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Thread: Does negative continuity hurt an episode like Duffless?



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  1. #1
    might do something not nice Jims's Avatar
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    Does negative continuity hurt an episode like Duffless?

    Maybe other people feel differently, but I feel like The Simpsons' obsession with the status quo is hurting the emotional appeal of an episode like Duffless. There are certainly other episodes that fall under this topic, but Duffless is the one that stands out to me.

    I've never really gotten the universal praise for Duffless as an episode because it seems like a very pointless episode in the grand scheme of things. At the conclusion, Homer is supposed to learn that he shouldn't let alcohol control his life, yet he continues to repeatedly abuse it throughout the run of the series. Homer bicycling away with Marge at the end of the episode is naturally a sweet scene and all, but it ultimately doesn't really mean anything... He just rubber-bands back to exactly the same guy he was before. He continues to spend hours at a dank bar, while Marge is home with the kids.

    I don't know how fair this criticism is because, no, I don't think Homer should have gone completely sober after that point... After all, we saw what happened with Barney. It's a weird paradox where the audience is supposed to feel good about a character changing, even though the character completely reverts in the next episode. It's almost like the viewers and The Simpsons are in an abusive relationship, with The Simpsons continually professing, "I'll change" and we believe them because it gives warm fuzzies.

    After watching 500 episodes of The Simpsons and being used to their status quo shtick, this is probably the main reason why the show lacks a real emotional punch sometimes. Yeah, Moe learns something from Maya when she leaves, but does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? Nah, not really. Moe never references her again, and acts exactly as he did before. It's tough when these changes are "inside" of the characters because, after reverting to status quo again, it's hard to tell if these morals/revelations are still inside of them. In that regard, the show can feel very nihilistic and empty in some ways.

    What do you think? Should we just evaluate the emotional appeal of an episode on just its own merits or should the context of the series play a role?

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    FULL TIME SIMPSONS NUT speedmaster's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jims View Post
    Maybe other people feel differently, but I feel like The Simpsons' obsession with the status quo is hurting the emotional appeal of an episode like Duffless. There are certainly other episodes that fall under this topic, but Duffless is the one that stands out to me.

    I've never really gotten the universal praise for Duffless as an episode because it seems like a very pointless episode in the grand scheme of things. At the conclusion, Homer is supposed to learn that he shouldn't let alcohol control his life, yet he continues to repeatedly abuse it throughout the run of the series. Homer bicycling away with Marge at the end of the episode is naturally a sweet scene and all, but it ultimately doesn't really mean anything... He just rubber-bands back to exactly the same guy he was before. He continues to spend hours at a dank bar, while Marge is home with the kids.

    I don't know how fair this criticism is because, no, I don't think Homer should have gone completely sober after that point... After all, we saw what happened with Barney. It's a weird paradox where the audience is supposed to feel good about a character changing, even though the character completely reverts in the next episode. It's almost like the viewers and The Simpsons are in an abusive relationship, with The Simpsons continually professing, "I'll change" and we believe them because it gives warm fuzzies.

    After watching 500 episodes of The Simpsons and being used to their status quo shtick, this is probably the main reason why the show lacks a real emotional punch sometimes. Yeah, Moe learns something from Maya when she leaves, but does it really matter in the grand scheme of things? Nah, not really. Moe never references her again, and acts exactly as he did before. It's tough when these changes are "inside" of the characters because, after reverting to status quo again, it's hard to tell if these morals/revelations are still inside of them. In that regard, the show can feel very nihilistic and empty in some ways.

    What do you think? Should we just evaluate the emotional appeal of an episode on just its own merits or should the context of the series play a role?
    It's supposed to be a fun cartoon. Think about it... Bart or Lisa never age. All the characters basically stay the same and that's how people like it. I don't want to watch a Simpsons episode after a few months and have to catch up like its a soap opera. I want to watch it and know what to expect. Do you really want to tune in to an episode and Barney has gone sober, Moe is a settled down and married and Bart is off to law school? I don't think so.

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    The characters don't age or anything and it's never really had 2 episodes that have followed on from eachother, except the 2 parter Who Shot Mr Burns?. Sober Barney was one of the WORST things to ever happen to the show so a sober Homer wouldn't have worked. I take the episode on its merits and Duffless is outstanding: 10/10.

