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Thread: Rate and Review: Season 9

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  1. #31
    Pin Pal bboynexus's Avatar
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    Dec 2007

    The golden age of The Simpsons flickers and dies with season nine.

    It begins with a false dawn with The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson and Lisa’s Sax, both of which are unquestionably classic episodes. The former is probably my favorite ‘travel’ episode of the series, avoiding some of the pitfalls that have characterized its analogues before and since. Meanwhile, the latter is the last truly great flashback episode – more or less capping off the stellar quadrilogy that began eight years earlier with The Way We Was.

    The Principal and the Pauper has attracted significant controversy over the years for its revisionism. While I agree that it’s among the few problematic episodes produced under Oakley and Weinstein, I can appreciate what Ken Keeler was going for. Like Homer’s Enemy, it may have worked better had The Simpsons ended when it was supposed to. Instead, its thesis has been dismissed by a slightly unfair reputation for heralding the looming decline.

    The show looked like it might be in good hands when Mike Scully formally took the reins with Treehouse of Horror VIII, the first two segments of which are just as enjoyable as any that came before. The Cartridge Family is another exemplary episode and easily one of the very best produced under Scully. It’s a tad heavy-handed relative to previous satires, but it’s excellent nonetheless and brimming with comedic gold firing relentlessly one after another.

    Unfortunately, Bart Star crushes this short-lived optimism. The traits that we now associate with Scully – Jerkass Homer, mean-spiritedness, reductive characterizations, and indulgent celebrity guest stars among others – are all here and ramped up to new heights. There had been warning signs for some time, but this episode unequivocally represents the start of the post-classic era and a damaging direction from which the show will never fully recover.

    Interestingly, Scully’s elevation coincides with an upsurge in the number of references to past episodes. The Cartridge Family has a callback to Maggie shooting Burns, Bart Star lists every job Marge has had, and The Trouble with Trillions recalls Homer beating up Bush to name just a few. This overt preoccupation with where the show has been rather than where it’s going is another ominous sign that the show has reached the end of its natural lifespan.

    Subsequent episodes fare slightly better, but are nonetheless held back by mounting issues. The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons relies on stock sitcom tropes without the mockery that previously defined the show, Lisa the Skeptic reduces Lisa to a militant and self-righteous mouthpiece without any of her empathy or open-mindedness, and Realty Bites features more obnoxious Homer alongside cartoonish antics and a wacky ending with faux suspense.

    Miracle on Evergreen Terrace offers some fleeting reassurance, demonstrating unusual restraint relative to other Scully episodes. It might be the closest he ever came to running an episode that replicated the style cultivated by Oakley and Weinstein. It has received scorn for its supposedly depressing tone and ending, but I think that obfuscates its intention and effect – which is to echo the themes and sentiments expressed in Roasting on an Open Fire.

    Both episodes more or less have the same plot. The Simpson family has a great Christmas planned, Bart does something to ruin it, someone keeps a secret about just how dire the situation really is, and the truth is ultimately revealed. Yet just when things look their worst, the family finds something that gives them a fleeting moment of happiness together even though their underlying problems remain unsolved to be confronted anew the next week.

    Of course, there are several key differences between then and now. The Simpsons of the pilot were an unassuming family of simpletons with simple wants and needs. By the time Miracle on Evergreen Terrace arrives, over 150 adventures have passed since that seismic moment in cultural history and now everyone knows who they are. The Simpson family became famous beyond their wildest dreams – both in Springfield and the real world.

    Yet they remain fundamentally unchanged – just as dysfunctional, just as disappointed by their “craptacular” Christmas lights, just as inadequate compared to their more affluent neighbors, just as excited about a wash cloth as they were when an abandoned greyhound unexpectedly fell into their collective laps. The idiosyncrasies that captured our hearts are the same and even when they have nothing, they will always have themselves.

    Miracle on Evergreen Terrace is a tremendous Christmas special and a bona-fide classic complete with the mockery, cynicism, and sincerity that originally elevated the show far beyond any of its peers. It would have made a worthy series finale for the show. Only a small handful of other episodes come remotely close and even those simply cannot measure up to the understated beauty or full-circle completeness of Miracle on Evergreen Terrace.

    The Simpsons could have walked gracefully into the sunset with its head held high, but instead we get All Singing, All Dancing – a disposable clip show in which the once reliably funny and thematic wraparound material fails to save the episode from mediocrity. The Scully-isms return in force with Bart Carny which is, arguably, the first of many duds from John Swartzwelder that will tarnish the veteran writer’s previously impeccable catalogue.

