You know what type of episode we don’t get enough of? Grandpa episodes. I was surprised to find that in this watching of the series that I really had a lot of affection for the classic Grandpa episodes, and then was pretty bummed when I found that they began to dwindle. And then we got a Grandpa episode just a couple days ago, which was mainly just Homer being horrible to him the entire episode. So guess what, we have a mixed blessing! And episode that’s about Grandpa, but where the whole town hates him, not just Homer!
The episode starts off with the Simpsons checking out Fox’s new comedy that’s all about boobs, followed by some sports show that’s primarily a pun deliver service. And while watching the sports show the family learn that the NFL is looking to create a new team in some lucky city around the county. And with the information, Homer decides that he’s going to single-handedly create a team and convince the NFL to come to Springfield.
So Homer heads down into the basement and get to work creating a new football team. Which he actually does. He designed a stadium, creates a team name (the Springfield Meltdowns), and even designs some costumes. Homer then formally submits his idea to the football commissioner, and we get to see their decision. Because it all comes down to Springfield and Los Angeles. So the various owners of the teams sit back and watch a video for LA, that’s mainly just Rob Reiner being horrible to people, and decide that they’re sick of Los Angeles, and want to give Springfield a shot.
Yep, Springfield is getting a major-league football franchise, and the town starts to go nuts. They quickly build the stadium, and decide to hold a massive party for the official ceremony where they get the team. They even go so far as to paint the town in the team’s colors, and rename all of the streets after football references. Which turns out to be a terrible plan, because the commissioner ends up getting completely lost, driving around the city to try and find a house where he can call his secretary.
And he just so happens to land upon the Simpsons house. And since the rest of the family are at the ceremony, waiting for Homer to get honored for creating the team, the only person there is Grandpa. He lets in the commissioner, although he’s pretty wary of him. Especially when he watches some crazy news story about criminals preying on the elderly. So Grandpa does the only thing he can, and knocks out the commissioner, and ties him up.
Meanwhile, the rest of the town is waiting at the new arena with baited breath, preparing themselves for the commissioner to arrive. And when he doesn’t everyone gets really confused and decides to go home. And boy are they in for a surprise. They find Grandpa there with the captive commissioner, and quickly free him. However, this does little to dissuade him from storming out of Springfield and promising that Springfield will never get a team now, all thanks to Grandpa.
And, just like that, Grandpa is now a pariah in the town. Everyone quickly begins hating him, especially Homer, and he begins earning the ire of the town. Grandpa wanders the town, being verbally harassed, and he’s just getting more and more depressed. Which is right when he gets visited by his friend the Old Jewish Man, who tells Grandpa about a doctor he knows who provides euthanasia services.
Grandpa is a little wary about this proposal, but he decides to go to the doctor and check things out. And the doctor quickly tells Grandpa that he’s a great candidate for euthanasia. Unfortunately the death-machine is getting cleaned that day, so Grandpa has 24 hours before he can get killed. Which gives Grandpa a day to decide if he wants to go through with it. And he decides that the best way to do that is to sit back and wait for a single phone call, which will show him he has something to live for.
And he does not. Grandpa doesn’t get a single phone-call, so the next day he heads back to the doctor’s office and he decides to go through with it. We then see the incredibly stupid joke that the death-machine is called a Die Pod, and it just looks like a giant iPod. So they hook it up to Grandpa and let him watch cops beating up hippies while Benny Goodman plays like he’s in Soylent Green, as the chemicals begin killing him.
However, right before the process is complete the unexpected happens. The law that allows Springfieldians to get euthanasia has been repealed, and Chief Wiggum is here to shut down the operation. So they unplug the DiePod, right before Grandpa was going to die. But he doesn’t know that, and wakes up on the table, alone in the room, and decides that he’s now a ghost, because clearly he couldn’t have survived the process.
So Grandpa begins wandering around Springfield, still assuming that he’s dead. But that’s quickly squashed when he walks into Luigi’s and finds the Simpsons. Grandpa assumes that they’re all dead, but they explain to him that he’s alive, and they’re horrified that he tried to kill himself. Grandpa’s pretty shocked that he’s still alive, but he’s also realized that those moments where he lived without fear were the best of his life. So he’s going to keep living, and live life to its fullest.
And right as he makes that decision, a chance to live dangerously falls into his lap. Because now that Springfield isn’t going to get a football team they need to decide what to do with the giant stadium. And the thing they land on is bullfighting for some reason. And when they decide that they need a matador, Grandpa volunteers, assuming that this will be a great chance to live an exciting life. Plus, since the town hates him it’ll be win-win if the bull kills him or if he kills the bull!.
Grandpa then begins training to be a matador, all while Lisa is completely horrified that they’re actually going to be killing bulls. But that doesn’t really seem to bother anyone else, and people are more interested in Grandpa being able to kill the bull. Which he accomplishes. Much to Lisa’s horror. She’s so horrified that Grandpa killed the bull that she confronts him at the Retirement Castle, where he basically tells her that he’s getting respect for the first time in his life, and it’s all he wants. However, Lisa does mentions that she used to respect him, but she doesn’t anymore.
So, with that weighty dilemma on his shoulders, Grandpa heads into his next bull-fight. The talk with Lisa has clearly shaken Grandpa, and he’s having some serious doubts about the bull-fight. And when the bull is released for the fight to begin, Grandpa decides to o something crazy, and chooses to not kill the bull, and instead free all of the bulls, releasing them into Springfield, creating an impromptu Running of the Bulls. Everything goes back to normal after that, although we’re treated to a truly insane closing scene where Lisa and Grandpa are talking while riding in lawnchairs suspended by balloons, until two bulls covered in balloons arrive to attack them.
I’m a fan of more episodes being focused on Grandpa, but what I’m not a fan of is sloppy episodes like this that mainly have characters acting horrible to Grandpa. Should Grandpa have attacked a mysterious man and held him captive in the Simpson’s house? No. But, he was apparently not invited to the ceremony and had no idea what he was doing. So maybe driving a poor old man to assisted suicide is a little extreme. And from there things just get more and more odd. Because I really do like the idea of Grandpa being on a quest for respect, and butting heads with Lisa when he finds a source of respect. But what doesn’t make sense is the fact that they don’t thread that theme throughout the episode. Instead it just comes out of nowhere in the last act, just telling us that Lisa has respect for Grandpa, but now it’s gone. The emotional core of the episode would have worked so much better if Lisa has stood behind Grandpa in the first act, instead of only appearing when they needed her to guilt someone. The episode just ends up feeling a little lazy. It has good ideas, but they weren’t brought together in a functional way.
Take Away: Don’t flippantly commit suicide. Even if it’s through euthanasia.
“Million-Dollar Abie” was written by Tim Long and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 2006.