Another great episode this time around, focusing on quite a few characters rather than just the one. In fact, partly what makes Dead Putting Society such a joy to watch are the interactions between all these characters, with the notable inclusion of Ned Flanders who gets his first real spotlight on the show here. If it’s not the humerous banter between the stubbornly jealous Homer and uptight, do-gooder Flanders that makes the episode, it’s the middle act which sees Bart get aid from his little sister and her profound wisdom—that and her closing line in the episode which seals the deal brilliantly.
In what is probably the most underrated episode of the Simpsons’ second season, Dancin’ Homer sees the family move out to Capital City after Homer is called up to the big leagues as a baseball team mascot. Sure, on paper it sounds kooky, but kudos to the writers and more importantly first time director Mark Kirkland (who would go on to direct much more) who nail the episode’s humerous but somber tone that is framed wonderfully within a monologue that Homer delivers to his bar buddies. In fact, I have to wonder if Dancin’ Homer would be quite the success it is without such a framing device as many of the episode’s brightest and most touching moments come from Homer’s overdubs. Nevertheless, the entire thing is nothing short of a treat; rich in plot, characterization (take note of Burns’ complete disregard of the previous episode’s events—something that would become a staple of the series with regards particularly to his character), laughs and memorable moments. Why it is rarely acknowledged as such is beyond me.
The Simpsons get all politcal (“I feel like one of the Kennedy’s”, Lisa acknowledges) this week as Monty Burns runs for governor of Springfield after his powerplant is threatened with closure. Still early on in the show’s run, Two Cars in Every Garage demonstrates how the writers’ could and would manage on more than one occasion to walk the line between thinly veiled satire and down to earth family drama. Of course, there’s still a handful of great gags here and there but the best part about this one lies in the characterization of Burns, Homer, Marge and to a lesser but still welcome degree, Lisa. In fact, this is probably the first real great exposition of CMB, and still years down the line seems like one of the most memorable.
Now a yearly source of glee for fans of the series (and even then, non-fans sometimes gather to watch them), the lauded Treehouse of Horror episodes first began here in the second season and with quite a bang too. Aside from the obvious Edgar Allan Poe parody The Raven, which practically speaks for itself (check out Dan Castellaneta’s great reading for one) we have two other classic tales dealing with a murder house and a couple of aliens who would become just as regular as the Halloween episodes themselves. With three pretty much flawless stories, it’s hard to pick a favourite; so I won’t. Funny, inventive and simply a joy to watch as our troubled family spends a night amidst all things frightful. Same time next year, anyone?
One of the things that makes Simpson and Delilah stand out when watching The Simpsons in airing order is that the episode doesn’t get bogged down with one of the characters having a bad time. Instead this hallmark episode chooses to give Homer a solution to his gloom (fixing his baldness with a miracle treatment) and introduces us to a uncannily happy and gleeful (at least at this stage in the show’s development) Simpson. Of course, the crux of the episode lies in the fact that Homer starts out and ends up bald (and somewhat bummed out) but always has his loving wife to reassure him of his worth. It’s kind of the like the anti-Homer’s Night Out in a way, which ironically was also written by Jon Vitti. Again, like the season opener, it’s not especially funny, but it’s a memorable story with some great Homer-do’s and of course all those nods and winks at Karl being gay make it more than enjoyable.
Upon watching the season two debut immedietly after finishing season 1 (which coincidentally ends with the first episode produced for the series), the differences in quality and storytelling is rather striking. Far more akin to our modern day Simpsons, Bart Gets an F is a slick, expertly told Bart story that—while a little short on the laughs—holds up exceptionally well in comparison to some season 1 episodes. Perhaps the best thing (aside from the nice sentimental payoff at the end) about it however is in the pairing of Bart with classroom geek and teacher’s pet Martin. Up until now the two have only vaguely been alluded to as being enemies, but the eventual budding between them is fun to watch. It’s also interesting to note, I guess, that Martin is never really reverted back to himself by the end of the episode. Though we know he certainly does in future episodes, it’s amusing to think that the writers may have considered it being a permanent change.
While it may not be The Simpsons that we’ve all grown accustomed to, laughed at, with and learned to adore, many of the things that were different during the show’s first season weren’t necessarily all negative. Sure enough, a vast majority of the family’s first year was filled with somewhat similar stories where each member of the family was in some sort of inner turmoil, but for a new show, perhaps this was key to its success. Up until then, cartoons (with a few exceptions) were designated with broad caricature characters and plots that would be deemed too childish for the whole family to truly get something out of. With this first season however, Groening and company would re-write the animated sit-com and all for the better. Yes, there are episodes (There’s No Disgrace Like Home, Homer’s Odyssey) which are too odd for their own good in comparison to later episodes but with such a vast array of characters already established and with such a high success rate of jokes and compelling drama in episodes such as Moaning Lisa and Telltale Head, this early opening for the show remains something of a misunderstood and often criminally overlooked insight into how The Simpsons went from strength to strength during its first ten years.
- Moaning Lisa
- The Telltale Head
- Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire
- Krusty Gets Busted
- The Crepes of Wrath
- Sam Simon
- John Swartzwelder
- Al Jean
- Mike Reiss
- David Silverman
- Wesley Archer
- Rich Moore
A lot has been said about Some Enchanted Evening—most of it on the negative side, but looking back, even in comparison to our modern day episodes, the episode holds up a little better than history might dictate. While it certainly suffers from some odd animation hicks that would rarely be seen on the show again, the plot which deals with Homer and Marge’s marital problems (not something uncommon for this season in particular) and the kids subduing a babysitter bandit is tight and mixed with the typical pacing of gags and characterization typical of the season; and it’s no surprise considering that series legends Groening, Simon and Silverman were the culprits behind it. All things considered, it’s probably best that the episode was canned until the final airing date rather than the first, but there were definitely lower points for the season as a whole.
While we’ve seen Krusty the Clown previous to this episode, this late season one outing is the first real story devoted to Bart’s hero, and it’s also the first time we get to see Itchy & Scratchy carry out their hilarious cat and mouse violence. Furthermore, and more importantly, it’s another great episode for Bart’s characterization as he ends up being the only person in Springfield who doesn’t believe that Krusty is rightfully convicted of robbing the Kwik-E-Mart. In terms of the entire series, Krusty Gets Busted is another example of the show’s typical season 1 tone which is spread out just right by director Brad Bird—funny, but subdued just right with some nice character moments and drama to flesh the twenty minutes out into more than just a series of gags. It’s something that the show would inevitably lose with age, but this one exists as a fine example of just how great such an approach was at the time.
After two fairly solid episodes focusing on his parent’s marital problems, Bart gets yet another episode where he finds himself in an unenviable situation. Perhaps the best thing about this one (and yeah, there’s a lot to choose from) is simply in the fact that much of show by now (this being the last episode produced for season 1) is started to take shape with animations, character designs and voices all beginning to find their grooves. By all means, it’s a bit of an oddball episode and one which I always under appreciate until I actually sit down and re-watch it, but it’s definitely one of the funniest, and most structurally solid episodes of the season. That, and it probably has the best ending out the lot with characterization for Bart that very rarely would get this touching. Great stuff.