The Simpsons S3
Having completed the first two seasons of the Simpsons we get into season 3, which is generally regarded as the point where the show was properly popping off. There are some absolute classics in this season and everything is that much more on point. There was a huge improvement from S1 to S2, if that continues here, we’re in for a lovely time.
STARK RAVING DAD
I’m rewatching these on Disney+ and they seem to think that Michael Jackson’s allegations are troubling enough to remove the episode. I’ve got it on DVD somewhere but sadly my DVD player is broken. Stark Raving Dad sees Homer committed to a mental hospital after Bart’s lucky red cap colours all his shirts pink.
Michael Jackson apparently got in touch with the Simpsons and asked if he could be involved. Promising to write the Simpsons a #1 song. The result was “Do the Bartman”, which actually was a #1 song. They actually released an album called “Simpsons Sing the Blues”, which reached #3 on the US Billboard 200. It was a confusing time to be alive.
Jackson’s love of childish things comes across in this episode and the connection that he has is with Bart and Lisa, rather than the adults. After befriending Homer in the mental hospital Jackson, here depicted as a hulking, obese white man, is released and comes to Springfield. The episode has a heart-warming conclusion where Jackson helps Bart write a song for Lisa’s birthday. ***¾
MR LISA GOES TO WASHINGTON
The gag rate has raised highly here. Almost every line is funny. They’ve established so many supporting characters that each one can drop in and say a line and drop out again. In this episode Homer becomes obsessed with Reading Digest, which in turn leads to Lisa writing an essay on America and getting the family an all-expenses paid trip to Washington. After Capital City this is a logical advancement and because they’ve won it, the finances aren’t an issue.
Homer hasn’t learned much from Reading Digest. “My favourite section is how to increase your word power. It’s really, really, really, good”. Lisa is portrayed as much brighter here and soon becomes horrified by politics in Washington. The Congressman for Springfield is crooked and takes a bribe to chop down the Springfield National Forest. This leads to her losing faith in the roots of democracy and writing a new essay entitled “Cesspool on the Potomac”.
Some of the art in this is still off-brand. Like the pigs on the steps of the Capital Building. Lisa was ahead of the curve losing faith in democracy. “We wanna drill for oil in Teddy Roosevelt’s head”. Politics is a prime target for the Simpsons, and everyone takes a hiding. It’s very gentle compared to what they could have done but this was 1991. Lisa Simpson’s aggressive attack on the United States is as much about guarding the United States from evil as it is attacking the USA itself. A strong episode with a high gag quota at the start. The best Lisa-centric episode to this point. ****¼
WHEN FLANDERS FAILED
It’s increasingly apparent that Homer has borrowed almost all his shit from Ned Flanders. In this episode Flanders has a BBQ and Homer refuses to go, instead watching the CFL draft. Eventually the smell of burgers becomes too much, and he goes anyway. Flanders announces he’s quitting pharmaceuticals and opens the Leftorium at Springfield Mall. There’s a great scene where Homer breaks a wish bone and wishes for Ned to fail, after wishing he’d die and also that “President Simpson Wins the Superbowl”.
The subplot to this episode is Bart learning karate. He gives up almost immediately and resorts to playing video games. This gives Homer an excuse to go to the mall and check out the Leftorium. In this episode Homer learns about schadenfreude and sour grapes (“those Germans have a word for everything”) and Bart learns the Touch of Death.
Homer encounters a lot of left-handed people in this episode. Moe is a southpaw. Mr Burns is also left-handed. Homer is incredibly mean to Ned in this episode, buying most of his furniture for $75. Bart is also vicious. “Keep your hands off my China hutch”. The Leftorium fails and Homer doesn’t feel as happy as he thought he would, eventually leading the left-handed townsfolk of Springfield to the store. Burns is particularly happy about it and Flanders is saved. This is a good episode with strong jokes throughout and a surprisingly touching conclusion. “Huzzah for the shop keep”. ****
BART THE MURDERER
This is an absolute classic episode. Bart has a bad day, forgetting his permission slip and being unable to go on a school trip to the chocolate factory. This results in him licking envelopes with Principal Skinner all afternoon and eventually falling down the steps to the Legitimate Businessman’s Social Club and meeting Springfield’s mob. This is the debut of Fat Tony and his goons.
