Tag Archives: the simpsons

Link Dump: #76

This week’s unbelievably cute kitty is Pussyfoot, best friend to the dog Marc Anthony, as created by Chuck Jones. (This particular image is from “Kiss Me Cat.”) Enormous eyes, inexpressive face, loving canine buddy… yeah, every other kitty can just go home. Pussyfoot has to be the cutest. Anyway, here are a ton of links:

Not much in the way of search terms these past couple weeks, but I’m still amused by “look in side girl badey” and “www gose fozen muschi,” which seems like a severely garbled attempt to type in a URL. For what kind of website, I have no idea. “Goose frozen… muschi”?

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10 Heartbreaking Simpsons Moments

[This list is being crossposted on the terrific Simpsons-centric blog Dead Homer Society. Go check them out!]


“Don’t cry for me; I’m already dead.” – Barney

Back in June, I composed a list of “10 Scary Simpsons Moments.” This is a companion piece of sorts, demonstrating the show’s emotional breadth with ten of the sweetest, tenderest, and most touching moments of the show’s run. Although renowned for its cynicism and satire, The Simpsons always had powerful, James L. Brooks-influenced emotion at its core. It was never just about hollow laughs; instead, each episode was invested in relationships, families, and the oft-painful quirks of human behavior.

But it also never took the typical sitcom shortcut of cheap schmaltz: its emotional arcs were steeped in character development and real-life resonances. The Simpsons, at its best, was about well-rounded human beings with foibles, feelings, and heartbreaks. Here are ten tear-jerking, heartstring-tugging examples…

10) “Dog of Death”

This episode has a twofer: its first act confronts the agonizing facts of pet mortality (and middle-class penny-pinching), while the rest is devoted to Bart searching for the lost, brainwashed Santa’s Little Helper. It climaxes with a montage celebrating pet/child rapports and the merciful restoration of the status quo, reaffirming the lesson of Old Yeller and all those Lassie movies: few emotional forces are more potent than the relationship between a boy and his dog.

9) “Lisa on Ice”

Bart and Lisa’s sibling rivalry was a staple of the show’s B-plots, but no other episode exploited their love/hate relationship as skillfully as “Lisa on Ice.” Most of the episode teeters toward the “hate” end of that dynamic, but as with “Dog of Death,” all that conflict leads to a hug-it-out climax and an adorable montage of Bart and Lisa’s shared childhood. This being The Simpsons, though, their heartfelt reconciliation plays out with a hockey riot raging in the background.

8) “I Married Marge”

The flashback episodes are gold mines of masterfully orchestrated sentiment. “And Maggie Makes Three,” with its “DO IT FOR HER” ending, nearly made this list, as did “The Way We Was” for Homer’s closing monologue. But “I Married Marge” has Homer and Marge’s tragic separation as newlyweds when Homer goes off to become a man, and their reunion in the Gulp ‘n’ Blow drive-thru with the words “Pour vous.” It’s a note-perfect, bittersweet back story for Our Favorite Family.

7) ” ‘Round Springfield”

Poor Lisa, condemned to lose every positive male role model (see #2). The loss of Bleeding Gums Murphy really hurts; he’s such a gently paternal presence, and he’s Lisa’s only mentor as a jazz saxophonist. (Mr. Largo, his passion dulled by years in the public school system, could never come close.) Unlike a certain gimmicky, ratings-grabbing death from Season 11, Murphy’s passing is handled with tact and humor, making it all the more painful.

6) “Bart Sells His Soul”

This episode topped my “scary” list, and the same spiritual fears that feed its horror also make it an emotionally heavy experience. Bart’s prayer at the end is a tour de force for Nancy Cartwright; she cuts right through his “underachiever and proud of it” schtick, revealing the lost little boy underneath. “Bart Sells His Soul” delves into the anxiety and loneliness that constitute dark side of childhood, and the redemption that lies just beyond.

5) “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily”

After a diabolically brilliant first act that degenerates into a nightmare, “Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily” tests the Simpson family’s mettle like no episode before or since. But the intensity of their trial by social services fire makes the resolution that much more gratifying (and emotionally overwhelming), and Marge’s climactic line can still bring tears to my eyes: “Oh, Maggie, you’re a Simpson again!”

