Thursday, February 15, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Eleven - “Up and at them!"

Season 7, Episode 2
“Radioactive Man”
First Broadcast: September 24, 1995

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

Set during a spate of air conditioner malfunctions, the episode begins with the revelation that Bart’s favourite comic book, “Radioactive Man”, is being adapted for the silver screen – and is being filmed (or perhaps “flimed”) in Springfield!  With the original actor from the campy sixties television adaptation long dead, “McBain” star Ranier Wolfcastle is miscast as the titular hero, and an open casting is announced for a local child to play his young ward, Fallout Boy.

Despite Bart’s not inconsiderable efforts, he is passed over for the role, which is given to Milhouse – who finds himself to not be cut out for the gruelling and boring lifestyle of a child actor, but is forced into enduring it by his parents’ extravagances.  He eventually flees and hides in Bart’s treehouse, leading to Wolfcastle discovering the futility of his goggles as he is hit by a wave of acid in a stunt gone badly wrong.

The production is hitting snag after snag, largely related to Mayor Quimby and Chief Wiggum’s totally legitimate taxes, including those on both the wearing and non-wearing of puffy director’s pants.  When Milhouse’s refusal to continue filming leaves Mickey Rooney as their best hope for a replacement, the honest, hard-working film crew pay the Leaving Town Tax and return to the loving bosom of their own kind, having been bled dry by the slick small-towners.


Krusty’s pitch for a role in the movie and his later mistimed tantrum.  He might let you down on Silly Sailor, but he still wants to talk about this coffee.

Moe Szyslak straight up murdering the original Alfalfa on the set of "The Little Rascals".

The final insult, as Mickey Rooney realises they have a perfectly good Fallout Boy after all:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

The best bit of music in this is taken from the campy sixties television adaptation of “Radioactive Man” – a clear homage to the “Batman” series of the same era.

Not great, but better than last week...


Rainier Luftwaffe Wolfcastle's career has been on a downslide ever since this ill-fated project.  The series' version of Arnold Schwarzenegger (until the confusing introduction of President Schwarzenegger in "The Simpsons Movie", who not only looked exactly like Wolfcastle but used precisely the same voice), he began his career in bratwurst advertising before graduating to the multi-million dollar "McBain" franchise.

Since then he's been scraping the bottom of the barrel in films such as "Mrs. Mom", "I Shoot Your Face", "I Shoot Your Face Again", "Father Of The Presi-Bot" and "Help!  My Son Is A Nerd".  This run of craptacular bombs led to his yard sale in "The Strong Arms Of The Ma".  He is also probably not the correct choice to host late night talk shows, on account of his homophobia and anti-semitism.

I...  Look, I can't let this be, and I have to mention it: Mickey Rooney plays the most outrageously ill-judged, buck-toothed oriental stereotype in "Breakfast At Tiffany's".  But please - DON'T go and look for it.  Don't watch it, don't view pictures, it is literally the lowest I have seen Hollywood sink.  I'm talking sub-"Short Circuit 2" here.


By the show’s standards at the time, this is a pretty out-there, ungrounded episode – though of course by then, Homer has been in The Beatles and into space, so that’s me put in my place and no mistake – which means we can forget about any semblance of depicting a realistic family and get into a full-scale lampooning of the Hollywood system.

With the bases loaded, all that’s left is for absolutely everything to go as spectacularly wrong as possible – and it duly does, with failed stunts, overspending, reluctant actors, surly teamsters and poor-quality coffee just some of the travails that hilariously play out.  The episode even provides a slick trope inversion in its closing moments, as the failed production staff find solace in the arms of their fellow rich people.

However, Bart is our proxy throughout this episode, and his starry-eyed journey sweeps us up, with him keeping faith even as Milhouse cracks under the pressure, and never losing his sense of wonderment at that business called show.  This leads to the odd conclusion that, for all the skewering, this is a love letter of sorts to the process of film-making - albeit doubtlessly a poison pen affair.

Join us next time, when life is full of pain and misery.  Yay?

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