The Episode of “The Simpsons” with Three Points of View

Of course, after the long break between this and my previous review, I wrote it the same day that Dan wrote a rather important review, so check that one out. It should be just below this one.

Linguo says “Wassamatta WITH Season 12?”

So tonight on one of the Fox affiliates that we get here, either Fox 5 (NY) or Fox 29 (Philly), they were airing the one episode of “The Simpsons”, titled “Trilogy of Error“. This episode is one of two uniquely structured episodes that I know of, in that it doesn’t just follow one set chronology/plot thread. I guess you could make a case that other “theme episodes” might count towards this, but I suppose the gimmick for these two is different in that it’s not taking the characters and putting them in situations outside of their realities.

The episode originally aired in April of 2001, (Season 12 for those of you who care about such things), amidst such “classics” as the one with Lisa and the Bully, the one where Homer starts a daycare; the one where Homer becomes Burns’ “Prank Monkey”; the one where the kids get snowed in at school (with some akwardly raunchy humor, and one of the ten worst endings ever, in fact, one which was very similar to another that aired that season in which Homer started a website and ended up on a hallucinogenic island like on “The Prisoner”); the one titled “Worst. Episode. Ever.“; and the actual worst episode ever, the one where Homer and Marge build a tennis court in their backyard to start the actual plot, at about 15 minutes into a 22-minute episode.

This episode, however, proved to be the strongest one not only of that season, but one of the best of the five seasons around it. The first third of the episode deals with Homer’s day, in which he meets Lisa’s Science Fair project, a grammar-correcting robot, after which he accidentally cuts off his thumb. He has various adventures attempting to get the thumb sewn back on, including a ride with Cletus, and an explosion at Dr. Nick’s. He’s eventually stranded, walking toward Shelbyville, when out of nowhere the head of Lisa’s robot falls out of the air in front of him. In the second segment, “Lisa’s Day”, Lisa struggles to get to school in time for the fair, since Marge has left to take Homer to the Doctor, and her bike is gone. She winds up at an exact replica of her school, but on the wrong end of town, eventually runs into Marge outside of Moe’s (where Homer’s been distracted while trying to get ice to put his thumb on), and the two speed away, only to almost hit Bart, as he comes out from under a man-hole cover. The third segment chronicles Bart’s day, as he and Milhouse (on Lisa’s bike) go in search of illegal fireworks underground and get tied up with the mob. Eventually all of these stories meet up, and Homer gets his thumb sewn back on by the mob doctor as Lisa’s science project. There are many overlaps in the three stories, with scenarios that have payoffs in earlier segments and setups in later segments, things deliberately left vague early on, so that they can be explained in later parts.

The thing that really makes this episode work though, is the pacing. Right from the start it’s going at a breakneck speed with no pauses for character moments or throwaway jokes that have nothing to do with the main story. The reason for this is that there’s so much plot going on, at the same time as the other characters stories, that it’s essential to get through each person in under 7 minutes, and therefore is more like three short interlocking episodes than one big one that’s all over the place. Granted they have done episodes with three specific separate segments (The bible/literary stories episodes, the Halloween episodes, and this year’s Christmas one), but in those cases it seemed like “Hey, I have a good idea. Let’s make Lisa into Johnny Appleseed”, without thinking through how they would actually fill the time with story instead of just a collection of forced “jokes”. Season 12 is a prime example of the lack of story structure that has plagued the show for the last five years (at least). The story ideas for the episodes in this season aren’t developed enough to fill the amount of time for an episode, so they think of two or more story ideas and figure out how to connect them together, and try to pass it off as one story, usually pretty transparently, and often self-referrentially. But this episode was different. It was well-structured and plotted, and the humor came from having unfortunate things happen to the characters, instead of them causing stupid things to happen. The ending, while a bit rushed, made a lot more sense than nearly all of the other episodes that season, including the infamous “SURF’S UP” ending from “The Great Money Caper“. The 17 fanboys at the Simpsons episode archive gave this episode an average of an A, and I’m inclined to do so as well.


This episode, while nowhere near perfect is probably one of the best, if not most memorable episodes to come out of the series after season 11 (we’re currently in 17). Its use of non-linear storytelling, while gimmicky, allows for a change in the tired Simpsons formula that seemed to be dragging it down that year, and the incredibly fast pace and detailed plot structure keep it from getting sillier than anything in season 7 or 8 or just filled with dumb jokes. Even when it’s not funny, it’s engaging, not annoying, and it never feels like a chore to sit through, which is rare these days. It is nowhere near as good as episodes from six years before or so, but not much is, and with over 250 episodes prior, it’s hard to keep coming up with fresh ideas, something this episode does quite well.


One response to “The Episode of “The Simpsons” with Three Points of View”

  1. […] August 11th, 2006 Nate Oh, those kids. Always at it. You guys really shouldn’t’ve. So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone”, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell. The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge? Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false. October seemed to be us finding our footing. November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach”, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep. November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining. December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing. December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews. 2006 rolled around, and January saw Dan get political, review half of a book, not like warm winters a lot. I only contributed three of ten reviews that month, but all three of them were relatively alright, mostly because “Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego”, and “The Simpsons” after season 9 is so easy to complain about. January’s topics fell off a little. February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper. Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking. March just plain sucked. Four reviews total. One by me. Three mega-reviews by Dan. April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star. For my money, May was our best month yet. Dan’s contribution was the lengthy three-part TV landscape review. I threw out quality stuff with my Songs for Silverman, and Degree Navigator reviews. The shorter American Dreamz and Davinci Code video game reviews were serviceable, but my immense LOST season 2 review tops everything. June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs. July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) Navel Gazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5 This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby. In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.” Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs. For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five. And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review. […]

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