4) “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish”

When Homer ingests some potentially deadly sushi, he gets put through the existential wringer: as Dr. Hibbert informs him, he only has 22 hours to wrap up his life on earth. His attempts to do so are tragicomic, as he earnestly carries out some tasks while botching others; however, the episode goes all-out emotionally for Homer’s last night. Sitting awake in the living room, he’s no longer a wacky TV dad. He’s just a working stiff, staring into the abyss. Powerful stuff.

3) “Like Father, Like Clown”

You’d think that estranged parents and Jewish culture, thorny topics for any show, would prove impossible for an animated sitcom. But leave it to The Simpsons to entangle the two in its hilarious, heartfelt riff on The Jazz Singer. The ending is utterly moving, as Krusty and his father join in singing “O Mein Papa”—just the kind of big, emotional finale you’d expect from a larger-than-life showbiz figure like Krusty.

2) “Lisa’s Substitute”

“You are Lisa Simpson.” Such a simple sentence, but it rings so true. Coupled with Dustin Hoffman’s understated performance as Mr. Bergstrom, it’s enough to put a lump in my throat every time I watch the phenomenal “Lisa’s Substitute.” A touchstone for brainy kids everywhere, the episode makes the tragic acknowledgment that loss is part of personal growth, but no easier for it. We’ll miss you, Mr. Bergstrom.

1) “Mother Simpson”

The other episodes on this list tell some pretty heartrending stories about loss and reconciliation, but nothing can match the emotional scope, gravity, and finesse of “Mother Simpson.” Homer’s long-lost mother may disappear again, but he learns that she loves him, and that’s enough. The ending, with Homer pensively stargazing, is both a model of restraint and a signal to start crying. It’s a sobering reminder of how powerful silence can be.

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Link Dump: #39

I know how Krazy Kat feels up there. A brick to the head, the absurd July heat—they’re basically the same thing. We’ve been pretty sluggish lately, as you may have noticed, with our summer blogging being “sporadic” at best. But never fear! We’ll be bouncing back with new content in the next month or two. In the meantime, try to stay cool, avoid bricks, and enjoy these links…

We’ve only got one out-of-the-ordinary search term this week and it’s “princess ariel fucks other princesses pussy.” OK, it’s not really unusual for us, but it’s extremely straightforward. It’s like they’re telling Google, “I want Disney porn. Please give me Disney porn.” Different strokes for different folks, right? (Though “strokes” might not be the best choice of words there…)

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Ten Scary Simpsons Moments

By Andreas

[This list is being crossposted on the terrific Simpsons-centric blog Dead Homer Society. Go check them out!]

“Cool, she’ll be a freak!” – Bart

To have an annual Halloween episode is one thing. To freely cram shocking, ghoulish imagery into otherwise normal episodes of a family sitcom is another. But then, The Simpsons‘ writers and animators never had much interest in following formulas or obeying TV conventions, preferring to meld their own savagely satirical experiments with an emotionally naturalistic representation of family life. This, and the fluid nature of its animation, meant that the show could veer from mundane reality to nightmarish fantasy in the blink of an eye.

Here, then, are ten of the most WTF-inspiring, pants-wetting moments from Simpsons continuity. They’re all bizarre, deeply terrifying digressions, but each one still adds depth to its episode. I give you the crème de la crème of The Simpsons‘ out-of-nowhere scares…

[Warning: Disturbing images below!]

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Perfectly Cromulent Analysis: Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song

By Andreas

Part of The Simpsons‘ utter genius is how the writers were able to squeeze pathos and comedy, week after week, out of extremely improbable storylines. In my “Perfectly Cromulent Analysis” series, for example, I’ve discussed episodes where an angry old man plots to block out the sun; where a town is nearly destroyed by its own public transit; where a little boy sells his soul to his best friend; and where a father buys his daughter a pony and has to suffer for it. Today, I’m going to talk about one where an elementary school principal is fired, and then rehired.

However, despite this tiny, incidental narrative,”Sweet Seymour Skinner’s Baadasssss Song” is rendered compelling, hilarious, and emotionally affecting through the miracles of fantastic writing and voice acting. By looking deeper into Principal Skinner, a man defined by his position of authority, the Simpsons staff peels away myths about power and leadership in America. But as usual, they take some side trips to skewer public schools, nerds, the military, religion, and much more. It’s 22 very dense minutes of hyperactive, hyperliterate TV, casually mixing brutal jokes with redemptive sentiment.

