Lifetime of Simpsons

S02 E15 – Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?

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Oh man, secret long-long siblings. The Simpsons became a soap-opera so slowly we didn’t even notice. Let’s get right in. We start off with more McBain goodness. I would love to watch a whole McBain movie, and not that cobbled together one I mentioned last time. It’s so accurate to crazy action movies of the late 80’s and early 90’s. We also get an amazing final line to the McBain movie, “right now I’m thinking about holding another meeting…in bed!” That’s some Pierce Brosnan-era Bond movie one lining right there. Anyway, turns out Grandpa and Jasper were watching McBain in a theater, and they were not pleased. They go yell at the manager, pretty much about everything, and Grandpa gets so riled up that he has what seems to be a heart attack.

Back at the Simpsons’ house the family is sitting down to eat, and we get another prayer from Homer that expels the virtues of nuclear power. I love that when Bart and Lisa are insulting each other in pantomime Homer scolds them by saying Bart can’t watch cartoons, and Lisa can’t go to college. Priorities. They get a call from the hospital though, and Homer rushes off to see Grandpa. Grandpa is his usual sassy and obnoxious self, but after his minor arrhythmia, he’s decided to tell Homer a secret he’s kept Homer’s entire life. Turns out right before Grandpa and Homer’s mom (I guess I can’t call her Mona, because we don’t know that yet) got married Grandpa had a fling with a carny prostitute. Then the next year the carnival came to town she had a little Grandpa bastard. They gave the kid up to the Shellbyville orphanage, and Grandpa got on with his life, having Homer. I love that in Grandpa’s recollections he remembers Mona telling him not to ever tell Homer, then realizes his mistake. That’s a pretty messed up thing to never mention to a kid. Hiding a secret bastard is more something I would expect on Game of Thrones, not the Simpsons. But whatever, it lead to a great episode.

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Homer heads off to find his long-lost brother, and we get the great scene of Bart taking advantage of saying the word “bastard,” just like when he got to say Hell earlier in the season. After rewatching this episode I was singing Bart’s little “bastard” song pretty much non-stop. Homer heads to the Shellbyville orphanage, and meets with the director, who is obviously Dr. Hibbert’s lost twin, and after brief interlude where the director is trying to subtly tell Homer that his brother is in Detroit and Homer thinks he wants a bribe, Homer leaves with the information of where his brother is. He then gets a Detroit phonebook, and starts calling all the Herb Powell’s in the city, until he finally chances on H Powell, and finds his brother, voiced by the always great Danny DeVito. After Homer tells Herb the story, he invites him to Springfield, but Herb decides to have the Simpsons come to him instead, because it turns out he’s super loaded.

The Simpsons drive to Detroit, and when they get into town everyone, including a cop that pulls them over, assumes Homer is Herb, and act like he’s a celebrity. And somehow Homer doesn’t find that odd. We then get a brief interlude where we see Herb talk to his underlings at the car manufacturing company he owns, while his face is obscured like he’s Ernst Blofeld. Herb’s company isn’t doing that well, likely due to a gypsy curse, and after his board pitches the new sedan, called the Persephone which is possibly the most pretentious name a car could have, he gets mad at them, telling them they’ve lost touch with the common man. And right on cue we get the common man himself, Homer Simpson. Herb’s limo pulls up to his house where the Simpsons are waiting, admiring the mansion he lives in, and we get a reveal of Herb’s face. He essentially looks just like Homer, but with more hair, and less gut. The two brothers begin bonding quickly as Herb meets the family. I love that Bart informs him that he’s a little hellraiser. We then see that Herb is instantly jealous of Homer, because he has a relatively happy family, something Herb hasn’t had time for.

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The family starts to bond as he insists on having them call him Uncie Herb, which even Homer goes along with. The Simpsons begin enjoying Herb’s wealthy life, and Homer calls Grandpa to tell him about Herb, leading Grandpa to say he kept the wrong son. Herb decides to give Homer a car, but Homer quickly decides that he hates them all, and Herb decides that Homer is the perfect person to design a car for the average man. Herb leaves Homer to get pushed around by the engineers while taking Marge and the kids out for a boat ride with ponies, but when they get back Herb realizes Homer has no confidence. He’s letting the engineers tell him what to do, so Herb gives him a pep-talk, and Homer goes back to the engineers, full of terrible, terrible ideas. And Homer begins to design his self-titled monstrosity, the Homer. While he’s working on the car Herb continues to bond with his nieces and nephew, and it’s super adorable. They did a good job of showing how happy Herb was with the kids, and that he was clearly missing something like them in his life.

Then the night of the big reveal comes, when Herb holds a gala event to show off his new miracle car that will save the company. And let me tell you, it’s not very smart of Herb to not even look at the damn thing until he drops the curtain. C’mon Herb, that has to be like, Business 101. Anyway, he reveals the heinous car, and Herb is ruined over-night. Loses his company, gets his house taken away, and apparently loses all his money. Jesus. Powell Motors was not doing well if one prototype utterly destroyed the company. Poor Detroit. Herb is furious at Homer, even though it was kind of his fault trusting this obvious idiot, and declares that he has no brother as he gets on a bus, the universal symbol of someone being at rock bottom. Lisa declares the summation, “his life was an unbridled success until he found out he was a Simpson.” Then Grandpa shows up, just a day too late to enjoy the wealth of his bastard, and the family heads home, knowing they ruined a man’s life. But we close on the sweet notion that Bart liked the Homer, because bad-taste is genetic.

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This was a fun episode, with a super crazy premise. Like I said at the top, outside of soap operas you don’t usually have storylines about secret siblings. But I will say, kind of like the “Dancin’ Homer” episode, this one felt a little too cramped. I know the Simpsons aren’t exactly big on two-part episodes, but I feel like this story could have benefited from more breathing-room. Everything happens really quickly, even for a Simpsons episode. But despite that, I still really like this episode. I thought Herb was a great character, and they did a great job to show how empty his life is, and how much he loved hanging out with his new family, even though they were the ones who end up destroying him.

Take Away: Be on the lookout for long-lost bastards, and I suppose that nepotism isn’t a good idea. Certainly didn’t work for Herb.

“Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?” was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Wes Archer.

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