The Most Overhated ‘Simpsons’ Episode Isn’t Nearly as Hateable in Retrospect
One of the most infamous episodes of The Simpsons isn’t nearly as bad as the naysayers claim.
Season 11 of The Simpsons holds a dubious place in the show’s history as one of the most highly criticized and controversial seasons that aired when the majority of self-professed Simpsons fans were still paying any attention at all. Following a pay dispute with voice actor Maggie Roswell, this set of episodes from late 2000 to early 2001 marked the untimely demise of Maude Flanders due to a freak T-shirt cannon incident in “Alone Again, Natura-Diddily,” but even that notorious entry wasn’t the most reviled Simpsons plotline of that year.
By retrospective criticism (and by IMDb rating), the low point of Season 11 was the episode “Saddlesore Galactica,” in which the Simpsons family adopted a diving horse from a fair and turned him into a champion racer to the chagrin of a bizarre race of jockey-elves while Lisa appealed to the president for help in a school competition. However, over in the Simpsons subreddit, fans argued that this episode, which famously reused the “Simpsons family adopts an expensive horse” storyline from “Lisa’s Pony” with smarmy self-reference, is unfairly accredited as the show’s shark-jumping moment. That’s probably the only piece of positive news that Bill Clinton fans have heard all week.
The case against “Saddlesore Galactica” as one of the show’s worst episodes is pretty cut and dry. As Maclean's writer Marco Ursi famously noted in 2007, “This is the one where the Simpsons get a horse — again — and the plot devolves into something involving the secret land of the jockeys.” Ursi points to one of the episode’s most criticized moments and one of the worst-landing jokes in the series when Comic Book Guy points out that the Simpsons family is repeating an already-tread plotline, writing, “Making meta-references to the fact you’ve just made your ‘worst episode ever’ doesn’t make it any funnier."
However, as fans in the subreddit pointed out, while “Saddlesore Galactica” compares unfavorably to true Golden Age episodes, it’s not nearly as unbearable when you view it in the context of a post-shark-jump franchise. “I thought it was a perfectly cromulent post golden episode,” one Redditor wrote, with another adding of the controversial jockey elves, “Simpsons is far less tethered to reality than people think.”
Additionally, critics of the episode focus on one punchline that majorly misses the mark while ignoring all the other solid jokes that came with it — as the top commenter quoted, “That horse better win... or we’re taking a trip to the glue factory. And he won’t get to come.”
Yes, “Saddlesore Galactica” rehashed a plotline that the series had already covered in a more grounded and well-constructed episode. Yes, having Comic Book Guy call out the recycled storyline didn’t make it any better. But, hey, at least this episode had a catchy song — and no Lady Gaga. That episode was the real night-mare.