Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E10 – Lisa’s First Word

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It’s been pretty clear on this site that I love flashback episodes. Learning about the family in the past is really fun and pretty much always leads to really emotional and wonderful episodes. And while I may change my mind later, I’m pretty sure this one is my favorite. This episode is pretty high up on my list of favorite episodes period. I really forgot that the flashback episodes were kind of like the Treehouse of Horror episodes, and show up once a season, and it’s always a welcome addition.

The episode starts right off with the family trying their best to get Maggie to say her first word. Homer is voting for daddy, Marge for mommy, and Bart for “shove it” or “get bent.” Maggie doesn’t take the bait though, and just burps, leading Marge to start worrying if Maggie is behind developmentally. Bart asks what his first word was, and Homer and Marge look at each other awkwardly and remember it was “Ay Caruma!” from when little Bart wandered in on them having sex. They deflect that story, and decide instead to tell the story of Lisa’s first word, saying it was a cute story. And they’re right. It’s adorable.

We cut over to 1983, where Homer and Marge are living in a small apartment in Springfield’s ethnic district where they have Irish and Italian stereotypes for neighbors, and Depression-era street urchins play an arcade game of Stickball. But the family is pretty happy. Homer is making enough money for them, and Bart’s being pretty shitty, especially to Homer. He doesn’t even call him dad, just Homer. We see a montage of bad Bart, like him smashing into Homer’s stomach, making a mess with spaghetti, and just swinging around on a clothesline naked for hours. But as Home is scolding Bart for flushing his wallet down the toilet, Marge comes in and tells them that she’s pregnant, and there’s going to be another member of the family. Homer is initially excited, but then sees Bart flushing his keys, and gets kind of worried. Bart is pretty psyched for a little sibling though, and has a series of idea of what to do with it, like blaming the baby for drawing on the wall, using it to prop up a board to ramp his tricycle, and wiping up spilled milk with it’s diaper.

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Homer and Marge begin looking for a bigger house, and leave Bart with Patty and Selma, who apparently bribe him with dollars to sing cute little kid songs. And Homer and Marge aren’t off to a good start. My wife and I got our house a year ago, and man can I say that looking for a house sucks. We came from an apartment like Homer and Marge, which seems infinity easier than trying to simultaneously find a new house and sell you old one, which seems impossible to me. It’s so hard finding houses that aren’t terrible, and that’s just what Homer and Marge run into. They find a house that just had a murder in it, a nice house that’s next to a rendering plant, and a little place that’s full of cats who apparently own the house and would be renting it to Homer and Marge. Finally they come across the house we know they buy, but it’s way out of their price range. So Homer goes and asks Abe for money. Unfortunately Abe doesn’t have any money, just the house he won on a crooked 50’s gameshow. So Abe decides to sell the house, and give the money to Homer and his family in exchange for a room in the house. The two embrace for a sweet moment, and we cut to the present where Homer admits he shipped Grandpa off to the old folks home about three weeks after that.

So they get the house and while they’re moving in Flanders and Rod show up and are instantly annoying, even though Ned is wearing a shirt that says “I ❤ Webster,” which is hilarious. The Flanders sing a quick song, and welcome the Simpsons to the neighborhood, offering to lend anything they need, so Homer takes the TV tray Flanders just bought, and never gives it back. The family starts settling in, as Marge deals with her pregnancy and Bart going through the terrible two’s, which leads to one of my favorite Simpsons scenes of all time, where Bart marches around the house banging pots and pans singing “I am so great! I am so great! Everybody loves me because I am so great!” I’m not going to lie, when I want to annoy my wife I sing that song all the time.

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We’re then introduced to a weird B-plot, which I’m pretty sure is based on something that actually happened to McDonalds in the 80’s where Krusty is offering free burgers at Krusty Burger whenever the Americans win gold medals in Olympic events. But the trick was they only picked events the Soviets win, however we’re now in 1984 and the Soviets of course boycott the Olympics, so Krusty loses millions of dollars. It’s just kind of a weird little aspect of the story to throw in. Anyway, Marge’s pregnancy is moving along, so they decide to get Bart out of the crib and into a real bed, but Bart isn’t really happy about that, and fights his parents over keeping his crib. Homer decides to fix the problem by making him a new bed shaped like a clown, since Bart loves Krusty, and he accidentally makes a horrible nightmare of a bed, that scares Bart so bad he has a fantasy of it cackling at him and he can’t sleep anymore. “Can’t sleep, clown will eat me.”

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Marge then goes into labor, so she and Homer head off to the hospital and leave poor Bart with the Flanders. They play some sort of weird Christian board game, eat liver for dinner, and make Bart sleep in the same bed as Rod and Todd as they sing to each other. God Rod and Todd are weird. Bart can’t sleep so he wanders around the Flanders house, running into a crazy old grandma, who just yells “Hello Joe!” at Ned. But the next day Homer and Marge come home with little Lisa, and as they prepare her in her new room, Bart sits outside the door, thinking. I’m not quite sure how to describe the type of scene we get next, the Simpsons use them a lot, but it’s hard to describe. Bart sits there in though as memories flash over him, but for some reason the memories are Marge saying “from now on the baby sleeps in the crib,” Rod saying “iron helps us play!” the evil clown bed laughing, and the old lady shouting “Hello Joe!” But after Bart’s freak out, Homer invites him in to meet his sister, and they animate a beautiful scene of Marge holding the baby in a sunny room on a rocking chair. Bart stomps up to the chair, and simply tells Lisa that he hates her.

The family starts becoming obsessed with Lisa, ignoring poor Bart. Patty and Selma come over to see the baby, and when Bart tries to get their attention by singing, they ignore him and even say the horrible line “the older they get, the cuter they ain’t.” We then start skipping through time, seeing Lisa get everything while Bart get’s ignored and treated poorly. They see Dr. Hibbert with his beaded cornrows and he gives Lisa a lollypop and Bart a shot. Bart then starts trying to mess with Lisa, first by sneaking into her crib and cutting all her hair off. We then get a montage of Bart doing bad things to Lisa before smash-cutting to him sitting facing the corner, which makes me laugh so hard. I love him covering her in stamps and sticking her down a mail-box and then cutting to him in the corner mumbling “lousy mailman. Squealing on me.” Bart finally decides that he’s had enough, and is going to run away, assembling a little hobo bindle and everything. Little Lisa waddles into the room as Bart is packing, and he starts telling her that it’s all her fault, and that everything was great before she showed up. But right as he’s walking out the door Lisa says her first word. Bart. Bart freaks out, and brings Lisa down to Homer and Marge, showing them that he’s her first word. Marge isn’t even shocked, because apparently despite Bart hating her, she loves Bart. Bart then tries to get Lisa to say other words, and she says mommy, David Hasslehoff, and Homer, refusing to say daddy just like Bart. The two siblings embrace in a super adorable shot that cuts back to the present where they’re pushing each other and fighting. Homer gets frustrated with the two, and takes Maggie up to bed, telling her “The sooner kids learn to talk, the sooner they learn to talk back.” He then tells her he’s fine if she never learns to talk, and puts her to bed. He slips out and as soon as he’s gone Maggie takes out her pacifier, and says her first word (spoken by Elizabeth Taylor for some reason) “daddy,” and I legit tear up.

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This episode is so spectacular. It’s just so perfect. I love seeing little Bart being a terrible child, and his jealousy of the arrival of Lisa. The episode has so many classic jokes, like the evil clown bed and Bart’s “I am so great,” song. The the weird stuff with Krusty and the goofy Olympic games stuff is kind of needless, but super funny. But despite the episode being so funny, the real draw here is the emotionality of the ending. This was the first episode of the Simpsons that I convinced my wife, who isn’t into the Simpsons, to watch, and even she got hit hard with the ending. The one-two punch of Lisa’s first word being Bart, and Maggie’s first word being “daddy,” the only kid to call Homer daddy, is so incredibly sweet and cute. I’m seriously getting choked up just writing this. It’s so wonderful. God I love this show.

Take Away: Don’t make people beds. Don’t be jealous of your siblings. And don’t fret too much about kids talking or not talking.

“Lisa’s First Word” was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1992

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E09 – Mr. Plow

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Well let’s take a break from heavy topics like censorship, sexual harassment, and young love and talk about the dog-eat-dog world of the snow-plow business! This is such a ridiculous episode, and really seems even crazier when taken in with the more realistic and down to Earth episode that it’s sandwiched in between. But I think these types of episodes are necessary, the breath of fresh, crazy air that we need as a palate cleanser.

We begin this episode with Homer hanging out at Moe’s watching some crazy show called Carnival of the Stars, that’s just celebrities doing weird tricks in beautiful Molokai Island, It’s Not Just for Lepers Anymore! It’s of course hosted by the always wonderful Troy McClure, and I think his best role this time was “Dial M for Murderousness.” And the show is so captivating that Homer stays at the bar way longer than he should watching it, and when he finally leaves a blizzard has rolled in, and he has to make his way home in a white-out. I’ve lived in Denver my whole life, and man is driving in snow no fun. I would honestly rather drive in snow and ice than hydroplaning torrential downpours, but it’s still no fun, especially in a white-out. And of course, since Homer’s been out all night drinking and driving in a blizzard, he ends up hitting another car…that turns out to be Marge’s. At least he made his way home. The next morning, as a tow-truck drags away the two totaled cars Homer has to speak with an insurance agent, and decides that he shouldn’t tell the man that he was at a bar, so tells him Moe’s is a “pornography store. I was buying pornography.”

Homer then has to find a new car, and after briefly stopping by some crazy Eastern European car dealer that tries to give him some little thing that runs on kerosene, Homer heads to an auto show with the kids. They wander around looking at cars, Bart sits in Bonnie and Clyde’s death car and finds cash in the glovebox, and Lisa watches a demonstration from a German company about crash test dummies that shows a live human in a dummy suit involved in an accident. And then we get our first crazy cameo of the episode, Adam West! He’s there with the Batmobile, and is crazy, which I feel is the schtick he’s been running with for quite a while now. I really, unironically love the 66 Batman TV series, and it’s always great to see the crazy dude in stuff, especially when he’s able to poke fun at himself as a crazy person that scares the Simpsons off. But the real plot gets going when Homer bumps into a display for a snow-plow for sale. He’s of course intrigued by it, even having a weird fantasy where George Bush Sr. asks him to use the plow to run over protestors, but is worried about the cost. Lucky for him the salesman starts to imply that he’s whipped, so Homer shells out the cash and gets his own snow plow. The American Dream!

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Marge is understandably upset that Homer made such a stupid decision without consulting her first, leading to an amazing Homer line “If you’re just going to get mad at me every time I do a stupid thing, I guess I’m just going to have to stop doing stupid things.” But Homer is convinced that he can become a successful snow-plow driver, and markets himself as Mr. Plow, and he starts canvasing the city with fliers, running into a pathetic Barney who is dressed as a giant baby trying to get people to go to a baby supply store. Homer even offers to read something from the Bible at church, and just makes it an ad for Mr. Plow, unfortunately apparently Reverend Lovejoy has goons, and they carry him away. But things really get going for Mr. Plow when Lisa has the idea of making a commercial for the public access channel, which she demonstrates with the weird commercial Captain McCallister has made for a CD of him singing sea shanties. So they make a ridiculous and terrible commercial that would be a huge phenomena on Youtube nowadays. Grandpa dresses up as Old Man Winter, and Homer beats the lousy season up as Mr. Plow, and even has a wonderful jingle that will get stuck in your head for days.

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And the ad is a success! Homer becomes a local celebrity and his business is booming. Everyone is hiring him to plow their driveways, and the Elementary School even hires him to make sure the school bus can get to class on time, which leads to all the student attacking Bart with snowballs like he’s goddamn Sonny Corleone. Mr. Plow is such a success he even gets the Key to the city, and a free beer from Moe. And those honors are enough to inspire Barney to do something with his life, especially after Homer encourages Barney to find a new path. I love the quick scene of Homer and Marge getting ready for sex, and her requesting him to wear his Mr. Plow Jacket, and he struts around singing his jingle. Unfortunately Barney decides to just steal Homer’s idea, and the next morning Homer wakes up to find the city already plowed, and Barney’s new role as the Plow King to blame. Homer complains the Barney about just stealing his idea, but Barney insists competition is good, and then shoots Homer’s tires out. Things are escalating quickly.

