Season 5, Episode 16"Homer Loves Flanders"
First broadcast: March 17, 1994
|Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.|
We kick off with an episode that heavily features a Simpsons side character mainstay, Ned Flanders. This zealously Christian man of moderation occupies the house next door to The Simpsons, casting their less pious lifestyles in stark relief and vexing Homer with his every move...
...Until a radio phone-in competition (Christ, that really ages it) brings Ned two tickets to the big football game, and he takes Homer as his guest. Homer and Ned strike up a healthy friendship, which Homer naturally takes too far, ending in a disastrous camping trip.
Like most human beings forced to spend too much time with Homer Simpson, Flanders eventually snaps, soiling his reputation in the community in the process. But Homer implores the congregation to give Ned another chance, and all signs point to a massive sea change in the ongoing series - perhaps Ned and Homer will remain friends after all?
The sequence that launched a thousand gifs - Homer disappearing into a hedge. These days it's easy to forget that it leads directly to an on-point "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" homage, with Homer spearing Ned's car with putters and hanging on, dead-eyed, for as long as possible.
|Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Giphy.|
The opening speech by Kent Brockman, playing on the perception that the news was over-dramatizing stories to create a climate of fear - how times change, eh? - by branding the US Army "The Killbot Factory".
Lisa's prediction that everything will return to normal, which turns out to be entirely correct in the last ten or so seconds of the episode.
ALL SINGING, ALL DANCING
Eddie Money, responsible for Time Life Rock Classics deep cut "People Hold On", is featured heavily with his almost-as-good offering "Two Tickets To Paradise"...
That's not to mention Homer's spirited rendition of The Village People's seminal "Macho Man", offered here as "Nacho Man" as he wears a nacho hat, an invention that I would say I wish someone had made, were I not 100% certain, without having to Google it, that some damn fool has probably not only made a very flimsy hat out of a toasted corn dough, but also worn it like it's somehow an achievement.
And even after all that, I still have to pause to mention Rappin' Ronnie Reagan. He DID say "well" a lot.
HISTORY AND LEGACY
For most of the first couple of seasons Ned Flanders had been little more than a one-note joke, pointedly placed next door to the Simpsons family to provide an all-too-pure contrast to their chaos.
He would eventually become a full blown antagonist, albeit a somewhat gentle one, in "Dead Putting Society", before "When Flanders Failed" laid the foundations for a Homer-Ned friendship, as seen in this episode.
I think there's enough affection for both characters that their alliance, though temporary, is a treat for the audience, and would be explored again in such episodes as "Viva Ned Flanders" and the awfully-titled (but actually pretty good) "Sex, Pies And Idiot Scrapes", where the two are unlikely bounty hunters.
Wow, that last one really does sound rubbish on paper. Give it a go though!
WHY I LIKE IT
The Simpsons is a very different show now to the family portrait it was for the first couple of seasons, and this list will likely bear out my affection for the wider rogue's gallery of Springfieldians.
Episodes with a focus on non-Simpson recurring characters help to flesh out the world of The Simpsons, and stupid sexy Flanders is key in that; as the sober yin to Homer's raging yang, he provides a balance that would otherwise be lacking, and even though we're meant to root for Homer - and do, most of the time - it's impossible for me to want anything but the best for Ned, a character who is going to go through an awful lot both as Homer's neighbour, and Springfield's moral compass.
This was the episode that first established Ned as a go-to character; from here on in, if you were watching a Flanders-heavy episode, you were unlikely to be disappointed.
Join us next time when, in stark contrast to today's entry, we'll learn that life is one crushing defeat after another until you just wish Flanders was dead.