    The second half of the season is a see-saw of quality. The Last Temptation of Krust and The Joy of Sect are perhaps the biggest standouts. The latter delivers a scathing critique of cults with excellent comedic set-pieces to boot. The former offers a definitive summation of the talentless comedian and the abundance of celebrity guests feel natural, serving rather than detracting from the story. The Canyonero song is hilarious and a great moment to end on.

    Girly Edition, King of the Hill, Lost Our Lisa, and Natural Born Kissers are excellent for the most part, but they definitely feel different from classic Simpsons. The tone of the stories has shifted, the animation looks less expressive, the voice acting sounds less natural, the storyboarding feels less meticulous, and the jokes have less punch. These still rank among the best episodes that Scully ran, but it’s clear that this isn’t quite the same show anymore.

    This Little Wiggy is a decent yet problematic outing. It does a pretty good job pairing Bart with Ralph and it makes good use of the bullies, but things start to unravel as soon as the final act begins. Quimby getting electrocuted without lasting damage and the solution that Lisa conceives exemplifies the cartoony wackiness endemic to the Scully era. The final bit with the leprechaun might also be the first notable example of ‘flanderization’ in the series.

    It represents the death of the Ralph that graced our screens in episodes like I Love Lisa, in which his development problems were secondary to his innocence, loneliness, and profound sensitivity. This Little Wiggy not only grossly exaggerates his most recognizable comedic trait – dimwittedness – but makes the shockingly mean-spirited suggestion that he’s psychotic and violent. This was completely unnecessary, deeply offensive, and irrevocably harmful.

    Simpson Tide has some great moments, including the “it’s my first day” line and the Grampa interview. Yet the episode feels dated with its heavy contemporary references and might have benefited from airing during season seven as originally intended. It also suffers from some erratic plotting and cheap resolutions which is quite unusual for Al Jean and Mike Reiss. It feels less like an episode of The Simpsons and more like an episode of The Critic.

    Dumbbell Indemnity is serviceable, representing a major turning point for Moe. The once unsavory bartender morphs into a sympathetic lovelorn outcast grappling with loneliness and low self-esteem. Moe might be one of the few characters to benefit from changes made under Scully, but the episode itself never rises above middling thanks to a stock sitcom story, an unmemorable guest character, and an excess of 'sidekick Homer' shenanigans.

    Das Bus and The Trouble with Trillions are equally unremarkable and forgettable. The former draws from a collection of easy references from Lord of the Flies without any real success and feels more like a Saturday morning cartoon while the latter has the same heavy-handed satire and wacky third acts found in many other episodes executive produced by Scully. Both episodes also lack proper endings or resolutions and expect the audience to fill in the gaps.

    These issues are indicative of the deteriorating conditions affecting The Simpsons - laziness and carelessness chief among them. Reportedly, Scully wanted to make life easier on the writing and production team by cutting down on long hours. However, by relaxing those standards it made it easier for them to compromise. Each scene was once fine-tuned to perfection, but now they are content with turning away and saying “this is good enough”.

    Everything comes to a head with Trash of the Titans – by far the worst episode of the first nine seasons and the point of no return for The Simpsons as a franchise. The show had sustained some damage, yes, but nothing quite severe enough that it would preclude a course-correction. There was still every opportunity at this stage to dismiss the missteps as a temporary blip of an ageing show with an otherwise unblemished record of excellence.

    Yet Trash of the Titans doubles down on the worst transgressions that have flourished under Scully. This is an episode in which a psychopathic Homer deliberately attempts to murder someone and callously destroys the entire town with his antics, necessitating its relocation in one of the most ludicrous 'reset button' endings of the entire series. An episode like Trash of the Titans would have been inconceivable less than a year earlier, but here we are.

    Homer was always obnoxious, insensitive and slow-witted. Yet this was always tempered by his fundamental decency, his chronic laziness, and his general disinterest. Trash of the Titans depicts the antithesis of that long-established and well-developed character – physically and mentally engaged, narcissistic, Machiavellian, and villainous on a scale hitherto unseen. It’s tantamount to character assassination and we’ll be seeing much more of it henceforth.

    I realize that the episode attempts to satirize local public office. It targets populism and cults of personalities that promise unachievable or unsustainable goals, all of which appeal to the lowest common denominator. I have nothing against commentary of this nature, but Ian Maxtone-Graham delivers it with the subtlety of a sledgehammer. He inflicts tremendous damage in the process, ultimately cementing the future and lasting fate of The Simpsons.

    Oakley and Weinstein must have had some inkling of this future as they passed the torch to Scully. Why else would they spend the very last episode produced under their stewardship allegorically reflecting on the legacy of the show and anticipating its imminent downfall? Lisa worries that her best years are behind her and that her future looks bleak. How could this story be viewed as anything other than The Simpsons reflecting on its own mortality?

    “I've hit my mental and creative peak at the tender age of eight. What will my life be like after I descend into mediocrity?”

