To Surveil with Love

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"To Surveil with Love"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 461
Prod. code MABF12
Orig. airdate May 2, 2010 (U.S.)
June 3, 2010 (UK)
Showrunner(s) Al Jean
Written by Michael Nobori
Directed by Lance Kramer
Couch gag The cast does a lip dub to Kesha's "Tik Tok".
Guest star(s) Eddie Izzard as Nigel Bakerbutcher

"To Surveil with Love" is the twentieth episode of The Simpsons' twenty-first season. It premiered on the Fox network in the United States on May 2, 2010 as the 461st episode of the whole series. In the episode, radiation seeps out of Homer's gym bag after a bomb squad blows it up and Springfield officials decide to suspend all civil liberties. Meanwhile, Lisa dyes her hair after being stereotyped for being blonde.[1][2]

The episode was written by Michael Nobori and directed by Lance Kramer and guest stars Eddie Izzard. It also featured a new sequence with Kesha's single "Tik Tok" as the theme song, replacing the whole opening sequence as part of "Fox Rocks Week" for which Fox shows were encouraged to incorporate music into programming. The episode was praised by critics for its storyline and satire of surveillance and conformity, while the opening sequence was criticized. The episode also received a 2.7/8 in the 18-49 Nielsen Rating demographic going down one-tenth from the previous episode "The Squirt and the Whale".


When Mr. Burns is informed that the Nuclear Power Plant has run out of room to store waste plutonium, Smithers hides some of the radioactive matter in Homer's gym bag. Shortly afterwards, Homer goes to the train station and forgets the bag. The police see the bag as a threat and decide to detonate it, causing a nuclear explosion in the train station. The incident sparks fear of terrorism, and the town votes to hire an British security consultant named Nigel Bakerbutcher to install surveillance cameras all around Springfield. Soon the entire town is being watched, but when Chief Wiggum and the other police officers get tired of watching the surveillance screens, they recruit some of the townspeople — including Marge and Ned Flanders — to keep watch. Marge is not comfortable watching the activities of her fellow townspeople, but Ned discovers he enjoys being Springfield's "conscience" and proceeds to nag everyone through loudspeakers on the cameras.

Meanwhile, Lisa is invited to join the school debate team, but soon discovers that she faces prejudice from the brunette supremacist judges, because she has blonde hair. This prejudice follows her during the town meeting when Cletus mocks her when she express her concerns over the freedom infringement. Marge tries to comfort Lisa by purchasing a children's book about prejudice, but she soon finds out that the book offers no solution for her problem and, to add an insult to the injury, Lisa learns that Bart has the same prejudice despite he himself being blonde. When she points that out, Bart defends himself admitting that while he's not as smart as Lisa, he can be manipulative and conniving. That night Lisa intentionally dyes her hair dark brown in order to teach everyone a lesson. At the next debate meeting, she intentionally presents a weak argument about how school uniforms would be good for the school and the students, since everyone would be the same and because it would encourage conformity. The judges enthusiastically agree with Lisa and angers her rival as she now realizes she can no longer take advantage of the blonde stereotype now that Lisa is a brunette. However, Lisa refuses to dumb herself down and points out to the judges that they only agreed with her because she has darker hair and not because of the strength of her debating skills. Shocked by the accusations, the male judges try to convince Lisa that she had a strong argument in favor of school uniforms. However, the female judge admits that she is a proud brunette supremacist in her belief of the blonde stereotype and humiliates the male judges in the process. Outraged by her confession, Lisa tells everyone that there are exceptions to every stereotype using the example of the nearby Comic Book Guy as proof that not all fat people are jolly. She also points out that just because she's a natural blonde, doesn't mean she's dumb and only dyed her hair dark brown to prove her point. When Lisa tried to prove not all old people are bad drivers, Grandpa Simpson crashes through the wall and weakens her argument.

Later the townspeople becomes frustrated by Ned's constant nagging and Bart then discovers that the Simpson family's backyard contains a blind spot. Soon, he and Homer are charging the townsfolk to use the yard to relax and do anything they want. When Ned confronts Homer and scolds him for creating a "Church of Misdemeanors", Homer retorts that it was Ned's fault, saying that his nagging has forced all the town's misbehaviour into one place because the of his power abuse and points out that Ned is literally playing God. Ned is troubled by this statement and apologizes to Springfield's citizens for interfering with their free will. In order to avoid any further surveillance abuse, he and Homer proceed to destroy every security camera in town. However, they soon learn their antics were filmed as a British reality TV show called American Oafs.


"Tik Tok" by Kesha was featured in the opening sequence of the episode.