At the core of it all is Principal Skinner, scarred Vietnam vet and neurotic mama’s boy, who is having the worst day of his life. We first see him on the phone in mid-conversation, sweating profusely as he mutters, “I—I know Weinstein’s parents were upset, superintendent, but, but, but I was sure it was a phony excuse. I mean, it sounds so made up: Yom Kippur!” It’s a dead-on jab at suburban school administrators, who are totally clueless about anything beyond white-bread Christian traditions, and it introduces Skinner as he’s being crushed by the pressures of his job. Through a series of twists involving an energetic dog and a greased-up Scotsman, his day goes from bad to worse, leaving him haggard and hiccupping. It all culminates in this tragically absurd bit of back-and-forth with Superintendent Chalmers:

Chalmers: You’re fired!

[Musical sting; Bart gasps.]

Skinner: I’m sorry, did—did you just call me a liar?

Chalmers: No, I said you were fired.

Skinner: Oh. That’s much worse.

This could have been Skinner’s chance to take a stand against Chalmers, but since he mishears the crucial phrase, it just turns into a pathetic debacle punctuated at the end by a lone hiccup. Like any authority figure in Springfield, Skinner is often a lazy, smarmy, hypocritical fascist. He’s as willing as anyone to play along with the broken system and throw the children’s futures under the bus. But he’s still insecure, fragile, and achingly sincere—in short, he’s only human, and his authoritarian demeanor is always marred by weakness. As he blurts out that last line, his vulnerability is palpable, and this helps secure viewer sympathy for him during the next two acts. It’s also painfully funny.

Read on for more about Skinner, gay jokes, and elementary school… Continue reading

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Perfectly Cromulent Analysis: Lisa’s Pony

By Andreas

As we continue with the new, condensed version of “Perfectly Cromulent Analysis,” we arrive at an episode that’s pure genius in how it explores Homer and Lisa’s fraught father/daughter relationship. Blending powerful drama with physical and verbal comedy, “Lisa’s Pony” has the best of both worlds, and a sophisticated analysis of the Simpson family’s internal dynamics. It gets so much comic mileage out of its inherently absurd premise—Homer buys Lisa a pony in a bid to redeem himself as a father—but keeps itself grounded in stark emotional reality. It’s about the disastrous personal and financial consequences of rash decisions, all rooted in the basic irony of trying to realistically represent a preposterous situation.

It’s also crammed with great character moments for a panoply of Springfield residents. Early on, for example, we witness the Springfield Elementary talent show, which sets the episode’s events in motion; as usual, Principal Skinner is being something less than a model of patience and academic authority. While watching Milhouse’s underwhelming attempt to play the spoons, he groans, “You know, they seem to get worse every year.” Then as the act ends, he walks onstage, and proclaims to the gathered parents: “You know, I think this is the best batch we’ve ever had! I really do!” This is in line with the usual jokes about the school administration being jaded and hateful (like Skinner’s fantastic “We both know these children have no future!” from “The PTA Disbands”), but takes it a step further by having him turn around and, without missing a beat, lie to the parents’ faces.

Read more about Skinner, Apu, and Homer’s parenting after the jump.

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Perfectly Cromulent Analysis: Mr. Plow

Just in time for April, my “Perfectly Cromulent Analysis” series is back—in a new, bite-sized format! I’ve been looking for a way to keep writing about The Simpsons that’s a little less time-consuming than the more comprehensive essays, so I can do it with more regularity. Thus, I’ll be paring down my analysis and trying to focus more closely on the episodes’ satirical points and individual moments of comic genius. Since winter’s just now ending in the midwest, I’ve picked a snowbound classic from Season 4 to celebrate: “Mr. Plow.” (That’s the episode’s name. That name again is “Mr. Plow.”)

“Mr. Plow” follows a narrative arc that should be familiar to Simpsons fans: first, Homer tries to accomplish something so he’ll be respected by his family. He fails, here through the betrayal of his best friend. Finally, he achieves some modicum of redemption, though divine intervention guarantees that it’s no more than a modicum. It’s the typical sour-but-sweet satire of the American dream that the show is renowned for dishing up. “Mr. Plow,” though, is brought a cut above even The Simpsons’ high standards by its brilliant set-pieces, reversals, and character-based humor. For example, consider my favorite joke in the whole episode…

While visiting a big, flashy car show, Homer stops off at a booth to enter a “free car” contest. He fills out the  form and, while dropping it in the slot, asks the model, “Do you come with the car?” The model, voiced by Nancy Cartwright (aka Bart) offhandedly replies, “Ohh, you!” with a coy wave of her hand and a squeaky giggle. Homer leaves, and another man walks up, fills out the form, and asks the same question. She automatically responds in the exact same way. The whole joke takes about 11 seconds, it’s unobtrusively woven into the episode’s plot, but it’s still an incisive, self-contained critique of rampant institutionalized sexism.

