Lifetime of Simpsons

S31 E01 – The Winter of Our Monetized Content

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Well everyone, here we are again. I’m a tad late, mostly because I was relying on Simpsons Tapped Out to tell me when the new season began, and that game is apparently dead and it never happened. But, regardless, it’s time to talk about the Simpsons once more. I am utterly baffled by the continued existence of this show, but I made a promise that I would talk about the Simpsons until it died. Or, I suppose I died. So, we’re going to keep doing this thing until one of us blinks. And, thankfully, things are starting off with an episode that at least has a few good moments.

The episode begins with Homer, Lenny, and Carl sitting around the breakroom at the Plant, watching a sports show that’s essentially just a man yelling about things, ranking basketball players. And, since it’s a call-in show, Homer decides to do just that. But, I’m not sure why, because as soon as Homer gets on the show he ends up becoming immediately flustered, and is unable to impress the angry man with his basketball knowledge, resulting in him getting screamed at and humiliated, and thus earning the ire of Lenny and Carl.

Homer is incredibly depressed, and ends up going home to complain to Marge about his shattered male ego. Marge does her best to cheer Homer up by giving him quite a bit of food, and trying to bolster his feelings by telling him that he could just listen to other sports talkshows, probably on the internet. And, in the process, she ends up putting it into Homer’s head that things are so easy to make on the internet that he could probably make his own sports show, which she immediately regrets suggesting, because Homer takes the suggestion and decides to bring it to fruition as soon as possible.

Which is when we’re introduced to a very strange B-Plot involving Lisa. It all begins at the school lunchroom where everyone appears to be eating tater tots from a vending machine. And, not surprisingly, they aren’t very fresh, leading to some rock hard tots that end up flicking away from Lisa when she tries to eat one. And, this tot hits Nelson, triggering a massive foot-fight that ends up getting so bad that it triggers some ‘Nam flashbacks to Skinner. The fight is eventually cooled down though, and Lisa gets blamed for the fight, since she kind of instigated it, and she’s sent to detention, which is when it appears her story is going to become a very timely Making a Murderer parody, but that doesn’t end up panning out.

Meanwhile, Homer has started his own show in the garage, Walk-Off Homer, where he just seems to rant about his vague understanding of sports. And, since it’s clearly going off the rails, Bart decides to come prank Homer, messing with the signs behind him. This obviously causes Homer to fly into a rage, attacking Bart so that the two have one of their elaborate battles. And, because Homer was apparently live-streaming that video, it ends up getting uploaded to the internet, where it immediately becomes a viral sensation, having everyone in town watch and bond over Homer and Bart’s abuse.

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Homer and Bart are largely unaware of this sudden fascination in the two of them, until they’re approached shortly after by a hipster man named Warburton Parker. He’s a tech-millionaire who makes his money primarily off of viral videos, and he wants to teach Homer and Bart how to monetize their fights. Which, leads to Homer making a Monorail reference to the word monetization, which makes me wonder how far we are from the show straight up making “steamed hams” references to court the ironic audience who actually still talks about the show.

Parker sets up a sponsored fight where Homer and Bart are decked out in Buzz Cola gear, and attacking each other with bottles of the soda. And, even though it feels a little shameless and staged, they’re still able to make another popular video, earning them some actual money. Which, spurrs Parker on to make their next video, where they fight in a struggling fired chicken store that’s trying to change the conversation away from some sanitary problems they’d been having. And, after scalding themselves in hot oil, they make $5,000!

Oh, remember that Lisa plot? Well, it doesn’t actually end up being a Making a Murderer thing, instead it appears to almost become a Breakfast Club parody with Lisa locked up with all the normal bad kids. But, that ends up immediately getting pulled  away, instead to deal with a much bleaker idea. For profit prisons! Or, more specifically, a for-profit detention system where the kids are kept in a terrible detention room, and forced to make children novelty license plates. Which, quickly results in Lisa leading a strike, much to Lindsay Naegle’s chagrin.

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And, pretty quickly, this strike somehow becomes huge news, even pushing news that the Pope had been murdered. Naegle and the private detention company become very worried at this point, since they heave product that needs to be made for nothing, and they need someone to figure this problem out, and quickly. Thankfully, Superintendent Chalmers has a great idea. Make all the teachers work instead of the child prisoners! And, weirdly, they all seem super into it.

Meanwhile, Homer and Bart are loving their new job, making a lot of money and spending a lot of time together. In fact, it’s brought the two of them together in a sweet way, letting them bond. Plus, they get a lot of great perks, like Homer getting free beer at Moe’s and Bart getting protected by the bullies instead of being bullied by them, all because they are now celebrities. However, this all starts to fall apart when Comic Book Guy manages to get a video of Bart and Homer having a nice moment together, which instantly jeopardizes their credibility.

Their videos stop becoming popular very quickly, to the point that Parker ends up approaching them with a new idea. They need to reboot their show, and do it by pulling off a ridiculous stunt. Homer and Bart are down for whatever, and Parker ends up bringing them to some sort of social media influencer convention, which gives us plenty of opportunities to see what the writers of the show think of the kids today.

And, at the height of this conference, Parker wants Homer and Bart to dress like gladiators and fight, potentially to the death, in front of everyone. So, they get dressed up and march out onto a stage where all the influencers get out their phones to start livestreaming, and the two are tasked with killing each other. But, at that point, they just kind of lose interest in the whole thing. Bart and Homer don’t want to fight anymore, and they don’t care about their riches. So, they give up and return home so that Homer can restart his weird sports show. Oh, and I guess that Lisa story just kind of petered out?

 

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So, there we are. The first episode of Season 31. Its fine I guess. Certainly not as bad as it certainly could have been, but also not exactly like something I’d expect from a season opener. Not that the show always pulls out all the stops for the opener, but this really felt like a middle of the season episode that I’d immediately forget about, which isn’t exactly the greatest harbinger of the season to come. The Lisa story actually could have been interesting if it had been developed more and carried more of a bite against the incredibly fucked up reality of for-profit incarceration, but it really just mentioned that it’s a thing that exists and then forgot that the story was even happening, which is kind of a bummer. Which leaves us with the main plot, which is fine. I do kind of love the idea that Homer and Bart took this opportunity where they’re constantly fighting each other to just become more friendly, due to constant interaction. I was worried that we were going to get a story where Homer and Bart started to actually hate each other because they were forced to act it out so much, but this was actually a pleasant surprise. Plus, it’s nice to hear John Mulaney.

 

“The Winter of Our Monetized Content” was written by Ryan Koh and directed by Bob Anderson, 2019.

 

 

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