Page Turners

Shaft’s Revenge Gives You Shaft…Up to Here

51mvslxppkl

 

Now, I’m just going to say this right at the top. I’m one of the whitest people you’re likely to ever meet. I have German and Irish blood, and look like I should burst into flames when I’m outside. And I’m born and raised in Colorado, one of the whitest places in the country. And yet, over the last few years, I’ve come to really love just about everything about the blaxploitation genre. I don’t know what it is about them exactly, but these fun and crazy action movies from the 1970’s have become some of my favorite stuff to put on and just have a great time. And it’s not just the movies. I’ve talked before about my undying love for Luke Cage, and how his character was a direct response from Marvel at the sudden interest in such characters, and rereading some of his classic stories is a hell of an experience. So of course, these two interests led me to check out a comic book series from a couple years ago that was about one of the most famous characters from the blaxpolitation genre, John Shaft. I had seen the Shaft movies, and loved them, so I went into the Shaft comic series expecting a good time. What I ended up getting was an incredibly moving and poignant look at a character that was more often than not portrayed as a bit of a punch line. It was a great series, and it really got me hooked on the great writer David F Walker (who is also currently writing an amazing series at Marvel about Luke Cage and Iron Fist). So when I heard that Walker was going to be continuing the life of his interpretation of Shaft, and that it was going to be a prose novel, I was excited.

And it did not disappoint. Now, I’ve never read any of the Shaft novels yet, so I don’t really know how this stacks up with them, but I do know that I had a hell of a time with this novel. It picks up some time after the events of the Shaft film, and seems to blend a combination of establishes Shaft characters, and the ones that Walker introduced in his comic series. This is a Shaft who is haunted by the things he has seen and done, both on the streets of Harlem and the jungles of Vietnam, and who really just seems to be trying to keep his head down and make it through life. But, like any great literary private eye, that goal is utterly smashes when he answers his phone one night and is drawn into an insane turf-war between rival gangsters in Harlem. He ends up finding the leader of the most powerful gang in Harlem killed, Knocks Persons, gets shot along with an old friend of his, and is dragged kicking and screaming into this complicated war that’s pitting several different gangsters, crooked cops, and a sociopathic childhood friend of his into a vicious battle. Along the way Shaft picks up what seems like the only two legitimate police officers in New York, and starts to help them track down both the killer of Knocks, and accidently the truth about the life of his father. We get an action-packed noir tale that has Shaft traversing the Big Apple and its Burroughs, all while trying to survive and find some justice and keep an even darker and more damaging criminal enterprise from rising in his city.

I’ve talked a lot of this site about my love for the hardboiled detective genre, in all its shapes and sizes, and this novel became a welcome addition to that passion. There’s something about the emotionally damaged archetype of a private eye, just trying to get by in life, and being dragged into an insane plot that tends to end up way above his pay grade that really clicks for me. And this novel took that formula, and added the racial politics of being a black man in the 70’s along with some really poignant and engaging pathos from Shaft’s father and his wartime mental anguish. Typically noir protagonists can be a little one-note. They exist more to go through the clues and have insane adventures than to really get much emotional depth. There are obviously exceptions to that generalization, but most novels you read about private eyes feature main characters that are essentially blank slates. But not here. Honestly, I could read an entire novel written by Walker about Shaft trying to come to terms with the things he’s done in his life, and try to reach some closure about that. Shaft became a sympathetic and three-dimensional character for the first time for me in this novel, and I ended up finding myself rooting for him to learn the truth about his father and close that dark and painful chapter on his life. Plus, we get a really fun and twisting crime caper thrown in as well. I really don’t know if the rest of the Shaft novels are anything like this, or if they’re more disposable fun like the Shaft films, but I’m more tempted than ever before to check them out, and if David F Walker gets to write any more of these novels, or any more of the comic series, I’ll be eagerly waiting to check them out.

 

 

P.S. – If you’re confused by the title of this article, check out the poster for the original Shaft film.

 

 

Shaft’s Revenge was written by David F Walker, 2016.

Bat Signal

Issue 412 – “Legacy of Hate”

412.PNG

Welcome back to Bat Signal folks, my weekly series where I pull a random issue of Detective Comics and tell you about it. And boy do I have a fun and goofy one today. I’ve talked a lot on this series about the fact that you often can’t take the cover for granted, because they so often don’t have anything to actually do with the comic that’s inside. Especially old ones that just seemed to be wanting to entice you into buying the comic with an insane cover, as if just showing Batman wasn’t enough to get people to pay money. But this week? We actually have one that undersells the premise. Because trust me, this issue gets so crazier, and so much more fun than Batman dealing with a knight. Things get much crazier, and shockingly similar to an insane Marvel story that I covered on Marvel Madness. But enough preamble, let’s get down to it!

