Lifetime of Simpsons

S13 E13 – The Old Man and the Key

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Wow! Whose ready for a garbage-episode folks? And I’m not talking about Homer running for garbage commissioner again, I’m talking what’s possibly the worst episode I’ve tackled on this project yet. Buckle up folks!

The episode starts off with Homer sitting on the couch, being excited for the return of the XFL, which was a reference that really brought me back. Remember when that was a thing? For a year, I think? That joke held up! Anyway, while Homer is despondent about his terrible football spinoff being cancelled Marge is busy fielding an automated phone-call from the Retirement Castle that claims Grandpa has died. Because that’s the kind of high-touch service you expect from the Retirement Castle.

So the family get dressed up in their church clothes and head over to the Retirement Castle to stand in Grandpa’s old room and weep. But as they’re mourning Grandpa shows up and kind of spoils the whole thing. Apparently some other old guy with a similar name died, and they called the Simpsons by accident. So I guess they came there for no reason. Whoops.

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But as the family is making awkward chit chat, something interesting does happen. Because the old dude who died’s room is already being rented, and the new tenant is moving in. And she happens to be a saucy old lady named Zelda, who Grandpa immediately starts crushing on. And because he’s the first person that she met, she lets her show him around the place, and get to know this depressing building they’re trapped in. So Grandpa shows Zelda around, telling her about all the cliques, and they seem to be having a good time.

That is until some smooth old guy who all the other old ladies are in love with shows up to smooth talk Zelda. Turns out this dude can still drive, and that’s the most appealing thing about him, which quickly causes Zelda to trade up and leave Grandpa. But Grandpa can’t abide this, and heads over to the Simpsons’ house to ask them to let him get a driver’s license again. Homer refuses, for obvious reason, but after Grandpa throws a temper tantrum like a petulant child, Marge agrees to help him.

So Grandpa goes to an adult learning annex and refreshes his memory on how to drive, and then Marge takes him to the DMV to talk with Patty and get a license. And, for some reason, Patty gives him one, even using an insane picture of Grandpa yelling at a cloud as his photo. So Grandpa can drive now! Unfortunately he doesn’t have a car, so he has to go to Homer and ask him to borrow Homer’s car for a double date to the drive in movies. Which is mainly just Grandpa and Zelda making out while Homer and Marge are awkward.

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And for a while things seems pretty good. Grandpa and Zelda are driving around, dating, and just acting like horny little teenagers. But since he’s still relying on Homer’s car, he has to keep begging to borrow the car, and their whole relationship kind of flips until Grandpa becomes a moody teen to Homer, even getting furious when Marge refers to Zelda as a “hoochie” who only is dating Grandpa because he has a car.

Yet they still give Grandpa the car occasionally, and on one trip to the Kwik-E-Mart to pick Homer up food, things start to fall apart. Because he just happens to run into Jasper and the Old Jewish Man, and they accidently get into some beef with a gang of old dudes who wear souvenir jackets. The beef escalates and they somehow come to the conclusion that the only thing they can do is have a death race.

So the two gangs of old folks head to some weird aqueduct and get ready to race down the path to a pipe that’s only big enough for one car. So the cars speed off, and for a while things are pretty neck-and-neck. Until Old Jewish Man straight up cheats and uses a boot on a stick to cause the souvenir jacket dudes to crash. So Grandpa and his buddies succeed! And go straight through the pipe, fly down a hill, and smash Homer’s car into a tree in Homer’s back yard. Where Homer promptly rips up Grandpa’s license.

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And, shock of all shocks, Zelda decides she no longer wants to be with Grandpa now that he can’t drive anymore, and dumps him. She immediately then starts dating that smooth guy from earlier, and the pair decide to go to Branson, Missouri to have a romantic vacation. Which pisses Grandpa off so much that he heads to the Simpson’s house to hotwire Marge’s car and steal it. And because Bart is there, and offers help with the hotwiring, Grandpa lets Bart come with him, and the pair head off to Branson. Which Bart has been to already.

Meanwhile, Homer finds the car missing and a flier for Branson, and the rest of the family decides to hop on a bus and head to Missouri to stop them. Although they take a brief break at Bronson, Missouri, where everyone is some sort of failed clone of Charles Broson, which is an incredibly stupid joke, but one that made me laugh quite a bit.

