SlimKirby’s Simpsons Retrospective

Intro

Introduction:
Last week we had a little trouble in paradise with Marge being tempted by the advances of another man. This week, Homer will have his own little adventures in the adult world, but not without getting sent to the doghouse after the fact. I really hope this is not the start of a pattern for future problems to come for this marriage, but we should probably get started anyway. Homer’s Night Out is the 10th episode of the Simpsons 1st season and was also the tenth episode written for the series, despite being written before Life in the Fast Lane and after a future episode in the season. The chalkboard gag is “I will not call my teacher ‘Hot Cakes,’” probably a wise lesson to learn for the future, and the couch gag is a repeat from earlier in the season when the entire family sits on the couch and it completely collapses under them.

HomerApuApu: “You look familiar sir, are you on the television or something?”
Homer: “Sorry buddy, you got me confused with Fred Flintstone!”

Plot:
This episode actually has a really interesting start, as the story takes place 6 months after the beginning scene. Homer is telling Marge about his new assistant who recently made a fool out of himself at a party in front of a girl he liked. Then, the scene switches to Bart who purchases a miniature spy camera from a mail order catalog. The story then jumps ahead six months to the present day. Homer is telling Marge about a bachelor party he’s going to for his ex-assistant (now supervisor) who is about to marry the same woman he made a fool out of himself in front of. Marge is concerned that the bachelor party is actually a stag party, but Homer assures his wife that it is nothing like that. Meanwhile, after six months of waiting and pestering the female mail carrier, Bart finally receives his spy camera.

Bart proceeds to use the camera in typical kid fashion, by taking pictures of humiliating things like Marge shaving her armpits, a piece of roadkill, and even attempts to snap a shot of his own rear end. Marge announces that they will be going out to eat that night, minus Homer (since he will be at the bachelor party) at the Rusty Barnacle seafood restaurant. Little do they know, the bachelor party Homer is attending is also taking place in one of the private party rooms in the same building. The party is very boring at first, but things start to go wild when a belly-dancer known as Princess Kashmir arrives on the scene and starts to dance on the tabletops. She invites Homer to dance with her and Homer agrees, at first nervous and not really knowing what to do, but then really gets into it and finishes the dance by putting some money in her g-string underwear. During this dance, Bart stumbles away from the family, sneaks into the party room, and takes a picture of his father in act of dancing with the woman.

Bart shows the picture to his friends at school and ends up giving a copy to his two best friends. However, his two friends end up making more copies for their friends, and soon enough, everyone around town has a copy of the picture, including the church reverend, Homer’s boss Mr. Burns, and it gets posted at the gym where Marge conveniently goes to work out. Homer is unaware of the photo’s existence until an angry Marge confronts him about the picture. Homer, at a loss of what to say, gets thrown out of the house by Marge, forcing him to stay at his friend Barney’s apartment. With the exception of Marge’s response though, most of the town is very complimentary towards Homer and his bravery for dancing with a beautiful woman. Even when Mr. Burns confronts Homer about the picture, after scolding him initially for his behavior, he asks Homer for advice on how to attract members of the opposite sex. Unfortunately though, the one and only person he wants to talk about this with is the same woman who threw him out; his wife.

Homer attempts to go home the next morning to talk to Marge. Marge is open with why she is angry and tells Homer that the reason she is mad is because Homer is teaching his son a very bad lesson when it comes to how men should treat women. She wants Homer to take Bart to meet this woman so he can show Bart that Princess Kashmir is more than just a belly dancer, but also a human being with real thoughts, feelings and emotions. They ultimately track her down at a club, but while Princess Kashmir is telling Bart her story, the performance starts and Homer falls on stage. The announcer, other dancers and the entire audience recognize Homer as the man from the photograph, and he is once again encouraged to dance on stage.

Homer starts dancing yet again, but when he sees Bart watching him and smiling, he realizes that he is not doing what he promised his wife he would do and immediately stops and grabs the mic to give a speech about women. While giving his speech, Marge enters the club and listens to Homer’s words. Homer tells the entire club that women are not only people too, but also a very big part of our lives; being not only wives, but also sisters, aunts, nieces, daughters and mothers, and that we should not treat them as objects. He finishes by saying that he would rather be at home in bed with his wife sleeping than shoving money in some dancer’s underwear. The entire club applauds Homer’s speech and Marge runs on stage to reconcile with Homer. The episode fades to credits on the two kissing.

Homer thrown outHomer: “But where will I sleep?”
Marge: “My suggestion is for you to sleep in the filth you created!”
Homer: “Would a motel be okay?”

My Personal History:
I don’t have much to say here. I didn’t get to watch this episode until it came out on DVD. I was interested in seeing the plot and premise as it seemed very different from what I was used to with Simpson’s episodes, but like Life on the Fast Lane, I couldn’t really form a major opinion on it until much later on in life, when it was more relatable to me as an episode plot. It’s still not really that relatable, but more so than it was as a 14-year-old.

Mr Burns“A plant employee carrying on like an oversexed orangutan in heat! This is a family nuclear power plant Simpson. Our research indicate that 50% of our power is used by women. I will not have you offending my customers with your bawdy shenanigans!”
~Mr. Burns

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
I think the beginning part of the episode is great. I love the joke of how Homer’s assistant started out as pathetic as Homer is, but then in six-month’s time, not only did he manage to court and get engaged with the woman he was after, but he also got promoted over Homer while Homer is still just in the same place that he’s always been in. It’s also humorous to see Homer freak out about his weight twice, in the same exact fashion, when over a six month’s time period, he didn’t gain a single pound. And for Homer Simpson, with how much a food glutton he is, it’s honestly not that bad of an accomplishment. The jokes at the restaurant and bachelor party are also pretty good (especially with Bart’s exchanges with the waiter), but after that scene and the first act ends, the episode just kind of takes a very hard left turn, and unfortunately not in a great direction.

I’ll touch on what I didn’t like in the next section, as I’m mainly focusing on the stuff I liked here, but from the end of the first act to the very end of the episode, the only other thing I liked was the ending speech of Homer’s. I liked it because it was a good speech that had a great message, and even featured a little humor in it as well. There’s just something about Homer mentioning “nephews” as a female family title and then immediately retracting it when he realizes what he has said that just cracks me up every single time. But yeah, like I said, it was a good ending with a good message, but I really don’t feel like the message complimented the episode that well. And because I’m kind of getting into it now, perhaps I should move on to the next section first…

Speech“It’s about women, and how they are not mere objects with curves that make us crazy. No, they are our wives, they are our daughters, our sisters, our grandmas, our aunts, our nieces and nephews…well, not our nephews.”
~Homer Simpson

My Review:
There has always been something that has really bothered me about this episode, and after watching it today, I think I finally have my answer for why I feel like this episode kind of misses its mark. First of all, I want to stress that when it comes to women, I am very much in favor of treating them as equals, and any man who goes out of his way to treat them as objects or possessions, is absolute trash. No woman, and for that right, any human being, should be treated in that fashion, and these days I feel like we should be through with that mindset already. We are all equals, and gender and race hierarchies just should not exist. Obviously there are still some individuals who disagree, and let’s be real, there will always be sexism and discrimination regardless of how the times have changed; however, sometimes I feel like there are times when someone tries to push a fight when a battle doesn’t need to be fought, and in this case, I feel like that “someone” is this episode.

What I’m getting at; I don’t really think Homer did anything that wrong here, especially in terms of what Marge is accusing him of. Throughout the entire episode, Homer is actually pretty considerate of how he treats women. He isn’t too forward with women when he’s around them, when he tries to give Mr. Burns advice, he gives very respectful, gentlemanly advice, and you can see and feel that his speech at the end of the episode is genuine and very consistent with how he is throughout the episode. And as far as dancing with all the erotic dancers…I mean, let’s be real here…those dancers are just doing their job and Homer is not going beyond any boundaries that exist in that type of interaction. He’s not grabbing the woman, touching the woman, making any obscene gestures towards the woman…in fact, the woman herself invited Homer on top of the table to dance in the first place, so clearly she didn’t have an issue with him. If anything, she probably picked him because he was the most respectful and least obnoxious at the party, but still someone she could have fun dancing with.

Now, was Bart witnessing the act a bad thing? Sure! And having that picture float around town was probably not the best way to make Homer look like a man of love and respect either, but I’d focus less on the whole “treating women like objects” argument, and focus more on the fact that Homer probably should have just been honest with Marge from the get-go. When he got home from the party, he should have confessed to Marge that there was a dancer that he was unaware of, and that he did dance with her, but it meant nothing to him and he treated her with kindness and respect because that is what Marge would wanted from him. And yeah, he probably shouldn’t have lied and said “the party will be classy,” at the beginning of the episode either, but to his credit, he wasn’t entirely sure at that point. For those actions in particular, yeah, I can understand why Marge would be pissed, but I think she jumped on the “objects” bandwagon a bit prematurely and without enough context. She should have at least listened to Homer’s side of the story first before making any snap judgments.

As far as exotic dancers are concerned, I think there’s a fine line between acceptable behavior and unacceptable behavior. For example (and this is stuff I have been told by women, so I’m not just making this stuff up), some women like being told and shown that they are attractive. Hell, sometimes it can be a bit of motivator and confidence-booster in knowing that they have a side that people find charming. So as long as people are respectful of that, and stick to their boundaries, I don’t really see much of an issue if women are fine with that line of work. However, the moment a man starts to overreach those boundaries, then yes, there is a big problem there, and then you do get into the issue of treating women like objects, which is not ok, or acceptable by any wavelength. I just don’t feel like Homer was anywhere near that point and he gets an incredibly raw deal because of some bad coincidences.

However, this does raise the question though; was that what the writers were going for? Was the point of this episode to show that while Homer isn’t like that, there are many people who are, and those very same people kind of look at Homer like he is some kind of player or superstar, when in reality, Homer doesn’t care about any of that stuff and just wants to be at home with his wife? And because of that, that does actually give Homer’s speech at the end a little more weight, because it’s not about him apologizing for his behavior, but more trying to teach some uninformed minds about how they might be treating women. If that was the angle, I wish they would have spent a heavier focus on that, just because it seems like the episode really tries to force the idea that Homer is a bad guy when he’s really not even close to one.

This is why I can’t say I hate the episode, because it seems like there is some kind of ulterior motive involved with the writing that just doesn’t come out the way I think it should. It really is like Life in the Fast Lane in a lot of respects, but the only difference is, I feel like the writing was a little better in that episode as opposed to this one. Life in the Fast Lane just made me a little uneasy. This episode makes me feel a little less uneasy, but a bit more
frustrated. Frustrated at Homer being misunderstood until the end and frustrated at the way Marge was acting towards her husband. Again, I’m not saying Marge was wrong by being angry, I just think she was wrong by being dismissive and not talking to her husband first, much like in the same way Homer was wrong by not talking honestly to his wife about the party in question.

I feel like I’m being incredibly redundant by this point, so I’ll try to wrap it up here. The episode does have some good jokes and some good merits. I just think the middle acts should have been differently focused and differently structured. It’s almost like it should have been two separate episodes; one episode focused on Marge finding out about the party Homer lied about and then them trying to reconcile, and an entirely, unrelated episode involving the topic of “treating women like objects,” where Homer is the voice of reason at the end. By having these two plots condensed into one, it kind of messes with what should be the main focus here and tries to resolve both conflicts at once, when Marge and Homer’s issue is a much different one entirely. It’s definitely not one of the worst episodes of all time, but it is probably in the bottom tier of episodes from Season 1, at least in my opinion.

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Do we really only have three episodes left of Season 1? I think we do! Thankfully this one didn’t take too long to write, even though I felt like I rambled on like mad at the end there. Sometimes it can be really difficult to talk about this kind of stuff, just because of the world we live in and with the many different viewpoints that can exist out there. Especially when it comes to topics about gender, race and all of those other things that could be seen as controversial viewpoints. I don’t “think” my viewpoints are controversial, as I am someone who tries to see things from all angles before I make my own opinion, but being a white male, I don’t exactly have the same experiences that others would have either. I personally see the world as a place where we all exist and we all deserve the same rights and freedoms (unless we lose those freedoms by doing something stupid like committing a felony or something), so there is no reason to discriminate or treat others that they are less than another. But I digress, I’m sure you don’t see me as a sexist or racist, so I’ll leave it at that and leave it alone until it’s relevant again (which knowing this series, will probably be sooner than you think). I’ll see you guys next week (hopefully) for another retrospective!

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Intro

Introduction:
It’s always awkward and uncomfortable to witness a husband and wife fighting, but the old saying goes that whenever a couple stops talking and acknowledging each other; that’s when you need to start being concerned. Even though Marge and Homer seem to have a very stable relationship, we’re about to get a double dose of marital problems with the next TWO episodes. I guess it had to happen sooner or later in the series, so may as well get them out of the way now. “Life on the Fast Lane” aired on March 18th, 1990 and was the ninth episode to air in The Simpsons first season, even though it was the 11th episode written for the show. Also, like “Bart the General” (and the first episode, if you want to get technical), there is no chalkboard or couch gag.

BallHomer: “Beauty! Isn’t she?”
Marge: “It’s hard for me to judge, since I’ve never bowled in my life!”
Homer: “Well if you don’t want it, I know someone who does!”
Marge: *murmurs*

Plot:
Very early one morning, Bart, Lisa and Maggie are cooking breakfast for Marge because it is her birthday and they want to give her a surprise. After the surprise is delivered, Homer is shocked, not only by the surprise, but also the fact that he forgot it was his wife’s birthday and doesn’t have a gift for her yet. He sneaks (unsuccessfully) out of the house to get one, but in classic Homer fashion, ends up at a sports store instead and buys a bowling ball with his name engraved on it. That night, the entire family and Marge’s sisters go out to dinner at a fancy restaurant where Marge receives all of her gifts. Homer’s gift is the last one to be opened and Marge is completely appalled when the box opens and a bowling ball with Homer’s name on it, drops out; very appropriately on top of the cake as well.

Marge is angry at Homer for thinking only of himself and ruining her birthday. Homer suggests he takes the ball back and get her something else, but in her anger, she decides to keep the ball and go bowling by herself. Marge has no idea what she’s doing at the bowling alley, but her actions (and looks) catch the eye of local bowling professional and womanizer, Jacques, who is immediately smitten with Marge and is desperate to spend as much time with her as possible. He offers to give Marge bowling lessons and she accepts, oblivious to Jacques’s intentions. Marge’s skill improves tremendously and Jacques continues to get closer to her.

At home, while Marge is not present, Homer decides to pick up the slack and spends a lot of time with the kids. Whenever Marge and Homer are both around, however, they don’t talk very much and become very distant from each other. Marge seems to be having a lot of fun at the bowling alley and Homer doesn’t want to make her angry by telling her that he misses her and that he wants her to be home. Marge also insists on returning to the bowling alley on a regular basis to continue to getting lessons from Jacques. She becomes very aware of Jacques’s interest in her, and although she does try to shrug off his advances, she enjoys the extra attention from him. Jacques even gives her a bowling glove with her name embroidered on it, which she immediately loves because for once, it was a gift given to and intended for her.

This “fling” continues on for a few days and Homer’s mood worsens into a silent depression. Marge is also feeling the burden of her actions and time away from home by giving the children extra-large lunches and being extra kind and loving to them due to her guilt of being away from them. Lisa and Bart start to pick up on these signs, but are unable to figure out what to do or say to their parents, so they watch from the sidelines, worried about what will happen to their mom and dad’s marriage. Meanwhile, Jacques finally manages to get a brunch date with Marge outside of the bowling alley, and during the meal, Jacques asks if Marge would like to meet him at his apartment. Upon realization that Jacques is asking her for an affair, Marge faints and daydreams about what will happen if she goes to see Jacques. When she comes to, she asks him, “Is Thursday okay?”

When Homer finds the bowling glove, he is convinced that he has lost Marge forever, but on Thursday morning, he walks into the kitchen to say one last thing to his wife. Although he isn’t completely sure about what to say, he tells his wife that he loves the way she makes peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. He remarks that with other sandwiches, the jelly always drips out of the bread onto the guy’s fingers, but with Marge, the jelly always manages to stay inside where it is supposed to. He says, “I don’t know how you do it…you have some sort of gift I guess. I’ve always thought so. I’ve just never mentioned it.” He ends his discussion by saying that it was time to tell her how he feels about her, because he doesn’t believe in keeping his feelings bottled up, essentially confirming to Marge that he does love and care about her. Homer leaves for work while Marge is still stunned in silence about this revelation.

Marge starts to drive to Jacques’s apartment, but along the way, she starts seeing a lot of happy couples together, reminding her of her own marriage with Homer. She stops the car at an intersection; one road leading to Jacques’s apartment complex, and the other leading to the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. She now must make her decision to stay with her husband or to officially have an affair. The scene cuts to the power plant where Marge, in fact, chooses to stay with her husband and stop meeting with Jacques. Homer is absolutely shocked and surprised to see his wife, and he responds by embracing her and then telling his co-workers, “I’m off to the backseat of my car with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for 10 minutes!” Ending the episode on an incredibly sweet and heartfelt moment between the two spouses.

Cop JokeJacques: “I bet you don’t know how to make a five-seven-ten split, do you Marge?”
Marge: “No”
Jacques: “But first of all, you yell, ‘The eighth pin is a cop!'”

My Personal History:
Like most of Season 1, I didn’t catch this one until it came out on DVD, but after reading a summary of this episode in an episode guide novelization, I was really curious about how this one would resonate with me, mainly because I was so surprised to see such an “adult” storyline in a show that was aimed for family viewing. I’ll get more into my thoughts in a small bit, but that was definitely my first impressions upon reading about it and eventually watching it when I did have the capability to. I think I also saw the summation of this episode as it was shown in the second clip show plot, “Another Simpsons Clip Show,” before I saw the actual episode in full.

BrunchMarge: “What’s brunch?”
Jacques: “It’s not quite breakfast and it’s not quite lunch, but you get a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don’t get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal!”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
Albert Brooks is back again for another eccentric role, this time in the form of Jacques, the French bowling teacher. I have to say; I absolutely hate and love this character, but both for pretty much the same reason. I can’t freaking stand that he’s trying to put the moves on a married woman, but at the same time, his performance is absolutely brilliant in doing so. Its over-the-top and all of his jokes and reactions are just so on point and hilarious that I can’t help but let out a small chuckle when listening to his performance. It’s a case of; you really hate what he’s doing, but at the same time, you’re supposed to hate him because he is trying to break up the marriage of two main characters, so by making him over-the-top, you’re at least having a little more fun with the character and making light of something that will not, by any means, change the dynamic of the family, and by extension, the show in general. I think my favorite joke involving him, and probably my favorite joke of the episode, is when Helen Lovejoy discovers Marge with Jacques at the diner, and when Helen leaves, Jacques tells a very uncomfortable Marge, “Your friend is lovely, let us hope something runs over her,” to make Marge laugh and calm down from the fear of being caught spending time with a man who isn’t her husband. I also really like when he is giving Marge a lesson and then he just randomly shouts “FOUR ONION RINGS!” when Marge mentions she is hungry, just because of how out-of-nowhere it is.

Aside from the comedic voice acting of Albert Brooks though, there isn’t really that much else that I found outstanding here. I really like the ending of the episode with Marge and Homer’s reconciliation, and all the stuff that Homer tells Marge in the kitchen on that fateful morning, but only because they are sweet moments that I’m a sap for, and not necessarily because I think it brings the story together (which I’ll be getting into in the next section). Homer started the episode out badly by thinking of himself and only himself, but he really did bring it together by the end of the episode. He did the ONE thing I always tell people to do when they come to me for relationship advice; speak from the heart. Lying out of your ass, or covering up your mistakes with gifts and other fabrications will only get you so far. If you make a mistake, own up to it, and show (or tell) your significant other how you feel.  Homer spent the entire episode in self-pity because he knows he upset his wife and he knows that she’s having a good time without him. Then, it finally hits him that if he doesn’t show his wife how much he cares about her and loves her, he’s going to lose her, and that’s when he confronts her and tells her how much he means to her and how special he thinks she is. That was probably one of the most personal compliments he (and anybody for that matter) has ever given to Marge, and that’s what finally showed her that he does care and that she would be losing the most genuine and heartfelt man she had ever met if she let herself have the affair. Because, while Jacques was a flirt and said very romantic and forward things to Marge, they never really put Marge in a place of comfort, which you could clearly see in her actions and dismissals of Jacques’s advances throughout the episode. If Marge was set on going for it with Jacques and leaving her family behind, we would have seen a much different story here. She didn’t love Jacques at all, she just enjoyed the attention she got from him. When Homer started giving her that attention, in his own personal way, she knew the choice was easy. Because of that, I think the ending was very well done and very well-written.

10 Minutes“Tell the boss I’m going to the backseat of my car with the woman I love, and I won’t be back for ten minutes!”
~Homer Simpson

My Review:
I am going to be honest here; I have not been looking forward to taking a look at or reviewing this episode. As per usual, I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad episode by any means. In fact, for an adult-oriented story line, I think the writing is actually really good here and there are some really great performances in the episode as well (most notably Albert Brooks (Jacques) and his chemistry with Julie Kavner (Marge)). I just feel like, for the viewers, this one will be a very hit or miss episode. The individuals who will most likely understand what’s going on here are adults and people who are and have been in serious relationships. For a kid, or someone who hasn’t had that relationship experience, a lot of the morals and lessons may not connect right away and a lot of the value I think this episode contains, may fall flat to the wrong audiences. Heck, as a young pre-teen and early teenager, when I first saw this episode, I never would have seen this episode in the same light that I would today, now that I have fifteen years on my younger self and have been in a serious relationship where topics of this nature have emerged. Also, I find for episodes of this nature, where the the main married couple experience issues and then a strange man/woman come into the picture and try to mess up that foundation further…they can be a really uncomfortable experience at times depending on how they’re handled, and I think that remains true for the Simpson family as well. Which…it’s understandable, especially now, considering the two have been married on the show for more than twenty-five years now.

Also, I feel like the children’s sub-plot shouldn’t have been used in the episode at all. I feel like the inclusion of Lisa figuring out that her parents are having problems, and trying to get Bart to come to terms with her same realization, almost kind of distract the viewers of this episode from what should be the main focus; Homer and Marge. In fact, when Bart is so worried that something bad will happen, he tells his dad to “not say anything, because he might make it worse,” which happens to be the absolute worst advice he could give in that particular scenario. In fact, the very next scene is when Homer opens up his heart to Marge and tells her how he feels; which ultimately saves the marriage in the long run. It just kind of feels like the children were unintentionally working against the plot here, and with how the episode wraps up, it almost made their plight feel pointless, because they didn’t do anything to help the story get to its conclusion. I would have much rather seen another scene with Marge and Jacques getting closer, or an extended scene with Homer and Marge where Homer apologizes for his actions in the beginning act, because while he did touch Marge with his words near the end, he never technically apologized for his selfishness.

I also find it extremely odd with how easily Marge agrees to see Jacques at his apartment. During their entire time together, Marge was always uncomfortable with Jacques’s advances, and even though she went along with them a few times, she still never really got “charmed” by him. In fact, during the brunch before Jacques even asked about his apartment, she was still really put off by his forwardness and tried to deflect any compliment he gave to her. I suppose this reluctance was because of her guiltiness, since she was being charmed by the man, but again, it’s hard to say just because I feel like it could have been explored a bit more, you know, instead of the alternative and what we got in the form of the children’s side of the story. I really hate to bring that up again, but it’s a major point for why this episode really bugs me. I get that the children were included to show the gravity of the situation at home with Homer and Marge’s marriage on the rocks, with Marge feeling guilty and the need to overcompensate for her absence and with Homer sinking into a deep depression. If someone is able to pick up on that, then sure, it works pretty well, but otherwise, it just seems kind of…there for the sake being there. There’s just so much that needs to be implied for the story to flow together flawlessly and I feel that it takes a few watches for someone to completely understand what’s going on here and to actually feel the gravity of the situation. Otherwise, it would be a back and forth tennis match of “Why is Homer not doing anything?” and “Why is Marge doing this?”

Once you have those things figured out though, the episode is honestly a good watch and an insightful take on this particular subject matter. What can happen to a woman when a new man starts paying more attention to and being more romantic to her than her own husband? When a marriage is in danger, how will both parties act, and what will they do to make things right, if anything at all? Is it really possible to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich where none of the jelly drips out of the sides of the bread? That last one is still a mystery to me, but as far as Homer and Marge go, I think they will be okay…for now. Unfortunately, I think we have a long road to go in getting all of their issues sorted out, especially once we get to the later years of the show (if we even do). But as far as our next examination of their marriage is concerned…well, let’s just say we have a few roadblocks coming up, starting with the next episode. For now though, I’m going to leave it at that and sign-off on “Life on the Fast Lane,” so thanks for reading everyone and I’ll talk to you guys next time.

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It is good to be back! Sorry this took a bit longer than I initially planned, but admittedly, I did just return from a week-long vacation and I had a lot of loose ends I needed to take care of first. There were also a lot of things I wanted to add into this write-up after I finished my first draft, just because this is a very complex episode. Anyway, from the look of things, it should not be too hard of an endeavor to finish up the rest of Season 1, with only four episodes remaining (even if I only really like one of them), so I’m going to do my best to make this a weekly update for the next month, and once I finish the remaining episodes, I can start planning when Season 2 will start. It probably won’t start right away, since I am about to start a big project/endeavor for my Youtube channel, but once that is taken care of, I am definitely excited to see this series go even further. So thanks to all of you for your continued reading and patience for these reviews. It means a lot to me!

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Intro

Introduction:
If I had to pick the most iconic episodes of Season 1, or rather, the episodes I feel like are the most well-known of the season, I’d probably have to give my vote to the Christmas episode and the episode we will be looking at today; The Telltale Head. In this episode, we will live (or relive) through one of Bart’s most notorious pranks in the show’s history. How will it all go down? Let’s find out! The Telltale Head aired on February 25th, 1990 and was the seventh episode written for the show, and the eighth one to air in the Simpsons first season. It’s kind of odd when you look at that fact, considering this episode was written before the previous episode, but it aired afterwards. I guess something must have held up this episode up or something. The chalkboard gag for this episode is, “I did not see Elvis,” and the couch gag is actually a repeat of the couch gag that showed in “Bart the Genius,” where Bart is sent flying into the air, coming down in front of the television screen while it’s showing the producer credits.

Pulled a Few BonersHomer: “You know, Bart, when I was your age, I pulled a few boners. But I think you’ll find out that people are pretty decent if you give them half…”
Townspeople: “Look! There it is! The Head! KILL HIM!”

Plot:
This episode actually starts with what will ultimately be the conclusion of this story. Bart and Homer are walking down a sidewalk at night while Homer is trying to console Bart. Apparently Bart has done something very bad and it’s very apparent that they have the head of a stone statue in their possession. Before Homer gets very far with his talk, a mob shows up and starts to chase them through town. They ultimately get surrounded, but before the mob can rip them apart, Bart decides to explain why they have the head of the town’s founder, Jebediah Springfield, and starts telling his story of the events that led to this moment.

The story starts with The Simpson family attending church on a Sunday morning. The kids attend Sunday school and the adults listen to a sermon given by Reverend Lovejoy. Although the church scene doesn’t really have much to do with the rest of the episode, it’s good for a few laughs as the kids continually stress out the Sunday school instructor with way too many questions that she doesn’t know the answer to. And then Homer, who is listening to the football game broadcast on a radio, starts celebrating when his team makes a last-second push to win the game, not realizing that his shouts of jubilation are heard through the entire church and interrupt the reverend’s prayer; which incredibly humiliates Marge. On the way home, Bart sees that the new Space Mutants movie is playing at the movie theater and he asks to see it, but Marge refuses, saying the movie is too violent. Bart gets the money to see the movie anyway from Homer after lying to him and so he skateboards to the theater.

When he arrives, he runs into Jimbo Jones and his friends Dolph and Kearney; three older kids who are known for having a bad reputation at school for being troublemakers. They ask Bart if he wants to sneak into the movie without paying and Bart reluctantly accepts. The four kids eventually get thrown out of the movies and then they proceed to go around town causing mischief. They steal goods from the convenience store and then they start throwing rocks at a statue of the town founder; Jebediah Springfield. Bart knows that what the kids are doing is wrong, but he goes along with it anyway because they start to accept Bart and think he is cool for hanging with them. They then lay down in the middle of a field and start looking at the clouds, remarking how certain clouds look like different things. Bart notices a cloud that looks like the Jebediah Springfrield statue, but without the head, and when he tells the others about it, they start remarking that it would be cool if someone did cut the head off of the statue. Bart has enough and tells Jimbo and his friends to stop, but then they start making fun of Bart for defending the town founder, and telling him to leave in the process.

Bart decides that he wants to cut the head off the statue, but before he does, he asks his father how important it is to be popular. Homer, completely unaware of the reason Bart is asking the question for, tells Bart that being popular is the most important thing in the world and that he should do anything (shy of killing someone) to be popular. Because of this, Bart goes out during the night to cut off the statue’s head. However, once the deed has been done, Bart starts to realize that there is no going back and thinks that he may have made a mistake.

The next day, the entire town is in an outrage about the missing statue’s head, including the Simpson family, but they are completely unaware that Bart is vandal. Bart hides and takes the head to show to Jimbo and the other guys, but before he can show it, the bullies remark that if they find out who cut off the head, that they would beat the person up. When Bart brings up the discussion from the other day, they claim that it was only “cloud-talk” and that they would never actually disrespect the statue of the person who founded the town and killed a bear with their bare hands. Bart continues to feel the guilt throughout the rest of the episode and at his lowest point, he decides to finally come clean. He shows the head to his family and explains that the only reason why he did it was because he got the impression that being popular was the most important thing in the world. Homer realizes that he gave Bart that thought and decides that both he and Bart must come clean to the authorities.

The scene from the beginning of the episode continues and Bart apologizes for doing what he did and is willing to take responsibility for his actions. The entire town decides that Bart has suffered enough and that he truly feels badly for what he has done, so they accept his apology on the condition that he puts the head back on. Bart heroically takes the head and puts it back on the statue, absolving him of any guilt and bad feelings he had prior. The entire town celebrates the restoration of the town founder’s statue while Homer and Bart leave; Homer remarking that Bart did a good job, but that lynch mobs are never usually this nice and Bart should consider himself lucky.