There are a lot of great gags in this including the broken clock in Skinner’s office and the chocolate factory movie starring Troy McClure. Bart’s job at the club is great. “Mix Legs a Manhattan”. “Su-poib”. The episode pays tribute to Goodfellas and similar mob movies. Tony’s playing dumb bit “what’s a truck?” is gold. As is Fat Tony storing cigarettes in Bart’s room because his warehouse is full. “Hey kid, you look good with that cigarette”. The “is it wrong to steal bread” argument is my favourite bit. “What if your family don’t like bread, what if they like cigarettes?”
The episode is so strong there isn’t even a subplot with a constant stream of gags from Tony and his boys. My love of Goodfellas and mob movies pushes it over the top. The courtroom scenes where everything points towards Bart being the head of the local mafia is the cherry on that cake. Plus, Lionel Hutz! To this point it’s my favourite episode. *****
There are two storylines here. Bart and Millhouse have an issue after Millhouse throws a birthday party and Bart isn’t invited. “I thought we were best friends”. Elsewhere Homer averts a nuclear meltdown by accident and is mistakenly hailed a hero. The title comes from Homer imaging himself under various dictionary definitions. He’s initially “stupid”. Then “lucky” on averting disaster. Then “fraud” when he gets praise.
Professor Frink guests explaining how everyone within a red circle with be dead while everyone in a larger orange circle, “which I’m sad to say we are in”, will experience a slower more painful death. Homer’s reward for winning employee of the month involves a ham, a plaque, a book of coupons and a phone call from Magic Johnson. The Bart subplot is Millhouse’s mother refusing to let Bart socialise with Millhouse because he’s a bad influence.
Speaking of bad influence; Lisa becomes obsessed with Homer as a hero in spite of him dishing out the usual terrible advice. “How zen”. Jon Lovitz guest stars again as “Aristotle” the owner of the Shelbyville Nuclear plant. Lovitz is always a fun guest star. There’s a nice resolution to the Bart and Millhouse storyline when Marge goes to plead with Millhouse’s mom. Homer on the other hand is exposed as the fraud he is when another meltdown occurs, this time in Shelbyville, and he prevents it accidentally…again. This is a decent episode but both main and subplots feel a bit rushed. Not one of the best in a fantastic season. ***¼
LIKE FATHER, LIKE CLOWN
We get another look at Krusty the Clown here. He’s supposed to have dinner with Bart, after he saved him from jail, but cancels for the fifth time. Bart angrily writes Krusty a letter, which provokes him into going to dinner. Krusty breaks down at dinner, reminded by saying grace in Hebrew, that he has a bad relationship with his father. It’s a touching story about how Krusty was obsessed with comedy as a child, but his father was a rabbi from a long line of rabbis.
Krusty’s dad is voiced by Jackie Mason, giving the voice an iconic feel. He won an Emmy for it! The rabbi refuses to reconnect with his son despite Krusty clearly being upset about it. Bart’s attempts to reconcile the two leads to him impersonating a rabbi. Lisa hits the books to provide Bart with ammo in his war of words with the good rabbi. There’s no subplot and it struggles to fill out the 23.05. Mason is really good though and it’s nice to delve into Krusty’s background. ***½
TREEHOUSE OF HORROR II
The wrap around has the kids, and Homer, eating too much candy and having nightmares.
Homer buys a magical monkey claw, which offers four wishes. Maggie wishes for a new pacifier. Bart wishes for the Simpsons to be rich and famous, which leads to a fourth wall breaking mockery. “The Simpsons Go Calypso” is a dig at their album release the previous year. Lisa wishes for world peace, which provokes an alien invasion. Homer blows his last wish on a turkey sandwich and throws the paw in the bin leaving Ned Flanders to save the world. ***¼
Bart is a monster with the power to read minds and alter anything that displeases him. “Oh, wait you’re the little dude with all the gnarly powers”. This is much better than anything in the first Treehouse with them realising how unlimited the concept is. Because it’s Bart’s nightmare the conclusion is him and Homer saying they love each other. ***¼
Homer gets fired for sleeping on the job and becomes a gravedigger. Meanwhile Burns creates a robotic worker that just needs a human brain. He uses Homer, mistaking him, snoozing in a grave, for a corpse. The robotic Homer is as lazy as the live Homer and Burns is mortified. One thing leads to another and Burns is crushed, having to graft his head onto Homer’s shoulder. Homer wakes up with Burns still there! Is it a nightmare? Burns is great here. “Look at me, I’m Davey Crockett”. ***¾
Lisa has been asking for a pony since the first episode. This ends up being Homer’s attempt to apologise after he fails to get Lisa a 4.5 reed for her saxophone. In order to improve his relationship with Lisa he gets the quick fix of buying a pony. Burns loans him the five grand required. “Are you familiar with Usery laws?” “Oh, I seem to have just made a word up”.
