Archive | August, 2014
“Homer, I couldn’t help overhearing you warp Bart’s mind.” – Marge.
Written by: Jeff Martin
The simmering tension between Homer and his perfect neighbor Ned Flanders boils over into all-out war. Well, kinda: the war is actually played out via a miniature golf tournament pitting Bart against Todd Flanders.
The father of the boy who doesn’t win has to mow his law wearing his wife’s best Sunday dress. Bart and Todd, who aren’t enemies, though they aren’t really friends, either, decide to call it a draw rather than cope with the pressure put on them by their fathers.
Don’t have a whole lot to say about this episode, other than during the mini-golf montage one of the holes as Itchy & Scratchy, which is to be expected, but for some reason, Scratchy is hurting Itchy, instead of the other way around.
Don’t know if this is an animation error or reflection that maybe originally Scratchy was going to inflict as much carnage as Itchy, and then they decided it was funnier to make Scratchy the Washington Generals.
In any event, the Flanders family wasn’t yet quite the comedic goldmine they would be in future episodes – hell, Ned was even drinking microbrew and had a game room – but you could see the writers figuring out who they were.
“Bart was strangely quiet. Later he would explain he was confused by feelings of respect for me.” – Homer.
Written by: Ken Levine, David Isaacs.
“Dancin’ Homer” takes its place in The Simpsons pantheon because it’s the first of the “Homer gets another job” episodes, which would eventually become a staple – if not the primary guiding engine – of the entire series.
Given that the list of jobs that Homer Simpson has had over the years is massive, it’s kind of ironic that the writers felt have him request a leave of absence prior to becoming Dancin’ Homer in Capital City.
Another sign that they weren’t sure the audience would go for it: Homer tells the whole tale in flashback, sitting with the other regulars at Moe’s. In the future, of course, they didn’t really worry about any kind of verisimilitude when it came to Homer’s escapades.
In the meantime, the story of Homer inadvertently becoming the good luck charm and mascot of the Springfield Isotopes by dancing on the dugout after sharing a few tubs of beer with Mr. Burns (who, continuity nerds might remember, had vowed to destroy Homer’s life the previous week) is fun throughout.
That said, despite loads of funny jokes and references, the ending – where the cynical Capital City crowd didn’t really go for Homer’s antics – felt a bit flat, like it was there because of course The Simpsons belong in Springfield, no matter how much Tony Bennett might extol the charms of Capital City.
Which is just a quibble: “Dancin’ Homer” definitely deserves its status as a much-beloved and iconic early episode.
Oh, and I found this amazing artifact here:
“Lisa, you’re learning many lessons tonight, and one of them is to always give your mother the benefit of the doubt.” – Marge.
Written by: John Swartzwelder, Sam Simon.
Matt Groening, of course, made his bones with “Life in Hell,” an alt-weekly cartoon that was deeply political and would still discussed and beloved had The Simpsons never existed.
So when The Simpsons finally delved hardcore into politics with the brilliant “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish,” it was no surprise to anyone who had read Groening’s strip where the show stood: proudly to the Left. It’s a simplification, but true: long before The Daily Show or The Colbert Report, we had The Simpsons going hard at all of the right targets.
In this case, the target was rich political dilettantes who run for office for no other reason than to change the laws to be more favorable to them, all the while spouting populist generalities against easy targets like “bureaucrats” and “taxes.”
What spurred Mr. Burns to run for Governor of [REDACTED] was a combination of bad publicity surrounding the discovery by Bart of a mutant three-eyed fish – Blinky! – and the estimated $56,000,000 it would cost to bring his nuclear power plant up to code.
So he runs, starting with a paid political ad featuring a Charles Darwin impersonator (which is funny on several levels) explaining that Blinky’s mutation is actually an improvement and he has “a taste that can’t be beat.”
As Burns gains popularity with all of the Joe The Plumbers and Holly the Housewives he is exalting in public and deriding in private, his cynical campaign manager tells him that the final stunt to put him over the top as a regular guy is to have a home-cooked dinner at the house of one of his employees. And they choose Homer, of course.
Enter Marge Simpson.
Now I know that they often wrote Marge as a moralizing scold, especially when sex was involved, she was pitch-perfect here. As a supporter of Burns’ opponent, Mary Bailey, she wants nothing to do with the stunt, but when Homer mansplains that one of the ways she can express herself is with her cooking, it resonates.
The climax, when the home-cooked dinner Marge serves Burns is three-eyed fish (“All right!!” exclaims Bart, “three-eyed fish!!”) and he is forced to eat and then spit out his words, is an absolute masterpiece of comeuppance.
His hopes of ever running for political office dashed forever, Burns presumably turns to doing what the rest of his billionaire friends do these days: donating to PACs.
“Anyone from a species that has mastered intergalactic travel, raise your hand.” – Kodos.
Written by: John Swartzwelder, Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky and Sam Simon.
It’s a measure of the confidence that The Simpsons writers had in the universe they were building that they could completely subvert those rules this early on for the “Simpsons Halloween Special,” which like the album The Beatles is the actual proper name for this episode.
Held together by a framing device – Bart & Lisa telling scary stories in the treehouse – that led the subsequent series its name, this first Halloween special was a masterpiece, chock full of spot-on references (“Kodos” and “Kang”), hilarious lines (“Quit throwing your garbage into our dimension”), and new takes on classic horror tropes (“Quoth the Raven, ‘Eat my shorts’”).
No wonder this obvious experiment became an beloved institution. Once the writers realized they could do this every year, they went full bore, and in subsequent years, it only got weirder, and for awhile, because of FOX’s domination (and near ruination) of post-season MLB, they often started the whole season with the “Treehouse of Horror,” knowing it was a natural hook for a new season.
I’ll betcha that people who have long given up tuning into The Simpsons every week still check out the yearly Treehouses of Horror, if for no other reason than to see how they’re going to shoehorn in Kang and Kodos that year.
“Wait, who is that young go-getter?” – Mr. Burns.
Written by: Jon Vitti.
After committing insurance fraud to get a miracle hair tonic, Homer gets a brand-new hair, a promotion and an assistant who mentors him.
Thematically, this is another instance of one of the Simpsons being mentored by a person who is more worldly-wise than they are. It’s already happened with Marge & Jacques, and will reach its apotheosis later in the season with “Lisa’s Substitute.”
In this case, Karl the assistant – voiced by then-icon, now “who in the hell has that voice” Harvey Fierstein – teaches Homer the valuable lesson that confidence comes from within, not from a gorgeous hairpiece.
(One of my favorite unacknowledged – and hitherfore unnoticed – running gags in this excellent episode is that Homer’s hair is different in every scene.)
Which is just as well, because not only does Smithers – jealous because Homer is coming in between him and his one true love – dig up the dirt on Homer’s insurance fraud, Bart spills the hair tonic, causing Homer to lose his assistant, his promotion and his hair all at the same time.
As Karl leaves – having taken the fall for the insurance fraud – he gives Homer a big smooch, which I guess felt a little controversial, unless you grew up watching Bugs Bunny kissing Elmer Fudd every Saturday morning.