But back in the real Branson we see that Grandpa and Bart have spotted Zelda and that old dude going into a show called That’s Familiar! and follow them in. And this show is weird. It’s basically just a bunch of has-beens standing around announcing themselves, like Charro, Mr. T, Ray Jay, Yakov Smirinoff, and Charlie Callis. But when Grandpa spots Homer, Marge, Lisa, and Maggie showing up, he knows he’s running out of chances, and runs out onto stage to get Zelda’s attention. But when she comes up to be with him, it turns out he wasn’t here to win her back, he’s there to shame her, and just gets the whole crowd chanting “hoochie” at her until she runs away crying. Yay? Well, things reset I guess.

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Yikes. What a rough episode. There were one or two jokes that I liked, like the Bronson, Missouri gag, but overall this episode is pretty bad. Which is a bummer, because we haven’t been getting enough Grandpa episodes. I love Grandpa, and he’s just been in the show less and less, and then when we actually got an episode about him, it’s this thing. I kind of enjoyed the weird relationship between Homer and Grandpa where Grandpa ended up becoming an angry teenager, but I think the thing that really spoils this episode is Zelda. She’s just kind of the worst. She’s just takes advantage of Grandpa at all point, and just bails on him when he’s not useful. And yet, they decide to basically slut-shame her at the end, which is even shittier than the stuff she was doing to Grandpa. We’re supposed to cheer that some old lady is called a whore by a whole auditorium full of people. What the hell? I don’t know guys; this one did nothing for me and just felt kind of sketchy.

Take Away: Old people should not drive, they’re just having crazy sex or getting in drag races.

 

“The Old Man and the Key” was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Lance Kramer, 2002.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S13 E12 – The Lastest Gun in the West

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I feel like we’re firmly in the era of the show that had episodes I only ever watched once or twice. I think these episodes weren’t really on rotation in the repeats that would air every weekday night, because my memory of the episodes this week are pretty spotty. Like this one. Barely remembered it. I remember Bart met a cowboy once. That was about it. Let’s talk about it!

The episode starts off with Bart having a great day where everything seems to be going his way. He catches a homerun from Duff Stadium, finds two lucky dimes, gets free ice cream from a broken down ice cream truck, and runs into a nice dog. That is until the dog freaks out and starts trying to attack Bart, because it’s insane and apparently lives on the streets, trying to find boys to attack. The dog tries to bite Bart and ends up chasing him all the way home.

But that’s not the end of the dog, because for some reason it decides that it loathes Bart with ever fiber of its being, and is going to stalk Bart for the rest of its life, trying to kill him. It clings to windows to watch him, follows him to and from school, watches him in class while riding on a teeter-totter, and just generally acts like a goddamn serial killer. Plus, it only acts vicious to Bart, and is super kind and sweet to everyone else it comes across, just making the whole thing weirder.

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And because the dog acts sweet to everyone else, people just think that Bart is crazy and start ignoring him, just letting him get attacked by this vicious stray dog. But after the dog gets so bold that it tries to attack Bart on the school-bus the two get in a giant chase around town, until Bart finds some mysterious mansion, and decides to hide on its grounds. So he sneaks through the gate that surrounds the mansion, and starts to feel safe. That is until he turns around and finds a whole bunch of angry looking animals waiting for him in the mansion.

But it’s all good, because they aren’t real animals; they’re taxidermy trophies that are just awkwardly positioned to scare people sneaking into the mansion. And when Bart freaks out about the trophies he ends up getting the attention of the owner of the mansion, a retired cowboy actor named Buck McCoy, who wanders up to introduce himself to Bart. Buck’s pretty charming right off the bat, doesn’t seem to mind that this kid has broken into his property, and even teaches Bart some pressure-point trick that makes the evil dog docile.

So Bart’s got a new pal! An elderly cowboy! That sounds normal. Anyway, Buck decides to show Bart around his mansion, because Buck clearly doesn’t get a lot of visitors, and Bart gets to see all kinds of props and memorabilia from Buck’s film career, including his horse Frank the Wonder Horse! Which makes this the second episode in a row that Bart got to go to the mansion of a movie start to gawk at his belongings. That’s odd.

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But eventually Bart has to leave, and Buck says that he’s welcome to visit anytime. So Bart heads home, tells the family that the dog won’t be bothering him anymore, and tells everyone about Buck. Which is big news to Grandpa, who turns out to be a huge Buck McCoy fanboy. And since his parents are cool with Bart spending his time with an elderly stranger, he keeps going over to the house, even bringing Milhouse to enjoy Buck’s wisdom and skills as well.