Lisa’s pony “Princess” costs a small fortune, so Homer has to get a second job at the Kwik-E-Mart. He works from midnight to 8am at the Kwik-E-Mart and then goes home to get five minutes sleep. The Homer bits in this episode are good but Lisa spending time with her pony is a fluff bit. The peak of Homer’s sleepiness sees him nodding off behind the wheel of his car and there’s a sensational clip of him dreaming. ***
SATURDAYS OF THUNDER
Troy McClure returns here on “I can’t believe they invented it” and Dr Nick has invented “Spiffy”; a legendary stain remover. “I can’t believe they invented it” is one of my favourite Simpsons bits. There’s also a new McBain movie with “Scoey”, McBain’s partner. Homer then rents “Football’s Greatest Injuries”. In this episode Homer discovers he knows nothing about Bart and decides to build a soap box derby racer with him.
The Fatherhood Institute is a good laugh here with the underwater parenting, sharks and Dave Jr. “Dear god, not again!” Lil Lightning is a shoddy racer and Bart can’t keep up with Martin Prince, who has a state-of-the-art vehicle dubbed the “Honor Roller”. “Helmets are for wussies, sir”. The sight of Martin on fire is a bit extreme and he ends up breaking his arm when the Honor Roller crashes. Homer’s poor parenting when Bart takes over Martin’s ride is poor, even by his standards. If you’ve seen Days of Thunder, there are many hats tipped towards it.
We quickly reach a denouement with Homer realising he’s actually a good parent and Bart just wins the race. He’s awarded the title by three-time soap box derby champ Ronnie Beck! This episode starts great but tails off badly. ***½
This is the point where we hit a higher gear. Flaming Moe’s is a sensational episode. It starts with Kent Brockman’s “Eye on Springfield”, the great Springfield tyre yard fire, Drederick Tatum, Lisa’s slumber party and that’s just the opening minute. Homer refusing to say Bart’s name when he’s jinxed just caps it off.
Homer escapes to Moe’s and he’s down because business sucks. Moe is out of beer because he blew his last ten grand on the Love Tester machine. Homer ends up showing Moe how to make a Flaming Homer but when it becomes successful and the bar with it, it calls it a Flaming Moe and rebrands as a trendy club. “I don’t know the scientific explanation, but fire made it good”. Moe is doing so well he hires a bartender a la Cheers and gets Aerosmith to play at the bar.
My favourite gag in this is Tipsy McStagger, a composite of other successful logos, who Moe thinks is a real person. Homer eventually ruins Moe by revealing the secret ingredient but the Cheers-esque vibes (pretty sure Woody Harrelson is in there), Lionel Hutz and the Frank Wallbanger case, Homer seeing Moe everywhere and Hugh Jass answering the prank call push this episode over the top. It’s an all-timer. *****
BURNS VERKAUFEN DER KRAFTWERK
Mr Burns is depressed and wants to do something else. Burns reveals his plans to sell to Snappy the Alligator in a fantastic bit. Due to rumours about the plant being sold the stock goes up and Homer, because he’s an idiot, sells early and everyone else gets rich. Homer blows his $25 pay out on a bottle of Henry K Duff’s Private Reserve. German investors buy the plant for $100M, with enough left over to buy the Cleveland Browns.
This episode has incredible scenes. Mr Burns hosts the Germans by speaking their language and his huge celebration on receiving a $100M offer for his plant. Smithers learning “sycophantic German”. Burns’ Elvis Presley impression. THE LAND OF CHOCOLATE! Due to his complete incompetence Homer is fired, again. Meanwhile Burns is also in a slump discovering that being rich without being powerful is no fun.
