Lifetime of Simpsons

S02 E12 – The Way We Was

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Flashback episode everybody! I absolutely love the flashback episodes that show Homer and Marge’s relationship in the past, how it’s grown and matured. And the episodes that show the kids when they were younger. It’s the kind of thing that a live-action sitcoms just can’t do. Yeah, they frequently attempt to show their characters as they were, but it usually looks terrible, just bad make-up and tacky fashion to show how different things were. It kind of bums me out that apparently the modern episodes have messed with the timeline, which I suppose is a necessity since it doesn’t really work that Homer and Marge met in the 70’s anymore, but I feel like it would be better to just not address it rather than mess with such a great continuity. But I guess I’ll get there in two years when I reach the modern ones.

Before the flashback starts we get a great joke with the family sitting around watching some sort of parody of the Siskel and Ebert show, where they’re talking about McBain. I love the McBain movie that we always see clips of. I’ve seen a video where someone spliced all the disparate clips of McBain together to make a somewhat followable narrative, and it’s great. Anyway, while they’re watching the show the TV goes on the fritz, so Homer does what any man would. He starts smacking the hell out of it. But shockingly that didn’t work, and he ends up breaking the TV. While Bart becomes mired in dispair, Homer and Marge begin telling the kids stories. Lisa first asks how Homer proposed, but all that leads to is a flashback where Homer and Marge is told by Dr. Hibbert that she’s pregnant, since they had a shotgun wedding. I love that one constant in flashback episodes is that you can always tell the era by whatever hairstyle Dr. Hibbert has, in this case a big-ass afro.

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Instead of telling that story, they decide instead to tell the kids how they first met. So we get to see them in highschool in the 70’s. I love that Homer hears the Carpenters “Close to You” on the radio, which would become their song, and decides instead to switch it over to the Steve Miller Band’s “the Joker,” as Homer tries to sing along. I saw Steve Miller Band perform a few years back, and it was a hell of a concert. Hoer gets to school and meet up with Barney, and they decide to go smoke in the bathroom. Flashback episodes of any kind always make ironic joke, which can often be clunkers, and despite how good this episode is, having Barney tell Homer that he can eat whatever he wants and never gain a pound is a pretty dumb joke. Homer and Barney get detention for smoking, and we cut over to Marge and her friend. Her friend is telling her about the feminist movement, and Marge is quickly convinced she should be protesting for equal-rights, but after burning her bra she too gets detention. And then Homer sees her for the first time, and instantly falls in love while “Close To You” starts to play in his head.

I love that Homer tries to ask Marge out in the detention room, even though each word he says gets him more detention. But Marge isn’t into Homer, and deflects his advances. We then get to see teenaged Homer getting advice from Abe. And boy do you get the feeling that Homer’s life with Abe sucked. The house is filthy, and they both seem super unhapy. All the episodes I’ve seen just gloss over that period in Homer’s life, and man it would be depressing to see it. Anyway, he asks Abe for advice to woo Marge, and he basically just says that Homer shouldn’t try to date someone whose obviously better than him. Homer decides to ask his guidance counselor for advice, and he just tells him to share interests with Marge, so he goes and joins debate club. And when he goes to debate club we get to meet Artie Ziff, who is awesome. Pretty much all the characters that Jon Lovitz did on this show were great, though they were usually one-offs. But Artie is so great, the snotty little shit. And his afro is awesome.

The debate team isn’t working though, so when Homer learns that Marge tutors French, he lies to her that he’s in French class and needs help, so she comes over to help him. Almost immediately Homer tries to hit on Marge, but she doesn’t want any of it, so she actually ends up teaching him French, with a brief break so they could dance to “the Hustle.” But when Marge gets ready to leave to study for the debate, Homer convinces her to stay, and they end up having a great time. At the end of the night, Homer takes a shot and asks her to prom, and she agrees, but then like an idiot Homer lets slip that he’s not in French class, and that he tricked her. Marge gets pissed and leaves, but an oblivious Homer assumes that they’re still on for the prom.

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Back at school, Artie decides to ask Marge to the prom, and since she canceled with Homer, she takes him up on it. Of course, Homer doesn’t realize that she canceled, so he’s still preparing to go with her. She then starts to get ready for prom, and we get the great line from Mrs. Bouvier, “ladies pinch, whores use rouge.” While Marge is getting ready Homer shows up and we get to see teenaged Patty and Selma and Marge’s dad, who are all ashamed that Marge picked Homer. She comes down and is shocked to see Homer, and he has to leave in embarrassment when Artie comes to pick her up. So they all head to the prom, which is “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” themed. Marge and Artie have a great time, and they’re even crowned King and Queen. While Homer skulks around by himself, growing more and more depressed. I never went to prom in high school, half because I never have a shit about that sort of stuff, and half because I was a loser and never could get a date, so prom stories never have that much weight to me. They just seem like such frivolous and stupid things. But whatever, people like them.

Marge finds Homer crying in the hallway, and he gets more rejection, as she leaves with Artie. They go to “Inspiration Point” and Artie starts trying to take advantage of Marge, even ripping her dress. But she slaps him and demands she drive him home. Meanwhile, Homer’s limo rental has ended, and he’s walking home in the dark alone, which Marge sees as they drive by. Artie drops Marge off, and just as she’s getting home she hears her parents bad-mouthing Homer. She feels back for him, and drives off to find Homer, whose still walking home. She picks him up, tells him that he should have been her prom date, and as he mends her dress with his corsage, they begin to fall in love, and we get Homer’s wonderfully sweet line of “I’m going to hug you, and kiss you, and I’m never going to be able to let you go.” The flashback is then over and we see Homer and Marge cuddling, Lisa captivated, and Bart not giving a shit and trying his damndest to fix the TV.