However, as Bart’s impression of Buck starts to grow, so does Homer’s jealousy. Homer apparently cares about being Bart’s role model in this episode, and is getting really self-conscious about Bart finding some other guy take on that role. So, of course, when the family invite Buck over for dinner and he decides to show them some of his movies, Homer has to act like a petulant child, trying to knock Buck down a peg or two.

It doesn’t work though, and Bart is still obsessed with Buck, even going so far as to getting the children of the Elementary School into Western culture in the hopes that it will give Buck a come-back. And shockingly it works. The kids start to love cowboy stuff, and Bart’s even able to get a meeting with Krusty to pitch Buck coming on the show. So Buck heads out to Krusty’s studio to practice his trick-shooting for the show, and he still has a whole lot of talent.

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But he also has a lot of nerves. Buck is apparently a) really nervous about being on live TV again, and b) an alcoholic. So Buck starts chugging whiskey to make his cameo in Krusty’s show more tolerable, and it does not go well. Later on, when the show is airing, a sketch involving Mr. Teeny being tied to some railroad tracks begins (including the ridiculous line of, “We don’t take kindly to transvestite chimpanzees”) and Buck comes marching out, drunk as hell. At which point he tries to do his trick shooting, breaks several lights, and ends up shooting Krusty in the arm.

That could have gone better. So Krusty bans Buck from ever coming on the show again, and Bart’s esteem for Buck has plummeted. Which Homer is really excited about. But when Homer tries to capitalize on Bart’s crisis by trying to get him to accept Homer as his new hero, Homer realizes that Bart is really hurt about the whole thing. And because Homer actually is a good father sometimes, he decides to try and fix Buck’s life, for Bart’s sake.

So Homer and Marge head to Buck’s mansion and try to help him get sober. Seemingly against his wishes, but whatever. They pour out all his booze and try to take him to some sort of cowboy AA that ends with Buck getting branded. But the real demonstration of Buck’s changed life is when Homer hears about a crazy bank robbery in progress, and somehow convinces Buck to intervene. So, with Bart watching, Buck shows up to the bank robbery and manages to stop it, saving the day. At which point Bart’s opinion of Buck is back to normal, and Buck rides off into the sunset, promising to never speak to Bart again.

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Yeah, that was an okay episode I guess. I like the premise of Bart finding a new, more manly, role model and having Homer be really self-conscious about the whole thing. That makes sense to me, even though Homer doesn’t normally care about being Bart’s hero. And hey, cowboys are cool, even old ones who live by themselves slowly drinking themselves to death like Buck was apparently doing before Bart crashed into his life. And despite some creepy undertones, Bart and Buck’s little relationship is pretty sweet, and it was nice seeing the family help this old man find a purpose in his life again, even though they kind of force him into sobriety against his will.

Take Away: If you’re ever being chased by a demonic animal, find your local cowboy.

 

“The Lastest Gun in the West’ was written by John Swartzwleder and directed by Bob Anderson, 2002.

 

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S13 E11 – The Bart Wants What It Wants

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Hey, you know what we haven’t had in a while? One of the kids falling in love. Let’s say it’s Bart’s turn. Go!

The episode starts off oddly enough with Homer and the family having an insane car-chase where they’re getting followed by a helicopter owned by the Olympics. I guess Homer has stolen the Olympic torch in the hope that that will ruin the Games so they won’t interrupt his shows. I’m with you Homer, we’re finally through with the Olympics and I couldn’t be happier. But Marge isn’t down with this behavior and she makes Homer give the Olympics guys back the torch, just in time for them to crash into a mountain.

So that happened. And since that little adventure is over, they’re on the lookout for something new to do, and end up passing some snooty boarding school out in the middle of nowhere that’s hosting a fundraising fair. Sure, I guess they’ll go there. Just like everyone else in town. So they wander around the school for some sight-gags, like Skinner breaking into the building to steal stuff, Homer breaking a bounce house, Marge teaching Wolfgang Puck about putting M&Ms in Rice Crispy Treats, and Lenny and Carl winning microscopes to duel with.

But after we’ve seen the required amount of gags we get the plot moving and have Bart save some girl from some bullies. And she instantly falls in love with her savior. Even though Bart clearly cannot understand that, and just makes awkward conversation until her father shows up, and it turns out he’s none other than McBain himself, Ranier Wolfcastle. And Bart is obviously impressed, so of course when the girl, Greta, invites Bart over to the mansion, he agrees.

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And later, after Homer and Marge have dragged Lisa from the snooty school, Bart is getting ready for his little playdate, and gets all dressed up for some reason. Homer also gives him his two pieces of advice for women, not giving them nicknames that make them sound fat, and always ask for receipts to look fancy. So, equipped with that knowledge, Bart is ready to drive back to the Wolfcastle estate in Ranier’s enormous Hummer-esque truck.

