[7.6/10 on a post-classic Simpsons scale] The Simpsons political commentary certainly wasn't as potent in its 18th season as it was in its 8th season, but this was still a good bit of fun all the things considered. Sure, I could have done without the Homer vs. helicopter drone Looney Tunes homage that felt too much outside the world of the show, and the episode was much blunter and less clever in its riffs on the military than in past years, but the laughs were there, so it mostly works.
There’s some of the usual “event in the first act that we’ll never come back” business with the bullies having to serve Bart and Milhouse as employees of the local Foot Locker analogue and then wailing on them afterward, but it’s pretty harmless. The plot kicks into gear with a pair of army recruiters targeting the elementary school students, and the gags about how far the army will go to hook possible recruits is generally amusing.
Act two sees Homer enlist, and while it’s not new, the jokes about basic training and how much of it the military is skipping given how badly they need soldiers are generally well done. (My favorite gag is Marge’s meta-joke about how she can’t believe Homer would join the army, even after he joined the navy.) There’s some of the show’s standard “Homer’s idiocy is actually an asset to frustrate someone trying to best him” stuff, but it’s done well enough.
What’s funny about this episode is that it feels a bit dated (which, I suppose it should since it’s ten years old) in how it feels very clearly directed at the state of the U.S. military that was still actively engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan in a way that was making the nightly news. There’s still talk about the military and how things are handled, but it feels like the conversation has shifted to drone warfare and other details that make this feel a little less relevant. That’s not really a criticism, just an observation on how different things feel now versus then.
Anyhoo, the real treat of the episode is Kiefer Sutherland as The Colonel. He’s a multiple time guest star at this point, and while he reprised his Jack Bauer role once, it’s nice to see him doing character voices and not just playing himself like so many Simpsons celebrities do. He breathes real life into the Colonel, making him a memorable and amusing presence slinging frontline infantry designations at every one.
The episode ends with some decent gags about phone trees, Moe water down booze, and Lisa putting too fine a point on the whole thing. Mostly, this one gets by on the fact that it hums along pretty nicely with enough laughs, even if they’re just mild chuckles, to keep it going. A fun late season ep.