Lifetime of Simpsons

S11 E09 – Grift of the Magi

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Hey everybody! Happy Monday! It’s apparently Christmas! Oh, and today is also the one year anniversary of the blog. Huzzah! The Simpsons project isn’t quite a year old yet, but I’ve been rambling about stupid crap like this online for a year now. So let’s celebrate that with Gary Coleman beating up a robot in an episode I always assume is the one where Homer and Bart are grifters.

The episode starts off with a news report explaining Springfield is going through a crazy heat wave, which I think is only to explain why there’s practically no snow in this Christmas episode. But the episode gets going when Milhouse runs into the Simpson’s house to avoid some concentrated sunlight, and they start looking at boardgames to play. This does not go well, so Lisa abandons the boys, leaving them with no other alternative than dressing up like ladies with Marge’s clothes while jumping on the bed.

But disaster strikes when Homer comes barging in, and Bart slips off the bed, landing on a bowling ball. And after Milhouse explains that they’re drunk, really drunk, they take Bart to the hospital since he just smashed his coccyx on a bowling ball. And after just zapping his ass with the deliberator, Dr. Hibbert just slaps some sort of ass-cast on Bart, and he’s good to go. Unfortunately that means he’s going to need to be in a wheelchair while he heals, and the Elementary School isn’t wheelchair accessible. Which gets fixed when Fat Tony comes out of nowhere and strong-arms Skinner into accepting their bid to make the school compliant.

So Fat Tony’s company builds all kinds of ridiculous ramps around the school, which turn out to be breadsticks that just fall apart when Skinner opens them. So the school is in trouble, because they still don’t have ramps, and they now owe a whole lot of money to the mob, which leaves them in dire enough straights that they’re going to have to close the school.

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This obviously freaks out the parents in the community, so they all get together in Principal Skinner’s house to discuss how they’re going to get the $20,000 needed to open the school back up. And with no other alternative they decide to go get the money from Mr. Burns, which they plan on doing so by putting on a little play for Burns. They somehow get invited into the mansion where they put on a series of skits that are basically thinly veiled threats that their lack of education will lead to these kids eventually killing Mr. Burns. But even though these threats work pretty well on Burns, he still doesn’t want to donate money, and kicks them all out.

But don’t worry, because providence has shined down on Springfield Elementary, and an independent corporation called Kid First Industries has agreed to re-open and staff the school. So all the kids start going back to school, and get used to their new teachers. Bart’s teacher is doing everything he can to appear cool and get the kids to be on his side, even giving them the homework of bringing toys they like to class.

So the kids bring their favorite toys they love, and the teacher starts asking them what makes a perfect toy, writing down all their suggestions. And at the same time we see that the new second grade teacher is having Lisa and her classmates come up with ideal names for toys. Which is starting to get suspicious. And when Lisa has the gall to do math in class, she’s given detention. And the plot thickens when she’s staying after, writing on the chalkboard, when she realizes that there’s a secret room behind the chalkboard. She goes to investigate and finds that the teacher are performing some sort of market research on the kids, collating all their ideas to make some sort of perfect toy. Oh, and she’s also attacked by some creepy little robot.

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Lisa apparently got away from that little robot, because the next thing we see is Lisa leading her folks and Chief Wiggum into the school to investigate the weird goings on in the school. But when they burst into the broom closet that used to hold the robot, they find that it’s just a normal broom closet, leading everyone to assuming Lisa’s crazy. So they head home while Lisa is trying to figure out just what the hell is going on. And that question is answered pretty quickly when she and Bart are watching Krusty and come across a commercial for a new toy called Funzo, which is clearly based on the suggestions the kids made in the classes.

So Lisa has her smoking gun! And with Bart’s help, they head to the Kid First Industries headquarters to confront them about making children create toys. They manage to sneak into the building, narrowly avoiding the security guard Gary Coleman, whose busy making calls to fake Chinese food restaurants and the president. And once past Coleman they talk to the heads of the company, who don’t really seem to care that these children have figured out their greedy scheme. And instead of just calling the police, they decide to bribe these small children with a free Funzo, which Bart accepts. And I guess Lisa just give up too?

But the scheme keeps unraveling when they get Funzo home and Bart start to play with it, which hear means finding new accessories to buy for it. But that’s not the only nefarious thing about Funzo, because it becomes clear that it’s also been designed to break all competing toys. So Bart and Lisa run to the Try-N-Save to warn the parents not to buy Funzo, but that doesn’t work, and they end up just making people want it more.

So, left with no other alternatives, they decide to ask Homer for his help is sneaking around Springfield on Christmas Eve to steal everyone’s Funzo’s. Which they do. Bart and Lisa end up singing Christmas carols to all of the families in town while Homer sneaks in and takes all of the Funzo’s. And at the end of the night they head to the Tire Fire and huck all of the Funzo’s into the flames, destroying them. But just when they think they’re free Gary Coleman comes zipping up to confront them. What follows is a huge discussion between the Simpson’s and Gary Coleman about the nature of good and evil, until morning finally comes. At which point they invite Gary Coleman over for Christmas dinner while learning about all the other good things that happened in Springfield, like Mr. Burns deciding to donate money to the school to revert everything back to normal, and Moe deciding not to commit suicide. Christmas!

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As far as Christmas episodes go, this one isn’t one of my favorites, but it’s still pretty fun. It’s really stupid, what with the insane katate-fighting imaginary-phonecall having Gary Coleman cameo, but it’s also really goofy and enjoyable. Plus, I feel like the central idea of the episode is pretty evergreen. Funzo was clearly a Furby parody, but I feel like these weird toys that the toy companies insist everyone should have still happen. Maybe not, I don’t have kids so I don’t really know if parents are still trampling each other to get Tickle Me Elmos or whatever, but I assume so. Christmas is all about consumerism after all, so we’ll always have some nefarious Funzo to anticipate. Plus, the idea of a private company buying a school solely for market research seems incredibly possible, and I’m shocked we haven’t heard of something like that happening in the real world.

Take Away: Christmas is all about consumerism now, and there’s no point in yelling about the latest toy-fad, because there will just be more the next year.

 

“Grift of the Magi” was written by Tom Martin and directed by Matthew Nastuk, 1999.

 

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