And the mansion is pretty damn great. Greta shows Bart all around the place, letting him check out cool props from Ranier’s movies, and even has him watch Itchy and Scratchy on a giant TV with DVD. And boy did it take me a moment to realize the joke was that they were rich enough to have DVDs. That was crazy. Although we get the solid joke about the show having a commentary where Itchy and Scratchy talk about the issues that happened when they were filming the scene.

But it’s not just going to all be about Wolfcastle’s mansion, because we even see that the Simpsons have invited Ranier and Greta over for a dinner of various German sausages. And it felt weird to me that Homer and Ranier act like they don’t know each other, when Wolfcastle helped Homer workout in “King of the Hill.” Guess that got reset. But the plot thickens during that dinner when Greta starts to hold Bart’s hand, and he’s so oblivious that he assumes she’s wanting a thumb-war.

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So Greta isn’t being subtle anymore. But it’s still too discrete for poor little Bart, who doesn’t realize that Greta thinks they’re dating, and even brings Milhouse over for to her house when she thought it was just going to be the two of them. Oh, and in true “annoying friend” fashion Milhouse introduces himself by doing that “WASSSAP!?!” thing people did in the 90’s, which I think was from a beer commercial maybe? Keep on keeping on, Milhouse.

But when Bart and Greta are with their dads at a basketball game she decides to strip through some of the artifice by just straight up asking Bart to come to a school dance with her. And because he still doesn’t know what’s going on, he agrees, not realizing what he’s agreed to. So how’s Bart going to ruin this? Well the day of the dance Bart and Milhouse overhear Skinner telling Willie about how he’s going to try stand-up comedy for the first time, and Bart decides that’s way better than a school dance. And he’s not wrong.

So Bart ends up going to make fun of Skinner all night, and when he gets home he’s surprised to find Lisa waiting up for him, and she’s not happy. She says that Greta called because Bart told her he was sick, and she finally explains to him that Greta is in love with him. This shocks Bart, and he decides that he needs to explain to Greta that he doesn’t have any interest in her. So he brings her to an ice cream parlor and dumps her. And she’s devastated.

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But because Bart is a boy (ie, an idiot) he didn’t realize breaking up with Greta would mean they had to stop being friends, so he goes over to the mansion to apologize, and is shocked to find that she’s started dating Milhouse, mainly to spite him. And, shockingly, Bart now has a thing for Greta, because as Lisa explains, people want what they can’t have. So now Bart’s main mission is to win Greta back, and after stalking them around town for a few days, he finds out that she’s going with her dad to Toronto. So the Simpsons are going to Canada!

The Simpsons then go to Toronto and have a good time running around and sight-seeing while listening to Rush, before Homer and Bart decide they need to go find Greta. So they sneak onto a movie set where Wolfcastle is filming a wonderful movie called “Undercover Nerd,” and Bart goes to talk to Greta. Unfortunately Milhouse is there, and the two get in a massive fight that ends in a curling match, because of course it does. And when they’re done fighting Greta shows up, announces she doesn’t want to be with either of them, and leaves so the plot can finish. Oh, and we see Bart and Milhouse getting on the Canadian Olympic basketball team. Sure, let’s end it like that.

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This is a pretty decent episode I suppose. I’ve talked before on here, but during this project I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not a big Bart fan. Especially when he’s just kind of a shit. And even though he’s not really meaning to be a shit for most of this episode, he’s still pretty shitty. Although, I’ll be honest, if you ask my wife I should relate to this episode like crazy, because apparently before we started dating she was being very apparent that she was into me, and I remained just as oblivious as Bart. So maybe that’s what turns me off this episode. It’s not a bad one, but Bart is just kind of unlikeable, and he just treats poor little Greta like crap. But I guess everyone has to go through a stage of life like this where they learn how not to devastate a person with a breakup, so I guess it was a good learning experience.

Take Away: Try not to be stupid and oblivious, and if you are don’t devastate someone, let them down easy.

 

“The Bart Wants What It Wants” was written by John Frink & Don Payne and directed by Michael Polcino, 2002.

 

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Couch Potato

The Musical Joy of the Get Down

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Welcome to part two of my accidental theme-day. Like I said earlier, I didn’t mean to be experiencing two narratives that dig deep into the tumultuous life of 1977 New York, but here we are. And lo and behold, we have something just as enjoyable and scatterbrained as the book I discussed earlier today. But this story, the new Netflix show the Get Down, has an added twist on the story, and one that would normally be a handicap to me. I don’t talk about music much on here, mainly because I’m not sure how to, but music is a big part of my life. That said, two of the big genres that don’t appeal to me are rap and hip hop. There are exceptions of course (like all right thinking humans I’m obsessed with the soundtrack to Hamilton) but for the most part hip hop doesn’t do much for me. So when I heard that Netflix was making a show about the origins of hip hop, I wasn’t super thrilled. Adding in the fact that it was co-created and partially directed by Baz Luhrmann, a director whose batting average is very suspect for me, I was probably planning on skipping this one. But then I started hearing good things about it, and the false claim that it was a musical show, my wife and I decided to give the show a go. And after getting over the fact that this show is in no way a musical, we found ourselves engrossed in a really interesting and odd little show that I ended up loving.

The premise of the show revolves around a young man named Ezekiel Figuero, who lives with his aunt and uncle in the Bronx in 1977. He’s a talented poet who doesn’t want to admit it, and just wants to get through his probably depressing life, while hoping to gain the attention of a girl named Mylene that he’s in love with. But his life changes forever when he accidentally meets a graffiti artist/hustler named Shaolin Fantastic while they’re both on a quest to get the same record, Shaolin for his DJ hero Grandmaster Flash and Ezekiel to give to Mylene who wants to use it to break into the disco game. The two strike up a hesitant friendship and Shaolin shows Ezekiel a new passion. Hip hop. They don’t call it that yet, but he brings Zeke to a Grandmaster Flash show, and the two realize that they need to get in on this, because Zeke’s natural poetic skills will make a him a natural “wordsmith” and Shaolin has been training to become a DJ.

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And from the partnership we see a real friendship grow as Zeke and Shaolin team up with a group of Kipling brothers that are friends with Zeke and begin making their own hip hop crew, the Get Down Brothers. But it’s not all about this crew’s rise to prominence, because there’s a lot more going on in this show. We follow Mylene and her attempts to break into the disco world with the help of a sleazy record producer named Jackie Moreno, we see Mylene’s uncle Francisco Cruz try to gain political power in the Bronx in order to build affordable housing for his people, we see Ed Koch running for mayor, we see the criminal pursuits of a local gangster called Fat Annie that Shaolin works for, and the stupidity of her moron son Cadillac. And we watch all of these plot lines twist together to create a dramatic, funny, funky, and all around enjoyable story examining what life in the Bronx in the 1970s was all about. We see the New York blackout, the contentious mayoral race, and all manner of social woes that I learned about in the book from earlier. Really, the only thing that seemed missing as the Son of Sam, but I suppose he didn’t do much in the Bronx.

The show was just immensely likable. I would have loved it even more if it actually was a musical like it was marketed as, but as it stands it becomes a fun story that embraces the music of the times in a really beautiful way. And really, despite my reticence at Baz Luhrmann’s involvement the show didn’t suffer from his normal aesthetic choices. He only directed the pilot, which is probably the weakest episode of the whole series, what with his spastic and frenetic editing style, but once they give him the boot the show takes on a more traditional and pleasing format that really works for the show. It can get a tad soap-operatic at times, but the characters are all fully realized, the art direction is wonderful and finds the equal beauty and foulness of New York in this time period. And the music. Guys, the music. The 70s really was producing some of my favorite music of all time, and while I don’t have a huge affinity for hip hop, what we got in the show was very enjoyable, especially knowing what the characters have done to accomplish it. But we also got some amazing funk, disco,  and soul thrown in there as well. Now we just need to toss in some punk and we’ll be set. I know that this was planned as a limited series, and will only have six more episodes, which is kind of a great idea. America needs to get over the idea that television shows need to drag on until we get fed up with them and they get cancelled, because it’s kind of a ridiculous model. We should be encouraging more well thought out narratives that have beginnings and ends, and this show is shaping up to be a hell of a story of American history, all while barely having any boring old white people in it. It’s a true American tale, about people that we don’t usually think about. And it’s terrific.

The Get Down was created by Baz Luhrmann and Stephen Adly Guirgis, 2016.

