I watch, and blog, and watch and blog and watch. It's the Simpsons every day!

Posts tagged ‘Production Code’

So sad, yet so sexy, and so tasty

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The Dad Who Knew Too Little

couch gag: A parody of a famous photograph featuring the Simpsons eating lunch and watching TV atop a steel girder.

Director: Mark Kirkland

Guest Voice:
Elliott Gould as himself

Synopsis: Lisa realises Homer doesn’t know anything about her after he buys her a star-yourself movie for her birthday, full of incorrect information. Homer hires a private detective to find out Lisa’s interests and causes trouble when he won’t pay the expenses bill.

Discussion: Forgive me for laughing, but this was a truly enjoyable episode (Gasp!). Homer and Lisa have had their ups and downs, but it’s no surprise that Homer knows practically nothing about her. Instead of turning into another bonding episode, this takes a different tact when Homer refuses to pay the PI’s expenses, the PI frames Lisa for a break-in at an animal testing site, and Homer & Lisa end up on the run from the law. Ooh!

There are some great moments in this ep: Nelson’s secret prized possession (a photo of himself with Snow White), the oh-so-comical home movies where your child is a star (“My hobbies include… diabetes”) and Bart wearing a T-shirt which says “Bart” (in context, it’s hilarious). This is an ep I would expect from one of the early seasons- yes, it’s that good.

The private investigator, Dexter Colt, is based on film noir detectives, and, IMO, is brilliantly done. Film noir was smack in the middle of the Production Code (one of my favourite subjects), which prevented any mischief from happening. The old cliche of smoking = sex was conceived (‘scuse the pun) during this era as it sex was not allowed to be shown or even hinted on-screen. Add in the naughtiness of the film noir PI trying to seduce a hapless married woman and you have yourself taboo. (For those interested, I highly recommend Double Indemnity starring Fred MacMurray)

In any case, this is probably one of my favourite episodes from recently-viewed episodes. It’s an old theme but with a twist and some laughs.

I stand by my disappointed groan

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Saddlesore Galactica

Substitute teachers are not scabs.

Couch gag: The family are dressed in karate uniforms and they karate chop the couch to pieces.

Director: Lance Kramer

Guest Voices:
Jim Cummings as Duncan
Bachman-Turner Overdrive as themselves
Trevor Denman as himself

Synopsis: At the state fair, the Simpsons encounter a mistreated horse and adopt him. Meanwhile, Lisa’s school band loses the competition and she appeals to President Clinton for help.

Discussion: Like many season 11 episodes, this one starts well and ends up, well, pretty craptacular.

Lisa’s school band has made it to the finals, to be held at the State Fair only to come runners-up to the Ogdenville band, who used glow sticks to punctuate their performance. Unhappy about unfairly losing, she appeals to then-President Clinton for help. Well, OK. If it helps to take away the absurdity of Furious D, I’ll allow it. Plus I think every kid needs a lesson in being a sore loser.

While at the State Fair, the Simpsons see a diving horse whose act is shut down for animal cruelty. Naturally, the Simpsons adopt the hapless animal, prompting Comic Book Guy to appear out of nowhere and remind them they’ve done this before. This time, to earn his keep, Duncan is entered as a race horse, trained to be a fighter and he wins races.

And now, get ready for the stupidity to start: Homer is kidnapped by jockeys, who are actually elves and live underground in a fibreglass tree! Not only that, they threaten Homer that they’ll eat his brains if his horse keeps winning! Oh, how hilarious! …Not. What a load of rubbish. Not even a song can save this scene. It doesn’t make sense at all. It’s a cheap, cop-out conflict, reminiscent of the truckies finding out Homer knows about the automatic driving dealy.

Not even the self-reflexive notions of Comic Book Guy are good enough to save this ep. Not only does he point out the similarities in plot from two previous episodes, he rocks up wearing a shirt proclaiming Worst Episode Ever. I disagree with him on this point: up til now I think the worst ep was Skinner being revealed as Tamzarian, and future episodes are pretty bad as well. Nonetheless, we move on.

Finally, one last point. When he accepts his trophy, Homer mentions that Hollywood is leading our kids down a moral sewer. Well thank you Mr Hays. Let’s bring back that Production Code, shall we? It worked so well the first time…

We probably should, you know, rock the Casbah

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Natural Born Kissers aka Margie, May I Sleep with Danger?

I was not the inspiration for “Kramer”

Director: Klay Hall

Couch gag: The Simpsons are frogs (Maggie is a tadpole). They jump onto a lilypad and Homer flicks on the TV using his tongue.

