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Posts tagged ‘Simpsons season 1’

I think you’re right, Mambo Man

Some Enchanted Evening

I will not yell “Fire!” in a crowded classroom.

Couch gag: The family sit down normally and nothing happens.

Directors: David Silverman and Ken Butterworth

First Appearance of:
Bill Pie (Pie in the Sky radio traffic announcer).

Synopsis: Marge is feeling unloved and unappreciated by Homer and calls a radio therapist for advice. Homer hears the broadcast and turns to Moe for advice. Homer arranges a romantic dinner and overnight stay at the Off-Ramp Motel… but they’ll need a babysitter for the kids. Enter Ms Botz, whom is later identified on America’s Most Armed and Dangerous as being the Babysitter Bandit. Lisa and Bart apprehend her but Homer unties her and allows her to escape, believing she is the victim of another classic Bart Simpson prank.

Discussion: This episode has a long backstory, which I won’t go into here. Suffice to say it had a few issues which were largely resolved by the time of broadcast. There are some continuity errors, such as Barney’s hair is blonde as it was at the beginning of the series.

I’ve only just realised that Penny Marshall voiced Ms Botz (I know, a little slow on the uptake) and she does a fantastic job playing a thieving psychopath.

The main theme with the episode is again, the marital troubles between Homer and Marge. It’s a recurring theme throughout the first season (and occasionally, every other season as well) but this is a reflection of Groening’s desire for The Simpsons to be “real”. This is the last episode of the first season and in total, we’ve seen 3 episodes (out of 13) that feature marital problems between Homer and Marge (for the non-math geeks out there, that’s 23% of this season’s episodes- almost a quarter). So there’s a real issue going on here; it’s most definitely not a perfect family living in a perfect house in a perfect town. Other TV shows at the time didn’t really focus on marital problems the way The Simpsons¬†did. It was probably deemed too uncomfortable for conservative audiences or something. But anyway, Homer and Marge always sorted out their problems within the half hour timeslot, ready for another episode ‘next week’. And that’s just the way it should be.

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I’m sorry I fingered you in court

Krusty Gets Busted

They are laughing at me, not with me.

Couch gag: The family sit down and Maggie is squeezed out.

Director: Brad Bird

First appearance of:
Kent Brockman (although someone looking very much like him appeared in yesterday’s episode having a different voice and not named)

Guest voice: Kelsey Grammar as Sideshow Bob

Synopsis: Homer is asked to pick up some icecream and stops at the Kwik-E-Mart on his way home from work. He is interrupted by an armed robbery held by none other than Krusty the Klown. With the town in shock, Bart believes Krusty is innocent and, along with Lisa, finds evidence that Sideshow Bob is the real criminal. Based on this evidence, Bob is locked away and Krusty is released.

Discussion: I’ve been waiting for this episode! It’s truly a changing point in Simpsons history because this is a seminal episode: this sparks storylines for episodes for the rest of the series. Bart has made an enemy in Sideshow Bob, who is not going to forget in a hurry.

Bart and Lisa work together as a team in order to bring justice to Springfield. This highlights the police incompetency (another recurring theme in the show) as well as Lisa’s logical brain and Bart’s dedication to Krusty. If you see no other episodes from the first season, make sure you see this one because of the continuity is future seasons: this is where it all started!¬†

Bon voyage, boy!

The Crepes of Wrath

Garlic gum is not funny.

Couch gag: Homer is squeezed off the couch when the family sit down (they really should consider getting a new, bigger couch…)

Directors: Wesley Archer and Milton Grey

First appearance of:
Agnes Skinner

Synopsis: Bart has pulled one prank too many- while Skinner’s mother was using the bathroom, Bart put a cherry bomb in the toilets. Skinner proposes a student exchange program in which Bart would be sent to France and the Simpson family would host a child from Albania. The Simpsons agree to the plan, so Bart is sent to a wine-making establishment while the Simpson family hosts Adil from Albania. Adil is well-spoken and polite, showing an interest in Homer’s work which pleases Homer. Bart catches his hosts adding anti-freeze to their wine while Adil is stealing nuclear secrets. Adil is deported, Bart’s hosts are jailed, and everyone lives happily ever after (until the next episode of hijinks).

