Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Simpsons and How They Embiggened Me: Season 1, Episode 3

Homer's Odyssey
Chalkboard gag: I will not skateboard in the halls. (They really weren't even going for jokes at this point)

Couch gag: The Simpsons crowd in and the couch falls apart.

Bart's class is taking a field trip and Krabappel implores the children to behave, especially Bart after the incident at the Springfield state prison field trip. Very 90s joke. Schools are prisons. Schools are underfunded and have to go on field trips to prisons.

Otto, who is introduced with the dialogue, "Party hardy equals tardy." Bart asks if Otto has any new tattoos and Otto says he woke up with a new one on his arm. This is a very interesting episode in terms of chronology. Bart states that he wants a tattoo (Otto responsibly says, "Not until you're 14, little man.") but we already know Bart GOT  a tattoo during the Christmas special.

You'll notice that Santa's Little Helper has also not appeared since the Christmas special. That's because the Christmas special was the first to air but most the episodes that follow it on the broadcast schedule were written and completed prior to the Christmas special. Thus, Bart wishing for a tattoo and the complete lack of Santa's Little Helper makes sense. We can all stop sitting on our hemorrhoids now that that's cleared up.

Wendell. Everyone knows a kid like Wendell. When Bart sits next to him on the bus, he states with his hands over his stomach, "Please try not to shake the seat like that." I knew a kid named Danny who was kind of like Wendell when I was in Kindergarten through second grade. Danny had a major problem. He sneezed a lot and every time he sneezed more than his weight in snot came out of his nose. This is no joke. The viscosity of his snot was incredible, too. Even at such a young age and total ignorance of the science behind it, I was impressed by viscosity! I sometimes wonder whatever happened to Danny and his sneezing problem. Hopefully he didn't become the kind of guy who sniffs people's feet as they sleep on the bus. I hate those guys.

A lot of Bart's misbehaving in these early episodes are normal, class clown kinds of hi jinx. Later, Bart becomes a little more criminal but for now, Bart makes jokes about losing his arm right after Krabappel warns the kids not to stick their hands out of the window. She rightly calls it "tomfoolery" because that's all it is this early in the Simpsons' life. This joke makes a reappearance in another episode in the first or second season and it's told by the one-armed arms dealer whose name escapes me.

As the bus drives, we become acquainted with Springfield's landmarks: the toxic waste dump, the Springfield Tire Yard, the Springfield State Prison, and the Springfield Elementary School -  Otto's shortcut.

The animation is pretty rudimentary compared to later seasons. You'll notice the representation of Bart's height changes pretty damn frequently. Also, the students 'extras' look like Schoolhouse Rock characters.

I never knew twins growing up but Sherry and Terry are how I imagined them all to be. Bart's disgusted by the twins kissing him and he screams, getting him in trouble, and forcing him to sing "John Henry Was A Steel Driving Man" to the bus. A weird punishment for the teacher we know in later seasons to be almost completely resigned to utter indifference towards Bart or any of her other students for that matter.

Wendell makes the bus ride without vomiting up until the point Bart points out that he did and, like every Wil E. Coyote cartoon wherein the characters don't fall until they realize they should be falling, Wendell spews.

Notice: this is our first introduction to Waylon Smithers and he's black with gray hair. He's teaching the kids about nuclear power and how they run everything from, "your video games to yummy cotton candy machines." The jokes are very cynical and, for whatever reason, feel very 90s to me. It's very Generation X. My uncle is an X'er and throughout my memory of him he could carry on whole conversations consisting of only Simpsons quotes. I very much associate this early period of the Simpsons with my uncle and dad making little cracks about the Simpsons around the dinner table while we ate In-N-Out. That's an all-American pastime, isn't it?

Smilin' Joe Fission is an animated cartoon that explains nuclear energy. It's drawn to look like it's super old and from the 70s. However, it's hard to separate that parody of animation with the style and quality of animation of these early Simpsons episodes.

It's also the first appearance of Blinky, the famous Springfield three-eyed fish.

Jesus Christ, I've written too much and I'm only 5 minutes into the episode. This calls for Jesus Christ.

Even though Homer is portrayed as a lazy, donut eating, fat ass... Homer seems halfway competent at his job than he is portrayed in later seasons. He does cause an accident and he does get fired but there is something about him in that golf cart that makes him seem like he knows what he's doing. It's stupid, I know, because everyone I ever knew that rode around in a golf cart not on a golf course was mentally insane and terminally lazy. There was a kid on my baseball team whose dad used to ride around on a golf cart. I remember seeing him get pulled over right in front of the Carl's Jr. he was about to patronize on it. It was ridiculous. Why Homer in a golf cart makes me feel he's okay at his job, I have no idea. Maybe it's because he cares how he's perceived by Bart immediately before Bart arrives and as he gets fired. Maybe Homer's early season sentimentality makes him feel like a more competent person overall. 

Lisa reads classified ads to Homer. Notice something; Homer's head is like a goddamned balloon at the top. What was with these animators? There is no consistency scene to scene for any of the characters.

Look at that melon. It's unnatural. It's hard to look at. It's like watching the Afghan rip off of the Simpsons. 

"I've never done anything worthwhile in my life. I'm a big worthless nothing."

"You're right! I'm young, I'm able-bodied, and I'll take anything! Watch out, Springfield. Here I come."


This is still early Simpsons finding its footing. The Simpsons were able to break free of Sam Simon's sitcom formula later precisely because of their early success abiding it. They built audience trust with their ordinariness. Without a first season as grounded in traditional TV early on, we may not be talking about them today.

After two years, this blogging project is back.

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