Last week on Lifetime of Simpsons was pretty positive. A bunch of episodes that I had nostalgic affection for, and that held up pretty well. This week? Not so much. But that’s okay! Now that I’ve been doing this for a year I know that things aren’t going to be as great as they were in the Golden Age, but I’m sure there’s good stuff in every episode. I just have to stay positive.
The episode starts off with the solid gag of Bart messing around with the water faucet in the kitchen, causing Homer to have wild temperature swings in his shower. He obviously uses this power to make homer shriek songs, until Marge tells him to knock it off, because they’re apparently going to some sort of old folks talent show at the Retirement Castle. So after Bart’s done pestering Homer they head out to watch all the town’s old people do crazy stuff.
We see things like Jasper spinning dentures like plates, some random old guy doing terrible stand-up, and Grandpa singing Tom Jones while throwing his hips out. And at the end of the competition Grandpa wins, because he was the one standing up on the stage when the show was over, and gets his coupon for a free autopsy. So obviously Homer, Grandpa, and Bart need to go to the funeral home and make sure the coupon is legit.
They get to the place and start wandering around, prepping for Grandpa’s inevitable funeral. They check out caskets, tombstones, and anti-stink spray, before they get an estimate for Grandpa’s funeral. And it’s steep. Way steeper than Homer was planning. The salesman tries to convince Homer that it’s still worth it, by talking about the fact that the mausoleum is the size of a tennis court, which gives Homer a great idea. He buys a tennis court! Sure, why not. They even comment on the fact that this bridge between acts was way lazier than most.
Unfortunately, while the court is getting set up, Homer sees Bart and Lisa practicing tennis, and he realizes that he didn’t actually know what tennis was. But that disappointment doesn’t last that long, because Homer quickly gets into tennis. Well, not the sport, more the social aspect, because they’re inviting everyone in town over to play and have snacks. All sorts of couples show up, like Lenny and Carl, Kent Brockman and Stephanie the weathergirl, Wiggum and Lou, Burns and Smither, and Moe and Barney.
But there’s one constant when it comes to the games, Homer isn’t taking them seriously. He’s horrible and just keeps goofing off, making it so that he and Marge haven’t won a single game. Which is really starting to piss Marge off. And that’s made worse when Marge overhears some townsfolk talking in the grocery store about how terrible the Simpsons are at tennis, and realizes they’ve become the laughingstock of the town.
So Marge talks to Homer, and he promises to take things more seriously. Which still isn’t going well, because he’s still pretty terrible. And, for some stupid reason, Homer decides that the best way to prove that he’s serious about tennis is to sign him and Marge up for a doubles tournament the next day. And, as you can imagine, Marge is less than thrilled about this decision. But she still starts to train. Which quickly bores Homer, who goes in to get a beer, letting Bart take over during practice.
And after a few beers Homer realizes that Marge and Bart are still going, and actually seem to be a pretty good team. But he doesn’t really think about that, and goes to sleep, ready to play in the tournament the next day. Unfortunately when he wakes up the next day he finds out that Marge is planning on bringing Bart to the tournament, and not Homer, which starts a super weird Oedipal thing that goes through the rest of the episode.
Homer gets super jealous, especially when they come back having won the whole damn tournament. They even got invited to play in some sort of charity tennis tournament in a couple days, which just makes Homer more angry. He even has Lisa psychoanalyze him and learns how weird this Oedipus this is, but he just gets more and more frustrated with what’s going on. To the point that he decides to spite his wife and son by getting Lisa to become his new partner, and sign up to compete against them at the charity game.
So the family is divided now, and they start bickering and psyching each other out, neither side deciding to take the high road. But the day of the tournament finally arrives, and Homer starts to get really worried that Lisa isn’t going to be able to win. So he heads over to the tennis celebrities that are there for the charity game, and hires Venus Williams to play with him instead of Lisa.
This does not go over well with Lisa or the Bart/Marge team, which starts a crazy chain reaction where the family just keep replacing each other. First Marge replaces Bart with Serena Williams, and they play a round where it’s just the Williams sisters playing each other while Homer and Marge just stand there, but then even they get replaced by Pete Sampress and Andre Agassi. So the Simpsons just sit on the bench, bonding over this insane game of world-class tennis, and bury the hatchet.
I don’t know, I guess this episode is okay, it just doesn’t do a whole lot for me. I thought the idea of the family getting split over a petty difference and feuding was a fun idea, but the whole Oedipal thing was a little strange and unnecessary. And I don’t think that just because they admitted that the link between the first and second acts was lazy excuses the fact that this was one of the weaker ones they’ve ever done. There are still some good jokes, but overall the episode is pretty uneven to me. It just kind of feels like it could have used another pass or two on the script.
Take Away: Don’t let petty things split up your family. Oh, and as the Simpsons even say, it’s better to watch stuff than do stuff.
“Tennis the Menace” was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Jen Kamerman, 2001.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons