Thursday, March 01, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Nine - “It's just like the Noriega thing. Now, he and George are the best of friends. "

Season 7, Episode 13
“Two Bad Neighbors”
First Broadcast: November 5, 1995

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.


Yard sale fever hits Evergreen Terrace, and as tat of all kinds is sold off by its residents – thanks to their master of ceremonies, and undisputed centre of attention, Homer – they become aware, seemingly for the first time, of a large house opposite number 732 that has just been sold.  Soon enough the new residents arrive – George and Barbara Bush, the former President and First Lady of the United States of America!

After their time in the public eye the two are looking for some relaxation into their retirements, with George in particular looking for peace to finish off his memoirs.  Bart has other plans however, and after his sort-of-accidental destruction of George’s memoirs with an outboard motor leads to a spanking, an enraged Homer decides to strike back with a series of pranks.

As Marge and Barbara bemoan their husbands’ inability to get along, Homer and Bart plan to release locusts into the Bush residence – but George sees them coming and attacks Homer, just as former Russian premier Mikhail Gorbachev arrives with a housewarming present.  After being forced to show weakness in front of the Russians, George and Barbara decide to move, replaced by fellow former president Gerald Ford, who forms an immediate bond with Homer over football, beer and nachos.


A legend is born:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
Bush and the Secret Service dithering at the drive-thru: "Sir, why don't you just have the cheeseburger?" "Aw, that's really more of a weekend thing, Ray."

Bush doing donuts on the Simpsons' lawn - and Marge, bless her pure heart, thinking he must be lost.


YES!  Apu sings "Dream Police" whilst washing his car.  Fuckin' Cheap Trick, man, Let's do this!

It's also worth noting that Homer’s songs: “Big Spender”, widely performed though perhaps most iconically by Shirley Bassey, and the Bee Gees' "Stayin' Alive", as also featured during the strut in "Bart's Girlfriend".


George Bush Snr was the 41st President of the United States of America – I looked it up, his story checks out - between 1989 and 1993, after eight years as vice president under Ronald Reagan.  More importantly, he was also previously featured in The Simpsons as a member of the Stonecutter World Council in “Homer The Great”, and later in a Three Stooges homage with Bill Clinton and fellow one-termer Jimmy Carter in "Large Marge".

Gerald Ford was the 38th President of the United States of America, when he unexpectedly took over from the impeached Richard Nixon having just been promoted to vice president - it's actually a pretty bizarre story, and Ford was actually trying to wind down his political career just before he became the most powerful man in the country.  Unfortunately he's best known for immediately pardoning Nixon (which he later apparently regretted - and with good reason!)

Mikhail Gorbachev is the former General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which essentially made him president of the now-dissolved bloc, from 1985 to 1991, meaning he did overlap with Bush a little - though I equate him more with Gorbachev's successor, Boris Yeltsin.  His glasnost and perestroika policies unwittingly sunk the Soviet Union, but most agree these reforms were necessary.  He netted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1990 and is generally remembered kindly by history.

And finally, to round out this gallery of world leaders, the fourth head of Mount Rushmore if you will: Discotheque Stuart was introduced in this episode.  A former husband of Selma Bouvier, he is aware that disco is dead, frets that he is a one-note character and was formerly an avid sailor named Nautical Stu.  On the plus side, he never had the authority to deploy weapons of mass destruction.

…Well, insofar as we know.


This is a fine example of a show settling debts.  Bush Snr took aim at our favourite family in a speech to a meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters on January 27th, 1992, thusly:  "We are going to keep on strengthening the American family, to make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons".  An immediate response was hastily shoehorned into "Stark Raving Dad", but presidencies are but fleeting; The Simpsons is forever.  And once his single-term presidency was over, it was time for the show to shoot back in earnest.

But what could have been an absolute pasting (and one that we'd probably not blame them for) largely forgets Bush's questionable political legacy, aside from the odd jab at his single term, to simply portray him as the antithesis of Homer, and set up a prank war that predictably escalates to comedic ridiculousness.

Homer for his part is surprisingly vulnerable here, a side rarely seen in later episodes.  He feels threatened and ignored when the new man on the block arrives and takes the neighbourhood's attention from him, and sticks up for his son after a perceived misjustice (for completely the wrong reasons, but hey - it's Homer).  The show rewards him with a friend for life in the shape of a much more Homerian ex-president, and you cannot begrudge him his reward.


Whilst researching Mikhail Gorbachev for this piece (via Wikipedia - don't judge me, love me), I became aware that he did not immediately succeed Brezhnev as I had long thought; there were actually two other General Secretaries of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union between the two: Yuri Andropov and Konstantin Chernenko, both of whom died in office after just over a year in charge.

I noted this fact, and their names, as it seemed both interesting and little-remembered, meaning to impart this to my girlfriend that very evening.

Cut to: that very evening...  Sanctuary bar, Lime Street, Liverpool; The Merseyside Skeptics Society Christmas trivia quiz.  One of the history questions asked directly for the names of the two General Secretaries of the CPSU before Gorbachev.

Did I remember the two names I had seen and become aware of not four hours beforehand - names that I had decided would be of use in the future, and that I'd made a special effort to commit to memory?

Did I fuck.

Join us next time, when we'll be meeting the REAL Batman.

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