Posts Tagged ‘Homer vs. the 18th Amendment

16
Mar
17

Quote of the Day

“Everybody, everybody get naked! C’mon, don’t be stuck up. It’s going to be great!” – Apu Nahasapeemapetilon

Happy 20th Anniversary to “Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment”! Original airdate: 16 March, 1997.

10
Oct
16

Behind Us Forever: The Town

homer-vs-the-18th-amendment14

“Hey, ma, I’m on TV!” – Drunk #1
“Hey, where’s that weather chick?” – Drunk #2
“Ooh, this is some wicked party!” – Drunk #3
“Hey, have you seen Sully?” – Drunk #4

Zombie Simpsons has settled into its rut well enough that they have a “travel” episode pretty much every season. This year, they went to Boston, though in a break from tradition they also had the family move there for six minutes of screen time. Other than that weirdness, it was a very typical travel episode: a few real things and people got renamed, everything was pretty nice, and Homer screamed around the locals a lot.

In what I choose to take as a tacit admission of their massive overuse of exposition, right at the beginning they have Homer say, “Do you have to describe everything?” as Marge is placing pot pies on the dinner table one by one. Unfortunately, that didn’t stop them from spending the rest of the episode telling us what we’re seeing. This includes when Homer is chasing the Flanders kids around like a bull, several reminders that they’re in Boston on a “hate-cation”, and a truly hacktacular scene where Lisa declares, “They’ve got every recognized species of nerd!” and then process to list them as she walks in front of each one. There was also a montage near the end where they drew lots of real Boston places and had Bart tell us what they were.

Eventually, Homer tears a baseball cap in half and the family moves back to Springfield. Really, that’s what happens. If you haven’t seen it, I don’t recommend it.

Anyway, the ratings are in and they are the typical catastrophe we’ve come to expect from non-NFL lead-in episodes. Last night’s ode to Boston was witnessed by a mere 3.39 million viewers. It took them a long time to finally fall through the 4 million viewer mark, now they do so routinely.

16
Mar
16

Quote of the Day

Homer vs. The 18th Amendment13

“We’re going out, Marge! If we don’t come back, avenge our deaths!” – Homer Simpson
“Alright!” – Marge Simpson

17
Jun
15

Quote of the Day

Homer vs. The 18th Amendment12

“Dateline, Springfield, with prohibition back in force, sobriety’s peaceful slumber was shattered by its noisy neighbor, the speakeasy.” – Not Walter Winchell
“Glad you’re finally back in business, Moe.” – Homer Simpson
“Yeah, that was a scary couple of hours.” – Moe

16
Mar
15

Quote of the Day

Homer vs. The 18th Amendment11

“Look at me, I’m the Prime Minister of Ireland!” – Homer Simpson

16
Apr
14

Quote of the Day

Homer vs. The 18th Amendment10

“Aw, geez, this looks bad.  Better turn on the old Wiggum charm.” – Chief Wiggum
“Pervert!” – Helen Lovejoy
“Oh, boy, that sounded bad.” – Chief Wiggum

09
Jan
14

Compare & Contrast: Federal Hardasses

Homer vs. The 18th Amendment9

“With rum running hoodlums in the catbird seat, Springfield sent for the one man who could clean up the town and shoot the gangsters: Rex Banner.” – Narrator Who Is Not Walter Winchell

These days there are more teevee cop stereotypes than you can shake a nightstick at.  There are the gruff loners who play by their own rules, but they get results, damn it.  There are the emotionally haunted forensics experts.  There are the (always model pretty) lady detectives who are just as tough as the boys.  In the subset of federal teevee cops, we’ve got everything from savvy military investigators and yet more forensic experts to the ever reliable, order barking modern super-agent.  Epitomized by Kiefer Sutherland, he’s tough, he’s ultra-competent, he’s had way too much coffee, and he likes yelling orders into cell phones.  That, in a nutshell, was Will Arnett’s character in “Steal This Episode”.

