Episode 11 - One Fish Two Fish Blowfish Blue Fish
21 June 2010
Synopsis: Lisa asks Homer to take the family out to try a different cuisine. He agrees to go to a local sushi restaurant where he quickly becomes a fan of the food. Unfortunately he east a piece of blowfish which might be poisonous and is told he has twenty four hours to live. He makes a list of all the things he must do before he dies and begins to check them off.
The Good: An absolute classic. Not the funniest Simpsons episode by any means but this is the most complete episode of comedy which the show has put together so far combining laughs with sentiment and characterisation. The writers take the gimmick of having one day to live and go all the way with it covering every angle you could imagine in Homer's life.
The satire and parody are firmly in place as the Sushi restaurant receives predictable treatment (see Best Joke). Then once Homer is diagnosed Dr Hibbert tells him "You have twenty four hours to live...Well twenty two, sorry I kept you waiting so long." Homer then manages to go through all five stages of death anxiety in one sentence. The joke happens so fast it almost doesn't make the impact it could but it's very witty stuff.
Now faced with his final day on Earth the comedy and sentiment bounce off one another in harmony. Homer is determined to make the most of his last day but naturally hits snooze on his alarm at 6am and goes back to sleep. He is furious at Marge who lets him sleep till gone 11. "You looked so peaceful lying there" she says to which he hilariously replies "There'll be plenty of time for that!" He teaches Bart to shave in a less than ideal fashion before his stubble reappears instantly adding to the humorous futility of the scene. Then in a nice moment Lisa senses his mood and plays "When the Saints go Marching In" on her saxophone to cheer him up.
Homer then borrows Flanders camcorder and agrees to go to a barbeque the following day. "The jokes on him, I'll be dead by then!" Homer giggles. He uses the camera to film a last message for Maggie which is a nice idea and of course manages to show her what he is really like when the phone rings (scratching his butt and yelling). It's such a simple joke but absolutely pitch perfect to show Homer in all his glory as a flawed father. Homer then tells Grandpa that he loves him and can't say no when suddenly his father wants to spend the day with him. Again the characterisation is perfect as Homer is too kind to turn him down but then ignorantly comments "Geez the old guy's a little love starved" as he drives away.
His family waits patiently for him and Bart makes his first crank call to Moe. Homer returns and really draws sympathy as he kisses his entire family goodbye and collapses into an arm chair to die. Which of course he doesn't and he vows to live life to its fullest from now on. The final shot is the perfect end to the episode, a full minute shot of Homer eating chips and watching bowling on TV. It's the quintessential message of The Simpsons where the characters adventures don't change their lives. For once this message seems entirely appropriate as we all know we return to the comfortable and find it hard to break ingrained habits. Here Homer has been on a beautiful accidental journey of discovery and has learnt nothing. It epitomises why he is such a relatable and enduring creation.
The Bad: Those Japanese stereotypes live on thanks to stuff like this.
Best Joke: Actually the most effective laugh came early on when the Simpsons enter the sushi restaurant. The family is startled when the chefs yell an aggressive sounding greeting. It is soon explained that this was indeed just a greeting so Homer walks over to the chefs and startles them back by yelling "Hello!" far too loudly at them.
The Bottom Line: The first great Simpsons episode. The show really shows off its full range of skills here. Without much need for exaggeration the blend of comedy and sentiment is superb and flows from Homer's now well established character.
Add your comments on this episode below. They may be included in the weekly podcasts.