137. Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming

(originally aired November 26, 1995)
I kinda feel this one’s kind of underrated, but it’s my favorite Sideshow Bob episode. It just contains so many of the elements that makes Bob great: his heightened intellectual pursuits, his great loathing for bargain basement entertainment, and his long-standing rivalries with Krusty and Bart Simpson. We open with Bob decrying his fellow inmates for uproariously laughing at Krusty’s antics on TV. It’s a period of his life that brings him much humiliation and chagrin, enough to frame his employer and make him a dangerous criminal in the first place. As a man who harkens to the days when men were more well-read and high-minded, he’s veritably disgusted of the hypnotic dumbing effect television has on the masses. The final straw is overhearing distinguished English actress Vanessa Redgrave guest-spotting on a moronic FOX sitcom. TV kills everything it touches, and for that, Bob must put an end to it, by any means necessary. It’s my favorite Bob plot, as it ties in so well to the motivations and beliefs of his character, as a snooty criminal mastermind.

Bob manages to make his escape and plot his master plan at a local air show, an event he isn’t too thrilled about either (“Buzz-cut Alabamians spewing colored smoke from their whiz jets to the strains of ‘Rock You Like A Hurricane’? What kind of countrified rube is still impressed by that?”) Said rubes are of course the Simpson family, who are in attendance. Bob manages to get his hands on an atomic weapon and delivers a message via the jumbotron, that if all television signals aren’t downed in two hours, he will detonate it. Who will stop this madman? Bart and Lisa of course, but I like that instead of playing Nancy Drew like in “Krusty Gets Busted,” they end up locked in the air base by accident, and Lisa’s quick-witted nature pretty much leads them right to him. Also great is the secret underground conference of Mayor Quimby and the various local TV personalities, who all agree they must stop for the good of the people. Krusty stands vocally against, but afterwards realizes if he manages to stay on the air, he’ll be the only game in town. It’s half his instinctive duty as an entertainer, and half him just wanting to monopolize the ratings.

Bob is horrified to find his nemesis is still on the air, “live from the civil defense shack in the remote Alkali Flats of the Springfield Badlands!” As his agreement has been broken, he detonates the bomb… only to find it had expired thirty-five years prior. Foiled, he grabs Bart and takes off in the Wright Brothers plane, more allusion to his classical ways, musing about how flight used to be a gentleman’s pursuit, “back before every Joe Sweatsock could wedge himself behind a lunch tray and jet off to Raleigh-Durham.” Truly unhinged, he claims he’s going to use the plane to kill Krusty, but of course the craft is so light it merely bumps off the broadcast shack and falls to the ground. Bob is apprehended, and all is well. And even though he pretty much threatened a nuclear holocaust, he’s heading right back to Springfield Minimum Security Prison. It’s an episode that has a lot of silliness, with the bits at the air show and the police pursuit of Bob, but has a very grounded story that, again, feels very true to Bob. It’s one of my favorite all-around episodes.

Tidbits and Quotes
– I loved watching Double Dare when I was a kid, so I love Krusty’s version of it, setting up a canned food drive just to send Sideshow Mel through a slippery slide of rancid Bearnaise sauce, pickle brine and detergent. Mel howls in pain, and Bart comments from home (“Just think, Lis: that’s our pickle brine burning Sideshow Mel.”)
– Our intro to Bob sets the stage perfectly: he’s created a scale model of Westminster Abbey in a bottle, and must carefully set the clock to Greenwich Mean time… only to be startled by braying laughter, causing it to fall apart (“My dear Abbey!”) The source, of course, is other prisoners laughing at that wacky Krusty using Mel as a mop. His fellow inmates are quick to point that Bob was on that show, a fact he wishes to forget (“Don’t remind me. My foolish capering destroyed more young minds then syphilis and pinball combined!”) His heavy criticism of television almost gets him in a fight with Rupert Murdoch, who appears to be incarcerated too, for some reason.
– I like the Simpsons’ various reasons for being excited about the air show. Even though she bombed seventy mosques in Iraq, Lisa is excited to meet the first female stealth bomber pilot who shares her name, Bart wants to see birds get sucked into jet engines (“Rare ones!”), and Marge has prepared ear plugs made from biscuit dough.
An example of fine police work. Wiggum goes through the list of convicts: all that’s missing is Bob, and that guy who eats people and takes their faces. A normal-looking cheerful prisoner shows up accounting for the latter, but no Bob. Wiggum is slightly annoyed, then establishes a cover (“If anyone asks… I beat him to death.”)
– I like the stages of Bob’s plan. First he locks himself in the Colonel’s private washroom just to agitate him, so he can get down his voice and mannerisms. The Colonel is voiced by R. Lee Ermey, who does a great job, as always. I also love Bob’s dumb rube voice he uses to goad the Colonel further, and Ermey delivers ridiculous lines with total severity (“I’m going to come in there and corpse you up! Corpse you up and mail you to mama!”) Later Bob mimics the Colonel’s voice to gain access to a restricted area, but he hesitates slightly at the crudity of one of his written exclamations (“Get moving or I’ll tear you up like a Kleenex at a… snot party!”)
– The least excited to be there, Marge can’t catch a break. She asks Homer to get her aspirin, but all Homer could find are cigarettes. Her headache is only exacerbated more as she’s seated directly behind a giant speaker at the top of the bleachers.
– The box kite parade is made as painfully dull as possible, led with great pride by Martin (“The common box kite was originally used as a means of drying wet string.”)
– Great quick joke by the Colonel (“Get ready for the pride of the United States Air Force: the British-made Harrier Jump Jet!”) Also just as great as the performance is to “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” like Bob sarcastically quipped earlier.
– Bob appears on the Tyrann-O Vision (another genius Simpsons name, either meaning like ‘Tyrannosaurus’ in its humungous size, or like ‘Tyrant,’ being the sole decider of what you should see), calling for the end of television. The crowd of course is not on board (Hibbert comments to his wife, “Surely he’s not talking about VH-1.”) There’s no choice in the matter of course, as Bob makes his ultimatum and ends the transmission. Then comes back to one quick addendum (“By the way, I’m aware of the irony of appearing on TV in order to decry it. So don’t bother pointing that out.”) I also like how you can clearly tell Bob’s voice is higher, and we saw the Duff blimp earlier, so you could figure out where Bob is if you were paying attention.
– After evacuating the airbase, guards search every nook and cranny for Bob. They check the port-a-johns, only to find Grampa in one (“This elevator only goes to the basement. And somebody made an awful mess down there.”)
– Hilarious line from the Colonel down in the bunker (“Bob is not here. We have searched every square inch of this base and all we have found is porno, porno, porno!”) Which is then followed up by Krusty coming in and seeing the magazines (“Hey hey! This is my kind of meeting!”)
– Fantastic parody of the old LBJ campaign commercial with Maggie picking the flower, yet another culture reference I found much later and said, “Simpsons did it!”
– I like how Bob was outdone by his affinity toward the classics (“There were plenty of brand new bombs, but you had to go for that retro 50s charm.”) And of course the old “stall the villain with flattery” scheme, which he references himself. Bart claims he must be too smart to fall for that, which of course stops Bob in his tracks (“Really? What type of smart? Book smart? Because there are a lot of people who are book smart but it takes a special type of genius to…”) And the blimp is surrounded, as Lisa used the time to type a message into the blimp’s marquee, complete with animated symbols.
– Lisa’s overenthusiastic claims to her mother is really cute (“Mom! I found Sideshow Bob’s hideout and I got a secret message to the police and I had a blimp fall on me and I was in an atomic blast but I’m OK now!”)
– The police slowly pursuing Bob with their arms passively raised, and a blockade of tennis rackets and pool skimmers is hilarious.
– My favorite moment as a kid, and still great today, is when Bart warns Krusty to clear the shed, so he dramatically leaps through the window and ducks for cover. Wait. Krusty looks up, sees the plane is still slowly approaches, gets up, lights a cigarette. “What is the freaking hold-up?” And the plane tapping the shack and grounding itself is so pathetic. And then a tank runs over the historic icon (“Ooh, sorry. We don’t normally drive these in the Air Force.”)
– Then we end with a great call-back to the horrible show we heard earlier; Bob bemoans his capture (How ironic. My crusade against television has come to end so formulaic, it could have spewed from the PowerBook of the laziest Hollywood hack.”) and Grampa shows up acting like a horny grandparent archetype. The Simpsons exclaim, “Here we go again!”) (Marge half-heartedly) and then the FOX logo shows up. What a great ending.


9 responses to “137. Sideshow Bob’s Last Gleaming

  1. “What the hell is that, a lawnmower?”

  2. Second favourite Bob episode. How could you miss out mentioning that alien those gaurds found?

  3. Oh my God – the best Sideshow Bob episode made. I remember listening to the writer’s commentary on the DVD, and they were howling at how much fun (and a challenge) it was to write dialogue for Kelsey Grammar for this role. It also has one of my favorite lines of the entire show:

    “That fool McGuckett sprayed runway foam all over Chuck Yeager’s Acura. Now get down there with the chamois triple time! “

  4. What about the moment when Homer’s trying to get Bart to jump down from the plane. Bart throws his backpack first; it gets crushed under the car and bursts into flames. Homer: “Now you, boy!”

  5. I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks this is the best Sideshow Bob episode. Yes, “Cape Feare” is a lot of fun, and I did like the detective/mystery feel to “Krusty Gets Busted”, “Black Widower”, and “Sideshow Bob Roberts”, but this one is just a riot. It just has so many quotable lines, and unlike “Feare”, I like how they worked Krusty back into the plot.

    “Would it -really- be living in a world without television? I think the survivors would envy the dead!”


  7. Well, at least Bart has on clean underwear.

  8. You all make some valid points on what makes this episode great, and I agree, but it is my second least favorite Sideshow Bob episode for the classic years. It’s funny, it’s smart, yet I feel it just doesn’t up the episodes where he marries Selma, is elected mayor, redeems himself against his brother, and most importantly, is nothing compared to the third greatest Simpsons episode of all time, “Cape Feare.”

    Anyway, I love how the war room resembles the war room from Dr Strangelove. All that was missing was an incompetent president calling up another country to apologize for them about to being nuked and having that leader apologize back.

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