Synopsis: Homer and Marge’s love life is a bit dull but they discover the secret to spicing things up is making love in public. Meanwhile, Bart and Lisa find Grampa’s old metal detector and find a whole bunch of useless trash. 

Discussion: This episode is a sequel to the season 6 ep ‘Grampa vs Sexual Inadequacy‘. Homer and Marge are again experiencing some “technical difficulties” in their love life. Marriage and sex just aren’t as exciting as Marge pictured it. 

As with the season 6 episode, this is a real-life situation faced by many couples. Not everyone, however, gets to have a literal roll in the hay or the chance to land naked in a packed football stadium in their quest to be a little more spicy. (I do hope that the blog search for “overcoming sexual problems” which led to my earlier post about Homer and Marge’s sex life was valuable to the person who read it…)

This is classic Simpsons: take an everyday experience and turn it into a complete spectacle. I’ve mentioned here several times that the original idea of the show was to show a typical American family: 2.4 children, financial problems, marital problems, house falling to pieces… and this is yet another example of the realism but also of the classic sitcom format to elicit laughs from extraordinary situations. Win!

Regular readers will also know that one of my favourite topics is the Production Code. I shall just briefly mention it here, and there’s a point to it so please bear with me. Bart and Lisa find an alternate ending to Casablanca, one of the most well-known classic films known to man. In this version, Hitler pops up, tries to kill everyone and is thwarted by a parachuting Ilsa, whom Rick then marries. Although the original ending to Casablanca may be unsatisfying to some viewers, it was wholly necessary in order to comply with the Code. Ilsa was not allowed to commit adultery, and in fact all direct references to Ilsa and Rick having sex were omitted from the final script. 

The screwballs have spoken

Itchy and Scratchy and Marge

I will not pledge allegiance to Bart

couch gag: the couch is missing

Director: Jim Reardon

Synopsis: After watching Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, Maggie hits Homer on the head with a mallet, causing injury requiring him to take the week off work. Marge concludes the cartoons are inducing Maggie’s violence and takes steps to reduce the violence in cartoons. As a result, Itchy and Scratchy become best friends and the cartoons are showing loving actions, such as sharing lemonade on the porch. Bored kids turn off the TV and go outside to play. Michelangelo’s masterpiece, David, tours Springfield and Marge is asked to protest about it but she feels art is not the same as violent cartoons and refuses to protest. Cartoons violence returns and kids return to the TV.

First appearance of:
Roger Meyers Jr (spelled Myers in this episode)
Sideshow Mel

Discussion: Let’s face it, censorship and violence are huge issues. Wikipedia tells me that the writers tried not to take sides in this episode, which I think they’ve done a fair job with. The majority of people watching violence are not going to take that violence into the real world, and we’re desensitised to graphic violence, but should it be censored by The Powers That Be or should we self-censor? If you know something will offend you, change the channel.

The principle of censoring brings me to one of my favourite topics: the Production Code (also known as the Hays Code). For those unfamiliar with the Code, here’s the 101: The Code was developed in 1930 and rigidly enforced until the 1960s, abandoned altogether in 1968. Under the Code, there were a number of acts not allowed to be shown (or implied) on screen. Sex, violence (unless the Bad Guy got justice), homosexuality, childbirth etc all were banned (for a full list, see here). If your movie did not adhere to the Code, it was not allowed to be shown to the public, end of story. In the 1960s, studios began pushing the envelope and eventually the Code was abandoned in favour of letting individuals decide for themselves what is appropriate viewing. We still use this system today (Australia is slightly different than the US with our ratings, but the principle is the same).

The scene where Maggie hits Homer is a parody of Hitchcock’s Psycho. The music from the infamous shower scene, the camera angles, the iconography of Homer pulling the cloth and the red paint spilling all echoes this film (even though the film was black & white and the “blood” was chocolate syrup). Psycho was filmed during the Production Code era so actual violence wasn’t allowed to be shown. In that shower scene, the knife is never seen to strike Marion Crane. Blood is never shown on her body, only running down the drain. The enforcers of the Code watched and rewatched that scene many times in order to allow it to be shown.

But I digress. Marge’s attempts at censoring the cartoons echoes not on the Code’s enforcement but the many individuals also attempting censorship on network television’s various atrocities. My own opinion is one of self-censorship. If you know something will offend, don’t watch it. (Don’t get me started on the brouhaha of religious groups when they all sat down to watch Ellen’s coming-out episode and then protested because it was offensive).

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