Futurama Fridays – S2E16 “Anthology of Interest I”

The Planet Express crew participates in a scientific version of “What If?”

SUMMARY

The Professor (Billy West) is demonstrating his new invention the “Fing-longer” which, as the name suggests, is just a glove with a long finger. He uses the device to turn on the What-If Machine, which generates a hypothetical story in response to any “What If” question. The crew tries it out in 3 different stories:

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Behold, the FUTURE!!!!!

First, Bender (John DiMaggio) asks what it would be like if he were 500 feet tall. A giant Bender is built on another planet and proceeds to head to Earth, where he quickly befriends Fry (West). However, their interactions are now more destructive than usual due to Bender being larger than most versions of Godzilla. When Zapp Brannigan (West) is sent to stop him, Fry is injured, resulting in Bender going on a rampage. The Professor decides to enlarge Zoidberg (West) to 500 feet tall to fight Bender, but Zoidberg soon starts destroying stuff as well. The two do end up fighting and Bender appears to win until Fry distracts him with shrinky-dinks and Zoidberg impales Bender on a large building. Bender says that his simple dream was only to kill all humans, then he expires.

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King Kong ain’t got nothing on them.

Second, Leela (Katey Sagal) asks what she would be like if she were slightly more impulsive. This results in her killing the Professor in response to him calling her boring. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) discovers this, but she kills and dismembers him. Bender tries to blackmail her over Hermes’ remains, so she kills Bender with a microwave. Amy (Lauren Tom) insults Leela, so she dies. Cubert (Kath Soucie), Scruffy (David Herman), and Nibbler (Frank Welker) all accuse Leela and are impaled on the same sword. Zoidberg finally figures it out, but Leela eats him. After Fry actually determines the truth, Leela silences him… through wild sex acts, which he really likes.

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This is genuinely impressive. Most people can’t do the triple impale.

Last, Fry asks what would have happened if he never came to the future. Back in the year 1999, Fry fails to fall into the cryogenic freezer, resulting in a space-time rip that shows Planet Express. The next day, Fry sees Stephen Hawking in his pizzeria and tells him about the rip. Later, Fry is abducted by the “Vice Presidential Action Rangers,” a group dedicated to preserving the space-time continuum, with members including Hawking, Al Gore, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, and Deep Blue (Tress MacNeille) the chess computer. They determine that the rip means that Fry should have died, and try to beat him to death to save the universe. This makes the rip worse, so they realize Fry would have to be frozen, but Fry breaks the tube, resulting in the universe collapsing. In response, the group plays Dungeons and Dragons.

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Weirdly, these characters are together even without Fry.

The entire episode is revealed to be the Professor asking what life would be like with the fing-longer.

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He does eventually make it, though. Because science!!!!

END SUMMARY

This was the Futurama version of the “Treehouse of Horror” from The Simpsons, but these are less directly parodying popular films or movies. Bender’s story is a bit of a parody of The Iron Giant and Godzilla, and the name of Leela’s is a parody of Dial M for Murder, but it never feels like they’re being too direct about the rip-offs. In the DVD commentary, they say that they wanted to do some stories that they just couldn’t work into the normal continuity, similar to Marvel’s “What-if?” comics line.

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Much like that line, some stuff in these became canon.

This episode kind of highlights what I think is a strength behind both this show and The Simpsons as well as the other shows that have sense copied it: They’re willing to play with the medium of sitcom. They know that television is, by default, repetitive and that one of the best ways to keep people from going insane is to occasionally have an episode that bucks that. These episodes also often have the benefit of containing ideas that were generally deemed “good” but not good enough to stretch into a full episode, so most of the quality is condensed into each vignette.

Bender’s segment, “Terror at 500 Feet” is pretty much great from start to finish, including the way that Bender’s lead-in very clearly suggests he was going to ask what it would be like to be human (something that they actually did in the sequel episode to this). It’s surprisingly efficient, with most of the interactions of characters happening in only a line or two, and a lot of it being conveyed through quick cuts of Bender and Fry’s friendship. The ending is one of the best random lines in the series, with Bender saying that he’s not the real 7-billion-ton robot monster… despite the fact that he also was planning genocide.

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Might wanna get that checked out.

Leela’s segment, “Dial L for Leela” actually does a nice exploration of the character that is fairly accurate to her canon portrayal: If Leela were more impulsive, she entirely gives in to murderous rage (and apparently lust in some cases). While in this episode she’s comically over-the-top, if you pay attention to Leela throughout the series, she does have some pretty pronounced issues with violence. She also spontaneously sleeps with people that she regrets a few times, including most famously Zapp Brannigan. Basically, this segment is just telling us that Leela is always about to go on a killing rampage… which we honestly should have known already.

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She also got new boots with a fun green stripe.

The last segment “The Un-Freeze of a Lifetime” is basically an excuse to say “look how many celebrities we can get.” It’s got Stephen Hawking, Gary Gygax, Nichelle Nichols, and “literally running for President at the time” Al Gore. This was Al Gore’s first appearance on a fictional show and it’s honestly hard to believe that he agreed to this, since, again, he was literally the sitting VP at the time and running for President. I assume it was trying to break up his reputation as being weak or super-serious (super-cereal as South Park would put it) by being a violence-prone caricature in a comedy show, but it’s still a weird event in pop-culture. The fact that he’s paired with Gary Gygax, someone that his wife, Tipper, had repeatedly attacked as corrupting children (because she saw Tom Hanks in Mazes and Monsters, I assume), is even more bizarre, but, again, maybe it was supposed to show that serious Al Gore could lighten up. Hawking was likely there because he repeatedly guest-starred on the Simpsons. Nichelle Nichols was there because she’s awesome. The complete randomness of the assembly really only serves to drive home both the ludicrous nature of the premise as well as the dysfunction of the group. I actually think that this is a premise that, with the right writing, might have carried an entire episode, because it honestly feels a little rushed in this segment. Still, it’s funny and filled with stars.

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And DnD would never look cooler than this.