Set the clock back to a time before cell phones and SWAT teams, and those same upright federal crusaders with haircuts you could set your watch to were still there, they were just less excitable.  In place of Sutherland’s unrestrained id, there was Robert Stack, battling crime week after week in gangster ridden Chicago.  And that, in a similar nutshell, was Dave Thomas’s Rex Banner in “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment”.

Both characters are hard charging, rule crazy feds, but that’s about where the similarities stop.  Like the Capital City Goofball or Race Banyon before him, Rex Banner is the kind of one-off satirical archetype at which The Simpsons excelled.  His clipped speech and complete lack of humor are instantly recognizable even if you’ve never seen Robert Stack wear a fedora.  The same way that you don’t need to know the name of a single square shouldered astronaut or giant fuzzy mascot to get Banyon and the Goofball, you don’t need to know a single teevee cop to understand that Banner is a ramrod straight G-man from the old school.

Banner’s dialogue matches his posture.  He speaks in short sentences that are nevertheless laced with old time slang worthy of an untouchable 1920s prohi:

“Listen, rummy, I’m gonna say it plain and simple: where’d you pinch the hooch?  Is some blind tiger jerking suds on the side?”

“Open up, curly, this is a raid!”

“Don’t crack wise with me, tubby.”

“It’s not up to us to choose which laws we want to obey.  If it were, I’d kill everyone who looked at me cockeyed.”

There he is, a minor character never to return, who nevertheless becomes a full, if batshit crazy, human in just a few minutes of screen time.

Compare that to the grossly underwritten and underthought agent in “Steal This Episode”.  I’d call him by his name, but they didn’t bother to give him one.  Other characters only address him three times: once as “sir”, once as “hotshot”, and one final time at the end when Lisa just walks up to him in court and starts talking.

Just as damning is the fact that we don’t seem him do much of anything.  He swoops into Homer’s backyard theater, then goes away while the show has Homer escape and Marge repeatedly (like, a lot) feel bad about turning him in.  (Incidentally, Marge didn’t mean to do it, but that kind of story subtlety is instantly lost in the seemingly endless scenes where Homer unknowingly guilts her over and over again.)  The next time we see our federal Javert he’s outside with the lead singer of Judas Priest, then he’s in court, and then he’s done.  The man has no story, no resolution, no nothing.

Worse still are his lines.  There’s no consistency to them.  They’re a mash of the usual Zombie Simpsons expository sitcom banter:

“Men, set your guns on kill.  We’re going after Homer Simpson.”

“Earplugs in, blinders on, we trained for this.” [copious screaming]

“Hollywood may be run by big corporations trying to squash people, but they make movies about people standing up to big corporations trying to squash them, and winning.”

He tells us what we already know, tells us what we’re about to see, and sums up the ending in case the other half-dozen times it was explained to us didn’t take.  These aren’t the words of a hard-ass, take no prisoners federal agent.  They’re the words of a nameless nobody with no core and no character.  He’s on screen, he yells some things (most of which have nothing to do with one another), and then he’s gone.

It’s been a long time since Zombie Simpsons created a character anyone would remember more than an hour after watching the episode, and this nameless Rex Banner wannabe is a perfect illustration of why.  They don’t deal in characters anymore, they deal in props.  The audience for Homer’s movies includes Miss Hoover, Sideshow Mel, the Squeaky Voiced Teen, Chief Wiggum and a bunch of other characters who probably would never have been there in Season 8.  When Superintendent Chalmers gets singled out by Homer, it could’ve been anyone else in the back yard without changing the scene one whit:

Bizarre Town Meeting

Jimbo and Frink have always been best friends.  They have so much in common.

Agent Whathisname is a recognizable archetype that they treat like any other replaceable part.  They don’t give him a story, don’t make him move the main plot (he doesn’t chase Homer to the consulate, the family just goes there and he somehow knows they went), and don’t even bother to give his lines the least bit of personality.

Rex Banner is a precisely distilled take on fictionalized Elliot Ness: body and mind carved out of solid wood.  The other guy, whoever he was, flitted in and out of a few scenes and then vanished, his presence and personality as insubstantial as a wisp.




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