The Germans progressive discoveries of how disastrous the plant is are good fun. “Achtung Lieber, raccoons!” “Who’d have thought a nuclear plant would be such a death trap?” Burns buys the plant back and then feigns terror of the Germans. “Oh, the Germans”. This is another all-timer. Homer’s failures throughout the episode result in him returning to the status quo through sheer stupidity. Burns’ dalliance with a different lifestyle both make sense and his return to the plant caps off the episode. It’s a shame Horst never returned in some other capacity. He reminded me of Sgt Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes. ****¾
I MARRIED MARGE
I loved the first flashback episode “The Way We Was”. It’s arguably the best episode on S2. In this episode Marge thinks she may be pregnant after taking Barnacle Bill’s Home Pregnancy Test as Homer gets a free corncob pipe with it. In this flashback Homer talks about 1980, when he was 24 and Marge was pregnant for the first time.
Marge is living with her sisters and Homer has a place with Barney. Marge has a job as a roller waitress while Homer works at the crazy golf place from S2’s Dead Putting Society. The Simpson wedding has been switched around a few times. This time Homer drives across state lines and gets married at Shotgun Petes. “There certainly are a lot of stains on the ceiling”.
Homer’s first interview with Smithers goes badly. “Did you get the job?” “Nah, they wanted someone good”. Homer’s job attempts montage has some good stuff including Homer attempting to sell knives door to door. Homer’s consistent failure in this episode is borderline tragic and his abandonment of Marge doesn’t quite hit right. Mr Burns hires Homer because he’s so pathetic and can be abused. “Who was that young hellcat Smithers?” A young Dr Hibbert is a particular highlight with his huge afro. “Step aside, I’ll deliver this baby” is Homer getting a touch overconfident. This is a heart-warming episode but it’s a touch below “The Way We Was”. ****
Homer gets all excited about Bart’s birthday and gets him a Superstar Celebrity Microphone that allows him to project his voice on AM radios. Bart’s birthday party at Wall E Weasel’s is a gentle rib of Chuck E Cheese and kids birthday parties. Bart pranks his family and neighbours before eventually pretending to be stuck down a well, initially to prank Willie but then the townsfolk. “Timmy O’Toole” is Bart’s invention.
In come the celebrities to send their love down the well. Sting is lampooned for jumping onto the cause. Other celebrities include Rainier Wolfcastle, Princess Kashmir, Scott Christian, Troy McClure, Bleeding Gums Murphy, the Capital City Goofball, Sideshow Mel, Marvin Monroe, “Diamond” Joe Quimby and Lance Murdoch. It’s a nice screenshot of what the Simpsons had achieved in their fantasy world to that point.
For the third act Bart falls down the well trying to retrieve the radio and is actually trapped. People are naturally mad with him. The townspeople eventually help Bart out. A shirtless Sting digging Bart out is the denouement. This is an ok episode but it feels like it was written in S2 and doesn’t have a biting run of gags. ***¼
LISA THE GREEK
This is an episode aimed at one of America’s religions; the NFL and the associated cult of gambling that comes with it. Moe is a bookie on the side and Homer gambles on every football game on any given Sunday. Smooth Jimmy’s “Lock of the Week” and the giant shoe, Coach’s hotline and Professor Frink’s Gambletron 2000. It turns out Lisa is adept at picking games and Sunday turns into “Daddy-Daughter Day”.
Lisa’s “happiest day of my life” essay where the “Saints kicked a meaningless field goal to cover the spread” is a highlight here. The Simpsons find themselves financially well off but Marge gets upset because gambling is illegal. The episode comes to a conclusion with Homer choosing bowling with Barney over hiking with Lisa the Sunday after the Superbowl and an angry Lisa has nightmares about gambling addiction.
The episode culminates on Superbowl Sunday with Washington vs. Buffalo (the first Superbowl I ever watched incidentally) and Lisa telling Homer Washington will win…if she still loves him. There’s a great little throwaway with Troy McClure in a new sitcom “Handle with Care”. “I play Jack Handle, a retired cop”. The associated stuff like the naff half time show, and the Duff Bowl and Reverend Lovejoy’s tiny turnout are good gags. The little bits are what makes the episode and it’s nice to see Homer and Lisa getting along. ***½
This episode has one of the best opening scenes ever, the Wyle E Coyote spoof of Homer chasing Bart through the house. We get a look at how much work is involved in being a housewife and Marge is assaulted on all sides by the kids and her idiotic husband. Marge ends up having a huge breakdown in the middle of a bridge. Marge decides to take some time at Rancho Relaxo leaving Homer to take care of Maggie, who refuses to go and stay with Patty and Selma.
Troy McClure is the video tour guide for Rancho Relaxo and Phil Hartman’s voice is liquid gold. The highlights of Homer taking care of Maggie include a puppet show where Santa’s Little Helper attacks him. The poor kids have to deal with the insufferable lifestyle of Patty and Selma. It’s a cutting look at childless relatives who get stuck taking care of kids. To create a little extra drama Maggie escapes through the cat flap and Homer is left searching for her.
It’s a solid episode with a lot of little gags although the central storyline isn’t strong enough. Marge is key to the way the family works and having her snap is an unpleasant reminder that the people we think are strong actually aren’t at all. The fact they have to have three plots here shows how flimsy the central premise is. ***½
BART THE LOVER
This episode highlights how lonely Edna Krabbappel is. It’s weird to have an episode start out with such strong focus on someone outside of the Simpson family. Edna’s life is sad so she places an advert in a Lonely-Hearts section and Bart replies, using a picture of Gordie Howe.
The subplot is Homer building a kennel for Santa’s Little Helper. “And this little character is the sun”. This adds another subplot where Flanders discovers his son is using bad language because of Homer. The episode is all over the place in an attempt to cram in gags but it is nice to see the development of Edna and Flanders. Homer’s swear jar montage is excellent too. “Fiddle-de-dee that will require a tetanus shot”.
Bart realises he’s gone too far when he sees Edna crying on her own in the Gilded Truffle, the town’s most luxuriant restaurant. Bart ends up going to his family for help on writing a letter that will let Edna down gently. Homer’s “welcome to Dumpville, population; you” is on brand. This is as satisfying an episode as “Bart Gets an F” and has a great gag quota. ****¼
HOMER AT THE BAT
Homer has a secret weapon for the upcoming softball season; a homemade bat. The whole episode is a gentle assault on softball and on sports movies in general. Homer finds success with his magic bat and soon the Power Plant is on its way to a successful season. However, Mr Burns gets into a wager with the plant owner from Shelbyville (Aristotle Amadopolis, sadly not voiced by Jon Lovitz this time) and brings in a team of ringers to play in the championship game.
Smithers recruits the ringers from the major leagues (Burns wants him to check out the negro leagues, another sign of his old age). Burns is also interested in Cap Anson, Honus Wagner and Mordecai “Three Fingers” Brown. Cap Anson died in 1922, Wagner in 1955 and Brown in 1948. Smithers team of ringers includes Roger Clemens, Wade Boggs, Ken Griffey Jr, Don Mattingly and Darryl Strawberry.
As the big day approaches each of Burns’ ringers are eliminated from the game in comical fashion. Ken Griffey Jr gets hooked on Brain & Nerve tonic and develops gigantism. Mike Scioscia, who actually wants to work at the plant, gets radiation poisoning. Wade Boggs is knocked out in a bar fight with Barney about who the better prime minister was; Lord Palmerston or Pitt the Elder. Roger Clemens thinks he’s a chicken after being hypnotised. Don Mattingly gets the boot for not getting his sideburns trimmed.
The Simpsons has always enjoyed taking shots at American society and having fun with the way of the world. Baseball, or in this case softball, is ripe for abuse. The 1992 city champs still that ends the episode is great and that’s one-upped by softball song that plays over the credits. You don’t have to love baseball to get this episode but it adds depth. An all-timer. *****
We’re back to the school for this episode where the kids take an aptitude test to see what kind of career lies ahead of them. Bart gets policeman and Lisa gets home maker. As part of Bart’s potential career choice, he gets a ride along with Lou and Eddie, two of Chief Wiggum’s underlings. Lou and Eddie are great characters and the episode exists as a spoof of TV cop shows as they chase bad guy Snake. “See you in hell, punk!”
In the secondary plot Lisa discovers she’ll never make it as a jazz musician and starts to rebel against the system. Meanwhile Bart finds a new love of law and order, realising that being a cop allows him a degree of freedom. Skinner makes him a hall monitor to try and reign in the bad kids. Bart’s iron fist control is a nice turnaround, while Lisa is vicious at cutting down Ms Hoover.