So the issue starts off en media res with Batman being attacked by the knight on the cover. But right as he’s about to be lanced he suddenly flashes back to how this all got started, and we’re back in the Batcave. Turns out Bruce has gotten a telegram from an uncle he’s never met named Lord Elwood Wayne. Turns out Bruce comes from a powerful British family and uncle Elwood is about the kick the bucket, and wants all surviving Wayne family members to come to his not-at-all haunted castle to talk about their inheritance. Which isn’t suspicious at all. So Bruce packs up and heads to England, where he’s met by some distant relatives, Lord Elwood Niece Wilhelmina Wayne the orphan, his cousin Reverend Emelyn Wayne, and a ranch-hand from Australia named “Outback” Jeremy Wayne. So the Wayne’s hand around the train station until someone arrives to take them to castle Wayne in the least suspicious vehicle possible.

412-1.PNG

Seriously, they got picked up by a creepy dude wearing a top-hat while driving a hearse. So they all pile into the hearse and are driven up to the creepy Wayne castle while learning all about the castle’s creepy history involving feuding brothers during the Crusades, and they’re met by Lord Wayne’s butler, Asquith (what?). Asquith explains that his family has been the Wayne’s servants for generations, and brings them to Lord Wayne, who is on his deathbed. The old man speaks to his distant family members, and explains that he’s going to divide his wealth and lands up to them equally, unless one of them dies, in which case it’ll then be evenly distributed again. Oh, and if they all die his doctor gets everything. Red flag! But once that information is doled out the Wayne’s decide that they need to go to sleep and talk about this more in the morning. So after kind of awkwardly flirting with his relative Wilhelmina, Bruce heads to his room, surely not to be murdered. That’s right folks, we have a House on Haunted Hill thing going on.

But things get weird quickly when Bruce is walking Wilhelmina to her room, and they both seem to see a ghostly knight run by. Bruce explains that it was probably nothing, but as soon as he ditches his cousin (?) he puts on his Batman costume and starts investigating. So he begins wandering the castle, and ends up finding the knight attacking Mina in her room. So Batman busts in and starts fighting the knight, quickly finding that he’s real, and has some serious armor on. The knight is able to daze Batman and escape through the window, leaving Batman to awkwardly explain what’s going on to Mina. Which I guess is easy, because she has never heard of Batman before, which kind of blows Bruce’s mind. So Bruce leaves the room, and decides that the knight has to be one of the people who stands to gain from the inheritance scam. He rules out the reverend for some reason, and decides to sneak in on the Australian, who talks like a Chris Claremont character. But when he gets inside, he finds the knight beating up Jeremy Wayne. So Batman scares away the knight, and once again finds that one of his relatives has never heard of Batman, which seems to be frustrating him.

412-2.PNG

.

So that’s two suspects down, and since Batman thinks that a priest can’t do anything illegal (cough) he decides to follow the obvious lead and go check on the doctor. But as he’s heading toward he doc’s room he hears Mina scream again, and goes to check on her once more. Yet when Batman gets there he knight is already gone again, and has fled into the moors, leaving some obvious footprint. Batman decides that this is pretty clearly a trap, but decides to follow it anyway, wandering deeper into the misty moors. And when he’s gone pretty far into them, he starts to hear the pounding of an approaching horse, and we catch back up to the beginning of the issue, with the knight barreling down on Batman. Batman freaks the hell out, especially when he realizes that he’s been standing in one place too long, and is stuck. At which point the knight straight up spears Batman through with the lance, and gallops away victorious.

Well, not quite. Turns out Batman snuck a hunk of wood into his chest, which blocked the path of the lance. I don’t quite think that that logic tracks, but whatever, Batman’s alive. So he heads back to the castle, and ends up finding the knight hiding in an armory, stunned at seeing Batman alive. And Bruce uses that to his advantage by cold-cocking the knight, knocking the helmet off in the process. And shockingly, it’s not the doctor underneath, it’s the butler. The other trope! But it gets weirder, because the butler seems to think that he’s being controlled by the ghost of some ancient ruler of the castle, who was usurped by the Wayne family, and he’s made it his mission to wipe out all the Wayne’s when they’re in one spot. Batman’s obviously not buying the ghost thing, until the dude just straight up dies, and he continues to hear the ghostly voice. But I guess we don’t get any answers about that, because that’s where the issue ends, with Batman just dictating notes to himself about the possible existence of ghosts.

412-3.PNG

So there you have it, a Batman story that felt like it was written by Agatha Cristie. I loved this issue. I have a real thing for goofy stories like this, where everything is so clearly evil. It’s an incredibly similar story to that X-Men one I talked about on the site where they all went to Ireland to go to Banshee’s family castle, not recognizing that that’s totally the beginning of a Scooby Doo episode. Except for this time there weren’t enough leprechauns. But we did get to see Batman fighting a man who may or may not have been legitimately possessed by a vengeful ghost, so that’s cool. This was a pretty dumb issue, but I had a whole lot of fun with it. I like the idea of these random Wayne relatives that Bruce has never heard about, and that of course the Wayne family used to be land-owning aristocrats in England. The mystery of the issue is pretty fun too. I’m not sure I follow Batman’s logic that no priest could commit a crime, but I’ll admit that I was kind of shocked that they weren’t going to go the route of the doctor being behind it all. I guess that was way too obvious. And I sure didn’t see ‘ghosts’ being the answer!

“Legacy of Hate” was written by Frank Robbins and penciled by Bob Brown, 1971.

