Episode 22 - The Otto Show
30 January 2011
Synopsis: At a Spinal Tap concert Bart decides he wants to become a rock start. Homer and Marge buy him a guitar and he shows it to Otto on the school bus. Otto gets carried away and is so late for school that he crashes the bus trying to get the children there quickly. He admits he doesn't have a licence and Patty fails him when he tries to get one. Bart begs his parents to let Otto stay but Homer soon grows tired of him.
The Good: Otto's character gets fleshed out here and yet somehow stays the same. We don't really learn much more about him beyond what you would expect: a wasted youth spent listening to music and a genial laziness. Yet there is fun to be had with his dumb bum character. He returns to his apartment and innocently hails his landlord saying "Some clown changed my locks, padlocked the door and put up an eviction notice!" The twist that allows things to return to normal is pleasant enough with Patty being so delighted to hear more tales of Homer's shortcomings that she awards him a probational licence.
If you are a fan of the Spinal Tap movie then there were some familiar gags as Harry Shearer (regular Simpsons cast member) was reunited with the rest of the cast. Principal Skinner's inability to get onto the freeway because he was too polite was an interesting scene; it served the purpose of making Otto's return more plausible. I enjoyed Homer falling for Bart's lame impression of Marge and assuming any discrepancy was just the vagaries of a cassette recording.
Homer's advice to Bart, upon hearing that he quit learning the guitar, is a classic bit of writing:
H: "Of course I'm not mad, if something's hard to do, then it's not worth doing. You just stick that guitar in the closet next to your short wave radio, your karate outfit and your unicycle and we'll go inside and watch TV."
B: "What's on?"
H: "It doesn't matter."
This utter mockery of both moral-of-the-story television and lazy parenting is a bit wasted though in the middle of an episode about Otto.
The Bad: In fact the Otto part of the story only kicks in after ten minutes essentially dedicated to Spinal Tap. It's an odd choice from the producers as it's essentially a long commercial for their 1992 album "Break Like the Wind." Their heavy metal parody act fits in fairly well within the Simpsons universe but it's still essentially filler until the Otto story begins.
It's a nitpick obviously but Otto plays guitar on the bus without amplification which would have made little sound. The Otto plot is fairly thin in general and it's no surprise that this is one of the very few times he receives much of a spotlight as a character.
Best Joke: Nothing really made me laugh but I do enjoy a good mockery of the media. Kent Brockman reports on the riot at the Spinal Tap gig with this commentary: "Of course it would be wrong to suggest that this sort of mayhem began with Rock and Roll after all there were riots at the premier of Mozart's 'The Magic Flute.' So what's the answer? Ban all music? In this reporter's opinion, the answer sadly is yes."
The Bottom Line: Two episode for the price of one but neither is very strong.
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