When I was but a young ‘un, my parents did not allow me to watch The Simspons. I’m not really sure why, and even now they only give vague reasons about its inappropriate content. By the time they relented, the show was well into its twilight years.
I still tune in every Sunday, but I have never really seen the show in its prime. I’ve never seen most of the episodes people consider classics. So, I borrowed some DVDs off a friend, and decided to take a n00b’s journey into the early years of The Simpsons.
*note: I did watch Season 1, but I thought it was mostly garbage and not worth a review.
|FOX|1990-1991|22 episodes|30 mins|
Since The Simpsons has almost no continuity whatsoever, I thought I’d change up the review format a bit. Rather than talk about the season as a whole, I’m going to break it down episode by episode, and give you some (hopefully) brief thoughts on each one.
Bart Gets an F – Bart may have to repeat 4th grade if he fucks up on another test, so he gets Martin to help him in exchange for teaching Martin how to be cool. This is an average season opener. Nothing spectacular but there’s a few amusing gags. Also, there’s this school psychiatrist character I don’t remember seeing in later seasons. The whole plot of this episode is pointless, because Bart will be stuck in 4th grade FOREVER.
Simpson and Delilah – Homer defrauds his insurance company to get them to cover hair growth cream. His new hair propels him up the corporate ladder at the plant. He hires a very gay secretary named Karl (not the black dude). So while this episode isn’t all too special with the main plot: people treating Homer differently based on his looks, I am surprised it’s not talked about more.
Karl, voiced by that guy from Independence Day who had to call his mother DAVIIIIIIIIIIID, is a great character I don’t remember seeing again. He’s hyper-competent, extremely loyal to Homer, even taking the fall for him.
Another interesting thing is that this episode has Homer being kissed passionately by another man and then giggling about it. No one thinks to mention this anymore? I don’t remember hearing about any controversy over it. Odd.
Matt – Kate brings up an excellent point about this episode seemingly not discussed very often. It’s actually one of my favorite episodes but I never watch it because of the fact that it is part of the Second Season. Most fans agree that the show started to hit it’s stride around Season 3, so we generally skip this season, which is a shame because it has a lot of great episodes I forget about.
Treehouse of Horror – You have no idea how weird it is for me to type that without a Roman numeral. This time it is a literal Treehouse of Horror, with Bart and Lisa swapping scary stories up in the Treehouse, while Homer lurks outside, listening in. The stories include an Amityville Horror parody where the family moves into a haunted house, a story about the family being abducted by aliens, and finally a rendition of Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven.
While the first two stories are nothing special, I really really liked The Raven. It’s very atmospheric and creepy, and you can’t go wrong with James Earl Jones as a narrator. It’s fucking awesome. I also like both kids claiming that none of the stories were frightening, and then the cut to Homer, who is terrified.
Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish – After Bart catches a three-eyed fish, safety inspectors threaten to shut down the plant. Burns decides to run for governor so he can pass laws allowing him to keep the plant open.
I don’t have much to say about this one, other than it’s a very good, solid episode. This is (I think) the first time we see Burns go this over the top to get his way. I like the satire on how a political campaign is won, and how easily voters can be swayed. The scene of Burns attempting to eat the three eyed fish is well done, and I also like that this whole scheme was actually Homer’s idea.
Dancin’ Homer – Homer’s drunken antics land him a job as a baseball mascot, earning him the attention of the major leagues.
Another good episode, and one I actually remember. This episode uses a delicious sort of cringe comedy when Homer’s increasingly desperate antics fail to amuse the jaded, completely silent, big-city crowd. Highlight of the episode is of course, Tony Bennett’s “Capital City”.
Dead Putting Society – Homer makes a bet with Flanders that Bart will beat Todd in an upcoming mini-golf tournament, with the loser having to mow the lawn in his wife’s best dress.
This episode is kind of weird to a contemporary viewer, in that Flanders is more of the rich, has-it-all neighbour, rather than the bible-thumper he would soon become. Some good laughs here, particularly from the somber British commentators at the tournament, and from Flanders actually enjoying wearing a dress.
Bart vs. Thanksgiving – Another episode I think I’ve seen before. Bart pisses off the entire family by destroying Lisa’s Thanksgiving centrepiece and runs away from home.
Meh. One of the sentimental Simpsons episodes but this one doesn’t really do it for me. There’s some funny wise-ass remarks from the extended family, and a touching moment between Bart and Lisa at the end, but overall this one didn’t melt my icy heart.
Bart the Daredevil – Bart imitates his daredevil idol, performing increasingly dangerous stunts culminating in jumping the Springfield gorge on his skateboard.
Okay, this was fucking hilarious in every respect. Everything about this worked, from the Truckasaurus to the gorge jump. Homer’s double epic fail at the end of the episode is just priceless. Probably the funniest joke The Simpsons ever did.
Itchy & Scratchy & Marge – When Maggie starts imitating the violence in the Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, Marge rounds up the moral guardians in an attempt to sanitize children’s programming.
Being staunchly anti-censorship, I had a very difficult time sympathizing with Marge at all here. Instead of blaming the cartoons, maybe keep an eye on your goddamn baby, hmm? There were a few good points, like how stupid the “kid friendly” toons are, and the kids abandoning TV and stumbling bleary eyed into the outside world for once. Another nice bit of commentary was the hypocrisy of Marge being disgusted by Itchy & Scratchy and then refusing to support censoring the statue of David. It illustrates the way self appointed moral guardians give more leeway to art they consider important works, while condemning works they feel are of little value.
If this episode had been made even two years later, you just know it would have been about video games.
Bart Gets Hit by a Car – Bart gets hit by a car. Maybe I should explain a little more than that. Mr Burns runs Bart over and Lionel Hutz persuades the Simpsons to exaggerate Bart’s injuries and sue Burns for a large settlement.
This episode is not so great. Lying is wrong kids. Phil Hartman is great as always, and I like Homer getting pissed at Marge for costing him the $1 million. He forgives her a little too easily, but it’s still a nice touch.
One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish – Homer eats fugu prepared by an inexperienced sushi chef, and Doctor Hibbert says he could be dead in 24 hours.
Holy shit. This episode is awesome. Homer’s bucket list is fun, and it’s very bittersweet how he comes to grips with his mortality and says his goodbyes on what could be his final day. Also, George Takei.