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This was such an amazing episode. I’ve mentioned before that I love Homer and Marge’s relationship, and it was great to see it’s beginning. The story of their meeting and the blossoming of their love is so great. The episode does fall in a standard groove when it makes jokes based on things that we know are going to happen, like Marge saying she’ll wear her hair up, or Homer laughing at the idea of working at the nuclear plant, but generally it take full advantage of it’s 70’s time-frame and is just a lot of fun. It’s very sweet and funny, and just an all around great episode. Bravo.

Take Away: The take away that first come to mind is that if you keep hounding a girl to like you, she’ll eventually cave and end up marring you, which is a pretty terrible notion. It’s a popular trope in the media, and a really appalling one, so I’m going to ignore that and just decide that the take away for this episode is that love is nice. And that you’re metabolism will catch up with you.

“The Way We Was” was written by Al Jean, Mike Reiss, and Sam Simon and directed by David Silverman.

Lifetime of Simpsons

S02 E11 – One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish

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This is a weird episode guys. It’s a pretty emotional episode, and talks about a really heavy topic, all while keeping the classic Simpsons charm. It’s episodes like this that remind me why I love this show so much. It tackles a serious topic, like what you would do if you literally had one day left on Earth, but also remained funny and enjoyable. Enough preamble, let’s dive in.

Right off the bat we get a strange moment, Marge cooks meatloaf in the microwave? Now, meatloaf was certainly a staple in my house growing up, and hell, my wife and I still make it frequently, but I’ve never cooked it, or anything really in the microwave. The microwave is for heating stuff up, not cooking. That meatloaf must be gross. C’mon Marge. Anyway, Lisa starts to express some ennui over having their meals planned out so rigidly, which I can totally relate to. My family weren’t as bad as the Simpsons, but we definitely had the week planned out, and there was little deviation from the schedule. She wants to try new things, go to restaurants that aren’t burgers, pizza, or fried chicken, which Homer assumes must be on Mars. And in the end, they decide that they’re going to go try the new sushi place in town. The next night we join the Simpsons at the Happy Sumo, getting ready to try sushi for the first time. Now, I hate sushi. I’ve tried a lot of different kinds, because I have had friends who can’t accept that I don’t like it, and have given me lots of different kinds, trying to find one I like, and they’ve never succeeded. Generally I don’t like fish, just the taste of it, but it doesn’t help that I live in Colorado, so most seafood I come across is a little sketchy, because it’s probably not exactly fresh. But the Simpsons seem to like it. They order a wide variety of sushi from their waiter Akira, and much to his surprise, Homer loves it.

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There’s two great jokes at the Happy Sumo featuring karaoke, because apparently it’s also a karaoke bar. First, there’s the weird Asian anesthesiologist guy, whose design is so odd and specific that I have to assume he’s a parody of someone, but I couldn’t figure it out. Then we see Bart and Lisa singing the theme from Shaft, which is hilarious. But while the kids are singing, Homer is basically eating one of everything on the menu, until he reaches the last thing, Fugu. Akira heads into the kitchen to talk to the master sushi chef, but he’s busy making out with Mrs. Krabappel. The junior chef tries to get the master to help, because Fugu can be poisonous unless it’s preparing correctly, but the master yells that his “Skilled hands” are busy, and the junior chef has to try to prepare the blowfish himself. He does his best, and Homer eats it, but the master chef comes in, sees the blowfish, and freaks out. They then tell Homer that there’s a good chance he ate poison.

They race Homer to the hospital, where Dr. Hibbert runs some tests, and comes to the conclusion that Homer probably ate poison, and will be dead in 24 hours. I love that Homer goes through all the stages of grief in the conversation with Hibbert. Hibbert leaves them to talk after giving them a pamphlet called “So You’re Going to Die”, because in the Simpsons universe there’s a pamphlet for everything. Homer is mad that he’s going to die because he tried new things, but he starts making a bucket list with Marge while the two lie in bed. Homer plans his last day on Earth, and goes to sleep, planning to wake up early with Marge and watch the sunrise before starting his bucket list. But unfortunately the next morning when his alarm goes off, he smashes it off, and ends up waking up at 11:30 instead. With time running out, Homer begins to quickly check things off his list.

He has a heart to heart with Bart, who assumes that he’s in trouble, and it ends up with Homer telling Bart three sentences that will help him in life: “Cover for me. Oh, good idea boss. It was like that when I got here.” He then teaches Bart how to shave. Ever since I was old enough to shave, I’ve used an electric razor, and except for times when a barber has given me a straight-razor shave, I’ve never used a normal razor, and it seems like a pain in the ass. Homer just cuts his face up. Screw that. Next up he goes to listen to Lisa play her saxophone, but when she plays the blues he gets too sad, until she changes to playing “the Saints Go Marching In,” which makes him happy, and he dances. Lisa kind of gets the shaft on the bucket list thing. Next Homer wants to make a video for Maggie, but needs to borrow a camcorder from Flanders, and ends up promising to come to a barbeque the next day, since he figures he’ll be dead, and he wants to take advantage of his impending death. And the tape Homer makes for Maggie is amazing. He says that he’s communicating from beyond the grave, and lies about being a patient man, before getting a phone call from Milhouse, and being unpleasant and scratching his butt on the tape. Homer then heads over to tell Grandpa he loves him, and the two have a pretty sweet moment together where they hug and talk about their relationship, then Grandpa ends up eating a lot of Homer’s time and the two play catch, go fishing, all sort of stereotypical father-son stuff.

