Episode 14 - Angry Dad: The Movie
9 May 2011
Synopsis: Bart's idea for a cartoon about Homer called "Angry Dad" is turned into a movie. No one seems to like it at full length so Lisa suggests they make it into a short movie and suddenly awards success follows. Homer voices angry Dad and steals all the glory at the awards shows which frustrates Bart.
The Good: I didn't like anything about this.
The Bad: I thought this was an awful episode. It also served as a point by point example of what has gone wrong with the show.
I know I've said these things before but bear with me once more. The Simpsons built its success on presenting stories about an average family. A family anyone could relate to. The humour came from exaggerations and satire based around normal family life in a stereotypical town.
This episode was about a family who suddenly become famous and successful based on one creative idea. Yet there was absolutely nothing to relate to. The family didn't seem the least bit surprised or start struck by their experience. Their experience seemed a lot closer to the experience of the people who now make The Simpsons than any of the people who watch the show.
There's no reason the show can't tell a story like this so badly. We've seen Homer work with Mel Gibson (1101), become an astronaut (515) and play in a successful band (505). Amazingly we've actually seen Bart and Lisa write an award winning cartoon before! In "The Front" (419) they write an episode of "Itchy and Scratchy" which they put Abe's name on in order to get it taken seriously. In all those episodes the success was integrated enjoyably into the characters normal lives.
In this episode any sense of reality was entirely absent. That's a problem because we are given no reason to care about anything that's going on. That may not sound like a big deal but that is actually a major source of jokes in any comedy you watch. The emotional struggles of an individual are the basis of comedy. With no reality you are left with nonsense and that is what we got here.
The plot was lazy in the extreme. We never actually saw Bart's film getting released or gaining any praise, we just jumped straight to awards season. We only got a glimpse of "Angry Dad" right at the end of the episode. In fact it was over half way through the story that we were suddenly supposed to see the major conflict was Homer stealing Bart's credit. Now there's a plot we can all relate to right? Isn't it annoying when someone else takes credit for your award winning movie? That really gets my goat every time it happens.
Let me make another point clear about the decline of The Simpsons. It's not as if I'm claiming that the writers, producers and animators on the show are deliberately making bad TV. I'm saying their priorities are all wrong. Think about what we saw in this episode: a very long and detailed Itchy and Scratchy story, two scenes involving Ricky Gervais monologues, two long digs at Pixar including a detailed Toy Story parody, a long Wallace and Gromit parody, a parody of The Triplets of Belleville, a parody of Persepolis, several silly celebrity gags and a pointlessly brief cameo by Russell Brand. That is where the writers want to be. They want to use The Simpsons to be a vehicle for them to mix with celebrities, make fun of them and reference the movies they have been watching. They also want to spend their time making cool looking animations. The couch gags have become ever more elaborate and complicated and even the opening credits now allow for more creativity each week.
I don't believe The Simpsons is the right platform for all these things. I also don't think much of what is being produced is any good. Pixar's production line of similar movies seems ripe for parody but the writers choose to pick on Toy Story, the most praised and loved of all animation franchises to focus its parody on. As for Gervais, his monologues were quite fun but of all the celebrities ripe for mockery he is the last. Gervais made his own sit com (Extras) to satirise the toxicity of fame. So to see him pretend to be a celebrity-douche, it rings completely hollow. When celebrities chose their own jokes where is the satire?
The satire on The Simpsons works best when the exaggerations come as a surprise. Like any good joke you need a baseline of normality and then you work from there. When everything is ridiculous then nothing is. Here we get Homer asking to have dollar bills mixed into his yogurt. Why? No reason given. Later he shuffles a deck of cards with his anus. Yep. He then opens a bottle of soda with it and drinks the soda with his anus. Seriously.
Nothing can happen even remotely like it would in real life either. Bart doesn't just break something at home, he has to destroy the whole house in a dangerous stunt and almost kill himself. Homer can't just be angry at the animation office, no he has to knock down every single partition in the room all at once.
In the episodes dying breath Bart decided that awards are stupid because they honour one individual and not all the hundreds of people who worked on the project. Boy does that sound like a moral a team of animators would come up with.
It's also a stupid point to make. Within the episode we got a scene where sound mixers received their own award. The joke being that award shows are thoroughly tedious because all the people who work on movies do get individual credit for their part in proceedings. Doesn't that completely undercut the message Bart came out with?!
Best Joke: I smiled at Scratchy's training montage when he carried two heavy buckets up a mountain. Out of each bucket came his mentor and his mentor's date.
The Bottom Line: A great example of exactly what has happened to the creative team who once made a great show. Their priorities are entirely wrong for The Simpsons and the result is episodes like this. Stupid, counterproductive garbage.
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