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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Retro Review: Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment

Or The One Where: Homer steals cable, much to Lisa's disappointment.

The Setup: Homer overhears Flanders throwing out a crooked cable TV technician, and convinces the tech to illegally hook Homer up with free cable.

A Work In Progress: Troy McClure, who you might remember from such films as "Cry, Yuma!" and "Here Comes the Coastguard", a parody of washed up B-movie actors and voiced by Phil Hartman, is introduced. Unlike Hartman's other main character, Lionel Hutz, McClure is loosely based on Hartman's physical appearance. Hartman also provides the voice of the cable TV guy in this episode.

Drederick Tatum, a parody of Mike Tyson who pops up from time to time whenever "The Simpsons" needs a boxer, also appears for the first time.

Dr. Nick Riveria appears on the infomercial Troy McClure is hosting and his "hi, everybody!" schtick is used for the first time.

Fun Fact: This episode won an Outstanding Animated Program Emmy.

Favorite Lines:

Marge: So, what did you children learn about today?
Bart: Hell.
Homer: Bart!
Bart: But that's what we learned about. I sure as HELL can't tell you we learned about HELL unless I say HELL, can't I?
Homer: Well, the lad has a point.
Bart: Hell, yes!
Marge: Bart!
Bart: Hell, Hell, Hell, Hell, ...

Lisa: Well, in Sunday School, we learned that stealing is a sin.
Homer: Well, DUH.
Lisa: But everybody does it. I mean, we're stealing cable as we speak.
Homer: Oh. Look at this way, when you had breakfast this morning, did you pay for it?
Lisa: No.
Homer: And did you pay for those clothes you're wearing?
Lisa: No, I didn't.
Homer: Well, run for the hills, Ma Barker! Before I call the Feds!
Lisa: Dad, I think that's pretty spurious.
Homer: Well, thank you, honey.

Homer: There's something wrong with that kid. She's so moral. Why can't she be more like ... well, not like Bart...but there has to be a happy medium.

Teebore's Take: This has always been a favorite of mine. It's the first time that Lisa really steps up as the moral center of the family (a role that will come to define her character almost as much as her great intelligence and sensitivity), and as such, it's one of the show's first full "message" episodes (stealing cable is wrong!). Though Lisa's moralizing does grate on me at times: I've always been frustrated by the scene at the grocery store in which she admonishes her mother for eating a grape before purchasing a bunch. It's clear Marge is simply tasting the grapes to help inform her purchase, an act which is silently condoned by grocery stores as far as I know. Even if not, Marge is released from all guilt when, after being prodded by Lisa, she insists on being charged for the grape at the checkout, at which point the clerk tells her "who cares." I can understand Lisa, in all her righteous fury, overlooking these details, but I don't understand why Marge doesn't calmly explain to her daughter why eating a grape before purchase is not considered stealing.

Anyways, that rant aside, this episode is quite good, offering an early effective counter-argument for critics who believed "The Simpsons" to be capable of little more than crass, low-brow humor. In fact, the episode's ability to say something important, humorously (the episode is filled with some great gags brought on by the presence of cable TV in the house) is an example of what makes this show great.


A personal favorite that establishes Lisa as the moral center of the show and manages to preach and be funny at the same time. Also, you can't go wrong with Troy McClure.


  1. I just remember this as the episode that taught me it was OK to eat stuff at the grocery swedish fish.

  2. I'm no Grocery Store-ologist, but I'm fairly certain the "eat a grape to make sure the bunch is ripe before you buy it" agreement doesn't extend to delicious candy fish (though it certainly should).


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