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But because Homer hung out with Grandpa longer than he planned on, he rushes home and gets pulled over for speeding. After he smart-mouths Eddie and Lou, he’s thrown into jail. I love that there’s a guy playing harmonica, and when Homer asks him what he’s in for, he says “atmosphere.” Homer calls Barney, who bails him out with spare change, and Barney convinces him to come to Moe’s for one last beer. There’s also a weird scene where Mr. Burns and Smithers are sitting in a park looking a women’s shoes? What the hell? But Homer gets to yell at Burns, which was on his list. He drinks at Moe’s for a while, and then has Barney drive him home, but they get a flat tire, and Homer ends up running the rest of the way. He gets in bed with Marge, and after she reads him a really sweet and beautiful poem, they’re “intimate” one last time. Homer then goes to all the kids as they sleep, says something sweet to them, and kisses their head. Even though he couldn’t think of anything for Bart, and just says “I like your sheets.” He then starts to listen to the Bible as read by Larry King on audiobook, and prepares to die. I love that he fast forwards through all the begating stuff. Then surprise surprise, Homer doesn’t die. Twist! Marge finds him the next morning, and apparently he beat the poison, and he vows to live life to it’s fullest, even though we then cut to him eating pork rinds and watching bowling on TV.

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This was a really good episode. I love that it started out with Homer trying sushi, and ended up with him assuming he was living his last day on Earth. It gets to some really emotional stuff. Homer saying goodbye to his family was really heavy and well done. It’s episodes like this that make the Simpsons great, balancing heavy emotionality and great humor

Take Away: Don’t eat sushi. And I guess live your life to it’s fullest.

” One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish” was written by Nell Scovell and directed by Wes Archer.

Lifetime of Simpsons

S02 E10 – Bart Gets Hit By a Car

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Here’s an episode that’s really emblematic of why I love the Simpsons. It’s an episode about Bart getting hit by a car, and it’s wacky as hell. What an insane concept. It’s a crazy legal episode that introduces two amazing characters, and really sets the tone for the Simpsons to come. It’s great. Let’s dive in!

Right off the bat, Bart is hit by Mr. Burns’ car. The title of the episode isn’t exactly trying to hide the plot, but man it gets straight to the point. Bart is just skateboarding around, and gets whacked by Burns’ car. Burns and Smithers argue about what to do about Bart, and his soul starts to head to heaven, where there’s a handy elevator to transport him. I love that there’s a voiceover of instructions on the heaven elevator, and that it’s in both English and Spanish. One of the things the voiceover instructs not to do is spit over the side, so of course Bart does it, and for that minor offense is sent straight to Hell. Thanks religion. So Bart plummets to Hell, which is straight out of a Heironomous Bosch painting, and he gets to meet the Devil. I love the Devil in the Simpsons, he’s like a sleazy used-car dealer. He chats with Bart, then checks his records on his old Packard Bell-looking computer, and realizes that something must be wrong, because Bart isn’t supposed to be in Hell quite yet. Because apparently there’s predestination in the Simpsons universe. So Bart is sent back to the land of the living.

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Bart wakes up and is surrounded by his family, and one of my favorite Simpsons characters of all time, Lionel Hutz! I love Hutz so much. Bot of Phil Hartman’s classic characters are amazing, and it’s really a toss up between whether I like Hutz of Troy McClure more. He’s just so incompetent and sleazy. It’s great. So Bart wakes up and the notice that this strange lawyer has snuck into their room, and he tries to convince the family to sue Mr. Burns, and gives Homer his business card, which is also a sponge. Once Hutz leaves Dr. Hibbert shows up to tell them that Bart’s injuries are minor, and he’ll be fine soon. The next day Homer goes to work, where Lenny is has the super insane line “Hey Simpson, I head Burns crushed your boy.” Jesus! Anyway, it turns out that Burns’ lawyers have recommended that he pays Homer to keep him from suing, so he calls Homer to his office, and only offers $100, which don’t come close to covering the medical bill. Homer gets offended at the small amount, and decides to sue Burns, especially after wiping his head with Hutz’s sponge card. He heads to Hutz’ office, which is in the mall apparently, and they get to planning.

Their first mission is to get re-examined by a shady doctor, and here we meet the always amazing Dr. Nick Riviera! He also apparently works in the mall. Dr. Nick starts looking and Bart, and finds all sorts of other problems with Bart. We cut over to Burns and Smithers, who are discussing the case, and I love that Burns wants to just fire Homer, but is stopped when Smithers mentions that it doesn’t look good to fire the man whose boy he hit with a car. Burns thinks about this, and can only imagine good headlines for Burns’ heroic firing of Homer, but he decides to do what Smithers suggests, and they decide to try and talk the Simpsons out of the lawsuit. Hutz is getting ready for the trial, and begins coaching Bart on how to lie in his testimony. I’ve mentioned before that there are a lot of professions that I only knew about from the Simpsons when I was a kid, and lawyer was definitely one of them. I grew up assuming all lawyers were like Lionel Hutz, which really makes that profession not look good.

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And the trial begins. I love that one of Mr. Burns’ first statements was “I should be able to run over as many kids as I want!” I’m no lawyer, but that seems like a solid defense. Burns and Bart then give their recollections of the event, and they’re hilarious. They’re both ridiculously cartoony, and in Bart’s he’s just minding his own business before a super evil Burns shows up, actively trying to run Bart down. And when it’s Burns’ turn he tells a story about how he was just off driving with Smithers, when Bart purposely ran into Burns’ car, and despite Smithers’ wishes to leave the boy Burns comforts him, crying out to the heavens dramatically. Of course no one in the courtroom believes Burns’ story, leading him to yell at them “you believed his cock and bull story!”

Things aren’t going well for Burns, so he decides to have Marge and Homer over to his mansion to try and settle out of court. I love that when Marge asks Burns if he likes animals because of all the trophies in his home, he says he just likes their heads. Burns tries to liquor Homer up, and offers him $500,000 to settle the case, and leaves them to discuss, while secretly listening from behind a painting like he’s a Scooby-Doo villain. Homer is all for taking the money, but Marge expresses her guilt, admitting that they’ve not telling the truth, and using phony doctors. Burns hears that, and comes back into the room, saying the deal is off. The next day at the trial Burns’ lawyer calls Marge to the stand, knowing that she’ll tell the truth. She admits that she didn’t think Dr. Nick was a legitimate doctor, and the whole case ends up unraveling, especially after she says that Bart was barely hurt, and was fine practically the next day. They lose the case, and get nothing.

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Later that night, Homer starts to get irritated with Marge, while his inner monologue gets aggressive about the fact that she cost the family $500,000, so he heads to Moe’s to drink his sorrow away. Marge shows up at Moe’s to talk to Homer, and he admits that he’s worried he doesn’t love her any more, because he’s always going to look at her and think that she’s the woman that cost him a fortune. But Marge tells Homer to look in her eyes, and after some reluctance, he does, and realizes that he loves her more than anything, and always will. It’s shocking how many episodes end with Homer and Marge thinking that their marriage is over, and then realize that they can get through it. Usually it happens in bed though, not in Moe’s.

This was a weird episode. It was a lot of fun, and had some great gags, especially with having Burns, Dr. Nick, and Lionel Hutz in it, but it was also about such a weird topic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another show have a story about one of the main characters being hit by a car. It also started the Simpsons tradition of having insane courtroom scenes. It introduced some great characters, had great laughs, and stuck some emotion in at the end. And that’s a great episode to me.

Take Away: Don’t use doctors and lawyers who work at malls. And I guess tell the truth when you’re in court.

“Bart Gets Hit By a Car” was written by John Swartzwelder and was directed by Mark Kirkland.

Lifetime of Simpsons

Itchy & Scratchy & Marge

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Alright everybody, let’s talk about censorship! I really forgot how critical this episode can be, and it really brings up something that pisses me off. People trying to destroy something instead of just parenting their children. Let’s get into it.

We start off with a classic first-act misdirect of having Marge preparing her incredibly complicated pork chop recipe. Side-note, I don’t think I’ve ever had a pork shop that I didn’t think was disgusting. The Simpsons eat them all the damned time, but man do I think they’re gross. Anyway, Homer sees all the effort Marge is going through to make the pork chops, and decides that he’s going to make a spice rack for her. So while the kids are in the living room watching Itchy and Scratchy, Homer is in the garage, attempting to be handy. I’ve never been a particularly handy person, and boy do I connect with Homer as he tries his best to make a relatively simple project, and it comes out looking like crap. But while he’s working on it, Maggie sneaks into the garage, and hits Homer on the head with a mallet, leading to a pretty great Psycho reference as he falls to the ground and bucket of paint oozes down a drain.

Marge is at a loss to explain why Maggie acted so violently toward Homer, until she sees Maggie watch an episode of Itchy and Scratchy where Itchy tries to stab Scratchy, and she immediately grabs a pencil and tries to stab Homer. Marge decides that watching Itchy and Scratchy will make the kids violent, and bans it from the house. It’s kind of weird that there were two episodes in a row that had references to kids enacting things they saw on television, which once again is something I think is ridiculous. It’s the same argument that I started to hear as a kid saying that you shouldn’t play violent video game because they’ll make you a serial killer. It’s ridiculous. If you can’t tell the real world from fiction you shouldn’t be interacting with the fiction, and that’s not a TV show or videogame’s fault, that’s your upbringing. Your parents should be teaching you that the things you see in movies or videogames aren’t real, and that’s not how people act. I watched all sorts of violent movies as a kid, and I never once thought it was a good idea to shoot someone like Robocop. It’s always just seemed like lazy parenting to me. They don’t want to talk to their kid and tell them how to act, so they attempt to ban the things they think will make their kid bad. It really pisses me off, and I feel like I could rant about this for pages, but this is about the Simpsons, so I’ll get off the topic.

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I love that the other kids in school give Bart sympathy for not getting to watch Itchy and Scratchy anymore. There were kids in school growing up that didn’t get to watch TV, and everyone treated them like they were bereaved. It’s also great the Homer has to call into work saying that his baby beat him up. Bart and Lisa figure out that they can get around the ban on Itchy and Scratchy by going to friends houses. I’ve mentioned before that my parents briefly banned the Simpsons because my brother started repeating lines with profanity, and there was like a month of two before they got him to understand that he shouldn’t swear, and we got the show back, but man would it have been nice to be able to sneak over to a friend’s house to watch them. Marge begins cataloging all the violence on Itchy and Scratchy to write an angry letter. The letter ends up at a few different places, Krusty gets it but cant read, and animator for the show gets it but doesn’t care and throws it out, and it makes it’s way up to Roger Meyers Jr. the head of Itchy and Scratchy. I love Roger Meyers Jr. He’s only in a few episodes, but he really makes me laugh. When he reads the letter, he decides to send back an antagonizing letter of his own, telling Marge that she can’t do anything about cartoon violence because shes just one “screwball.” So of course Marge starts a protest!