412-4.PNG

Lifetime of Simpsons

S14 E08 – The Dad Who Knew Too Little

042.jpg

 

So this week has been…less than stellar. There’s been some highs and lows, but nothing really all that great. Which is kind of a bummer. I don’t like being so negative on here, but this week just generally didn’t do much for me. And that trend will somehow continue with this episode, which should be doing better, being a Homer/Lisa episode, but that’s not how the cookie crumbled.

Things start off with the family sitting around watching a TV show called Padz, where we get to see glamorous mansions. And this episode we get to see Krusty wandering around, hung-over and having forgotten that he was supposed to be taping this. Although we do get to see Krusty get beat up by Elliot Gould. That’s pretty cool. But things really get going when the show takes a commercial break and they see an ad for some electronic diary that keeps people that aren’t supposed to be reading it out.

Lisa obviously decides she needs this diary, especially because Bart is literally reading her current one that moment, so she goes to tell Homer and Marge. She asks her parents to get her the diary for her birthday, and Marge unfortunately gives that task to Homer. So Homer and Bart hit up the mall, but he quickly gets distracted by some free food samples, and takes a whole lot of time to gorge himself on that.

And once Homer’s done eating, he heads to the toy store and finds that they literally just sold the last one of these diaries to Mr. Burns, who has no interest in giving it up. And because Homer apparently can’t just go to another store or something, he leaves dejected. But as he’s leaving he runs into Ned, who is picking up some video from a kiosk that can put your kid’s picture in a terrible little animated movie, and have a voice recite basic information about them. And Homer thinks this is the greatest thing in the world.

We then cut to Lisa’s birthday, where she’s eagerly anticipating checking out her diary after getting a high-powered laser pointer from Bart. Unfortunately she’s in for a surprise, and ends up being baffled by the video cassette she gets instead. But Homer tells her it’ll be okay, and has her put the movie on. And it’s terrible. It’s a Western, uses a terrible picture of her, and is riddled with false information. It claims that she loves chicken McNuggets, that her best friend is Maggie, and that her favorite book is ‘magazines.’

038.jpg

And Lisa is not pleased. She freaks out, yelling at Homer because he clearly doesn’t know anything at all about her. Homer assumes that this will just blow over, since kids almost never remember terrible birthdays. But the next morning when he wakes up he’s shocked to find that she’s still furious at him. So he obviously goes to Moe to commiserate about his issue. And, shockingly, they have an idea about how to get his little girl to love him again. It’s not a good idea, but it’s an idea at least. Moe recommends that Homer hires a private detective to spy on Lisa. Good work Moe!

So Homer heads to the bad part of Springfield and meets with Dexter Colt, a shady gumshoe who doesn’t seem that weirded out by the prospect of stalking a little girl to aid her father. Red flag. Colt then hits the town, trying to learn everything he can about Lisa. He breaks into her locker, threatens Skinner into letting him see her permanent record, gets Nelson to steal a copy of her book report on the Secret Garden, and finally just goes to an ice cream store to grill Ralph, getting him nothing.

And after getting enough information, he drops off a packet of details about Lisa on Homer’s car, and he gets to work being a better parent. He puts on Lisa’s favorite album and waits until she comes down to investigate, and is shocked to find Homer listening to it. And he sweetens the deal with a trip to an animal-rights protest and some ice cream. Lisa is obviously put off by this sudden turn of events, but gives it a shot, and heads off to have a nice day with Homer.

So Homer and Lisa go a protest about animals being tested on, and they shockingly have a good time. Lisa more or less forgives Homer for his birthday gaff, not realizing that it’s suspicious that Homer has suddenly learned about her interests. Unfortunately things take a weird turn when Homer goes to thanks Dexter for helping him win back Lisa, and he’s presented with a bill for $1,000. Mostly expenses. Homer refuses to pay such an exorbitant price, and ends up getting into an altercation with Colt, earning yet another enemy.

039.jpg

Homer then just forgets that he has a vindictive detective after him, and just goes home to watch TV with Lisa. And they see a news report about that animal testing lab being broken into and all the animals being freed. Oh, and there’s a ton of clues in the lab that the person behind the heist was Lisa. So Colt has obviously framed Lisa, and only Homer knows what’s going on, so he convinces Lisa to run away and hide with him before the police can show up and arrest her.

The pair head out into the woods and get some disguises going before getting rooms at a little hotel. But when Homer calls home to Marge he ends up getting the line traced, and the police rush over to arrest them. The two escape the hotel just in time, and end up having a heart to heart in the woods where Homer admits what he did. And Lisa is not happy. Shocker. So they just keep wandering in the wood, not speaking.

Eventually though they come across a weird little carnival, and decide to hide out in there. But as they’re investigating the carnival, they find the animals from the lab, and of all the weird coincidences it turns out they’ve found a carnival that Colt is working at. Colt threatens to attack them, and ends up firing a man out of a canon into Homer’s gut, before they try to escape again into a house of mirrors. Colt tracks Homer through the house of mirror, and is about to attack him when Lisa comes to the rescue, learns that Homer actually does know things about her, and uses the laser pointer from earlier to blast Dexter in the eyes. So the police show up, arrest Colt, and everyone else can go back to their normal lives.

