Well here’s a real weird and depressing episode. If you have a dog, you’re going to hug it after watching this episode (or maybe reading this article) because… yeesh.
The episode starts off with a crazy commercial for the State Lottery, which is hilarious. Lottery commercials are always funny in real life; because they’re whole deal is to convince you that it’s remotely possible that you’re going to win. And this fake one is great, with everyone in the office winning, and the amazing tagline “The state lottery, where everybody wins!” And of course, Homer and Barney are all excited about playing, and rush off to get tickets, since the jackpot is up to $130 million. In highschool I worked at the service desk of a grocery store, and sold people lotto tickets, and man is it depressing. You see people waste literally hundreds of dollars a week, every week, for years, and never win much of anything. You’ll see people stand there for twenty minutes picking all of their numbers carefully, and win nothing, then some guy just asks for random numbers and at least win the money of the ticket back. It’s just depressing. But it’s good for Apu, because he’s selling a crapload of tickets. I love that Homer is needing lucky numbers, so he calls Bart because he doesn’t know any of their birthdays or ages, although he does scold Bart for not knowing Lisa’s birthday. I also love the weird joke when Apu’s brother Sanjay is moving around in the crowd with a bulletproof vest, and tells Apu not to sleep with his wife if he dies. And Apu refuses.
Back at the house the Simpsons are sitting on the couch, staring at the TV, waiting for the lotto numbers to be drawn, and they don’t notice that there’s something wrong with Santa’s Little Helper. He’s wandering around, clearly sick, and falls over a few times, but the lotto is way more important. I had completely forgotten the gag that all the townsfolk are checking out copies of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery, because they assume it has tips. And it’s wonderful that Homer checked it out too, and when Kent Brockman explains it has no lotto tips, he just throws it into the fireplace. We also get to see Homer’s fantasy of what he would do with his lotto winnings, and apparently he’d make himself the biggest man in the world, and covered in gold, and would then rule the world as King Homer. There’s also an amazing joke of someone calling the police station with an emergency, and Wiggum just hangs up to watch the drawing. And surprise, surprise, Homer doesn’t win, because Bart wasn’t 17. And the person who did win was Kent Brockman, who freaks out on live TV. And I laughed so much at him quickly explaining a news story before running out to claim his winnings. “Tragic mixup in Cleveland…many people killed…uh…bye!” So the family is disappointed, then Grandpa points out that Santa’s Little Helper is dead, and they all go check that out.
Turns out he’s not dead, just really sick, so the family races to the Springfield Animal Hospital. I love the vet that cares too much, but then throws the dead hamster into a trashcan through a little basketball hoop. So funny. He does an examination on Santa’s Little Helper, and it turns out he has a twisted stomach, a fatal disorder that can be fixed through a $750 surgery. So the family leave the hospital, after passing Krusty picking up a refill of nicotine gum for Mr. Teeny, and explain to Bart that they can’t afford the surgery, and tell him about Doggie Heaven. I love Bart’s logic that if there’s a Doggie Heaven, there must be a Doggie Hell, and that Homer says it contains Hitler’s dog, Nixon’s dog Checkers, and the bad Lassie who mauled Timmy. But Bart is not okay with the plan to let Santa’s Little Helper die, and he runs off, distraught. Homer then changes his mind when Santa’s Little Helper set his poor little head down on his knee, working it with the sad puppy-dog eyes.
Unfortunately, they can’t afford the surgery, so Homer goes and tries to get the money from Burns, but is quickly taken away by the goons. He then reads up on Canine Surgery, but Marge shoots that idea down pretty quick, and the book joins the others in the fireplace. So they end up having to just cut corners, and save money every way they can. Homer can’t have beer, Bart gets his hair cut at the barber school, Marge won’t buy her weekly lotto ticket, their dinners become weird things, “Chub…I don’t even know what that is,” and Lisa doesn’t get encyclopedias. And because Homer’s plan to become a family of travelling acrobats gets shot down, they go through with it. So Santa’s Little Helper gets his surgery, and after momentarily dying and going to Doggie Heaven, he’s brought back to life by the vet giving him CPR. But even though Santa’s Little Helper is alive, the family quickly gets resentful of him. We see that Kent Brockman is still doing the news, and he reads the new lotto numbers, which would have made Marge a winner if she had bought her usual ticket. We also see Maggie rip her baby clothes, Bart get a bad haircut, Homer dance for quarters at Moe’s, and Lisa miss the chance to use her encyclopedias for a paper. And they all blame poor little Santa’s Little Helper. And then that night the whole family passes the buck of closing the gate before bed, until it’s Maggie’s fault (I love that she’s in a onesie made from a Crown Royale bag) and Santa’s Little Helper runs off, not wanting to be a bother anymore.
The next morning the family finds him gone, and gets super concerned, putting aside their petty complaints. We then see Santa’s Little Helper wander around the city, having adventures such as fighting a bear, saving a baby from a cabin fire, and eating fleas from his butt. But then he gets caught by a dog catcher, and sent to a pound. We then find out that Mr. Burns is in the market for a new attack hound, and heads to the pound. He finds Santa’s Little Helper, and because he’s wiry, fast, and has firm proud buttocks, which reminds Burns of himself, they get him. Burns then trains Santa’s Little Helper, and straight up pulls a Clockwork Orange Ludovico Technique on him. The Simpsons have become depressed that Santa’s Little Helper is gone, and Bart heads off to find him. He makes his way to the rich part of town, and finds creepy tan Kent Brockman, before making his way to Burns’ mansion. Turns out though Santa’s Little Helper has become a goddamn monster, and when Bart gets there, he leads the charge of the attack dogs. Bart gets chases by his dog, and right before he gets attacked he says “I love you boy,” and gets Santa’s Little Helper to snap out of it, and he then comes to love Bart, before scaring off the other dogs. So Bart takes him home, and the whole family stands around loving on him. We then end with the great gag of Homer not wanting to pet the cat, “The cat? What’s the point?”
This is such a funny and emotional episode. Episode about Santa’s Little Helper always get to me, because I’ve had a couple naughty dogs growing up, and it’s always hard to watch episodes about their naughty dog having problems. And it’s super hard to think about the dog needing a life-saving surgery that you can’t afford. It’s also super shitty that the family acts like jerks to him because they had to make financial changes to afford his surgery. And then Mr. Burns shows up and instantly makes the episode crazier. I love that he just ties him up, holds his eyes open, and makes him watch that crazy movie with the Hindenburg and Nixon holding up Checker’s ears. It’s just such a fun episode. It packs an emotional punch, and also some Mr. Burns zaniness. It also made me realize that as far as I remember, there’s no episodes about Snowball II, which made me laugh as a dog-person, and someone who doesn’t like cats.
Take Away: Don’t play the lotto. And if your dog is sick, take care of it, they’re part of your family.
“Dog of Death” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jim Reardon.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons