200. Trash of the Titans

(originally aired April 26, 1998)
Wow-wee, episode number two-hundred… This show’s come an awfully long way, and while the way it’s going down now remains suspect, self-proclaimed meaningless milestone episodes like these are like times of reflection of how much the series has changed. But I won’t get into that deep a topic right now, let’s talk about the episode at hand. A rash altercation with some garbagemen leaves the Simpsons without trash pick-up, which turns the family home a veritable dump. The situation is mollified when a fed-up Marge writes an apology note in Homer’s name, which incenses him enough to run for sanitation commissioner. Before we get to the craziness, I’ll say the opening of the show is fabulous, with the creation of a new holiday for the sole purpose of selling cards, candy and useless junk: Love Day. I also love the members of the Simpson family’s continued avoidance of taking out the overflowing trash before Homer ends up stuck with the thankless duty of taking it out. His ire toward the garbagemen driving the way is instinctive, but it’s when his antagonism gets pushed even further this episode where things turn a bit sour.

So Homer runs for public office for reasons that honestly escape me. He bursts into current sanitation commissioner Ray Patterson’s office spewing a bunch of nonsense regarding standing up for the little guy and shaking things up, but hasn’t an idea in his head for what any of it even means. It all seems somewhat pointless until he gets on track with a campaign the people can get behind. His “Can’t Someone Else Do It?” is pretty inspired, pandering to a lazy public’s desire to pass the buck on even the simplest of tasks. But overall Homer’s race against Patterson strikes such a wrong chord with me; he’s such a belligerent and aggravating entity toward this well-meaning average guy. It almost reminds me of “Homer’s Enemy” in that Patterson, like Grimes, feels like a real-life person reacting to an out-of-control cartoon, but while Homer in “Enemy” was bumbling but ultimately kind-hearted, Homer is needlessly vindictive and abusive toward Patterson, going so far as cutting the brakes on his car. Voiced splendidly by the great Steve Martin, Patterson is actually a pretty great character, a sensible hard-working guy who has the utmost pleasure in abandoning the town and the idiots within it to clean up the mess they created for themselves.

The episode’s greatest highlight is of course the music number “The Garbageman Can,” an illustration of Homer’s insane pie-in-the-sky ideals for what trash pick-up should really be like. But reality quickly slaps him in the face when he finds he’s spent the annual budget in a month, leading him to resort to more questionable methods in getting more funds. He is able to collect money to pay his employees by charging other cities to bury their garbage under the town, but it isn’t long before Homer’s dirty laundry, amongst other bits of trash, come to the surface in large amounts. The final solution? Move the entire town five miles down the road as the site formally known as Springfield becomes an absolute filth-ridden dump. So… yeah, this ending… I like it in concept, following the lazy attitude of the town that they’d rather pick up and move than actually buckle down and solve the problem at hand. But in practice, it’s just too goddamn absurd. So they picked up the power plant too? What about Springfield Gorge? Various bodies of water, forests and parks? It’s just too big a pill to swallow for the sake of a dumb joke in a dumb ending. So while the episode suffers a lot from Homer being a rampant asshole and some issues with the plot and pacing, there’s enough good stuff throughout that make this a fair episode.

Tidbits and Quotes
- Great stuff at the beginning at Costington’s department store, starting with a man presenting a chart of the year’s profits. He comments on the natural summertime slump, and covers that they’re already making enough money, right? He is immediately escorted from the premises for his blasphemous comment. A new holiday must be created to fill the void. The executives’ various ideas are pretty great (“How about something religious? We had great penetration last spring with ‘Christmas II.’” “I know, Spendover, like Passover but less talk, more presents!”)
- Love Homer’s dissatisfied reaction to receiving the Sir Loves-A-Lot teddy bear rather than his sought after Lord Huggington. Also great is the Kisses-Make-Me-Boogie-O-Lantern, blatantly reissued unsold Halloween merchandise.
- Crafty move from Bart where his banana peel keeps slipping off the top of the trash pile, he just staples it to the trash bag. Later, Homer is unable to place his breakfast log wrapper on top, so he places it on the fridge with a letter grade on it like it’s a test paper. Then he walks right into the can and knocks it over anyway.
- I’ll say the whole bit where the Simpson house becomes a big trash heap is pretty dumb. Mounds upon mounds of garbage pile up, like how long is this lasting, months? And no way Marge would have put up for this for that long. And couldn’t they have just thrown their garbage out with the Flanders? But there’s some good lines thrown in to make it bearable (“Homer, that crazy lady who lives in our trash pile attacked me again.” “That’s not the way she tells it.”) Also great is Homer’s insistence against apologizing (“Dad, you’re always telling me and Bart to apologize.” “Yeah, but I’m always secretly disappointed when you do.”)
- On the registered sex offender line: Freddy Quimby, Patty and Selma, Jimmy the Scumbag, and Moe, each one of them I’m sure has an incredibly fascinating story to tell.
- The U2 concert scene is a bit of a mixed bag; it’s got some great bits in it, like Homer’s guise as the potato man and Bono’s exasperation at the crowd cheering after his mentioning of Springfield, but the conceit of it all feels a bit wrong. Like Homer has no qualms interrupting a big concert; at one point he was a little humble, but now he feels he can just walk right on stage with big time celebrities. That and again, he’s loud and obnoxious with no idea of what his campaign is, resulting in him doing some pathetic dancing on stage to massive booing. You just feel real bad for him. Though I love the end with Bono’s patronizing (“Wow, look at him go. You’re the real Lord of the Dance, Homer”) and the band continuing with “In the Name of Love” while we see Homer getting pummeled by security guards on the jumbo-tron.
- Homer gets in some good lines once his campaign has a purpose (“Animals are crapping in our houses and we’re picking it up! Did we lose a war? That’s not America! That’s not even Mexico!”)
- Lots of great stuff in the musical number: Krusty’s marked box of used-up porno, which he labeled for reasons that escape me, U2′s reappearance (but not featured on the “Go Simpsonic” CD seemingly to avoid royalty fees), and a cameo by Oscar the Grouch. And we go right from the fantastical to reality as Quimby informs Homer he’s broke (“I think I’ve got the perfect solution!” “You’d better! ‘Cause those garbage men won’t work for free!” “D’oh!”)
- Love the ominous shot of the garbage being stuffed underground, where we see Sir Loves-A-Lot stuck with a bunch of needles.
- Nice Redd Foxx reference with Ray Patterson, with the band playing him on and out with the “Sanford and Son” music. Also pretty fitting since Sanford was a junk dealer.
- I do like the dramatic reveal of the name of the town’s all-purpose contingency plan… Plan B.

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3 responses to “200. Trash of the Titans

  1. To quote Jay Sherman: “It stinks”.

  2. This is the breaking point for me, Homer is just such an insufferable bastard in this episode. There are still some good episodes to come before it all totally goes to shit, but this is the point of no return.

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