Bart the Mother
Couch gag: Two firemen are holding the couch and as each Simpson falls, they land on the couch. Except Homer, who falls through the floor.
Director: Steven Dean Moore
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure
Synopsis: Bart accidentally kills a bird and, feeling guilty, becomes a mother to her eggs.
Discussion: We already know Bart has a conscience, it’s been demonstrated many times before. In this episode, we find Bart playing at Nelson’s house and using a BB gun, peer pressured into killing a bird. He doesn’t want to, but the sight is off and Bart accidentally kills the bird, then finds her eggs so he takes them home and cares for them.
It’s one of the sweetest episodes in the series. The laughs come at the expense of Homer, who falls down the basement stairs because Bart has taken the light globe to warm the eggs. Even after the “birds” are found to be vicious (and fictitious) Bolivian Tree Lizards, Bart is still protective of them.
It’s a nice episode, but not a favourite. Bart is the perfect mother for the episode: Lisa is too predictable, Homer would accidentally kill the eggs and Marge is already a mother.
This is also the very last voice appearance of Phil Hartman, who was killed by his wife a few months before this episode aired. Therefore, it’s also the last appearance by Troy McClure. Phil’s characters had much potential (as seen in A Fish Called Selma) and there are rumours that Hartman wanted to portray Troy in a live action film, which sadly, will never be made.
A Fish Called Selma
couch gag: The family are malfunctioning robots
Director: Mark Kirkland
Phil Hartman as Troy McClure
Jeff Goldblum as Macarthur Parker
Synopsis: Troy discovers that his relationship with Selma makes him the hottest act in town.
Discussion: Episodes like these make me miss Phil Hartman. Selma is in love again and marries Troy, unaware that he’s using her in order to further his career. This ep is one of the most brilliant in the entire series. After Homer’s Triple Bypass from season four, it’s probably my favourite.
Here’s some Hollywood history: In Old Hollywood, movie stars were given fake stories to boost their popularity. It’s well known that gay stars like Rock Hudson had sham marriages to make them more popular with their female fans. Liberace sued every publication that implied or said he was gay. Raymond Burr, another gay actor, was given a tragic backstory in which his wife was killed in a plane crash and a young son died from leukaemia. Even straight stars like Jimmy Stewart were given the PR treatment. For example, at the premiere of a new movie, the studio would plant a couple of people fitting the typical demographic. In Jimmy Stewart’s case, it was a forty year old married woman. These plants would be given lines by the studio, such as “I just love Jimmy Stewart! He’s so sensitive and charming, just like my husband Charlie.” The reporters would “overhear” these comments and publish them the next day, giving Jimmy Stewart and the movie free publicity. See, the idea is that by thinking the leading man is just what every woman wants, she’s more likely to see the film. (I do have references for this, but I can’t be arsed finding them right now. It was in a peer-reviewed paper for a screen unit I did last year.)
So, a washed-up actor like Troy McClure marrying Selma to further his career isn’t unusual. What results is one of the best moments in Simpsons history: A musical version of Planet of the Apes. We all know I’m a sucker for a catchy song, but this is just sublime. It’s perfect. “I hate every ape I see, from ChimpanA to ChimpanZ…” and the awesome Dr Zaius. There’s no way that this ep could be better. Except maybe for the implied fish fetish… that’s just weird.