[6.8/10 on a post-classic Simpsons scale] It’s become as much of a cliché to complain about Simpsons episodes with first acts that get quickly abandoned as it is for the show to use them, but here we are, with Homer taking a trip to the DMV awards for what seems like hours of lame gags, until that’s all quickly forgotten.
Instead, it’s fodder for Homer to be so upset that he needs fast food, only for some reason, all the fast food places in town have been purchased by Chinese conglomerates that get rid of all of Homer’s greasy favorites. Stymied by this lack of artery-clogging goodness, he inadvertently drives to an old chili dog cart, where, he eventually realizes, he used to get dropped off at when his parents were in marital counseling.
Setting aside the convenience and contrived nature of how Homer reunited with this sacred hot dog stand, this at least provides a solid emotional through-line. At a time when Homer was distraught by the discord with his parents, Homer turned to the comfort of food, and so eating these chili dogs now are an emotional palliative for his distress. That’s not a terrible premise, albeit a reductive one. It’s just never particularly funny, and Homer’s dad complex with the chili dog maker isn’t particularly compelling either.
But it’s better than a weak B-story where Lisa has once again become an amateur reporter (seriously, this is at least the third time she’s tried this by my count), and with budget cuts at Springfield Elementary, she is desperate for a story. There’s not any funny observations about the news at play, and Lisa’s plight is hard to latch onto when that part of the story is barely developed.
There is, at least, some grace in the way the two stories dovetail, where after Homer goes nuts and steals the hot dog stand after the chili dog owner sells out, Lisa finds her story and broadcasts it over the air, spurring a cadre of fatsos to come to Homer’s aid. It’s a decent enough twist in the story that services both Homer and Lisa. But it ends on a weak note, with the hot dog maker finally remembering Homer from his childhood, or having only been pretending not to remember him, or some other such unclear nonsense that only exists for the sake of a dramatic reveal in a contrived, action-y finish. The non-ending with the cops is pretty weak too.
This write-up makes me sound sourer about this episode than I am. It’s perfectly solid post-classic stuff, with a solid enough story and some decent structure here and there. But the comedy quotient is low, and the script still feels a couple of drafts away from hitting the sweet spot.