Well, in this week of highs and lows we’ve reached another low. It’s a common complaint in regards to the declining quality of the show around this point that when they had episodes that seemed written around the celebrity guest stars, instead of incorporating them into a story. And I think there’s some truth to that idea. And this episode is a prime example of an episode being built around the cameos, and not the other way around.
We start off in a dream of Homer’s where he’s Yogi Bear and Bart is Boo Boo while they’re mauling Ranger Ned to death to steal a picnic basket. It’s pretty random, but I’ll admit I laughed a lot at Yogi Homer just attacking Ned. And after the mauling Homer is woken up by Bart and Lisa, who have marched into their parent’s room and woken their father to remind him he promised to take the family to the lake that day. Homer starts to complain about not wanting to be a great father, but they hold him to his promise, and later that day they head out to the Springfield Lake. Just like everybody else in town. The traffic is ridiculous, and much like myself, Homer has no patience for that bullshit and just decides to take a “short cut” by driving through some long grass and corn.
And after finally coming out of the corn short cut, they find a strange secluded part of town with a giant mansion. They briefly comment on the mansion, but just keep driving to the lake, since that mansion isn’t going to factor in the plot in any way. They get to the lake, rent a boat, and start throwing off sight-gags. They water-ski for a bit, until Lisa goes flying away, and they decide to switch to parasailing, because that’s much safer. Homer obviously has to go first, and after powering the motor to its full extent they’re finally able to get Homer off the water, and into the air. Homer loves being airborne for a while, but the strain on the motor becomes too much, and it ends up bursting into flame, burning the rope that was tethering him to the boat. This causes Homer to go flying through the air, gliding uncontrollably until he smashes through the skylight of that mansion they saw earlier. Right into the bed of Kim Bassinger and Alec Baldwin.
Yep. It’s time for celebrities playing themselves. The two movie stars seem oddly okay with this strange man smashing through their skylight, and just start having a conversation with him. Turns out they’re sick of Los Angeles, and have moved to Springfield for some privacy and anonymity. The downside to this decision is the fact that they have to keep themselves secluded, and haven’t even been able to leave the house to get groceries, making them resort to surviving off muffin baskets. So Homer does the only logical thing, and offers to become their assistant, and do all of their errands.
The movie stars are down with this plan, and Homer heads back to the lake, munching on a stolen muffin, and just deflects the questions his family have about where he went after flying off into the horizon. And once they get home Homer gets to work for his new job and heads to the Kwik-E-Mart to get all of their weird groceries. Apu obviously doesn’t have these things, and seems suspicious about Homer suddenly changing up his usual orders, but Homer just keeps deflecting. He then brings the haul back to the stars while listening to them debate about Oscar maintenance when the third cameo shows up to visit them, Ron Howard. Now, I feel like Baldwin and Bassinger were completely wasted in this episode, but I really kind of love the Simpsons version of Ron Howard, where he’s this weird, petty, drunk, thief who’s interested in fishing with dynamite. And after ordering a Lawnmower (wheat grass juice and vodka) the foursome starts hanging out.
And it’s around this point that the strain of Homer keeping this secret starts to show up. Marge finds a cell phone and a copy of Variety in Homer’s pocket, and starts getting really suspicious about what he’s been doing. He’s also starting to feel under-appreciated, since they aren’t even interested in his amazing spec script for a movie called The Terminizer, an erotic thriller about a robotic driving instructor who goes back in time for some reason. And this all boils up when he’s hanging out in Moe’s and hears the gang talk about how cool it was for Lenny to see Kent Brockman in the grocery store. They’re all super impressed, and since Homer wants to play along with them, he finally breaks down and tells them about the movie starts hiding in their town.
And obviously, this doesn’t end well. The barflies tell the entire town, and the next day when Homer is playing badminton with the stars, a deluge of Springfielders show up. The townsfolk just start standing around the gates of the mansion, barking stupid questions at the stars, which is obviously going to be a problem. What’s also obvious is that it’s Homer’s fault. He tries to play it off, but the stars aren’t buying it, and end up firing him and kicking him out of the mansion, letting him get hit with stones from the angry crowd.
So Homer’s depressed, since he lost a job, friends, and a way to bask in someone else’s glory. Which start to wear down on him, causing him to become a dick to the rest of the family, mocking them for their lack of fame. However Lisa finally points out that it’s not their fault he got fired, but the celebrities. Which causes Homer to go a tad insane. He still has a bunch of their stuff in his car from when he was their assistant, so he rents a Winnebago and drives over to the mansion. He sets up a mobile Museum of Hollywood-Jerks, and gives all the psychotic townsfolk a chance to ogle the movie star’s belongings.
Meanwhile, the movie stars are starting to feel bad about firing Homer, and even start to miss him. So they decide to put aside their issues, and go ask Homer to come back. Unfortunately when they head outside they see the crowd looking at Homer prancing around with Kim’s underwear, which isn’t a good sign. Homer freaks out, and starts speeding away, causing the movie stars to hop in their Humvee and give chase. The episode then becomes an incompetent action movie, where Alec and Kim try to jump atop the Winnebago, and just get stuck. There is a great gag of Ron Howard not even being able to jump over to the Winnebago, which causes Homer to finally stop, and get arrested. He’s then ordered by Judge Snyder to stay 500 miles away from any celebrity, living or dead, and the story is over. We then get a silly epilogue where Ron Howard is pitching a movie to Brian Grazer, and ends up just stealing Homer’s script idea.
This episode is just really weird. I generally prefer celebrities to play characters on the show, or if they do have to play themselves to just be a small cameo. Anything longer than that, playing themselves, it kind of comes off like their agent demanded they play themselves, and in a good light. There are exceptions, like the episodes that feature a whole bunch of guest-stars playing themselves, like “Homerpalooza” or “Homer at Bat,” but those episode are even really hit or miss. The first act of the episode was pretty funny, with some great jokes, but I feel like as soon as Kim and Alex show up, it kind of goes off the rails. And really I think it’s because they’re just so boring. Ron Howard is pretty damn funny, and I think that’s entirely because he’s playing some crazy version of himself that’s completely defaming and not coming across like his role was written by his PR agent. Maybe I’m being a little harsh on the episode, but it just generally fall completely flat for me.
Take Away: If you tell someone you’ll keep their secret, do so.
“When You Dish Upon a Star” was written by Richard Appel and directed by Pete Michels, 1998.