Thursday, May 17, 2018

22 Short Pieces About Springfield: Number One - “Sir, I need some business hammocks.”

Season 8, Episode 2
“You Only Move Twice”
First Broadcast: November 3, 1996

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

A new company named Globex Corporation is headhunting experienced nuclear industry workers.  After Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s longest-tenured employee Waylon Smithers turns down the opportunity to move to Cypress Creek, their idyllic workers' village, with a much increased income, they turn to the next longest server – one Homer Simpson.

Homer meets his new boss Hank Scorpio very early on.  Hank is an extremely personable manager, always available for a chat, quick with a joke and more than happy to reward loyal service.  He is also a megalomaniacal supervillain who is holding the world to ransom with his superweapon, Project Arcturus.  Homer, who is largely responsible for motivation and management of a small team working on one isolated aspect of the product, is utterly oblivious to this.

Homer is having the time of his life – respected, useful and effective at work, finally pulling down Tom Landry’s Hat money, and edging ever closer to his dream of owning the Dallas Cowboys.  But the rest of the family are unfulfilled, with Bart in the “Leg Up” programme and going slower to catch up, Lisa allergic to everything, and Marge so bored she drinks less than the recommended amount of wine per day.

Homer opts to do the right thing by his family and moves them back to their condemned home in Springfield, after saying farewell to Hank during a pitched battle against an enemy army.  Ever grateful for a good worker’s efforts, and now apparently now in charge of the entire east coast of America, Hank rewards Homer with ownership of…  The Denver Broncos.


Bart meeting his fellow students in the Leg Up Programme:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.

The then-shocking reveal that Scorpio, who had simply seemed to be an annoyingly casual multi-millionaire in the Richard Branson mould, is a villain determined to bring the United Nations to its knees.

Any, and this cannot be stated enough, ANY of the joyful, semi-improvised encounters between Hank and Homer that pepper the episode.  Whether discussing moccasins, shopping for hammocks, looking for sugar or simply not exchanging jackets, every one of them is pure gold.


It's even got a great song, albeit over the closing titles - a thematically-correct (if perhaps slightly over-jaunty) parody of a Bond theme, which features an excellent line about pensions and therefore covers all of my interests:


Hank Scorpio has actually appeared briefly twice more in The Simpsons, but in blink-and-you'll-miss them cameos.  I guess when you're the current (or former) ruler of the East Coast, you can't afford to be seen out and about.

Scorpio is an iconic character, largely due to his easy back-and-forth with Homer, in dialogue that was semi-improvised by Albert Brooks and Dan Castellaneta.  There is rumoured to be a much longer version of these conversations somewhere, which means there is always the tantalising possibility of a remastered and extended version...

The character was originally pencilled in as the antagonist in "The Simpsons Movie", but was later replaced by Russ Cargill, head of EPA, also voiced by Brooks.  I think this was a smart move; Scorpio, whilst clearly cut out for supervillainy, is simply too beloved for the role, and fans still got to see a Brooks-toned bad guy lock horns with Homer.


This is The One.  The ultimate episode of The Simpsons.  Just crazy enough to be hilarious; just grounded enough to have genuine heart; a gentle parody of a nearly universally-recognised film series, but told from a slightly different angle, with Homer as the kind of unwitting henchman who would be routinely slaughtered by James Bond, but here thwarts his facsimile with ease.  All basic hallmarks of a good episode, delivered here with a panache and quality that shows a show in full stride and rude health.

BUT - and there is a but, I fear a single caveat on this holiest of holy episodes - this would never be the first episode I showed somebody who had never seen The Simpsons, if indeed such a thing exists.  In fact my whole top five are deeper cuts, entries that are best viewed with a working knowledge of the show.

You can't just throw someone in to this or "Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie" - something like a "Mr Plow", "Marge Be Not Proud" or even my proper starting point, "Bart The Daredevil" would seem more appropriate, as the keep the core characters on home soil and concentrate on the familial bond enduring through relatable situations.

Then once you've got them hooked, it's time to don Tom Landry's hat, take a trip to Cypress Creek, snuggle into one of Anne's Hammocks, and enjoy this writer's favourite nigh-on half hour of television, bar none.

And that brings us to the end of 22 Short Pieces About Springfield, and off we shuffle:

Courtesy 20th Century Fox, via Frinkiac.
But do stay tuned for “Each Holding An ORB”, which is 100% definitely coming very, very soon!!!

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