Saturday, December 2, 2017

When did The Simpsons get bad? Part 3

When trying to find where the Simpsons started going downhill, I decided it would be important to set a standard with which to compare the episodes I’m watching.  That’s why this week I decided to watch a batch of episodes from an era that The Internet has decided is good.  I started by watching “Marge versus the Monorail,” a season 4 episode that many people consider to be the best Simpsons episode period.

If you’re a fan of The Simpsons, you know the episode.  After Springfield gets 3 million dollars from Mr. Burns, Phil Hartman plays Lyle Lanley, a con artist who parodies The Music Man and convinces the town to build a monorail.  Homer becomes the conductor and Marge investigates to find what happened in the previous towns where Lanley built monorails.  Hijinks ensue, and Homer saves the day by anchoring the malfunctioning monorail to a donut.

This is definitely a solid episode, but I wouldn’t put it in my personal top 10, much less number 1.  Honestly, the episode seems just a little too goofy and is much closer to “Worst Episode Ever” than “Homerpalooza”(my personal favorite.
Favorite Quote:  Donuts - is there anything they can't do?

To go along with my arbitrary rules of this project, I watched the next two episodes of season 4 as well.  “Selma’s Choice” is my favorite of the three I watched this week.  After “Great Aunt Gladys” dies and gives a final message of “don’t die alone” to Patty and Selma, Selma decides she wants a baby.  She jumps through a bunch of hoops and changes her mind after taking Bart and Lisa to Duff Gardens.

Not every Simpsons episode needs to have a dark message about mortality or even a moral at all.  That said, The Simpsons’ ability to approach serious subjects humorously without belittling the issues is one of the things that puts it ahead of shows like Family Guy and South Park.  This episode is a perfect example.  In between going on a date with Hans Moleman and dealing with Lisa drinking water from a Duff Beer themed “It’s a Small World” knockoff ride, Selma learns of the real challenges associated with becoming a parent and decides she’s not ready.  Instead, Patty and Selma take Aunt Gladys’s iguana back from their mother and we meet Jub Jub.

Favorite Quote:  “Lisa, drink the water!”

The last episode I watched was “Brother from the same planet.”  Homer forgets to pick Bart up from soccer practice, which leads Bart to join the “Bigger Brother” program under false pretenses.  Bart meets Tom, a super cool father figure, and Homer gets jealous.  Homer also joins the program and mentors Pepi.  They go to Sea World and run into each other… you get where this is going.

It’s a fun little episode, if somewhat forgettable.  We get to see Nelson’s dad before he left for the store, so that’s cool.  I also like that “Revenge” is a viable reason for joining the “Bigger Brother” program.

Favorite Quote:  “That's right.  You’re not the only one who can abuse a non-profit organization.”(I don’t think I got the quote right.  Please look this up before posting.)

Watching these episodes only further confirms my feeling that if The Simpsons ever got bad, it was much later than most people suggest, and maybe even when it was good, they weren’t all good.  Maybe next week I’ll go much later in the series and try to find a legitimately bad string of episodes.

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