  4. #4


    I have never thought about that- but I find it a very tedious and nitpicky observation. The plot served its purpose, I mean the Simpsons isn't like a sitcom when things change, its not like a soap opera. For instance in "King Size Homer" Burns says he's going to pay for Homer's liposuction, but in the next episode "Mother Simpson", Homer is healthy, and doesn't make reference to his operation or his scars

    my god I feel like Professor Frink and Database at the convention in "Itchy Scratchy & Poochie"

    And as for Duffless, I think its a highlight from season 4, I think of the episode more as the definition of Homer's relationship to Beer, more than his cold turkey episode. From various signs throughout the episode we get the impression as soon as the month is over he's going to Moe's again. The important thing for me was he didn't in the ending, and he went off on the bike with Marge (Billy and the sundance kid or whatever)

  5. #5
    continuously shaking head c l o n e's Avatar
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    In regards to Duffless I think there is a sense of satisfaction watching because, yes, whilst Homer doesn't exactly change his ways, it confirms to us that his family is more important to him than beer. And yes, that's a somewhat obvious point to make, but personally I think it does it very well - it doesn't feel pointless to me.

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    I think the ending of Duffless isn't about how Homer is quitting drink forever, more just that he doesn't have to go back to Moe's.

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    The episode is hilarious, regardless, so I can't see how this makes it any less good, but yeah, it's more about Homer realizing something at that moment, rather than totally abandoning it. Like, while he can sometimes remember a moment with Marge is more important than being at Moe's he'll still be sort of a half-decent husband and person from time to time and not a complete alcoholic that doesn't give a crap about ruining his life.

    This could be applied to every episode really, since the characters never seem to learn from their previous conflicts, all those Marge-Homer, Bart-Lisa, Homer-Lisa, Bart-Homer conflicts appear from time to time. They make peace and then, they start again. Actually I think this is very similar to real life. People don't usually change too much and they are never happy forever.

    However it would be nice if they could keep some continuity. Like you mentioned, Moe could sort of remember Maya from time to time, or he could be shown being kind with Maggie after the Moe Baby Blues episode. Things like those would be cute and they wouldn't confuse the average viewer so much. Actually Futurama usually has some of this 'minor continuity' that kinda makes the series more coherent/compelling as a whole.
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  8. #8


    I actually agree that some minor continuity would be nice here and there. Yeah, a good 95% of episodes can just be fun and don't necessarily need to establish a "change," but other times it really wouldn't hurt. Like Carl being high up at the nuclear plant in The Devil Wears Nada, I kinda enjoyed seeing that stricter side of him. It's like the staff fears tampering with the status quo, where in some instances it would make things more interesting. It's not like we're aging the characters 4 years or moving them to a new town.

    And yeah, Futurama is good with that. The Fry and Leela angle would be less interesting if they just got married like Pam and Jim and there was no mystery left. But the stuff in the latest seasons about them being in a strange sorta-relationship makes it interesting, while still creating a lot of tension because they're just as confused as the viewers.

  9. #9
    might do something not nice Jims's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by speedmaster View Post
    Do you really want to tune in to an episode and Barney has gone sober, Moe is a settled down and married and Bart is off to law school? I don't think so.

    We all still love them but we love them AS THEY ARE...
    That's not what I was arguing at all. In fact, I said in my initial post that the Barney sober change didn't work. What I'm mainly arguing is that there are narrative positives and negatives of doing a "status quo show" like The Simpsons, and that mixing in an episode like Duffless (that implies continuity in a way) makes things muddled.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cartoonnetwork View Post
    The episode is hilarious, regardless, so I can't see how this makes it any less good, but yeah, it's more about Homer realizing something at that moment, rather than totally abandoning it. Like, while he can sometimes remember a moment with Marge is more important than being at Moe's he'll still be sort of a half-decent husband and person from time to time and not a complete alcoholic that doesn't give a crap about ruining his life.

    This could be applied to every episode really, since the characters never seem to learn from their previous conflicts, all those Marge-Homer, Bart-Lisa, Homer-Lisa, Bart-Homer conflicts appear from time to time. They make peace and then, they start again. Actually I think this is very similar to real life. People don't usually change too much and they are never happy forever.
    That's the weird thing because I agree with you that Duffless is indeed a well-written, funny episode of The Simpsons and can considered "good" on that merit. It's tough with the interpersonal dynamics and the characterization angle of the argument, because there isn't a way to prove that Bart and Lisa didn't learn anything from the Thanksgiving episode. Even if they're written the exact same way as before, it's all technically in the characters' minds.

    With specific patterns of behavior, like Homer going to the bar all the time or Lisa being a vegetarian, it's easier to figure out what's ended up being pointless and what wasn't. I wonder, if Lisa decided not to be a vegetarian anymore in (let's say) Season 9, would Lisa the Vegetarian lose any of its impact? I'm honestly not sure I'd care as much about that episode if Lisa just ended up flip-flopping back a couple seasons later.