I also love that “The Un-Freeze of a Lifetime,” written by series creator David X. Cohen is basically a giant ball of foreshadowing. When they duplicate the events of “Space Pilot 3000,” the shadow which prompted Cohen and Groening to shout “secret” in the first season’s director’s commentary is missing. When Fry misses the tube, the universe starts to unravel. However, it’s not that the universe is unraveling just because he missed the tube, but because without Fry being in the future, there’s no one to stop the evil brains. Also, unless he goes to the future, Fry can’t go back in time and become his own grandfather, meaning that his very existence violates the laws of the universe… or at least the ones that are in place until they get broken in “Bender’s Big Score.” Apparently, the “What if?” machine can take into account information that no one knows outside of the Nibblonians. Still, nice work, Cohen.

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Behold, the floor.

FAVORITE JOKE

My favorite gag is that Stephen Hawking steals ideas and claims them as his own. First, he agrees with Fry’s claim that he invented gravity, then he steals the space-time rip by claiming it as a “Hawking Hole” instead of a “Fry Hole.” When Fry calls him out on it, Hawking counters “Who is The Journal of Quantum Physics going to believe?”

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Rest in Peace.

This plays into the longstanding rumors that Hawking had plagiarized or stolen some of his more famous theories, particularly related to space-time. This was even played with in one of his appearances on The Simpsons where he talks to Homer and says he might steal his theory of a donut-shaped universe. It’s been claimed that Hawkings developments, particularly the ones which were later overturned, were not as significant as he claimed and that they were just taking a small step past what was previously discovered by others, but with good press.

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Those thieving glasses…

The truth is that physics, even more so than most other sciences, is developed by expanding upon the theories and research of previous people. Einstein’s famous mass-energy equivalence paper (the E=Mc^2 thing, though it wasn’t in the paper) was revolutionary, but most of it was similar to a paper by Hendrik Lorentz. Isaac Newton once said of his accomplishments “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants,” and even that expression was a turn on a statement from the 1100s by Bernard of Chartres which stated that each generation advances only because we are dwarves standing atop of the giants that are our ancestors.

Hawking’s work was not only great because of its scientific advancement, but also because he, like Einstein or Richard Feynman or Neil DeGrasse Tyson, went out of his way to try and put science into the zeitgeist and make scientists look cooler.

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Though none matched Schrodinger for cool.

One of the best things about this was that Hawking rolled with all of the punches (yes, pun intended) and just dealt with it as part of being in the spotlight. So, yeah, I think they gave him a couple of good-natured shots so that he could show that he’s able to handle it.

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 28: The Problem with Popplers

NEXT – Episode 30: War is the H-Word

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

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THE GROUCH ON THE COUCH PRESENTS: THE MOTHER’S DAY COUCH AWARDS

By: The Grouch on the Couch

It’s tough to make any list about Moms in fiction. No matter who you pick for “Best” or “Worst,” there are still gonna be people whining about the results. So, instead, I’m just gonna make up awards for 10 Fictional Mothers. 7 of these were on the list to begin with, the other 3 were picked at random from a list of around 50 names.

THE “MOM WHOSE GLASS IS HALF-FULL (OR ALWAYS FULL)” AWARD

Linda Belcher (John Roberts on Bob’s Burgers)

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Linda doesn’t live the high-life. Her family’s restaurant is generally in the red, her husband is perpetually stressed, and her children consistently make everything worse. Despite that, Linda is almost unfailingly positive, being a source of optimism and cheer for her whole family. Sure, she has a few drinks now and then and then and then and then, but she approaches everything with an enthusiasm that usually is contagious even for her very-resistant family. She’s supportive of her children’s unusual pursuits, and even her sister Gayle’s borderline-insane hobbies. She can be pushed to the limit sometimes, but she always bounces back. Also, she’s a naturally theatrical person, coming up with songs constantly, including the “Thanksgiving Song,” the holiday hit the world really needed.

THE “MOST EMOTIONALLY ABUSIVE MOM” AWARD

Jessica Walter as Malory Archer/Lucille Bluth (Archer/Arrested Development)

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She can drink.

Jessica Walter is a treasure, but her ability to portray a woman able to absolutely destroy the mental health of her own children is so great that they gave her two different shows to do it in. Lucille Bluth, the matriarch of the Bluth family, not only has raised 4 emotionally crippled children, but she makes sure to manipulate them against each other every chance she can just to maintain her status. The fact that she’s revealed to be the mastermind behind everything in the original run of Arrested Development is one of my favorite comic twists.

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A “Bonding” Experience

Malory Archer, while having only one child (that we know of), managed to raise simultaneously the world’s greatest super-spy and the world’s most incompetent human being. She’s had so many affairs that she legitimately doesn’t seem to know her son’s father, gave birth to him on a bar after assassinating a man, left him for five years, and then spent the rest of his life keeping him underneath her. Also, she killed the Prime Minister of Italy after putting him in a gimp suit, and then called her son to help get rid of the body. No amount of context helps this.

THE “MOTHER WHOSE CHILDREN MOST OVERACHIEVE” AWARD

Ramonda (Angela Bassett in Black Panther)

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She definitely served her country as a ruler, but you know she wasn’t slacking on her mothering duties. Queen Ramonda of Wakanda has two children. The first is T’Challa, the current king of Wakanda and holder of the title of Black Panther, a superhuman athlete with a mind for both science and battle tactics that is almost unsurpassed in the world, as well as a noble heart. The second is her daughter Shuri, and while T’Challa’s mind is almost unsurpassed, Shuri is actually stated by at least one source to be the single smartest human in the Marvel Universe. And you know the only thing both of them listen to above all else? Their mother. And since it’s Angela Bassett, no one really questions their deference.

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Oh, and they’re damned good looking.

THE “NICEST MOTHER YOU SHOULD NEVER CROSS” AWARD

Molly Weasley (Julie Walters in the Harry Potter series)

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Molly Weasley has seven children and is portrayed in the first books of the series as being a wonderful, caring, albeit slightly overbearing, woman who loves all of her children deeply and makes sure that they know it. She also basically adopts Harry, an orphan, into her family and treats him with more affection than he’s ever known. She’s a dear, sweet lady.

NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!

And with one line, Molly Weasley moves from “Sweet Lady” to “Unstoppable Force of Wrath.” When Bellatrix Lestrange, who had previously killed one of Molly’s sons, attacks her only daughter, Molly, despite not being the strongest witch in the world, challenges the single most psychotic (and likely the most powerful) female villain in the books to one-on-one combat. And proceeds to remove her from the face of the Earth. Do. Not. F*ck. With Molly Weasley’s kids.

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THE “BEST MOM YOU’VE NEVER HEARD OF” AWARD

Bell-mère (One Piece, episodes 34-36)

MothersDayBellMereBell-mère was a female marine who was wounded in a particularly vicious battle and, as she was dying, saw two girls alone in the wreckage of the battlefield. Realizing that if she died, so would the children, she found the strength to move, bandaged herself up, and took the two kids back to her home village. She adopted and raised the two, and, while she wasn’t a perfect mother, she definitely tried her best and loved them both deeply.

MothersDayBellMere2.pngUnfortunately, the town was targeted by a group of quite literally inhuman pirates, who decided to take it over as a base of operations. While Bell-mère was able to actually attack and pin the pirate Captain, Arlong, she was quickly overpowered. The pirates put a decree on the town: Everyone had to pay a tax for themselves and their children, but it was being checked by the town birth register. Her daughters, Nami and Nojiko, not having been born there, weren’t on it. Since they couldn’t afford to pay for Bell-mère and her daughters, the town conspired to make it seem like Bell-mère lived alone and smuggle the two out when they could. Unfortunately, this was confounded immediately… by Bell-mère herself, who used the money for her own life to instead pay for the girls. When asked why she would do this, it’s because she would have had to live without them, and, as she tearfully explained to them, she’d rather die than deny having been their mother. Her last words were “I love you” as she was publicly executed.

This was just a short flashback in the series, but it’s still one of the most intense moments in a show that’s now been running for 20 years. It’s a mom dying not just to save her children, but because she couldn’t live if she couldn’t live with them. That’s why I was happy when this was one of the random ones I pulled.

THE “LONGEST RUNNING MOM” AWARD

Marge Simpson (Julie Kavner on The Simpsons)

MothersDayMarge.pngWhat? It’s true. Marge Simpson has been the mother to three pre-teens for so long that people born during her debut now mostly have children of their own.

Despite being married to a legendarily stupid man and having an oldest son who has slowly gone from “problem child” to “sociopathic monster,” Marge somehow manages to keep her family together and out of jail. She’s usually a housewife, but she’s also been a successful baker, entrepreneur, novelist, real estate agent, and police woman. In fact, several episodes have implied that the only reason why the Simpsons aren’t homeless is because Marge’s little side-gigs are so profitable that she ends up paying off their debts. She’s a talented artist, a sexual dynamo (hey, a mom’s got needs), and has the ability to keep hair standing four-feet tall. And, to be fair, while Bart may be a Hellion, Lisa is a polymath and Maggie is portrayed as unnaturally intelligent (though, she has shot 17 people as a baby). As Meatloaf tells us, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad.

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THE “MOM WHOSE PAIN YOU MOST RELISH” AWARD

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey on Game of Thrones)

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Cersei Lannister is the worst. Actually, no, she’s not. Cersei Lannister’s eldest son Joffrey Baratheon was the worst. Joffrey was sadistic, malicious, amoral, egotistical… pretty much every bad label you can put on a person, Joffrey earned it, and, above all else, he was completely incompetent. He wasn’t a good fighter, a good leader, a good planner, a good speaker, or even a good son. Despite that, his mother loved him unfailingly, never realizing that she was constantly making him worse by not correcting him. And Cersei herself is so bad that, when Joffrey is finally killed (thank the Seven), it’s almost impossible to feel bad for her, even with Lena Headey’s great performance as a mother losing her beloved son. Same when she loses her daughter, Myrcella, who she basically condemned to death through her own stupidity. But, when Cersei’s bombing of the Great Sept of Baelor leads her last surviving son, Tommen, to kill himself, making her the Queen of the Iron Throne, we’ve truly hit the “Kill her, kill her painfully” point. She’s still alive as of this writing, but if there is any form of justice within Westeros, she will die screaming, alone, and be pulled into the Seven Hells by the spirit of Joffrey, the worst sin she ever committed. Man, that got dark.

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Not. Nearly. Enough.

THE “MOST BAD-ASS MOTHER ON FILM” AWARD (ADOPTED CATEGORY)

Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver in the Alien series)

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To those of you pointing out that Ellen Ripley actually does have a biological daughter, I’m aware. In fact, it’s sad that the movie Aliens cut out the scene where Ripley is told that her daughter has died while she was lost in space, because it’s a great performance that genuinely makes her actions later in the film much more emotionally compelling and understandable. But, in the category title, I’m referring, of course to her “adopted” daughter, Newt. Ellen finds the only survivor of the Xenomorph attack on LV-426, a young girl much the same age as her daughter would have been had she made it back on time, and a bond is struck quickly.

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After the team she is with is devastated by the aliens, she makes it to safety, but Newt is captured. With no one else left to go back into the nest of the very creatures that just annihilated a crew of Marines armed to the teeth, Ripley instead duck-tapes together a flame thrower and a pulse rifle, goes into a hive of some of the deadliest monsters on film, and brings Newt back, killing dozens of the bastards on the way. And that would be impressive enough, but unfortunately, Newt and Ripley get attacked by the Queen Alien. As Ripley gets away, Newt is cornered by the beast, until Ripley, in what is a strong contender for the single most bad-ass scene in movie history, comes back operating a power loader and calls out a 20-foot tall, super-strong, acid-blooded, nigh-indestructible monster with the line:

GET AWAY FROM HER, YOU BITCH.

The fact that Molly Weasley had to steal her line from this one tells you everything you need to know about exactly how little you ever want to mess with Ellen Ripley.

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THE “MOST BAD-ASS MOTHER ON FILM” AWARD (BIOLOGICAL CATEGORY)

Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2: Judgment Day)

To be clear, I don’t actually think there should be a demarcation between biological and adopted children, I just couldn’t put one of these women on the list without the other and I wanted some flimsy justification.

MothersDaySarahConnor1.pngSarah Connor was a normal woman, until a robot in the shape of a giant Austrian bodybuilder decided to show up at the nightclub she was at and try to kill her. She was rescued by a man from the future, who told her that her son would one day save humanity. Sarah managed to destroy the robot and realized that she would have to get ready for a dark future.

When we catch up with her 11 years later (yes, that’s when T2 happens relative to Terminator, check the movies), we find a very, very different Sarah Connor. She spent the entire interval turning herself into a living weapon. She’s in peak physical condition, can make a weapon out of anything, can pick locks, hack ATMs at will, and is both willing and able to wield lethal ordinance. The only thing that really scares her in the movie is the T800, which… well, is completely reasonable. She’s so determined that being stabbed repeatedly doesn’t weaken her resolve. And she did all of this in the name of keeping her son alive.

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THE “BEST FICTIONAL MOM” AWARD

Morticia Addams (Anjelica Huston in The Addams Family)

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Look into your heart, you know it to be true. Morticia Addams may be weird as all get-out, but she’s the best overall mother on this list. She’s supportive of her children but can also be a disciplinarian when she needs to be. For example, when she sees Wednesday about to attack her brother with a cleaver, Morticia stops her, takes the cleaver, and then gives her a scythe, which is going to be much more appropriate for the environment that he’s located in. She’s going to want the reach, after all. Morticia puts family first, and always wants harmony among them, but unlike most families, hers actually is pretty much perfectly harmonious. She keeps a lavish garden, including a one-of-a-kind African Creeper named Cleopatra, helps out with school functions and charities, and has a close relationship with both of her children (and later her third). “But she lets her kids attack each other all the time,” I hear you saying, “at one point she even watches her daughter electrocute her son while playing the game ‘Is there a God.” Yeah, she gives her kids their independence, what’s wrong with that? The only reason why this bothers you is because your wimpy kids would die from a large bowl of arsenic or a shotgun to the chest, but she’s clearly a better mother than you. She makes sure her kids are prepared for the real world by ensuring that they’re prepared to deal with hardships like “decapitation.” Plus, she can still instantly arouse her husband with a word in French, even after 3 kids. Can you name another mother that can do all that?

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This article is dedicated to my own mother, who deserves better than she gets, gives more than she needs to, and loves her children and grandchildren more than anyone I know.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews. If you want more from the Grouch on the Couch, wait a week for something… bigger.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

The 5 Greatest Easter Episodes

Happy Easter, everyone! Eat some candy in the shape of a bunny or a chick, eat some jelly beans, paint some eggs, go to church for the first time since Christmas, and blow up a cart in front of the Duomo. In honor of this most oddly-celebrated of holidays, I present to you the 5 best TV Easter episodes of all time:

Runner up: The Turtles and the Hare (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle)

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It’s Easter, and Krang and Shredder are trying to use their “Docilizer” ray to turn everyone as docile as rabbits (because they haven’t seen Watership Down). A Bunny-Suited Bebop and Rocksteady even manage to get April O’Neil just as she’s calling the Turtles for help. To counteract the ray, the Turtles need a crystal from a “fairy tale dimension.” When they go there, they encounter Hokum Hare, the rabbit from “The Tortoise and the Hare,” who they befriend and eventually drag back to Earth. Hokum helps defeat the evil plan, then acts as the “Easter Bunny” for the Channel 6 Easter Egg Hunt.

The biggest mistake in this episode is that they couldn’t get Usagi Yojimbo back to play the Easter Bunny. If you know who that is, you agree with me.

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5) It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!

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Okay, so, never let it be said the Linus Van Pelt (Stephen Shea) was a quitter. Despite the fact that he failed to find the Great Pumpkin, he believes that the Easter Beagle is going to take care of all of the Easter festivities. Meanwhile, the rest of the Peanuts gang tries to celebrate in all their usual ways. The highlight of the episode is Peppermint Patty (Linda Ercoll) trying to teach Marcie (Jimmy Ahrens) how to decorate eggs. Marcie’s complete lack of experience leads her to ruin so many of the eggs that eventually Patty is out of money, without a single egg done.

Meanwhile, Lucy (Melanie Kohn) tries to create a private egg hunt, but Snoopy (Bill Melendez) follows behind her and steals the eggs. On Easter, Snoopy runs through town as the “Easter Beagle,” distributing eggs to everyone. However, when he gets to Charlie Brown (Todd Barbee), he runs out. Embarrassed, Snoopy gives him the basket. Charlie Brown is the loser, after all.

It was a cute follow up to the Great Pumpkin, and Patty and Marcie are hilarious.

4) Little House: The Last Farewell

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So, after 10 years of Little House on the Prairie, the show finally ended, but there were three TV Specials that came after. For reasons that will become obvious, this is the last one of those (though the Christmas one got delayed, so it aired after).

So, basically, it’s a few years after the end of the show, and Charles and Caroline Ingalls (Michael Landon and Karen Grassle) stay in the little house from the show while the Carters, who took over the house during the last season, are out of town.

However, a land tycoon has actually acquired the deed to the town of Walnut Grove where the show took place. The town tries to defeat the claim in court, but they lose. They try to force the tycoon to leave, but the tycoon is backed by the army (and, btw, he does actually own the land, the town was built illegally and adverse possession didn’t apply to the territories). So, Laura (Melissa Gilbert), encourages the town, on the last Sunday, Easter Sunday, to do the just thing.

So, the town celebrates Easter by dynamiting all of the buildings, ruining the property value before the tycoon gets there. And this was completely real, btw. Michael Landon was told that the studio had to return the property back to its original state, and this was his solution: Blow up the town they had built for the show. However, since the town is at Easter mass, the church was the only building left (aside from the Little House). I can only assume this was the best sermon ever.

