“The City of New York vs. Homer Simpson”
First Broadcast: September 21, 1997
|Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.|
When Moe cracks down on his patrons’ drink driving, Barney finds himself in the unfamiliar realm of sobriety as the designated driver, on a night that will never be forgotten, except by everyone except Barney due to their excessive drunkenness – as DUFFMAN! and the Duff Party Bus pull up for a night of debauchery.
Barney drops the guys at their homes and disappears with Homer’s car, which is eventually traced to New York City. Homer is reluctant to go due to a bad experience changing buses there when he was seventeen years old, but the family are keen to sample the Big Apple – and sample they do, taking in the sights and sounds, some shopping and a show on Broadway, whilst Homer spends an infuriating afternoon trying to get his car unclamped.
When crab juice causes nature to call and the World Trade Center bathroom is the only one around, Homer misses Officer Steve Grabowski’s arrival, and in frustration wrecks his own car attempting to remove the clamp, leading to a long, windscreen-free drive home for the hapless patriarch, further compounded by his family’s eagerness to revisit New York…
No pizza. Only Khlab Kalash. And to drink...?
|Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.|
Homer’s flashback to the old, nasty New York of the late seventies/early eighties, full of pimps and C.H.U.D.s, all of which is wonderfully set to “The Entertainer”…
ALL SINGING, ALL DANCING
…which is a popular ragtime piece written by Scott Joplin in 1902. More recently it was popularised by its use in the film “The Sting”, released in 1973:
Oh, thank Godzilla! There’s also a whole bunch of songs this week, as opposed to last week’s Joe Cocker-fest. So we also have a version of “Theme From New York, New York”, as popularised by the chairman of the board, you know his name.
The episode also features “Oh Yeah” by Yello, arguably best known from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, as the theme of the Duff Party Bus, and a snatch of an original song, “You’re Checking In”, from a fictional Broadway show about celebrity addiction that the family attend, sans Homer.
DUFFMAN! is a character (or characters) with a history even foggier than that of Armin Tamzarian. Ostensibly a gentleman named Barry Duffman (though this may be an illusion kept up by the brewery as at least three Duffmen are present in a later episode), or perhaps Barry Huffman, or Larry, or Sid… You know what? I’m going to leave it there and just state that I honestly think they’re using this character to deliberately needle their own approach to continuity.
Barney Gumble though – now that’s a man with coherent characterisation, right from his appearance in the first full length episode, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”. A friend of Homer’s since high school, driven to drink by combination of Homer (in general) and the rejection of his high school sweetheart, Barney is clearly a clever and creative man – see his turn as John Lennon in “Homer’s Barbershop Quartet”, or his delightful short film “Pukeahontas” – but he is constantly stymied by his need to drink, a thirst not helped by Moe’s enabling.
Barney has cleaned up his act on a number of occasions, and seemingly permanently in Season Eleven’s “Days of Wine and Doh’ses”. Unfortunately this robbed him of his main character trait/flaw, and he has largely disappeared from the show since, only reappearing during his now-more-frequent relapses.
WHY I LIKE IT
This is an episode from when “The Simpsons Are Going To…” was still big news, and this is one of the few episodes where the entirely cartoon America they inhabit is contrasted by a cartoon representation of the real America, as opposed to simply dumping them in another country and letting them deal with the ker-azy culture and wildlife.
This episode shows, in microcosm, the full potential of taking the family to a different locale and letting them loose, with the added bonus of it being (largely) free of negative stereotyping and imbued with an increased accuracy that suggests the writers are more familiar with the location they’re writing about, rather than just saying Africa has big spiders or that the cultural value of female life is embarrassingly tiny in China.
As such it has a feel largely unlike other episodes that put the family out of their comfort zone – caricatured, but firmly rooted in reality; whimsical, but with a sliver of truth. I think it also helps that it’s a place I’ve actually been – yes, yes, there’s “The Regina Monologues”, but I didn’t recognise the UK from that episode – which gives me a cultural proximity I don’t get from the rest of their travels.
In fact the episode is so good that I've managed to go through this whole piece without mentioning the ridiculous theory that it predicted 9/11.
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