She begins picketing the studio, and even protests during one of Krusty’s shows, live on the air. The creators of Itchy and Scratchy fight back by creating a caricature of Marge as an annoying squirrel who shows up to stop Itchy and Scratchy from being funny. Things escalate to the point that Marge is invited onto a talk show with Roger Meyers Jr, Krusty, and Marvin Monroe to discuss violence in the media. As big an asshole as Roger Meyers is, I totally agree with him, and I think the show wants you to. But there’s a lot of dumb parents in Springfield, and they begin bombarding Meyers with hate-mail, including one disturbing one where the person says if they ever see him crossing the street, they won’t break. Jesus.

After so much blowback from the scandal, Meyers decides to change the show, and they start calling Marge to see how she would end episodes, instead of violence. I think it’s super sweet that in that scene, she’s using Homer’s terrible spice rack. Anyway, Marge starts to basically run the show, and quickly destroys it. The show becomes a saccharine mess, and the kids start to bail, fast. Especially because of the episode “Porch Pals” where Itchy and Scratchy sit on a porch, drinking lemonade and complimenting each other. Even though that joke makes me laugh my ass off, the kids hate it, and start actually going outside for a change. All the kids stop watching TV, and the town turns into a damn Norman Rockwell painting as they all frolic around the town.

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The town becomes a repressed Conservative paradise, all thanks to Marge. Until news comes that Springfield is for some reason hosting an exhibition of Michelangelo’s David. The annoying mothers in town come to Marge assuming that she’ll champion their cause to get rid of the filthy statue, but to their surprise, she’s all for it. She’s brought back on Smartline, where she stuns everyone with her pro-David stance. However, this leads the other panelist to point out that it’s hypocritical of her to back one type of artistic expression, but call another worthless. She’s stuck, and ends up admitting that maybe Itchy and Scratchy isn’t so bad after all. There’s then an amazing joke that claims Smartline will next tackle which religion is the one true faith, which man would I love to watch that one. Itchy and Scratchy goes back to normal, and so does the town. The episode ends with the kids at home watching Itchy and Scratchy disembowel each other, while Homer and Marge are in an empty museum looking at David.

This was a great episode. It tackled a very interesting cultural topic that was very big when the episode came out, and continues to be a sticking point. I think I ranted enough about how wrong I think Marge is in this episode, so I think I’m just going to close this out by saying that this episode was great, and that people should really think about the morals this episode brings up.

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Take Away: Not to beat a dead horse, but I think the Take Away is that you shouldn’t censure things. The idea that parents want to censure “scandalous” topics instead of just talking to their kids about it is ridiculous to me. Don’t be like Marge and ban something just because you don’t want your kids to see it. Just don’t let them see it. Rant over!

“Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” was written by John Swartzwelder and was directed by Jim Reardon.

Lifetime of Simpsons

S02 E08 – Bart the Daredevil

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Well, after the emotionality of “Bart vs. Thanksgiving,” let’s get to a wacky episode! This is such a weird episode, and clearly is one the creators love since it show up in pretty much every clip show that I can remember. Let’s get right into the weirdness.

The episode starts off with Bart and Milhouse watching a professional wrestling match, and Homer and the barflies watching it at Moe’s. Confession time, I loved wrestling as a kid. I know people like it now, especially people who like comics, because as you get older you know that it’s all scripted, and you can enjoy it from a weird narrative place, but as a kid I though it was real, and deadly serious. I grew up in a time where I could see the Ultimate Warrior fighting Hulk Hogan, or crazy-ass people like Jake the Snake. It really made me nostalgic. Anyway, at the end of the match there’s an ad for a Monster Truck derby, featuring a giant robot dinosaur called Truckosaurus. Bart and Homer immediately realize that they need to see this, and end up running into each other as they were both trying to meet, and yell “Truckosaurus” together. It was oddly sweet that the two are so similar. But when they inform the rest of the family that they’re going to the monster truck rally, the find out that the same night is Lisa’s orchestra recital, and that they have to go to that first. Now, I never was into instruments as a kid, I played guitar in high school and college, but not in like the school band or anything, but my little brother played violin in orchestra, and I got dragged to a lot of super long recitals featuring a bunch of kids I didn’t know who weren’t good. I know Bart’s pain. But I will say, I never had to go to a recital that was apparently two and half hours long Yeesh. And I love when Flanders cries at Todd’s solo, and Homer says “c’mon Flanders, he’s not that bad.”

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When the recital is over, the family books it out of the school, and heads to the rally. I’ve never been to a monster truck rally, but boy do I assume that brings out the dregs of society, I really can’t imagine the crowd comes to watch one. Anyway, they show up late, and when Homer attempts to find parking, he somehow makes it into the stadium, and their car is almost destroyed by Truckasaurus himself. They stop the robot before it kills them however, and the people behind the rally pay them off and give them a half-drunk bottle of champagne to keep them quite about the accident. So they head up to their seats, and watch the rest of the show, which ends with a surprise performance by legendary daredevil, Lance Murdock! He’s going to jump over a water tank full of sharks, electric eels, piranhas, crocodiles, and a lion for some reason. He makes the jump, but as he drives back up to the tank to take a bow, he falls in, and gets attacked by all the sea-life, and hilariously as he starts to drag himself out, the lion pops up to drag him back in. The audience goes wild, and Bart realizes that his true calling in life is to become a daredevil just like Murdock.