I love how the show’s not afraid to mock its main character when he treats a woman like a sex object. (For a more in-depth exploration of this, see Season 1’s “Homer’s Night Out.”) Both he and the man who follow him think they’re so clever, like they’re the first visitors to this booth to crack that obvious joke. And of course the model can’t tell them off, because it’s her job to validate their delusions of wit and desirability. But in Cartwright’s performance, you can catch the slightest whiff of contempt, both in the ultra-calculated nature of her laugh and the mechanical way she repeats herself. It’s such a scathing, flawlessly executed indictment of male self-satisfaction.

Nothing else in the episode quite lives up to those 11 seconds, but there are still nuggets of genius deposited all over the place. Parts of “Mr. Plow” could function as a time capsule of global politics circa 1992: just look at “Crazy Vaclav,” the Slavic car salesman who tries to sell Homer a car made in a country that no longer exists (“Put it in H!”). Or the representative of the ethically suspect and ironically named “Fourth Reich Motors,” a model of post-Nazi German efficiency at any price. Both of these examples casually and hilariously postulate a world still struggling to figure itself out in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War.

Another one of the best jokes in “Mr. Plow” is rooted not in international politics, but in the inner workings of Homer’s mind. As he’s about to claim his insurance money for both of the family’s wrecked cars, the claims adjuster asks him to explain what “Moe’s” is. Internally, Homer panics and decides to lie. “But what else is open at night?” he ponders. Then, in extreme close-up, he answers while wearing the most blissful of smiles: “It’s a pornography store! I was buying pornography!” Dan Castellaneta’s delivery is so pitch-perfect that I can hardly think about that line without cracking up. The restrictive framing and the lack of a reaction shot from the (no doubt aghast) claims adjuster complete the moment, rendering it unforgettable.

So far, I’ve concentrated entirely on the episode’s first act. (That’s how substantive “Mr. Plow” is.) The rest of it is brimming with good jokes, mostly focused on Homer’s harebrained, initially successful scheme to make his snowplow pay for itself. But the best parts come after he encourages his perpetually drunk pal Barney to go out and make something of himself—and Barney instantly becomes an aggressive rival plowman. This conflict capitalizes on their ongoing, beer-soaked friendship, as Barney callously shoots out Homer’s tires, slanders him on TV (with the aid of Linda Ronstadt), beats a cardboard cut-out of him into oblivion, and steals his clientele, all under the guise of “healthy competition.”

It’s pretty astonishing that Barney gets away with all this, yet the episode never feels mean-spirited or unnecessarily vicious. I suspect it’s because Barney retains the same soused, happy-go-lucky personality throughout, burping and mumbling even when he’s hobnobbing with Ronstadt and mercilessly sabotaging his best friend. He still feels good (or maybe drunkenly innocent?) at heart even when his actions say otherwise, and he even gets a moment of wickedly funny pathos toward the end, as he remarks that at least dying will reunite him with dead family members “and that plant I never watered.” It’s impressive that the Simpsons writers created a character whose audience sympathies could withstand his borderline-sociopathic behavior in this episode.

I’ll close with another of my favorite jokes from this episode. (That is, aside from the sublime visual gag with the bridges.) It’s when Homer complains to Flanders, who’s just had his driveway plowed by Barney, “I thought I was your plowman!” Flanders pauses, then offers to let Homer plow his pristine driveway, but to a self-motivated go-getter like Homer, this is tantamount to an insult. He cries, “I don’t need your phony-baloney job!” before quickly adding, “I’ll take your money. But I’m not gonna plow your driveway!”

I just love the understanding of commerce that this exchange betrays: he’s willing to put on the facade of earning the money when need be, but ultimately it’s all about getting the money, especially since the job’s prestige has run dry. Flanders, naturally, is too gracious to ask for the money back. Considering all these bitter, bleak, and brutal jokes, it’s surprising that “Mr. Plow” still has time left for scenes of adorable lovemaking, advertising parodies, nail-biting suspense, and even an extended Adam West cameo that single-handedly outdoes his entire recurring role on Family Guy. But what else would you expect? This is prime Simpsons, so of course they turn a 20-minute cartoon about buying a snowplow into a work of art.

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