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Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Retro Review: Grift of the Magi

AKA: Springfield Elementary is bought out by a toy company that uses it for market research, culminating in the creation of Funzo...or the episode where Gary Coleman is a few prawns short of a galaxy.

The Setup: Bart breaks his "butt bone", putting him into a wheel chair which leads to the school bankrupting itself by attempting to become wheelchair-accessible.

Favorite Lines:

Lisa: Principal Skinner, I though public schools were required to have access ramps for the disabled.
Skinner: Technically, ues, but the building costs would be astronomical.
Fat Tony: Did I hear the word "astronomical"? If so, my construction outfit "Valdezzo Brothers Olive Oil" is poised to help.
Skinner: No, no, no, no. We're not building anything.
Fat Tony: How can you say that when construction has already begun?
Skinner: How did those trucks get here so fast?!
Fat Tony: In order to avoid certain legal complications, the trucks are always rolling.

Skinner: This is a proud day. Now when people ask if we're in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1975, I can say we are closer than ever before!

Krusty: Well, folks, that's the end of Krusty's nondenominational holiday funfest. I want to thank my guests: Tea Leoni, Beck, the Dixie Chicks, ... and Patrick Ewing as the genie. So, have a merry Christmas, happy Chanukah, kwazy Kwanza, a tip-yop Tet, and a solemn, dignified Ramadan. Now a word from *my* god: our sponsor.

Homer: So, who am I beating up?
Lisa: Nobody. You're just gonna break into everyone's house and steal their favorite toy.
Bart: Thus saving Christmas.
Homer: Now, let's see...this'll make three Christmases I saved versus eight I ruined...two were kind of a draw...

Bart: Just dump 'em in the fire, Dad.
Lisa: Yes, the madness ends here.
Homer: Ha! If I had a nickel for every time I've heard that.

Teebore's Take: Ostensibly a Christmas episode (though that doesn't really become clear until the third act; it did at least originally air in December) this is my favorite episode of the season so far. It's solid and consistent with funny bits throughout, a good use of guest stars (Tim Robbins as Jim, the toy company exec and Gary Coleman as himself-sorta), and a solid Bart/Lisa story with a dash of non-Jerk-ass Homer thrown in. Plus, it still finds time, amongst the gags, to satirize the frenzied Christmas shopping season in general and the Tickle-Me-Elmo craze and its ilk specifically.


The mob's breadstick wheelchair ramps and the subsequent closing of the school are pretty unrealistic, as is Funzo himself, who is far too advanced for a children's toy, as well as Homer's burglary of his neighbors, but coming in an otherwise funny and satirical episode, that zaniness doesn't seem as egregious.

Jerk-ass Homer:

After inadvertently causing Bart's accident, Homer is pretty quiet until the third act, when he shows up to help Bart and Lisa save Christmas.


  1. You are a braver man than I to watch Simpsons episodes after season 7 or 8.

    I remember this particular episode, and I thought the satirical elements were too forced. Gary Coleman just annoys me because people seem to think involving him at any level is worthy of a laugh.

    Season 4 FTW

  2. My personal favorite part of that episode, and one my all time favorite Simpsons dialogue was this:

    Coleman: But the menu said "galaxy of prawns". Three prawns are hardly a galaxy! What do you mean, "your hands are tied"?! Let me talk to Mr. Kwan.

    [Lisa motions for Bart to continue crawling]

    Bart: I want to see how this turns out.

    Lisa: [holding phone cord] The phone's not even plugged in!

    Coleman: Alright, you listen to me, Kwan. Hang on, I got another call. [click] Yes, Mr. President! I can be in Washington right away!

  3. Yeah, that bit with Coleman is one of my favorite parts as well. I didn't quote because it involved too much of Bart and Lisa's reactions and I try to avoid that when pulling those quotes (they get long enough as it is).

    I also agree the satirical elements were forced, especially since, for the most part, it was all crammed into the third "Christmas" act. I think I was just pleased to see SOME satire, however forced, instead of more of Homer acting like an ass.

    As for the quality of post-season 8 episodes...well, I think it's a lot like 90s X-Men comics, in that the general consensus is that they suck and/or are a pale imitation of their former glory, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few gems here and there, or a few good gags amongst the dreck.

    And when the episode is just plain bad, well, it can be fun to commiserate on just how bad it is, sometimes.

    That said, I'm not all that excited to re-watch the 12th season next summer when it comes out.

    Ideally, I'd like to go back and do Retro Reviews for all the seasons, including the "glory days" but I have a feeling in many cases the "favorite lines" section would end up being a retyping of the episode and I wouldn't have much to say on them aside from "good...funny...a classic."

    We shall see, especially since the new season sets are getting released much more infrequently these days.

  4. The "Lisa Becomes a Vegetarian" episode is pretty close to one long great Simpsons quote.


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