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Page Turners

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning: A Fascinating and Scatterbrained Tale

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So something a little out of the ordinary is going to happen on the site today. Because it just so happened that I experienced two pieces of media in the last two weeks that were incredibly similar, even being identical in some aspects. I didn’t plan on it, but it just worked out that I was finishing the terrific book Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning at the same time that my wife and I were watching the new Netflix series the Get down. It wasn’t intentional, but both works hope to examine what the city of New York was like during the summer of 1977, looking at changing culture and music, the strife in the Bronx, the great New York blackout, and the political strife going on at the time. And they actually made pretty great companion pieces to one another. They obviously aren’t the sae story or anything, but they both take place in the same time period and world, and really complimented each other in a great way, which is leading me to discuss both of them at the same time. I thought about writing one article examining them together, but that felt like a bit of a disservice to the two works, so I’m splitting them up and just making this Sunday a bit of a theme-day. So let’s learn about how insane 1977 was for the Big Apple.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning is a history book, not a novel, that tries to give an accurate feeling of what life was like at the time. And it does so without landing on any central premise. I suppose it’s favorite topic is that of the New York Yankees and the run-up to their inevitable World Series win, but it does give equal measure to several different aspects of the city. We learn about the Yankees, and the internal struggle between Reggie Jackson, owner George Steinbrenner, and manager Billy Martin. We hear about the contentious mayoral race and the in-fighting between the slew of Democratic nominees such as Ed Koch, Bela Abzug, Mario Cuomo, and incumbent Abraham Beame. We also peaked in on the changing musical tides of the city, investigating the rise of disco and clubs such as Studio 54 while also juxtaposing the rise of the punk movement at CBGB’s. We hear about the city’s financial woes as it begins spiraling deeper and deeper into a fiscal depression that the federal government seems insistent on ignoring. We get the facts of the infamous Son of  Sam serial killer who was targeting women with long brown hair throughout the boroughs, starting off an insane man-hunt through the entire city. There’s the tale of Rupert Murdoch coming to the city, buying the New York Post and forever changing journalism in America from a dignified profession to a sensationalist tabloid culture that was craving to find the bottom of the barrel. And of course, at the heart of the book, is the great blackout, which helped tear the already fractured city apart with a night of looting and chaos. Really the only thing the book didn’t talk about what the blackout’s role in the formation of hip hop, but that’s essentially what the Get Down is all about, so we’ll get to that later today.

New York is a pretty mythic city in America. Hell, probably in the whole world. We hear about it as this magical fairyland where anything is possible. And yet, when you watch movies from the 70s, particularly the films from the New Hollywood movie the general feeling you get from the city is one of defeat. The streets a dirty, the buildings are crumbling, the subways are covered in graffiti, and the people all looked depressed. It was a bleak time. And I guess I never realized just how dark 1977 was. It’s kind of insane when you look at that list up there. There was a lot of immensely important, culture-changing events all happening to the city in that one summer. It’s monumental. I can’t imagine that it isn’t considered one of the most important years in the cities history, and one that forever shaped the path that the city would go down. And author Jonathan Mahler does the impossible and tells all of those stories with equal interest. You wouldn’t think that a book could juggle the stories of David Berkowitz with Reggie Jackson and make them both see to fit the same narrative. But he does. I’ve made it pretty clear on my Lifetime of Simpsons articles that baseball is one subject that usually can bore me to tears, but he even made the drama the Yankees were feeling interesting. If you have any interest in New York or the 70s in general, I highly recommend picking this books up. It’s a fascinaintg read that somehow manages to keep all the various plates spinning, and really served as a tremendous companion to the Get Down.

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning was written by Jonathan Mahler, 2006.

Bat Signal

Issue 119 – “The Case of the Famous Foes”

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Hey folks, welcome back to Bat Signal, and the grand tradition of absurd old Detective Comics covers that have absolutely nothing to do with the story inside. Because sadly I do not have a story for your this week where Batman and Robin beat up two thugs for daring to throw snowballs at snoweffigy’s of the Dynamic Duo.Because that would be amazing, and too beautiful for this world. But while I don’t have a story about winter hijinks, I do have an absolutely insane story that had me laughing almost the entire time I read it. Which doesn’t happen often with the stories inside these comics with crazy covers. Usually the cover promises something more insane than the book then actually follows up on, like that cover that had Batman and Robin fighting pirates. But this time? Guys, the story is even more bonkers than Batman and Robin fighting two guys for snow-crimes.

And right from the first panel we realize that this is going to be something special, because the story opens up in a private sanitarium full of people who are convinced they’re famous people. Particularly we have three men who believe that they’re George Washington, Ben Franklin, and Abraham Lincoln. And they just aren’t insane and believe that they’re famous statesmen, they also dress like them and happen to look like them. Which obviously results in a criminal who is hiding out as a guard coming up with a great idea. He’s going to pretend to be Marquis de Lafayette and convince the three men that there are evil threats to their nation outside the hospital, and that they need to help him escape and “save” people, by robbing them.