The episode was written by Michael Nobori who served as a production assistant for seasons 20 and 21 and directed by Lance Kramer and guest stars Eddie Izzard performing impressions of Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and the character Nigel Bakerbutcher.[3] In an effort to attract more viewers for May sweeps, Fox made a week full of musical segments in all the shows called Fox Rocks. For The Simpsons, they had a couch gag with the characters lip dubbing Kesha's song "Tik Tok".[4] In an interview about the show, Izzard stated "I'd love to be in it, but they never asked me, and I don't want to push it. I think it's because I'm a cult – rather than a mainstream – name".[5][6]

Cultural references[edit]

Bart states that blond boys are not dumb, but "evil like in The Karate Kid or World War II".[7] The gay bar features Sesame Street-like characters.[8] The plutonium that is put in Homer's bag is stated to be powerful enough to create 17 Incredible Hulks and one Spider-Man.[8] Also, Comic Book Guy says he is not jolly because San Diego Comic-Con International might be moving to Anaheim.[7]


In its original American broadcast, "To Surveil with Love" was viewed by an estimated 6.057 million viewers and an 18-49 Nielsen Rating of 2.7 and a share of 8% coming second in its timeslot and going down one-tenth from the previous episode, "The Squirt and the Whale".[9] The episode ranked 25th in the 18-49 Nielsen Ratings for the week the 7th top rated show on Fox in the demographic and 5th highest scripted show.[10]

The episode was met with high positive reviews. Robert Canning of IGN gave the episode 8/10 and remarked that "Overall, it was a fun episode, hurt only by the uninteresting filler of Lisa dealing with blonde stereotypes. But even that delivered its share of memorable quotes. If the past few episodes are any indication, this season may go out on a very high note."[7] gave the episode 4/5 and stated "The Homer's backyard sequences felt reminiscent of the prior prohibition episode, but were still plenty of funny moments. While the actual plot was nothing too unique, we liked the ending with Flanders realizing he was playing God and the whole camera-setup being set up as a reality show in England."[11]

Sharon Knolle of TV Squad stated "From the inspired 'Tik Tok' musical opening sequence to the last gag, 'To Surveil With Love' ranks as one of the best 'Simpsons' episodes in years. I never expected the rest of the episode to live up to that killer opening, but, unbelievably, it just got better as it went along."[8] Todd VanDer Werff of A.V. Club gave the episode an A- and said "I thought this was a strong episode of The Simpsons. I laughed frequently throughout, I thought both of the major storylines mostly made sense and concluded well, and I enjoyed some of the ways the episode turned satire on its ear. I particularly liked the idea of Lisa conforming by becoming a brunette after everyone made fun of her for being a blonde. Dumb blonde jokes are as old as time itself, but the way the episode turned the whole thing into a sly parody of diversity and conformity was winning."[12]

Ariel Ponywhether of FireFox News gave the episode an A, remarked that "the episode is one of the better outings of the season" and concluded "There were some very slight characterization flaws, which detract slightly from the grade, as does the well-written but underdeveloped Lisa subplot. Add in excellent voice-over work by Eddie Izzard to the mix, however, and you have a solid episode."[13]

The Tik-Tok opening did not come without some criticism from fans protesting the deviation from the Simpsons canon. James Greene of put the sequence first on his list Ten Times The Simpsons Jumped the Shark, theorizing that it was only done for "an Internet talking point the next morning," that it was odd for Lisa to be the focal point for the sequence and criticising the choice of song ("let's face it, Ke$ha is barely singing").[14] Corey Deiterman of the Houston Press listed her as number two of the top five worst musical guests in Simpsons history.[15]


  1. ^ "Fox Primetime". Fox Flash. 2010-06-07. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ ""The Simpsons" To Surveil, with Love (2010)". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved June 29, 2010. 
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Eddie Izzard joins the Simpsons – as the Queen!". Zavvi Blog. April 29, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-30. 
  6. ^ Hanek, Joel. "Ke$sha's 'Tik Tok' invades 'The Simpsons'". MTV Newsroom. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  7. ^ a b c Canning, Robert (May 3, 2010). "The Simpsons: "To Surveil, With Love" TV Review". IGN. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  8. ^ a b c Knolle, Sharon. "'The Simpsons'-'To Surveil, With Love' Recap". TV Squad. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  9. ^ "Nielsen TV Ratings Sunday May 2, 2010: 60 Minutes, America's Funniest Home Videos Ratings, Extreme Makeover Home Edition Ratings, Desperate Housewives ratings, Brothers & Sisters ratings, Amazing Race ratings, Cold Case Ratings ratings, The Simpsons Ratings, 'Til Death ratings, Family Guy ratings, Cleveland Show Ratings, Minute To Win It Ratings, Celebrity Apprentice ratings, Dateline NBC ratings - TV Ratings, Nielsen Ratings, Television Show Ratings". 2010-05-03. Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  10. ^ "TV Ratings Top 25: Idol, Glee Tops With 18-49 ; Dancing Leads With Viewers - TV Ratings, Nielsen Ratings, Television Show Ratings". Retrieved 2010-07-12. 
  11. ^ Hochberger, Eric. "The Simpsons Review: To Surveil, With Love". TV Fanatic. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  12. ^ VanDerWerff, Todd. ""To Surveil With Love"/"Brotherly Love"/"Brian and Stewie"". A. V. Club. Retrieved May 3, 2010. 
  13. ^ "Review--The Simpsons "To Surveil, With Love"". Firefox News. Retrieved April 4, 2010. 
  14. ^ James Greene Jr. (May 6, 2010). "Ten Times The Simpsons Jumped the Shark". Retrieved January 12, 2012. 
  15. ^ "The Five Worst Musical Guests In Simpsons History". Retrieved 2013-03-21. 

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