Discussion: In 1997, a critic from TV Guide named this as the best Simpsons episode ever. I disagree. The episode is quite depressing; Bart is mistreated, a kid is stealing nuclear secrets and French wine contains anti-freeze. There aren’t as many laughs as other episodes, however there are plenty of cultural references to catch.

Whenever The Simpsons do an episode set in a foreign country, they don’t tend to be very flattering to that country. It’s not only the predicament they find themselves in, it’s the whole way the country is portrayed (don’t get me started on the Australian episode). This episode is no different. Sure, Bart meets a friendly policeman and justice is served on the guys making dodgy wine… but I’m willing to bet that the French weren’t happy about child labour, dodgy wine-making tricks and animal cruelty implied. I understand, the point of the show is not to showcase foreign countries (leave that to Oprah), but really, making cheap jokes at the expense of some very beautiful countries isn’t helping the cause. America isn’t so perfect either, and although the show regularly highlights and satirises American culture, imagine the outrage if American citizens were portrayed as potential terrorists. Springfield has a lovely gorge; other places of natural interest aren’t shown in foreign episodes.

As a whole, I think the episode could have been done better (gasp!). Instead of making Bart a slave, put him in an actual chateau with all the airs and graces and then make him find out that the whole thing is a sham. Not that this would do anything to improve my concepts of foreign-based episodes, but the sentiment plays better. I do like Adil’s storyline- a child spy is pretty good. Maybe stick in a friendship with Milhouse; Homer loves Adil, Marge feels Adil is crowding out their own son in Homer’s heart, why not push the boundaries of The Better Boy by having Adil take over Bart’s friends as well?

PS, for anyone playing Simpsons Logo Quiz on Android, this episode contains 4 answers.

Doody doody doo to you too

Homer’s Night Out

I will not call my teacher “Hot Cakes”

Couch gag: The couch collapses when the family sits down.

Director: Rich Moore

First appearance of:
Carl

Guest Voice:
Sam McMurray as Gulliver Dark, the guy at the burlesque club.

Synopsis:
Homer is invited to a stag party and photographed by Bart dancing with an exotic dancer. The photo goes viral around Springfield, leading Marge to throw Homer on the streets. Homer apologises to a distraught Marge and tracks down the dancer in order to show Bart that women aren’t objects and deserve respect.

Discussion:
This is the first of Homer’s many indiscretions. It’s a wonder he doesn’t have a permanent bed at Barney’s place (in this episode, he bunks with Barney. In future episodes, he stays with Lenny, Carl, Flanders, Kirk van Houten and assorted others).

As part of the Simpsons canon, the episode serves to round out the characters a bit more. By Marge objecting to Homer’s indiscretion, she becomes more than an objectified woman: consider yesterday’s episode where she felt the thrill of having another man’s attention and being the object of his affection. Not only has Marge backflipped (double standards?) but she has also fulfilled her role as mother by insisting Bart treat women with respect and not as sex objects. I’m surprised Lisa doesn’t have more to say, but then again in these early episodes, Lisa’s full array of values are yet to be established and fully realised (she eats shrimp at the restaurant, for example).

My favourite scene is the burlesque hall, where Mr Burns and Smithers are (apparently) on a double date with twins. I’d love to see more of this… although Smithers’ sexuality is strongly questioned so it’s unlikely to be explored further.

My heart and my hips cry ‘Proceed!’

Life on the Fast Lane

Couch Gag: None

Director: David Silverman

First appearance of:
Helen Lovejoy
Lenny

Guest Voice: Albert Brooks as Jacques

Synopsis: It’s Marge’s birthday and Homer buys her a bowling ball, even though she’s never been bowling in her life. A handsome French stranger at the bowling alley offers to be her teacher, with mutual flirtation. Eventually Marge realises she must choose between them and surprises Homer at work.