040.jpg

This is a weird one. I’m usually a huge sucker for episodes that revolve around Homer and Lisa’s relationship, but this one falls flat for me. And I’m not quite sure why. It could be the absurd premise, with Homer literally hiring a creepy PI to stalk his daughter, but I don’t know if that’s necessarily my issue. I mean, that premise is ludicrous, but I think the larger issue is the fact that usually we just get Lisa and Homer having one big fight, and getting over it, whereas this episode has them fight, make up, fight, and make up constantly. They just can’t find common ground in this episode, and they just vacillate wildly. Which, I don’t know, maybe is more realistic that a normal Lisa/Homer episode, but it felt weird and rushed, like they kept trying to come up with excuses to keep the plot going. I don’t know folks, just a weird week.

Take Away: Learn things about your kids, but if you’re going so far as to hire a gumshoe, maybe take a step back and rethink your life.

 

“The Dad Who Knew Too Little” was written by Matt Selman and directed by Mark Kirkland, 2003.

 

041.gif

Lifetime of Simpsons

S14 E07 – Special Edna

037.jpg

 

You know who we haven’t focused on in a while. Mrs. Krabappel. She was never a character like Apu that inexplicably got an episode a season, but we used to check in more frequently on her sad life, and her relationship with Skinner. But it’s been a while, so let’s jump into this passable episode!

Things start off with us learning that the fourth grade students are about to write papers about World War I, and start arguing about which war that was, and if Merlin was involved. But after establishing that Merlin fought in Vietnam, they leave and we see that Edna is getting ready for a romantic trip to pick apples with Skinner. But, to establish a theme of the episode, Skinner shows up to tell her he’s bailing on the date to be with Agnes instead. What a wiener.

Anyway, Bart heads home to get ready to write his paper, and instantly starts submitting to distractions instead. He watches some ridiculous wrestling match all about beating up Osama bin Laden and he goes to the library to study only to find a Xerox machine with 99 free prints on it, tempting him to make copies of his butt for church. Hell, he even thinks about reading about algebra instead of writing his essay. Which is ridiculous. World War I is fascinating.

But Bart’s just bad at this, and ends up spacing on the whole assignment, until he ends up having to resort to desperate measures the day that the paper is due. He asks Grandpa about the War. Which results in Grandpa telling a story about him joining the war by lying about his age, and fighting as a toddler. And as you can guess, he gets an F on that paper. So he has to stay after school and rewrite the paper with Edna, trying to do better.

033

And while he’s in there writing with her, Skinner comes in to talk. Skinner is flirting with Edna, and coming up with a new date, but ends up getting a phone call from Agnes and immediately bailing. Edna is clearly devastated, and Bart decides that he has to do something to help her out, and offers to hang out with her that night. Which isn’t creepy at all. So the two head to an IMAX theater and watch a movie about holes, having a pretty good time.

This obviously leads to everyone making fun of Bart for having a date with his teacher, but after mocking him a bit Lisa recommends that Bart submit Mrs. Krabappel for a Teacher of the Year award. So Bart records a little video about what makes Mrs. Krabappel special, and it basically just consists of her doing her job well. Oh, but it turns out the committee have somehow heard about how terrible Bart is, so they decide to accept her nomination since she’s somehow managed to teach him.

So a little ceremony is held at the Elementary School where Edna is formally nominated for the big award, and she shocks Skinner by thanking Bart instead of him. And Skinner gets even more confused when he starts to realize that the praise Edna is getting may mean that she’ll leave the school. So he butts in and starts giving a speech about how great Edna is. Unfortunately he gets a page from Agnes, and ends up ending the whole damn ceremony. Not doing so great Seymour.

034.jpg

The awards ceremony is in Orlando, so Edna heads out, along with the whole Simpsons family, who get to go because Bart nominated her. So they head to the lackluster Epcot center, and get to goof off for a while before the awards. Lisa and Marge get to see Eastern Airline’s vision of the future, where they’re a monolithic company that rules humanity and Homer and Bart go see an electric car display which is sponsored by oil companies and is pitiful.

But while everyone is having fun, we see Skinner decide to head to Orlando and win Edna back. So he borrows Willie’s crazy spy car and drives across the country to save his relationship. Unfortuantely when he shows up to sweep Edna off her feet, it turns out he’s brought Agnes along with him. So that’s the final straw. Edna yells at him and ends up dumping him, causing him to sleep in Epcot for some reason instead of the hotel room he rented.

And that dumping has driven Skinner a little crazy. He sneaks into a meeting before the Teacher of the Year awards, and hears the teachers discuss that if they win they’ll have enough money to quit and never teach again. He gets really concerned he’ll lose Edna forever at that point, and goes to make a deal with Bart. He blackmails Bart by threatening to spread that he’s a teacher’s pet in the school, unless he purposefully bombs the show and ensures Edna doesn’t win.

