Worst Episode Ever
"Worst Episode Ever" is the eleventh episode of The Simpsons' twelfth season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 4, 2001. In the episode, Bart and Milhouse are banned from The Android's Dungeon after stopping Comic Book Guy from buying a box of priceless Star Wars memorabilia for $5. However, when Comic Book Guy suffers a massive heart attack after Tom Savini's show, he hires Bart and Milhouse as his replacements while he leaves his job to make friends.
"Worst Episode Ever" was written by Larry Doyle and directed by Matthew Nastuk. The series' staff found it hard to make Comic Book Guy seem likable, since he is usually portrayed as sarcastic and unfriendly. The episode features actor and makeup artist Tom Savini as himself. In its original broadcast, the episode was seen by approximately 10 million viewers, finishing in 27th place in the ratings the week it aired. Since its broadcast, the episode received positive reviews from critics, and Hank Azaria won a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for his performance as Comic Book Guy in the episode.
Bart and Milhouse go out to spend $50 that Bart won when he bet Homer that he could not eat a spoonful of rotten baking soda that Lisa dug out of the back of the refrigerator. But they get into trouble at the The Android's Dungeon when, after talking Martin Prince's mom out of selling Martin's rare and invaluable Star Wars items to Comic Book Guy for only five dollars, they are banned for life from Comic Book Guy's store. A scene cut from syndication features a scene where Homer reminiscences about his first banning where Homer ate a watermelon before the comedian Gallagher could smash it, causing the comedian to hit himself in the head with the hammer, and therefore throwing Homer out and banning him from all his performances, TV specials, and movies. Homer then said he never saw Gallagher again after that.
When they hear that special effects artist Tom Savini is to appear at The Android's Dungeon, they plot to sneak in, but are rebuked at the door. During the interview, Savini repeatedly plays tricks on Comic Book Guy, which causes him to suffer a heart attack. Comic Book Guy lets Bart and Milhouse run the store since he does not have any friends. The store becomes wildly successful under the management of the two boys, only to lose much of its newfound prosperity after Milhouse goes overboard in ordering a shipment of two thousand comics depicting "Biclops", a superhero with thick glasses, which flops spectacularly.
After arguing, the boys unintentionally discover a secret stash of illegal video clips. Bart and Milhouse charge admission for viewing such clips as a "good version" of The Godfather Part III, a clip of Mr. Rogers drunkenly yelling at the director of his show, a secret government plan to use Springfield as a testing zone for nuclear missiles, and Ned Flanders' alerting the police that Homer released a radioactive ape in his house. The scheme works until Chief Wiggum conducts a raid on the store. Despite this, the boys manage to keep the profits from their time managing the store. Meanwhile, Homer has been helping a recovering Comic Book Guy look for a friend, but his attempts fail until he meets Agnes Skinner. Comic Book Guy and Agnes become romantically involved. However one night while they are kissing in bed, Chief Wiggum charges Comic Book Guy for his pirated videotapes. Bart and Milhouse, freed from running the Android's Dungeon, decide that they had fun, but it was time to go back to school. The episode ends with a radioactive ape ordering Ned around.
"Worst Episode Ever" was written by Larry Doyle and directed by Matthew Nastuk. It was first broadcast on the Fox network in the United States on February 4, 2001. The episode was originally called "The Fiver", a reference to a scene in the episode that was eventually removed. The episode title was then changed to "Worst Episode Ever", a title which the staff were amused by. According to Doyle, "Worst Episode Ever" is the first episode in which Comic Book Guy has a major role. Because Comic Book Guy is usually sarcastic and unfriendly, the series' staff found it hard to make the character seem likable. For example, Hank Azaria, who plays Comic Book Guy among other characters in the series, had a difficult time trying to make the character sound sincere. "Comic Book Guy only ever pronounces things sarcastically", Azaria said in the DVD commentary for the episode. "It was hard to find a way to sound believable and have him say sincere things. It took a lot of different takes." Executive producer and former showrunner Mike Scully said, "It's tough when you take a character like Comic Book Guy or Krusty or Moe, to make them suddenly sympathetic and vulnerable. You have to cheat the character a little bit to open them up emotionally a little more."
In a scene in the episode, Ralph is seen entering the adult section of The Android's Dungeon. When he is off screen, Ralph can be heard saying "Everybody's hugging". In the DVD commentary for the episode, Azaria stated that the line is one of his favorite jokes in the series. Originally, Ralph's line would be "She's hungry", but it was eventually removed from the episode. The episode features American actor and makeup artist Tom Savini as himself. Savini accepted the role because he is friends with Dana Gould, a former staff writer on The Simpsons. In the DVD commentary for the episode, Doyle said that Savini was "really fun" when he visited to record his lines. In a scene in the episode, a crow is seen tearing apart an issue of "Biclops". The voice of the crow was recorded from a real crow, even though the staff usually use main cast members Dan Castellaneta and Nancy Cartwright to imitate animal noises. The general officer in the government film called "Secret Nuclear Defense Plan" was voiced by Azaria.
