Occasionally on this segment I’ve mentioned that there are episodes of the Simpsons, a show I watched religiously as a kid every week day on re-runs, that I have absolutely no memory of. It doesn’t seem right, especially from this era where I was still watching every new episode each Sunday, but it seems to happen. And we got a real doozey of a weird religious/forgotten episode today!
The episode starts off with the Simpsons going to a WNBA game, and just generally treating it like it’s some weird novelty to poke fun of. They gawk at a giant Chinese lady and look at the terrible mascot that’s dressed like a slutty basketball, that ends up being Gil. But things actually happen when they announce that there’s a competition to win $50,000 after making a free-throw. And after a weird fake-out where we think Homer’s going to win, Ned Flanders is selected to give it a shot.
So Ned heads out onto the court, everyone assumes he’s going to completely miss, and after a quick prayer he tosses to ball like an old-lady. And gets nothing but net. So Ned has now won $50,000 and says that he’s going to give it all to some Bible charity. Which causes the Rich Texan, who owns the team, to give him an additional $100,000. Which obviously infuriates Homer. He gets pissed that Ned is able to succeed at life while he just keeps failing, and does something insane.
He goes to ask Ned what his secret is. And in the end, Ned just says that all of his success comes from prayer. Which is absurd. But Homer decides to give it a shot, and returns home to test out prayer for his benefit. And it seems to work. He uses prayer to find the television remote to get rid of a Ken Burns documentary about himself, and ends up finding monkey Olympics. Clearly superior. And apparently that’s all the proof Homer needs.
So Homer is now all into prayer, and even sets up a little prayer station at work to get things to go his way. But he starts to get a little crazy, even praying a car accident into existence in order to get the new treat of chocolate covered bacon. Hell, he even tries to use God as a plumber when their kitchen sink gets clogged. But Marge is a little hesitant about using God like that, and calls a real plumber, who quickly establishes that their pipes are full of tree roots.
The Simpsons are now in a pretty familiar predicament, and are pressed for money to fix a household issue. But Homer still thinks that prayer is the route, so as they’re walking into the church he begins praying for a way to fix the house. And just on cue, he falls into a big hole on the church property and hurts his leg. At which point an ambulance-chasing lawyer pops out and tells Homer that he should sue the church. Homer agrees.
So the case gets brought to court, and things aren’t going great for the church. They try to show that Homer is accident-proof with a montage of clips, but that just endears him to the jury, and the end up finding in Homer’s favor, making Revered Lovejoy give him the deed to the church. So I guess Homer’s prayer wins! God didn’t fix their house, but he got them a new one! Because Homer isn’t planning on selling the church. He’s going to live in it.
The family then move into the church, setting the building up as their new house, turning the sanctuary into their family room. Although there are some kinks, like alcoholics trying to meet in what used to be the community outreach room for their AA meetings. But overall it seems great, and Homer decides to celebrate his God-given luck by throwing a huge house-warming party where everyone in town is invited!
So while Reverend Lovejoy holds some sad little sermon in the bowling alley, every dude in town shows up at the former church to have a hell of a kegger. And the party just doesn’t stop. To the point that Lovejoy decides to give up on Springfield, and packs up to leave Springfield forever. Which does lead to a solid Artie Pie/Kent Brockman screaming match when Artie was supposed to be filming people coping with the loss of their religious leader.
And while all of this is going on, the kegger is still raging, going on days. And Marge is getting worried. She thinks that God is going to be angry at them for sacrilege, and when it starts pouring rain in town, she gets worried. And so does Ned, who already has a yacht with a bunch of male animals (no hankey-pankey) on it ready to survive the flood. But Homer isn’t worried! Things will be great! That is until he literally gets struck by lightning. Which isn’t usually a good sign.
So Homer and the rest of the party-goers climb to the roof of the church as the town starts to straight up flood. They obviously start to turn on each other, terrified of this weird weather event, and decide to kill Homer, since he’s clearly the one who has angered their God. But Homer’s saved at the last moment when Reverend Lovejoy shows up in a helicopter and gets the crowd to pray. At which point the rain ends, and the flood is over. Lisa then tries to explain that there are some logical explanations for everything that happens, but no one listens to her and we cut up to heaven where God, Buddha, and Colonel Sanders are watching Springfield, amused.
Yeah, this episode really isn’t up my alley. It’s the issue that I occasionally have with episodes that revolve too much around religion and prayer. It comes off a little too pro-prayer, which I know isn’t necessarily a bad thing to everyone, but drives me up the goddamn wall. Prayer actually seems to have benefits in this episode, and while Lisa gives some real explanation at the end, it’s kind of brushed off and assumed that it actually was God. Which makes me mad. Prayer is ridiculous. It’s just a way for selfish people to pass the buck, and not feel bad about either doing or not doing things that they want to do, by saying that some invisible man in the sky is responsible. It just irritates me, and having it not portrayed as something that’s weird and dangerous just turn me off. But, that’s my own personal beliefs.
Take Away: Well, the episode wants me to believe that prayer is great and can help out in life, but that’s just silly. Genie wishes are just as helpful.
“Pray Anything” was written by Sam O’Neal and Neal Boushell and directed by Michael Polcino, 2003.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons