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Worldly Distractions: The Simpsons 25.9 - Steal This Episode



blog-stealthisepisode.jpgstealthisepisode   While the Simpsons hasn't really been funny for a good decade now, they still turn out an occasional gem. Will it happen this week? Let's find out.


No opening credits to speak of - just the clouds. Homer is dismayed to have the new Radioactive Man reboot spoiled for him at the watercooler. In fact, everyone's talking about the new movie, so he has to hide all over the plant, and then the city. Even Reverend Lovejoy spoils it in his sermon. Why Homer hasn't gone to see the movie by this point is beyond me.

Luckily, Homer realizes this is possible, probably burning the two brain cells he has left. The Simpsons go out for a family movie night, leaving Maggie with a nice grad student. A hilarious parody of modern moviegoing follows this, poking fun at product placement, overpriced technology and gritty reboots of superhero franchises. Homer laments the decline of the modern cinema, finally snapping his 3D glasses in anger. He is immediately kicked out.

After this, he is understandably feeling down, so Bart offers to show him how to illegally download the movie. We get a "Fox Censorship" sticker and some NASCAR footage over the actual lesson, so no tips there, though I imagine about 90% of this episode's viewers are watching it via such dubious methods. Homer loves the movie, and is extremely grateful to his son. They even have a tender father-son moment, which is rare enough in this series.

At work, he is about to brag to Lenny and Carl about the movie, only to hear that they've moved on to the new James Bond. They suggest he go to the theatre, to which he lets them in on his dirty little downloading secret. His friends are intrigued. They hoist the Internet pirate flag and have an illegal movie marathon at Homer's place. Inspired, Homer decides to set up an underground movie theatre of his own. No, not the cool kind that shows Andy Warhol movies still banned in New York - the kind in Homer's backyard where you watch shaky bootlegs of modern blockbusters and pay very low prices.

At "Cinema Pirate-diso", all of Springfield has gathered, even Flanders, who really should have a problem with this. The first screening is a great success (and a spot-on parody of Judd Apatow's Funny People, complete with Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann). Marge, however, was under the impression that Homer had permission to screen this, and is horrified to hear that he's showing it illegally. Stricken by her conscience, she sends a cheque to the studio covering the price of a movie ticket. The executives use it to snort cocaine. However, she stupidly included a letter to explain the cheque, and when the studio gets wind of it, they immediately send the FBI to Springfield.

We get yet another Homeland parody (seriously, twice in one season) as we are taken into the world of the FBI Movie Piracy team. They of course take their job way too seriously, and are off to take out the Simpsons, guns and all. FOR THE CHICK FLICKS! Just as Homer's family and friends sit down to watch the Star Wars Episode VII knock-off, the FBI burst in. And OH MY GOD the FBI leader (Director Gratman) is played by Will Arnett. I am going to die, officially. This man is a comedy god. To see him on the Simpsons? That's it. I'm done. Short of a full Arrested Development reunion on the show, this is my comedy intake for the year.

So Homer is arrested, and mistakenly pinpoints Superintendent Chalmers as the snitch. A quick-thinking Bart tries to blind the agents with copyrighted material, but Gratman shoots through the laptop. As Homer is dragged off, he begs Marge to find his betrayer. She bites her lip.

Homer is taken to Springfield Penitentiary, where the inmates (including Kevin Michael Richardson) especially disdain him for the horrific nature of his crimes. Soon they are full-on beating him, and the bus winds up crashing on a train track. Fortunately, the train happens to be going on the other track, so he simply hops it back to Springfield.

At dinner, Bart and Lisa wonder who the snitch could be. Marge tries to tell them that stealing is wrong. Neither is convinced. No, not even Lisa. Overzealous do-gooder that she can be. Homer comes back, and they're delighted to see him. However, he has to be hidden from the police. Lisa takes him to the only safe spot she can think of - the Swedish consulate.

Oh, COME ON. Sweden is lax about piracy, yes, but they've been pursuing the Pirate Bay for years. Canada is much more liberal on these matters - you cannot be arrested for illegal downloading in that country. Literally - it's covered in extra taxes on electronics. Also, why is there no Lisbeth Salander cameo if they're doing something Swedish? I DEMAND MY POP CULTURE REFERENCE.

The FBI drives up and blasts death metal to smoke them out, but since they're dealing with Swedes, it's no big deal. Homer thanks Marge for sticking by him, but she can handle it no longer, and confesses that she is the Judas. Homer drops his meatballs in shock. Marge tells him that she only meant to do the right thing and it got way out of hand. Terribly hurt, Homer gives himself up. Nothing else matters now.

At Homer's trial, the prosecution calls Judd Apatow to the stand. He makes a passionate case while Seth Rogen cries, and Homer is soon found guilty. I silently mourn the second season of Freaks and Geeks. The pain is still there. Always.

The judge asks if he has anything to say, and Homer refuses to speak. Marge, however, comes back to his side and begs him to defend himself. He tells of what he tried to do, and soon has the sympathy of all the Hollywood bigwigs. Immediately, they rush to get the film rights to his story. All charges are dropped. Lisa wonders how this could possibly make sense. Gratman/Arnett explains that though they're made up of corporations, they still like to think they fight for the little guy - a real grain of truth here.

Channing Tatum is cast as Homer, and as a special surprise, the people of Springfield set up a screening in his backyard - complete with a bootleg. Homer is outraged that they're pirating his movie, and refuses to see the irony. Even Marge thinks he should STFU. However, now that he's making a profit from the film, the tables are turned. The end.

Over the closing credits, Bart and Lisa go to the movie. Channing Tatum (the man himself, natch) gives an inspired performance. Too bad the kids are the only viewers. A few more digs at the FOX network, and we're done.

In general, I felt this episode was pretty strong. Like most of the later seasons, it's fairly creaky, but the guest actors added some punch and there were good gags here and there. Best of all, it told a tight and well-written story. The Simpsons is so tired a show that even the best writing can't make it good - not anymore. But for now, I'm happy enough to sit and watch. On my legal television, of course.

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