Thursday, October 26, 2017

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Twenty-Seven - "Of all the crazy ideas you've had, this one ranks somewhere in the middle."

Season 8, Episode 3
“The Homer They Fall”
First Broadcast: November 10, 1996

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.


In a great example of an almost unrelated opening, Bart winds up in possession of a quote-unquote Ultimate Belt, thanks to Comic Book Guy’s corpulence.  The belt proves utterly ineffective in stopping its own theft by The Bullies, leading to Homer getting repeatedly punched when he attempts to reason with their fathers at Moe’s Tavern – but he appears to be invulnerable, and his terrified assailants flee.
Moe, as luck would have it, has previous in the boxing game, and when Homer discovers he has a unique condition that gives him greater brain protection, the two team up to get Homer to the very peak of the Springfield Amateur Boxing Association (ASSBOX), dispatching many hobos along the way by not fighting back and pushing them over when they tire.
When Don King approaches Moe to have Homer be the sacrificial first opponent for a just-paroled Mike Tyson – sorry, I mean Lucius Sweet and Drederick Tatum, of course – Moe’s conscience eventually trumps his lust for cash, and he flies in thanks to a giant fan to save Homer from probable death, before disappearing to perform various humanitarian acts worldwide.
Tatum’s performance at his circus of a parole hearing, in which he compliments Homer’s skill and integrity but states that he “will definitely make orphans of his children”.

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
The advert for the pay-per-view spectacular "Tatum vs. Simpson: PAYBACK", featuring Tatum stalking out of a prison cell and punching Homer so hard that his head explodes.
Moe’s speech about his boxing career: “…They called me Kid Gorgeous.  Later on, it was Kid Presentable.  Then Kid Gruesome.  And finally, Kid Moe."  We can all relate.

“Why Can’t We Be Friends?” by War is used to great effect here to play up Homer’s seeming lack of understanding about the ordeal he is about to suffer...

...whilst Tatum has the more demonstrative, but clearly not as good.  "Time 4 Sum Aksion" by Redman.  Remember kids: it's not cool to spell things wrong for the sake of it.  I blame Slade.

The show also features the rootin', tootin' theme from Bonanza, and a version of "People" from the Streisand-fronted musical "Funny Girl", though I'm not sure if it is that version or not.

Worth noting that by popular demand, we forwent the national anthem.  Ooh, topical!  (NOTE: was topical at time of writing.  Future topicality may vary.)

Drederick Tatum is the most bare-faced parody of Mike Tyson this side of the Street Fighter series' M. Bison.  First seen in "Homer vs Lisa and The 8th Commandment" as one half of the greatest heavyweight boxing bout in (fictional) history, Tatum has appeared sporadically since, usually to highlight Tyson's antisocial behaviour, as seen in this episode after his incarceration for pushing his mother down the stairs, or to poke fun at boxing or sports in general.

Moe Szyzlak, on the other hand, has had a plethora of appearances and a ton of character development since this episode...  Though little of the latter is pleasant.  A career criminal and a suicidal pervert who is more than happy to sell his friends out for any price (see "Flaming Homer"), he was briefly socialised by the love of a good woman in "Dumbbell Indemnity", and more recently redeemed by his bond with Maggie in "Moe Baby Blues".


I see this episode as a great inversion of the standard sporting underdog story, swapping as it does the standard poor, plucky scrapper for a talentless yet unbeatable hack, who is instantly found out on the big stage.  It does include the usual redemption angle though, as Moe eventually just about chooses friendship over a fortune, making for narrative satisfaction.
This is also a great lampooning of the woeful heavyweight boxing scene of the time, notable for its lack of classic bouts; nobody is in any doubt about the result to come, which for legal reasons I’m told doesn’t remind me of any recent multi-trillion-dollar one-sided fights between boxers and mixed martial artists that everyone wasted their money on a few weeks back. *cough*

Add in the pomp and circumstance of the fight, including Michael Buffer's great introduction of Homer, and episode MVP Moe's struggle with himself and his exchanges with a bewildered Homer, and we have a fantastic 'event' episode that remains watchable long after the irrelevance of the public figures being skewered here.
Join us next time for more sporting action, as we as we settle, once and for all, the burning question: who was England's greatest prime minister?

No comments: