Thursday, April 19, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number Two - “The kids could call you Ho-Ju!”

Season 4, Episode 12
“Marge vs. The Monorail”
First Broadcast: January 14, 1993

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) catches Mr Burns dumping toxic waste in the park, so the city fines Springfield Nuclear Power Plant $3 million.  Stupidly, the city holds a meeting where all kinds of crazy ideas (and one good one - Mr Snrub's, obviously) are put forward.  The winner?  One Lyle Lanley - who makes the case for a city monorail, whilst dismissing all the townsfolk's fears through song.

Now you know Homer's got to be heavily involved, and after a gruelling training course he is selected pretty much at random to be the monorail conductor (driver, to us Brits), which finally makes Bart proud of him.  But Marge isn't drinking the Kool-Aid, and she investigates the other places Lanley quoted as having monorails.  On arrival in North Haverbrook she meets Sebastian Cobb, the designer of their monorail, who reveals that Lanley is a con artist, embezzling money from the project and using shoddy parts and labour.

They rush back to Springfield, but thanks to Sebastian's urgent haircut, they miss the start of the maiden voyage, which quickly goes tits up.  Not even Leonard Nimoy's presence and a total eclipse of the sun can stop the madness - but Sebastian suggests using an anchor, and Homer is able to embed the "M" from the monorail logo in Lard Lad's donut and save the day.  Lanley, meanwhile, flees for Tahiti - but his plane takes an unexpected stop in North Haverbrook, where he is savagely, savagely beaten.


Mr. Snrub.  I like his thinking!

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
The first rule of Monorail Club: "MONO = ONE.  RAIL = RAIL."

"A solar eclipse...  The cosmic ballet goes on."  "Does anyone want to switch seats?"


Now it’s time for what you’ve been playing in your head since the start of this post… Monorail.  Monorail.  Monorail.  Monorail…


I believe – in that I can’t be bothered to check – that this was the first full ensemble musical-style number; and even if it isn’t, that’s what I’m writing about anyway, so let’s talk about that and fill this space with music, why not?

To be fair, many of the better known songs have been covered in this series thus far - "We Do", "Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart?", "Mr Plow" (only a jingle - totally counts though), "Senor Burns" and now "Monorail".  So we're not missing too many of the classics - but here's "We Put The Spring In Springfield" from "Bart After Dark":

There's also the many songs in the "Mary Poppins" pastiche "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiali(annoyed grunt)cious" - I can't be arsed linking all of them.  Oh, and "Canyonero" - but Code Break's version is better.

It's an odd thing with these; I like them as a novelty, and a good musical number reals lifts an episode - though it can't save a bad one (looking at you, "Wild Barts Can't Be Broken") - but I really turned against the idea after the lazy clip episode "All Singing, All Dancing", which simply presented all the songs in a row.  Though even that had the "Paint Your Wagon" parody that was pretty good.

There is one more recent song that we can all agree is a jam, though:

(Oh, and it's probably worth mentioning that the EPA go on to be the main antagonists in "The Simpsons Movie"!)


Here we are in the middle of Season Four.  To call Seasons One and Two "patchy" is a tad generous towards their quality, and Season Three was much more recognisable as the show I grew to love - but here, right here is where the writing staff, voice actors, hell even the animators seem to officially kick it up a notch and start delivering a stream of fantastic episodes.  This here is a show just hitting peak comfort and confidence.

And the results?  Well they're just so very, very much fun.  An excellent romp that, refreshingly, shows the whole city to be just as collectively clueless as Homer, focuses on the many follies they have wasted time and money on, and allows seemingly the only level-headed adult in the whole city to be the heroine of the piece.

Add in one of the all-time great celebrity cameos - Nimoy, despite being a repeat guest, didn't outstay his welcome in either episode - and the musical number by which all others should be judged, and you have a slice of The Simpsons...  Nay, animation...  Nay, television itself, which is nearly - so, so, SO nearly - the greatest of them all.

But it isn't quite.  Which only leaves...

Atomic Sourpuss would like to apologise for the lack of research exhibited in this article.  By way of an apology, here is a picture of a weasel – because weaselling out of things is important to learn:

Join us next time when we'll probably pull our usual trick of delaying the end of the series for no apparent reason.  Go us!

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