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When everyone sucks, The Simpsons sucks

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Photograph: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox Movie Company

TV ReviewsAll of our TV evaluations in a single handy place.

“When will you die?!”

Synopsis of a extremely nice Simpsons episode: Homer spitefully mentors a troubled younger boy out of jealousy over Bart’s seemingly excellent new mentor. That episode: Season 4’s “Brother From The Similar Planet.

Synopsis of a really crappy Simpsons episode: Homer spitefully mentors a troubled younger boy out of jealousy over Bart’s seemingly excellent new mentor. That episode: This one.

COPYRIGHT_BP: Published on https://bingepost.com/when-everyone-sucks-the-simpsons-sucks/62763/ by - on 2020-03-16T02:50:50.000Z

“Higher Off Ned” isn’t only a awful half-hour (minus commercials, minus three episode-ending tags instead of any form of decision) of The Simpsons as a result of it’s double-dipping on the identical premise. It’s a really awful episode as a result of it fairly rings with indifference, glib cruelty, and sufficient lamp-shading of artistic exhaustion to function platonic ideally suited for late-run “is that present nonetheless on?” disposability.

Right here, the father-son rift is brought on by exterior forces (Bart brings Grampa’s dud grenade to highschool, will get expelled, and Ned steps as much as set the boy proper), eradicating any plot company from the primary characters. Homer, naturally (you recognize, since he’s had the follow), offers along with his petty jealously over Bart’s Neddy-sparked enchancment that, stumbling upon a bereft Nelson on the Springfield Dump (motto: “50,000 seagulls can’t be flawed!”) he decides that enhancing Springfield’s primary bully and uncared for grade-schooler will present that Ned—and that Bart—that he can enhance a troubled baby’s life for egocentric causes. And, positive, that’s a gag allotted with with such economic system within the questionnaire in “Brother From The Similar Planet,” however we’re judging “Higher Off Ned” by itself objectives and execution.

Photograph: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox Movie Company

And that’s an issue, since merely everybody in “Higher Off Ned” is, to larger or lesser diploma, an unbearable asshole. Ned’s taken an curiosity within the well-being of the Simpsons children earlier than, after all, and his beneficence has normally come yoked to some measure of evangelical self-righteousness. However right here, no matter kindness and steering he presents to Bart is grossly offset by the episode’s unrelenting portrait of Ned Flanders as a bullying, judgmental, and, in a single genuinely surprising apart, secretly terrifying zealot. Responding to Bart’s ketchup bottle pretend damage prank, Ned leans in to the boy and sneers, “I could make that actual blood, you little punk!” There’s no followup to the second, leaving us to ponder simply how little the episode’s writers care about constructing a personality arc upon actually something we learn about Ned Flanders. Certain, Ned’s reactionary religion is and all the time has been truthful recreation, however his portrayal all episode is solely a multitude, as when he fairly bluntly blackmails Superintendent Chalmers into lifting Bart’s expulsion through a churchy group textual content (on app Prayer-Mid), or when his appropriation of the city’s “pleasure parade” as a “Christian pleasure parade” reveals him crowing in boorish MAGA/Fox Information glee about how “lastly, Christians can present their religion.” (Homer’s even confirmed proper when he muses resentfully to Marge that Ned’s laughing at him beneath cowl of his prim mustache.) Ned is historically The Simpsons’ automobile for conservative spiritual satire, positive, however this Ned is only a jerk.

Photograph: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox Movie Company

So’s Lisa, to be sincere. Seeing Bart’s stroll of disgrace on Flanders’ arm out of the college, Lisa mocks her brother alongside the opposite “haw-haw-hawing” members of her French membership. Confronted by Homer later for her abrupt face flip when she gives up $40 of her personal cash to purchase her father 10 minutes of remedy time after she decides his child-manipulating scheme will not be okay, Lisa’s made to comment, “Dad, I’ve to be the voice of morality,” earlier than admitting that she actually likes being the household/city’s spoilsport. Once more, the perfect characterizations of Lisa Simpson permit for each points of her persona to be true, however right here, her perfunctorily deployed little sister brattiness and sudden rediscovery of her conscience are plot gadgets, nothing extra. The identical dynamic is true for Marge’s minuscule half, the place she, too, makes probably evocative subtext glib textual content, waving off Lisa’s plea for her to chime in on the sophisticated emotional stakes of Homer’s vendetta by explicitly stating that her pressing want to vary Maggie is simply an excuse. Marge’s place as stick-in-the-mud is, at its greatest, a delicate and illuminating depiction of the position she’s taken on on the expense of her personal personhood. Right here, it’s a smug one-liner.