    Approximately 450 post-classic episodes have aired since Lisa the Simpson, retroactively validating its prophetic warnings. Oakley and Weinstein could never have known then that The Simpsons would still be on the air churning out new episodes today, but they must have had some inclination that the show would “go through a process of dumbening…for reasons beyond [their] control” and that it would “soon become vapid, sluggish and slow witted”.

    Yet they refused to give up and “settle into a mindless, happy stupor” even as they prepared to say goodbye to and depart from the show. The story ends with quintessential Simpsons optimism, declaring that the show can do anything so long as it remembers to keep things simple, stay true to its characters, and never forget that its brain is just as important as its heart. It’s a great shame that this impassioned affirmation ultimately fell on deaf ears.

    Lisa the Simpson is a lovely meditation on the fear of getting older and the inevitability of decline. It celebrates what makes someone or something special and unique, reminding us that all things are finite and to value them in the brief moment of time that they exist. Its messages, which are both specific to The Simpsons as a television series and universal to us all as human beings, can only be fully understood and appreciated with the passage of time.

    Lisa the Simpson is not only the last breath of the classic era firing on all cylinders, but also perhaps the greatest and most profound episode that Oakley and Weinstein ever produced. It’s clever and funny, timely and timeless, reflective and prescient, somber and hopeful. How might The Simpsons look today if the show had ended here? We can never know, but it was good while it lasted and nothing can ever change that. Right?

    “Sure, but that doesn’t mean you can’t live a long and pointless life”.

    Quite so, Grampa. Quite so.

    The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson - 5/5
    The Principal and the Pauper - 4/5
    Lisa's Sax - 5/5
    Treehouse of Horror VIII - 4/5
    The Cartridge Family - 5/5
    Bart Star - 2/5
    The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons - 4/5
    Lisa the Skeptic - 4/5
    Realty Bites - 4/5
    Miracle on Evergreen Terrace - 5/5
    All Singing, All Dancing - 2/5
    Bart Carny - 2/5
    The Joy of Sect - 5/5
    Das Bus - 3/5
    The Last Temptation of Krust - 5/5
    Dumbbell Indemnity - 3/5
    Lisa the Simpson - 5/5
    This Little Wiggy - 4/5
    Simpson Tide - 4/5
    The Trouble with Trillions - 3/5
    Girly Edition - 5/5
    Trash of the Titans - 1/5
    King of the Hill - 5/5
    Lost Our Lisa - 5/5
    Natural Born Kissers - 5/5

    Season Grade - 4.0 / B+
    Last edited by bboynexus; 07-15-2019 at 08:40 PM.

  2. #32

    If the show had ended in season 9 it would have cult legend status now.
    It was the perfect season for the show to end since it has arguably the last classic episodes but also some that anticipate what was about to come so people would understand why they decided to finish the show.
    If it had ended in season 8 it would have been a perfect run but people would call for the show to restart again.

    Yes, it's true that season 8 is generally considered weaker than the seasons that came before, but it still had two of the most beloved episodes (You Only Move Twice and Homer's Enemy) and in fact it's only seen as weaker because of how amazing seasons 3-7 had been.
    Season 9 shows the first real cracks though.

  3. #33
    Junior Camper Liks's Avatar
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    Aug 2019

    The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson - A+
    The Principal and the Pauper - C-
    Lisa's Sax - B+
    Treehouse of Horror VIII - B+
    The Cartridge Family - A+
    Bart Star - A
    The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons - B-
    Lisa the Skeptic - B+
    Realty Bites - B+
    Miracle on Evergreen Terrace - B
    All Singing, All Dancing - F
    Bart Carny - B
    The Joy of Sect - A-
    Das Bus - A-
    The Last Temptation of Krust - C
    Dumbbell Indemnity - B+
    Lisa the Simpson - B
    This Little Wiggy - B+
    Simpson Tide - A+
    The Trouble with Trillions - A+
    Girly Edition - B-
    Trash of the Titans - A
    King of the Hill - A
    Lost Our Lisa - A-
    Natural Born Kissers - B+

    Season grade : A-

  4. #34
    #stayhome The B's Avatar
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    Aug 2019

