Saturday, August 15, 2015

There's No Disgrace Like Home

This episode begins with the most unimaginative chalkboard gags I think The Simpsons has every used: "I will not burp in class" but segues into one of the best opening scenes of the early seasons. Lisa and Bart are arguing over who loves Homer more only to find out that they are saying that the other one loves him more.

The Simpsons are off to a nuclear plant family party at Burns' Manor. You can really tell that the writers weren't quite sure where to go with Mr. Burns. While, yes, he does instill fear in his employees and is clearly the most powerful and richest man in Springfield, this episode shows us that he appreciates family togetherness and father-son bonding. These are two things that, while touched upon in a few episodes, are not qualities Burns really clings to. It's also shown that the whole cookout may just be an opportunity to showcase his wealth and beat all his employees in the various games which would make a lot more sense.

The Simpsons, having made five gelatin desserts (because someone (Homer) inexplicably told everyone that Burns likes gelatin desserts) trek up the hill to "stately Burns Manor."
Why are Homer and Marge in different clothes? Is it because they are dressed
in a white undershirt and a dress while the kids are in normal clothes?
We also get our first official instance of Mr. Burns forgetting Homer's name after being introduced to him in the last episode and from there, things tend to dissolve pretty quickly. Marge abandons Maggie in the nursery with only a TV for a guardian and proceeds to get drunk off the punch, Bart and Lisa harass the geese and Homer spends his time trying to keep Bart and Lisa acting normal. When Bart and Homer are forced to enter the mandatory father-son sack race, Burns is required to win even going so far as to give him a head start and the other racers moving forward one jump only when Burns moves forward. Bart considers that bullcrap and pulls ahead and would've won if it weren't for Homer tackling Bart near the finish line.
It's not explained why Burns got to participate in the father-son sack race when
he isn't a father, nor has a son...yet.
Marge, still drunk, is leading the other wives in a sing-a-long when the party ends. Homer tries to get Bart to kiss him after seeing another father and son do it and Burns acting impressed. Homer realizes that his family isn't great and wishes they could be more normal like the family singing "Bingo" as they drive into Heaven but all Homer sees are devil incarnate versions of his family chanting "one of us, one of us, one of us" to him.
Room for one more.
Homer decides to get his family to be more normal and his first idea is to quit sitting in front of the TV during dinner and sit at table. He even goes so far as to demand they say "Grace" first ("Rub-a-dub-dub, thanks for the grub.") but all this does is make the family comment that all families are like them. Homer disagrees so they go out and do a little family peeping-tomming where they find a family that is just too overly perfect right out of a 1950s television show:
Look, the dad has a shirt on.
Deeming these people to be "obvious freaks" Homer takes his family to another house with a more rustic family but one probably closer to than the Simpsons than we see:
This family ends up turning a shotgun on the Simpsons, chasing them away to another family's house that they declare is a dump and chuckle that Homer has trampled the poor sap's flower bed before realizing that it is their house. Homer, defeated, goes off to Moe's.

While at Moe's, Homer comments that his mother told him that he was "a big disappointment" which doesn't sound like the Mona Simpson that would be introduced eight or so years later. Homer's attention is caught by a commercial for Dr. Marvin Monroe's Family Therapy Center who guarantees family bliss or double your money back. Like many other scenes from The Simpsons, the family featured in the commercial are ripe for quote picking.
Wife: "Honey, aren't you going to work today?"
Husband: "No, I don't think so."
Wife: "Honey, you have a problem and it won't get better until you admit it."
Husband: "I admit this, you better shut your big yap."
Wife: "Oh, you shut up."
Husband: "No, you shut up."
Wife: "No, you shut up."
Husband: "Oh, shut up."
Kid: "Why don't you BOTH shut up!"
So Homer makes an appointment, dips into the kids' college fund, that only Lisa is concerned about, and pawn their TV in order to get the $250 needed. While Dr. Marvin Monroe, who would be a major recurring character for the first three seasons or so, starts out sounding competent by having the family draw what they think is the main stressor in their lives (everyone draws Homer, Homer draws a plane bombing a house because he wasn't paying attention) that competency is quickly stripped away because we are nearing the 22 minute mark. After having the family hit each other with padded sticks for awhile ("They'd work much better without the padding, Doc.") Dr. Monroe resorts to a kind of shock therapy which turns the Simpsons into a model family who go out for frosty chocolate milkshakes.
Wait. No, that's the family that Dr. Monroe was seeing before the Simpsons. All the shock therapy does is run up Dr. Monroe's electricity bill and mess up Marge's hair. Dr. Monroe demands the family leave while Homer demands his money back.

So with $500 in hand, Homer suggest going out for frosty chocolate milkshakes anyway and buying a new TV with a little cart so they can wheel it into the dining room on holidays. They may not be perfect but Homer realizes that they are just fine as a family the way they are.
The Simpsons is still stuck in "kid mode" with this episode, something that kind of went back and forth in the first season. Just like the first season of The Flintstones, the episodes produced leaned heavily on things that would get kids to watch which would get parents to watch. Once word would get around about how different and grown-up The Simpsons was, viewership would go up. While Bart seemed to gain headway in the popularity department, looking at the episodes, there was no clear star but if one had to be named, it would be Homer. But other members of the family would get their own featured episode including Marge in "Life On the Fast Lane" and Lisa in "Moaning Lisa Blues". Next, Bart would get his second featured episode "Bart the General".