Cloud TalkBart: “But guys, come on, don’t you remember history class? Jebediah once killed a bear with his bare hands.”
Dolph: “Oh, sorry…”
Kearney: “We forgot how much you loved Jebediah Springfield…”
Jimbo: “Yeah, he’s your boyfriend! Beat it Simpson! Man…I thought you were cool…”

My Personal History:
If there was ever an episode this season that I watched before the DVD boxset came out (at least that I know of), this would probably be the only episode that would meet that criteria. This is an episode I will always remember and never forget, just because of how familiar it is in the Simpsons mainstream. I’m not sure if I would call it one of my favorites because of that, but I do know that many people I’ve talked to about The Simpsons have seen it, or at the very least, know of its plot of how Bart decapitated the head of the town founder’s statue. I guess you could say it’s a “classic” episode.

TalkBart: “So like, sometimes you could do stuff that you think is pretty bad so other kids will like you?”
Homer: “You aren’t talking about killing anyone are you?”
Bart: “No…”
Homer: “ARE YOU?”
Bart: NO!”
Homer: “Then run along you little scamp!”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
I have to say, this episode doesn’t really have a whole lot of jokes involved with it. Sure, there are some funny moments in the opening act with Homer acting up in church and the children in Sunday school incessantly asking the most out-there questions for the instructor, but this is definitely a plot that is driven by emotion more than humor for sure; especially in the second and third acts. If I had to pick my favorite joke, it would probably be the very last line in the episode where Homer tells Bart, “Good going son! But remember; most lynch mobs are not this nice!” Not only is it poking fun at how easily the conflict wrapped up, but it’s also a very nice warning to Bart as well, as Homer seems pretty confident that something like this could happen again, so Bart should watch what he does from now on.

This story is a very clear parody (especially when you consider the name of the episode) of “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allan Poe. Much like the character in the poem, Bart is living with the guilt of something bad he did, and he is constantly reminded of that guilt in the disappointment of all the townspeople and by the sound of the statue’s head talking to him; continuing to eat away at his conscious the longer and longer the prank goes on. Although The Simpsons will be known for making references and parodies throughout the entire span of the show’s history, I feel like this is the first big one, or at least the first one I recognize that focuses on an entire episode as opposed to a small scene. In fact, the episode also makes a reference (one of many over the show’s history) to The Godfather when Bart wakes up and finds the head of the statue in bed with him (a nod to “finding a horse head in your bed”). I’m sure I will definitely miss out on references as we move forward, so if there ever is a reference I don’t call attention to, and you feel like it’s noteworthy, feel free to do so by leaving a comment on this and all future posts. I don’t claim for this series to be an extensive encyclopedia to all things Simpsons; this is more so just my take and analyses of the episodes, so please keep that in mind.

Lynch Mobs“Good going son! But remember, most lynch mobs aren’t this nice…”
~Homer Simpson

My Review:
Much like “Bart the Genius,” this is a very a “lesson-learned” storyline, where we follow supposed bad-boy Bart Simpson, watch as he does something bad, and then starts to regret what he has done and seeing how the guilt affects him and how he decides to make amends for his actions. Unlike Bart the Genius though, I feel like this episode does a much better job of showing that Bart has learned his lesson; mainly because we didn’t really see the ramifications for Bart’s actions in the prior episode. In this episode, Bart is almost lynched by an angry mob, and the guilt he had for his prank was hitting him really hard as well. In fact, as soon as Bart cut off the head, he remarked, “What have I done?” so you can see Bart was already trying to fight against what he knew was wrong, which I do like to see in Bart’s character development. He’s not a bad kid by any means, he’s just impressionable and is trying to find his way, and sometimes during that journey, you will make mistakes. The key is learning from those mistakes.

So on the whole, I do think this is a very good episode and I can see why it is hailed as a classic Season 1 episode by many Simpsons’ fans. However, it’s hard for me to say that I like this episode better than other Season 1 episodes like Bart the General and another episode we will be seeing in a few weeks. I think it’s just because I’ve seen this episode so many times and have been familiar with the basic storyline for it, that maybe it has just lost its novelty for me. It would still probably rank as Top 5 for the season most certainly…just not in my highest tier. But yeah, that will do it for The Telltale Head, so thanks to everyone for reading, I’ll see you all next time, and remember…if someone talks about cutting off the head of your town founder’s statue, make sure it’s not just ‘cloud-talk’ before turning them into the authorities.

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All right, we are done with yet another episode, but before we move on to the next one, I would like to take this opportunity to remind you guys that I will be on vacation, so there will not be any posts of this series next week, and probably the following week either (and if it is the following week, it will be later in the week once I’m on schedule again). I’m honestly amazed I have made it to this point already, as I honestly figured I would be further behind, but I have to say that this series has struck a chord with me and I can see this continuing on for a really long time. We only have 5 episodes of the first season remaining and I’m itching to see how they will go. However, first thing is first…I need my annual vacation relaxation before I do anything else. Catch you guys later!

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Title

Introduction:
Now that we’ve gotten through a few more individual character episodes, we’re going back once again for another family-centric storyline. Sorry Marge, it looks like you will have to wait a few more weeks before you get your first episode plot, but trust me, we’ll definitely have some things to talk about with THAT episode. Anyway, this time we’re taking a trip to the great outdoors, and based on what we have seen so far; The Simpsons mixed with the great wilderness…I’m sure that will be a sight to behold. “The Call of the Simpsons” aired on February 18th, 1990 and was the ninth episode written for the series despite being the 7th episode that aired for this first season. This is because the episodes “Some Enchanted Evening” and “The Telltale Head” (which will be our next episode) were written before this episode, but were delayed for one reason or another. In the former’s case, it was because the episode was an animated nightmare, but that’s further from the point here. The chalkboard gag for this episode is, “I will not draw naked ladies in class,” and the couch gag is…there is none. The family just comes in and sits on the couch. No gag.

RVMarge: “Homer, I’m telling you. This is not the interstate”
Homer: “Pfft…maps!”

Plot:
When Ned Flanders comes home with a brand new, top-of-the-line RV for his family, Homer’s “hidden” jealousy for his neighbor’s wealthy possessions kicks in, as he decides to get an RV for his family as well. At the RV dealership, he finds an RV that he really wants to get, but when Cowboy Bob proceeds with a credit check on Homer, he discovers that the vehicle is way out of Homer’s price range. Instead, he hooks Homer up with a much cheaper model that looks incredibly run-down and sounds like it is in bad shape. Despite the warnings from Marge, Bob convinces Homer to purchase the RV and Homer decides to take the family on a camping trip with their newest purchase. However, during the road trip, Homer gets lost and drives the vehicle to the very edge of a giant cliff. The family escapes the RV just in time for it to fall over the cliff, stranding the family in the woods, away from civilization.

The family sets up camp and Homer and Bart decide to go out and look for any signs of civilization and help, while Marge and Lisa stay back at the camp. Baby Maggie starts to follow Homer and Bart, but when the two mistake Maggie’s pacifier sucking for a rattlesnake, they run ahead and leave Maggie by herself. Maggie eventually meets up with a bear which at first roars in Maggie’s face, but quickly calms down when she sticks a pacifier in its mouth. Maggie travels with the bear and goes back to its family’s den, where the entire bear family takes care of Maggie like if she were their own and brings her stuff from other families camping in the woods. Meanwhile, Marge and Lisa find out that they are quite adaptable when it comes to living outdoors as they manage to make a campfire and some decent shelter for the night.

However, Homer and Bart are not having the same amount of good fortune. They stumble into a raging river, lose their clothes, and have a really hard time adjusting to life in the great outdoors. This is incredibly ironic considering Homer is supposed to be an experienced woodsman (at least according to him), but he seems to run into difficulty at every step. When Homer tries to drink honey from a beehive, the stinging of angry bees cause Homer to run to what he thinks is a watering hole, but ends up being a giant puddle of mud. Homer is completely covered in mud and is babbling incoherently from all the bee stings, and during this state, he runs into another camper who mistakes Homer for the legendary “Bigfoot.” The camper gets Homer on film and runs off before Homer can start talking properly again.

With news stations reporting on the discovery of Bigfoot, the camp rangers start evacuating families from the premises, including Marge and Lisa who have been found and warned of the Bigfoot sighting. After seeing the tapes, Marge recognizes “Bigfoot” as Homer and tries to talk some sense into all of the reporters, but the reporters start treating her as a crazy lady instead. Homer and Bart eventually find the bear cave that Maggie has been staying at and reunite with their youngest daughter/sister. Maggie bids a sad farewell to her new bear family and then they start heading back to where their campsite was.

When Homer is located, the camp rangers tranquilize Homer, still mistaking him for Bigfoot, and take him in for extensive tests and analyses. After testing, Homer is let out and is able to go home, where he and Marge watch the test results being broadcasted on TV. From all the testing, it is determined that the results are “inconclusive,” meaning that Homer could very well be the intelligent creature known as Bigfoot, or just a human being with below average intelligence. Homer is incredibly humiliated by the program, but Marge tries to console him with kind, loving words as the episode ends.

Cliff Scene“The Simpsons have entered the forest…”
~Lisa Simpson

Personal History:
Much like the episodes “There’s No Disgrace like Home,” and “Moaning Lisa,” this was always an episode that I was very well aware of, in terms of its existence, but could never really recall when I first watched it. I think once again it has to do with the fact that a clip from this episode was used in “So It’s Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show,” where it basically showed a scene of Homer and Bart in the woods from this episode. The first time I remember watching this episode in full was on the Simpsons Season 1 DVD, but if I had seen this episode prior to that, I honestly couldn’t tell you.

CampfireLisa: “Remember, the handle of the Big Dipper points to the North Star.”
Homer: “That’s nice Lisa, but we’re not in astronomy class. We’re in the woods!”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
Honestly, I don’t have a lot to touch on this time around, so I’m just going to go through the episode and touch on all the major highlights. First off, I have to give a huge shout-out to the very talented Albert Brooks for his voice work in, not only this episode, but in any episode where he is featured. In this episode, he does the voice work for Cowboy Bob, the RV salesman, but most Simpson’s fans will better know him as Hank Scorpio from “You Only Move Twice” and Russ Cargill from The Simpsons Movie. In this episode, although he plays a very minor role, it’s a role that is done very, very well. He was the most excellent personification of a classic used-car salesman and the way he worked over Homer was absolutely fantastic. I have to give major props to any individual who can do that line of work, which requires a lot of stretching the truth and saying the right things, and even though this is a cartoon show, Albert Brooks gives an amazing performance here and I could really get the sense that he knew what the hell he was doing.

Homer’s aptitude, or should I say lack of aptitude, for being an experienced woodsman is also a very humorous part of the episode, even if I feel like it can be a bit overdone at times. There is just something funny about how Homer can be so confident about his plans and zany schemes, even though they are so clearly lacking in substance or careful thought. He literally granbs a honeycomb and starts chugging the honey out of it, not even giving a second thought that bees may be around in some way. And honestly, perhaps my favorite joke of the entire episode, is when Homer tries to catch a rabbit with a snare trap, and the trap just flings the rabbit many, many miles away and Bart and Homer just watch the rabbit landing so far into the distance. In fact, I think I’ll include a link to that scene just to show you how great it is. As I said, I’m not too much of a fan of when Homer gets “overly” depicted as a bumbling idiot who can’t do anything right, but in this episode, I think it works because the entire situation was Homer’s fault to begin with. He bought the cheap RV, he insisted on taking the family on a camping trip, and he decided to drive the family through a dangerous wildlife path that was completely off the road map. In other words, he kind of reaps what he sowed.

And finally, special mention to the return of the humorous newspaper headlines when Marge is trying to explain to the reporters that Homer isn’t Bigfoot. I always enjoy jokes of that nature and I always remember these one in particular. I think the one that really gets to me is the headline that says “The Bigfoot Diet: Pork Chops Aplenty!” just because it clearly shows that the reporters do not care at all about what Marge is trying to explain and just want to get more shock value or information for the Bigfoot articles, which is just classic humor at its finest.

ApplesauceTV Reporter: “Although the creature was ultimately released, the question remains, ‘Who was this Homer?’ Was it a man or was it, in fact, the legendary missing link known as Bigfoot?”
Homer: (on footage) “Could I have some applesauce?”

My Review:
So before the retrospective, I honestly thought this episode would probably be one of my lowest rated episodes from the first season. Watching this back, much like Bart the Genius and Moaning Lisa, I was surprised I actually enjoyed it a little more than I thought it would. I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, or incredible or anything, and I would still probably rate it as one of the least enjoyable episodes from this season, but it’s not unwatchable, which I guess is the most important thing. It just feels like there could have been more jokes. Homer trying to adapt in the woods is the most engaging part of the episode, but they cut away from it a lot to focus on the other parts of the story, which, I do agree are necessary parts of the story, but it’s such a shift in tone that I almost feel like it starts to lose me a little.

I think the biggest problem though is that I just don’t really like the “Bigfoot” development of the story. Again, I understand it’s a cartoon show and is not meant to be realistic or logical, but there’s just something about that part of the plot that seems to be “too much” of a stretch, at least for me. And it’s a stretch in the sense of where the episode ends up, because like Homer’s Odyssey, it feels like three different mini-episodes. The first episode is about Homer being jealous of his neighbor’s RV, the second is about getting lost in the woods, and the final is about Homer being mistaken for Bigfoot. It’s just really interesting how the episode gets to that particular point and I almost wonder if it could have been done in a different way; a more enjoyable way that could have flowed together better. I think an ending where Homer and Bart get saved by Marge and Lisa, who have discovered how to be quite efficient at living in the woods, could have been a more engaging conclusion, and one that would have focused on the entire family a bit more as opposed to the Bigfoot shenanigans.

That’s just my take though. I’m sure there are individuals who may defend this episode a bit more than I would, but at that point, it all comes down to personal preference. I definitely don’t think it’s a bad episode by any means, but there are many other episodes I would choose to watch over this one, including episodes in this same season. But yeah, I think that about wraps it up for this episode, so let’s not ignore Lisa’s advice on how to find the North Star and head on home and back to civilization.

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And with this episode taken care of, we are officially more than halfway through Season 1! We only have 6 more episodes left and…my god, we have some interesting ones to come! Next week we’ll be taking a look at what many Simpson’s fans consider to be a classic Simpsons episode; The Telltale Head. After that, I may be taking a small break since I’ll have a vacation coming up, but when I return, I’ll be hitting the remaining 5 episodes hard because I would like to finish this season before we get to the summer months. Thanks for reading everybody!

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Intro

Introduction:
During the first five episodes of The Simpsons; we’ve had two Bart episodes, one Homer episode, and two family episodes that you could qualify as Homer episodes. However, as far as the Simpson females are concerned, we’ve not really had much of a look at Marge, Lisa or Maggie yet. All of them provided relatively small supporting roles in the previous episodes and roles that could arguably be seen as unnecessary in moving the story forward. However, those times are a thing of the past as we have our very first Lisa episode today! “Moaning Lisa” debuted on February 11th, 1990 and was the sixth episode written and aired for the first season. The chalkboard gag is “I will not instigate revolution,” and the couch gag involves the family sitting down on the couch with Maggie popping out and Marge catching her as she is falling.

Sad LisaTeacher: “Lisa, we are playing dodgeball here. The object of the game is to avoid the ball by ducking or weaving out of its path.”
Lisa: “In other words, to dodge the ball.”

