In this week’s episode, Homer’s abuse of Bart, in the classic form of strangling, is finally examined. It’s a great story that will make you smile, but won’t necessarily make you laugh out loud.
The story starts out in classic Simpson fashion. Homer saves Mr. Burns’ life and so somehow gets football tickets in return. The family’s trip around the stadium was good. They passed by the Museum of Tolerance (with fans from the Packers and Vikings finally coming to terms with each other) and the stadium’s art district, complete with cafes full of people that don’t like football. The whole gag was good dig at newer stadiums full of useless accessories.
Eventually Homer embarrasses Bart, tickling the boy until he wets his pants as the whole stadium watches on the jumbotron. Homer then goes to parent counseling, where the counsellor is horrified to hear that Homer strangles Bart.
It was great to see the show examine one of the longest gags of the series, especially the origin of Homer’s abusive methods. Homer says it was how he was raised, and then remembers himself strangling his father. It was a great bit.
Homer’s counsellor, Dr. Zander (played by Paul Rudd), has a solution to Homer’s problem. He enlists Kareem Abdul Jabbar to strangle Homer until he realizes how it feels to be the one strangled. Zander says Kareem is the only Los Angeles Laker he can trust and so he uses his tall frame to strangle Homer. This has large psychological consequences as whenever Homer approaches Bart to discipline him, he remembers Kareem and backs off.
Bart soon takes advantage of Homer’s new parenting and quickly goes out of control, terrorizing his teachers and Homer to no end. Marge then goes to Dr. Zander and asks him to help. Bart only comes under control when Zander himself strangles Bart out of frustration. Everything returns back to normal, as it seems strangling is the only way Bart can be controlled (Hooray! I guess?).
I enjoyed this episode because it was an interesting look on the history on Homer’s character. From Homer’s flashback to his return to strangling, it was neat to see one of show’s more peculiar traditions under the microscope.
The show also had some good jokes strewn through the episode. When Marge returns to Zander for help, citing his therapy was too effective, Zander replies that one of the biggest reactions to therapy, it being too effective. It was also funny to find out Bart’s neck is as strong and tough as an oak after the years of strangling, as told by Zander as he tries to break Bart’s neck. Another highlight was Bart’s prank text to Moe (I.M.A Weiner). It was another Simpsons’ classic seen through a new lens.
There were a few problems with the episode however. The guest stars were hit and miss, as I enjoyed Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s presence but didn’t even know Paul Rudd was guest starring until the show was over. There was also no secondary plot. Lisa and Marge spent some time together watching horse movies, but this was obviously just filler.
Ultimately it was a good episode for long time Simpsons fans, as it brought something new to an old dynamic. It didn’t have amazing jokes, but there were a few decent ones mixed into the enjoyable plot.
To watch clips of this episode and others, or to learn about upcoming episodes, go to thesimpsons.com.