(originally aired December 3, 1995)
No one likes doing a clip show; they’re studio-mandated to get more re-airable material for less money. This show has had varying degrees of success with its clip shows, but for the most part always seemed to at least try to make it worth the viewer’s time. This one is definitely the best example; there’s no trickery, right away we’re told by Troy McClure what we’re going to see and what to expect. He takes us through the history of the show, showcasing various clips from the Tracey Ullman shorts. In the second act is viewer mail, where some long-wondered questions regarding the show are answered… kind of. Lastly, we get a fair share of deleted scenes, including the various alternate endings to “Who Shot Mr. Burns?”
This clip show seemed to have the most ambition. Most of the material we saw was either unaired or the Ullman clips, which hadn’t been on TV for many years. That and the normal clips used were arranged in such a way that they were fantastic, like the Smithers montage or Homer’s increasing stupidity. It really kind of felt like a love letter to the fans, including the deleted scenes and all the silly nods to obsessive fandom with the trivia between commercial breaks. Hartman of course is always fabulous as McClure, who hosts the special with varying degrees of enthusiasm, on the seemingly fake Simpsons living room set. We also get a classic behind-the-scenes look at series creator Matt Groening, a menacing trigger-happy drunkard. The writers made the best of their predicament and made the most self-aware clip show ever, filled with new material and dressing up the old in a new way to keep it engaging. The best clip show, bar none.
Tidbits and Quotes
– Love the other FOX specials Troy hosted: “Alien Nose Job” and “Five Fabulous Weeks of `The Chevy Chase Show.'”
– Great portraits of Groening, James L. Brooks (in an office adorned with awards looking like Mr. Moneybags) and Sam Simon (a Howard Hughes type with long fingernails, empty pill bottles, prattling on a typewriter.)
– Always great to see the original shorts again. I really like how crude and primitive they are, especially in the first one how the characters’ eyes warble and they continually deform. And great stunned reaction by Troy after the first short (“They haven’t changed a bit, have they?”) Also, if they could get the rights for these clips, why the hell haven’t we got a DVD set of the entire collection of shorts?
– The two trivia bits at commercial are hilarious. What does the cash register say when Maggie is scanned in the opening? NRA4EVER, “just one of the hundreds of radical right-wing messages inserted into every show by creator Matt Groening.” And what two popular Simpsons characters have died in the past year? “If you said Bleeding Gums Murphy and Dr. Marvin Monroe, you are wrong: they were never popular.”
– Great subtle joke that all the letters Troy leads are from professors or doctors, who you’d think would have more important things to do than write a silly cartoon show.
– “Get out of my office!” One of the greatest scenes of the series. I like how Troy covers it (“Of course, what Matt meant to say, according to his attorneys, is that he couldn’t possibly do it alone. And he insisted that we make time to acknowledge the hard work of everyone who makes The Simpsons possible.”) Cut to an incredibly fast scroll of unreadable names, set to that great music from “Last Exit to Springfield.”
– I love Hartman’s whiplash attitude change at the start of the third act: “Right about now, you’re probably saying, ‘Troy, I’ve seen every Simpsons episode. You can’t show me anything new. …well, you got some attitude, mister.”
– All the deleted scenes are pretty damn good, though most were removed for good reason; they’re funny on their own, but probably would have interrupted the story. Look no further than the robotic Richard Simmons bit from “Burns’ Heir,” funny, but it would basically have stopped the show in its tracks. I also like the bit from “Treehouse of Horror IV” with Lionel Hutz (“Well, I didn’t win. Here’s your pizza. “But we did win!” “That’s okay, the box is empty!”) Troy has fallen asleep on the Simpson couch and is poked with a stick (“If that’s what they cut out, what they leave in must be pure gold!”)
– I like the montage of perpetrators shooting Burns in the same spot, with Burns’ moans repeated again and again. I also like how the alternate ending is purposefully bad and nonsensical, with Burns giving Smithers a 5% pay cut for shooting him (Smithers’ groan is hysterical) Troy comments on this, “But of course, for that ending to work, you would have to ignore all the Simpson DNA evidence. And that would be downright nutty.”
– Troy closes the show in front of portraits of the Ullman-era family and modern day (“Yes, the Simpsons have come a long way since an old drunk made humans out of his rabbit characters to pay off his gambling debts. Who knows what adventures they’ll have between now and the time the show becomes unprofitable?”) Well, that statement couldn’t be truer given the recent debacle of FOX almost cancelling the show. Who cares whether the show’s good or not if it can make a buck? What was a joke fifteen years ago is now reality. But enough of that, here’s what we came to see: hardcore nudity! The end montage is hilarious. Also, there’s that clip from “Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy” that apparently is missing a cel layer, as we see Marge basically completely nude along with Homer. Scandalous.