twenty years ago. As usual, when this show does direct callbacks, it is always something from the show’s most respected years, and it’s always the clearest indicator of how completely disposable and forgettable the last twenty years of the show have been. Where’s Laney Fontaine, the Broadway star Lisa went on tour with? Or Chloe, Marge’s high school friend and roving reporter  Lisa idolized? Lisa’s Wiccan friends? That homeless musician who was a drug addict? They’re not on that board because nobody gives a flying fuck about those episodes, and for good reason.
– Lovejoy’s trip to Michigan takes him to the doorstep of the megachurch Bode previously worked at, which only served to remind me of the wonderful HBO series The Righteous Gemstones, a very biting and truly brilliant satire on televangelist empires. Seeing the tepid jokes on display here on the subject (product placement in the stadium, the preacher being at the ready with a go bag of cash), it couldn’t be clearer how this thirty-one-year old show has been totally left in the dust by its sharper contemporaries.
– One bonus tidbit: balking at Bode’s Bible burning, Lisa comments, “Why couldn’t you have burned one of Bill O’Reilly’s books? There are so many!!” When I was a kid, my conservative father got me the best-selling book “The O’Reilly Factor For Kids,” and in a rare act of teenage rebellion, I burned it in a bonfire with some of my friends. What a little hellraiser I was. Also I am now looking at the five star Amazon ratings for the book and I’m getting sad so let me just close out this window…

681. Warrin’ Priests (Part One)

Original airdate: April 26, 2020

The premise: A new hip youth pastor, Bode, rolls into Springfield, quickly supplanting Reverend Lovejoy as the new town favorite man of God. Discouraged, Lovejoy travels to Bode’s hometown in Michigan to see what he can dig up about this mysterious stranger.

The reaction: Two-part episodes are certainly a rarity for this series. First we have the classic “Who Shot Mr. Burns?” saga, the brilliant mystery cliffhanger spoof. Over twenty years later, we got “The Great Phatsby,” a ridiculous affair involving Burns getting swindled by a famous rapper and his posse, or something stupid like that. Although, that episode aired in one night within an hour time slot, whereas our latest two-parter “Warrin’ Priests” is running as two separate shows. It’s difficult to discuss this episode and its story’s worth having only seen one part, so let’s table that discussion for now. This episode is also notable as it’s credited to comedian Pete Holmes, who I like fair enough. I’ve heard him as a guest star on a few podcasts I like (I have not listened to his own You Made It Weird show), and I enjoyed the first season of his HBO series Crashing, the semi-autographical series where he essentially plays a young version of himself, a good Christian boy who decides to become a stand-up comic. In this show, Holmes is also effectively playing himself as “Bode,” espousing what I assume are some form of his views and beliefs on God and religion. There are long stretches of the second half that are basically him sermonizing (in one case, a literal sermon), quickly winning the town over with his outlook on the world. However, for all his talking, his viewpoints appear to be incredibly simplistic: acceptance of everyone in all walks of life, and forgiveness for all, or something like that. All the dialogue feels incredibly rambling and off-the-cuff, so that was my best summation. How this connects to the people of Springfield? No way specifically. Bode’s first big win comes from playing guitar and singing a new arrangement of Amazing Grace, nothing really that exciting, but apparently enough for the black choir leader to bizarrely praise, “This is the most exciting thing that ever happened in a white church!!” Later, the people in the pews comment how they’re moved throughout the sermon and give Bode a three cheers at the end. But there’s no real specific connection between Bode and the people of Springfield, outside of him and Lisa bonding over meditation, which doesn’t really go anywhere. In terms of how Bode contrasts with Tim Lovejoy, we see within the opening where the few patrons of church can’t bolt out of Lovejoy’s Sunday mass fast enough. The dark dismal church Lovejoy presides over is later bathed in holy light when Bode takes charge. It’s all very simplistic, without delving much into these two characters and how they differ ideologically. Lovejoy is immediately irked by Bode and is antagonistic toward him, but for no real reason. It’s not like they butt heads on approach or outlook, so I guess it’s just Lovejoy being protective of his home turf. In the first half, we see him choking and struggling to talk at points, later proving to be his undoing at the start of mass, where he is unable to speak at all, leading Bode to take over and everything goes downhill from there. But Lovejoy speaks just fine after mass, and it’s never brought up again. I thought maybe it would lead to some kind of crisis for Lovejoy that would motivate him to rekindle his love of his job and win back his flock, but perhaps this plot thread will be picked up in part 2? The cliffhanger involves Lovejoy traveling to Bode’s hometown in Michigan and finding a damning article about him. Oh no, what scandalous information has been uncovered about this character we literally just met, know barely anything about, and who has no real connection or hold over any character we care about? STAY TUNED, EVERYONE!

Three items of note:
– I recall an episode a while back where a new reverend supplanted Lovejoy in popularity (“Pulprit Friction,”) but I don’t remember much about it. The more easily apparent analogue to this show is “In Marge We Trust,” where Marge as the Listen Lady quickly becomes the new church favorite. In that episode, we see how Marge actually listens to each person, lending a kind ear and giving honest advice, contrasted with Lovejoy, who has clearly checked out and can’t be bothered. We see them directly talk about these differences when we learn about Lovejoy’s past (“But you can’t let a few bad experiences sour you on helping people!” “Oh, sure I can!”) There are even scenes that feel like direct parallels; both episodes feature a scene outside of church where a crowd gathers around the new church favorite, ignoring Lovejoy. But “Trust” really shows how Lovejoy being ostracized has affected him, pleading his case with the saints on the stained glass windows and sequestering himself to the basement with his train set (“If the passengers will look to their right, you will see a sad man.”) The episode gives us just enough backstory and additional characterization to this tertiary character to truly make us care about him. In “Warrin’ Priests,” Lovejoy is just bitter and petty through most of the episode, just rude and condescending toward Bode the whole show, and it doesn’t look like that will change much in part 2.
– Lisa’s meditation session with Bode leads to a trippy out-of-body experience in a sorta neat animated sequence. Slowly the black outlines for all the characters and sets melts away, leaving Lisa a colored head floating in the vast emptiness of space. Her visage drifts and changes into different art styles, from a rough chalk drawing to a Picasso-esque design to a macaroni picture and so on. The scene is visually cool, but suffers from it not really amounting to anything character-wise, feeling more like time-filler than anything else. The scene is also kind of ruined with a fourth-wall-breaking joke partway through, where the different Lisas are interrupted with a “ANIMATION BUDGET EXCEEDED” title, which was odd considering the scene at that point was just the different still frame images floating in space, there was no real elaborate animation occurring.
– Before the teaser for part 2 and the credits, this episode barely clocks in at twenty minutes. Again, it’s hard to make a determination having not seen the second part, but I’m already wondering why this story needed to be told over two separate episodes. Considering the premise of “Lovejoy is replaced by a more engaging spiritual figure” has been done on at least two other occasions, stories that were told in single episodes that also had B-plots, I don’t really see how the story in “Part One” couldn’t have been told in under ten minutes. I guess you’d have to trim down Holmes’ rambling speeches, but what a tragedy that would be, huh?

680. The Incredible Lightness of Being a Baby

Original airdate: April 19, 2020

The premise: Mr. Burns forces Homer to go undercover to swindle Cletus out of his natural deposit of helium, but he finds it difficult to go through with it once he befriends the amiable hillbilly. Meanwhile, Marge arranges a play date for Maggie with her young love Hudson, but is quickly irritated by his trendy, overly safety-conscious mother.

The reaction: Well we’re back, with a whimper of an episode featuring two stories fighting for dominance, neither of which are particularly interesting. Firstly, when Homer brings some of Cletus’ fancy roadside balloons to work, Mr. Burns starts gunning for his helium reserves, using Homer as his man on the inside, or rather someone to pose as a seemingly innocent fellow yokel to gain Cletus’ trust. But, we see at first that Cletus offers the balloons to Homer to bring to work with him, so he must know that he’s not a fellow hillbilly. Is Homer pretending to be someone else or not? He’s putting on a Southern drawl and acting as such. But at this point in the series all these characters know each other, Homer and Cletus have had run-ins before… oh whatever. The two become fast friends and Homer ultimately comes clean with Cletus, who then eventually strikes a fair deal with Burns after he and his family have him at gunpoint. Pretty dull stuff. The other plot involves Maggie and her little boyfriend Hudson, as previously seen in the theatrical (for a week) short “Playdate with Destiny,” in the continuation of this relationship I’m sure everyone has been dying to see more of. Their cutesy antics were tiresome after a minute or so in the short, now we get more of them? Holding the plot up is Marge’s displeasure with the baby’s mother, a rich, trendy snob who insists on knowing Marge’s health records and sexual history, and babyproofs Maggie’s hair spikes. She ends up taking Maggie home, cutting off her relationship. She later gets into a conversation with the baby, trying to rationalize her decision, but it’s never like she’s just talking and trying to convince herself, she’s just literally trying to have a conversation with a one-year-old. It’s weird, and not intentionally so. I think. Eventually, Marge gets over herself and the two baby lovers reunite. Maggie carries Hudson across the threshold into their little backyard playhouse as “The Wedding March” plays, and I proceed to cringe ever so much. In “Playdate” and now this episode, this relationship of theirs is just so incredibly saccharine, the kind of thing this show would mock in its prime. The fact that they made this episode in tandem with “Playdate,” playing this up as the “sequel” that fans would excited for, to see more of the romantic adventures of Maggie and Hudson… it goes back to my question of the show’s present day audience. Who is watching this show, and why? What is The Simpsons to them? I feel like I should have some sort of idea, having watched all this crap, but I honestly and truly can’t give a straight answer to that.

Three items of note:
– At the beginning, we get another guest couch gag from animator Michal Socha, his third outing, this time presenting the Simpsons doing extreme sports. I’m not really sure why… He previously did that trippy sequence inside Homer’s mind all in red and black, which may be my favorite guest couch gag just from how cool the visuals are. After that, he did the IKEA-style “Build-Your-Own-Couch Gag,” which was okay, and now this, which looks kinda cool, but feels a bit empty and pointless. I dunno. I mean, as always, it’s more entertaining than the show itself, so I guess I shouldn’t complain.
– As its theatrical life was sadly cut short thanks to the nightmare world we now live in, “Playdate with Destiny” recently followed its companion Onward onto Disney+. Having gotten a free trial of it recently, I always see the promo for it on the top banner opening it up, and boy oh boy is it still really, really difficult for me to wrap my mind around The Simpsons being a Disney property. I’ve been thinking a lot about the brand identity of Disney+ and how it’s really just a hodge podge of different disparate media elements that don’t go together, but it’s not exclusively Simpsons-related and I don’t really feel like yammering on about it. There are some who fear that Disney wants to soften The Simpsons to make them more family friendly, but I really don’t think that’s the case. But I do think they want the show to be presented as such, and that’s seemingly why it’s on Disney+, on top of being a huge feather in the streaming service’s cap to entice viewers with a humongous amount of content. The header image on the Simpsons page on Disney+ is Bart, Lisa and Maggie dead center having a fun time on the swings. The description includes this lovely nugget: “Homer is not your typical family man. He does his best to lead his family, but often finds that they are leading him.” What in the hell does that mean? Does that sound like The Simpsons to you? The content is as you remember it (aside from the aspect ratio being fucked and no “Stark Raving Dad,” there aren’t any episode-specific cuts that I’m aware of), but the veneer of the show has been sanitized a bit. It would be sad if the show hadn’t been ruining itself for the past twenty years… but it’s still a bit tough to see anyway.
– The episode cuts to credits eighteen and a half minutes in, so to kill time, we have Homer and Cletus singing a “””funny””” parody version of Queen’s “My Best Friend,” having a rootin’, tootin’, daggum blast of a time. I feel like there’s been a previous episode or two of Homer and Cletus being friends and hanging out, but I don’t care enough to look back into specifics. It’s all just so boring, they’re chums because they’re lazy and drink a lot… Speaking of, Cletus really is one of those one-dimensional joke characters the show occasionally tries to do more with, and it always lands with a thud. Like, maybe you could do something more with this character successfully, but you’d need a strong story hook to take Cletus out of his element and really examine another side of him. Instead, it’s all the same fucking jokes we’ve been doing for decades. He talks funny, he eats roadkill, Brandine’s giving birth to more kids, he drinks his blinding moonshine… boy howdy, the mileage they get off these REALLY GREAT JOKES!!