Hey, do you remember that in the late eighties Bud Light had a dog be their spokesman? His name was Spuds Mckenzie? No? Well…this episode is going to see really weird.
It starts off with Bart, Milhouse, Database, Martin, and Nelson hanging out in Bart’s treehouse, having some sort of ‘no girls allowed’ type club where they sing and play banjo. And after the song, they go through their minutes, which primarily revolve around farting, before deciding to spy on Lisa and her friends, who are hanging out in Lisa’s room. And since they’re apparently living in the 1930’s they decide to do that by sticking a can with a string attached in Lisa’s window.
This shockingly works pretty well, and they’re able to listen in on Lisa and her friends. But they quickly get bored, and Bart decides to impersonate Marge and mess with Lisa. But Lisa figures out what’s going on quick, and gets the girls to try and yank the can out of the window. But the boys aren’t done being jerks, so they starts pulling on the string too, getting into a tug-of-war. And in the process the treehouse starts to shake and get pulled apart, until it finally explodes, dropping the boys down onto the ground.
So now Bart’s down a treehouse, and Homer decides that he’s going to build him a new one. And after a brief trip to the middle of nowhere to steal train-tracks for lumber, they head back and start building. Plus, we get a really great interaction between Lisa and Homer that I really forgot was this late into the series:
Lisa: I’m impressed that you drew up blueprints, but these are for a go-cart track.
Homer: “Did Frank Lloyd Wright have to deal with people like you?”
Lisa: “Actually, Frank Lloyd Wright endured a lot of harsh criticism.”
Homer: “Look, I have no idea who Frank Lloyd Wright is.”
Lisa: “You just said his name two seconds ago!”
Homer: “I was just putting words together.”
I love that, and my college buddies and I would use “I was just putting words together” as an excuse for saying dumb stuff a lot.
Anyway, Homer and Bart start working on the treehouse, and it quickly becomes apparent that they are too incompetent, and too busy goofing off to actually get this accomplished. So Marge takes control of the project, and brings in some masters of craftsmanship. The Amish! Some Amish are summoned and they pretty quickly build a goddamn tree-mansion in the Simpson’s backyard.
Obviously this calls for the whole town to show up and have a big party in some random backyard. Everyone packs into the fancy treehouse, and start having a hell of a time, until disaster strikes. Turns out the Amish weren’t good choices for electrical work, and a fire starts, causing everyone to scatter. Unfortunately Homer gets pinned under a giant ice-sculpture of himself, and looks like he’s about to burn to death. Especially when Santa’s Little Helper bails on saving Homer and saves himself.
However Santa’s Little Helper isn’t Homer’s only chance, because while he starts screaming in fright, Snowball II decides to spring into action and climb up into the treehouse. She manages to get into the treehouse, wake Homer up, and get him out of the building before Homer died of smoke inhalation. Which instantly makes Homer decide that he adores Snowball II, and hates Santa’s Little Helper, to the point that he starts bringing Snowball all around town with him and announcing on the news that he has no dog.
And pretty quickly, Snowball becomes a bit of a local celebrity, everyone loving to see her. Which is making Santa’s Little Helper feel depressed. Bart and Lisa decide to help out their dog by teaching him to be brave, which they do by showing him Rin Tin Tin movies. But all that does is get Santa’s Little Helper to maul their mailman, who looks like Hitler. So that didn’t work.
But one day, while Homer is busy punishing Santa’s Little Helper by chaining him up in the backyard while eating ham inside, something fun happens. Santa’s Little Helper finds an open beer, and he gets it balanced on his nose, drinking the beer. Dave Shutton happens to be coming past, and spots the ridiculous image, grabbing a picture of it. He publishes the photo on an incredibly slow news day, and the fickle people of Springfield start loving him now too.
The picture eventually goes viral, to the point that it’s given to Howard Duff, the head of the Duff corporation. He’s disappointed with Duffman’s results as the company’s mascot, and decides to trade up and get Santa’s Little Helper on board. So Duff fires Duffman and goes to the Simpsons to hire Santa’s Little Helper to become Suds McDuff, the new face of Duff Beer. The family are a little confused at first, but they sign the paperwork, and Santa’s Little Helper becomes famous.
And after a commercial where Santa’s Little Helper goes to the International Space Station to give the astronauts ladies and beer, he becomes a huge deal. Which becomes an issue when his original owner, from the very first episode, shows up and announces that he wants Santa’s Little Helper back. I guess the Simpsons never formally adopted him or anything, and that footage of Homer saying he has no dog lets the shady dude take Santa’s Little Helper away from the Simpsons, and start exploiting him.
With the new sleazy guy in charge, Santa’s Little Helper’s career starts to take a turn as he becomes more and more overworked. He ends up going on game-shows, Regis and Kelly, and even has a memoir out. And the Simpsons are crushed that their dog is being taken advantage of like this, so they decide to come up with a plan to return things to the natural order. And they do this by trying to get Duffman back.
The family find Duffman teaching alcohol-related math at a men’s shelter, right next to the Cash For Your Eyes building, and convince him that his true calling in life is to be Duffman. So he joins the family in their crazy plan to make Santa’s Little Helper look like a coward, thus causing him to be fired from his job. And the plan is to go to a beach volleyball game that Santa’s Little Helper is hosting, and fake a drowning.
They stick Homer out in the water, using a keg of Duff as a life-preserver, and act like Homers drowning. Apparently there are no lifeguards on duty, so everyone assumes that Santa’s Little Helper will be the logical choice to save Homer. However he quickly becomes a coward, and everyone stops liking him. Which is Duffman’s time to shine! That is until a shark shows up, and Duffman proves to be just as big a coward. But luckily for Homer the shark bites the keg and ends up getting super wasted, so he doesn’t die. Plus, Duff has a new mascot in the drunk shark! So with everything fallen apart, Santa’s Little Helper’s shady owner relinquishes ownership again, and everything goes back to normal. Well, I guess except Duffman is still unemployed.
This is a really weird episode folks. I guess I kind of like it, there are some great gags, but the premise is just odd. We’ve already had several episodes based around Santa’s Little Helper leaving the family, for a variety of causes, but I guess we haven’t seen him get famous yet, so why not? I think I just find the Spuds McKenzie thing kind of a strange reference to base the episode on. This was 2003, were people really familiar with this? I only am because I’m a sad human being who knows way too much about pop culture. Otherwise I feel like it’s just super odd. There are solid jokes in the episode, like the Frank Lloyd Wright thing, and I’m always a fan of Duffman making appearances, it’s just strange.
Take Away: Always make sure you have legal paperwork for your pets, just in case they get famous.
“Old Yeller-Belly” was written by John Frink & Don Payne and directed by Bob Anderson, 2003.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons