This Little Wiggy
"This Little Wiggy" is the eighteenth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season and originally aired on the Fox network on March 22, 1998. It was written by Dan Greaney, and directed by Neil Affleck. The episode sees Ralph Wiggum becoming friends with Bart, leading to the near electrocution of Mayor Quimby. Phil Hartman guest stars as recurring character Troy McClure.
Bart's class is interrupted by “Robbie the Automaton,” a robot created by the Knowledgeum, a new museum that offers a hands-on approach to learning about science. The family go there the following Saturday, where Bart wanders off and walks into an exhibit of the planet Mars. He meets Ralph, who is in the process of being pushed into a giant ear by Kearney, Jimbo, Nelson and Dolph. When Ralph is freed by a center employee, Marge and Chief Wiggum are there to meet him. Marge observes that Ralph has a vivid imagination and learns that he has no friends to play with; she arranges a play-date for Ralph to spend time with a horrified Bart. During the play-date, Ralph shows Bart his swing set, his sandbox, and a rock where he met a leprechaun, who tells him to burn things.
Bart, who does not want to be seen in public with Ralph, has a scare when the two encounter Nelson's gang of bullies riding a stolen vehicle with a video (Bart covers this up by hastily convincing Ralph to hide in a prickly bush), but later exploits it when he discovers Ralph's father has a police master key capable of opening any door in Springfield. Bart and Ralph thus steal the key and decide to enter several closed stores at night, such as a toy store and a bakery, having fun doing whatever the two can imagine. After encountering Nelson and his gang, the boys go to an unused penitentiary. When Ralph objects because he is afraid, the bullies throw him and Bart into a muddy puddle and leave to pick huckleberries — but not before tossing the key into the penitentiary. Ralph and Bart enter the prison to retrieve the key, and in the process stumble onto a room housing an old electric chair. Eager with curiosity to test it they melt the couple from atop a wedding cake they had gorged themselves on earlier that night. The two flee when an elderly guard approaches, but accidentally leave the electric chair armed.
Afterwards at the Simpsons home, Bart and Ralph learn the penitentiary will once again be used by the town, and remember that they left the power on; Bart tries to call the prison and warn them, but the elderly guard has tied up the line having a completely pointless conversation with his wife. Unaware that the power is active, Mayor Quimby straps himself into the electric chair in a publicity attempt, and his staff follows his command to not turn off the chair no matter how realistic his "execution" looks. Ralph then tells Bart that Lisa can probably figure out a way to warn the Mayor. She decides to launch a small model rocket with a warning message attached and aims it toward the penitentiary. However, the rocket is blown off-course and crashes through Mr. Burns' office window. Mr. Burns reads the note, and realizes that the penitentiary has been receiving free power for over thirty years; he responds to it by shutting off the penitentiary's power. Mayor Quimby does not feel very well but escapes being killed. In the aftermath, the Simpsons congratulate Ralph, for pointing out that Lisa could solve the problem. Lisa is at first baffled that she received no credit for having thought of the solution and implementation, but she is reminded by Bart that it is rare for Ralph to be useful or praised, and that he needs a little credit. Lisa then joins in the praising. Ralph's imaginary leprechaun friend congratulates him, then tells him to burn the Simpsons' house down.
Show runner Mike Scully had pitched an idea to Dan Greaney on Marge forcing Bart to become Ralph Wiggum's friend. Scully gave the idea to Greaney due to his ability to write Ralph's lines and actions well, and his overall liking of the character.
This episode was the second to focus on Ralph, after the fourth-season episode "I Love Lisa". Despite this, producer J. Stewart Burns did not believe Ralph had an episode with a plot centered around him as of 2007 (though there was focus on Ralph in the season 19 episode "E Pluribus Wiggum").
The robot that was introduced early in the episode was influenced by Greaney's experiences working with a USA Today themed robot. While at a baseball game with the robot, the robot led the stadium in singing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game". The robot was not well-received, and the spectators threw objects at it. The robot's operator had to stay close to the robot during the baseball game, and was also teased and bothered in the same way as the operator in the episode.
Episode director Neil Affleck was praised by the staff for his directing in this episode. In the scene where Chief Wiggum falls on his back in his bedroom, unable to roll over or get back up, Affleck decided to act out the scene for the staff to showcase how Affleck envisioned Chief Wiggum's predicament. Affleck was also praised for his ability to create three new elaborate settings in the episode: the science museum, the Springfield penitentiary, and the large toy store.
The episode originally did not involve Lisa helping Ralph and Bart to brainstorm an idea to alert the penitentiary. The original scene, which Greaney cites as one of his favorite scenes in the show, despite never actually being in the show, involved Bart, Ralph, and Homer trying to make a plan to save Mayor Quimby.
At the Springfield Knowledgeum, the Mars exhibit's logo uses the same font and style of Star Wars logo. The chair and attached gun for the fertilization simulation is based on the guns of the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars.
In its original broadcast, "This Little Wiggy" finished 27th in ratings for the week of March 16–22, 1998, with a Nielsen rating of 9.1, equivalent to approximately 8.9 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Ally McBeal.
The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide - Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood - enjoyed the episode, calling it "Marvellous fun as Bart comes to realize there's more to Ralph, or at least his daddy, than he realised."
The episode featured one of Dan Greaney's and Matt Selman's favorite scenes in the series, where the family is exiting the museum and Homer is trying to tell them about his day at the museum. Greaney praised Neil Affleck's direction in the scene, and described Homer's actions by saying, "[He's] over excited and has a story to tell and he's out of breath and ahead of himself, and nobody even cares."
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "This Little Wiggy". BBC. Retrieved 2007-10-25.
- Gimple, Scott (1999). The Simpsons Forever!: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family ...Continued. Harper Collins Publishers. p. 33. ISBN 0-06-098763-4.
- Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "This Little Wiggy" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Greaney, Dan (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "This Little Wiggy" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Meyer, George (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "This Little Wiggy" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Chernoff, Scott (2007-07-24). "I Bent My Wookiee! Celebrating the Star Wars/Simpsons Connection". Star Wars.com. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
- Associated Press (March 27, 1998). "'Seinfeld' among comendies that gave NBC Nielsen lead". Rocky Mountain News. p. 46D.
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- "This Little Wiggy" at The Simpsons.com
- "This Little Wiggy" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
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- "This Little Wiggy" at the Internet Movie Database