Turns out Barney also stole his idea for a weird local ad, and makes one where the Plow King beats up a cutout of Mr. Plow, eventually getting help from Linda Ronstadt, who then sings a song about how much Mr. Plow sucks and Plow King is rad. Homer is understandably upset with this turn of events, although we feel a little less bad for him when we find out through a flashback that Barney was actually a genius in highschool, but Homer made him an alcoholic the night before the SAT’s sealing his fate. Homer’s career starts to fall apart as Barney gets all the good snow-plow business in town. Even Flanders pays Barney instead of Homer. We also get to see Adam West again, who has also paid Barney, who is driving away shouting “So long Superman, your secret identity is safe with me,” out the window as he goes. And since Homer’s only idea is to make a new commercial where he raps, he hires an advertising firm to make him a good commercial. But they end up turning in some crazy perfume commercial that makes no sense, and does nothing to help Mr. Plow.

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Homer then has a terrible idea. It turns out the blizzard is really bad someplace called Widow’s peak, so he puts in a fake call to Plow King, telling Barney that he’ll give him a lot of money to plow up there. So Barney heads out, even though he was enjoying a hot-tub with Linda Ronstadt. But as soon as Barney gets up there, he burps and triggers an avalanche, trapping him on the mountain. Homer learns this from a news report, and heads up to Widow’s Peak to save his friend. It’s very treacherous, and he even has to drive over a wooden rope-bridge, which I think is a reference to that movie Sorcerer. But after almost falling off a cliff, Homer saves Barney, and the two decide to make-up and become partners in the plowing business. Unfortunately this insults God, and he makes spring come early, ruining their business. Homer is depressed, and even gets the plow repossesed, but the episode ends on a cute note when he and Marge have more “snuggling” when he puts the jacket back on, and sings the jingle all sultry, ending with a sexy weather report. “Extended periods of getting it on.”

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This episode is pretty dumb, but it’s such a blast. The idea of Homer becoming a plow driver is so strange but had so many great jokes in it. The terrible commercial, the weird perfume one, all the strange townsfolk he helps, it was really just a genius idea. And I really love that Barney just straight up screws him over by stealing his idea and his business. We didn’t really get any sort of insight into Homer and Barney’s friendship, but this isn’t that type of episode. It’s just a zany cartoon, and it’s great to have some of those every now and then.

Take Away: Plowing is a lucrative, but short lived business. Don’t become your friend’s business competitor.

“Mr. Plow” was written by Jon Vitti and directed by Jim Reardon, 1992.

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E08 – New Kid on the Block

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So a while back I complained about the episode “Bart’s Friend Falls In Love,” because it was weird that it wasn’t either about Bart falling in love, or just focusing more on Milhouse. And here we go with an episode all about Bart falling in love for the first time, and man is it fun. I feel like the Powers family were really underutilized characters, and could have become kind of like Fat Tony or Sideshow Bob, not regular characters but ones who pop in every once and while, because they were both pretty fun.

We start off with Homer watching some terrible dating show, I presume on MTV, when the doorbell rings and it turns out to be Mrs. Winfield. I kind of always thought they were in the older episodes more than they were; it’s only been like five episodes that they very briefly popped in. But whatever, they weren’t exactly captivating characters. Anyway, turns out the Winfield’s are moving down to Florida to die, and they’re having trouble selling their house since the Simpsons, especially Homer, are kind of terrible neighbors. She asks Homer to do some basic things to make the neighborhood seem like a decent place to live, like not walking naked in front of the windows, picking up all the rotten pumpkins from Halloween’s past, and taking care of the moose that are eating their garbage. Homer pretty much blows her suggestions off, and after stealing some crap they’re leaving on the curb, he goes back to watching TV with Marge. And the fates align as he watches TV and sees a commercial for local seafood restaurant, the Frying Dutchman, being pitched by one of my favorite weird tertiary characters Captain McCallister. Turns out the Frying Dutchman has all you can eat seafood, so Homer demands they go, despite the fact Marge is deathly allergic to shellfish.

Some time passes and the Winfield’s are still having a rough time selling the house since Homer’s sitting outside in a kiddie pool, drunk and eating hotdogs. But while showings are going on Bart and Lisa sneak into the Winfield’s basement, I guess because they were bored? I’m not sure Lisa’s motivation, Bart’s is clearly just to scare her though, and as soon as they get into the basement he starts telling her the story of the Winfield’s secret mutant son that they kept locked in the basement, and then flips his eyelids and scares her out of the basement. But while Bart is laughing to himself, proud, a figure comes out of the shadows and touches his arm, scaring him so bad he blacks out. And when he wakes up it’s not a mutant, it’s an older girl that Bart instantly falls in love with. It’s so funny when Bart’s inner monologue tells himself to think of something clever to say, and he goes with “I fell on my bottom.” I also love any time that Bart says d’oh. That’s so great to me.

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Turns out the girl is Laura Powers, and her and her mom Ruth have just bought the Winfield’s house, and are moving in. Busybody Marge heads right over to meet Ruth and give her a welcome basket with all sorts of coupons for local businesses, and a porno, because Springfield is classy. Marge is also oddly weirded out by the fact that Ruth is divorced, which I guess wasn’t a common thing in the early 90’s? I feel like most people I knew growing up had divorced parents, so I’m not sure why Marge is so confused by the concept. And while Ruth is getting acclimated to the neighborhood, Bart is spending time with Laura and his crush is intensifying. She knows all his jokes, and even scares off Dolf and Kearney, seeming like the coolest girl Bart has ever met. She even spits in Bart’s hand, and he refuses to wash it until it turns disgusting. But Bart realizes he has the perfect excuse to spend time with her when Homer gets her to babysit while Marge and he go to the Frying Dutchman. I love that Bart dresses like Hugh Hefner to impress Laura. So funny. And they have a lovely night while she orders them dinner from a place called Two Guys from Kabul, and teaches them all how to waltz.