Plot:
The episode starts with a very glum Lisa Simpson. She’s very slow at getting ready for school, doesn’t seem very amused in her family’s morning antics, and lets her father and brother eat the last of the remaining cupcakes; claiming that one cupcake will not bring her any happiness. Later at school, when trying to express herself through her saxophone playing, her music teacher, Mr. Largo, scolds her for not following the instructions. Then to top everything off, during gym class she doesn’t seem to be in the mood to play dodgeball for the sole reason that she is ‘sad.’ Lisa’s teacher sends a note home telling her family about Lisa’s sadness.

The family doesn’t seem to understand why Lisa is feeling this way, and tries everything they can to make her feel better. Even Bart tries to cheer Lisa up with a prank phone call to Moe’s Tavern. However, all of their efforts don’t seem to lead anywhere. The only thing that seems to put her mind at ease is music and playing the ‘blues’ on her saxophone. While practicing, Lisa hears another sax playing in the distance and sneaks out of the house to follow the sound. This is where she meets a fellow sax player and jazz musician “Bleedin’ Gums Murphy.” They exchange words and then start playing together into the night. Meanwhile, after having dreams about how to help Lisa, Marge notices that Lisa is missing from her bedroom and follows the music to find her at the bridge and take her home.

The next morning, Marge tells Lisa some advice her mother once gave her; to smile and never stop smiling, even if she doesn’t feel like it, as it will be the key to making friends and getting other people to like her, thus making her more happy. Lisa tries this, but the other kids start trying to take advantage of her and her smarts by asking her to do their homework, and Mr. Largo makes a very demeaning and sarcastic comment in regards to her musical outburst the other day. This upsets Marge and she immediately pulls Lisa back into the car. She tells Lisa to forget everything she told her to do a few minutes ago and that if she wants to be sad, than she should be sad and let her mother do all the smiling for the both of them. This finally strikes a chord with Lisa and she starts to smile, saying that she finally feels like smiling.

Meanwhile, while this is all going on, Homer has his own little story for this episode. Yeah, you could call this the first Simpsons episode that has a “B-Plot” of sorts, or a story that complements (or just featured alongside of in some cases) the main story of the episode. In this particular B-plot, Homer is on an amazing losing streak with Bart on their “Video Boxing” video game. Homer’s constant losing is starting to affect him to a large degree, mainly with him having nightmares of Bart beating him up, so he decides to pick up some tips from the local video game arcade. He trains with a kid who teaches him everything he needs to know and challenges Bart to one final match.

During the match, Homer finally starts to do well and is about to knock-out Bart for the final blow, but before he can perform the final move, Marge comes into the room with Lisa, unplugs the video game system, and tells Bart and Homer that Lisa wants to do something the entire family will enjoy. Bart takes this instance to announce his retirement from Video Boxing with an undefeated record while Homer sobs that his golden moment was taken away from him. The entire family goes to the Jazz Hole where Bleedin’ Gums Murphy is performing the song that he and Lisa played the other night, ending the episode.

Undewear ThingMarge: “Bart’s such a handful, and Maggie needs attention. But all the while, our little Lisa is becoming a young woman.”
Homer: “Oh, so that’s it. It’s some kind of underwear thing.”
Marge: ” *murmurs* Good night, Homer.”

Personal History:
I had to have seen this episode at some point in my life, but I can never recall if it was from a clip show or the actual episode. I was very aware of the Bleedin’ Gums Murphy character and his relationship with Lisa, how Lisa looked up to him and how he was one of Lisa’s biggest inspirations when it came to music and playing the saxophone. However, I might be thinking of “Bart’s Dog Gets An F” in Season 2 where Lisa stiches an image of Mr. Murphy into the family quilt. Regardless, that is a plot point that has always stuck with me regardless, which I guess makes this episode a little iconic, in a sense.

One thing I would like to point out though is that, as a kid, I did own (and still probably do own) “The Simpsons Sing the Blues” album. This was basically a CD that features around 10 or so songs sung by Simpson’s characters. Most of the songs were original songs made for the characters, and some of them were actually used in animated music videos for the show as well, like “Do the Bartman” and “Deep, Deep Trouble.” A longer version of Lisa’s song in this episode, from her jam session with Bleedin’ Gums Murphy, is actually on the CD, and that was something I always enjoyed about watching this episode; finding out where that reference came from. I think at the end of this post I’ll include a link to the song or something, but yeah, I felt like mentioning that.

Bleedin' Gums“The blues isn’t about feelin’ better. It’s about makin’ other people feel worse and makin’ a few bucks while you’re at it.”
~Bleedin’ Gums Murphy

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
This is definitely an episode that relies more on emotional responses and character development than on jokes and humor. However, there is definitely some humor that can be found here still. Whether it’s the return to the Moe’s Tavern prank call joke, where Bart uses the name “Jacques Strap” (for jock strap), or the silliness of the sub-plot of Homer going to an arcade to get tips for beating his son at a video game, there were definitely some laughs to be had in this episode. The fact that Homer is becoming so scared of his son because of the video game is priceless, and the scream he makes when waking up from the nightmare is probably one of the best Homer screams of all time. I also think this episode features a really good Maggie joke where while Bart and Lisa are trying to get Maggie to choose which sibling she likes best, and in what will be classic Maggie humor, she chooses the television over the two family members. I think my favorite joke though is at the end of the episode when the family is listening to the song Lisa wrote. The family is just sitting there, listening to and enjoying the music, and when the song gets to the line about Homer acting like he belongs in a zoo, Homer just pauses for a second, realizes what was just said, and exclaims, “What?” in just a hilarious fashion.

I think the greatest individual moment of the episode though is when Marge finally realizes what she needs to do to make her daughter happy, and it’s by letting her daughter express herself in the way she wants and needs to, and by not trying to fix or change her. The advice she tried to give to Lisa; about smiling no matter how you feel…I never quite understood what the writers were trying to go for with that until very recently, and a large part of that realization is due to this retrospective series, where I’ve started analyzing these episodes a little more and seeing these things in different ways. At this point in the episode, the family has tried numerous times in trying to get Lisa to feel better, all of which have not been successful. The only thing that has been successful is Lisa’s expression through music, something the family has not really understood yet. So at this point, much like her teachers, Marge and Homer are telling Lisa what to do and how to feel, which just doesn’t work and is, if anything, the root of her sadness in the first place. When Marge sees how badly her suggestion is doing, she realizes that she was wrong and tells Lisa that it’s fine to feel sad if she feels that way, and that makes Lisa happy because she has that control now and she can use that sadness to further develop her music, in which she is very much invested in. It took me way too many years to realize that, but I am glad I can finally understand it now, because it does increase my overall appreciation for this episode.

Jazz Hole“I got a bratty brother, he bugs me everyday. And this morning my own mother, she gave my last cupcake away. My dad acts like he belongs, he belongs in the zoo. I’m the saddest kid, in grade number two.”
~Lisa’s Song

My Review:
I feel like I’m hitting the review section kind of early here, but after thinking about it, I really don’t have much else to say about this episode. To be quite honest, going into this retrospective, this was probably my least favorite episode of the six I’ve taken a look at so far. I feel I must stress that it’s not because I think this is a bad episode, by any means; this was just an episode I was incredibly neutral about. It’s nice they went for a more emotionally driven plot with this episode, but I guess for me growing up, I was definitely more about the humor than the emotional responses. These days, since I am well into my adulthood now, I can look at these episodes with a bit more understanding and more of an open mind. I’m not saying all kids are like this, heck, there were probably some kids out there who could relate with what Lisa was going through, but for me, I didn’t grasp all of that at first, and I’m glad that I do now because there is definitely a solid story here.

With that being said though, I wouldn’t say that I’m completely turned around on the subject. I definitely appreciate this episode a lot more and it’s nice to see the start of Lisa’s character development (especially after focusing so much on Bart and Homer on the episodes before this), but like…I wouldn’t be surprised if people start to lose interest during the middle of this episode. It’s kind of like “There’s No Disgrace Like Home” in a lot of respects, where it has some great moments, but they are towards the end of the episode, so you will only feel the impact of those moments if you stuck around and didn’t change the channel or turn away beforehand. And for that, I do see that as kind of a weakness for this episode despite the good moments that it does have. Also, the sub-plot with Homer and Bart, and the videogame? Although not the worst B-plot in the Simpsons’ history, it is very weak and doesn’t really complement the main plot of the episode that well. I honestly would have rather seen Homer and Bart try (and fail) to cheer up Lisa more and maybe come to a similar realization like Marge did, but in their own elements and in ways that would better benefit their individual character relationships moving forward. I ultimately feel like the writers were trying to stuff more jokes and gags into the B-plot because the A-plot was so emotionally-driven, but because of that, they prolonged the emotional moments and if anything made the episode a bit less focused on the main plot, which probably cheapened the overall experience.

However, the Simpsons will go on to do many emotional episodes in the future, particularly ones involving Lisa, and I have to say that the stories do not disappoint. For a first season episode and attempt, I will give props to the writers for going through with this story, because I do think it’s an important episode moving forward. It’s important in the sense that it helped make The Simpsons not just a cartoon show with jokes and gags being delivered every few seconds like Looney Tunes, the Flintstones, and Tom and Jerry, but also a show that focuses on delivering a good story and some emotion alongside the humor. And with that, let’s let our little girl of the Blues, Lisa Simpson, play us out as we close this episode.
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Have to admit, this was a fun episode to look at because it wasn’t an episode I truly appreciated until much later on in life. It makes me curious to watch the rest of the episodes from this season, especially in the near future, because we have some episodes coming up that I’m not the biggest fan of and I kind of wonder how I will feel about them when it comes around to this retrospective. So yeah, I’ll see you guys next week for another episode, and maybe at this rate, I may get a few more finished before my vacation after all.

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Intro

Introduction:
Bart Simpson may be the troublemaker at Springfield Elementary, but he’s definitely not a kid that could be classified as a bully or ruffian. He’s a fun-loving boy with a tendency to be a class-clown at times, and he may not be the smartest kid around, but on the whole, he’s a normal kid like everyone else. However, recent developments have put Bart in the crosshairs of the local school bully, and now he must find a way out of this predicament, unless he wants to have daily school beatings for the rest of his life. The Simpson universe is about to become a warzone with Bart on one side and Nelson Muntz on the other. “Bart the General” debuted on February 4th, 1990, and was the fifth episode written and aired for The Simpsons first season. This episode, alongside “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” and “Life on the Fast Lane,” did not feature any chalkboard or couch gags, probably because the episode ran a bit longer than usual.

BloodKid: “Nelson, you’re bleeding!”
Nelson: “Naw, happens all the time. Somebody else’s blood splatters on me. Hey wait a minute! You’re right! You made me bleed my own blood.”

Plot:
We start the episode at the Simpson household where Marge is helping Lisa bake cupcakes for her teacher’s birthday. Here we find out a little more that Lisa is the “smart one” of the family. She studies hard, tries to develop a good relationship with her teachers, and is generally just a more pleasant student than what Bart is in his classes. Bart gives Lisa a hard time for this, calling her a “butt kisser,” an “egg sucker,” and an “honor student.” However, even Bart is kind enough to take it all back and apologize when he’s gone too far, showing that he really does love and care about his sister…even if he does it for the prospect of a free cupcake.

The sibling bond is developed further when a kid takes Lisa’s cupcakes and starts eating them. Bart steps in to defend his sister, threatening to beat up the kid if he doesn’t give them back, but his threats go in one ear and out the other. Bart starts to rough up the kid, unaware that the kid’s superior, and big bully of the schoolyard, Nelson Muntz, has come to step in, leading Bart into punching Nelson in the nose accidentally. Instead of taking him out right there, because school is about to start, Nelson tells Bart that he will take care of him after school. Bart spends the entire day worrying about his fate, having a vision of him being chased by a giant version of Nelson, and even a daydream of what his funeral would be. After school, Bart tries to leave before anything can happen, but he runs into Nelson, who proceeds to give Bart a beating and then stuffs him into a trash can. Nelson remarks that this will now become a daily part of Bart’s life as he sends Bart on a wild ride down the hill, still rolling in the trash can.

When Bart gets home, Marge and Homer learn that Bart is being harassed by a bully and give him advice on how to deal with the situation. Marge tells Bart to either tell the principal or try to talk to Nelson and try to find common ground. Homer scoffs at this advice and takes Bart with him to teach him how to fight back and fight dirty in response. The next day at school, Bart tries to implement Homer’s teachings, but is still completely outmatched by Nelson, and is once again beat up. Lisa suggests Bart talk to Grandpa Simpson, as he is the toughest Simpson alive. Grandpa is enthusiastic to help, but in his old age, is unable to give Bart the advice he needs for dealing with young blood, so he takes Bart to meet a friend of his who may be able to help.

Bart meets Herman, Grandpa’s acquaintance who works at a military antiques store. Herman is quite knowledgeable, and quite obsessed, with the subject of war and turns Bart’s plight into a war scenario. He has Bart round up a number of kids who are tired of Nelson’s tyranny and trains them to take on Nelson once and for all. What follows is a very entertaining montage of Bart training the other kids with obstacle courses, fighting exercises and inspirational march songs. Herman, Bart and his troops gain intelligence on Nelson’s daily schedule and lay an ambush for him with hundreds and hundreds of water balloons.

Nelson and his two cronies are completely overwhelmed by Bart’s assault, forcing Nelson to the ground and his two goons to surrender. Nelson is tied up and captured, but threatens to beat up Bart even more once he gets untied. Bart realizes that Nelson cannot be tied up forever and Herman suggests an alternative method for solving their conflict. Bart and Nelson sign a peace treaty; an agreement that states that while Nelson can no longer forcefully beat up Bart or other children on a regular basis, he can continued to be looked at as a physical threat and menace of the schoolyard. They celebrate their new agreement by sharing a plate of cupcakes with each other and everyone else in the room, ending the story on a peaceful resolution. The actual episode ends with Bart giving a small speech and message to the episode viewers on the subject of war and how it isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be…with the exception of the Civil War, World War II, and the plot of the original Star Wars trilogy. It’s obviously not trying to be a super serious message, but I always found the inclusion to be a fun little joke and nod to those “viewer discretion” messages.

Herman“The key to Springfield has always been Elm Street. The Greeks knew it. The Carthaginians knew it. Now you know it.”
~Herman

Personal History:
Once again, I did not see this episode until I owned The Simpsons Season 1 on DVD, but thankfully I have a little more to say than just that. When I initially viewed the DVD in its entirety, this was probably my favorite episode of the entire first season. I just really enjoyed the story, the jokes, and the epic Act 3 montage and conclusion at end. It just really rounded out to be a great episode for me and was probably one of only a few episodes I really got excited about watching in the first season. Since then, I have gained an appreciation for other episodes of this season as well, so is it still my favorite? We will just have to wait and see; not just for the final episode review, but also for the end of the Season 1 retrospective as it is.

Grandpa Speech“Sorry, Bart. You can push them out of a plane, you can march them off a cliff, you can send them off to die on some godforsaken rock, but for some reason…you can’t slap them. Now apologize to that boy right now.”
~Abe Simpson

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
I don’t even know where to begin with this one, just because there are just so many great jokes and great moments of this particular episode, so I’m really going to need to narrow things down for this particular section. And please, do not be surprised if this section is quite a bit longer than other sections in these retrospectives. The first thing I want to call attention to are the daydreams/fantasies Bart has in the first act. They just seem so appropriate to what a child would be scared of when being terrorized by a bully. It’s that scary, childhood dream where you are being chased by a monster and you try everything you can to stop it, just to find out that it’s completely unavoidable and pointless. Heck, Bart used knives and a GUN in that daydream and nothing could phase Giant Nelson. The funeral daydream is also pretty humorous too, especially when Nelson shows up to give Bart a few last punches before they bury him.

I also really like the dynamic between Homer and Marge during Act 2 of this episode, how they both try to do everything they can to help Bart, even if their advice falls on deaf ears and doesn’t work. It really shows their two different parenting styles and shows that even though they are married, they can still have conflicting opinions and they don’t back down from their respective arguments. I feel like future seasons kind of overplay the “Marge and Homer have marital problems,” plot line, and heck, we’ll be starting to take a look at some of those plots later on this season, but here, I feel like it works because they both want what’s best for their son and there are merits for both of their sides. Marge is correct in saying that fighting isn’t always the answer, but Homer is also correct in saying that people do need to learn to hold their own and stand up for themselves. Not all parental arguments need to be marriage-ending. And in response to Homer’s advice, I also like when Bart is imagining what Homer is saying to him during the second exchange with Nelson. He reminds Bart of what he taught him, Bart tries and fails immediately, and Homer in Bart’s thoughts shrugs, being out of any other ideas and forcing him to watch Nelson just take him down.

Now we get into all the war stuff, which is definitely just the best part of the episode, in my opinion. Everything during the end of Act 2 and the entirety of Act 3 is just amazing and very well written and directed. First I’ll start with Herman, who was just absolutely hilarious in this episode and who I honestly wish would have been given a bigger role in future episodes. Everything he says is just so over-the-top and hilarious and the fact that he is so obsessed with war, to the extreme of turning this childhood scuffle into one, just works so well here. “The key to Springfield has always been Elm Street! The Greeks knew it, the Carthaginians knew it, and now you know it!” That’s a line that has just always stuck with me just because it is so over the top. And the fact that Grandpa knows the guy is nuts and confirms it to Bart just makes his character even better. They need him to win this war.

Speaking of Grandpa, another line, or speech rather, that I always remember from this episode is during the montage when Bart starts punishing a kid for not wanting to fight. Grandpa stops Bart immediately with a lecture, saying “Sorry, Bart. You can push them out of a plane, you can march them off a cliff, you can send them off to side one some godforsaken rock, but for some reason…you can’t slap them. Now apologize to that boy right now!” That may be my favorite quote of the entire season, just because of how it starts to set up some kind of important message for Bart, before Grandpa just forgets the message, and just tells Bart that it’s wrong to slap someone and to apologize. I remember for the longest time, I actually had that quote as my signature on message boards just because of how silly it is. I also like the following exchange where after Bart apologizes, the kid just remarks, “it’s cool,” when the kid was terrified and scared beforehand, so it wasn’t even a big deal anyway.

The training montage is honestly just a really solid scene to begin with though. It has the classic cartoon humor of watching kids trying to perform obstacle courses, and generally not performing super well (because they are only around ten years old here). It has a scene where you watch the kids beat up on a sandbag, while Herman absolutely destroys the sandbag, stabbing it with a bayonet, and ripping it apart saying, “Die! DIE!” And I don’t know what it is about Bart’s military chants, but it’s just so endearing to watch a 10-year old boy try to mimic an army general, and his march rhymes are pretty catchy as well, with most of them being about how he is a subpar student in school and various other child comebacks and sayings (like the “We are rubber, you are glue” saying). Then, the war with Nelson itself, despite being incredibly one-sided, is just worth the entire build-up of the episode. The kids, just being through with Nelson’s bullying, much like us being tired of seeing Nelson beat up on poor Bart, just get complete satisfaction from watching him get paid back, in full, with the wrath of hundreds of water balloons.

And finally, the last thing I want to point out, actually goes back to a little nod that was written in the second act when Bart is being introduced to Herman. The Simpsons is definitely a show where once an episode ends, it’s very rare that they will call attention to that particular episode or storyline again, almost like each episode is starting new without any memory of the previous episode. There are some very obvious exceptions, like when a character is written into the show and has a big connection with another character, or very important lifestyle choices and changes (like Lisa becoming a vegetarian in Season 7). For the most part though, everything seems to find a way back to the status quo. This is why I found this particular moment kind of funny though, because when Bart asks Herman about his missing arm, Herman gives a speech saying, “When your teacher tells you to leave your arm inside the bus at all times, YOU DO IT!” This is a nod to the 3rd episode, “Homer’s Odyssey,” when Mrs. Krabappel tells the children to keep their arms inside the bus at all times because of some kid losing his arm that way. I always thought that reference was cool, especially when considering the prospect of Herman being the kid Mrs. Krabappel was alluding to, just from many years ago. So yeah, I felt like sharing that little reference before moving on, just because I’ve always been fond of it.

Birthday BalloonsHerman: “Got the water balloons?”
Bart: “200 rounds, sir! Is it OK if they say ‘Happy Birthday’ on the side?”
Herman: “I’d rather they say ‘Death From Above,’ but I guess we’re stuck.”

My Review:
As I said before, when I first watched “Bart the General,” it was definitely my favorite episode of Season 1. And honestly, even after many years have passed, it probably still is my favorite Season 1 episode. I do like a lot of other episodes a little more than I used to, but this one definitely hasn’t lost any favor with me either, and if even possible, I like it even more, now that I can see why I like it so much. It’s a good story that doesn’t have to rely on any other plots to keep it fresh, and unlike many of the other episodes so far, I feel like the main point of this episode is dropped on us pretty much from the get-go. In the first act we get introduced to Bart’s plight and actually see some substance to it and how it’s affecting him. In the second act we watch him try to deal with it from a variety of different angles before deciding on a final measure. And finally, in the third act, we watch the final conflict unfold in a very exciting conclusion that keeps you on your toes, wanting you to know how everything is going to go down. Some could argue that the ending of the episode seems very forced and nonsensical, making you wonder if a conflict and rivalry that heated could end so peacefully. But, for the purpose of the show, I can see the logic being used here. They didn’t want to send the message that “all you need is strength in numbers, and you can take down anyone with no consequences,” and they didn’t want to just get rid of or permanently disable the trademark “bully” character either, just because they could definitely use him for future stories and episode plots down the road, which is definitely true considering the future legacy and popularity of the Nelson Muntz character. His “Ha, Ha!” laugh clip is probably one of the most famous Simpson catchphrases, after all the Homer and Bart ones anyway.

So yeah, overall, just a very exciting episode. It has great moments, great jokes, a great story…just everything that makes a great Simpson episode, and this early in the first season as well…that’s not too shabby. I have to say, I’m really pumped now to see what the rest of the season will bring as well, now that I’ve set the bar pretty high for the rest of the episodes to beat this one. I think once I’m done with all the Season 1 episodes, I’ll try doing a post where I personally rank all the episodes of the season in order of my favorite to least favorite. That should be fun in determining, at least, what my favorite episodes are from that particular season, and maybe then, sometime in the future, I can use that list to help determine a much grander ranking if I ever decide to rank all of the episodes (of every season). For now though, I think it’s time to bid farewell to “Bart the General,” and I give my salute on a job well done!

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This episode really was so much fun to watch and look at for this post and I think it will put a lot of things in perspective when we start getting to some of the following episodes…for reasons I won’t quite reveal yet. Anyway, as you may have noticed, I’ve stopped doing these once per week and have been kind of on a “one entry per week and a half” pattern as of right now. Things have just been really busy as of late and I’m trying to do as much as I can without stressing myself out too much. Not to mention, I do have a vacation coming up soon, and I want to make sure a lot of my Youtube stuff is taken care of beforehand. That vacation starts on March 31st, so I’m hoping to have the next two entries done before then, but as usual, if stuff comes up, it comes up and the next post will be delayed by a small bit.

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Title Card

Introduction:
When it comes to the Simpsons, they are not a very high-end family. They aren’t very wealthy, they don’t share the same values or manners as other families, and as an outsider looking into their family dynamic, I’m sure a lot of questions and concerns would arise from that observation. In this episode, Homer takes a look at his own family and compares it to the other families in town, wondering if maybe somewhere down the road something went wrong, and puts his family on a quest for improvement, with “shocking” results. This episode debuted on January 28th, 1990 and was the fourth episode to air and the fourth episode written for the show. The chalkboard gag for this episode is “I will not burp in class,” while the couch gag features the entire family trying to sit on the couch at once, which results Homer (of all people) getting squished out and landing on the floor.

BurnsMr. Burns: “And make yourselves at home”
Bart: “Hear that Dad? You can lie around in your underwear and scratch yourself.”

Plot:
Homer’s boss, Mr. Burns, is having his annual employee picnic at his mansion, and the morning of the big event, Homer is in an absolute frenzy of getting his kids to not act up during the outing and making sure everything is absolutely perfect. Apparently Mr. Burns is a stickler for families that are well-behaved and harmonious with each other, and tends to fire employees whose families misbehave or make a scene. In fact, all of the families are so scared of Mr. Burns that they even let him win the annual sack race every year, for fear of what would happen if he didn’t win. During the picnic, the kids run amok, disturbing the local wildlife, and climbing on all the different fixtures, causing Homer to be on constant watch-duty. Even Marge, the most cool and collected member of the family, gets incredibly tipsy after drinking several cups of “punch,” causing her to dance around and sing; creating her own scene that Homer also watches disappointedly. As the family is leaving, Homer notices another family that is very well-behaved and good-mannered and he starts to compare the family to his own. The other family’s kids open the car doors for each other while Bart and Lisa fight over who gets in first, and the wife of the husband offers to drive back while Marge is still very much drunk and feeling sick. Homer is ashamed and disappointed by this observation as the show closes on the first act.

Homer confronts the rest of the family about their actions at the picnic and tries to make changes. He starts by making the entire family eat in the dining room and say grace before eating their meal, but the rest of the family continues to exhibit poor table manners. He decides to show them all how other families and households act by spying into their homes from the windows outside; which comically leads them to running away from gunfire after a family notices their presence and forces them off of their property. Homer goes to Moe’s Tavern where he sees a commercial for Dr. Marvin Monroe’s family-based therapy center and becomes inspired when he thinks this may be the only shot for things to get better for the Simpsons. He talks it over with the rest of the family, who are all very much against the idea, but Homer insists, knowing that this is the answer he was looking for. The only problem; the therapy is very expensive and they need to make some monetary sacrifices. They start by dipping into the kids’ college fund and Homer makes the boldest decision of them all by pawning the family television. Marge even offers up her own engagement ring, but is countered by Homer who says, “I appreciate that honey, but we need $150 dollars here!”

The Simpsons go to therapy and meet Dr. Marvin Monroe, but at first, his tactics seem to be falling on deaf ears and closed minds. Homer doesn’t listen during one of the exercises and Bart takes the padding off of the foam rubber aggression mallets, swinging the metal rod at the doctor’s shin. He decides that the only way the family is going to get cured is if he uses extreme measures, so he hooks the family up to the electric generator. In an all-time classic Simpsons moment, the family misses the point of the exercise and starts shocking each other continuously (even baby Maggie joins in on the fun), causing the lights to flicker and scare off all of the other patients. Dr. Monroe stops the exercise and claims that the family cannot be cured and that they need to leave. Homer, remembering an important part of the commercial he saw, states that the ad promised family bliss, otherwise they would get double their money back. The doctor reluctantly pays the family double their entry fee and sends them on their way. In a last minute realization of togetherness and happiness, the Simpsons go to purchase a brand new television to replace the one they pawned off; ending the episode on a very tender moment.

Evil Simpsons“Homie, get in the car. This is where you belong. Yeah, Homer, room for one more. One of us! One of us! One of us! One of us!”
~Homer’s freaky daydream of his family’s image

Personal History:
Although I don’t not remember seeing the episode in full until the Season 1 DVD released, I definitely remembered the classic electric generator scene. It was definitely used in a future clip show, for sure, but even then, that’s just a scene that has always stuck with me, regardless of how or when I saw it. It’s just one of those moments that you can never forget.

Good FamilyHomer: “Look at that, kids. No fighting, no yelling.”
Bart: “No belching!”
Lisa: “The dad has his shirt on.”
Marge: “Look, napkins!”
Bart: “These people are obviously freaks.”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
I think it’s safe to say that this episode is an absolute benchmark for the series. If not for the final, big scene I’ve been putting a lot of my focus into, but also just because this episode plot confirms the type of family the Simpsons are and what they will continue to be for the rest of the series. They don’t have a high standard of living, they’re not the brightest crayons in the box (with exception to Lisa, but this is before the “brainiac” image really starts to get pushed, plus Lisa does have a very “Simpson-esque” side to her; all things considering), the kids are pretty unfiltered for their age and don’t give a lot of respect to their father, and they just don’t give off that typical American family vibe that you hear about on television and other forms of media. And personally, I think it’s great that they break that image, because every family in the world, real or fiction, has their own unique dynamic, and honestly, that’s the way it should be. A good family will always find a way to work things out, no matter the circumstances, and the Simpsons did just that at the end of this episode. Homer was disappointed at his family, the kids and Marge resented Homer for making them do the therapy, but they all came together, ripped off a therapy clinic, and left the place richer, happier, and most important, left the building together, united as a family unit. I’m not advising any family in real time to try conning a clinic out of 500 dollars, but for the purpose of this episode, it works, and was truly my favorite moment and best moment of the entire episode. Maybe of the entire season too, but we still have nine episodes left before we make that judgment.

As far as jokes are concerned, I think one joke that really caught me off guard in this re-watch was the fact that the family Homer was envious of at the end of Mr. Burn’s picnic was actually in the family therapy center waiting room before the Simpsons went in for their session. This was clearly a visual gag set up by the Simpsons writers, one that could very easily be overlooked if you don’t focus on specific details (like what those characters looked like), but I also think it’s a very nice message about how some families put up a mask or a façade when in public to hide their happiness. Believe it or not, not all families are necessarily happy all the time, and every family, even the closest ones, can have their issues and dirty laundry. Some just prefer not to air it in public and work on those issues in private where, arguably, that should be the case in most instances. I just thought it was funny to see that they were there at that point in time, and it was almost kind of cosmic in the sense that the Simpsons got to leave the building in harmony while the other family may have been unable to do so; essentially switching around the terrible feeling Homer had at the end of the first act. I also really enjoyed Homer’s comment on Marge’s engagement ring, implying that the engagement ring was worth less than a $150 dollar television.

This episode also features the first instance of the Homer Simpson “Mmm…” joke, where he makes that noise followed by some kind of food item or an item that sounds like it could be digested (in the mind of Homer Simpson anyway), and he does it while admiring the lovely gelatin desserts that Marge has made for the picnic. He makes his pleasure known by saying “Mmm…marshmellow.” And even though I am 3 episodes late on this, Homer does have another vocal joke in the series in the form of “D’oh,” a sound made by Homer’s voice actor, Dan Castellaneta when he read “annoyed grunt” in an episode screwed. Homer first did this in the episode “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” the first episode of the season, but since I’m just so used to Homer doing that in the first place, it didn’t cross my mind to mention it. I will not be calling attention to any of these gags throughout the series though (unless an extremely humorous one emerges), just because of how numerous and common they are, but I did figure this would be a good time to mention them now, at least while we are still this early in the series.

As far as other mentionable oddities, Waylon Smithers is back in this episode, but the “tan” that he had in episode 3 is now gone for good. However, on the topic of incorrect skin colors, this was also the first appearance of police officers Eddie and Lou from the Springfield Police Department, and I think at this point in the series, they hadn’t decided (or once again, the animators missed the notes) that Lou was going to be an African-American cop, because in this episode, he is definitely white. It’s quite amazing to look at all these episodes again and notice all of the little oddities here and there. In the same image linked above, you also can take a look at Moe with his black hair that he had back during this season as well. Those Season 1 memories…

pawn the TVLisa: “No, Dad! Please don’t pawn the TV.”
Bart: Oh, come on, Dad, anything but that.”
Marge: “Homer, couldn’t we pawn my engagement ring instead?”
Homer: “Now I appreciate that, honey, but we need $150 dollars here!”

My Review:
So after my incredibly positive analysis earlier on the ending of the episode, you probably think I’m going to be pretty generous and enthusiastic about this one. Honestly…with exception to the family therapy segment (which is basically the entirety of Act 3)… I’m not really a big fan of this story. I just don’t like the way Homer thinks in this episode. He spends too much time focusing on how he wants his family to be, whether it’s to score some brownie points with his boss, or just to appease his own wants and needs at home. Given, his kids can be a little too much to take sometimes, but they are kids! By pushing and forcing them into some kind of façade to make him look great, naturally the kids are going to want to rebel as much as possible; so if anything, Homer had been literally asking them for that kind of behavior all along. Even during the therapy session, when Dr. Monroe asked the family to illustrate the roots of their unhappiness, Marge, Lisa and Bart all drew Homer, while Homer ignored the question and drew a plane crash. This goes to show you that Homer wasn’t doing much better as the head of the household as the rest of the family was doing with giving him respect. The entire family was at fault, but I think the episode focuses a little too much on the Homer side of the story, when he was probably the biggest instigator of the family’s problems. I guess you could say that I just couldn’t really sympathize with him, and that’s probably why I have a hard time with this episode.

With that being said though, once the family gets to the therapy center, I think it picks up phenomenally well. It has a lot of funny moments and gags, it’s interesting to see where Dr. Monroe goes next with his treatments (and how the family continues to mess them up), and the ending was the most perfect way to end the episode. It ends with them taking all of that pent-up aggression and releasing it at each other in a creative way, and then they celebrate their “victory” by going to purchase a new television afterwards; the very same object that got them to that lowest point once Homer sold it to begin with. It’s a good finale that saves this episode for me, quite honestly. I just wish I could have been more invested in the story…you know, before the final act of the episode.

So overall, that is going to be my analysis for this one. I was honestly looking forward to see what this post would end up like, and I’m very pleased by the results. I think it’s good when you can praise a particular part of one episode, even if it’s one you don’t particularly like. And on the flip side, it’s always good to point out the negatives when going through an episode you enjoy as well. This is why I’m really curious to see how these will end up the further we get into the series. For now though, I’m putting “There’s No Disgrace Like Home” back on the shelf and I’m going to let the Simpson family watch their new $500 dollar television, because as Lisa said, “It’s not so much the money as much as the feeling that we earned it.”

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So yeah, I was a little late with this one, but honestly, this was probably the episode that took the least amount of time to make, so I am definitely starting to get this down to a science now. I just had a lot of stuff to get done last weekend, as I did get back into streaming again and I’m still trying to make some major headway with all of my videos as well (since I do have a vacation coming up). I’m not going to promise an issue this weekend, but if I get some time after all the craziness subsides, I will start working on the next episode, which was probably my favorite episode the first time I watched through Season 1, so it should be a good time!

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Intro

Introduction:
So far in this series, we’ve spent some time with the Simpson family for the holiday season, and we took a look at what Bart’s life is like inside the schoolhouse. This episode, “Homer’s Odyssey,” will be examining Homer at the workplace, or to be more specific; how Homer deals when that world is turned upside-down on his very head. I’m sure this episode will shock you with what we will discover; especially if you’ve seen episodes that come after this plot. This episode aired on January 21st, 1990 and was the third episode written and aired on television.

The chalkboard gag for this episode is, “I will not skateboard in the halls,” a very basic and not-at-all surprising action to get in trouble for, but it is the first piece of evidence that we have in regards to Bart being a big skateboarder. The couch gag features the entire family sitting down on the couch with the couch falling apart at the very seams. These gags are still very basic in nature, but give it a bit as we are still in the first season. It won’t be until future seasons when they get more creative, whacky and start adapting references to other media. With that out of the way, let’s start talking about this episode.

Dip Sign

Marge: “Oh, Homer, I’m so proud of you!”
Homer: “Proud? Proud of what?”
Marge: Well, everything! Your dip sign for instance. Now people won’t be caught off-guard by that little ‘mmm-mmmm’ in the road!”

Plot:
Even though this is a Homer storyline, the first act of the show focuses entirely on Bart. His class is going on a field trip to the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, which just so happens to be the place where Homer works. We get some more insight to how much of a troublemaker Bart is at school, learning that he may have been the cause of letting some prisoners out during another field trip to the Springfield prison. His teacher, Mrs. Krabappel, is also very tired of his antics as well; not showing any sort of pity for Bart after he is forced to sit next to the kid that pukes on every bus ride, nor doubt when twins Sherri & Terri continue to play tricks on Bart throughout the trip. When they arrive at the plant and start taking the tour, Bart notices his father and calls out to him, causing Homer to look away from what he is doing and crash into a nearby piece of equipment. This accident angers his supervisor and Homer is fired from his job as result; turning this mini-Bart storyline into the main plot of the episode.

After being fired, Homer looks for a new job but is constantly and consistently rejected at every interview. The rejection starts to affect Homer in a very negative way, turning him into an “unemployed whale” who does nothing but lay on the couch all day and not respond to anyone. After seeing a beer commercial, Homer is intrigued by the prospect of drinking his sorrows away, but when he checks the fridge, there is no beer in the house, forcing him into more extreme measures. He steals Bart’s piggy-bank and tries to take money from his own son, but when he realizes what he is doing AND finds out that not even his son has enough money, Homer feels like he is out of options and the next logical step is for him to commit suicide.

Now, for those of you reading this and who have not seen this episode before…yes, that is a very dark decision to make, especially to such a sudden degree, but I kind of understand what the writers were going for and I’ll talk about this more in the review portion of this entry. Anyway, Homer grabs a boulder, ties a rope around it and carries it to the bridge above Springfield River. Thankfully, before too much time passes, the rest of the Simpson family find Homer’s suicide note and rush to the bridge to stop Homer from going through with his plan. Before he can do anything, Homer sees the rest of the family coming towards him while a giant vehicle is about to crash into his family, forcing Homer into action as he runs to his family (while the boulder is still attached to him by the way), and pushes them out of the way before it’s too late. This act of bravery inspires Homer to not kill himself and take action to make the town safer.

Homer becomes a crusader of public safety; petitioning the town to construct more road signs and warn people of the problems and dangers that exist around town. While the thrill of making the town safer gives his life new meaning, Homer realizes there is a bigger threat to the town and that threat is his old workplace, the nuclear power plant. Homer sets up a protest outside the building, forcing the owner of the plant, Mr. Burns, to take notice. After being impressed of the way Homer speaks to the crowd, Mr. Burns calls Homer up to his office to speak with him privately.

Mr. Burns offers to give Homer a job at the plant again, this time being in charge of plant safety, on the one condition that he stops his crusade and tells all of the people outside that the power plant is safe and there is no more need to worry. Homer accepts the proposal at first, but when he tries to tell everyone that the plant is safe, he can’t do it because it would abandon his newfound principles. Mr. Burns is further impressed and gives Homer the job anyway, allowing Homer to take charge and make the plant safe himself instead of just sweeping the concern under the rug. Homer tells all of his supporters outside the good news, and the crowd cheers him on as he dances over his new promotion; leading him to falling off the balcony and being caught by everyone below him.

Protest

Bart: “Gee, Dad’s a hero.”
Homer: “What’d you say son?”
Bart: “Nothing.”
Homer: “That’s okay. I’ll just assume you said what I thought I heard you say.”

Personal History:
Like most of Season 1, I first saw this episode when it released on the Season 1 DVD. Back then I thought the episode was fine and was a basic introduction to the power plant, but in recent watches, there were definitely some things that surprised me. For one, it surprised me how stretched out the story is and how it feels like three separate mini-episodes that are combined into one storyline. I also took notice that the episode introduced a lot of side characters and continuous gags and jokes that would be used in later episodes. And to top it all off, just the idea of the main character (or one of them) considering and nearly attempted suicide just really took me off guard, especially after watching future episodes and seeing how Homer would react to similar situations in a much different way. So in a lot of respects, this episode just seemed like a very interesting outlier to me; being iconic for some reasons and incredibly different and out of place for other reasons. I still have a few other things I want to talk about first, but I’m really anxious to start breaking this episode down in the review.

BoulderWalk

Mrs. Winfield: “Oh, looks like young Simpson is going to kill himself.”
Mr. Winfield: “Well Maybe not. Maybe he’s just taking his boulder for a walk.

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
This particular episode brought a few, notable, first-time jokes. For one, this was the first episode that featured the classic Bart Simpson “prank call” joke that would go down as being one of the most famous jokes of the series. Basically, Bart would call Moe’s Tavern under a fake name, and get Moe to say the name out loud, which usually would be some kind of crude remark or dirty saying. In this episode, Bart’s identity is known as “I. P. Freely.” This was also the first episode that mentioned the graffiti vandal known as “El Barto,” a mysterious figure that would go around town and spray paint “El Barto” on various walls and landmarks. There’s a lot of speculation on this particular joke, particularly the identity of El Barto, and because of the sketch artist’s interpretation, it’s very heavily assumed and implied that the identity is none other than Bart Simpson himself. There is a future episode that confirms this, but it isn’t until much later in the series, and with how many times the writers have backpedaled on revelations like this, it’s hard for me to be entirely convinced. However, the writers did state in numerous audio commentaries that this was always the intention and that they intended to include “El Barto” tags in every episode (or most episodes). In fact, the Kwik-E-Mart usually has an “El Barto” tag in most episodes the store appears in.

This episode is also one of the episodes I think of when it comes to “freeze frame” jokes, especially with newspaper headlines. During the episode, when Homer is going around town and making the town safer, you see a variety of newspapers with funny pictures and captions of all of Homer’s deeds, and while they aren’t split-second like future instances of this, it’s definitely a big example of die-hard, classic Simpson fans going through these episodes and looking for all the little jokes sprinkled in during the story. It can be as simple as a newspaper headline or a bunch of humorous movie titles at the theater whenever the family goes to the movies, but one thing for sure, the Simpsons writers know how to make a good freeze-frame joke.

This episode also continues the trend of Homer getting a new job after quitting or being fired from his position at the nuclear power plant, or him just taking an odd job in his spare time. This will happen numerous times over the series, and although his duty as a safety crusader didn’t pay anything, it was something he took seriously and seemed to be more proficient at than his actual job. In fact, I find this to be rather humorous that Homer seems to be happier and work better at every job he has, with exception to his actual job, which is the job he keeps for pretty much the entire series.

I don’t have a lot to say about this episode when it comes to my favorite moments, but there are a few things that stand out to me. For one, I think it’s great that Homer is so passionate about his new calling of being a safety crusader for the town of Springfield. He may go a little overboard at times, but some of his suggestions were really good and he may have saved a few lives with some of the signs he got constructed. And then, when he realizes that the power plant is a big threat (because it logically is), he manages to fight the system with ease without any fear whatsoever. In fact, it’s his wife that actually has concern with him going against his old bosses while Homer is ready to fight tooth and nail to make the town safe. I think it truly shows, in a positive way, how much Homer can do if he just puts his mind to it.

And for being a very dark part of the story, the one joke I always remember from this episode, which might be my favorite joke as a result, is the snarky remarks from the Winfields when Homer is carrying the boulder to the bridge to commit suicide. Mrs. Winfield remarks that “Simpson is going to kill himself,” while the husband remarks that Homer may not be attempting suicide, but rather “taking his boulder for a walk,” instead. Suicide jokes themselves are not funny and they never will be in any case whatsoever, but just the fact that Mr. Winfield was not quick to assume that, because of the type of person Homer Simpson is, just seems very funny to me; like in the sense that, “he really COULD be taking a boulder for a walk, you never know; he’s crazy Homer Simpson!” So that joke will always be a highlight for me, despite the dark tone of that particular moment. Aside from that, all of the other gags I mentioned and brought up earlier, from the prank phone call and the newspaper headlines, they’re also funny as well, but are more footstools for a series-wide joke than just a single, episode gag. I will also say that I do enjoy the montage of Homer having doors slam in his face when looking for a job, with the final door being at his home with Bart saying, “don’t give up dad!” before slamming the door shut.

The last thing I want to call attention to, and this is probably the most shocking thing if you have watched episodes beyond this one, but in this episode, Waylon Smithers does not have the same skin color as he does in future episodes. This is the only episode where he is colored like this and the reason for it is because the animators were not sure what color he was supposed to be so they made his skin more brown/tan-colored. The writers of the show often joke that the reason Smithers was colored this way was because he had a very dark tan from an island get-away or something, so it’s good to know that they had their fun with this particular mistake. Other characters also have slight differences in the first season, namely Chief Wiggum and Moe have black hair instead of their trademark black and gray hair.

SimpsonInAllOfUs

“Friends, you have come to depend on me as your safety watchdog, so you won’t scrape yourself or stub your toes or blow yourselves up. But you can’t depend on me all your life. You have to learn that there’s a little Homer Simpson in all of us…”
~Homer Simpson

My Review:
Homer’s Odyssey is a very iconic episode, and I didn’t realize how iconic it was until I watched it back for this analysis. It introduces a lot of things we know about The Simpsons moving forward and it writes a lot of characters and jokes that we’ll see throughout the entire series. For that, this episode holds my respect for those particular introductions. However, as far as the story itself and the overall plot of the episode is concerned, I will say that this episode did fall short in a couple of areas, and is not one of my favorites as a result. As I mentioned above in the personal history section, this particular story is segmented. Act 1 focuses on Bart’s field trip, Act 2 focuses on Homer’s lay-off and depression, and Act 3 focuses on Homer’s safety crusade. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with jumping around to that degree, as I’m sure other episodes may do that format with success, but with this particular episode, it just kind of bothered me a little. I think it’s because there just aren’t a lot of jokes in this one because there is so much plot that needs to be set-up beforehand that the writers were trying to fill-in how to get Homer from point A to point B than writing joke after joke after joke. Whenever there were jokes, as good as they were, the jokes themselves seemed more like filler to compensate for a shorter run time than jokes that flowed nicely with the story. And sure, you probably don’t want to have too many jokes in your episode, but for this one, I feel like it could have used a bit more, at least in my opinion.

