Episode 22 - The Ned-liest Catch
25 May 2011
Synopsis: Edna finally snaps and slaps Bart after one of his out of control escapades at school. She is sent to a holding facility where teachers wait to learn the fate of their careers. Bart tries to bust her out but she ends up falling into Ned Flanders' arms and they begin dating. Ned even convinces Homer that it is a good idea but then he learns of Edna's colourful past. The episode ends with Homer and Marge asking the audience to vote on whether they should become a couple.
The Good: There was a good amount of logic on display here with the Ned and Edna relationship. They bond over their disgust at the Simpson family and then he tempers her lust with his Christian values. Ned is earnest and genuinely interested in her which gave his realisation that she had slept with half the town all the more effective. That revelation naturally bothered the Christian Ned and of course fit Edna's character perfectly. The fact that she was then offended at his "forgiveness" was equally logical.
Though there needed to be a lot more there were one or two good moments in the development of their relationship as well. Edna stands up to Homer and gets all of Ned's "borrowed" stuff back at last and Bart enquires if she is really "bumping moustaches" with Ned which was a nice line. I also liked Rod and Todd refusing to bend to Bart's talk of Edna being an evil stepmother and mending and washing his clothes to make their point.
The call for a vote at the end of the episode is the big news though. I do understand the need for TV shows to increasingly use other media to engage and entertain their audiences. I could also entirely understand the producers of The Simpsons feeling the need to do something to make the show feel relevant again.
The Bad: However ultimately I come down against it. The idea of letting the audience choose where a plot goes doesn't bother me, though it's not ideal. It's more the futility which bothers me. Does anyone really care if Nedna become a couple? What difference will that actually make to the show? Gone are the days when the consequences of a change in Springfield might actually affect plots going forward.
It was also a typically half hearted effort to generate interest in Nedna as a couple. Yes this was an above average effort in terms of logic but not nearly enough to get casual viewers interested in the show again. Surely the writers could have given this a two-part storyline and really built up the ramifications of how everyone's lives would be affected? With Edna next door how will Bart's education be affected? Will Homer now be forced to behave and treat his neighbours with respect? And so on. The vote feels like what it is: a contrived attempt to generate interest in a show where there is none left. People in the UK are constantly surprised that The Simpsons is still making new episodes. That should tell the producers something about how relevant the show now feels.
The writers couldn't find ways to make this episode funny so they just threw in the kind of nonsense that passes for a joke these days. Superintendant Chalmers claims Edna's hearing is due in sixty years. Yup, sixty. Santa's Little Helper not only cleans Bart's homework (instead of eating it) but he then solves a math problem which eluded Bart. Funny right? Finally Homer chases after Ned to convince him to stay with Edna and naturally jumps on and through all manner of distractions by the side of the road including swimming in a canal. Why? Ned even parts the waters of a river because you know, he's a Christian. These exaggerations worked once when they were built up to but now they just seem like jokes for toddlers. Oh and what was the point of that Aerosmith cameo? Seriously.
Best Joke: Edna is horrified that she hit Bart. "In all my years of teaching I've never raised my hand to a student." Homer responds with a different attitude "But you learnt! You grew!"
The Bottom Line: In terms of the plot this was better than usual, in terms of jokes it was worse. The big story will be whether anyone cares about the vote on Nedna. My vote is for no one caring. This show needs to change drastically or end. It remains sad to see a once mighty empire reduced to such a pathetic shambles.
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