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At the Frying Dutchman Homer is acting like a horrible pig, just straight up taking a whole steam tray of food, and ends up closing the restaurant down and getting kicked out. This pisses Homer off like crazy, and he vows to Marge to do something about it, while arguing about Don Quixote. He even gets Lionel Hutz’s advice, and they decide to sue for false advertising, just like Hutz did about the Neverending Story. Bart is spending all his time with Laura, even playing some weird death row video game, that ends with her getting electrocuted in Texas by hitting the change of venue button. Apu calls him out on his crush, and he decides to go ask various people for advice. He starts with Grandpa, and we’re briefly introduced to another great tertiary character, the Old Jewish Man, who does some sort of crazy dance to try and entice Bart to hang out with him. But Grandpa shows up, and they talk about having crushes on older women, and Bart leaves without having learned anything. He then tries Homer, who is initially resistant to talk about love with his son, but remembers her learned about love from a zookeeper when Homer saw two monkeys having sex, so he starts explaining love and sex with awkward metaphors. “A woman is a lot like a fridge, six feet tall, 300 pounds, they make ice.” Homer then tries to compare women to beer, and just gets shitfaced with his son. Bart heads to his room, more confused about love than he was before, and Laura shows up at his window, telling him to meet her in the treehouse. He meets her, thinking maybe she will tell him she likes him, but turns out she’s there to tell him that she has a boyfriend, and he’s Jimbo. Bart then has a really tragic fantasy of Laura ripping his heart out and throwing it away.

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Bart is crushed at the news, even more so when Jimbo shows up and she races away with him on a dirtbike after referring to him as “just a kid.” Back in the B plot, Homer’s weird lawsuit is beginning and Captain McCallister’s recollection of the evening paints Homer as some sort of mythical monster with an unstoppable appetite. There’s then a really weird Miracle on 34th Street reference when people bring in bags of letters to Santa Claus. Just kind of random. But the trial really comes to a head when Marge is called to the stand, and admits that after they were thrown out Homer made her go fishing with him, showing the jury that he didn’t get “All he could eat.” McCallister then settles the case, and makes Homer his mascot, charging people money to come see the bottomless hole that eats shrimp. But back in Bart’s lovelife, Laura is babysitting again, and Jimbo is over making out with her and taking his shirt off because it chafes. Classy. Bart then has a terrible idea, and calls Moe’s with a fake name, Amanda Huggenkiss, and then tells the furious Moe that his name is Jimbo Jones, and then gives the Simpsons address (even though he says 1094 Evergreen Terrace) so that Moe will come kill Jimbo. Kind of a dark plan. Moe then runs off to kill Jimbo with a dull and rusty knife, and smashes into the Simpsons house. He threatens Jimbo, who immediately starts to cry and beg for his life, apparently ruining Laura’s perception of him. Moe heads back to take care of Barney, and Laura breaks up with Jimbo. The episode ends on a sweet note with Bart and Laura prank calling Moe again with Ivanna Tinkle. And she was never heard from again.

This was a really cute episode. Bart’s crush was so real and relatable, and it really hit all the right notes of a young kid’s first crush. And I really like that it was unrequited. We didn’t have to see Bart actually get a little girlfriend; we just had to see him pine after a girl that’s everything he should want in a romantic interest. Homer’s B-plot was super weird and fun, and gave us Captain McCallister, to which I’m eternally grateful. It’s really a bummer that Laura Powers never came back, because she was a lot of fun, and her and Bart’s relationship was pretty great. Poor Bart.

Take Away: You’re going to get your heart broken. And knife wielding maniacs solve most of your problems.

“New Kid on the Block” was written by Conan O’Brien and directed by Wes Archer, 1992.

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Page Turners

The Fantasy Slapstick of the Colour of Magic

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Traditional fantasy can be kind of a bore to me. I feel like J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis have kind of nailed that traditional fantasy genre, so if you’re going to add to it, you’d better be doing something interesting with the format. I can’t imagine anyone is excited to read yet another book about a rural farmboy learning that he’s the chosen one to fight against the forces of evil with the help of representatives of all the prominent races before vanquishing the symbol of chaos, ushering in an age of peace and enlightenment. I feel like if that statement sums up your idea for a fantasy novel, you need to go back to the drawing board, because holy crap has it been done before. And yet, I really like fantasy, and have a soft spot for the Tolkienesque format of elves and dwarves and dragons and whatnot, so I’m always on the lookout for a book or story that takes a refreshing look at that tried and true base.

Now I’ve been aware of Terry Pratchett’s series of novels, Discworld, for some time now, because it’s kind of hard to not have heard about them. If you’re at all interested in either fantasy or satire, these books pop up pretty quickly. They’re usually mentioned in the same breath as Kurt Vonnegut, Neil Gaiman, or Douglas Adams, all of whom I love, so Discworld has been on my radar for some time now. Because as well as being a fantasy fan, I’m also a huge fan of humor and satire books. I love a good funny book. One of my favorite books of all time is John Kennedy Toole’s amazing A Confederacy of Dunces, which is legitimately laugh out loud funny, so I’m always game for a book that can get a chuckle out of me. So liking Discworld seemed like a no-brainer, but the thing that was keeping me from the series was it’s impenetrability. There’s 41 of these things, and it’s so dense that people post their own thoughts on the reading order online all the time. I feel like it’s kind of like trying to get into comics, because you may have gone out and seen the new Avengers movie, and are interested in seeing what Captain America is up to this month, but then you see that it says issue 600 or something, and that’s a little daunting to just jump in with. But I finally made the plunge, and quickly realized that there’s nothing to worry about. I did a little research and I guess that the 41 book count is a little misleading, because it’s not like they’re all telling the same story. It’s more like Discworld is just the location, and there’s several series within the umbrella, which makes it a lot more easy to wrap your head around. But to start off with, I decided to just dive in with the first book published in the series.

And it was a blast. The Colour of Magic is a really fun read that introduces you to the world of Discworld, and all the weirdness that that entails, while also being very accessible and fun. The novel is really four novellas, crammed together all with the same loose plot running between them. The principal characters are Rincewind, a “wizard” who actually only knows one spell and was banished from the magical college before officially earning that designation, and Twoflower, an insurance agent from a mysterious land far away from Rincewind’s who is just visiting the wild untamed fantasy world that Rincewind calls home for vacation. So along with a sentient treasure chest that they just call the Luggage, Rincewind takes Twoflower around his half of Discworld, and they get in crazy adventures.

First we learn about their troubles in the city of Ankh-Morpork, where Rincewind lives. Twoflower gets there and starts flashing his gold around, and pretty quickly gets sized up by the local criminals, and the two have to flee them before accidentally burning most of the city to the ground. Second they happen upon a hidden temple in the woods and end up getting involved in a weird game of chance played by the Gods of Discworld that ends up with our friends almost raising some sort of dread Cthulu God from it’s slumber. They also meet a new character there, Hrun the Barbarian, a kind of uber-masculine Conan type who ends up coming with them after they escape the temple. Then they end up finding some crazy city on an inverted mountain that’s lead by a group of warriors who can create dragons with their imagination. Things don’t go well here, since the princess wants Hrun to kill all her brothers and marry her as a puppet king, Twoflower really just wants to play with dragons, and Rincewind just wants to get the hell out of there. They end up just completely screwing up that society and leaving Hrun behind before their final adventure, where they almost fall off the side of the world. Their boat goes over the edge and they’re taken prisoners by a country called Krull who want to sacrifice them before launching what’s essentially a space-ship off the side of the world, but our heroes blunder their way into the ship instead, and blast off to space! And then the book just kind of ends, because apparently the next one picks up right where it left off, which is a bummer, because I wasn’t planning on going through the whole series one after another.

The story was a lot of fun, and I really enjoyed both Rincewind and Twoflower, but overall the plotting of this book left a little to be desired. It really was just four disparate stories that didn’t really have a lot of connective tissue keeping them together. Which normally would probably be a bad sign as the first book in a series, but I’m giving this one a pass, because while I may forget some of the details of the four mini-stories, it’s the world building that really got to me, and has me excited to read more books in the series. I feel like world building is one of the most difficult things to do with a fantasy or sci-fi book, because the writer probably has so much weird details about their world crammed in their heads, and it can be really difficult to get it out at a reasonable degree that doesn’t just feel like a exposition dump. We can’t all be George R.R. Martin and release whole books of ancillary details regarding the world we’ve created, and most people probably wouldn’t want whole chapters explaining the banking system or political histories of the world you created cluttering the story. But this book created the mythology of the world so well, and I’m so excited to see where it goes from here. It’s a strange world, just kind of built as a parody or traditional fantasy, sometimes direct parodies. This is a world where all the weird creation myths and magical explanations of how the world works that older civilizations came up with are real. Their world is literally a flat disk that balances on the back of four elephants who are in turn balanching on the back of a giant turtle that’s sailing through space. They know this, it’s verified with “science.”  It’s a place where magic won out, instead of science, and people who think of things being powered by lightning are the crazy ones, not the people who use tiny goblins to paint them pictures instead of cameras. It was a very silly and enjoyable world, and one that I’ll be spending a lot of time in the years to come.

The Colour of Magic was written by Terry Pratchett, 1983.

Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E07 – Marge Gets a Job

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Hey everybody, let’s talk about sexual harassment! This is definitely one of those episodes that slip my mind, and when it started playing I was suddenly hit with memories of an episode that I had kind of deleted from my mind. It’s kind of a strange story, but has one of my new favorite aspects that I’d forgotten so many of these classic episodes had, random Mr. Burns appearance. Seriously, Mr. Burns is the bacon of Simpsons characters, it may not always make sense to put him in it, but boy is it appreciated.

The episodes starts in kind of an odd place, with Marge and Homer checking the mail as Homer drinks a sample of dishwashing liquid. That’s not a thing anymore right? I remember samples of stuff coming in the mail when I was a kid, but now as a grown-ass man with my own house I’ve never noticed anything like this. Stupid future. Anyway, as they’re sitting there they realize that there’s something wrong with the houses foundation, and it’s beginning to sink on one corner. Homer makes the manly decision of trying to fix the problem himself, and since this is the pre-internet days, he gets an instructional video to help him. And if there’s an instructional video Troy McClure must be here too! “Dig Your Own Grave and Save!” was certainly my favorite of his credits this time. Unfortunately for Homer though, the video is a little advanced, and makes absolutely no sense to him, so he has to suck it up and call a handyman, Surly Joe’s. I never realized as a kid how obnoxious it is to own a house, and deal with all the weird things that are breaking. So many things have broken in my house in the year we’ve owned it, and I’ve learned rather quickly that I was missing quite a bit of knowledge on this type of thing. And I know Homer’s pain, because as much as I try to fix things myself, I’m pretty incompetent, and need to pony up for a professional to come help me. Turns out Surly Joe is pretty nice, and he can fix their house no problem, but unluckily for Homer the bill will be $8,500, and as we’ve learned several times on this show, Homer and bills don’t work very well. So he tells Surly Joe that they’ll have to pass, and decides to just live with the messed up house.

I laughed so incredibly hard at the joke that came next, which was us joining Kent Brockman mid-broadcast as he says “…leaving the Vice President in charge,” while there’s a picture of a flaming White House. But then he zips right over to a local news report about the Simpsons house, which has become a big deal in the neighborhood. People are just coming to gawk at the house, and Marge decides that Homer’s plan of ignoring the problem isn’t going to fly, and she offers to get a job to help afford the repair. I love Homer misunderstanding that idea and thinking that means he doesn’t have to work, and he thinks about going to live in nature like Walden, and all we see him write in his journal is “March 15th, I wish I brought a TV. Oh god I miss TV” But Marge bursts his bubble, and explains that he would still need to work, and instead of working on this plan any more, they head off to a Power Plant retirement party. Some guy named Marley that we’ve never seen before is being forcibly retired, the workers are getting to have dinner at a crazy restaurant called the Spruce Caboose that’s built into a derailed train, which is great. Mr. Burns has a little speech, and we learn that Marley really doesn’t want to retire, afraid that his job was all he was living for, but Burns ignores him, and even has goons throw him out of the train. We do get a crazy Citizen Kane reference though when Smithers gets a song and dance number for Burns, and I always love a good Citizen Kane reference.

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Back at home Marge tells Homer that she thinks it might be a good idea for her to apply for Marley’s job, but Homer is pretty hesitant, since he doesn’t want them to work together. And like any good American, Homer uses the Bible to justify his weird issues with the wonderful quote “Thou shalt not horn in on thy husband’s racket.” But despite his issues, Marge decides to apply anyway, and writes a pretty unimpressive resume since she hasn’t worked since high school, so Lisa helps her…embellish her resume with some crazy lies. And she gets the job! When she tells the family Homer is still a little against it, but Lisa finds it romantic, thinking they’d be like the Curies, leading to Bart’s amazing vision of the Curies as giant Kaiju monsters destroying Tokyo.

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The next day Homer and Marge carpool to work as he begins giving her advice on how to survive in the Plant, “Blame the guy who can’t speak English. Oh Tibor, how many times have you saved my butt?” Unfortunately while Marge is working Grandpa has to take care of the kids, and is convinced Maggie is suffering from all sorts of crazy old-timey ailments. This seemed random at first, but it leads into a really weird and brief B-plot where Bart is faking being sick to avoid tests at school, so Grandpa has to pick him up, and makes him use leeches and a rectal thermometer. Back at the plant Marge isn’t doing well, since no one explained how to run the machine she’s in charge of, and Homer isn’t helping since he just encourages her to slack off and send her work through a pneumatic tube to a beaver dam. But then the episode takes a serious turn into weirdness when Mr. Burns is just randomly looking at his employees on the monitor, seeing people playing chess in radiation suits and just straight up cock-fighting, but then he sees Marge and falls instantly in love, even seeing his shriveled little heart like he’s the Grinch or something.

Burns starts creeping on Marge almost immediately, seeing how the job was going so far. She misunderstands why he’s there and starts to give him advice on how to improve morale, especially these three weird individuals, a woman taking shots at her desk, a guy crying, and a crazy man muttering with a rifle. She gets funny hat day and Tom Jones music to start happening in the Plant, and it doesn’t really do much to help anyone but Marge. Burns then starts promoting Marge, even giving her Smither’s office, which doesn’t go over well for Homer since he’s used to seeing people get promoted over him like friends, coworkers, and Tibor, but is feeling depressed about Marge. But while that’s going on Burns is falling more and more in love with Marge, just watching her on the monitors while he kicks his feet around like a teenage girl. He decides to invite Marge to a dinner at his mansion and has Smithers go out and kidnap Tom Jones to perform at the dinner. Man Smithers has committed a lot of crimes for Mr. Burns. And while we learn that the money from Marge’s promotion was enough to get the house fixed Smithers is out gassing Tom Jones and dragging him back to Springfield.
Bart’s plot wraps up with him complaining of ovary pain and heading home again, but when he goes to take the test again he’s told to go out in the hallway, and is attacked by an escaped wolf that was on the Krusty show. Bart gets attacked by the wolf while writing about Ivanhoe (a story about a Russian farmer and his tool) and is saved by Willie, who wrestles the wolf to submission. Bart passes out after telling Mrs. Krabappel the truth, and he’s taken home by Grandpa, who says that ”We’ve got to rub some garlic on you before the next full moon.” But back in the real plot, Mr. Burns calls Marge into his office and invites her to dinner, even shows off the hostage Tom Jones, but when she mentions she’s married he freaks the hell out and fires her. Homer and Marge go to the mall to get Lionel Hutz’s legal advice, and he comes with them to sue Burns, but he quickly bails when he sees Burns’ team of lawyers. Marge decides to give up, but Homer defends her to Burns, and when Burns realizes that Homer really loves Marge, he decides to let the two of them still enjoy the dinner, complete with captive Tom Jones.

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This was such a goofy episode, and I’m really shocked I had this much to say about it. The whole foundation problem was funny, and I really liked the stuff featuring Marge working at the plant. But the episode really kicked into gear with Mr. Burns, who always makes things good. The Bart plot was a little pointless to me though, and really didn’t need to be there. I forget this episode a lot, and honestly I’ll probably forget it again pretty soon, but it was fun.

Take Away: Don’t work with your spouse…that’s a lot of time together. And I guess don’t call wolf.

“Marge Gets a Job” was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein and directed by Jeffrey Lynch, 1992.

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E06 – Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie

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Ah, the struggle of having something banned in your house. I’ve talked before how the Simpsons themselves were briefly banned in my house growing up, it didn’t last long but it’s still something that really sticks with you. I don’t have kids yet, so who knows if my thoughts are going to change, but right now I tell myself I’ll never ban anything from my kids, because in my experience, if a parent bans something, it’s just a sign that you need to see it. And of course, since it seems like they represent any sort of censorship, the episode is about our old pals Itchy and Scratchy. Quick aside before we dive in, my hands hate typing the name Scratchy. I don’t know why, but I don’t think I’ve typed it correctly in the whole run of this blog, my fingers just don’t work right with it, so episodes like this can drive me nuts.

The episode starts right off with an amazing joke of a commercial for Star Trek XII: So Very Tired. Now, Star Trek is a geek property that I really know nothing about. I’ve never seen any Next Generation, or any of those movies, and I’ve seen like two episodes of the classic series and Wrath of Khan. Yet despite that, I know a lot about the property, and can usually get a Star Trek reference, and can even make them, and honestly that knowledge tends to come from second-hand sources, the Simpsons included. It’s jokes like these that show why the Simpsons is so great, because even if you don’t understand the reference, it’s still a funny joke. We have elderly Captain Kirk talking to himself, “I complain…but no one listens,” and the morbidly obese Mr. Scott being too fat to reach his control panel. Genius. But after that commercial we get into the real plot of the episode because Marge and Homer are getting ready to go to a parent teacher conference for the kids. My brother and I are four years apart, so besides briefly having 5th and 1st grade in the same school, we were never together, and didn’t have to have the parents go to the same school for the conferences, which would really be hard I assume. I do love their plan though that if they’re good they get pizza for dinner, and if they’re bad they get poison. Great parenting Homer.