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So the trio head to Washington DC and begin robbing innocent bystanders who are shocked to see what they assume are ghosts of famous leaders. They even go one step farther by having Lincoln rob people at the Lincoln Memorial and George Washington rob people at the Washington Monument. And after a night of these insane robberies, the police realize that something insane is going on, and that they aren’t qualified to solve such a ridiculous crime. So they put a call into a place that is, and ask Commissioner Gordon to send them Batman and Robin.  Since apparently Gotham is “nearby” Washington DC.

The Dynamic Duo then get in their Batplan and fly over to DC to start figuring out the case. After a little sight-seeing, which is hilarious. They run by the White House and the Smithsonian before noticing that there’s a mysterious light flashing in the famous museum. So they break into the Smithsonian and are shocked to find Ben Franklin casing the joint. And he’s just as confused by their appearance as they are of his. But he’s in luck, because the rest of his gang shows up and start to attack Batman and Robin. And while fighting with the fake leaders, “Lafayette” makes a mistake that clues Batman in on what’s going on.

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Yep, he knows who Batman is, unlike the other three, so clearly isn’t suffering from the same delusion that they are. And after a brief tussle with the gang, they manage to escape Batman and Robin’s clutches, running off in to the night. But things are going to get weirder, because next day numerous people spot Washington, Franklin, and Lincoln going around town and trying to help people. Hell, Lincoln somehow gets on the floor of Congress to give a speech. So clearly they aren’t the criminal masterminds of the operation.

But to prove that idea Batman decides to give them a test, by putting an ad in the paper calling Benjamin Franklin out about the whole “kite experiment.” And apparently Benjamin Franklin can’t let a slight like that go unquestioned, so he ends up showing up at the top of the Capitol building, in the middle of a lighting storm, to prove the newspaper ad wrong. Just as Batman and Robin were hoping. The show up on the rooftop as well, and start to explain to Franklin what’s going on, and he helps them out by mentioning that he usually lives in a sanitarium. But while this is going on “Lafayette” spots Batman and Robin, and has his two Presidents follow him up to the roof to fight Batman and Robin. But this time things don’t go that well, and Batman’s able to easily beat up the criminal and expose his true identity to the poor crazy people. They’re shocked that Lafayette was lying to them, but agree to head back to their sanitarium and live their normal lives while the criminal is put in prison.

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What a goofy little story. There really wasn’t much to it, and most of it was full of silly gags where we see the trio of loonies running around DC messing with people. Which is pretty great. I don’t even really know what else there is to say about this issue. It’s just hilarious. I know I’ve heard of this type of thing, people being deluded into thinking they’re Jesus or Napoleon, and it was so crazy to have someone get a gang of these people together to commit history related crimes. That’s just nuts. I guess that’s kind of what King Tut in the 60s TV show did, but this was even sillier, mainly because they straight up had a crazy man who thought he was Abraham Lincoln speak during Congress, and people just thought he was a ghost. Great works.

“The Case of the Famous Foes” was written by Bill Finger and penciled by Dick Sprang, 1947.

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S13 E10 – Half-Decent Proposal

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Hey, yesterday was fun wasn’t it? Things were positive, it was a funny episode, it had a good message, just all around a pretty great episode. So how about we end the week on a weird-as-hell nothing of an episode? Sounds about right!

The episode starts off with us soaring through Springfield at night, looking at everyone asleep. Well, by everyone I mean Comic Book Guy, who is talking about Jar Jar Binks in his sleep, because we oddly don’t see anyone else, so it kind of felt like a standard first-act gag reel like we usually get, but where all the other gags were edited out, and just Comic Book Guy made the cut. It’s kind of weird. But whatever, the main point is that we see Marge being kept awake all night from Homer’s ridiculous snoring.

Homer’s apparently got some serious problems with his septum and his snoring like a goddamn bear, to the point that Marge can’t get a wink of sleep. And it’s really starting to affect her, because the next morning she’s a complete wreck. So they decide to go to Dr. Hibbert’s to see if there’s anything he can do to fix Homer, because the whole sleeping situation is becoming untenable. And, while there is a surgery he can perform that would fix thing, it’s super expensive and they just can’t afford it.