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Bart decides to try jumping a car on his skateboard, but fails right away, and gets injured. He’s rushed off to the hospital, where Dr. Hibbert brings him to a whole wing full of kids who have hurt themselves by trying to imitate stupid things they saw on TV. Now, I feel like I don’t hear about his as much, but when I was a kid there was always these stupid urban legends going around that would convince parents to not let kids watch things because kids hurt themselves. I really don’t know if any of them are true, but I heard about kids jumping off their houses because they saw Superman fly, or all sorts of kids hurting themselves by watching Jackass. And I always just assumed it was all bullcrap. It was the equivalent of the stupid click-bait articles that parents and grandparents plaster Facebook with. Who knows. Anyway, Bart does not learn his lesson, and continues to become a stuntman, and actually starts to have success. The kids in the neighborhood begin loving his shows, and he kind of becomes famous. There’s an amazing joke in the middle of a montage of Bart’s stunts where he jumps over a sleeping Homer in a hammock, and when the kids applaud, Homer wakes up, and assumes that a group of children have come to applaud him sleeping.

But time passes, and Bart’s beginning to worry that his show is becoming stale, so of course there’s a narrativly convenient field trip to Springfield Gorge. When Bart sees the magnitude of the gorge, he realizes that it’s his life’s goal to jump it. I love that Otto walks up next to Bart admiring the gorge and delivers two amazing lines. First of all, he says “I bet you could throw a dead body and no one would ever find it.” What the fuck? Then when Bart says that he wants to jump over the gorge on his skateboard, Otto delivers one of my favorite lines of all time. “As the only adult here, I feel I should say something…cool!”

On the trip back home, Bart interrupts Otto from singing Purple Haze on the intercom the bus has for some reason, and makes the announcement to his classmates that he plans on jumping the gorge. Lisa is of course not thrilled with this idea, and tries to talk Bart out of it. I love that Bart condescends to her by saying “I get the same thrill jumping over stuff that you do…reading.” When she realizes that she’s not going to be able to talk Bart out of it, she arranges Bart to meet Lance Murdock, in the hospital where he’s broken every bone in his body. After signed an autograph with his teeth, Murdock hears Bart’s plan, and completely approves of it, much to Lisa’s dismay. So of course Lisa tells Homer and Marge, who try to get Bart to promise he won’t jump, but he tells them that no matter what, he’s going through with it. Homer comes and pleads with Bart, who finally agrees to promise that he won’t do the stunt, but immediately sneaks out to do it, and Homer runs off to stop him.

Apparently Bart has made himself a costume, and he shows up at the gorge to find pretty much the whole school waiting for him. Bart gets ready for the jump, but at the last second Homer shows up and stops him. Homer decides that the only way to teach Bart his lesson is to jump the gorge himself, so that Bart will know the fear and pain of seeing a loved one endanger themselves. Bart finally understands, and as the two are reconciling, Homer accidentally starts going down the ramp, and ends up flying out into the gorge on the skateboard. We then get the amazingly cartoony scene of Homer not making it falling down the gorge as he hits every single rock on the way down. Then he gets airlifted out of the gorge, and the ambulance he’s loaded into crashes immediately, and he’s thrown back down the gorge. Homer’s eventually taken to the hospital where he shares a room with Murdock, and tells him the classic line of “you think you’ve got guts? Try raising my kids.”

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And as Homer sits in the hospital, things go back to the status quo, and everyone’s alright. This is such a funny and weird episode, and a really great example of a story that they couldn’t do in a normal sitcom. The stunts and the final gruesome fall down the cliff could never be on a live action show. I love when the Simpsons truly takes advantage of their medium, doing fun stories that wouldn’t be possible on a different show.

Take Away: Your actions have consequences on your loved ones. No one wants to see someone they love destroy themselves. Another downer, but a true one.

“Bart the Daredevil” was written by Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky and was directed by Wes Archer.

Lifetime of Simpsons

S02 E07 – Bart vs. Thanksgiving

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When I was a kid, I considered this episode to be one of the best there was. For some reason I was able to wrap my head around the emotionality of this episode better than other, objectively better episodes like “Moaning Lisa,” and used this as the example to people (like my parents) who hated on the show, calling it stupid. Watching it now, I don’t exactly connect with it the way I did as a kid, but it’s still a pretty good episode.

I love that when it starts, Bart is just straight up smothering Lisa, and Homer just scolds him like he was picking on her. I mentioned in the “Some Enchanted Evening” article that whenever it’s an episode about Marge feeling neglected, the family is super shitty, and I’m finding that the same can go for episodes about Bart being bad. Normally Bart would just be a brat, but they have to establish that he’s mean enough to do the things he does later in the episode, so they have to notch up his assholery in the beginning of the episode. So Homer tells him to stop attempting murder on his sister, and Bart joins him on the couch to watch some generic Macy’s Thanksgiving day parade. It made me laugh way harder than it should have when the Bullwinkle balloon sprung a leak, and Bill and Marty said that he finally got a taste of his own medicine. Then we got a very weird meta-joke of Homer saying that they don’t give balloons to every flash-in-the-pan character, as a Bart balloon goes by on the screen without them noticing.