While they drive to the school, Homer guilts Marge into letting him do Lisa’s class, leaving her to deal with Bart’s conference. And Homer obviously made the right call, since his time with Ms. Hoover is just him getting stuck in the desk, making fart noises, and getting praised as a wonderful parent. Marge on the other hand is just getting a list of atrocities, complete with surprise witnesses. And while all of this is going on we pan back to the house to see Bart grabbing Grandpa’s teeth and destroying things with them, just to hammer in the fact he’s kind of a shit. I love that Mrs. Krabappel has Marge write on the chalkboard as punishment for raising Bart. Homer finally comes to find Marge, and they have a talk about needing to be stricter with Bart, because if he buckles down he could become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, which Homer really wants. Marge then has a ridiculous fantasy of what will happen to Bart if he’s allowed to stay terrible, and she assumes he’ll be a sleazy male stripper called Bang Bang Bart. So with the new plan of punishing Bart in place, they head home, just as Bart is breaking Grandpa’s dentures, and haphazardly taping them together. Homer and Marge get home, and right away realize that Bart has done something bad, and broken the dentures, so they debate how to punish him. I love Homer’s logic of “since you broke Grandpa’s teeth, he gets to break yours.” And that Grandpa is super into that plan. But Marge shoots down that plan and sends Bart to bed without dinner. And unfortunately right before Bart finally gives up and thinks about being a good kid, Homer shows up with pizza for him.

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The plot then really gets going when Lisa is later watching TV and sees a commercial for an upcoming Itchy and Scratchy Movie. Bart is busy melting a James Bond toy in the microwave while petting Snowball II, which is hilarious, but Lisa comes rushing in and the two get psyched. We then start popping between the town getting excited for the movie, and Homer failing to punish Bart for his behavior. He doesn’t take the trash out, but distracts Homer with the Bumblebee Man show, and Homer stops punishing him for smashing mustard packets in the living room because the ice cream man shows up. Homer then gives Bart advice on jury duty, which is “the trick is to say you’re prejudiced against all races.” Meanwhile Springfield is getting pumped for the movie, with the crazy blood spraying billboard, and Kent Brockman’s on-site interview with the Korean animators. We also get a mini-documentary about Itchy and Scratchy on Eye on Springfield, and man is it ridiculous. I love that Itchy and Scratchy is the Simpson’s universes version of Disney, with their 20’s short films, including Steamboat Itchy, and them fighting Hilter with FDR in WWII. And Bart is all excited for the movie, even having his ticket in advance, but then he does something pretty inexcusable. He was supposed to watch Maggie, and she somehow slipped away from him, got in Homer’s car, and managed to take it on a joyride, passing Marge, and smashing into the prison. And man are Homer and Marge pissed. Homer decides to actually punish Bart, since he wants him to be Chief Justice, and bans him from ever seeing the Itchy and Scratchy Movie.

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And for the first time ever, Homer is sticking to his guns and not letting Bart watch the movie. Bart starts to go crazy, trying to sneak into the movie, and even getting beat up by Nelson and Millhouse because he hadn’t seen it. At that point Lisa and Marge even try to appeal to Homer and get him to change his mind, but Homer is adamant in his decision. There’s two gags in this period that really worked for me, having Bart’s imagination not working anymore when he tried to think of his own Movie, and him resorting to reading the novelization of the movie, which really made me laugh because I was a total dork who read a bunch of novelizations of movies when I was a kid. But despite everything Bart tries, Homer doesn’t back down, and he doesn’t get to see the movie. We cut to a year later when Kent Brockman is doing a report on the last day the movie will be shown in theaters, and we learn it won 9 Academy Awards. And Bart still never saw it. The episode then ends with a sweet little scene set in the future where Bart, who is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and a super old Homer go see the movie at a special screening, and we end on the wonderful interactions of:

Homer: “Which one’s the mouse?”

Bart: “Itchy.”

Homer: “Itchy’s a jerk.”

Yep. Itchy’s a jerk.

This was a fun episode. I love seeing Bart being as horrible as the writers could make him, just like when the family acts super horrible in a Marge episode. And the montage of Homer being unable to focus enough to punish Bart was a whole lot of fun. It was the whole banning the movie thing that didn’t super work for me. I said earlier about how I think banning things from kids is stupid, because it really is. I guess it’s a little different when it’s a punishment, and not like, a moral call though. If you’re keeping kids away from something because you don’t know how to talk to them about it, that’s just bad parenting, but this was different. I feel like it would just make Bart resentful of Homer by doing this, but hey I guess it worked, in this version of the future he’s Chief Justice, and not a sleazy stripper.

Take Away: Don’t ban things from your kids without a good reason. And Earl Warren was both a stripper and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

“Itchy & Scratchy: the Movie” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Rich Moore, 1992

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Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E05 – Treehouse of Horror III

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Well this is pretty apropos. It didn’t work out perfectly with having a Treehouse of Horror right on Halloween, which would have been cool, but we’re pretty damn close. And man is this an amazing Treehouse of Horror. They’re really all great, but this is one that I forgot how truly wonderful it was.

Unlike previous Treehouse of Horror episodes, this one doesn’t open with Marge warning us not to watch it; instead we get Homer parodying the old Alfred Hitchcock Presents show, before lacklusterly trying to warn us about the episode. Homer isn’t as convincing as Marge though, and ends up just calling the audience chicken, daring them to turn the TV off, which they do. We then cut right to the gravestones, and my favorite this time was “American Workmanship,” which is falling apart. The episode then gets going, and we still get a great wrap-around story, and this time it’s scary stories again, but it’s at a Halloween party at the Simpsons house. And there are some pretty great costumes. Homer is Caesar, Bart is a Droog which is a reference you would think Bart shouldn’t get, Lisa is Statue of Liberty, Marge is Cleopatra, Milhouse is Radioactive Man, Nelson is a pirate, and Martin is Calliope. Marge is trying to entertain the kids with that stupid “these are her eyes, and these are her brains,” thing, but Homer eats all the food, so they decide to tell stories instead. Lisa goes first.

Clown Without Pity

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Lisa’s story, which is a parody of the Twilight Zone, “Living Doll,” starts off with it being Bart’s birthday party, and has been established many times; Homer is terrible at birthdays and forgot to get Bart something. So he races off to get a quick present, and ends up finding a place called the House of Evil, which I think is a parody of the place from Gremlins. And man is this whole exchange perfect. It’s one of my favorite Simpsons gags of all time. After learning that the House of Evil sells cursed objects and frogurt, Homer picks out a Krusty doll, thinking that will be perfect for Bart, but the shopkeep has a warning for Homer:

Shopkeeper: “Take this object, but beware it carries a terrible curse!”