There’s also quite a bit of confusion I have with the ending of this episode. During the ending, Homer is offered another job at the power plant under the condition that he tells his supporters that the plant is safe. Homer tries to, but is unable to go along with it because of his principles. As a result, Mr. Burns compliments him and gives him the job anyway, which prompts Homer to go outside and tell everybody that he is going to be the safety inspector. This confuses me, because what exactly changed between the two times Homer went out to the balcony? Nothing really. So why couldn’t Homer just say his speech the first time he went out there? I feel like for this moment, you really have to examine the syntax of what the two were talking about. And as far as my interpretation goes; the first time Homer went out, he was just supposed to say the plant was safe with no context, in Mr. Burn’s interest of sending everyone away and stopping the protest. However, the second time he goes out, he says that he will taking the job and trying to make the plant safe on the inside, which is much different than the original intent of sweeping the problem under the rug. However, if Homer said that speech the first time, would Mr. Burns not give him the job? I mean, either way, it was a win-win. I think it makes sense from looking at it from the perspective I mentioned, but truth be told, that did have me confused for the longest time and I think it could have been written a little better.

And surely I can’t overlook the giant boulder in the room when it comes to the “attempted suicide” scene. I’m not going to speak ill of this moment, because again, I get what the writers were going for, and truth be told, I think they handled it very well. Homer was depressed, he couldn’t provide for his family, he had no skills to work with or any alcohol to help him cope with the pain; so he felt like he was only getting in the way of his family, and therefore felt useless and not important at all, which is why he made that decision. I can’t imagine how that must feel for someone or anyone going through those types of thoughts, which is why it was refreshing to see Homer discover his life’s purpose at the end of that scene, but I think it was good for the writers to spread that kind of awareness and the message that suicide is not the answer. And considering the extreme nature of this topic, it’s just really interesting to see them deliver that message so early in the series and they did it with only a two minute scene, as opposed to an entire episode. It’s also interesting, especially when looking at how Homer would cope with a problem like this in future episodes, just seeing how sudden and how out of left field this scene came from. These days, Homer would come up with a kooky scheme or crazy project to get his mind off and away from the power plant, but this time, it really hit him hard and in a way that most people probably wouldn’t see coming from him. I guess that goes to show you how much this show has changed over the years, and on a more serious note, how serious and scary depression can be in general, and how it should never be overlooked or ignored.

Overall, I wouldn’t say this is a bad episode by any means. It has its nice and funny moments and it has some good messages throughout the plot as well. I feel like it could have been a much stronger episode if they spent a little less time on story-telling and a little more time on the jokes and humor. Again, not saying the show needs to be a joke-fest or anything, but a nice balance of story-telling and jokes is a good way to keep your viewers interested and invested. I think that’s all I have to say about this episode, so as I’m closing this out, just try to remember what Homer Simpson taught us about being safe. He may no longer be our safety watchdog, but we have to remember that even though he is gone, “there is always a little Homer Simpson in all of us.”

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This episode took me a bit longer to make because I was trying a slightly new format with these posts, but at the end of me finishing my rough draft, I realized there was way more information and writing than I really even wanted, so I spent an entire day re-editing and modifying this document to get it in the format I wanted before I realized that I was more happy with the usual format I’ve been doing for these posts. I guess it’s just a case of, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” But seriously, as usual, any insight or advice is helpful, so don’t be afraid to tweet at me or send me a message if you have some thoughts. Thanks everybody! See you next week for the next episode!

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BartTheGenius
Introduction:
Now that The Simpsons has done its first episode and Christmas special in just one airing, it’s time for us to move on to the next episode and see what the Simpson family looks like without the holiday season. “Bart the Genius” aired on January 14th, 1990, being the second episode written for the series and the second to air on television. As I mentioned in the last episode, the episode titled “Some Enchanted Evening,” was written before this episode, but due to the crude nature of the animation, it was pushed to the end of the season instead (with not much improvement in between). The Christmas special was written later and pushed up in the airing order to release it during the holiday season. This was also the first episode of the show to air in the 1990s, bringing the start to what will be known as the golden decade of The Simpsons. Will this episode be a benchmark of greatness with more greatness to come? Or did it come up short? We’ll find out very soon.

But first, It’s also worth mentioning that this the first episode to feature the classic opening sequence that the show is known for, also being the debut for the famous “chalkboard gag” and “couch gag.” The chalkboard gag is shown at the very beginning of the sequence and features Bart writing a phrase on the chalkboard numerous times as a punishment. These phrases are usually comical in nature and some are downright silly in the sense that Bart actually got in trouble for doing something incredibly outrageous and outlandish. The phrases change from episode to episode and from my knowledge, a chalkboard gag has never been done twice (I could be wrong though). The couch gag is generally a little more interesting, being shown at the end of the sequence. They usually show the entire Simpson family coming in the house to sit down on the couch (or try to) with something unique happening during the process; usually to a comical degree. It’s not uncommon to see a certain couch gag used in multiple episodes. In fact, certain couch gags are reused and brought back due to their length because if an episode runs shorter than the episode run time, they may use a certain couch gag to make the episode air time a little bit longer to compensate for the shorter run time.

It’s also worth pointng out that the first season had a unique opening compared to the one used for Season 2 through Season 20. While the premise is pretty much the same and has a similar flow, there were a few scenes in the first season intro that were cut shorter and the animation was in general improved for future iterations. The “highlights” of this first season intro is a section where we see a bunch of unnamed adult characters running to chase a bus (caused by Bart stealing the “Bus Stop” sign), and a slightly extended scene of Lisa biking home to the Simpson house. Aside from those features, the animation improving, and the inclusion of more permanent Simpson characters, there really isn’t too much different. I do like the improved intro more, but it is always fun to go back and take a look at what the intro used to be.

Anyway, I know I’m talking a lot about the intro and not really about the second episode yet, but I think it is important to take a look at this now while it’s relevant because the opening sequence of the Simpsons is pretty iconic. It’ll be around for the long haul and it introduces (almost) every single episode of the show. And a show with over 600 episodes; I think that’s very important. So for every episode, I’ll try to mention and highlight the chalkboard gag and couch gag in the Introduction before I get to the actual episode. For this episode, the chalkboard gag is “I will not waste chalk,” which is pretty funny considering the circumstances of Bart’s punishment. The couch gag shows the entire family trying to crowd onto the couch with Bart getting launched to the ceiling when the combined forces of the entire family cannot fit them all on one piece of furniture. And as an added bonus for the continuation of this couch gag, when the camera focuses on the TV and the writing credits for the show, Bart can be seen falling to the ground in front of the TV with a loud thud.

kwyjibosimpsons
Homer: “Wait a minute, you little cheater. You’re not going anywhere until you tell me what a ‘kwyjibo’ is.”
Bart: “Kwyjibo; uh..a big, dumb, balding, North American ape, with no chin.”
Marge: “And a short temper…”
Homer: “I’ll show you a big, dumb, balding ape!”
Bart: “Uh-oh! Kwyjibo on the loose!”

Plot:
In the first episode, we got a few glimpses of the kind of child that Bart Simpson is. Unlike his sister Lisa, Bart is a bit more outspoken and is more prone to getting into mischief, disobeying his parents wishes, and is not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to his schoolwork. This episode really hits that point hard when one of Bart’s stunts miraculously puts him on the other side of that coin; in an environment that he’s not used to, and in a place where he probably doesn’t belong. How long can Bart keep the charade up, and how far is he willing to go before he gets caught or before the guilt catches up with him?

The episode starts with the Simpson family playing a nice game of Scrabble. We find out that the reason for this family game night is because Bart is scheduled to have a big intelligence test the following day and the game was a way to get Bart’s brain working before the big exam. Instead of taking the exercise to heart, Bart spends the game mouthing off and making up words, leading to Homer chasing him through the house when trying to pass off “kwyjibo” as a serious word. Bart continues his escapades into the next morning when he gets caught defacing school property with spray paint and gets into verbal scuffles with fellow honor student and teacher’s pet Martin Prince. After a few choice words and tongue-faces from his rival, Bart decides to get his revenge on the boy by taking Martin’s finished exam and swapping the names on the two exams when nobody was looking.

Later that day, Homer and Marge come in for Bart’s punishment for defacing school property,and while Principal Skinner is lecturing the two parents on Bart’s behavior, the school’s psychologist, Dr. Pryor, comes in to reveal that Bart has a 216 IQ and is classified as a genius. This comes as a shock for the entire room, but Dr. Pryor suggests that Bart’s behavior may be the result of him feeling suffocated in the public school environment and suggests they move him to a private school where Bart can learn at his own pace and set his own boundaries and assignments. The thought of no boundaries and no homework assignments pleases Bart and he accepts the offer without question.

During his first few days of private school, Bart starts to feel incredibly out of place. The lessons are extremely advanced and the other kids are very aware that Bart is not as smart as they are; teasing him and taking advantage of Bart’s actual intelligence. To make things worse, Bart’s friends at his old school will no longer talk to him anymore because he is now a brainiac himself, making Bart feel even more like an outsider. Even Marge tries to nurture her son’s newfound intelligence by taking the family to the opera and experimenting with different forms of culture, but as we discover, these are things completely out of the Simpson family’s element. The one thing that does improve with his new life is the relationship Bart has with Homer, who tries to encourage and positively reinforce his son, without being the loud and obnoxious authority figure he normally is. This new attitude of Homer’s convinces Bart to stick with the act for a bit longer, even though it is painfully eating at him.

On the next day of school, Bart has an accident in chemistry class which causes the entire room to explode in a giant mess of green goo. Bart is sent to talk to Dr. Pryor about the incident, where he reveals that he wants to go back to his old school and classroom as the new set-up is not working for him. He disguises his intentions to move back to the old class by claiming he wants to investigate the behavioral patterns of kids at public schools, but when writing his proposal, Bart decides that keeping up the act will no longer work because he is not smart enough for this kind of study and decides to write a confession letter instead, explaining how he cheated on the intelligence test.

When Bart returns home, Homer decides to give his son a bath after the chemistry accident. During the bath, Bart comes clean with his father, telling him that he is not a genius, but that he really appreciated and loved how much closer they got during the last few days. In classic Homer fashion, Homer gets angry and chases Bart through the house for lying to him. After Marge asks what’s going on, Lisa responds, “I think Bart’s stupid again, Mom.”

class
Now go on, boy, and pay attention. Because if you do, one day you may achieve something that we Simpsons have dreamed about for generations. You may outsmart someone.”
~Homer Simpson

Personal History:
This will more than likely be the case for the rest of the Season 1 episodes, but for this episode, I had not seen it until it came out on DVD much later on in the early 2000s. Although I was alive when this episode and Season 1 was on the air, I did not have much of a memory of the show until it got to Season 2. After all, when Season 2 came around, I was at least 3 years old by that point. However, like most of Season 1, it was definitely an interesting experience going back to this first season and seeing how the show used to be. Even though the animation was weirder and characters seemed to act or look different than what they were supposed to be, as a Simpsons scholar, it was good to get that much needed history lesson.

Bath
“Don’t be discouraged, son. I bet Einstein turned himself all sorts of colors before he invented the lightbulb.”
~Homer Simpson

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
I have to say, Bart has quite the audacity for looking his father straight in the eye, and calling him a big, dumb, balding ape, and that’s pretty much what he does in the first few moments of the episode when giving his official definition for what a “Kwyjibo” is. I think it’s a a pretty iconic moment of not only this episode, but also for the season and series as a whole. It shows the kind of relationship that Bart and Homer have for not only the early parts of this episode, but also for the entire series moving forward, and it also makes their bonding in this episode even more special.

I also really like Lisa’s line at the very end of the episode as well, the one about Bart being stupid again. I think it works very well because throughout the entire episode, Lisa was skeptical and doubtful of Bart’s intelligence results and she made that doubt incredibly clear. So at the end of the episode, when things return to normal, Lisa isn’t at all surprised by the newest development of Bart not being a genius. She let the big change run its course and is ready for the next adventure to unfold at the end of the day/episode. I think this is why I like Lisa so much as a character, just because she isn’t just the voice of reason, but she’s also very aware of what’s going on around her and she often makes it a point to have a little fun and still be a child at the end of the day.

Another line I really enjoy from this episode is when Homer tells Bart, “Don’t worry son, I bet Einstein turned himself all sorts of colors before he invented the light bulb.” I like this saying because it’s a funny line and it’s also incredibly true and very wise words coming from Homer. Sure, Bart was faking his intelligence the entire time and Einstein was an incredibly smart man, but isn’t the best form of intelligence, “learning from your mistakes?” We get wiser and smarter the more mistakes we make because we know how to not make them again, and with all things considered, that was just a really good and inspiring thing to tell his son and I really appreciated that when watching this episode back.

Although not really a funny or favorite moment of mine, I also think the opera scene of this episode is very important. This scene shows the Simpson family at the opera with Homer and Bart making wise cracks and inappropriate noises during the entirety of the performance. While embarrassing to Marge, I think this is a golden moment for the family because it really shows the type of family they are. They aren’t used to high-class entertainment or being quiet during a show or sitting still. They’d rather be going out for burgers or frosty chocolate milkshakes and sitting around the family room watching television. Even Lisa, who is very much into the performing arts can laugh and snicker at Homer and Bart’s antics. I think it’s good that they show this family dynamic early because it perfectly personifies what I think is the prime example of the typical American family. For years we have been taught how to act or how we display good manners, or what is acceptable forms of entertainment, but at the core of it all, families (and people in general) have their ways and have their unique identities, and those lessons are just going to go to waste or fall on deaf ears. So when the Simpson family goes to the opera, they aren’t going to think, “wow, the vocal range on this group of performers is impressive,” they’re going to think, “how much longer is this going to be?” Every family is different, and you can’t expect them to act in a certain way or enjoy the same things as other families. They are going to do their thing and act in their own way, and rightfully they should. This is something that will be further looked at and developed in the episode “There’s No Disgrace Like Home,” so I’ll definitely come back to this topic later in the season, but for now, it was nice to see the family out of their element to get a further understanding of who they are (especially this early in the series).

StupidAgainMom
Marge: “What’s going on out there?”
Lisa: “I think Bart’s stupid again, Mom”
Marge: “Oh, well…”

My Review:
I have to admit, I actually kind of enjoyed rewatching this episode and taking notes from it. It’s interesting how when looking at something you love from an analytical side of things, your perspective kind of changes a bit and start looking at things in different ways. Truth be told, before doing this analysis, I wasn’t really a big fan of this episode. I don’t think it’s bad or unwatchable or anything like that, it just lacks a lot of substance because it does fall in the show’s first season when things aren’t as established and the writers are focused on setting up characters and plot lines for the show’s future as well as the present. It’s a pretty typical storyline though; bad kid gets away with something, he starts to bask in his success, but then he feels guilt, and in the last moments is either caught or does the right thing and comes clean. Many shows, both animated and non-animated, have done this story before and for what it’s worth, the Simpsons do a pretty decent job with it. I particularly enjoyed the growing relationship between Bart and Homer and how the only good thing to come out of Bart’s actions was them growing closer. It definitely hit a spot that I had overlooked for many, many years.

