Thursday, January 11, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Sixteen - “The Simpsons are going to Delaware!"

Season 11, Episode 22
“Behind The Laughter”
First Broadcast: May 21, 2000

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

In a parody of the format of VH1’s “Behind The Music”, The Simpsons discuss their careers in showbusiness, “The Simpsons” of course being a live-action comedy that Homer developed from his pilot “My Funny Family” that shot to fame due to the public’s insatiable desire for horrible acts of child abuse.

Fame, fortune and MC Hammer’s house would follow, before the pressure starts to break the family; Homer is horribly injured performing the Springfield Gorge jump stunt in “Bart The Daredevil” and becomes addicted to painkillers, the plotlines get ever wackier – even revealing that Principal Skinner is an imposter, would you believe!  Like that would ever happen – and when Bart is replaced by Richie Rich during a spot of trouble with the law, the writing is on the wall.

Reuniting only for an acrimonious Thanksgiving dinner, the family go their separate ways.  Lisa spills the beans in a tell-all biography, Homer returns to legitimate theatre, Bart stars in “Renegade” and Marge fronts a variety revue.   All is forgiven when Willie Nelson tricks the family into appearing together on a phony awards ceremony, and The Simpsons go on to make at least one more season of merchandisable content to ever-diminishing creative returns.


Homer's return to the stage, as landlord Mr Stingely in "Rent":

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
Carl and Lenny being paid to kiss but forgetting to ask for the money.

I've already mentioned it, and will probably mention it again, but the recontextualisation of the Springfield Gorge stunt, with Homer watching the footage on television: "right about here I notice something's wrong...  Yup, there I go."


“Simpsons Boogie”, “Lovely To Love Your Lovin’” and “Simpsons Christmas Boogie” are identified as hits the family had during their glory days, and they certainly recall the cash-in-tastic "The Simpsons Sing The Blues", though without the killer hooks of "Do The Bartman" and "Deep, Deep Trouble".  However there's no embeddable videos of those, so...

Marge also sings "I Shot The Sherriff", but I fucking hate that boring, meandering, tuneless piece of garbage.  Hm.  What to do, what to do...  Ah, why fucking not:


The format is borrowed from "Behind The Music", VH1's music documentary programme which tended to focus on the more juicy break-ups, reformations, deaths and addiction journeys of musicians of a certain age.

The show debuted in 1997 and is still going today, having featured such acts as Metallica, Dr Dre, Milli Vanilli and...  JULIAN LENNON???  Are you honestly telling me they were that desperate for a subject they went for Julian freaking Lennon?  Clowns.  Amusingly, guest star Willie Nelson was also given his own show - and that is the traditional announcer, Jim Forbes, reprising his role here.


This is an extremely clever episode.  Dropping right at the height of “The Simpsons has lost it”-mania, with die-hard fans already having decided that the show was on the outs - partially due to a mid-season slump featuring faith healing, missionary work, the death of Maude Flanders and perhaps most damningly, "Saddlesore Galactica" - it also couldn't have been better timed.

It obviously shouldn’t be considered canon, but contained a smart repurposing of both the show’s greatest moments (Homer’s gorge plunge) and its deepening problems with outlandish plots (Armin Tamzarian), via massive sudden fame and Krusty The Clown-esque shoddy merchandising, that played as a knowing wink to the fans as much as a stark presentation of the problems with producing enthralling episodic television for over a decade.

Some fans rail against the more meta episodes, and I get it - I really do.  But this was an excellent (albeit largely accidental) example of cometh the hour, cometh the episode, and I think this went a long way to defusing some of the ire that was being thrown the show's way, paving the way for the next 476 seasons of largely acceptable television.

Oh, and by the way - I've been reminded of the genius that is this:

Join us next time at the blog that never, EVER stops in the middle of a hoedown!

No comments: