Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Retro Review: Saturdays of Thunder
The Setup: After Homer realizes he's a bad father, he rushes to the National Fatherhood Institute and proceeds to help Bart with his soapbox derby car.
Notable Notes: The fatherhood test Homer takes was based on a real fatherhood test.
Homer watches part of a McBain movie at the video store, one which loosely parodies Lethal Weapon (McBain's African-American partner is killed days away from retirement).
Homer receives a copy of still-the-show's-rival Bill Cosby's Fatherhood book in this episode, and he is quite taken with it, though he'll be seen tossing it into the fireplace in the forthcoming episode Dog of Death.
When this episode originally aired, it received exceptionally high ratings, in large part because it preceded the debut of Michael Jackson's Black or White video.
The theme from The Natural is used in this episode; it will be used again in Homer at the Bat.
Bart: Hey Homer, I can't find the safety goggles for the power saw.
Homer: If stuff starts flying, just turn your head!
Bart: Oh. Check.
Marge: 'Name of one of your son's friends.'
Homer: Uh, let's see, Bart's friends...well, there's that fat kid with the thing...uh, the little wiener whose always got his hands in his pockets
Marge: They want a name, Homer, not a vague description.
Bart: Dad, I love you, but, you taught me to win.
Homer: When did I ever teach you that?
Bart: Well, I picked it up somewhere.
Bart: I was alone out theree, but someone was riding with me in spirit; this is for you, Dad.
Homer: No, son, you earned it.
Martin: I might remind you both I did design that racer, the driver is essentially ballast.
Last episode, Homer's relationship with Lisa was the focus. Bart gets his turn here. Not a great episode, but a fair sight better than its predecessor, in largely thanks to Bart's interactions with Nelson and Martin on the racing circuit and the more over-the-top manner Homer goes about improving his relationship with Bart (seeking advice from the National Fatherhood Institute vs. getting a second job). The whole soapbox derby plot is charmingly anachronistic; as antiquated as it feels today (do kids even make and race soapbox derby cars anymore? What the hell is a soapbox* anyway?) the Depression Era-sport felt old-fashioned even when this episode originally aired. It's the kind of thing you'd expect The Little Rascals or Leave It To Beaver to feature, and there's definitely some underlying humor in the rebellious, modern Bart taking so large an interest in such a relatively quaint hobby.
There's humor to be found in Homer's efforts to relate to Bart and Bart's interest in soapbox derbies, but generally it's a fairly standard episode.
*I'm well aware from where the "soapbox" in "soapbox derby" comes.