In order to demonstrate the durability of Radioactive Man #1000, Comic Book Guy pours soda on it, which bounces off and instead damages a batch of "lesser" comics. On top of the batch is an issue of Bongo Comics, a comic book written by Matt Groening, one of the co-creators of The Simpsons. The comedian Gallagher (voiced by Dan Castellaneta, not the actual comedian) is shown doing his routine with a watermelon during a flashback. While in The Android's Dungeon, Nelson examines a comic book called The Death of Sad Sack, a reference to both the American comic strip The Sad Sack and the "Death of Superman" story arc. When Homer and Comic Book Guy enter Moe's Tavern, Moe says "Get out and take your Sacagawea dollars with you" to one of his customers. A Sacagawea dollar is a United States dollar coin which has been minted since 2000. After he is thrown out of Moe's Tavern, Comic Book Guy says the word "loneliness" in Klingon, a language used by the fictional Klingons in the Star Trek universe. While arguing with Agnes, Comic Book Guy says "Now I know what ever happened to Baby Jane." The line is a reference to the 1960 suspense novel What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?. Martin's mother tries to sell Comic Book Guy several items relating to the Star Wars film series including Carrie Fisher's "anti-jiggle breast tape", George Lucas' handwritten original script of Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope and a film of a supposed alternate ending for the series where it is revealed that "Luke's father is Chewbacca."
While fighting Milhouse, Bart picks up a robotic toy which unfolds into an axe. Milhouse picks up a similar toy, but it instead unfolds into a watering can. The toys are based on the franchise Transformers. While fighting, Milhouse and Bart fall through a poster that hides a room in The Android's Dungeon. While the poster depicts American actress Rita Hayworth as the Marvel comics superheroine She-Hulk, the scene is a reference to the 1994 drama film The Shawshank Redemption, in which the main character escapes a prison by digging a tunnel in his wall behind a poster. One of the tapes that Bart and Milhouse watch shows Fred Rogers intoxicated. Executive producer and current showrunner Al Jean later met Rogers' wife at a hall of fame, and said that he was "really embarrassed" when he found out that she had seen the episode.
During Homer's antacid trip after eating the baking soda, the quotes that play out are Johnnie Cochran's closing argument of "If it doesn't fit, then you must acquit" during the O.J. Simpson murder trial, part of Richard Nixon's 1974 resignation speech from the Oval Office following the Watergate scandal with the quote "Therefore I shall resign the presidency...", and Neil Armstrong's "That's one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind" during the 1969 Apollo 11 moon walk.
Release and reception
In its original American broadcast on February 4, 2001, "Worst Episode Ever" received a 9.8 rating, according to Nielsen Media Research, translating to approximately 10 million viewers. The episode finished in 27th place in the ratings for the week of January 29-February 4, 2001. Later that year, Azaria won the 53rd Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance for his role as Comic Book Guy in the episode. When participating in the ceremony, the actors are only allowed to submit one episode each, and that year, Azaria stated that "Worst Episode Ever" was an "obvious" choice for him. It was not the first time Azaria won the award for Outstanding Voice-Over Performance; in 1998, he won it because of his portrayal of Apu Nahasapeemapetilon in the series. On August 18, 2009, the episode was released as part of a DVD set called The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season. Mike Scully, Al Jean, Tom Gammill, Max Pross, Matt Selman, Hank Azaria, Larry Doyle and Chris Kirkpatrick participated in the audio commentary for the episode.
Following its broadcast, "Worst Episode Ever" received mostly positive reviews from critics. Casey Burchby of DVD Talk enjoyed the episode and wrote that it has some "great stuff" in it, including the comic book "Biclops" that Milhouse over-orders. Jason Bailey, another reviewer for DVD talk, applauded the writers for making an episode around a supporting character, and wrote that it is "far from [the series' worst episode]". Cindy White of IGN described the episode as a "classic", and in 2006, Kimberley Potts of AOL put the episode in twelfth place in a list of the series' 20 best episodes. The episode was also well received by the series' staff; in the introduction of The Simpsons Beyond Forever!: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family ...Still Continued, Matt Groening wrote that he particularly enjoyed the episode and that it had a "very special story". In the DVD commentary for the episode, Doyle said that Milhouse's line "I'm a human boy, just like you" is the best line he has ever written. On the other hand, Mac MacEntire of DVD Verdict gave the episode a mixed review. Although he praised the episode's premise, he argued that the episode was "ill-balanced" and that the subplot took up too much time in the episode. DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson criticized the writers for making an episode based around a supporting character, and argued that Comic Book Guy was not featured enough in the episode. "'Ever' spends at least as much time with Bart and Milhouse as it does with CBG and Agnes", he wrote. He concluded that, aside from having a few "good moments", the episode is overall "pretty meh".
- Scully, Mike. (2009). Commentary for "Worst Episode Ever", in The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Doyle, Larry. (2009). Commentary for "Worst Episode Ever", in The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Azaria, Hank. (2009). Commentary for "Worst Episode Ever", in The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Maxtone-Graham, Ian. (2009). Commentary for "Worst Episode Ever", in The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season [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.
- Jean, Al. (2009). Commentary for "Worst Episode Ever", in The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Moore, Frazier (February 7, 2001). "CBS's 'Survivor,' NBC's 'ER' give networks a tie for first". Daily Breeze (Linda Lindus). p. A8.
- Elaine Dutka (August 14, 2001). "Morning Report". Los Angeles Times (Eddy Hartenstein). Retrieved July 25, 2011.
- "Emmy Prime-Time Award Winners". The Seattle Times (Frank A. Blethen). Associated Press. September 14, 1998. p. E3.
- Burchby, Casey (August 30, 2009). "The Simpsons: The Twelfth Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
- Bailey, Jason (August 18, 2009). "The Simpsons: The Twelfth Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
- White, Cindy (August 18, 2009). "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season DVD Review". IGN. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
- Potts, Kimberly (2006). "'The Simpsons' Best Episodes: No. 15 - 11". AOL. Archived from the original on January 1, 2009. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
- Groening 2002, p. 1
- McEntire, Mac (September 9, 2009). "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved July 23, 2011.
- Jacobson, Colin (September 2, 2009). "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season (2000)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved July 25, 2011.
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