Two Dozen and One Greyhounds
"Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" is the 20th episode of The Simpsons' sixth season and originally aired on April 9, 1995. The episode was written by Mike Scully and directed by Bob Anderson. Frank Welker guest stars as Santa's Little Helper and various other dogs. In the episode, Santa's Little Helper has puppies with a dog that he met at the greyhound racetrack. When the Simpsons cannot take care of the puppies any longer, they decide to sell them; however, the puppies do not want to be separated. Montgomery Burns steals the puppies from the Simpsons, and decides to make a tuxedo out of them. Before he can do so, however, Bart and Lisa Simpson save the puppies from Mr. Burns, and ultimately convince him never to wear fur again.
The episode is inspired on Dodie Smith's 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians and Walt Disney Pictures' 1961 animated film adaptation One Hundred and One Dalmatians. The producers decided to have Mr. Burns communicate his horrific plan of making a tuxedo from the puppies through a song after determining that it would be a "fun and light" way to convey his plan of killing the greyhounds. "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" received a generally positive reception from television critics. During the week of its original American broadcast, the episode finished 55th in ratings, with a Nielsen rating of 7.3. Several reviews considered the episode to be one of their favorites of the series, and especially praised Mr. Burns' appearances.
The Simpsons' dog, Santa's Little Helper becomes very excited and runs away from home to the dog racing track, where he falls in love with a female greyhound named She's the Fastest. She is given to the Simpsons after her owner notes that she will no longer race after falling in love. One day, She's the Fastest gives birth to 25 puppies. Eventually, the puppies become difficult to manage, and Homer and Marge Simpson attempt to sell them to people more capable of giving them adequate care. After seeing the puppies unwilling to separate, however, people begin to leave. Suddenly, Montgomery Burns arrives and offers to let them live in his mansion. After the Simpsons choose not to sell the puppies to him, he steals them when they are not looking.
Bart and Lisa Simpson track the puppies to Mr. Burns' mansion, where they spy on him through a window. They see him treating the puppies well by giving them a bath. When one of the puppies stands on his hind legs, Mr. Burns picks him as his favorite of the bunch, claiming that the puppy reminds him of actor Rory Calhoun, and names him "Little Monty". After the bath, Mr. Burns walks into the next room, loads a gun, and sings a musical number called "See My Vest" (a parody of "Be Our Guest" from the 1991 film Beauty and the Beast) while demonstrating his wardrobe of fur clothing to his personal assistant, Waylon Smithers. After his performance, Burns prepares to kill all of the puppies, except for Little Monty, to make a new tuxedo for his wardrobe.
After learning about Mr. Burns' plan, Bart and Lisa sneak through the window and attempt to escape with the puppies down a laundry chute using Bart's socks. However, Mr. Burns is waiting for them at the bottom. As Mr. Burns is about to kill the dogs, Bart grabs Little Monty from Mr. Burns' hands and places him with the other puppies, hoping that Mr. Burns will not kill the dogs if he can not determine which is Little Monty. When Mr. Burns tells Little Monty to stand up, though, he does. As Mr. Burns bends down to pick up Little Monty, Bart reels a clothesline with some socks hanging from it, causing all of the puppies to stand up. Mr. Burns can not tell which is Little Monty, so he prepares to shoot them all. However, the standing dogs are too cute for him to kill and, emotionally touched, he promises to never wear fur or kill any animals that can do an amusing trick. Mr. Burns buys all of the puppies from the Simpsons, and raises them to be world-class racing dogs.
Inspiration, writing, and music
"Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" was written by Mike Scully and directed by Bob Anderson. The Simpsons writers Al Jean and Mike Reiss came up with the original idea for the episode. The idea came to them after watching the 1961 Disney film One Hundred and One Dalmatians. David Mirkin, the episode's show runner, later jokingly said that Jean and Reiss liked to steal ideas from Disney, and pointed to an episode in season eight that they wrote as proof, titled "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious", which was based on the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins. Mirkin thought that it was great that they could take stuff from Disney and do darker versions on The Simpsons "in a completely legal way".
Groening was happy with the episode because it felt like a callback to the first episode of The Simpsons, "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", and because it features references to One Hundred and One Dalmatians. The Disney film thrilled Groening as a kid, and was one of the reasons for why he was first interested in animation and cartooning. In One Hundred and One Dalmatians, the puppies watch cartoons on television several times; the idea of a cartoon within a cartoon thrilled Groening, and said that this idea inspired him to create The Itchy & Scratchy Show, a fictional television show within the Simpsons universe.
Mr. Burns says in the episode that the puppy that stands up only on its hind legs reminds him of Rory Calhoun, an American actor who lived from 1922 to 1999. The Simpsons writer George Meyer came up with the joke, but Groening argued against it because he did not think the audience would know who Calhoun was. The writers decided to keep it in anyway, because it was later expanded into a key part of the episode's ending. Several years later, Groening stated that he was proven correct after pointing to discussions on the Internet about the episode asking who Calhoun was.
As Bart and Lisa sneak away to Mr. Burns' mansion, they see him loading a gun and singing a musical number called "See My Vest", in which he proclaims his intention to kill the puppies to make a tuxedo out of them. When the staff discussed how they could gloss over the horrifying things Mr. Burns would do to the dogs, one of the writers suggested that if they communicated his plan through a song, it would stay "fun and light". Scully, who agreed that the idea was good, came in the following day with complete lyrics that he wrote for "See My Vest", which was a parody of the song "Be Our Guest", sung by Jerry Orbach in the 1991 film Beauty and the Beast. Mirkin loved Scully's work on the parody song, commenting, "The rhymes are really clever. It's one of our very best songs [on The Simpsons]." He also liked the fact that songs could be used in episodes of The Simpsons without the episodes turning into musicals, saying, "We'll just do one song and that's plenty. We have fun with that and then we're out."
Animation and voice acting
Even though animals in cartoons often behave with "semi-human awareness", Groening said he preferred animals in cartoons to behave exactly the way they do in real life, claiming that this was how animals were depicted in "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds". Mirkin said there were some exceptions for gags, but most of the time they tried to keep the animals acting realistically. The animal noises for the episode were performed by Frank Welker, who was praised by Mirkin on the DVD audio commentary for the episode, saying, "He can do anything, and it fits perfectly. You forget you're listening to a guy, and he's a pleasure to work with." Welker was also praised by Groening, who said Welker was unbelievably good at doing animal noises.
The staff had a "big fight" with the Fox network censors over the scene in which Santa's Little Helper mates with a female greyhound named She's The Fastest. The writers were originally worried about the idea, but Mirkin knew that they could shoot it in a certain way to show the dogs having sex without being explicit. In the scene's final version, the dogs are only seen from the shoulders up; the crew's animatic showing the scene in full was later released on DVD. Anderson noted that during the episode's censor screening, there was a giant laugh at the depiction.
The overarching plot of the episode, as well as its title, was inspired by the Disney film One Hundred and One Dalmatians, which deals with a large number of puppies similar to "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds". Besides the film, less obvious references to Disney-animated films are made throughout the episode. The song "See My Vest" sung by Mr. Burns is a parody of "Be Our Guest", which is sung by Jerry Orbach in the film Beauty and the Beast. The scene in which Santa's Little Helper and She's the Fastest are presented with a plate of spaghetti at Luigi's Italian restaurant parodies Lady and the Tramp.
The scene in which the greyhounds watch television is similar to the dalmatians of One Hundred and One Dalmatians. Instead of watching What's my Crime? like the dalmatians do in the film, the greyhounds watch the television series Models, Inc. The clerk that performs a mind-meld on Santa's Little Helper is a reference to the Vulcan mind-meld ability in Star Trek; the same music from the mind-meld scenes in Star Trek are played during the scene. At one point, Santa's Little Helper looks wistfully out the window of the Simpson family's car, and then morphs out of the car window in reference to a similar scene in Terminator 2: Judgment Day; music from that film plays in the background. Four of the puppies are named Jay, David, Paul and Branford, a reference to late-night talkshow hosts David Letterman and Jay Leno and their respective bandleaders Paul Shaffer and, at the time, Branford Marsalis.
In its original American broadcast, "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" finished 55th in ratings for the week of April 3–9, 1995, with a Nielsen rating of 7.3. The song "See My Vest" from the episode, sung by Mr. Burns, was later released on the album Songs in the Key of Springfield in 1997. The Daily Bruin complimented the song's lyrics as witty, and claimed that by listening to the song, memories of the episode came to mind. They noted how the musical piece revealed Mr. Burns' essence of character, and that it also commented on some disturbing elements of humankind. MSNBC compiled a list of "TV’s top 10 scariest characters", placing Mr. Burns at number one. In the list, they noted, "Burns is terrifying because he will do absolutely anything, and since it's a cartoon, he just might," pointing to "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" and his plans to make the puppies into a tuxedo as proof.
The episode was generally well received by television critics. In a review by the Toronto Star, Ben Rayner commented that "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" was one of his favorite episodes of the series, and concluded that Mr. Burns' "tour de force" performance was particularly captivating. The Toronto Star later produced a list of the best and worst The Simpsons episodes, in which they considered "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" one of the best episodes of the series and concluded that the musical number was one of the best scenes involving Mr. Burns. In a review for the sixth season DVD of The Simpsons, IGN's Todd Gilchrist found Burns' performance to be memorable, commenting that he "flirts with copyright infringement with his rendition of 'See My Vest'". Michael Price of IGN also considered Burns' performance to have reached a level of excellence comparable to "The Monorail Song" in "Marge vs. the Monorail".
In a review for The Simpsons season six DVD, review website DVD Verdict gave the episode a grade of B−. DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson appreciated the spoofs of Disney films, and also complimented "the most bizarre references to Rory Calhoun imaginable", concluding that the combination of these elements formed a "fine show". In a review for the Toronto Star, Ben Rayner enjoyed "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds", calling it one of the classic episodes of the series.
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- "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" at The Simpsons.com
- "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" at the Internet Movie Database
- Quotations related to "Two Dozen and One Greyhounds" at Wikiquote