Thursday, March 22, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Six - "Eine minute, eine minute! Ach! Das Wagen-phone ist ein nuisancephone!"

Season 6, Episode 16
“Bart vs. Australia”
First Broadcast: February 19, 1995

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

Bart becomes fascinated with the difference between water drainage above and below the Equator…  My God, how did I manage to make that sound so boring?...  Which leads to him making a reverse charge telephone call to a boy in Australia.  When the boy’s father discovers the outrageous bill of 900 dollary-doos, he takes it all the way to Prime Minister Andy, who takes decisive action.

After ruling out prison, against Homer’s better judgement, the United States Government agree to send Bart to Australia to publically apologise.  The family experience “Australian culture” until the apology, after which it is revealed that Bart is also sentenced to the highest possible punishment for his crime: a “booting”, which is literally a kick up the arse with from a man with a giant boot.

The Simpsons flee, and the US Government successfully argues Bart’s punishment down to…  A booting.  Bart seems ready to take his medicine, but instead treats his tormentors to a patriotic mooning, forcing America to withdraw its diplomatic presence from Australia as quickly as humanly possible - but as the family leave by helicopter, and witness the rise of an invasive swarm of chazwozzas, they are blind to the threat clinging to the underside of the chopper...


Everything Australia-related, from the rise of the chazwozza...

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
To Prime Minister Andy...

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
And a great subversion of one of "Crocodile Dundee's most iconic scenes:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
Bart's Southern Hemisphere phone montage, including Hitler in Argentina and the literal fall of a South America president.

The US-Australia negotiation after Bart's escape: "so we're in agreement: she won't be allowed near the phone again."


Er...  Again, we're a bit stuck here, though some of the incidental stings reference "Waltzing Matilda".  So let's go for the none-more-Australian offering of Men At Work with "Down Under"!


The Simpsons Are Going To…  (shudder)

Yes, those five little words that struck fear into the heart of every Simpsons fan, as it heralded an always-random travel episode, usually straddling the line of racism with embarrassing clumsiness.  We've already touched on "The Regina Monologues" - one of the times The Simpsons went to the UK, along with a future trip in "Lisa's Wedding" - so let's look at a few others, why not?

First, the less good.  "Simpson Safari" took the family to Tanzania for some slightly patronising depictions of Africa, though their riffing on Jane Goodall produced the surprising killer line "...So: I notice your house smells of faeces!" from Homer.  "In The Name Of The Grandfather" saw them buying a pub in Ireland, and the writers putting together a range of NI and ROI landmarks with seeming disregard for their actual location.

And no round up of unfortunate trips would be complete without "Blame It On Lisa", in which Brazilian culture was somewhat jumbled up with other vaguely South American ephemera.  The tourist board decided to sue Fox over its broadcast, although found that parody is protected under the First Amendment.  Still, bad blood there.  So of course they went back in a later episode.

So, which ones are good?  Well...  To be fair, aside from their American travels, The Simpsons are usually on shaky ground.  Thirty minutes is not long enough to build a picture of an entire alien culture, so there will be unfortunate lapses into stereotype, for shorthand if nothing else.  So let's just say "Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo" gets extra points for having Godzilla in and proceed to the end...


...Because this is easily, EASILY the best “The Simpsons Are Going To…” episode, probably helped by being amongst the very first (as we conveniently forget the execrable “Crepes Of Wrath” from Season One, in which Bart goes to France and clearly leaves the jokes in America), this is proper laugh-a-minute stuff.

Most heartening of all though is Australia’s reaction to the episode, and the show itself.  After a public outcry at the time, the county eventually took its roasting in fine spirits, leading to some of the biggest and most vociferous clusters of fans in the world, and a petition during economically bleak times to officially change the name of the currency to the Dollary-Doo.  You didn't get that with Brazil.

This episode set a template, though we may wish it had broken its own mould, and as such carries a certain extra importance in the series' history.  But more than that it's simply a fantastic piece of comedy, with laugh after laugh at a breakneck pace, plus lovely details like the frazzled Simpsons stumbling off the plane with crinkled clothes, and is must-see TV any time it's on.

Join us next time at the blog that couldn't possibly solve this mystery.  Can...  YOU?

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