That night the awards ceremony begins, to a mostly empty theater, and things get going with their master of ceremonies, Little Richard. We skip right to the Teacher of the Year award, and see that the kids that nominated the teachers have to ask them once last question. And when it’s Bart’s turn, he pretends that he can’t read, and that it’s all Edna’s fault. But as everyone s horrified, Skinner realizes he can’t let this continue, and heads up to the stage to set the record straight. And propose marriage. Edna is floored, and agrees, getting engaged. Oh, and she loses the award to some rando. But hey, at least they’re engaged.

035

Edna Krabappel really is a sad character. But she tends to have really great episodes. I don’t think I’ve disliked a single one of the episodes that revolve around her, and while I don’t really love this one, it’s fine. I think that despite the fact that she’s typically portrayed as kind of checked-out, when they really focus on her she’s a good teacher, so it was nice to see her get some recognition. But the issue with this episode for me is the Skinner stuff. Skinner is a complete asshole in this episode and barely does anything to redeem himself. He treats Edna like crap, and then gets all depressed when she dumps him, so he just proposes and that fixes everything? I don’t recall them ever actually getting married, but maybe I never made it that far, so I guess there’s a chance things will fall apart still, as they should.

Take Away: Don’t treat your girlfriend like crap, and don’t assume that proposing fill fix any relationship problem.

 

“Special Edna” was written by Dennis Snee and directed by Bob Anderson, 2003.

 

036.gif

Lifetime of Simpsons

S14 E06 – The Great Louse Detective

032.jpg

 

Guess what time it is folks? Sideshow Bob time! Hey, those still happen! We haven’t seen Bob in a while, and he isn’t having an episode a season like clockwork like we used to, but we finally have another one. And it’s pretty fun.

Our episode starts off with Marge timing herself while cleaning, which is a super sad idea. But we do get the weird joke where she apparently has vacuumed up Maggie in her haste. But that doesn’t really have anything to do with anything, because as she’s shocked at Maggie’s traumatic experience Homer comes on in with the mail. And he has some free passes to a local spa called the Stagnant Springs Health spa.

So the family pack up into the car and drive off to get pampered and do some sight-gags. We see Kent Brockman and Tom Brokaw get extensive work to look human, the kids go to some child spa called Dr. Ma-Seuss where everyone speaks in rhyme, Marge gets some sort of turtle massage, and Homer gets his back walked on by a little Asian lady who starts sinking into his back-fat like quicksand.

But stuff actually starts happening when Homer heads into the sauna and has some awkward encounter with a nude Ranier Wolfcastle where they once again don’t seem to know each other. But when Wolfcastle leaves, and Homer is alone, something menacing happens. A man in a hood comes running up and locks the door to the sauna with a giant wrench, before turning it up to its highest point. So Homer’s trapped in the sauna, and eventually loses consciousness until he’s saved by Krusty, who just happens to show up.

027.jpg

So the family head to the police to talk with Chief Wiggum about dealing with Homer’s attempted murder, but as usual Wiggum isn’t that helpful. But, he decides that the only way to solve this case is to pull a Hannibal Lecter and get a real psychopath to help assist in the mystery. So they head to the prison and walk down the hall of the maximum security wing before reaching a big fancy door. And behind that door is…Sideshow Bob! Oh no! If only I hadn’t spoiled that!

Bob is then freed from his cell and after making a deal that he’ll help the Simpsons in exchange for picking his role in the Man from La Manca in the prison musical, and released into the Simpson’s custody. They strap an electric shock device to his leg in order to zap him if he doesn’t comply, and they get investigating. Yep, this is a Homer/Bob one, not a Bart/Bob story. So the two sit down and start going through a list of everyone that could possibly hate Homer, and the list includes: Mr. Burns, Fat Tony, the Emperor of Japan, ex-President Bush, the late Frank Grimes, PBS, Stephen Hawking, the fat Dixie Chick, and the State of Florida.

That wasn’t helpful. So Bob suggests that he just follow Homer in a typical day of his life. They obviously then go hang gliding, until Bob calls him out that this doesn’t make sense, so they just go to the Kwik-E-Mart to buy pornography. And while there they talk to Apu about the upcoming Mardi Gras celebration, and the contest to elect the kind of the festival. And after picking up the porno they drive off, and Homer gets in a car accident pretty quickly. He then yells at the mechanic, Junior, before walking home with Bob.

028.jpg

Once again, not that helpful. So they set up an elaborate Homer-dummy and hide in the bushes to see if anyone attacks it. And they do. In fact, we see Moe, Patty, Selma, Reverend Lovejoy, Willie, and Homer all attack the stupid dummy. So yeah, things aren’t going great. So to deal with the disappointment they hit up Moe’s to drink and talk about how easy it would be to kill Bart, and how mucho of a failure Bart is. But as they’re sitting there the door of the bar opens and someone tries to shoot Homer.

And after this event, Bob really buckles down and starts investigating, and finally comes across some clues. He finds that the tickets to the spa that set all of these events in motion had a grease smudge on it. So that’s something. And with that little bit of a head start Bob gives Homer the advice that he should lay low and hide from everyone. At which point some clowns burst into the house and tell Homer that he’s the Mardi Gras king, and will spend the whole parade on a big float. So, not really what Bob was saying.