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The crux of this episode revolves around a centerpiece that Lisa is making for Thankgiving dinner. While Marge is finishing the meal, Lisa is putting the finishing touches on the centerpiece, which celebrates feminist icons. I thought it was super sweet that she calls Maggie in, and asks her to contribute as a Simpson woman, and after she just scribbles on the side, they hug. I feel like a lot of the sibling sweetness usually comes from Bart and Lisa, and I love when they treat Maggie like a real character, and not just kind of a background object like Santa’s Little Helper or Snowball II. Meanwhile, Bart is attempting to help Marge in the kitchen, and man did this scene seem familiar. I’m sure my mom, and probably even my wife, can attest to the fact that I’m pretty much useless in the kitchen, and whenever I offer to help, I end more of a hindrance than anything. Bart offers his help finishing the dinner, and gets assigned to get the gross cranberry sauce out of the can, but needs help finding every little step, then just leaves it on the counter for Marge to finish anyways.

Around then Patty and Selma show up, with food that they weren’t asked to bring, which seems super shitty to me. I’ve never hosted a dinner, but I feel like if someone just brought a different dinner for themselves, I would be pretty pissed. I feel like Marge sticks up for the two of them way more than she should, unless it’s an episode about the two of them, they’re pretty crappy sisters to her. And on cue, as soon as his sisters-in-law show up, Homer books it out of the house to go pick up Grandpa. I’ve never had a grandparent in a nursing home, but a set of my wife’s are in one, and it’s way nicer than Grandpa’s so I’ve always found the Retirement Village to be a super weird place. I’m sure there’s crappy one like it out there, but man is it depressing. There was even a sign that said “thank you for not discussing the outside world.” And all the old people waited around the fax machine to see if their children had the decency to fax them a Thanksgiving wish. Yikes. We also get our first look at Marge’s mother, Mrs. Bouvier, who is also a straight up bitch to Marge, claiming that she has laryngitis, and will only say one thing to her, which is “you never do anything right.” Jesus. It’s episodes like this that really show why your parents were crabby on holidays when they hosted, everyone’s a judgy jerk

So Thanksgiving starts, and Marge has Lisa bring down the centerpiece, which everyone admires. But then Bart comes in with the turkey, and since there’s no room for it, he throws the centerpiece away, and it lands in the fireplace, destroying it. Bart and Lisa fight for a little bit, but she breaks down crying and runs to her room. Bart is then sent to his room without dinner and told that he ruined Thanksgiving, which I’ll be honest, he did, but still, that’s a little harsh. Bart is fuming up in his room, and Lisa is crying in hers, as Homer says a very strange prayer that badmouths solar power, and ends up calling the family the worst ever. Bart decides to run away, and takes Santa’s Little Helper with him as they head off to find a life without consequences. The two start wandering around town, and end up at Mr. Burns’ mansion, where he throws out and entire feast that Smithers made just for him. Bart attempts to steal a pie that was cooling on Burns’ windowsill, since this is a cartoon after all, and ends up getting chased by hounds. I love that Santa’s Little Helper growls at Bart’s rumbling stomach.

The two end up in the bad part of town, and they come across a place that will give Bart $12 for plasma. He gives them a fake ID, gets his plasma taken out and his money and a cookie, then promptly passes out in the gutter while Santa’s Little Helper eats his cookie. Two bums show up, and instead of the episode taking a shockingly dark turn, they wake him up, and bring Bart and Santa’s Little Helper to a shelter to get some dinner. While at the shelter Kent Brockman gives a super insulting monologue about homeless people for the news, which of course the family sees while Lisa is reciting a poem she wrote about the trauma of the evening. They see Bart at the shelter, and freak out, calling the police. Back at the shelter, the dinner is over, and they’re all being kicked out, and Bart finally starts to show some human emotion, and sympathizes for the two bums who helped him, and gives them the money he got from the plasma.

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Bart heads home, but when he gets there, he has a weird fantasy that if he comes in the house, the family will mock him for apologizing, and blame everything on him from there in out. It was a very “little kid” moment. So instead of coming home, Bart decides to climb onto the roof for some reason. I guess he’s just going to live there. But as he’s running around the roof playing with toys that had gotten stuck there he hears Lisa crying about him being lost. So he tells her he’s on the roof, and she joins him, and they have a pretty good conversation about what Bart did. Bart can’t explain why he did what he did, but he begins to sympathize with Lisa, and he gives her a heartfelt apology, and the siblings hug which Marge and Homer are listening from their room. The family then reunites and has turkey sandwiches in the middle of the night, finally getting their Thanksgiving dinner.

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This was a pretty sweet episode, with some great development of Bart and Lisa’s relationship. I like that Bart finally learns empathy by the end of the episode, and that he just couldn’t explain why he had destroyed her centerpiece. Sometimes siblings just need to mess with each other. I also found the fact that Bart was able to realize that his life is pretty great, and that there are other who are in need, and freely gave up the money he had earned to the two bums who helped him out of the goodness in their heart. I didn’t love this episode as much as I did as a kid, probably because then I could put myself in Bart’s place and feel the indignity of being told to apologize for something you didn’t think was wrong, but it was still a good one with some genuine heart.

Take Away: There are people out there who don’t have life as good as you. And an apology doesn’t mean anything unless you really feel like you did wrong by someone, fake apologies do nothing more than hurt.

“Bart vs. Thanksgiving” was written by George Meyer and directed by David Silverman.

