[9.6/10 on a post-classic Simpsons scale] These are the episode that make me wonder if the funniest writers devoted most of their time to specific episodes and scraped by on others. This episode’s humor isn’t perfect, but it’s got a better laugh-per-minute ratio than just about any other episode in season 12, which makes it stand out in a dull field.
The story isn’t bad either! The idea of Homer being inspired to help the little guy in the first act, making misaimed efforts to do just that in the second act, and then stumbling on a hunger strike to save the local baseball team as the ultimate way to achieve that end works for what the episode’s going for. It gives Homer a motivation, has him see it through in predictably misguided fashion, and then runs into an obstacle that he can’t just blunder his way through. That’s a solid formula, and makes for a good spine for the humor.
But the humor is where this one really shines. The “Blocko Land” jokes are silly, but still very effective with all the square plastic-based humor. All the baseball-related gags are, if not quite at “Homer at the Bat” levels, then at least good enough to poke fun at the three-ring circus of minor league baseball. And Homer’s general overzealous efforts to stand up for people are funny from start to finish.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t note that this is, possibly, the best Duffman episode ever! He thrusts in the direction of the problem! He represents the “Newsly Times.” And he declares himself a “cautious cat!” It’s utter silliness, but I love it! And Stacy Keach is good as Howard K. Duff too. He brings a mundane malevolence to this silly conspiracy.
Overall, this is a double-digit season Simpsons episode that will keep you laughing throughout, and even rooting for humble Homer. Those two facts alone are a minor miracle, and mark this episode as one of the high marks of the series’s post-golden year period.