Logo FB

The Simpsons s10e5: When You Dish Upon A Star

Synopsis

A parasailing mishap leads Homer to crash into the “escape the media” home of Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger. He insinuates himself into their lives, taking over their chores and their private spaces. When Homer blabs their presence, the Baldinger home becomes ground zero for a media frenzy. The Basinwins fire Homer, who takes revenge for this perceived slight by selling their personal items and trying to murder them during a car chase. Homer is forbidden from coming within 500 miles of any celebrity1 and Ron Howard successfully steals Homer’s idea for a screenplay.

Review

In the spirit of liking to like things, I will now list everything I liked about this episode (except for two bits I’m saving for later.)

  • Homer, parasailing: “I wanna soar higher than any man has ever soared. I wanna look down on the clouds with contempt. I wanna sneer at God’s creation!”
  • Homer mistaking Alec Baldwin for Billy Baldwin.
  • Homer inexplicably recognizing the logo of the Gersh agency.
  • Basinger rubbing her Oscar in Baldwin’s face, as he does not have one. 2
  • Ron Howard spends time in Springfield so he can fish with dynamite.
  • Ron Howard: “Do I smell vodka? And wheatgrass?”
    Homer: “It’s called a lawn mower. I invented it.”
  • Homer: “All right, I’m gonna let you guys in on something. But you’ve got to keep it much more secret than I did.”
  • Bart referring to Baldwin as “the coolest person you’ve ever been fired by.”
  • Ron Howard failing his action star moment and tumbling nearly to his death.

See? I’m not just a hater! Now let’s talk about everything I hated.

The Celebrities Suck
There are several ways to take a famous person playing themselves and make it funny. Do they have a memorable role that the writers can somehow incorporate (Mark Hamill, Mayored to the Mob; Adam West, Mr. Plow; Leonard Nimoy, Marge vs. the Monorail)? Are they such a huge get that their mere presence feels important (Paul and Linda McCarthy, Lisa the Vegetarian)? Is there an opportunity to reveal the lighter side of a serious persona (Stephen Hawking, They Saved Lisa’s Brain)? Can you at least say the episode is funnier because the real celebrity’s voice is somehow better than a decent impersonation thereof?

As is the case with so many latter-era Simpsons cameos, all the answers here are no. The writers found exactly two ways to differentiate the two stars from any other famous actors: Basinger has an Oscar, and Baldwin has famous brothers. There are no clever allusions to LA Confidential, Batman, Beetlejuice, or Glengarry Glen Ross; no jabs at their public personas3. Both sound indifferent at best, as if they recorded their role on the phone between press junkets for something more interesting, and their chemistry is non-existent4. And I’m not sure anyone in 1998 were so bowled over by their megawatt star power that they failed to notice the creative failure of everything surrounding their appearance.

The only way their appearance could have been redeemed was if they’d been given funny or at least interesting things to say. Instead, they got about as many good lines of dialog as anybody else in this episode: practically none.

Homer is a Terrible Person
The nickname “jerkass Homer” feels insufficient here. How do you feel about Sex Offender Homer? That seems like an appropriate description of a man who smells women’s hair while they’re sleeping. And that’s only the molesting cherry on the entitlement sundae: Homer crashes into their lives and assumes he’s welcome there, he breaks the one rule the Alekims set for him, and he sets about to ruin their lives in revenge for them firing him with cause. The devolution of Homer from misguided but well-meaning oaf to villain in a stalker movie isn’t the only reason the show began to decline around seasons 9/10, but it can’t be ignored.

By comparison, parking his car on Ned Flanders’ head and carping about Marge’s cooking seem almost pleasant. But make no mistake, those too are signs of being a dick.

The Opening Scene
Fans of the Comic Strip Club know that the lowest form of humor is referencing something or someone popular and hoping the reference disguises the lack of a joke. That’s the episode’s MO, of course, but they foreshadow it with a gratuitous and gratuitously violent Yogi Bear dream sequence. You remember Yogi, right? Liked pic-a-nic baskets, clashed with the ranger? Well, now Homer is Yogi, and he does those things too! Then, after the moment when hilarity was supposed to have ensued, Homer/Yogi5 mauls Ranger Ned, presumably to death. Again, we have an escalation of the gag beyond what the character can support. We can still root for Homer when he borrows and fails to return power tools; to do so after he dreams of murder is hard to justify.

Anyway, it stinks.

Iconic Moments

“If celebrities didn’t want people pawing through their garbage and saying they’re gay, they shouldn’t have tried to express themselves creatively.”

Next Week

Homer (another Homer episode?) discovers his middle name and his hippie roots in Doh’in In The Wind. Featuring guest stars George Carlin and Martin Mull.