Reel Talk

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Misses Roger Moore

Man From Uncle Poster

I love spy fiction. James Bond is my particular favorite, but I really enjoy pretty much any kind of spy story. I can read or watch a more realistic John le Carre stuff right after some zany camp-fest like In Like Flint. There’s just something so exciting about spies. They combine the crime-solving nature of Hardboiled Noir with the morally bankrupt lead characters, and the high stakes of espionage. I love it. I’m also a huge fan of Guy Ritchie as a director, so when I heard that he was making an adaptation of The Man From U.N.C.L.E., that would be a big, colorful sixties spy flick, I got excited. My wife and I went to check the movie out last night, and I thought it was a lot of fun. It wasn’t perfect, there were some serious shortcomings in the plot, but overall I thought it was a fun movie.

I’ve enjoyed the Sherlock Holmes movies that Guy Ritchie has made, but I’ve been wanting him to get back to the crazy crime movies that he started out with, like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch, and while this movie wasn’t one of those, it was certainly closer than the Holmes movies. It balanced his crazy visual style, his twisted sense of humor, and great dialogue. Now, I don’t know much about the Man From U.N.C.L.E. show. I’ve never seen any episodes, or any of the movies they made with the characters, so I was coming in pretty blind, and I also don’t know how good of an adaptation it was. But I liked it. The movies was really carried by it’s three leads, all of whom were amazing in this movie. Henry Cavill, who I only really knew from the terrible Man of Steel, was a blast as Napoleon Solo, an America spy who blackmailed into working for the CIA after he was caught being an international art-thief. He was a suave, light-fingered cat-burglar type character who was constantly smarmy and yet charming. Armie Hammer, who I think is a pretty great actor who has had terrible luck in getting stuck in real pieces of crap, was fun as Illya Kuryakin, a Russian KGB agent with a dark past who was an incredibly efficient and competent spy, who could also turn into an insane rage-monster at the drop of a hat. Then we had the amazing Alicia Vikander, who between this role and her breakout role in Ex Machina is really shaping up to be a serious up and comer, was a lot of fun as the East German mechanic Gaby Teller, who is used by the two agents to find her nuclear physicist father before he’s forced to create an atomic bomb.

The plot of the movie was pretty simple. The KGB and CIA are temporarily working together because a rogue fascists are planning on forcing Gaby’s father to help them create nuclear weapons to destroy both superpowers. I like that the Russians and Americans don’t want any other country gaining power and standing in the Cold War. So the two agents are stuck working together, and they split up to try and find the fascists from their two leads. Napoleon would try and seduce the heiress to an Italian shipping company, Victoria Vinciguerra who they believe is working with her husband to aid the fascists, and Illya will pose as Gaby’s fiance in order to meet up with her Uncle Rudy in the hopes that he knows where her father is being held. The rest of the movie is full of action set-pieces and twists and turns as the two agents get closer and closer to the truth. After a pretty half-baked twist that Gaby is willing to sell the agents out, we learn that she’s a triple-agent, and is actually working for the British, lead by Hugh Grant, and the three end up leading an assault on the Vinciguerra’s personal island. Alexander Vinciguerra is killed by Illya, and Victoria is straight up blown to pieces as they fire a missile to her boat where she kept the nuclear bomb. The villains are defeated and the two agents are told to kill each other by their superiors and take Gaby’s father’s research for themselves, but in the end friendship wins, and they decide to just burn the research and be pals. At that point Hugh Grant walks up and tells the three of them that they’re now an international team called U.N.C.L.E. and they have a new mission.

Man From Uncle Cast

It wasn’t a particularly inspired plot, but the movie was saved by the cinematography and direction, and the cast. Guy Ritchie’s frenetic style really worked well for this type of movie. It was full of crazy stunts that blended some practical and CGI effects well, and some really inventive camera tricks, like the the safe-cracking scene. I also really loved the way that the movie would split into two or three panels, showing various characters sneaking around doing things, and they would eventually all meet back up and the panels would slowly fade away to become one shot again. The music rocked, Daniel Pemberton really made a great soundtrack that combined crazy sixties spy music with great old Italian music that you would hear from Spaghetti Westerns. And the acting was a lot of fun. You really got the friendship between the three characters as the movie went on thanks to the actors. Napoleon and Illya constantly snipe at each other, trying to prove that their country is better, all while insulting each other’s clothing. Gaby was a great character who didn’t take any of their shit. I think one of the big problems with this movie was that the villains were pretty lackluster. All we new about Alexander Vinciguerra was that he had a mustache and was creepy. Victoria was a little more fun, especially when she drugged Napoleon near the end and was being super over-acty and strange, but she didn’t go far enough to be some crazy supervillain, which I think is what the movie needed.

The last thing I want to talk about this movie is that it’s the second film this year, after Kingsmen, to be a crazy, campy spy movie. I think it’s interesting that even though the current Daniel Craig Bond movies are super popular and dark, people are also making these crazy spy movies that feel like homages to the silly Roger Moore period of Bond. It feels like people are maybe missing the fun and camp of movies like Live and Let Die and since the modern Bond movies are so serious apparently people are making their own silly Bond movies without Bond. I know characters like Bond ebb and flow throughout time in regards to the tone of the film, and we’re currently in a long period of serious realism, so I feel like we’re getting ready for a silly period. Just like Batman, we’ve been in a period of gritty Bond, and people are getting a little fatigued with it and are craving the zaniness of Roger Moore, just like there’s been a resurgence of Adam West Batman in culture. It was a fun movie, not one of Ritchie’s best, but I had a good time during it. I don’t know if they’ll make more adventures of Napoleon Solo, Illya Kuryakin, and Gaby Teller, but if they do, I’ll be there to check it out.

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The Man From U.N.C.L.E. was written by Guy Ritchie and Lionel Wigram, was directed by Guy Ritchie, and was released by Warner Brothers.