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Monday, July 18, 2011

Retro Review: Black Widower

Or the One Where
Sideshow Bob marries Aunt Selma.

The Setup
Homer and the kids are watching Dinosaurs on TV before Selma arrives for dinner with her mysterious date, who turns out to be Sideshow Bob.

Notable Notes
This is the second Sideshow Bob episode, following season one's "Krusty Gets Busted". It's revealed that Bob has completed his prison sentence for framing Krusty for armed robbery, but he's sent back to jail at the end of the episode for attempted murder. Humorously, as he's being dragged away, he claims he'll be out on the street once the Democrats are back in the White House, and his next appearance occurs after Bill Clinton is elected president.

Frequent jailbird Snake, who first appeared in season two's "War of the Simpsons", gets his name in this episode. He is one of Bob's friends in jail.

Also, this episode is the first time we learn of Patty and Selma's obsession with MacGuyver, and is the first of Selma's failed marriages to a supporting character.

Scenes from Bob's time in prison, and the music in those scenes, are references to the film Cool Hand Luke, while the shots at the end of the episode, in which Bob turns Selma's chair around expecting to find her corpse and seeing Bart instead, followed by Selma appearing in the doorway, mimic the end of Hitchcock's Psycho.

The Simpsons are seen watching a parody of ABC's at-the-time popular Dinosaurs sitcom at the beginning of the episode. The show's writers felt Dinosaurs was largely a knockoff of their show, to which Bart's, "it's like they saw our lives and put it right on screen" line is a reference.


Favorite Quotes
Patty: Aunt Selma has this crazy obsession about not dying alone. So in desperation, she joined this prison pen-pal program. Her new sweetie's a jailbird.
Bart: Coooool! He can teach us how to kill a man with a lunchtray!

Homer: You can't go wrong with cocktail weenies! They taste as good as they look, and they come with this delicious red sauce. It looks like ketchup. It tastes like ketchup. But brother, it ain't ketchup!
Sideshow Bob: Well, Selma, he makes a good case.

Bart: Chief Wiggum, you've been around. You don't trust Sideshow Bob, do you?
Wiggum: Ah, lighten up, son. If he was going to commit a crime, would he have invited the number one cop in town? Now, where did I put my gun? Oh, yeah. I set it down when I got a piece of cake...

Homer: I hate all the programs Marge likes, but it's no big deal. You know why?
Selma: No.
Sideshow Bob: Go on.
Homer: Whenever Marge turns on one of her "non-violent" programs, I take a walk. I go to a bar, I pound a few, then I stumble home in the mood for looooove.

Teebore's Take
I'm a sucker for Sideshow Bob episodes, and this is one of the best (there are two others I enjoy more, but this one is an easy third). In addition to the grandiose, scenery-chewing presence of Bob, two things set this episode apart. One is the fact that the writers specifically set out to tell a compelling mystery story, with clues sprinkled throughout so that viewers could either figure it all out along with Bart or see how the pieces fit together after watching it again, and the end result is an almost Hitchcockian suspense story that holds together surprisingly well for a twenty-two minute animated sitcom. Secondly, the episode cleverly subverts the trope of the innocent child who steadfastly believes the best in someone; as Marge says, Bart saves the day because he never lost his mistrust in Sideshow Bob. It's that kind of cultural subversion, especially in these early episodes, that drew the ire of the show's critics, and the appreciation of its fans.

Classic

Sideshow Bob episodes are almost always classics, and this is one of the best.

7 comments:

Anne said...

i also always appreciated a Sideshow Bob episodes. I have very little memory of this episode- even after your recap. This isn't the one where he steps on the broom is it? I feel like that's a later ep...

i remember really liking the Dinosaurs TV show

I always liked how Patty and Selma loved MacGyver, and how Richard Dean Anderson (aka MacGyver) always talked about Simpsons on the Stargate TV show.

Hannah Kincade said...

Yay! An episode I remember clearly!! I really liked Dinosaurs at the time. I'm not sure how much I would like it in a rewatch though. "Not the mamma" is kind of old, but I wonder about any jokes I may have missed as a youth.

Sarah Ahiers (Falen) said...

aw man! I completely forgot about Dinosaurs! I also love how the writers took a dig at them.
Hopefully one day soon, Dinosaurs will be availble on netflix instant play

Dr. Bitz said...

Maybe I'd have to watch it again but in my mind, aside from both shows being an animated sitcom feauturing typical family archetypes, Dinosaurs and The Simpsons seemed like very different shows.

Anne said...

@ Dr. Bitz:
wasn't Dinosaurs live action (albeit in-costume) and not animated?
I also have no memory of it being similar to Simpsons (

Dr. Bitz said...

They were muppets, so it's kind of a grey area between live action and animated...especially since I don't think a live human was ever on the show. But now that I say that, didn't they have a pet human for a while or for one episode or something?

Anyway, I just went with the term animated for simplicity's sake.

Teebore said...

@Anne: This isn't the one where he steps on the broom is it? I feel like that's a later ep...

This is not that one. That's the next Sideshow Bob, which is my favorite such episode.

@Hannah: I wonder about any jokes I may have missed as a youth.

From a little of what I read, I think there was lots of stuff that probably went over my head as a kid, stuff like gags about the environment and evolution and stuff.

It also had a surprisingly dark final episode, the full extent of which I probably didn't grasp fully as a kid.

@Dr. Bitz: aside from both shows being an animated sitcom feauturing typical family archetypes, Dinosaurs and The Simpsons seemed like very different shows.

Yeah, they certainly weren't that similar. The biggest thing, I think, was that Dinosaurs was one of the first post-Simpsons sitcoms to succeed by using the fractured-yet-wholesome take on the modern family pioneered, in many ways, by Simpsons. It was also singularly defined by its catchphrase, in a similar way to early seasons of The Simpsons.

Obviously, there were tons of shows that cropped up in the wake of the success of Simpsons that abandoned the warm and fuzzy sitcom tropes of the 80s for more sarcastic and crass ones, but Dinosaurs was, I think, the first to really succeed. I don't think the writers were on the verge of litgation or anything, just that they saw Dinosaurs taking inspiration from The Simpsons, and pointed it out.

But now that I say that, didn't they have a pet human for a while or for one episode or something?


I do vaguely recall humans popping up at least once or twice, probably towards the end, either as a pet or a lab animal or something like that. Maybe an episode that was a metaphor for animal rights with a human as the animal?