Thursday, November 30, 2017

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Twenty-Two (Hooray!) - "I'm better than okay. I'm Homer Simpson."

Season 8, Episode 23
Homer’s Enemy”
First Broadcast: May 4, 1997

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.


Frank Grimes is a clever, hard-working man who has pulled himself up by his fingernails and suffered adversity after adversity in his life.  Homer Simpson is an idiot who has repeatedly landed on his feet. 

Conflict between this chalk-and-cheese pairing ensues quickly when Mr Burns sees an inspiring soft news story about Grimes and decides to hire him to a board position.  By the time he arrives at the power plant, Mr Burns has seen a subsequent inspiring soft news story about a heroic dog, and awards the board position to the canine, sending Frank to Sector 7-G with Homer.

Meanwhile, Bart sneaks into an auction and buys a warehouse downtown.  He gives Milhouse a fantastic opportunity in overnight security facilitation, and returns the next day to find the warehouse has collapsed.  (That’s the whole B-plot by the way – it’s actually better than it sounds.)

Frank is stretched to breaking point by Homer’s incompetence and his community’s acceptance thereof, and particularly angered by his list of achievements, including but not limited to space travel.  The self-made man eventually snaps after Homer wins a model making contest for children and is lauded for it, leading to Frank’s death by misadventure in a rare on-screen slaying.


Frank's incredible meltdown, one of the single greatest speeches in Simpsons history:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac,
Homer’s formula for winning the model contest: "Well, basically, I just copied the plant we have now... Then I added some fins to lower wind resistance.  And this racing stripe here, I feel is pretty sharp."

The rats' exodus into Moe's Tavern, to enjoy the dank.


OK, so the best I can do here is that Homer sings "Take Me Out To The Ball Game".  So, yeah...  They can't ALL have showstoppers, y'know.


Despite his decisive death at the end of this episode, Frank Grimes is mentioned a few times in the following seasons.   Whilst usually restricted to shots of his gravestone, Season Fourteen’s superior offering “The Great Louse Detective” centred on a plot to kill Homer, with Sideshow Bob brought in is a Lecter-like expert to track down the would-be murderer...

...Who, in one of the better crazy twists in Simpsons history, is revealed to be Frank Grimes Jr!  Turns out Frank Snr had a taste for sex workers, one of whom bore his progeny.  Homer's reaction to the reveal - “How is ol’ Grimey?” - actually had me hooting with laughter.

Man, that was a good episode.  See?  It's not all been bad since Season Ten.


This is one of those more “meta” episodes, as The Simpsons was getting to a stage where it was enough of an ongoing institution to turn the gun on itself and its own ridiculousness.

Shows have to be careful not to go to that well too many times – indeed, many see this episode as The Simpsons’ shark jump moment – and whilst it’s arguable that The Simpsons has gone beyond with it in later years, this episode and “Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie” had the benefit of novelty and were therefore serving up a target we hadn’t seen lampooned before, and indeed that we wouldn’t have believed lampoonable within the context of the show.

The structure is tight, too, with a B-plot that provides laughs but, with little potential for dovetailing with the main story, is dispensed with decisively in short order to avoid pulling focus from Grimey’s eventual breakdown.

By pointing the finger at Springfield's residents' enabling of Homer Simpson, the show allows the real world, which it has so often mirrored, inside its bubble just a little - and the results were revolutionary, and never repeated to the same effect.

Join us next time as we solve a riddle that has plagued mankind for centuries: what has four legs and ticks?

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