166. Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D’oh-cious

(originally aired February 7, 1997)
One of the most delightfully bizarre installments of the series, this episode is a tour de force of hilarious isolated bits, great musical numbers and a nice reaffirmation of the family and their self-instated place in the world. We start by seeing Marge losing her hair due to stress from dealing with the family, so she suggests that they find a housekeeper to help out. Enter Shary Bobbins, a completely legally distinguishable original character (like Rickey Rouse and Monald Muck), a prim and perfect nanny who in no time at all makes the Simpsons a polite, dignified household. I think originally the writers wanted Julie Andrews for obvious reasons, but Maggie Roswell does a dynamite job, dare I say a better Andrews sound-alike than the genuine article. This episode has forever tainted that character and that movie for me, and I couldn’t be more glad about it. It takes about six seconds after Bobbins leaves for the Simpsons to descend into bedlam again, and the family reassures her that despite their shortcomings and foibles, they’re happy just the way they are.

I previously decried “The Springfield Files” a bit for being thin on story, and here we have another Jean/Reiss produced episode that is just the same, and has a helluva lot of padding. But, that doesn’t bother me at all here. A lot of filler comes from extended TV segments, but they work within the first and third acts when the family begins as lazy slobs, and eventually turn back into lazy slobs. Their disinterest in bettering themselves is passed onto the viewer; if the family isn’t doing anything interesting, let’s see what’s on TV. And every bit we see is gold: the Krusty Komedy Klassic (“KKK? That’s not good…”), li’l Rainier Wolfcastle’s first commercial, Charles Brosnan in “The Andy Griffith Show” (“Now, I’m going down to Emmett’s Fix-It Shop, to fix Emmett,”) and of course the special Itchy & Scratchy show directed by Quentin Tarantino. The segments with Bobbins are also fantastic, either contrasting against the Simpsons’ boorish ways, or in seeing the kids actually behave, in the scene from the movie where they take a walk through the unusually old timey park. 

The music is superb, each either assisting the plot or a wonderful parody from the film. We start with “Minimum Wage Nanny,” as the family yearns for the perfect nanny (“Teach us songs and magic tricks/Might I add, no fat chicks!”), “Cut Every Corner” teaches a questionable lesson about sweeping problems under the rug (“If nobody sees it, then nobody gets mad/It’s the American way!”), and “A Boozehound Named Barney” is a hilarious parody of “Feed the Birds,” featuring Barney’s operatic lament of being sober (“Move it, yah drunk, or I’ll blast your rear end!/I found two bucks/Then come in, my friend!”) They’re all fabulous, but my favorite and most effective is probably the closer, “Happy Just the Way We Are.” While the family has hopes and dreams, they are also fully aware of who they are and comfortable with that fact. As seen in the show, any massive shift in their world will eventually dissolve, leaving them back where they started, and they’re fine with that. It’s also like a song in ode to the status quo; we love these characters as is and don’t want to see them change. It’s a truly wonderful episode, one of the all time greats, with a solid main story, classic music and lots of extra funny bits peppered into the mix.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Krusty’s Komedy Klassic doesn’t go so well. First up, an act Krusty claims has never been done before: dumb pet tricks! He has a dog trained to catch a red rubber ball, which is suspiciously similar in shape and shade as his clown nose. I wonder what’s going to happen? (“Auggh! Somebody shoot it! Somebody shoot it!”) Then he tries a sketch: “Mad About You” is now “Mad About Shoe,” where he’s shown married to a giant piece of footwear. The audience understandably boos (“You’re not going to like our ‘NYPD Shoe’ sketch. It’s pretty much the same thing.”) Even Krusty’s biggest fan Bart is unimpressed, and would change the channel if they could find the remote. Grampa has it in the kitchen, thinking it to be a phone, but instead tries the “old-fashioned model,” holding a plugged in iron up to his ear, complete with sizzling noise.
– Love the “Hair” montage, scandalously starting with Marge in the shower, shocked to find a clump of hair on the floor. Also great is Bart and Milhouse playing cowboys in the living room, and a blue tumbleweed rolls by. It isn’t long before Marge’s beehive is covered with empty patches. Homer tries to calm his somber wife (“Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll teach you to comb it over so no one can tell. Just like my hair!”) She imagines herself with a Homer-esque comb over and immediately breaks down in tears.
– To pay for the nanny, Homer vows to give up his membership of the Civil War Re-Creation Society. Moe’s now out a General Ambrose Burnside, and Barney voices his complaints about their Stonewall Jackson, Apu (“The south shall come again!”)
– The family interviews some nannies: the first, an elderly woman Mrs. Pennyfeather, seems like a fine choice, but Homer is suspicious (“Wait a minute, Marge. I saw Mrs. Doubtfire. This is a man in drag!”) He then accosts her hair, trying to expose her disguise. It’s such a great read from Castellaneta, culminating in him chasing her across the lawn yelling, “Gimme those!” Those? Like her fake breast cups or something? After scaring away another potential drag queen, Kearney puts in his bid for the job, which impresses Homer (“I’ll keep a watchful eye on your kids and if they get out of line… Pow!” “I like him.” “Thanks. Hey, where do you keep the liquor?” “I hide a bottle of schnapps in the baby’s crib.”)
– Shary Bobbins informs Homer of her previous employer, Lord and Lady Huffington of Sussex, and he whispers to Marge, asking if they know them. He ultimately confuses them with the guy he bowls with… the black guy (“So, you work for Carl, eh?”) Bart has questions of his own for the potential new nanny (“Pop quiz, hotshot. I’m supposed to be doing my homework, but you find me upstairs reading a Playdude. What do you do? What do you do?” “I make you read every article in that magazine, including Norman Mailer’s latest clap-trap about his waning libido.”)
– I love the energy of “Cut Every Corner,” as well as checking in with Wiggum and Apu doing their own brands of half-assery (“And the clerk who runs the store/can charge a little more/for meat (for meat)/and milk (and milk)/from nineteen-eighty-foooooooooouur”)
– Great great scene of Willie’s one-man band version of “Maniac,” and her encounter with the lovely Ms. Bobbins (“Shary Bobbins and I were engaged to be wed back in the old country. Then she got her eyesight back. Suddenly the ugliest man in Glasgow wasn’t good enough for her.” “It’s good to see you, Willie.” “That’s not what you said the first time you saw me!”)
– Ms. Bobbins even manages to soothe the black heart of Mr. Burns, entrancing him into flying a kite. He enjoys himself, until he’s swiftly struck by lightning (“What’s this strange sensation in my chest?” “I think your heart’s beating again.” “Oh, that takes me back. God bless you, Shary Bobbins!”)
– Love the brief kink in Bobbins’ kindly nature, initially annoyed at Bart and Lisa’s request for yet another song (“I’ve been singing you songs all day. I’m not a bloody jukebox!”)
– Great second act break of Grampa getting a hold of Bobbins’ umbrella (“I think we got our umbrellas swiiiiiiitttcchhed!”)
– The third act is a little bit cruel, as Bobbins has basically replaced Marge as the family maid. Not even her catchy songs can motivate them anymore (“But the beer will taste more sweet/if you get up off your seat…” “Lady, the man asked for a beer, not a song.”) I also love her dissatisfied “Do-re-mi-fa-so…” under her breath as she walks out of the room. Eventually she breaks down, getting drunk with Barney in the Simpsons living room. The family reassures her that they’re happy as is, to which Bobbins replies in song, “Don’t think it’s sour grapes/but you’re all a bunch of apes/and so I must be leaving yooooou!” And then she’s sucked into a jet engine, an ending that by all purposes should be horrifying and brutally off-tone, but by God is it funny as hell.


12 responses to “166. Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala-D’oh-cious

  1. I maintain that “You’re not gonna like our NYPD Shoe sketch!” would have been even funnier if it hadn’t been followed by “It’s pretty much the same thing.” You can tell just from the name that it’s pretty much the same thing; Krusty doesn’t need to say it.

    According to Al Jean, the iconic final gag of Shary Bobbins getting sucked into a jet engine was written for The Critic but never used. I think it works better here than it would have there – we have the entire episode to spend with the character, and then she’s burned to a crisp in the final two seconds for a quick laugh. It’s one of the darkest, funniest endings ever.

    There actually seems to be a trend in Season 8 of characters being introduced and killed off in the same episode. Shary Bobbins, Frank Ormand, Rex Banner, Poochie, and of course Frank Grimes. This is one dark season…

    • I never thought about all the dead season 8 characters. Although Rex Banner may in fact be alive. He could have landed on a giant mattress somewhere.

