Episode 9 - Mr Plow
21 June 2011
Synopsis: Homer smashes his cars up in a blizzard and has to buy a new one. He buys a huge snowplow and thinks he can make the payments by ploughing people's driveways. Surprisingly this scheme is very popular and when Barney wishes he could be as successful Homer encourages him to get out there and make something of himself. The next day Homer discovers that Barney has bought an even bigger Plow and become the Plow King. All Homer's business disappears, so when he hears that there is dangerous weather up at Widow's Peak he puts in a call to the King.
The Good: This was a passable story but it's very far from the classic some people seem to remember it as. The story is straightforward with Homer's success being stolen by Barney and then the reconciliation and return to normal. Along the way there are some fun moments such as the cheap commercial the family films to drum up business. Grandpa plays "Old Man Winter" while Bart cheekily asks Homer "You are fully bonded and licensed by the city aren't you Mr Plow?" The long running digs at the Simpsons home network FOX begin here when Homer announces "It may be on a lousy channel but the Simpsons are on TV!" I also enjoyed Homer's slow brain trying to think of where else he could have been, other than a bar, prior to the car crash. Amusingly he comes up with a pornography store which he proudly announces to the insurance man.
The Bad: Otherwise the Mr Plow story wasn't particularly interesting and had a weird negative vibe to it. We didn't know a lot about the Homer-Barney friendship at this point and so it seems odd that Barney is so aggressive toward Homer. He doesn't just steal his business; he actually shoots Homer's tyres out in front of him. In Barney's commercial he calls Homer a loser and beats a cardboard cut-out of Homer to pieces. It all feels hateful and there's none of the logic that went into Flaming Moe's when it was clear why Moe was trying to cut Homer out of the credit. The writers even insert a heavy handed flashback showing Homer as the one who is responsible for Barney's alcoholism. It all left a negative vibe and the story itself moved too fast to really be interesting. Half the episode was spent on establishing Homer as Mr Plow that Barney's role in things was rushed.
If you are a fan of Adam West or Linda Ronstadt then their cameos were fine. I didn't think either added much to the plot though and the lack of explanation for how Ronstadt knew Barney only added to the sense of rush.
Best Joke: Twice the old folks at the Springfield Retirement Castle celebrate their liberation from the snow by claiming they can now go outside again. However in both cases they decide against it. Grandpa comments the second time "I don't like the looks of those teenagers." The fact that the writers are willing to criticise the old people for being insular is what gives the show's comedy a real edge.
The Bottom Line: This is one of the first of Homer's many side jobs and that may have added to the memorable nature of Mr Plow. However the actual story isn't very good and the episode feels negative.
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