Homer: “Ooh, that’s bad.”

Shopkeeper: “But it comes with a free frogurt.”
Homer: “That’s good!”

Shopkeeper: “The frogurt is also cursed.”

Homer: “That’s bad.”

Shopkeeper: “But you get your choice of topping!”
Homer: “That’s good!”

Shopkeeper: The toppings contain potassium benzoate.”
Homer: “….”

Shopkeeper: “That’s bad.”

I’ll be honest, even typing that out made me laugh. Anyway, Homer brings the doll home, and Bart loves it. Grandpa warns the family that the doll is evil, but no one cares about him. And pretty much immediately the doll starts coming to life and trying to kill Homer, but only when he’s alone. No one believes Homer, even when he attacks him in the bath with a harpoon. But Homer finally has enough and catches the doll trying to hit on Lisa’s Malibu Stacy, and throws him into a bag full of his socks, knocking him out. Homer then heads to the local bottomless pit (What, your town doesn’t have one?) and throws the doll away. We also see a mobster throw away a dead body, and a guy try to get rid of a box of nude photos of Whoopie Goldberg, which even the pit doesn’t want. Unfortunately the doll gets back to the house, and finally attacks Homer in front of everyone. Marge springs into action and calls the helpline for the doll, getting us another great holding-music gag with “Everybody Loves a Clown, So Why Don’t You?” And thankfully a technician heads right over, switches the doll’s dial from Evil to Good, and the doll is immediately nice. Homer then makes it his servant, but it’s okay, because he’s living a nice life with Malibu Stacy, and we end with a ridiculous zoom shaped like a heart, which is a wonderful gag that goes through the whole episode.

After the commercial break we interrupt Homer telling a story, but he’s doing very badly at it, and forgot all the important parts. Everyone makes fun of him, and they let Grandpa tell the next story.

King Homer

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Grandpa’s story is obviously King Kong, but he even admits that he doesn’t know stories, but has seen a lot of movies. And man is it a funny, if a little too short, parody of King Kong. We open on Marge meeting Smithers and Mr. Burns at the docks, applying for a job she found in the paper. They take her to Ape Island, to blatantly use as bait, even though Smithers feels like women and seamen don’t mix. “We know what you think.” The ship then heads out for Ape Island, instead of Candyapple Island, which has apes, but they’re not as big, and as soon as they make landfall, the natives take Marge to appease their monkey god. King Homer beats up a dinosaur, and heads to the shore to get Marge, and Mr. Burns’ men spring into action! He almost immediately eats Lenny, and Mr. Burns decides to use a gas grenade, which just blows up and gasses himself. Smithers takes charge and manages to gas Homer, earning him a promotion, until Homer eats him while sleeping. They then bring King Homer to Broadway, along with the chubbiest chorus line in town, and just like the movie, he breaks out right away and starts running amok. He even eats Shirley Temple. We then reach the end of the movie, and King Homer grabs Marge and starts to climb a skyscraper, but can’t get more than a couple stories up, and passes out from the exertion. Marge then marries King Homer in a lovely ceremony that ends with him eating Marge’s dad, close with the heart zoom.

There’s then a brief interlude where Marge is trying to feed the kids fruit instead of candy and their party is interrupted by Flanders who is wearing some crazy costume that makes him look like he’s missing a head. Bart then jumps in with his story, guaranteed to make you wet your pants.

Dial “Z” for Zombies

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I don’t think Bart’s story is a direct parody of anything in particular, but it’s still pretty amazing. It starts off with Bart failing a book report, which he did on a pop-up book, and being told by Mrs. Krabappel that he needs to go read a real book. So he heads to the library and stumbles across the Occult Section, which is obviously where he goes. He finds a book of spells, and heads home to read it. While he’s reading the book Lisa is depressed because that day is the anniversary that Snowall I was run over by the mayor’s beer-swilling brother Clovis. Bart decides to help his sister, and tells her about a spell he found to raise the dead, so they head off to the pet cemetery to bring Snowball back. I love that Bart is wearing the Thriller album jacket on his head for some reason while incanting his spell, which is just the last names of famous gameshow hosts and department store names. Unfortunately Bart read the wrong spell, so it doesn’t wake Snowball up, it brings all the human in the regular cemetery next-door come back as zombies. The zombies start to attack the city in an amazing montage of terror. We see zombies eat Flanders really quickly, zombie Principal Skinner call Martin to his office to eat, and my favorite, which was Krusty getting ready to open a giant present, but Sideshow Mel pops out and eats him. The zombies then attack the Simpsons house, and after passing up Homer because of his lack of brains, they head off to the library to see if there’s another book that can fix the problem. Homer then takes full advantage of shooting zombie Flanders. The family races off to the library and we see Kang and Kodos up in their ship for their obligatory Halloween cameo, deciding that they’ll invade Earth after the zombies kill everyone. They get into the school, and Homer shoots Einstein, Shakespere, and George Washington, who are all in Springfield apparently, and Bart finds the right book. He briefly turns Lisa into a giant snail, then incants a spell that’s just condom companies, and the zombies all go back to their graves. The family then sits at home; happy they didn’t turn into zombies, and start zoning out watching TV. We then head to the credits with the great spooky names, and the fun Treehouse of Horror theme, which has extra Theremin this time.

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I had forgotten how truly great this Treehouse of Horror was. All three segments were hilarious, and different. The scene with Homer and the Shopkeeper in the Krusty doll story is seriously one of my favorite Simpsons gags of all time, and my friends and I say “well there’s your problem, its set to evil,” in any context we possibly can. King Homer is a fantastic parody of that movie, and is so hilarious when you’ve seen the original film, because it’s beat for beat perfect. And man is the zombie one fun. It’s dumb, but it’s a blast, especially Homer shooting famous zombies who are there for some reason, and the weird spells Bart reads. Just a great episode guys.

Take Away: Don’t buy dolls from creepy frogurt salesmen, don’t go to Ape Island or go to Broadway shows that are just giant apes standing around, and don’t raise the dead.

“Treehouse of Horror III” was written by  Al Jean, Mike Reiss, Jay Kogen, Wallace Wolodarsky, Sam Simon, and Jon Vitti, and directed by Carlos Baeza, 1992.

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