    Without any comments, my own rating list (out of 100)
    «The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson» 89 (B+)
    «The Principal and the Pauper» 64 (C+)
    «Lisa’s Sax» 80 (B)
    «Treehouse of Horror VIII» 79.35 (B)
    «The Cartridge Family» 74 (B-)
    «Bart Star» 63 (C+) (season low)
    «The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons» 69 (C+)
    «Lisa the Skeptic» 87 (B+)
    «Realty Bites» 63 (C+) (season low) (but this one maybe is better, than BS)
    «Miracle on Evergreen Terrace» 90 (A-) (season high)
    «All Singing, All Dancing» 79 (B)
    «Bart Carny» 67 (C+)
    «The Joy of Sect» 87 (B+)
    «Das Bus» 66 (C+)
    «The Last Temptation of Krust» 68 (C+)
    «Dumbbell Indemnity» 80 (B)
    «Lisa the Simpson» 88 (B+)
    «This Little Wiggy» 78 (B)
    «Simpson Tide» 81 (B)
    «The Trouble with Trillions» 77 (B-)
    «Girly Edition» 67 (C+)
    «Trash of the Titans» 81 (B)
    «King of the Hill» 83 (B+)
    «Lost Our Lisa» 73 (B-)
    «Natural Born Kissers» 77 (B-)

    Average score 76.414 (B-)
    Good to bad ratio (68%/32%)
    Maximum planty of good episodes 5
    IMHO the best and the worst episodes of each season (in bold — the best and worst of overall series, upd. 10/01/20 with trilogy episodes):
    1. There’s No Disgrace Like Home/Homer’s Night Out 2. Old Money/Simpson and Delilah 3. Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington/Homer Alone 4. Homer’s Triple Bypass/Marge in Chains 5. Secrets of a Successful Marriage/Homer and Apu 6. Two Dozen and One Greyhounds/A Star Is Burns 7. Home Sweet Homediddly-Dum-Doodily/Treehouse of Horror VI 8. My Sister, My Sitter/The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase 9. Miracle on Evergreen Terrace/The Principal and the Pauper 10. Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken/Simpsons Bible Stories 11. Days of Wine and D’oh’ses/Bart to the Future 12. Homer vs. Dignity/New Kids on the Blecch 13. Poppa’s Got a Brand New Badge/Weekend at Burnsie’s 14. Moe Baby Blues/Brake My Wife, Please 15. Fraudcast News/Co-Dependent’s Day 16. Sleeping with the Enemy/Future-Drama 17. Bonfire of the Manatees/Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore 18. The Wife Aquatic/Revenge Is a Dish Best Served Three Times 19. Eternal Moonshine of the Simpson Mind/Smoke on the Daughter 20. Coming to Homerica/Four Great Women and a Manicure 21. Chief of Hearts/Treehouse of Horror XX 22. The Ned-Liest Catch/Elementary School Musical 23. A Totally Fun Thing That Bart Will Never Do Again/Moe Goes from Rags to Riches 24. Hardly Kirk-ing/Love is a Many-Splintered Thing 25. Brick Like Me/What to Expect When Bart’s Expecting 26. Sky Police/Treehouse of Horror XXV 27. Halloween of Horror/Treehouse of Horror XXVI 28. 22 for 30/Havana Wild Weekend 29. Flanders’ Ladder/Springfield Splendor 30. Baby You Can’t Drive My Car/The Clown Stays in the Picture
    The Simpsons season ratings:
    2 > 3 > 7 > 6 > 1 > 4 > 5 > 8 > 9 > 21 > 27 > 12 > 15 > 20 > 10 > 14 > 19 > 25 > 17 > 29 > 26 > 24 > 13 > 18 > 16 > 28 > 30 > 11 > 23 > 22

    I think that thoughts may differ, because so many people, so many opinions.

  5. #35

    The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson: 10/10
    The Principal and the Pauper: 2/10 (Skinner reveal did not bother me as much as this episode was totally lame and boring)
    Lisa's Sax: 10/10
    Treehouse of Horror VIII: 7/10
    The Cartridge Family: 10/10 (Best Scully episode)
    Bart Star: 8/10
    The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons: 4/10 (ZZZ)
    Lisa the Skeptic: 2/10 (The continuation of Jerkass Lisa)
    Realty Bites: 4/10 (Another ZZZ)
    Miracle on Evergreen Terrace: 4/10 (Too mean spirited)
    All Singing, All Dancing: 1/10 (Worst clipshow)
    Bart Carny: 1/10 (The beginning of Wacky Jerkass Homer half hour)
    The Joy of Sect: 10/10 (Best episode of season 9)
    Das Bus: 10/10
    The Last Temptation of Krust: 2/10 (The descruction of Krusty´s character)
    Dumbbell Indemnity: 2/10 (Another terrible wacky Homer half hour)
    Lisa the Simpson: 10/10
    This Little Wiggy: 7/10 (Ralph was actually likable here)
    Simpson Tide: 10/10
    The Trouble with Trillions: 1/10 (The descrution of Burns character)
    Girly Edition: 9/10
    Trash of the Titans: 1/10 (Jerkass Homer at his worst)
    King of the Hill: 10/10
    Lost Our Lisa: 7/10 (Cute episode)
    Natural Born Kissers: 9/10

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