Thursday, July 15, 2010

My Least Favorite Simpsons Episodes

Now that you know what my Favorite Simpsons Episodes are, it's time for you time to find out which ones I like the least. While I'm not like Comic Book Guy and call these the WORST. EPISODES. EVER., these are pretty terrible in my eyes.

And unlike the Favorite Episodes entry, this list is my TOP (or rather, BOTTOM) 10 LEAST FAVORITE EPISODES and while it was an enormous bitch to whittle my favorites down to 11, it was MUCH easier getting to ten, and the order of which has been pretty solid in my mind.

If any of you out there had stopped watching the show because of any of the episodes on this list, I won't hold it against you.

#10. All Singing, All Dancing (Season 9)

Sure, it's a clip show, which automatically lowers the overall grade of the episode by a letter. But this is a clip show of the best musical moments of the series so far, and each clip shown were absolute winners. Hell, we even get a new entry in the "Great Simpsons Songs" series with the Paint Your Wagon parody at the beginning of the episode. I just lose it when Dan Castellaneta just starts singing as Lee Marvin. Thanks to the Weird Al Effect in full swing, I was quite saddened to find out that Paint Your Wagon is nothing like the thing we saw in the episode. Plus, Lee Marvin's song in the actual movie is completely different!

None of that bothers me as much as the wraparounds in the episode. Because it's a clip show about songs, the cast decides to sing everything. Yes, EVERYTHING. Sure, the whole cast have fantastic singing voices, but what they're singing about is really...about nothing. There's little to no plot with clip shows, and the only thing that actually happens in this one is that Snake randomly jumps through the window to rob them, and even their singing scares them off. Of course, he comes back to sing, but he leaves just as awkwardly as he arrived.

#9: Lard of The Dance (Season 10)

This is what I truly believe is the first dud of the series. It's the first episode that I know of that is a complete rehash of an older episode, in this case Season 6's "Lisa's Rival." Oh hey, there's a new girl in Lisa's class! Oh hey, she's voiced by a guest-star! Oh hey, she completely outclasses Lisa! Oh hey, she isn't mentioned again after this episode, either!

Instead of the younger genius girl Allison Taylor (voiced by Winona Ryder), we get spunky yuppie transfer girl Alex Whitney (voiced by Lisa Kudrow). She's unlike any other eight year old that attends Springfield Elementary: She wears perfume, wears trendy clothes, speaks in current slang, and owns both a cell phone and a credit card. I know what you're thinking: How is she different from kids today? That's the thing. Because the Simpsons began in the Late Eighties/Early Nineties, all of the characters dressed and behaved from that time period, only to conform to the times when needed. And even then, they were notoriously behind, like for the fact that the earliest we see the Simpsons with a computer is Season 11's "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?"...which aired in 1999.

Since then, girls like Alex have become the norm, and not the exception, as shown in this episode. Watch any episode that was made in the last three years that involved the school: Notice how EVERY SINGLE KID now acts like Alex? By the way, watch them and you just might find Alex and Alison in crowd scenes. And unlike "Lisa's Rival," Lisa doesn't really learn the lesson here, especially since we see Allison in the episode as well, and I found it a missed opportunity to not reference her adventure in any way. This show is usually awesome with continuity, but pointing out how some background characters used to have some significance has unfortunately not been their strong suit.

Then we have the B-Story, where Homer decides to get rich by selling grease. Seems awfully familiar with Homer's little escapade with his sugar pile, doesn't it? There's really no point in going into great detail as is really isn't as good as the Sugar plot, but I must point out the scenes with Willy (he's from North Kilt-Town!) and the really, really disgusting shot of Homer's eye after getting stuck in a hose.

#8: Bonfire of The Manatees (Season 17)

When characters mention in-episode that it wasn't one of their better adventures, you know you've got a problem. This is one of those episodes that I felt would've been better as two separate entries. For both stories, the first half where Homer is forced to have a porno movie filmed in his house by the mob and he sends the family away so they won't find out, and the second half where Marge is fed up with Homer yet again and becomes a volunteer to help manatees seemed like the writers had nowhere else to go with them, so they just mashed the two together to save time and money. The episode's saving grace comes to us via Alec Baldwin, playing the Manatee researcher that becomes friends with Marge. As we all know, this isn't the first time he's been on the show, but it's the first time where he isn't playing himself. At the very least, he manages to avoid a very common trap set by several episodes made around this time by outright stating that he only likes Marge as a friend and colleague, with no romantic intentions whatsoever. I was kind of impressed by that.

The concept of helping manatees just seemed like one of those "Moe Gets a Cellphone" episodes. It's a term that was coined by the fandom after one of the potential stories suggested at the end of Season 13's "Gump Roast" was Moe getting a Cellphone. It symbolizes the epitome of desperation, suggesting that the writers have truly run out of ideas. Thus, any seemingly random plot to any episode made afterward gains the moniker. And believe me, in the eight-plus seasons since "Gump Roast's" airing, we saw quite a bunch of them, some episodes having a better execution than others.

#7: Bart to The Future (Season 12)

It's bad enough that the show did a "look into the future" episode after Lisa's Wedding, but to utterly fail at being amusing? Seeing Bart's life as a moocher who lives with Ralph thirty years into the future was more sad than anything. Yes, it's even sadder than the fact that the titular wedding in Lisa's Wedding takes place on August First of this year!

Since Lisa's Wedding came first, and was an overall better episode, it was pretty disappointing to see that a thirty year flash-forward had anachronisms to the fifteen year flash-forward. Then again, five years had passed between the episodes, so you could argue that flash-forwards took place in "present day" and the thirty year flash-forward occurs after the fifteen year one, yet the one thing that causes the anachronisms to occur in the first place is the fact that Lisa's Wedding had a set date of 2010. Yike. It seems like the one constant in both episodes is that Future Krusty looks exactly the same.

We see Lisa as the President-elect of the US, Bart is her Billy Carter, "Smell ya later" replaces "good-bye," and there's a B-story with Homer and Marge searching for Lincoln's gold for some reason. What DO I like about this episode? Hmm...lemme think...That's a good question. I know: The callbacks to both Gabbo and Marge's gambling problem, a reference to the chicken-wire bar from The Blues Brothers, confirmation that Rod and Todd are gay, but they haven't been outed yet, and Homer saying "Hi, how are ya, Hi, how are ya?" to various patrons of the Native American Casino.

#6: Homer vs Dignity (Season 12)

You'd think that I'll just say "Panda Rape" and leave it at that, but this episode has an interesting backstory to it. The episode's plot was based off an obscure movie where some rich guy (not unlike Burns) decided to pay some guy (Homer) to do a variety of really embarrassing things for his own amusement. But when it came down to the ending, the original script for the episode called for something different: Instead of Homer trading places with Burns on the Santa float to throw fish guts on people, Homer stayed on the float and threw blood on everyone, crying as he did it. We then have a flash-forward with Homer ending a story with "...and that's how Thanksgiving became known as Splatterfest."

Naturally, this resulted in one of the worst script readings in the entire history of the show (up to that point) and everyone demanded it be changed. So it just goes to show you haters: it could have been worse. Overall, the story itself is pretty mean, with Homer going through all these dumb stunts, including getting raped by a panda, all because he wants to support his family. Of course he finally changes his course when he realizes when the Panda Rape is the point where he, and the show itself, officially hit rock bottom. Panda Rape. I'm going to keep writing that in bold italics not because it's proving a point, but it's because it'll get me lots of Google hits.

The reason why this is only my 6th least favorite episode is because there are a few great moments in the episode: the appearances of the Frank Nelson "eeeYesssssss?" character and the Wealthy Dowager, the lame balloons at the Thanksgiving parade (hey look, it's Funky Winkerbean!), the Malibu Stacy musical which I would've loved to have seen more of, and the beginning of the running gag of Lenny's eye getting hurt (which is quickly subverted when Carl gets hit with pudding and Burns walks him to a giant Eye Wash Station). This episode also contains one of my favorite visual gags in the entire series: After Carl uses the word "concur" in a sentence, he pulls out his Word-a-Day calendar...which reads "Conquer." It's the subtle details that make the English nerd in me chuckle.

#5: The Great Money Caper (Season 12)

Two words that fuel this plot: Jerkass Homer. He leaves Bart at the South Street Squidport after his crappy magic act doesn't get people to throw money at him. That's pretty damn cold, and the town patrons agree by giving money to Bart out of sympathy. This leads to yet another one of Homer's get rich schemes: Grifting. At first they only grifted enough money to repair the car, but then Homer continues doing it out of pure jerkassery. It's a pretty mean-spirited way to make money, as none of their "victims" really had it coming. I thought the "Blind boy with the cake" scam was quite clever, though.