3) The Easter Bunny is Coming to Town

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This is the second Rankin/Bass Easter Special after Here Comes Peter Cottontail, but I’m going with this one because it starts in the town of Kidville, which is a weird socialist dystopia populated entirely by orphans… because the next town over, called Town, won’t allow children. This is such a bizarre set-up that I can’t help but love it. The kids adopt a bunny named Sunny, who grows up trying to sell eggs.

When a bear keeps stealing them, the kids paint the eggs and Sunny tells the bear he’s selling colored stones as paperweights. The bear lets him through and Sunny distributes the eggs on Easter. The child king of the town declares him the “Easter Bunny,” but his aunt Lily, who actually runs the town, kicks Sunny out and outlaws eggs, making beans the only food. To get around this, Sunny brings the king Jelly Beans the next Easter, along with the eggs. However, the bear, thinking they’re colored stones, chucks the basket full of eggs, resulting in the Egg hunt being invented. The next year, when the aunt puts guards to stop Sunny from coming to town, Sunny covers himself in chocolate and Trojan Horses his way in. The next year, he just builds a train into the city, which renders all prior plans useless by comparison.

It’s a cute special that tries to explain why we have such a strange amalgam of Easter traditions in an interesting story. I refuse to apologize.

2) Simpsons Bible Stories (The Simpsons)

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On a hot Easter Sunday, Homer ticks off Reverend Lovejoy, leading him to just start reading the Bible. The Simpsons proceed to pass out during the sermon and dream of different bible tales.

First, Marge imagines herself as Eve to Homer’s Adam. Unlike the usual version, Adam eats the apple but frames Eve. Homer then tunnels her back into Eden using a Unicorn named Gary, who ends up dying. This Unicide leads God to kick them out.

Lisa imagines herself as the power behind Milhouse’s Moses. Lisa and Milhouse incite plagues against the Egyptians (which fail, because the Egyptians love eating frogs), until finally the pair lead the Hebrews to the Red Sea, which they drain by flushing a huge number of toilets. At the end, Milhouse asks Lisa what the future holds for the Jews. Rather than answering, Lisa tells them to find Manna.

Homer imagines himself as Solomon. Lenny and Carl bring a pie before him that both claim to own. Homer cuts it in half, then orders them killed so that he can eat the pie.

Bart envisions himself as David (who came before Solomon, for the record), who is dethroned by Goliath II, son of Goliath. David trains and kills Goliath II in combat, only to discover that Goliath II was a great ruler, much better than David. David is then arrested.

The Simpsons awaken to find that, due to them sleeping through church, they were not raptured and the apocalypse has come. Lisa begins to rise to heaven, but Homer pulls her back. The family then descends to hell, where Homer smells BBQ, as “Highway to Hell” plays.

1) Fantastic Easter Special (South Park)

EasterSouthPark.jpg

Stan Marsh is questioning all the goofy Easter traditions, but is told just to go with it. Unsatisfied, Stan starts investigating, and is followed by men in bunny suits. Eventually, he finds his dad, Randy, wearing bunny ears. Randy explains that he’s part of the “Hare Club for Men” who has been guarding the great secret of Easter since Jesus. However, the group is attacked by Catholic ninjas before they can explain, and Stan escapes with Snowball, a bunny.

Stan goes to Kyle for help, but, being Jewish, Kyle knows nothing of Easter. They then track down a professor of history who explains the secret: Peter, the Apostle and the First Pope, was a rabbit. That’s why the Pope has a mitre (to hide bunny ears). Snowball is the last descendent of Peter. The clues are contained within eggs (Easter Eggs) found in Da Vinci’s Last Supper.

Stan and Kyle go to the Vatican with Snowball, but Bill Donohue of the American Catholic League proceeds to double cross the Pope, who is merciful and reasonable, and orders all the Hare Club killed, because he’s Bill Donohue, and this is exactly what he would do. Jesus himself descends to tell Donohue that he is wrong, but Donohue says that the church knows better than Jesus, because he’s Bill Donohue, and this is exactly what he would do (and has, btw). Kyle and Jesus are locked away together, and Jesus begs Kyle to kill him so that he can go to heaven, resurrect outside of the cell, and deal with Donohue. Kyle agrees (after telling Jesus that Cartman can never know of this), and Jesus returns, killing Donohue with the Glaive from Krull (because why not?). Snowball is made Pope and, because he’s a rabbit, says nothing, which is the point. People should figure out what’s right on their own.

Honestly, I love this episode. I think it’s a great parody of the Da Vinci Code, of Easter Specials, and of Bill Donohue (who loved the episode because he gave the Church “some guts” by ordering mass murder). And the final message is actually pretty good.

Happy Easter and Happy Watching!

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Best St. Patrick’s Day Episodes

Top of the Afternoon to Ye! For whatever reason, I didn’t think about writing a list of these until today, so I just cranked this out as fast as possible after oversleeping massively.  But, here you go:

5) St. Patrick’s Day (The Office)

StPatricksOffice.gif

Michael (Steve Carell) gets angry at Jo (Kathy Bates) for making him work late and upsetting his St. Patrick’s Day plans. After repeated escape attempts, Michael finally just tells Jo that he’s letting everyone go home, to which she, surprisingly, complies, showing respect for him for the first time.

Meanwhile, Dwight (Rainn Wilson) has been using Jim’s (John Krasinkski) and Pam’s (Jenna Fischer) desks while they have been on parental leave to make a “MegaDesk.” When Jim returns, Dwight tries to guilt him into leaving so he can have his MegaDesk back. Jim does leave and spends more time with his baby, but stacks four desks into “QuadDesk,” which forces Dwight to keep everything in about a 6 inch gap.

Alright, this one doesn’t have as much Irish spirit as some of the others, but since it’s about all of the things that eventually replace St. Patrick’s Day (work, kids), it’s still a pretty good episode.

4) Charlie Catches a Leprechaun (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia)

StPatricksSunny

It’s St. Paddy’s Day at Paddy’s Pub, and the Gang is trying to make some real money. Dennis, Dee, and Frank (Glenn Howerton, Kaitlin Olson, and Danny DeVito) take off in the “Paddy’s Wagon,” a bar contained within a van, but their inability to ever cooperate or think things through leads all the customers to get upset, which, in turn, leads the three to start robbing all of their customers and abandoning them out of the city limits.