    • Re: NYPD Shoe, I do like the implication with the “pretty much the same thing” line that it’s actually just going to be Krusty and the shoe on the exact same set but with some paper-thin standard procedural lines.

    • I disagree about Banner, as that would technically make Wiggum a murderer, which is maybe an ounce too dark, even for Season 8.

      The way I saw it, he simply blasted off like Team Rocket.

  2. “It’s a truly wonderful episode, one of the all time greats,”

    Huh? To me, this is another one of those odd, dull episodes from season 8 (The Canine Mutiny, Twisted World, etc) that stick out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the season. It’s just so boring. The songs admittedly are good, but the story is weak, bland and unengaging; it feels like the Simpsons never even leave the house.

    I will however note that this episode has perhaps my favourite couch gag (where the family are locked outside the house).

  3. I’ve never been too into this episode as a whole but a lot of individual gags are some of my all time favs. Doesn’t make much sense maybe but eh.

    “Now I’m going down to emmit’s fix-it shop … to fix emmet *andy griffith theme song plays*…”


    Reservoir Cats is perfect. I hate Tarantino for the most part, anyway, but I just think the little groovy surf-dance thing they do after Scratchy breaks from the ropes is amazing. I always love when Itchy and Scratchy seem to actually be pals. That part is great to watch in slow motion a few times, btw. Itchy humps the air as he dances while Scratchy does the TravoltaPulpFiction/Batusi thing.

  4. Fantastic episode. I love musical numbers on the Simpsons, but this one also has lots of hilarious gags outside of the songs, like Li’l Rainier Wolfcastle’s acting debut on an Oscar Meyer commercial and Homer attacking all the nanny applicants because he thinks they’re going to turn out to be men in drag like “Mrs. Doubtfire”.

  5. I’ve never liked this episode – it feels very ‘zombie’ to me. To make the Mary Poppins parody work, Bart and Lisa first treat Marge like a servant, before suddenly becoming saccharine sweet. Skinner is also Mr Bumble for some reason, and why is Barney drinking with Bobbins?

    In short, characters are being used as props, and the songs simply aren’t good enough to justify it.

    • “To make the Mary Poppins parody work, Bart and Lisa first treat Marge like a servant, before suddenly becoming saccharine sweet.”
      Well, maybe you dont know the television but this happens in every episode of every sitcom to make every episode work: changing the angle of the same characters dynamic to make sense in the plot. Here is Marge being a servant(which she always is, but in this episode is needed to be underlined) and her kids treating her as such.

      “In short, characters are being used as props, and the songs simply aren’t good enough to justify it.”
      What? Characters used as props? Bobbins become drunk, so how putting Barney as her drunk buddy is a prop? Its absolutely perfect.
      Anyway, now i understand you simply dont know what are you talking about.. It seems you are just copying analysis concepts used to reviews shows(like this blog) and using it randomly.

  6. love love love love loooooove! this one.
    Me being a musical fan, recently i introduced my wife who is not a fan of the simpsons, but is a fan of mary Poppins and actually sounds frighteningly like Juley Andrews herself to the songs like boose hound and she loved them!

    Again, I’m not sure if I’d put this on the top ten but that’s because the simpsons when it’s good has waaaay more than just ten :D.

  7. This one was fun and, i think, a good contrast to Zombie Simpsons. The plot is thin, wacky, and resolved in a very brutal, unsatisfying way, but there’s still heart, the characters are themselves, and most important, the jokes are frickin’ hilarious. That all gets lost in subsequent seasons.

  8. I’m honestly running out of things to say really badly at this point. Yes, the plot is thin, but there is no way in hell this episode is even reminscent of a Zombie Simpsons episode one bit! This was funny, had great character moments, and was a wonderful parody all around.

    I have no idea how you can hate Tarantino Abra as that man is a genius. He is one of the few directors out there that actually cares about making good movies rather than just collecting a paycheck.

    My favorite moment is actually at the end when Sherry gets sucked into the plane. That is just priceless, but I never realized how many characters died in the episodes they were introduced until I read Jb’s post. That is pretty awesome and now I have to rethink my thoughts on this season.

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