189. All Singing, All Dancing

(originally aired January 4, 1998)
I remember one Christmas as a kid where I got the two Simpsons soundtracks, Songs in the Key of Springfield and Go Simpsonic, which featured songs and music from the first nine seasons of the show. Boy did I wear those CDs out. The series is brilliant in every possible respect, and that certainly includes musically. So with all the great show-stopping songs over the years, I guess it makes sense that they’d make that the topic of a clip show. I’ll try not to retread ground talking about clip shows, but it seems like they’re tough to come up with for this particular series; the subject matter can drastically change from show to show, so there’s not much that can be made in terms of clip packages. We had a clip show about romance, so now we have one of all the songs. After renting a supposed violent Western that drastically turned into a song-and-dance extravaganza, the Simpsons recall their prior history with sporadic musical numbers… through song of course, with intermittent appearances by armed robber Snake, threatening to waste the family if they don’t can the singing.

If nothing else, this episode gave us “Paint Your Wagon.” Which is actually a real movie, which absolutely shocked me. The movie sequence is hysterical, as are Homer and Bart’s dumbstruck reactions to it. From that point on, it’s pretty much clip after clip, showcasing classic numbers like “The Monorail Song,” “We Put the Spring in Springfield,” “See My Vest,” and lots others. The clips are especially long, with some time given for dialogue sequences to contextualize things. The filler material with Snake and the Simpsons feels a bit brutal to me though; he’s made quite the leap from petty criminal to potential murderer. But I like Hank Azaria’s take on Snake singing, and while overall the medley and songs aren’t as memorable as the clips, I like it fair enough (“A singing family, it’s worse than I feared/for hostage purposes, you’re just too weird! Bye!”) I always try to take clip shows with a grain of salt given they’re network mandated and the crew must not like doing them, but we’ve seen two amazing clip shows in the past that prove that they can be done right. I’d say in terms of enjoyment, it’s definitely better than “Another Simpsons Clip Show,” but considering how many times I’ve listened to these songs on that CD, I can’t see myself watching this episode again any time soon. Or ever, really.

Tidbits and Quotes
– After reading some sharp criticisms regarding it on the SNPP capsule, I was wondering whether there were alternative motives to this episode, airing to coincide with the release of the soundtrack CDs. Well Songs in the Key came out in early 1997, and Go Simpsonic came out late 1999, so I guess not. But it is 5F24 produced at the end of the production season, so maybe that was the intention, but they bungled the original air date. I don’t know. Who cares.
– Lee Marvin sounds kind of like Dr. Zoidberg with a frog in his throat. Who already sounds like he has a frog in his throat.
– I like Homer ejecting the tape right into the trash, and his bemoaning of it (“Ooh, why did they have to ruin a perfectly serviceable wagon story with all that fruity singing?”)
– While I question his role here, I do have a liking for all of Snake’s lyrics (“I’m back, so resume wetting your pants!” Followed a worried “Okay…” by Homer).
– The animation with the family in the wrap-arounds feels kind of odd; Bart does a weird little dance after “Springfield swings like a pendum do!” I guess they didn’t have much to work with.
– I really don’t have much else to comment on. One last grim thing though; Snake opens fire during the credits (and the Gracie Films shoosher), and we hear two gunshots accompanied with whose name? Phil Hartman. Eeeeeeeeessshhh…

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4 responses to “189. All Singing, All Dancing

  1. That thing in the ending credits happened again, believe it or not. On one of the DVD commentaries (I can’t recall which, but I wanna say “Marge vs. the Monorail”), over the ending credits, I think Mike Reiss jokes “All these people are dead now,” and everyone laughs. Then Phil’s name comes up, and there’s immediate awkward silence.

    • The gunshots over Phil Hartman’s name and his death months later is a chilling coincidence. It wasn’t planned, but, it does feel a little in poor taste in light of what happened (kind of like 9/11 and “The City of New York vs. Homer”).

  2. “It is 5F24 produced at the end of the production season… but they bungled the original air date. I don’t know. Who cares.”

    Officially, the final episode of the ninth production season was “Bart the Mother” (5F22).

    A short time later, “The Joy of Sect” and “All Singing, All Dancing” were produced. Both were written by Steve O’Donnell and, perhaps more importantly, were run by David Mirkin rather than Mike Scully.

    The previous practice at 20th Century Fox Television for assigning production codes to episodes that were not officially part of a production season had been to code them separately from episodes that were – hence “A Star is Burns”, “‘Round Springfield” and “Another Simpsons Clip Show” being coded 2F31-3, “The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular” being coded 3F31, and of course the four 3G episodes.

    Presumably, at some point between the production of the 3Gs and the production of these two Mirkin / O’Donnell episodes, someone at 20thCFT decided that this practice was too confusing – and so “The Joy of Sect” and “All Singing, All Dancing” were simply given the next codes in sequence after that of “Bart the Mother”, i.e. 5F23 and 5F24 respectively.

    (A similar thing happened four years later, at the end of Al Jean’s first production season as solo show runner, when Scully returned to run “How I Spent My Strummer Vacation” and it was coded DABF22, immediately following on from “Helter Shelter” (DABF21).)

    The extra 2Fs aired at various points during season 6 (“Another Simpsons Clip Show” in late September 1994, “A Star is Burns” in early March 1995 and “‘Round Springfield” in late April 1995), and I wouldn’t say any of *their* original air dates were bungled. I’d say the same for “All Singing, All Dancing” and “The Joy of Sect”.

  3. I’m afraid I always liked this one, me being a musical buff, since I just love the actual takeoff of paint your wagon and Lee marvin singing (if you can hear the original wandrin star he’s almost this bad in it). Also the Snake bits are just hilarious!
    “Say your prayers, and then it’s cablammo! —- click, click, click click click, Oh no, I’ll be back, when I get some ammo, —- bye!”

    While I understand the sadness of the Phil Hartman coincidence, which is truly tragic, and while I appreciate that just hearing songs again seems really cheap, I just love this episode, especially because I never did own those simpson cds so just hearing all the songs together was fantastic.

    I recently introduced my wife, who is also a musical buff to the joys of The Sherry bobbins episode and see my vest, which she both loved and groned at :D.

    all in all while I can see why this one isn’t people’s favourite, I just really enjoy it, both for hearing the songs again unexpectedly, and for the really cool extras.

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