    Quote Originally Posted by The Flimpsons View Post
    And yeah, Futurama is good with that. The Fry and Leela angle would be less interesting if they just got married like Pam and Jim and there was no mystery left. But the stuff in the latest seasons about them being in a strange sorta-relationship makes it interesting, while still creating a lot of tension because they're just as confused as the viewers.
    The Futurama angle is an interesting one, because most people would still say that each Futurama episode stands on its own and don't require continuity (except for a couple, like The Why of Fry). But at the same time, yeah, it does feel like much more of a narrative than The Simpsons. Weird.

    Maybe Duffless is actually a Futurama episode written for the wrong system.

  10. #10
    The man behind the mask The Jasons's Avatar
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    With specific patterns of behavior, like Homer going to the bar all the time or Lisa being a vegetarian, it's easier to figure out what's ended up being pointless and what wasn't. I wonder, if Lisa decided not to be a vegetarian anymore in (let's say) Season 9, would Lisa the Vegetarian lose any of its impact? I'm honestly not sure I'd care as much about that episode if Lisa just ended up flip-flopping back a couple seasons later
    Remember, the only reason Lisa stayed a vegetarian was so the staff could get the McCartney's to do the show.

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    In response to the OP, although you raise an excellent point, I think it can go either way, though extreme things like the 'Fit Tony' plotline discredit the show in my eyes - there are much more subtle ways of keeping the fabric of the show on a static level.

    It wouldn't be in Homer's character to refrain from drinking for too long, he's much too impulsive, but everyone likes to see a degree of continuity. The shows refusal to change can stifle their creativity significantly but they have to walk a very fine balance - for example one consideration is that they have to cater to new fans coming to the show, or the 'casual viewers' who only watch episodes occasionally or don't recall details from episodes they've seen.

  12. #12
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    In most cases, the small non-continuities don't really bother me, but there are a few more glaring ones that actually make me a little angry. 'Fit Tony' and the whole Krusty/Princess Penelope thing got under my skin quite a bit.


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  13. #13
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    That 90s Show is the only one that confuses me though, regarding continuation - even though it's a pretty bad episode, and it tears apart the history of the show, I'm a Nirvana fan so it's something of a novelty

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    90s show is shit

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    Quote Originally Posted by MagicalManFromHappyLand View Post
    I think the ending of Duffless isn't about how Homer is quitting drink forever, more just that he doesn't have to go back to Moe's.
    Agreed.

    The point of "Duffless" was that Homer was going to start drinking after his month, but that he was willing to put that aside just a little while longer so he can spend time with his family before he resumes his habit did say how much he cared about his family.

    It'd be impossible to pull off this type of episode today.

  16. #16
    Same Avatar, Different Shit Zombies Rise from the Sea's Avatar
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    Ultimately. The Simpsons is a status quo show and ultimately everything has to go back to normal. I have no problem with an ending like Duffless because it's supposed to be sweet, it's supposed to be on Homer & Marge; sure, Homer's going to drink but he knows that he cares for his family and that he shouldn't treat alcohol like his go-to for everything. He's not the kind of person to neglect his wife, he just has problems being a father. That's what makes episodes like this worth it, they could end it on him being a jerk but in the end of the day, they know they have to do something sweet because sweetness ultimately means something. Otherwise we'd have the Homer we have today. It doesn't bother me then that things would go back to normal back then, as long as the moment is sweet.
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  17. #17


    I think the reason the ending of Duffless works is becuase Homer's epiphany is really rather a small one, that once in a while he should spend time with his family rather than drink at Moe's. It's small enough that one can believe homer stays true to it without it having to necessarily be shown. And if in time he falls short of that attempt to better himself, is that not in keeping with the show's realistic depiction of the American family? I see why returning to the status quo is problematic from time to time, but do you really want a sober Homer?

  18. #18


    i don't care about continuity.
    we send those men up into space to unlock the doors of the universe, and we don't even know what's behind them.

  19. #19
    Mapple Fan-boy HMS pinafore's Avatar
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    Simpsons continuity does not exist anyway, How many times has it been christmas on the show without the characters aging between them?

  20. #20
    pineapple shoes Dark Homer's Avatar
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    all the christmas episodes happened at various points on the same day

  21. #21


    Continuity only really bugs me if the joke/episode is lame, and Duffless doesn't fall into that category. A good example is Flanders at the AA meeting: it's established earlier in the series that Flanders has a bar in his basement, and is a good drinks-mixer. But in Duffless, he hasn't drunk anything in over a decade, since that fateful blackberry scnapps. I don't mind the inconsistency because that joke was friggin' hilarious.

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    Duffless is nice

  23. #23
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    They tried with with nondrunk Barney, and it didn't work too well.

    Barney - His distinction is being drunk and burping. Take that way from him and he's nothing.
    "I shouldn't have eaten that packet of powdered gravy I found in the parking lot..."

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