Even though the whole situation is shady as hell, and Homer only won because the killer stuffed the ballot box, Homer goes through with it and becomes the King. He gets up on a float, and starts parading about, trying to keep an eye out for the killer. So is Bob, whose chatting with the police about how quiet the float is. Which is when Wiggum mentions that some mechanic tuned up the float, and Bob puts it all together. The grease stain on the envelope, the wrench used to lock him in, the mechanic that Homer yelled at. It’s the mechanic!

029

So Bob chases after the float, especially once he realizes that the mechanic cut the break line. But before Bob can grab Homer, the float starts heading down a hill toward the museum of swordfish where he’ll be impaled. But Bob has a Hail Mary, and sticks himself in a canon and fires himself through the air. He manages to grab onto the Duff Blimp, and uses it to save Homer right before he would have crashed and died.

But right when they think they’re safe, a gun goes off and Duffman is shot. They trace the shot to the mechanic, who is on a pair of stilts and rapidly escaping. So Homer and Bob steal stilts from Kearney and Jimbo and give chase, quickly cornering the mechanic. And when they catch him, he reveals that he’s Frank Grimes Jr, and he’s Grimes’ illegitimate son from a hooker. So Junior is arrested, Homer is saved, and Bob is sent back to jail. Well, except he’s not, because we get this weird ending scene where he shows up in Bart’s room to kill him like Lenny suggested, but realizes he can’t because he’s grown accustomed to Bart’s face. So after a musical number he heads out into the night, free and apparently over his grudge against Bart.

030.jpg

Well, as far as Sideshow Bob episodes go this one isn’t the best, but compared to the rest of the episodes this week it’s pretty solid. I do like the idea of this not being an episode where Bart has to deduce Bob’s evil plan and stop him, and instead flip things so that Bob is trying to solve a crime. And I think Bob and Homer made a fun little pair. The resolution of the crime is pretty stupid though, and the sudden addition of Frank Grime’s illegitimate son isn’t my favorite, and really had to be shoehorned in. Especially when Marge tossed in “the late Frank Grimes” to Homer’s list of enemies. But despite those issues, I did like this one.

Take Away: Using one killer to find another is a great system. And be nice to your mechanic.

 

“The Great Louse Detective” was written by Jon Frink and Don Payne and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2002.

 

031.gif

Lifetime of Simpsons

S14 E05 – Helter Shelter

026.jpg

 

After yesterday’s unpleasantness let’s count our blessings and check out this episode. It’s only marginally bad! Hell of an improvement!

Things start off with Homer walking around in the Plant, which he doesn’t really seem to do much anymore, when a piece of a pipe breaks and crashes down on him. Smithers and Burns spring out of nowhere, worried that this workplace accident will cost them a fortune if Homer sues. So they decide to pay him off with skybox seats to a hockey game. Wait, isn’t that the same premise as the time they found out Homer was sterile and decided to make a fake awards show to avoid suing? Whatever.

So the Simpsons head down to the arena to check out the hockey game, which no one but Lisa is really that enthused about. Which I guess makes sense, since she used to be a pretty great goalie. But they aren’t really planning on watching any of the game anyway, because the box seats are awesome, and have a lot of alternatives. They get their portraits painted, eat sushi, and basically just act like they’re in a spa. Hell, Homer even pours fondue chocolate down on the peasants in the regular seats when they get uppity.

But this behavior starts to irritate Lisa, who actually wants to watch the game. So she leaves the box and heads down to the glass, where she’s somehow able to get so close that she can give one of the players the advice he needs to win the game. And he’s so thankful that he gives Lisa the game-winning stick as a prize. So she and the family head home, and nail the stick onto her wall before going to sleep.

022.jpg

Which turned out to be a terrible plan, because that stick was full of weird Russian termites, who flee the stick during the night and begin destroying the Simpson’s house. So they wake up that morning and are shocked to find the house falling apart. They jump on the situation and call up a terrible exterminator, who gets to work. And after getting in the mindset of a bug, he tents up the house and begins pumping in poison, telling the Simpsons that they will be homeless for six months. Which sounds absurd, but whatever.

After a brief and baffling King of the Hill reference the family decide that they need to find somewhere to live for six months, and start hitting the town. They stop by Lenny’s amazing apartment, but bail when they find that he shares a common wall with a squash court. Next up they go to try Comic Book Guy for some weird reason, but find him too lonely and creepy. So they just end up at Moe’s where Homer pitches them just camping there.

No one else is a fan of that idea, but the barflies do have a suggestion. Apparently there’s a new reality show filming in Springfield where the participants have to live in a house and try to act like it’s 1895. So the Simpsons head down to the studio, audition, and prove that they’re a weird and volatile enough family to be entertaining while slowly being driven mad. So the studio hires them, get them dressed up in silly costumes, and have them move into the old timey house.

023.jpg

The family get acclimated to their new house, checking out the chamber pots and video confessionals, and get ready to live there. Which turns out to be horrible. It takes Marge and Lisa six hours to make breakfast, Homer passes out from blood-loss after shaving with a straight-razor, and they have to take a steam powered vehicle to the Kwik-E-Mart where they’re only allowed to buy items that existed in 1895.