Photograph: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox Movie Company

That leaves Homer and Nelson. Bart’s momentary flowering at being taught tips on how to catch and prepare dinner a fish by Ned shortly wilts under Rod and Tod’s clammy togetherness. (Once more, there’s the seed of a greater episode in Bart’s response to being challenged and praised for succeeding, as Bart’s delighted cry, “I did it! I murdered a fish!” captures the multifarious ranges of the duo’s partnership.) Homer’s abused the belief of an unlucky youth earlier than, as we all know, however, right here, his choice to whisk the weeping Nelson up in his tutorial on the finer factors of billiards and change-stealing at Moe’s and the etiquette of being thrown out by your spouse is simply as hurried as every part else in “Higher Off Ned,” as is their eventual and inevitable dissolution. As in “Brother From The Similar Planet,” everybody switches big-little brothers in the long run, however there’s no poetic rightness (and even only a massive snicker) to the joke—it’s only a strategy to eliminate a plot.

As for Nelson, look, there’s no cause why actually each character in Springfield can’t get a flip within the highlight after 31 years. And Nelson Muntz, for all his grade college villainy, has had it tough sufficient in his quick, overgrown life for somebody to throw the little thug a bone. Right here, we get one other glimpse into the depths of the Muntz household dysfunction, primarily on the expense of Mrs. Muntz, whose long-depicted profession of substance abuse and bed-hopping is, as ever, performed primarily for ugly laughs. Even when she does get her personal second of supposed redemption (begging Homer to not ditch her son as so a lot of her former lovers have carried out as soon as they have been carried out along with her), it’s whiplash-fast, coming proper after she’s proven making an aggressive, bathrobe-clad play for the uninterested Homer’s affections. Nelson’s a troublesome voice to make sympathetic (it’s been carried out), though Nancy Cartwright manages to wring a number of moments of sympathy towards the lad’s lifetime of squalid loneliness. And whereas it is sensible that Nelson would revert again to his previous lashing-out as soon as he realizes what Homer’s carried out, the episode hinging on an over-elaborate revenge plot involving a probably lethal praying arms parade float isn’t a lot of a decision.

Photograph: The Simpsons/20th Century Fox Movie Company

Talking of resolving an episode, what’s the writers’ continued affinity for appending a number of tags on an episode in favor of—and I’m simply spitballing right here—utilizing these valuable jiffy to flesh out the precise character arcs? Right here we see Nelson’s maliciously doodled “The Finish” pop up proper after Homer saves Bart on the parade, just for it to proceed, “No, we’re too quick.” Then we get a tag the place Nelson (and his mother) are having a pleasant dinner with the Flanders. Then we get one other the place Nelson reveals to his bullying pals outdoors the window that he’s acquired Milhouse trapped shivering within the Flanders’ kitchen freezer. Oh, and Homer reveals Bart how his awful seats on the baseball recreation give him the proper peanut-tossing trajectory to nail Flanders in his field seats. For an episode the place no one emerges trying or feeling like themselves (or like something however unexpectedly sketched jerks), slapping on subpar jokes whereas the credit flash by is the ultimate, dismissive contact of storytelling apathy.

Stray Observations

  • Returning to the quote that opens the episode, it was pulled from the one alternate that made me snicker. As Quimby introduces Mr. Burns because the benefactor of this year’s parade, we hear an offscreen voice (I feel it’s Lenny) yell out, “Why gained’t you die?!” With out lacking a beat, Quimby responds, “Mr. Burns will reply questions later.”
  • Okay, I did just like the gag the place, Abe—having seemingly pulled the pin on his grenade—tells Bart to say his prayers. Bart, diving beneath the mattress: “By no means!”
  • Plus, the signal on the Christian pleasure parade “Warning, pleasure is a sin” isn’t unhealthy.
  • Even Homer’s therapist is a jerk, kicking poor Gil out the door simply as he’s about to realize a probably life-changing breakthrough.
  • Kirk makes an look in a mascot costume, simply so there could be a joke about Milhouse crawling up his father’s ass.
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