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So Marge just gets to suffer and sleep on the doorstep! That is until she just breaks down and goes to get a good night’s sleep at Patty and Selma’s apartment. And after initially assuming she was there because she’d left Homer, they decide to have a girl’s night. Which seems counterproductive since Marge is there to sleep, but whatever, alcohol and trashy TV is what they decide to do instead of letting her sleep.

And after watching some Sex in the City knockoff for a while, they switch over to the news and are shocked to see a report on Marge’s old boyfriend/attempted rapist Artie Ziff. Turns out Artie has become a millionaire in Silicon Valley since high school, and Patty and Selma obviously decide that they should try and wreck Homer and Marge’s marriage and get Marge with Artie. So they get Marge even drunker, and send Artie a suggestive email, hoping to rekindle thing.

Which works out way better than they would have hoped, because it turns out Artie Ziff is a goddamn lunatic and has been obsessed with Marge for twenty years, even building a shrine to her in his office. So as Marge is heading back home, refreshed after her night’s sleep, she’s shocked to find a helicopter belonging to Ziff landing in the backyard. Artie has shown up to sweep Marge off her feet, and he’s shocked to find her married and with three kids.

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But that doesn’t slow down Artie! He instead doubles down on his creepiness and invites Homer and Marge out for a yacht-ride with him to discuss an idea he has. And once they’re trapped on the sea with him he lays out his proposal for Marge to spend a weekend with him in which he’ll try to win her back, in exchange for a million dollars. And obviously Marge is not cool with this plan, and demands to be brought back home.

However, that night Homer decides to talk to her about the whole thing, and says that he has total confidence that Marge wouldn’t leave him for Artie, and that they could use the money he’d give them to get his snoring surgery. So, against her better judgment, Marge decides to agree to Artie’s insane proposal, and is brought to his huge mansion. Where things get weird fast. Because it turns out Artie’s plan to win her back revolves around him recreating their senior prom, complete with random Springfield townsfolk dressing like it’s the 70’s.

And things are made even worse when Homer decides he needs to crash Artie’s mansion and cancel the deal after the barflies make him believe that Marge will definitely be leaving him. So Homer rushes to Artie’s mansion, only to find the bizarre prom going on, and gets kicked out by his old high-school principal. But he ignores that and climbs onto the roof, only to look through a skylight and see Artie and Marge kissing. So Homer’s heart is broken and he heads home to rethink his life.

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Except that’s not actually what was going on. Artie was pushing himself on Marge, yet again, and she was busy slapping him in the face, again, but Homer missed that. So Marge heads home, furious at Artie’s gross little plan, and is shocked to find Homer gone, and a videotape in his place. She puts the tape on and finds that it’s a message from Homer. He explains that he saw Marge and Artie kissing, and has thus decided to leave forever and start a new life.

And where is he going to start that new life? Well after seeing Marge and Artie kissing he decided to go back to Moe’s to complain, and ended up picking Lenny up and taking him with him. And after getting a partner they get on a bus and head out in to West Springfield, which is apparently three times the size of Texas. Sure, why not. So Homer and Lenny make their way to an oil operation and get jobs working the rigs.

Meanwhile, Marge and the kids figure out that Homer is somewhere in West Texas, and decide to make a deal with the devil to find Homer. They call up Artie, ask to use his helicopter, and fly around trying to find Homer. Which they do, but right as they find Homer, an accident causes the whole rig to light on fire. But Homer, being stubborn, doesn’t want to get on the helicopter. Until Artie explains that Marge will never leave Homer, and that he’s won. Oh, and Carl is there, so Lenny decides not to die either. So Artie flies them home, promises to stop harassing Marge, and gives them a device to turn Homer’s snoring into subliminal messages.

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Yeah, I’m not a huge fan of this episode. I think the idea of bring Artie Ziff back is a good one, and the idea of him being massively rich and successful makes sense, but the whole “Indecent Proposal” aspect is just so creepy. And it’s made that much worse when it plays out exactly like you think it would. He’s just such a perv. And it’s kind of shitty that Homer has that little faith in his wife that he assumes she’s left him. Plus, that whole third act is just bizarre. I don’t know what was with the decision to have Lenny be in love with Carl, but it’s really the least of that act’s problems. West Springfield is three times the size of Texas? What the hell? Homer would rather burn to death and leave his children fatherless than presumably get a divorce, which isn’t even the scenario that was happening in reality? It’s just a weird one folks.

Take Away: Don’t trust sleazy millionaires. Especially if they have a history of almost sexually assaulting your wife.

“Half-Decent Proposal” was written by Tim Long and directed by Lauren MacMullan, 2002.

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