So yeah, things are terrible. They’re all cold, hungry, and smell terrible. And the people love it. They’re apparently a huge success, and everyone’s tuning in to see which one of them dies first. But then the unthinkable happens. They start to get the hang of it. Marge gets used to corsets, Bart makes prank telegraph messages to Moe, and they just generally start working together as a family to make their life great. Which people obviously hate.

The network suits then decide to spice things up, and obviously send over Squiggy from Laverne and Shirley to live with them. Oh, and they gave him a taser to add stakes. Unfortunately this genius idea doesn’t work, so they suits have to buckle down and start flipping through TV channels to find some other idea to steal. And they find a great one.

That night while everyone is asleep a helicopter show up, rips the house from the foundation, and flies it to the Amazon, where they drop the house into the River. The house sails down the Amazon River, falling apart, until they smash into some land, and fall out, watching their house get destroyed. So now they’re homeless, Squiggy-less, and trapped in the Amazon. It’s now a Survivor clone. And when the film crew that’s waiting for them won’t help them, they decide to head into the jungle and figure out what to do.

And while in the jungle they make a shocking discovery. They find a civilization of people who have been surviving alone in the jungle after being abandoned by a previous reality show. They make a deal with the Simpsons, and storm the film crew’s camp in order to overpower them and return to civilization. So the tribe attacks the film crew, steals their helicopter, and return to civilization, just in time for the Simpsons to move back into their house and complain about the state of scripted television after watching Law and Order: Elevator Inspector Unit.

024.jpg

This episode kind of frustrates me. Yeah, reality shows are stupid, and their prevalence at the time that this episode was written would have been daunting and incredibly irritating. But the episode didn’t really have that much to say other than, “reality shows are dumb.” And there’s a part of me that feels like this is such a topical reference for the show, that it doesn’t work. Obviously reality shows have stuck around way longer than any of us expected, but at the time this was probably a new phenomena. Which makes it weird that the Simpsons would focus on that. The show usually has a kind of timeless quality about it, dealing with issues that could happen at any time period. That’s obviously not always the case, but I feel like it was around this point that the show started to get way more topical, which makes it get really dated. They started getting flavor of the month celebrities to cameo and gripe about things that were annoying at the time, but that wouldn’t have any lasting power. Which this episode kind of embodies for me. Don’t get me wrong, this was a far better episode than yesterday’s but it left me with a bitter feeling, knowing that things were going to get worse in the coming seasons.

Take Away: Don’t except gifts from strange Russians, and maybe don’t support reality television.

 

“Helter Shelter” was written by Brian Pollack and Mert Rich and directed by Mark Kirkland, 2002.

 

025.gif

Lifetime of Simpsons

S14 E04 – Large Marge

021.jpg

 

Hey everybody, welcome back to Lifetime of Simpsons where we’re up for a week of remarkably mediocre episodes. And you know what helps them seem okay? Starting off the week with an almost unbelievably bad episode. Buckle up folks, we may have found a new winner for “worst episode yet!”

This turd of an episode starts off with the really weird tableau of Homer and Lisa sitting together on the couch, watching the History Channel and betting on the outcome of the Truman/Dewey election. Homer obviously picked Dewey, and thus loses, so Lisa gets to chose what the family does that afternoon. And her choice is to go build Habitat for Humanity houses, which I can’t imagine is something you can just drop by and help out. Especially when you’re eight. But whatever.

Homer and the kids get to the place where they’re building the houses, and after an awkward and cringe-worthy gay joke we do get the solid gag of Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and George Bush Sr bumbling around like the Three Stooges. But when that’s over we see Homer waiting a wall, and taking his wedding ring off so he doesn’t ruin it. And just on time Lindsey Naegle and Cookie Kwan show up, trolling for single dads. So of course they see Homer, ringless, and start flirting.

And right as Homer is speaking to the two women, Marge comes rolling up to pick up the family, and seems to see Home showing off and flirting with them. She then freaks the hell out, and drives back home, not picking the family up. Oh, and we learn that Homer isn’t flirting, he’s vividly describing the birth of his children after explaining that he’s happily married. But Marge doesn’t know that, and instead of asking Homer about it, just goes home and starts to get jealous and depressed that Homer isn’t attracted to her anymore.

016

But before we see where that horrible decision leads Marge we’re introduced to the B-Plot, which starts off with Bart and Milhouse hanging out in the living room during a sleepover. They’re flipping through channels and end up coming across an episode of the 60’s Batman show, which is a solid find. The kids are super into the show, and stat watching it excitedly, especially when they realize that the villain of the episode is a character called Clownface, who was played by a young Krusty. Because Krusty is 100 years old. And after seeing Krusty pull off some crazy stunt where they have Batman and Robin tied to the horses of a carousel, and make it spin ridiculously fast, they decide they need to replicate it.

The next day though we cut over to Marge and Manjula, who are walking together in the park talking about infidelity. Since Manjula just had to deal with Apu’s affair, Marge decides to ask her advice, since she’s now convinced Homer is going to cheat on her. Manjula’s response is to not reassure her friend, but instead tell her that the only way to ensure Homer’s commitment is for Marge to get liposuction. Sure, let’s just roll with it folks.