I've been trying not to spoil the endings to most of these episodes, but there's really no ending to this one at all. Sure, Homer & Bart get caught and we find out that the entire town was grifting them as revenge, but as we're about to get some resolution, Otto storms in and everyone (yes, everyone) goes surfing. And that's it, roll credits. Talk about unsatisfying, this marked the beginning of the age where the writers stopped being able to actually end their stories, merely ending the episode with "Surf's Up!" or "Dance party!"

#4: Bart Mangled Banner (Season 15)

At the time, it was a pretty dead-on take on Post 9-11/Pre-Iraq War fear-mongering. But that's my problem: It was too good of a satire. While the subject matter seems dated today, the entire town becoming Libertyville and deporting the Simpsons after something so minor as accidentally mooning the American flag was something that I honestly feared that the Republicans in charge wished they were able to do, but with the notion that they'll be blamed for ripping off the show if they ever did it.

Like my feelings toward Bart to The Future, the family's predicament seemed more sad than funny, especially when they're thrown in prison with fellow liberty criminals like Elmo and The Last Registered Democrat. The family has been arrested and thrown out of countries for better reasons than the crap they get into in this episode.

#3: Please Homer, Don't Hammer 'Em (Season 18)

This is a definite "Moe Gets a Cellphone" episode. The A-plot simply feels like the writers were at a dartboard: "Marge." "Gets A New Job." "Carpenter." "Homer and Marge's Marriage is in trouble." "Jerkass Homer." Yes, it turns out that Marge has another hidden talent: Carpenter, but since this is Springfield, there's rampant sexism in the industry. Enter Homer, who stands on the sidelines to take credit for Marge's handy work...which eventually goes to his head. Then Jerkass Homer takes over to whine about how the credit for his non-work is justified, going so far as to wear an awesome T-shirt that reads "I DO ALL THE WORK." Then for some reason, the entire story hinges upon the two of them repairing a roller coaster. Yeah, dartboard at its finest.

The B-story is equally as terrible. The elementary school decides to ban all peanut products when someone develops an allergy to them. Is it Milhouse? No. Ralph? Not him, either. Some new kid voiced by a guest star? I wish. It turns out to be Principal Skinner. I hate how the writers give terrible retcons to this character. First they wait nine seasons to tell us that he's not the real Seymour Skinner, and now they waited nine more seasons to develop a peanut allergy. Of course, Bart takes full advantage of this by tying a peanut to a stick and waving it in front of Skinner to do some really embarrassing things.

One one hand, if you look at this episode as part of the series as a whole, Bart's finally getting back at his authority figure nemesis. But really, Bart's just being a total dick to Skinner, pretty much tempting death in the face of petty revenge. Speaking of retcons, Skinner finally fights back by engaging in a Star Wars-inspired duel with one of Bart's allergies: Shrimp.

Now that's total bullcrap, as Bart has several other allergies that the writers could've taken full advantage of: Butterscotch, Imitation Butterscotch, Cauliflower, and glow-in-the-dark monster makeup.
If Skinner had a stick with Imitation Butterscotch tied to the end of it, I would've thought that was awesome, but no, we get an allergy that contradicts all the times we caught Bart eating shrimp with absolutely no problem. Aye carumba.

And another thing: When Bart thinks he's about to die, he confesses to being El Barto. Now that's on the long list of things that the show shouldn't ever do, like Maggie speaking more than one sentence, aging up the characters to teens, or killing off a pretty popular supporting character because the Voice Actor wanted more money. Good thing they'll never let any of those happen.

#2: Million Dollar Abie (Season 17)

There's that dartboard again! "New Job." "Grampa." "Bullfighter." Yeah, here's something that the show has done much better before and since: The town blows its chance to get a football team for its newly-built stadium thanks to Grampa, and they struggle to find a new inhabitant. Unlike Season 20's "The Burns and The Bees," the basketball stadium becomes a giant beehive. In Season 10's "The Old Man and the C Student," Springfield merely loses out on the Olympics thanks to Bart insulting the Olympic Committee. But here? Someone gets the bright idea to make the stadium into a bullfighting arena, and Grampa becomes its star matador for some reason.

