Guys, I love this episode. I really do. The main plot takes a while to really get rolling, but once it does it keeps you watching and builds you up for the ending, which is absolutely hysterical and amazing. But first, RACE UPDATE!
Smithers has lost his tan and is yellow once more.
Strangely enough, Lou of the police force is flipped from black to yellow this episode.
Again, I’m not sure if it was just the early series finding it’s footing or an animation mistake, but either way it’s just surreal.
Now, with that out of the way, we’re tackling Season 1 Episode 4 – There’s No Disgrace Like Home.
We start off with the family getting ready to go to a company picnic at plant owner Mr. Burns’ house. Despite urgings that they be on their best behavior, the Simpsons are at their dysfunctional best: Lisa allows herself to show her wilder side and causes general shenanigans, Marge gets un-intentionally plastered on spiked punch, and Bart nearly gets Homer in trouble by attempting to beat Burns in the annual sack race. Dismayed at how much his family seems to suck – especially when compared to several unnamed but sickeningly sacchrine families – Homer resolves to make them change for the better. Horrifying the rest of the family, he empties the kids’ college fund and pawns the TV to get the money for family therapy. Dr. Marvin Monroe (in his first series appearance) tries his best to create familial harmony, culminating in a hilarious sequence where the entire family is hooked into electroshock therapy chairs. The treatment ultimately fails, and the good doctor is forced to live up to his advertised promise of “Family bliss or double your money back!” Thrilled with the sudden influx of money, the now-happy family resolved to buy an even better TV and the day is… saved? Well, it ends on a happy enough note.
As much as I want to dive straight into the beautiful (and frankly, iconic I think) ending to this episode, the first thing I need to address is the characterization present in this one, especially pertaining to Lisa and Marge. It’s something I’ve been forgetting in my last few posts, and it needs to be rectified. I feel like fans – not all, but at least a good chunk of them – generally view Lisa as a sort of ‘straight man’ to the family. She’s the smart one, the pragmatic one, and for all intents and purposes the ‘normal’ one. To a certain extent, I think that’s an absolutely true sentiment – but only to a certain point. There are some fantastic Lisa episodes that reinforce that belief, like the episode where she becomes Buddhist. But with those episodes are tons and tons of moments where she shows her true nature as a Simpson. Moments like ones in this episode, where she gets in a fight with Bart over who loves Homer more (each one claiming to love him less). Or this awesome image of her horsing around in a fountain.
Marge I feel shares sort of the same problem. Much like Lisa, I think she gets enshrined in fans’ minds as the conscience of the family, the person who can be counted on to know right from wrong and who keeps the family from descending into total madness. And again, to a certain extent there’s truth in that. Some of Marge’s best episodes have her trying to get just one day of normalcy from her family – hell, just think of any episode where they go on vacation and she begs everyone not to ruin it. But again, we have to remember that in some ways Marge is part of the madness too. She certainly isn’t eager to give up both the TV and the kids’ meager college fund for a chance at making their family normal. If nothing else, I think this image of her participating in the madness of their typical family dinner speaks volumes.
But now, what I’ve been dying to talk about – the final few minutes of the episode. This sequence is absolutely amazing and I’m not even sure where to start.
How about this? A baby in an electric chair.
If you don’t think the idea of them including Maggie as part of their therapy and strapping her into a makeshift electric chair is hilarious, then we may never see eye to eye. But beyond that, the sequence is absolutely perfect. It starts with the predictable (Bart shocking Homer, Homer getting a revenge shock), and slowly descends into complete and total chaos with the entire family shocking each other left and right, with Marvin Monroe looking on helplessly the entire time. Their shocking becomes so fast paced and madcap that it literally starts draining the power of the entire city.
All the while Maggie is just flailing happily at the buttons, and the entire thing is closed by Marge giving what I think is the line of the episode with all of her usual sincerity: “Gee, and I thought we were making real progress.” It’s absolutely classic. I was a little surprised to see this episode in season 1 (yet another one that I thought came later), but it’s a perfect introduction to the beloved insanity this family can bring. I think it’s because it shows their family dynamic in all its dysfunctional glory that I can forgive this episode for being yet another Homer episode – and by my count, that makes three of the first four.
This may be my obvious bias for the ladies showing, but can we get a Lisa or Marge episode sometime this century? Please?
I just thought I’d ask.