So Marge and Manjula head straight to the goddamn plastic surgeon, and Marge gets signed up for a liposuction session. She’s put under, and the procedure begins. And after some time she wakes up in some mass recover ward where the other patients are all laying around. And it’s pretty quick that Marge realizes that something went wrong, and she didn’t get liposuction. She accidentally got breast implants. Whoops! Marge yells at the plastic surgeon for a while, with serious grounds for a malpractice lawsuit, and learns that he can remove them, but not for 48 hours.

017.jpg

Meanwhile though, we see that Bart and Milhouse have gone to school that day dead-set on replicating the stunt they saw on Batman. So at recess they tie Milhouse up to a little caurosel in the playground and use Otto’s bus to make the thing spin way faster than it was designed to. At which point it yanks out of the ground and starts flying away, straight to a group of Iwo Jima veterans who are visiting. At which point Milhouse knocks the flag down, and vomits on it. And Skinner is pissed. Which causes Bart and Milhouse to immediately squeal and blame their terrible behavior on Krusty.

Back at the house, Marge is desperate to hide her new breasts from the rest of the family, deeply ashamed of them and not wanting to explain the ridiculous steam of events that lead to the mistake. But she’s apparently bad at hiding them, and that night Homer is feeling her up and reveals the secret. At which point he starts lobbying for her to ignore her wishes, and keep them. And after an awkward family meeting where the kids learn about the breasts, they decide to make the most of the 48 hours, and take advantage of them.

Because apparently the people of Springfield are horrible pigs, and they give her special treatment just for having big fake boobs. They head to Luigi’s and manage to get a table, even though Luigi claims that it’s full, and even gives them better food than everyone else. At which point we get a ridiculous song where all the pervy men of Springfield come into the restaurant to sing about how great Marge’s boobs are now, and how they like her more. And as a cherry on top, some lady comes in and asks Marge if she wants to get some modeling gigs.

018.jpg

Marge agrees to the woman, and begin getting some gigs around town, mostly trade shows for household products, like oven-mitts. But I guess it’s a decent job, even though it’s mostly horny salesmen cat-calling her. But it gets pretty terrible, pretty quick. Especially because the giant breasts are now giving Marge terrible back spasms. But who cares about that!

Oh, and while all of this is going on we see that Krusty’s life has gotten pretty crappy. The stupid parents of Springfield get all up in arms when Skinner tells them that Bart and Milhouse vomited on the flag because of Krusty, so they begin picketing his show until they take all the fun out of it and it’s basically just a safety lecture. So Bart heads into the Friars Club and has a meeting with Krusty in a sauna where they come up with a plan to save his image.

And wouldn’t you know it, the plan Bart comes up with ends up getting Marge involved too, because it’s set at a shoe expo where Marge is modeling. Bart’s basic plan is to have Stampy (who is there for some reason) grab Milhouse and pretend to eat him, only to have Krusty say Stampy’s safe-word and get him to let Milhouse go, saving the day. Unfortunately Krusty forget the word, so Stampy just keep eating Milhouse, and even grabs Bart.

The rest of the people are the show are horrified, and start freaking out. They even take a break from sexually harassing Marge, who is so miserable that she has to get drugged up by her agent-lady from earlier. And the elephant situation starts to escalate when Stampy also grabs Homer, and the police get ready to shoot Stampy, and possibly his captives. And since Krusty can’t remember the special word, it’s up to Marge, who realizes the only way to distract everyone is to take her top off and flash everyone. And that works! People stop paying attention, Krusty accidently says the word, Stampy releases everyone, Krusty is a hero, and Marge goes to get her implants removed, and things go back to normal.

019.jpg

Yikes. Maybe I’m crazy, but I really feel like this is the worst episode I’ve had so far on the show. Which is no small order. There’s really very little that redeems it in my eyes. There’s the good Three Stooge’s joke and it was fun seeing the Simpsons do some Batman ’66 stuff, but I hated basically everything else. Let’s start with the B plot! We’re given yet another ridiculous problem where people hate Krusty, but relegated to a B Plot, so it barely makes sense and is incredibly sped up. Plus, it deals with one of my least favorite things about culture, parents getting mad that their shitty kids did something they saw on a show instead of just parenting them. But the biggest problem is the main plot. I don’t know what the hell was going on in this episode. Marge just accidently got breast implants, because for some reason she never thought to ask Homer about that misunderstanding, and then spends the rest of the episode being told that having giant boobs makes her better. And they don’t even refute it at the end! I guess she got rid of them because of the back pain, because she ends up saving the day with them, even though they seem to be making her miserable. Really, the way the episode ended up going, I see no narrative reason that she did that, other than to return things to the status quo. Because every shitty dude in Springfield was dead set on her keeping them to ogle them, and they seemed to make her life much easier. I don’t know folks, maybe I’m looking at this episode from a weird lens, but I couldn’t stand this episode, and just felt like I needed a shower after it.

Take Away: Apparently the moral of this episode is that giant breast implants makes every woman’s life easier and better.

 

“Large Marge” was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Jim Reardon, 2002.

 

020.jpg