On the opposite side of the coin, I also found the episode to be a little unfinished in a few respects. One thing that kind of bothered me on this rewatch was how easy Bart was able to get out of the situation without any sort of punishment (that we know of). Yeah, Homer angrily chased him around the house, and in theory, the schools may have given him punishment later on, but as far as we know, Bart pretty much got off scot-free here. It’s one of those things that’s not really a negative, but it’s something I would have liked to have seen if the episode time went on longer, or if they cut out some of the other parts of the episode that could be seen as padding. Speaking of which…what even happened to Martin Prince after the exam? Wouldn’t the psychologist notice that an honor student got a really low and uncharacteristic score? Wouldn’t that raise some questions? And aside from the random shot of him and his family at the opera, he’s not even in the episode anymore after the test scene. And for being the person who got swapped with Bart, wouldn’t he be the one with the most to lose from this escapade? And finally, it always struck me as odd that Bart’s old friends treated him badly when he visited his old school. I always thought it should have been a case where maybe his friends were off doing something and Bart couldn’t come because he had a conflict with his new life and that would make him depressed as opposed to his friends just being mean. It just seemed like an odd choice.

But yeah, I can’t really classify those things as negatives, they’re just things I thought about on my most recent watch. At the end of the day, I was honestly surprised by how much fun it was to watch this episode again. I wouldn’t say it’s top tier or high quality Simpsons viewing, but for a first season episode, I think it accomplishes what it set out to accomplish, which is all that needs to be said really. The’re still plenty of Season 1 episodes left; some I’m looking forward to and others not so much. But until then, remember folks; cheating on intelligence tests will only take you so far, so don’t do it!

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Hey guys! You have just read my second episode retrospective. I do apologize for the extreme lateness of this entry, but I’ve been dealing with a lot of things going on in my personal life as you may have read about on my Twitter account or heard on my Youtube channel. Long story short, I went on vacation, got sick when I returned, and had my computer break down when I recovered. Because of this, it took me awhile before I could continue on with this series and for that, I apologize. I’m hoping I can get the next episode ready by the end of next week. Like I said in this entry, I had a lot of fun working on this second episode, so maybe that will give me some more motivation moving forward. I’m still trying to get used to this and am still playing with the format, so there may be some changes in future episodes, but for now, I think I’m going to leave this one at a close.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, feel free to go to Contact page and submit some fanmail with your remarks. You can also tweet at my SlimKirby Twitter account as well, but since this is a website project, let’s try to keep messages at the former, if at all possible. Thank you everyone and have a good day!

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Introduction
Introduction:
Every television series has to start somewhere and for The Simpsons, they started with a Christmas special. I know that might seem a little odd, because normally show runners will wait a small bit to get characters introduced and more defined before bringing up all the holiday scenarios, but the Simpsons writers seemed quite confident in their ability to get this series going and considering how well-known this particular Christmas special is, I’d have to say they got off to a pretty nice start.

One thing you will see me point out a lot in these older episodes is the animation. Because this was their first season and because they hadn’t switched to the animators that would go on to do their “golden years” episodes, the animation was pretty low-quality in their first year, at least in comparison with what it would be beyond season three, or even earlier in the following second season. However, I have to say that Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire looks quite a bit better compared to the other episodes of this season. I’m not sure if it’s just because the writing was better, making us overlook some of the visual atrocities, or if the spirit of Christmas has truly touched my heart, making me want to give this episode a pass. Regardless, I do think this is a good episode and a must-see for anyone looking to have an authentic Simpsons experience.

On the subject of this episode’s writing, I also think it’s important to point out that while this episode was the first to air on television, it was not the first episode produced or written for. In fact, of the thirteen episodes in Season 1, it was the eighth to be produced. Obviously this decision was made to air this episode around Christmas time; pushing it ahead in airing order, and also because the first-produced episode “Some Enchanted Evening,” was an animated nightmare and abomination. I’ll be getting to that episode much later in this first season retrospective though, so let’s not get into that now. This episode aired on December 17th, 1989, making it the first and last episode to air in the 1980’s. Simpsons have come a very long way since then, but how does this episode really hold up? Let’s get into it, now that all of the formalities have been taken care of.

Letter

“Speaking of life going on, Grandpa’s still with us, feisty as ever. Maggie is walking by herself, Lisa got straight A’s, and Bart– well, we love Bart.”
~Marge Simpson’s Christmas Letter

Plot:
“Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire” is a pretty standard Christmas episode, in the sense that it has a pretty typical formula that you could apply to a wide variety of other holiday specials. The main characters get excited about Christmas, something happens that threatens to ruin Christmas, and in the last moments, the true spirit of the season touches everyone and a happy ending is shared by all. We’ve seen this type of story a number of times, but the Simpsons have their own little spin to it.

The Simpson family is preparing for Christmas and during the first half of the episode, we basically get different shots of The Simpsons doing very Christmas-related things. From attending a Christmas pageant, making letters to Santa, writing Christmas cards, setting up light decorations, making plans with relatives…these are all the bells and whistles you’d come to expect with typical holiday traditions. And from examining The Simpsons, you can see that Christmas is a pretty important time for them. They take pride in these holiday traditions because they know they aren’t an incredibly wealthy or high-class family, and it’s just a time they can look forward to every year, maybe spend a little extra money on gifts for each other, and just feel the spirit of the season. Even Homer remarks that around Christmas he feels like a “big kid,” because he loves the holiday so much. And even with the upcoming and unpleasant arrival of his wife’s twin sisters, he doesn’t let anything ruin his drive to make this the best Christmas yet.

However, two big wrenches get thrown into Homer’s holiday plans. His boss, Mr. Burns, announces that all employees will not get a Christmas bonus this year. Meanwhile on a shopping trip, Bart sneaks off to get a tattoo, despite his parents objections, forcing Marge to spend the entire family’s Christmas fund to get the tattoo removed. This leaves the Simpson family with next-to-nothing for Christmas shopping, forcing Homer to shop at a cheap discount store and steal a Christmas tree from private property. The rest of the family is completely unaware of these actions though, as Homer has not told them about the denied Christmas bonus in order to keep their holiday spirit high. At Moe’s Tavern, Homer’s friend Barney gives him the idea to take a part-time job as a mall Santa Claus in order to get some extra cash, which a desperate Homer is willing to try to save Christmas for his family.

During a chuckle-emitting montage of Homer being Old Saint Nick, Bart yanks Homer’s Santa beard off, revealing his father and forcing him to tell Bart about his plight. Bart, being impressed of his father’s dedication to their family, decides to help him out and not tell the rest of the family about Homer’s secret. However, when Christmas Eve rolls around, Homer and Bart are both disappointed to find out that Homer’s paycheck is only worth thirteen bucks. Barney, however, fills Homer and Bart in on his master plan of taking the thirteen dollars and betting it down at the dog-racing track on a canine who is on a massive win streak. Homer is at first reluctant to sink to those levels, but is willing to give it a shot when Bart reveals that this could be the Christmas miracle the family needed all along.

At the track, Homer is inspired when he hears the name “Santa’s Little Helper” for one of the racing dogs and decides that betting on the little guy, on Christmas Eve, even with the tremendous odds against him, is a sign that the family will have a Merry Christmas after all. He puts all of his money on Santa’s Little Helper, and as the race comes to a close, he finds out that not only did his dog not win, but he also came in dead last. Distraught over the miracle not happening, both Bart and Homer leave the track in a very sour mood.

Before they can leave the parking lot though, they hear the sounds of Santa Little Helper’s owner yelling at the poor dog and telling him to get away, tired of his losing performance. The dog jumps into Homer’s arms and Bart asks Homer if they can keep him. Homer is against the idea at first, but he quickly changes his mind when he comes to the realization that the dog is not very different from him or his own family; remarking that “he’s a loser, he’s pathetic……he’s a Simpson!” Homer takes the dog home, confesses to the entire family about his Christmas bonus, but the entire family is immediately won over by the dog; saying it was the best Christmas gift he could have ever gotten the family. Then, the entire family closes the episode out by singing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” over the credits.

Reindeer

“Um…Dasher, Dancer…Prancer…Nixon…Comet…Cupid…Donna, Dixon?”
~Homer Simpson (his attempt at naming the reindeer)

Personal History:
Funnily enough, I don’t have memory of watching this episode until very late in my life when I got The Simpsons – Season One on DVD when it came out in 2001. I’m sure it was probably on TV at some point in my household and my memory is just very bad at remembering those details, but the first experience I remember of this Simpsons Christmas story was through a book illustration I had, which basically depicted the entire episode in a picture book format. I must have read that book hundreds and hundreds of times and have probably read the story more than I actually watched it. These days, yeah, I would probably watch it instead, now that I have the DVD set and The Internet on my side, but for the longest time, the book was all I had of this holiday classic and that’s a pretty unique memory.

Santa

Bart: “Hey Santa, what’s shakin’?”
Homer: “What’s your name Bart…ner…little partner?”

Bart: “I’m Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?”

Favorite Moments:
I’ve been debating this section of this retrospective for a while now, and while a part of me would like to post all of the funny moments and quotes from each episode, it would just be way too time-consuming, and I’m sure there are many websites and webpages dedicated to being archives for all the classic sayings, quotes and continuous gags. So instead of doing that, I’m just going to focus on the highlights of every episode…at least as far as my favorite parts are concerned.
I think one of the things I find very humorous in this episode is how snarky Homer can be at certain moments. Yeah, it can come out as him being a jerk-ass at times, but in this episode, it’s hard to blame him for his short-temper. Whether it’s him constantly asking who’s on the phone when Marge’s sister just says “Marge please,” instead of any actual greeting, or when Ned Flanders easily upstages Homer’s light display by going all-out and over-the-top with Homer remarking, “It’s too bright” in an extremely defeated tone of voice. I think my favorite moment of snarky-ness though is when he bumps into Flanders and his son again after leaving the dollar store and Todd Flanders says, “Mr. Simpson, you dropped your pork chop,” even squeaking the dog toy a few times before Homer just has enough and exclaims “give me that!” taking the toy out of his hand.

The montage of Homer as Santa Claus is also very memorable for me as well. Homer is obviously not the perfect candidate for being Santa Claus, not knowing the names of Santa’s reindeer as he lists, “Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Nixon, Comet, Cupid, Donna and Dixon,” and immediately turning to violence and rage when being insulted by the instructor pretending to be a mouthy kid. But it also shows how non-serious the training is to begin with, giving literally anybody the chance to be Santa and not exactly making the standards too high either. I guess it makes sense for a service that only hands out thirteen dollars by the end of the term. What tops all of this off though is the exchange between Homer and Bart when Bart sits on his lap just before he yanks off his beard. Not only is it funny watching Homer struggle with trying to pretend like he doesn’t know Bart, but then Bart immediately responds with his classic, “I’m Bart Simpson, who the hell are you?” line, causing Homer to just continue losing his cool until the big reveal happens.

As far as other moments are concerned, another low-key visual gag that I enjoy is when Homer tells Marge in the bedroom that he wants to do all the Christmas shopping this year, causing Marge to react positively, turn off the bedroom lights, showing only Homer’s glowing eyes and fake smile in the darkness. I also like the exchange between Homer and Marge’s sisters after obtaining the stolen tree, one of them asking why there is a birdhouse in the tree (“It’s an ornament!” exclaims Homer) and the other asking “Do I smell gunpowder?” (In relation to the property owner firing a weapon at Homer as he zooms away with the tree). And finally, when Homer and Bart are at the lowest point possible in the episode, after it was pretty much guaranteed Santa’s Little Helper would finish in last place, Homer remarks that they’ll leave once their dog finishes the race; immediately changing his mind a few silent seconds later when the dog still hadn’t crossed yet, really pushing the point home that their dog had no chance in Hell to win.

As far as absolute favorite moment goes, I think I’m going to stick with the beard-yanking scene between Homer and Bart. It’s just very iconic, features a first-time quote that will be used multiple times in the future, and is just really, really funny. If I was judging not based on humor though, I’d have to also give a vote to the sweet moment at the end of the episode when Homer realizes that Santa’s Little Helper and him have a lot in common with the “He’s a Simpson” line. I think it’s perfect for not just the episode, but also for the show moving forward as it gives us insight to how the Simpson family stacks up with the rest of the world. They’re far from perfect, but they are still a family.

Hes a Simpson“But he’s a loser, he’s pathetic, he’s…a Simpson”
~Homer Simpson

My Review:
So as I said earlier, this is a pretty standard formula when it comes to Christmas stories, Christmas specials, Christmas movies…you name it. It starts with high energy and excitement, introduces some conflict that threatens that excitement, and wraps everything up on a good note with some kind of message or moral woven in between. It can be pretty cliché, but I also quite enjoy the unique effort they put into this particular story as well. The one thing I really liked about this story watching it back this time was the fact that no matter how many times Homer failed in his efforts to give his family an amazing Christmas, he still kept trying. I feel like no matter what he would have done, he would have been unable to give his family the Christmas they wanted, and heck, even if he did bet on the right dog and won the $130 dollars, I think it would have been a very cheap victory for Homer and one he would have regretted anyway. In other words, he had to fail in order to realize the true spirit of Christmas.

You could also say Homer was wrong for keeping the secret from his family, stealing private property, putting too much importance on money, betting his paycheck in the first place, and being extremely greedy with playing on unwinnable odds for a huge payout, but I do think his heart was in the right place. He didn’t do it to be rich or wealthy…he did it for his family and I think he made that very clear throughout the episode. Heck, he didn’t even want to go to the dog track at first, but because Bart was positive and confident, he figured it was at least worth a shot, and I don’t blame him for feeling that way. The point is, he didn’t give up until the very end and I can respect that. I also think it was sweet that the dog, which ended up costing the family nothing (at least when you ignore on-going food and care costs), ended up being the perfect present for the family anyway. And considering how important the dog will be for the family moving forward, I think it was a pretty solid gift for not only them, but also for watchers of the show as well, with this being the first episode and all.

It’s not the funniest episode of The Simpsons, but it’s very sweet and iconic episode of the show as well. I find myself watching this episode at least once every holiday season, mainly due to the fact that finding a holiday special on TV during the month of December is like finding a hammer at a hardware store. Despite that though, I still think it holds up very well and is still very much watchable, even with the older, cringing animation and the creation of many other Simpson holiday specials as well, some of which I do find myself enjoying a little more than this one. As far as Season 1 episodes are concerned, it is probably one of the better ones, as there isn’t really much wrong with it or much I find myself in opposition of. It’s something I can turn on and watch every Christmas with the family and never feel like it gets old or dated, even if it is the first episode of the television series.

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Hey guys! I think that will do it for my first episode retrospective. I do apologize that this is going up a little late (I wanted to release this on Christmas), but as expected, since this is a new series, I ran into some conflicts with deciding how I wanted this to go. I think moving forward, I shouldn’t have as much difficulty with this, but please be patient with me as I’m still trying to figure everything out and get into a routine with this. As for the next episode, don’t expect any new ones until the year 2017. I would like to get Episode #2 up before I leave on a trip that starts on January 4th, but we’re just going to have to wait and see what happens leading up to those dates. As I said before, the scope of this project is pretty much undefined at this point, but no matter the scope, it’s going to be a big undertaking regardless. I am looking forward and dreading this project at the same time because of that. Despite that though, I’m going to try and have fun with it anyway, as it’s not very often that I get to talk about The Simpsons to this degree.

If you have any feedback or suggestions, feel free to go to Contact page and submit some fanmail with your remarks. You can also tweet at my SlimKirby Twitter account as well, but since this is a website project, let’s try to keep messages at the former, if at all possible. Thank you everyone and have a good day!

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