Now I've discussed before that Grampa has been the center of some pretty good episodes, but this is probably his lowest moment in the series so far. Even his random marriage to Selma was funnier and more believable than this. I've also spoken of missed opportunities on this list, and this episode hits a major one where we have a scene with all the owners of the various NFL teams. But they never acknowledge that Homer once owned the Denver Broncos?! For shame.

And which episode has the honor of sorts to being my Least. Favorite. Episode. Ever?

#1: The Fat and The Furriest (Season 15)

Homer fights a bear. That's all you need to know about the episode. Homer gets frightened by a bear, and becomes the town's laughingstock after the news calls him a coward. Out of his own jerkassery, he decides to build a suit of armor and fight it. It ends kind of how you think: Lisa, Marge, along with guest star Charles Napier, calls out how incredibly pointless it is, and Homer decides to not finish it off. Instead, they lead the bear to a nature preserve...where he's attacked by Stampy.

And that's it. Why was this one made? Why a bear? It just takes advantage of Homer's stupidity in the worst way, and just about everything about the episode just doesn't seem funny at all. One of the only redeeming qualities of this episode is the scene where Homer is frightened by the many bears of pop culture like The Snuggle Bear, Gummi Bears, Teddy Grahams, Care Bears, Winnie The Pooh, Paddington Bear, Sugar Bear the Super Sugar Crisp Bear, Banjo, even bears wearing Chicago Bears jerseys. But we've seen this gag done better before...and since.

There's also the great continuity nods to both Stampy and Starland Vocal Band, along with the aforementioned appearance by Charles Napier. He really needs to be in more shows, I really miss him as Duke Phillips in The Critic.

We've had better episodes of Homer conquering his fears and enemies before and since this episode aired, and it holds its place as my LEAST FAVORITE EPISODE.

So, which episode do you think holds the honor of being your least favorite? Share below in the comments!


Anonymous said...

I hated when they went BACK to the "90s" and homer was in college?!!?... Not just for obvious continuity reasons, But the dumb 1990s cliches were over the top/filler his "grunge/nirvana" thing was really annoying and didnt fit with the show.

Galileo said...

I perfectly agree, whoever you are. Massive retcons aside, making fun of pop culture in retrospect is slightly different than making fun of it in real-time.

Sure, the episodes that were made DURING the 90's had better satire and commentary, but much of what they made fun of was either topical or wasn't worth talking about until nostalgia kicked in.

Hoverbored said...

Hey, it's Hoverbored! Once again you deliver the goods with a Simpsons-related post. All I can say is that my Mom made us stop watching during season 8, which is just as well, since by then the show seemed to be going downhill anyway. Anyway, I'm adding your blog to my blogroll! The link to my new blog is . Thanks, and keep up the good work!

dohopoki said...

When the 500th episode comes in the next couple seasons I plan on writing a "Best 500 episodes of the Simpsons yet." You'll have to wait till then to see where these episodes rank on my list.

When that day comes, I might need to borrow some of your site, I'm not sure such a list will fit on one internet.

Eddie Floyd said...

Gee whiz, how could you not include "Missionary: Impossible" on that list? I consider it easily the worst episode of Season 11, and since S11 is IMNSHO the Worst Season Ever, I consider that one the worst episode ever. Second-worst here is "Homer Simpson in: Kidney Trouble", then "Kill the Alligator and Run", "Homer Goes to College", "The Principal and the Pauper" (you don't have it on your list for some dumb reason), "Homer's Paternity Coot", "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken", "Beyond Blunderdome", "All Singing, All Dancing" (the only ep I have in common choice with you), and finally "Hello Gutter Hello Fadder". Ten episodes of drivel.

Galileo said...

@Eddie, I'll agree on Season 11 being one of, if not the, worst seasons ever. Hell, they killed off Maude, and it's the first full season without Phil Hartman! That's when I truly believed the show lost its heart. It died with Maude Flanders.

I actually LIKED "Missionary: Impossible" thanks to two words: Betty. White. Oh, and the whole part with Homer being chased by the PBS people. And the Toad licking. And the natives going crazy over the casino. And the cop-out ending with Betty White in ANOTHER telethon.

Also, how the hell is "Homer Goes to College" on your Worst Episodes Ever list?!