Tito’s Simpsons Countdown 6-4Posted: October 6, 2007
This is very, very overdue. Sorry about that. In any case, I’ve decided to post both of the final posts side by side, so I’m not dragging my feet about ending the list. All of the top six were at some point considered for the coveted number 1 (or at least the number 2) spot. But that’s just proof of how subjective I’ve had to be to arrange this list in the first place. Oh well.
Just so you know, I’ve cut out the youtube clips. They weren’t staying up long enough that half the time they’d no longer be available by the time I made the post.
A fair warning to those countdown purists- I’ve cheated by having a tie for third place. This isn’t my way of slipping in a 16th episode, nor is it my inability to narrow down episodes, it’s simply my inability to count. However, the two episodes are pretty similar, so I think it’s fair that they share third place.
On to the episodes:
6. Homer’s Phobia (Season 8)
In season 14, The Simpsons suffered from one of the worst episodes in its run: “The Three Gays of the Condo.” The plot involved Homer moving out after discovering something Marge had written in anger years before and moving in with two gay roommates. It was as painfully stereotypical as an episode of “Will & Grace.” Probably what made worst of all was the inevitable comparison to “Homer’s Phobia,” the brilliant season 8 episode which takes the number 6 spot on the list.
When Homer happily befriends the owner of a campy antique and memoribilia shop, John (voiced by John Waters), until Marge tells him that he’s gay. Homer then fears that John is going to have an influence on Bart, and spends the rest of the episode trying to ultra-hetero-ize Bart. His efforts include making Bart stare at a billboard ad for cigarettes featuring two women in lingerie having a pillow fight. He’s foiled when Bart says he wants a smoke, as long as it’s “anything slim.” Homer then takes Bart to a steel mill, surely the manliest of professions, until he discovers their slogan of “we work hard, we play hard” to the tune of “Everybody Dance Now.”
The pinnacle of the episode, however, comes when Homer, Moe, and Barney decide to take Bart to do the manliest activity they can think of: hunting. Lisa, of course, protests, asking Homer why killing an animal will make Bart more of a man. Homer answers, “It just does. Name one gay Indian.” As they’re in the car, Homer is talking up the experience to Bart, when Bart, pretty disinterested in the whole thing, responds, “Something about a bunch of guys… alone… in the woods… seems kinda gay.” The three adults look at each other wide-eyed and silent for a few seconds, before Homer says, “That’s a very immature attitude, young man.”
It’s a great episode because it’s never preachy. It revels in its own political incorrectness, making fun of homophobia by being ridiculous and over the top. And above all, Homer isn’t homophobic out of malice, but out of ignorance and general buffonery. That allows for hilariousness without Homer ever becoming unlikeable.
5. You Only Move Twice (Season 8)
Homer gets offered a job out of town, and goes to work for a bizarre and charismatic new boss, named Hank Scorpio (voiced by Albert Brooks). Fast-talking, energetic, concerned with keeping his employees happy… and he’s a megalomanical supervillain straight out of a 007 flick. Scorpio is by far the funniest character to ever appear in only a single episode of any show. Some of his lines are so strange you won’t realize they don’t make any sense until long after you’ve stopped laughing at them:
Homer: You have any sugar around here?
Scorpio: Sugar? Sure. (reaches into his pockets and shovels sugar into Homer’s hands) Sorry it’s not in packets. You want some cream?
Homer: Uh… I… no.
Hank: Hey, look at my feet. You like those moccasins? Look in your
closet; there’s a pair for you. Don’t like them? Then neither do
I! [throws them out] Get the hell outta here! Ever see a guy say
good-bye to a shoe?
Homer: [chuckles] Yes, once.
Scorpio: (pressing controls to some sort of giant doomsday device) Homer, what’s your least favorite country- Italy or France?
Scorpio: (laughs) Nobody ever says Italy.
The supporting plotlines are just as funny, summed up perfectly by this dinner conversation when Homer realizes he’s the only one who likes living out of Springfield.
Lisa: I’b allergic to everythig here. By nose is so stuffed ub, I
can’t eben taste Mob’s delicious boiled celery.
Marge: I’ve been so bored since we moved here, I found myself drinking a
glass of wine every day. I know doctors say you should drink a
glass and a half but I just can’t drink that much.
Homer: Well, the Simpson men are doing fine, right Bart? You haven’t
even gotten in trouble at school.
Bart: I can’t get in trouble at school, they put me in the remedial
class. I’m surrounded by arsonists and kids with mittens pinned
to their jackets all year ’round.
By the end of the episode, of course, everything is back to normal. Except now Homer, much to his disappointment, had his dream of owning the Dallas Cowboys answered in the form of the Denver Broncos. Marge insists that owning the Broncos could be fun. Homer shakes his head and says, “You just don’t understand football, Marge.”
4. Homer Badman (Season 6)
Homer, in trying to peel a Gummy Venus de Milo off the babysitter’s butt, is accused of sexual harassment. The babysitter riles up local media with the story of how she’s been violated, and Homer becomes sexy news story of the moment. This episode is quite possibly the most dead-on media satire ever made. It’s years ahead of its time as well, rewatch it sometime and think how relevant this is now in age of 24 hour cable news networks and Nancy Grace. The ensuing media chaos is hilariously accurate:
Newscaster: “This just in! Homer sleeps in special oxygen tent, which he believes gives him sexual powers!”
Homer: “Hey! That’s a half-truth!”
David Letterman: “And the number one reference I am running into the ground… Homer Simpson!”
Woman in “Gentle Ben” crowd: “I’d just like to say, less Homer Simpson, and more money for public schools!”
Godfrey Jones: “Coming up next: We’ll take you to a SEX farm for SEX hookers!”
There’s also just enough random absurdity to keep things interesting- like Homer’s conversation with the candy conventioneer about the many uses of wax lips, “Gentle Ben” the talk show, where Ben mauls his trainers, Bart and Lisa hugging the TV when Homer is out of the room, Grampa only hanging a flag with 49 stars because he’ll be deep in the cold ground before he recognizes Missouri, and Homer getting kicked in the face by the old-timey biker.
The Simpsons has poked fun at many things over the length of its run but it’s never gotten as straight up satirical as this episode. However, while the media satire is dead-on, the characterization of Homer as well-intentioned oaf is purely comic. The only better Homer-based episode is… well… you’ll further down the list.
For the sake of organization, I’m going to end the post here, and put up the next one immediately.