Meanwhile, Charlie (Charlie Day) and Mac (Rob McElhenney) are watching the bar, but they quickly become distracted when Charlie catches a little person in a leprechaun costume (Kevin Thompson). After Mac leaves (for a gay bar), Charlie, who has been drinking paint mixed with alcohol, believes this to be a real leprechaun, and starts torturing him (Reservoir Dogs style), until the rest of the gang returns to stop him.

Basically, this episode is just the Gang ruining a bunch of people’s attempts to have a good time, but they’re also ruined by people robbing their bar when they leave it unattended. So… happy holiday about drinking?

3) The Funcooker (30 Rock)

StPatricks30Rock

30 Rock fans probably thought that this was going to be the episode “St. Patrick’s Day,” but screw that, this episode’s more fun.

While hosting the St. Patrick’s Day parade, Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) and Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan) drink too much, causing Jenna to pass out and Tracy to violently swear on live TV.  However, after realizing that he can just pay all of the FCC fines, Tracy keeps swearing on TV. When sponsors drop out, Tracy just buys all the advertising time himself.

Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) is unable to deal with it because she’s stuck on the jury for the trial of a woman who worked in a similar capacity to Liz and ended up snapping and burning the building down. Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin) is attempting to find the name for a small portable microwave, and Kenneth the page (Jack McBrayer) suggests the “Funcooker” as the only universally non-offensive term for it. However, Tracy, now acting with impunity, moons the world while calling his ass the “Funcooker,” ruining the name and the network. Liz returns to find the chaos, and then accidentally starts a small fire, which scares everyone into compliance.

This episode shows the fallout that can come from bad St. Patrick’s Day decisions, so make sure that you drink slightly less than Jenna and Tracy.

2) Hoss and the Leprechauns (Bonanza)

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Alright, so, this might be a jump-the-shark moment, but this is a hell of a funny episode of Bonanza.

Hoss Cartwright (Dan Blocker) is in the woods when he finds a bear that has treed a small man wearing green in a funny hat. Hoss scares the bear away, saving the man, and then finds a small box filled with gold. Hoss immediately suspects that it was a leprechaun. When he returns to town and the Ponderosa, no one believes him about the  leprechaun, and the gold disappears. However, at the same time, an Irish professor shows up and confirms that there are indeed leprechauns and pots of gold in the woods, leading everyone to go treasure hunting.

After finding a bunch of little people, it’s revealed that they’re all carnies who staged a rebellion and robbed their crooked boss, who is disguised as the Irish professor. This episode is a pretty hilarious farce, with even the audience doubting whether or not they are real leprechaun.

1) Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment (The Simpsons)

StPatricksSimpsons

This is one of the best episodes of the Simpsons. It was destined to take this spot from the beginning. For those of you who point out it only starts on “St. Patrick’s Day,” shut yer gobs.

On St. Patrick’s Day, Bart accidentally gets shot with a beer cannon, resulting in him stumbling around drunk on television. A moral outcry leads the city of Springfield to finally enforce their 200-year-old law banning alcohol. However, Chief Wiggum is too corrupt, resulting in the city calling in Dick Tracy-esque Rex Banner (Dave Thomas), who proceeds to wipe out the mob and the speakeasies. However, Homer, die-hard alcoholic that he is, digs up all the buried beer in the dump, then sets up a system to supply the alcohol to Moe’s Tavern through a series of underground tunnels at the bowling alley.

Homer, now known as the “Beer Baron,” eventually runs out of beer and starts making his own alcohol. When Marge finds out, as opposed to being mad, she is impressed at how clever Homer is being. Eventually, though, Homer feels bad for Chief Wiggum’s unemployment, and turns himself in to the former Chief so that he will get his job back.

Homer avoids the punishment for brewing (which is “catapult”) after it’s revealed that the law was actually repealed 199 years ago. When Banner tries to criticize the drinking, he is catapulted out of town. The episode ends with one of the best lines in TV history:

To alcohol! The cause of… and solution to… all of life’s problems.

Thanks for reading, drink responsibly. Or don’t. I’m a blog, not a cop.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

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Greatest Valentine’s Day Episodes

Okay, so, I’m going to die alone, but for those of you who aren’t, here’s a list of some of the best Valentine’s Day episodes of TV. Or, really, just the first 5 episodes I could think of that were good. I didn’t think of this until Monday, so cut me a break.

Runner Up: Galentine’s Day (Parks and Rec)

Why is this a runner up? Because it’s not a V-day episode…  and although most of it takes place at a Valentine’s Dance, it’s mostly about breakups.

ValentinesParksAndRec

Galentine’s Day is the 13th of February, and it’s a holiday made up by Pawnee, Indiana resident Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) to celebrate strong, independent women. Leslie’s widowed mother, Marlene (Pamela Reed), a guest at the Galentine’s celebration, tells the story of her first love, a lifeguard she met years before she met Leslie’s father, with whom she had a passionate affair before her parents made her break it off.

ValentinesGalentinesLeslie, with encouragement from Justin (Justin Theroux), a man she’s been dating, goes to find the lifeguard and reunite the lovers after all these years. Unfortunately, while Marlene grew up to be a civic leader, the lifeguard, Frank (John Larroquette), is just a barrel full of problems. He’s immature, unsophisticated, unemployed, and just generally is the worst. Marlene understandably wants nothing to do with him.

This leads Leslie to realize she doesn’t really like Justin. Meanwhile, her co-workers’ relationships are similarly dissolving. Tom (Aziz Ansari) is rejected by his ex-wife. April (Aubrey Plaza) breaks up with her boyfriend and his boyfriend. Ann (Rashida Jones) and Mark (Paul Schneider) are still together, but it’s clear Ann is looking to get out of the relationship… which leads Mark to get out of the show.

Message received: Love is a lie and everyone dies alone. Happy Galentine’s Day!!!

5) Operation Ann (Parks and Rec)

Okay, I had to make it up to Parks and Rec, both for lambasting Galentine’s Day and for not ever finding an episode of the show quite remarkable enough to get onto this list, despite how much I like the show.

