Thursday, August 11, 2005

Simpsons and marital strife

I'm not one of those people who attempts to be cool by claiming to dislike any Saturday Night Live made after 1995 (or 1980) or any Simpsons episode made after 1997. In fact, I loathe these people with a passion. They're like the Goth kids on South Park who think they're demonstrating independent thought when, in fact, they're just antisocial jerks.

But there's one type of Simpsons episode that has gone way downhill. It's the "Homer and Marge are having marital strife" episode.

The progression:

Life in the Fast Lane (Season 1): The classic bowling episode.

Colonel Homer (Season 3): Homer manages country singer Lurleen, who tries to lure-leen him away from Marge.

A Streetcar Named Marge (Season 4): Marge demonstrates her independence by starring in a wonderfully tacky and overwrought musical.

The Last Temptation of Homer (Season 5): Not as funny as the previous three, but it never seems forced.

Secrets of a Successful Marriage (Season 5): Clever episode in which Homer's efforts to teach at community college backfire in so many ways.

A Milhouse Divided (Season 8): Works because the Simpson strife is overshadowed by the more amusing and less sympathetic Van Houtens.

The Cartridge Family (Season 9): Can anyone blame Marge for getting out of the house after Homer starts shooting up the place?

Brawl in the Family (Season 13): Here's the start of the troubles. The Homer-Marge friction is crammed into the last act. They get away with it here because the Flanders subplot is funny.

Three Gays of the Condo (Season 13): Homer moves in with two gay guys. This one's actually pretty good, ruining the curve.

Brake My Wife, Please (Season 13): This is the one I saw tonight. It shifts abruptly from a neat little plot about Homer taking up walking (he overloaded his car with electronics in a great scene, drove off a dock while trying to send an S.O.S. from his fax machine and lost his license) to an overblown Homer-Marge blowup in which Homer is far more insensitive and idiotic than he usually is but miraculously recovers to throw a party for the whole town and Jackson Browne. No.

The Ziff Who Came to Dinner (Season 15): Not necessarily a Marge-Homer episode except as a backdrop to an insufferable plot with the insufferable Artie Ziff. They seem desperate to turn Ziff into a recurring character. Please don't let them succeed. If they want to keep using Jon Lovitz, bring back the art teacher or the director from Oh Streetcar. Or The Critic.

Mobile Homer (Season 16): Starts with a good Homer slapstick sequence and might be funnier if we hadn't seen the whole "Homer and Marge fighting" thing before.

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