Classic Simpsons Reviews: “Homer’s Odyssey”

1.3 Homer’s Odyssey

Homer loses his job and ends up taking on the nuclear power plant as an activist. When offered a better job as safety inspector, Homer must choose between his principles and his family’s livelihood.

Ah, the infamous Black Smithers. Smithers was mistakenly animated as African American in his first physical appearance of the series, before being animated as white (yellow?) in later episodes. The creators didn’t want to have a black subservient character, which I guess is good, though I’m not the best judge of that, being Simpson-yellow myself. The West Wing chose to do that with Charlie while also drawing attention to and analyzing it, though Jed Bartlet wasn’t exactly C.M. Burns.

Officer Lou was originally animated as caucasian, sooo tradesies!

I don’t feel it’s my place to express a strong opinion on what’s right here, other than to state it’s not my place. I mean, one one hand why shouldn’t a queer black man be in love with his white billionaire boss, and on the other hand, clearly because white billionaires. Anyway.

Bart’s class visits the nuclear power plant, and we meet the plant’s mascot, Smilin’ Joe Fission, a brilliant sendup of Joe Camel. I wonder why Smilin’ Joe isn’t used more after the first couple seasons. Marketing to children is some serious business, after all.

Con: Waste lasts between 200-500 thousand years. Pro: A-dorable!

I once had the misfortune of being in my mom’s car when she got pulled over and my school bus went by, so I feel Bart’s pain watching his father get fired in front of his entire class. Ugh that shit is REAL.

Again, more laughs in early Simpsons than I remember. Lisa suggests a job at the fireworks factory and Homer replies, “Those perfectionists? Forget it.” So many of the gags come out of the characters’ entirely believable responses to believable problems. We also get the first crank call to the long-suffering Moe, which is weaved seamlessly into the narrative. (It’s often crowbarred in when we get to later episodes, not that that’s a mortal sin or anything)

Nice little consistency: Homer’s signature is exactly as it was in “Bart the Genius.”

Dark as it is, I appreciate the underlying commentary on toxic provider-masculinity in Homer’s failed suicide attempt. And the fact that civic activism gives Homer a reason to live is kind of adorable.

Similar themes are explored more effectively in “Last Exit to Springfield” in Season 4, but there’s still some good stuff here.

Best Moment: Smilin’ Joe Fission’s pro-nuclear power cartoon for kids.

Best Quote: “If they think I’m gonna stop at that stop sign they’re sadly mistaken.” -Homer, referring to the sign he got installed at a dangerous intersection. I lol’ed. Accidentally obtuse Homer is funnier to me than ‘hit you over the head’ brainless Homer.

Season one background character design sure is something. You can’t unsee sideways conjoined Barts.

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