Here’s the thing about Parks and Rec: Every single couple at the end of the show is basically perfect.

April and Andy (Aubrey Plaza and Chris Pratt), Leslie and Ben (Amy Poehler and Adam Scott), Ann and Chris (Rashida Jones and Rob Lowe), Tom and Lucy (Aziz Ansari and Natalie Morales), Donna and Joe (Retta and Keegan-Michael Key), Garry and Gayle (Jim O’Heir and Christie Brinkley), Ron and Diane (Nick Offerman and Lucy Lawless), even Craig and Typhoon (Billy Eichner and Rodney To). All of them are amazing. Which is why it’s so great to see where some of these relationships start to develop.

ValentinesBenLeslie.gifThis episode starts with Leslie having her first V-Day with a serious boyfriend, Ben. She makes an overly-elaborate series of puzzles involving multiple riddles that range from “weird” to “punishingly difficult.” Even Leslie admits, at one point, that it’s probably impossible for Ben to actually solve them all. In desperation, Ben asks Ron and Andy for help. Along the way, Ben finds out that Ron actually loves puzzles and riddles, despite his earlier objections to them. In the end, Ron intuits the final solution to Leslie’s riddle, saving Ben.

valentinesanntom.jpgMeanwhile, Leslie asks the office to help find a boyfriend for Ann, who is somehow single despite being sweet, smart, and looking like Rashida Jones (it actually gets explained later that she has some issues). At the same time, Chris, the perpetual optimist, is depressed because he has been dumped by his most recent girlfriend. At the end of the episode, Ann ends up hanging out with Tom, which proves to be a horrible mistake, and Chris realizes that he’s only single because he broke up with Ann for basically no reason aside from location. This leaves both of them in the position to get back together in the future, after they both grow a little bit.

Also, April and Andy are together, and they’re perfect, and I love them.ValentinesAprilAndy.jpg

 4) Anna Howard Shaw Day (30 Rock)

Much like Parks and Rec, even though I love this show it never made it onto the list. Only 2 episodes got nominated, and this is… not one of them, but it’s a natural fit to put it here. Too bad I don’t have a Leap Day list.

Valentines30Rock.jpg30 Rock is a show about putting on an SNL-like show called “TGS with Tracy Jordan,” which is filmed at NBC headquarters located at 30 Rockefeller Plaza.

30 Rock doesn’t have the perfect ending for everyone, but it has a solid happy ending for most of the characters. It also points out that, even if you don’t find love in another person, you can find it in your friends and family.

ValentinesLizLemon.gifAt the beginning of this episode, Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) has set a root canal on Valentine’s Day, which she calls “Anna Howard Shaw Day” after the female civil rights leader born on Feb. 14, but discovers that everyone else has plans and thus she has no one who can drive her home while she’s under anesthesia. At the same time, her boss, Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), meets Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks), the ultra-conservative woman of his dreams. Jack tries to woo her, including planning a celebrity party where he invites Jon Bon Jovi (Music Guy), but ends up snubbing him because he’s interested in what she’s saying. Naturally, they bang, and agree to go out again on V-day. On Valentine’s Day, Liz gets her root canal, telling the dental staff that she’ll be fine to go home. On the way out, however, Liz hallucinates that the nurses are her ex-boyfriends, leading the staff to call Jack to help. Jack agrees, but Avery assumes that it’s just an excuse to dump her after they’ve had sex. Jack counters by offering to have her come along, which impresses Avery even more with his kindness. Liz passes out, but at least she knows she has a friend.

At the same time, Jenna Maroney (Jane Krakowski) is depressed because her stalker appears to have lost interest in her. Kenneth the Page (Jack McBrayer) is confused as to why she’s upset that her stalker has moved on, only for Jenna to tell Kenneth that her stalker is her longest relationship. Kenneth proceeds to send her threatening letters to show that he cares.

Basically, this episode reminds us that friendship is a kind of love, too.

ValentinesAnnaHowardShaw

 3) My Funky Valentine (Modern Family)

Modern Family was a show about how there are different, viable models of family structure than just the traditional Nuclear Family. It covered one family in three households.

Household 1 is the Dunphy family. Goofy dad Phil (Ty Burrell), his wife Claire (Julie Bowen), and their kids Haley, Alex, and Luke (Sarah Hyland, Ariel Winter, and Nolan Gould). Household 2 is the Pritchetts: Claire’s dad Jay (Ed O’Neill), his younger, hotter wife Gloria (Sofia Vergara), Gloria’s son Manny (Rico Rodriguez), and their baby Joe (Jeremy McGuire). Household 3 is the Pritchett-Tuckers: Claire’s brother Mitchell (Jesse Tyler Ferguson), his husband Cam (Eric Stonestreet), and their daughter Lily (Aubrey Anderson-Emmons).

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This episode’s main focus is Phil and Claire. Phil has taken Claire to the same restaurant for most of their history together, so this year he decides to rent a hotel and have the two of them roleplay for the evening instead. Phil is Clive, a businessman, and Claire is Julianna, a housewife. As they flirt at the bar, Claire goes to the bathroom and removes all of her clothes, returning wearing just a coat. As they make their way up to the room, however, the coat gets caught in the escalator. Claire cannot get out of the coat withouthaving to run to the room naked, and multiple acquaintances keep showing up… all of whom just tell her to get out of the coat.

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Jay and Gloria go to a comedy club at the same hotel, which is fun until the comedian starts making fun of Jay’s age. They leave and run into Claire… who Gloria quickly helps, having realized the situation immediately, since apparently it had happened to her before. Claire and Phil go to their room… where it’s later revealed Phil screwed up the entire evening somehow by mis-using oil.

Meanwhile, Mitchell is depressed because he broke up his and Cam’s Valentine’s plans due to needing to work on a case, only for the client to settle, preventing Mitchell from delivering the best speech he’d ever written. Manny, who they’re watching while Jay and Gloria are out, is also depressed because he wrote a Valentine’s Day poem for a girl in his class, and another boy took credit for it. Manny and the couple go to the restaurant and confront the boy, with Mitch delivering a version of the speech he’d written. Unfortunately, the girl actually likes the other guy more, so Manny’s still single.

