Thursday, October 12, 2017

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Twenty-Nine - "Shh, Lisa! The dog is barking!"

Season 5, Episode 13
"Homer And Apu"
First broadcast: February 10, 1994

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

We establish that Apu, the manager and usually sole worker at the Kwik-E-Mart. is willing to go to immoral lengths to gouge his customers.  Enter Homer, one of the few hungry and dense enough to gorge on spoiled meat.  Homer decides to take his revenge by exposing Apu on the local consumer rights show, "Bite Back with Kent Brockman and his Channel 6 Consumer Watchdog Unit".

Sacked by the Kwik-E-Mart, Apu attempts to find meaning by atoning for his indirect poisoning of Homer.  He achieves this by becoming the then-latest in an ever-lengthening list of people to move in with The Simpsons, following in the footsteps of Mr Burns, Leon Kompowski, Otto Mann and Herb Simpson, and himself followed by...  No.  I'm not going to list them all.

After lying to The Simpsons through song, Apu vows to get his job back.  When Homer accompanies him to the head office in India and thoroughly ruins his chances of forgiveness there, he eventually gets rehired by taking a bullet for his replacement - a pre-"Family Guy" James Woods.


Basically anything related to the hat:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
...In fact, all of Kent Brockman's involvement.  "Coming up next: the case of the cantankerous old geezer!"

"I'm selling only the concept of karmic realignment."  "You can't sell that! Karma can only be portioned out by the cosmos!"  "He's got me there."

A classic Grandpa Simpson story - "Ah, there's an interesting story behind this nickel. In 1957, I remember it was, I got up in the morning and made myself a piece of toast. I set the toaster to three - medium brown..."


"Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart?" is probably the first thing you thought of when you realised what episode this was.  Nothing wrong with that; The Simpsons' original, plot-related songs were things of beauty back in the day, and this won't be the last we see of them.

I'm particularly keen on Grandpa's misfortunes and Homer's failure to keep up with the song - a subtle callback to the previous season's "Monorail".


As an immigrant store clerk with a non-Christian religion, Apu Nahasapeemapetilon is a character that is not without potential execution problems in an American sitcom - or a British one, for that matter - and could easily be nothing more than an unfortunate stereotype.

To their credit, the Simpsons' writing staff have handled the character with a deft touch for most of his appearances, and he has largely been used either to positively showcase Indian culture or simply as a character unbound by his ethnicity.

The Homer/Apu combo would be revisited in future episodes "Much Apu About Nothing", which also makes a valid point about immigration and its place in American culture, and "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons", which does the same for arranged marriage whilst introducing his wife,  Manjula.

Another Homer and Apu episode is "Eight Misbehavin'", which unfortunately also introduced Apu's octuplets, in one of the seemingly desperate twists thrown in post-Season 10.  Most Apu and/or Manjula sightings since have revolved around the logistical problems in having eight babies.

Finally, Homer returns to India in a later episode, "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bangalore" in Season 17.  He goes as he mistakes it for Indiana.  Don't ask.  The whole thing reads like they realised they didn't put a Bollywood sequence in this episode and wanted a second swing.


This is a rare example of a great episode that bears the crosses of later seasons: it's both an episode where a side character moves in with 'hilarious' consequences, and a "The Simpsons Are Going To..." episode - two tropes we have probably seen enough of post-2000.
It's also a supremely well-balanced episode, admittedly one that takes many odd twists and even takes its protagonist to the other side of the world, but ramps the stakes up so evenly that even the more off-the-wall elements seem more earned than in later, less well-realised offerings.

The story manages to establish a new friendship that would provide the crux of future classics and fully flesh out a supporting character for later use, and as such is a pivotal episode, as well as a damn good one.

Join us next time when we’ll be embiggening your day with a perfectly cromulent blog post.

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