Thursday, February 08, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Twelve - “Who ordered a bathtub Mint Julep?”

Season 8, Episode 18
“Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment”
First Broadcast: March 16, 1997

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

After an unfortunate set of circumstances leads to Bart becoming drunk at the Springfield St Patrick’s Day celebration, making him the media icon of a day of ill-temper and violence, an angry mob demands that Mayor Quimby bring back prohibition – an argument that quickly becomes moot when a researcher discovers that prohibition was never overturned in the first place.

The many, many drinkers of Springfield go to great lengths to illegally enjoy their repast, until hard-nosed cop Rex Banner takes over the Springfield Police at Chief Wiggum’s expense.  He drives nearly all the alcohol out of Springfield, but is stymied by the mysterious Beer Baron, who is operating utterly guilelessly from his family’s home, first with discarded booze, then with his own home brews.

With his homemade stills exploding, the Beer Baron is forced to reveal his identity, and as a favour to Chief Wiggum, allows himself to be turned in, getting Wiggum his job back.  Unfortunately the punishment for bootlegging is to be fired from a catapult into an adjoining town – but luckily, the same researcher from earlier discovers in the nick of time that prohibition was repealed almost immediately after it was brought in, and Rex Banner is the recipient of the catapulting as the booze flows back into Springfield, courtesy of the friendly local mafia.


The discovery that Springfield not only still has prohibition on the books, but also a law requiring ducks to wear long pants!
Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
Rex Banner’s interrogation techniques, which quickly descend from assertiveness to randomly grabbing passers-by and asking if they're the Beer Baron.

Any time spent in Moe’s speakeasy, particularly Chief Wiggum being rumbled there and putting his drunken moves on Maude Flanders.


Plenty of roaring twenties–style musical cues in this one, along with the kind of hot jazz that rambunctious yahoos enjoy.  But there's nothing I can really link to, so here's a half-hour These Animal Men concert:


Well Rexy never came back, so let's look at law in Springfield!

We've obviously just examined an episode that revealed that spirituous beverages are prohibited in Springfield under penalty of catapult, or at least they were until 199 years previously.  And that's just the non-duck one we heard.  Other laws have made it illegal to put squirrels down your pants for the purposes of gambling ("Cape Feare"), tease a fast food order box ("Secrets Of A Successful Marriage") or destroy historic curiosities ("Lisa The Skeptic").

And since we need another sentence, how about we talk about Springfield's greatest legal eagle, Lionel Hutz?  This ambulance chaser is introduced having literally chased Bart's ambulance in "Bart Gets Hit By A Car", and after many, many failed cases, actually seemed to be doing alright as a real estate agent in "Realty Bites".  Unfortunately the character was shelved after the murder of voice actor Phil Hartman in 1998, which also robbed us of Troy McClure.

Jesus.  This format is so much better when there's music and ongoing consequences to talk about...


This is a rare episode indeed: one where Homer actually conceptualises and carries out an intelligent scheme, which does not fail by his own stupidity (despite constantly threatening to – see the exploding stills, liquor clouds, carrying brewing ingredients and equipment past Rex Banner in the street, etc, etc), and actually improves the lives of those around him, both by getting extra money for his family and allowing his friends and neighbour to continue self-drunkening.

Rex Banner is an excellent one-shot character, clearly closely modelled on “The Untouchables” frontman Eliot Ness, and the narration and aesthetic transport us to prohibition times without actually changing more than a few details of the show and its setting.

There’s also some great angry mob, “think of the children!” action, last seen this dumb and voracious following the bear invasion back in the previous season’s “Much Apu About Nothing”.  In fact, for all the focus on the Beer Baron vs. Rex Banner, this is more than anything a great outing for the town of Springfield, which feels more than usual like a living, breathing, knee-jerkingly reactive modern community.

Join us next time when your favourite hero, Radio Man…  (that’s funny – I shouldn’t be able to hear that)…

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