I love this episode because it emphasizes the show’s message of “every couple is different.”

2) Three Valentines (Frasier)

Already wrote this one, not doing it again. Still hilarious.

1) I Love Lisa (The Simpsons)

It probably says a lot that my number one pick is an episode about a girl taking pity on a boy, him taking it the wrong way, her having to break his heart, and them ending up friends… but, that’s for my therapist. Here’s the winner:

This episode is one of the best episodes of the Simpsons, and that’s saying something.

It’s Valentine’s Day in Springfield and Lisa’s class (Yeardley Smith) is giving Valentine’s ValentinesChooChooCards to each other. Unfortunately, Ralph Wiggum (Nancy Cartwright), who is not the brightest kid in the class… nor the most sanitary, doesn’t get a single card. Seeing him heartbroken, Lisa feels pity for him and gives him a card saying “I choo-choo-choose you.” This leads Ralph to fall in love with Lisa, who does not reciprocate. At all. This is made worse when Ralph and Lisa are picked to play George and Martha Washington in the school play.

Ralph’s father, Chief Wiggum (Hank Azaria), gets them tickets to a Krusty the Clown Live show, which Lisa desperately wants to go to. Unfortunately, Krusty starts talking to the audience, leading Ralph to proclaim his love for Lisa on live TV… which Lisa responds to by telling him that “I don’t like you! I never liked you and the only reason I gave you that stupid valentine is because nobody else would!” Bart (Cartwright) later uses a recording of this to show Lisa the exact moment Ralph’s heart rips in half.ValentinesRalph

Ultimately, Lisa tries to apologize to Ralph for being cruel, but Ralph focuses on his role as George Washington, leading him to give a stellar performance and the interest of multiple new women. Lisa finally gives him an apology card with a bee on it, saying “Let’s Bee Friends.”ValentinesBeeFriends

This is an amazing episode, even if it’s a bit heartbreaking, because that’s really just how it is sometimes. The girl you like doesn’t like you back. The thing you thought was caring was just friendship. And that’s okay.

43) Marge vs. the Monorail (The Simpsons)

Okay, this is probably still my favorite Simpsons episode to re-watch. It’s also the episode that best defines the city of Springfield and the exact level of blind idiocy that permeates the town.  It was written by Conan O’Brien, who knows something about comedy, I’m told.

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And about contract negotiations.

Quick Recap: The main characters of the show are the fat, lazy, idiot father Homer (Dan Castellaneta); his wife who definitely could have done better Marge (Julie Kavner); his prankster (and later sociopath) son Bart (Nancy Cartwright); brainy daughter Lisa (Yeardley Smith); baby Maggie; and the city of Springfield (hundreds of characters at this point).

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This show will apparently never die.

SUMMARY

If you haven’t seen The Music Man, you should. If you don’t like musicals then just see this episode, because it’s almost as good and over 2 hours shorter. The setup for the episode is that Mr. Burns, the town’s leading plutocrat, is found dumping toxic waste into the Springfield children’s park (he had to stop dumping at the playground because of the bald children). For this, he is fined 3 million dollars. He pays with his pocket change, and also buys a statue of justice on the way out, because subtlety is for the weak. Because of this, Springfield suddenly has a surplus of funding, despite the mayor’s attempt to steal $1 million and hope no one noticed. At a town meeting, Marge rationally proposes fixing up Main Street, which has been destroyed by people leaving on their snow chains and carrying too much weight. Mostly Homer “Look at that pavement fly” Simpson. The crowd is about to be swayed when a man who sounds remarkably like Phil Hartman whistles from the corner. That man’s name is Lanley, Lyle Lanley, and he manages to convince the citizens of Springfield to spend the money on another project: a Monorail. Lanley convinces everyone in town that the monorail is a good idea, either through flim-flams, flattery or falsification. Best of all, he does it in a peppy song that includes lyrics so funny that I have 2 different people who randomly text them to me sometimes.

TheSimpsonsMvM-3CanOpener
He also helps open pudding cans. 

Homer hears about the opportunity to become a monorail conductor and goes to an intense three-week course (The total lessons: Mono = 1, Rail = Rail). At the end, he is randomly picked by Lanley to run the monorail, while Lanley takes most of the town’s money and runs. At the same time, Marge, who was angry at Lanley and the town for ignoring her idea, is now convinced that Lanley is up to something and investigates. Upon going to one of Lanley’s former marks, the town of North Haverbrook, she learns Lanley’s entire plan from Sebastian Cobb (Harry Shearer), the man who built the last monorail. Lanley’s cost cutting on the monorail is so devastating that the monorail is doomed to fail and kill everyone onboard, which, sadly, includes celebrity guest Leonard Nimoy (whom the mayor thinks was one of the little rascals). Marge and Cobb arrive too late, because Cobb stopped for a haircut, and the town citizens are stuck on an out of control monorail. At the last minute, Homer constructs an anchor which stops the monorail, saving the town. Marge ends the episode by saying that it was the only folly of the city of Springfield… except for the Popsicle stick skyscraper, the giant magnifying glass (which sets the stick skyscraper on fire), and the escalator to nowhere (which appears to kill about 1 person per second).

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They’re not a smart town.

END SUMMARY

The key to this episode is that, just like the Music Man’s River City, Springfield represents America. Even though we are usually rational, sometimes we can get caught up in a scam or a bad idea. We follow it until eventually it collapses on us, then we say we’re going to learn better and not get fooled again… until we are, just by a slightly different bad idea. We can even have memorials of our own bad ideas featured around us, and we fail to really learn from them. Because of this, Springfield itself comes off as just another character in the show, and almost 20 years later, it may be the best-developed one.

PREVIOUS – 44: The X-Files

NEXT – 42: Sesame Street

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

If you have an FX account, here’s the show officially:

http://www.simpsonsworld.com/video/306386499796

And if not, here’s the hilarious opening with Burns:

And here’s the Music Man sequence: