The Simpsons' Most Hated Episode Isn't as Bad as You Thought
Justice for 'Saddlesore Galactica'.
By general consensus, Season 11 of The Simpsons was when the previously hilarious show started to show signs of aging. The jokes weren't as fresh, and the writers were running out of ideas.
A lot of fans want to be able to point a finger and say, 'THERE! That's the moment it all went wrong!' While we all know that things are never that cut-and-dry, for better or for worse that's how these things tend to go.
The episode of The Simpsons that often gets this accusing finger pointed at it is Season 11's unlucky 13th episode, titled 'Saddlesore Galactica'.
What Happens in the Episode?
When visiting the State Fair, Lisa's band plays a song of her choosing but loses out to a school that uses cutesy visual aids. Lisa is outraged – the glow sticks are against the rules! – and embarks on a crusade to reverse the judge's decision.
In the meantime, the fair has a skittish diving horse named Dunkin that is either going to end up at the dog food factory or in someone's home. Naturally, the Simpsons take the horse in. To pay for the cost of keeping Dunkin, they decide to race him at the track. After a shy start, Dunkin is renamed Furious D and comes back to the races with an all-new punk-rock attitude.
When Furious D starts to dominate the track, Homer is pulled aside by the jockeys. And by 'aside', we mean that they yank him into their strange, mystical jockey world. It turns out that the diminutive men are a sort of elven species, and they threaten Homer with death if Furious D doesn't throw the next race.
Why Do People Hate It?
The criticisms leveled at 'Saddlesore Galactica' do, to be fair, have some merit. The Simpsons had adopted a horse on the series before, a repeat that Comic Book Guy calls out in an incredibly blatant moment of lampshading (aka writers openly admitting their script is bad right in the script).
For some fans, what makes the episode terrible is the reveal of the jockeys as some sort of malevolent supernatural force. This is, they point out, where The Simpsons officially jumped the shark from silly to absurd.
Is It Really That Bad?
Take a look back at the episode (you can find it on Disney+ ) and you may be surprised to find that 'Saddlesore Galactica' isn't nearly the flaming dumpster fire that people make it out to be. In fact, until the third act reveal of the jockeys it keeps pace with a lot of respected Simpson's episodes.
The run of jokes in Lisa's band class as they choose a song for the competition hits an incredible rate of Jokes Per Minute, with nearly every line in the short scene serving as a punchline on its own. ('This is band?!' asks Ralph Wiggam, doodling on a drum kit.)
The sequence of Marge looking at the goods at the fair likewise features a solid series of comedic beats. ('Folks,' demands a salesman, 'how often have you opened your morning paper only to have the rubber band fly off and hit ya right in the eye?' 'Never,' gasps Marge, 'But it's my number one concern!')
There's also some killer punchlines with Homer pretending to be an army veteran in order to avoid the fair's 50 cent entry fee ('I saw my best friend's head explode at Margaret Cho!'), and during Homer and Marge's argument about the cost of the horse ('Marge, your pro-mop anti-horse agenda has been clear for some time.')
While it's true that 'Saddlesore Galactica' went a little off the rails in its third act, there's also a lot of decent comedy in this episode.
Save all the hate, folks – there are worse things in the world.