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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Retro Review: Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish

Or the One Where: Mr. Burns runs for governor.

The Setup: When Bart pulls a three-eyed fish from the water near the nuclear power plant, a government inspection of the plant occurs, prompting Burns to run for governor in order to avoid a shutdown.

A Work In Progress: Governor Mary Bailey (a reference to George Bailey's wife from "It's a Wonderful Life") and Springfield Shopper reporter Dave Shutton, two relatively minor characters that only appear in a handful of later episodes, appear for the first time.

Blinky, the three-eyed fish Bart catches, makes his first major appearance (he appeared briefly in a background shot of "Homer's Odyssey"). While Blinky himself goes largely unmentioned on the show after this episode, he has become something of a symbol for some environmental activists, and is often referred to in anti-pollution and pro-environment journalism. In fact, this episode won the first of seven Environmental Media Awards "The Simpsons" has received to date.

This is one of the first episodes to focus on a supporting character as much as a member of the Simpson family, something "The Simpsons" will do often in the future, with Mr. Burns as the main character of this episode while Homer and the others are actually supporting characters in his story.

Finally, despite the fact that Mr. Burns is running for governor in this office, a state office, the name of the state in which Springfield resides is, of course, never mentioned, which is the first time the writers were intentional vague when it came to Springfield's exact location.


Favorite Lines:

Dave: What's your name, son?
Bart: I'm Bart Simpson. Who the hell are you?
Dave: I'm Dave Shutton. I'm an investigative reporter who's on the road a lot and, uh, I must say that in my day, we didn't talk that way to our elders.
Bart: Well, this is my day, and we do, sir.

Marge
: I wonder if he's going to say anything about that horrible fish.
Homer
: Oh, Marge. What's the big deal? I bet before the papers blew this all out of proportion you didn't even know how many eyes a fish had.

Advisor
: Congratulations, Mr. Burns, the latest polls show you are up six points.
Mr. Burns: Ah, giving me a total of?
Advisor: Six. But we're on our way.

Bart: Dear God, we paid for all this stuff ourselves, so thanks for nothing.


Teebore's Take: While more recent episodes of the show have been, like most political humor nowadays, more partisan (in either direction), this early "Simpsons" foray into political humor is much more general, skewering the modern political machine and its ability to create a political persona that is often far removed from the reality of a given candidate. It is also one of the first "Simpsons" episodes to tackle an environmental issue. Both subjects weren't, at the time, often tackled by traditional sitcoms in prime time. Being an animated show on a fourth place network likely afforded them the freedom to do so, but it's another example of how "The Simpsons" was pushing the envelope early in its run, and how, as the show became more and more popular and embedded in pop culture, it helped change the landscape of prime time television.

Classic:

The first major story for a supporting character and "The Simpsons" first real stab at political humor and social commentary.

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