Awwwwww! Marge is feeling unappreciated by Homer, and who can blame her? Most people in a relationship at some point or other have fantacised about another person. Marge has been a wife and mother for so long that she’s forgotten she’s a desirable female. Enter Jacques: a handsome French guy willing to show her everything she wants to know about bowling and the spicier side of life. Oh well, if you’re going to do it, you may as well choose someone classy (although I suspect she may hold a candle for Lenny…) Lisa and Homer feel Marge slipping away from the family, but it takes Bart a little longer. As usual, it all works out in the end and the Simpson family go on being the world’s most popular yellow-skinned family.

This won’t be the last time Marge has a better offer: her high school boyfriend will give her an offer she (almost) can’t refuse, Mr Burns develops a crush on her as does Moe. But that’s all in the future…

An interesting fact I read on wikipedia about this episode (so it must be true) is that the exterior of Barney’s Bowl-a-rama was designed by Eric Stefani, brother of Gwen and fellow member of No Doubt.

 

Go back to your smell game

Call of the Simpsons

I will not draw naked ladies in class

Couch gag: The family sit on the couch normally and nothing happens.

Director: Wesley Archer

Synopsis: To outdo the “Flandersersers”, Homer buys a RV and takes the family into the wilderness. After losing the RV off a cliff, the Simpsons are left to their own devices. Homer and Bart are lost overnight, Maggie lives with a family of grizzly bears while Marge and Lisa are comfortable in front of their fire. Homer is mistaken for Bigfoot, which sends Springfield into a frenzy, with a $5000 reward for his capture.

Guest voice: Albert Brooks (credited as A. Brooks because voicing cartoons wasn’t cool back then) as Bob, the RV salesman.

This episode is actually pretty funny and a stark contrast to the previous episode. This is what The Simpsons is all about: Homer’s attempts to be the better man which puts his family in some hilarious predicament. Maggie and the bears is a highlight of the episode and although Homer being mistaken for Bigfoot is a bit “wacky”, it’s still pretty funny and indicative of future storylines where Homer’s appearance and intelligence is questioned.

Ride the Homer horsey

Moaning Lisa

I will not instigate revolution

Couch gag: The family sit down, Maggie is squeezed out and caught by Marge.

Director: Wesley Archer

First appearance of:
Mr Largo, Lisa’s music teacher (although he has appeared in the opening sequence)
Bleeding Gums Murphy
Mrs Bouvier, Marge’s mother
Ralph Wiggum

Synopsis: Lisa is depressed by the world’s troubles and channels those emotions into her saxophone. She meets a jazz musician named Bleeding Gums Murphy (go see your dentist, kids!) who coaches Lisa into playing the blues. Meanwhile, Bart and Homer are enthralled in playing video game boxing. Bart is the undefeated champion so Homer learns some tricks from a young kid at the arcade and is moments from winning his first bout with Bart when Marge pulls the plug to talk about Lisa.

This is probably my least favourite episode of the entire series. The episode lacks everything that makes the series great, although it serves an important narrative function in allowing Lisa to ‘learn’ the blues and meet a defining character in her short little life. The viewer is torn between Lisa’s plight for all the injustice in the world and the continuing hijinks between Homer and Bart (or Homer and Lisa for that matter). This was the writers’ first foray into darker subject matter, but it demonstrates Lisa’s empathy and awareness of the world around her.

Although I’ve spent much of my life deriding this “Lisa is sad” episode, I can now see the important function it plays within the series. Bleeding Gums Murphy was not to become a regular character, which is understandable, however this probably impacts on Lisa’s creative development; this short encounter is enough to instill in her a love of jazz and playing the blues which is carried over to a number of future episodes. In the discourse between “real life” and “television narrative”, Lisa is much more likely to hang around Bleeding Gums a great deal more and become a fully rounded person. In any case, Lisa ends the episode being content with the world even with all the injustice.

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