The episode has a tidy set up but Lisa hiding the teacher’s books in her locker seems decidedly dim witted for someone of her mental capacity. Maybe she wanted to be caught? Bart takes the fall for Lisa’s crime, thus ending his run of authority. Lisa playing the saxophone to cheer Bart up during his detention is a nice conclusion to the show and despite Bart’s behaviours he does come through for Lisa when she needs him. ***¼
DOG OF DEATH
Lottery fever hits Springfield and everyone runs out to buy tickets. Homer’s lottery winning fantasy involves him becoming the world’s largest man and getting coated in gold. Of course, the Simpsons don’t win. Kent Brockman does! His news reading with a picture of him celebrating moments earlier in the background is good stuff. He remains storyline rich from here on out.
Unfortunately for the Simpsons, they have a heavy expenditure coming up as Santa’s Little Helper is dead. “He is dead, I’ll get the shovel”. The vets need $750 to give Santa’s Little Helper an operation. I like the financial realism of the Simpsons not being able to afford an expensive operation. There are some good bits in this including Homer’s penchant for chucking books on the fireplace and Santa’s Little Helper going to doggie heaven.
The family end up despising the dog for having to make cuts. Including Marge who stopped buying her weekly ticket and she would have hit the jackpot the next week. Santa’s Little Helper runs off and goes on an adventure after Homer neglects to close the gate. “Oh, you mean tonight?” SLH ends up as an attack dog for Mr Burns. Burns’ methods are reminiscent of A Clockwork Orange. There’s a fine capper on this. “No dogs were harmed in the filming of this episode. A cat got sick and somebody shot a duck but that’s it”. ***½
When Homer is embarrassed by Marge yelling at him during a movie he heads out into the sticks and a redneck bar. There’s drinking, fighting and fucking. Ok, maybe just the first two. Homer enjoys a Fudd beer and listens to the country stylings of Lurleen Lumpkin. Homer heads back out to Spittle County (14 days without a tornado!) and gets Lurleen to record a CD. Soon she’s a sensation and Homer becomes her manager.
“Country music sucks” says Bart, pointing out exactly how I feel about the situation. Marge is also feisty about it, mad that Homer is spending so much time with an out of work cocktail waitress. This is a gentle ribbing of the country music scene and the sticks in general. Homer has never been successful at anything before and it causes major issues with Marge. This increases when Lurleen falls for Homer. Homer struggles to read between the lines, returning to his normal dumb self.
YaHoo, the TV show, has some great acts on it. Big Shirtless Ron and the recovering alcoholic jug band are personal favourites. Homer’s almost affair with Lurleen is akin to Marge rejecting an affair with Jacques in “Life on the Fast Lane” back in S1. This episode takes plenty of shots at country music so it’s ok by me. It is very music heavy though. ***½
Kelsey Grammer makes a welcome return as Sideshow Bob! He’s out of jail and is dating Selma. I’m amazed they didn’t get him back in S2 after the sensational “Krusty Gets Busted” in S1, the best episode of the season. Bob won an Emmy in prison, beating Pepito the world’s biggest cat, and spent most of his time plotting revenge. The rest of the Simpsons are taken in by Bob’s charm, but not Bart.
Krusty’s telethon for motion sickness and the Simpsons reaction to watching Dinosaurs are both great bits. Even Krusty forgives Bob for framing him. The wedding is almost in danger when Bob doesn’t like MacGuyver, Patty & Selma’s favourite TV show. Chief Wiggum’s serial incompetence kicks into a higher gear here as he puts his gun down to get a slice of cake at the reception.
Bob’s intention is to murder Selma and steal her money. Selma has no sense of smell so Bob floods the room with gas and then goes for a walk, awaiting Selma lighting up a cigarette and blowing herself up. Bart figures out Bob’s plan and foils him again, sending him back to jail. Kelsey Grammer is an automatic win, although his episodes would improve. ****
THE OTTO SHOW
“Otto. That’s one palindrome you won’t be hearing for a while”.
The episode starts with Bart and Millhouse watching Spinal Tap play in Springfield. The Tap play themselves. “We’re very big in Bulgaria”. “I can’t think of anyone who’s benefitted from the fall of communism more than us”. Spinal Tap were a comedy group anyway, despite actually appearing on some major music cards. Here they play divas who bail after a few songs and cause a riot. While the riot is happening, Homer is singing “Little Spanish Flea” in his car. Bart decides to become a rock star and Marge buys him a guitar. Bart’s daydreaming of being a rock star mostly involves swearing and wallowing in his own drunken filth.
Otto crashes the school bus the next day and it turns out he doesn’t have a driving licence. Otto gets kicked out of his apartment and has to live in a Trash-Co garbage disposal unit. Otto ends up becoming the first moocher to come and live with the Simpsons. Homer kicks him out but Otto uses his anger to get his licence and is aided by Patty (or possibly Selma, they are identical). As an episode it served as a chance to look into the life of a bit part character. Otto didn’t have a lot of depth and the episode doesn’t help that. The attempt to flesh him out here merely reinforces his bit-part status. It is a funny episode though and Spinal Tap make for great guests. ***¾
BART’S FRIEND FALLS IN LOVE
Another great intro here as Bart steals Homer’s change jar in a pure Indiana Jones tribute. Complete with hat rescue and hat flapping from the school bus. Millhouse falls in love with transfer student brace-wearing Samantha Stankey. She’s come in from Phoenix and Springfield has a “weird smell about it”. Troy McClure is used again here for a sex education video; “Fuzzy Bunny’s Guide to you know what”. It’s a little weird that Millhouse gets a girlfriend before Bart.
The subplot sees Lisa horrified at Homer’s obesity and attempts to get him to lose weight. As Homer is exceptionally lazy, they get him weight loss tapes to listen to while he sleeps. They’ve run out at the factory though so he ends up with an “increase your vocabulary” tape. Homer’s increased vocabulary is incredible. I’m not sure I could handle it on a regular basis but for one episode he sounds so smart. “Ooh, a sextet of ale”. When he stops using the tapes he goes mega-stupid again. This is the “where’s that metal deely that you dig food with” episode.
Bart, desperate for a friend, decides to hang out with Martin but only a few seconds of lute playing causes him to leg it. He also attempts to be a third wheel but gets rebuked so Bart grasses them up to Samantha’s dad. That’s the end of that love story. The episode ends with Homer’s “Increase your wordiness” tips. “Boudoir: where a French guy does it”. The Homer subplot is brilliant here but wouldn’t have sustained a full episode. The Millhouse plot is cute but slight. It’s still a very good episode thanks to Homer’s weight/verbosity issues. ****
BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE TWO DIMES
In the S3 conclusion we get the return of Uncle Herb (Danny DeVito). He’s still angry at Homer for costing him his fortune. This starts out with Homer being declared sterile, thanks to the power plant, and Burns has to pay him off. There’s a great gag with Homer’s sperm being dumb. There’s a lot of stuff I don’t remember here including Burns ranting at lawyers, Bart’s couch breaking living room Olympics and Smokin’ Joe Frazier getting into a bar fight with Barney.
DeVito is a fantastic voice actor and he brings both anger and warmth to Unky Herb. He uses Maggie to determine what baby’s want and builds a baby translator. When Herb successfully sells his invention, he repays the Simpsons faith in him. His forgiveness of Homer is a nice moment. It’s a shame they couldn’t find a way to get Herb back for future episodes as his storyline arc was effectively complete after two appearances. Maybe they didn’t think the character was funny enough. There does seem to be a struggle to write zingers for Herb and people are funny around him here. ***½
S3 is a big step up for the Simpsons again after the jump from S1 to S2. The great episodes number around the same as S2 but there are four episodes here head and shoulders above anything the show had done beforehand. Bart the Murderer, Flaming Moe’s, Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk and Homer at the Bat are all all-time great episodes. The likes of Mr Lisa Goes to Washington, When Flanders Failed, I Married Marge, Bart the Lover, Black Widower and Bart’s Friend Falls in Love would be contenders for best episode in the season if they’d been in S2.
Season 3 has incredible highlights. The gangland episode, Bart the Murderer, introduces us to Fat Tony and his mob friends. They’d sit in the background in future episodes but it’s a killer introduction here. Flaming Moe’s gave us Aerosmith and the start of mega-guest stars being a regular thing. It’s a season that has the land of chocolate, the softball episode and three-time soapbox derby champ Ronnie Beck. The attempts to expand the Simpsons universe include episodes dedicated to side characters like Mr Burns, Krusty the Klown, Edna Krabbappel, Millhouse and Otto Mann. They’re making the tapestry richer and the show is better for it.
Best Episode: Homer at the Bat, Flaming Moe’s, Bart the Murderer and Burns Verkaufen der Kraftwerk are my favourite four from this season.
Worst Episode: Lisa’s Pony