22 Short Films About Springfield
"22 Short Films About Springfield" (captioned on-screen as "Twenty-Two Short Films About Springfield") is the twenty-first episode of The Simpsons' seventh season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 14, 1996. It was written by Richard Appel, David S. Cohen, Jonathan Collier, Jennifer Crittenden, Greg Daniels, Brent Forrester, Dan Greaney, Rachel Pulido, Steve Tompkins, Josh Weinstein, Bill Oakley and Matt Groening, with the writing being supervised by Daniels. The episode was directed by Jim Reardon. Phil Hartman guest starred as Lionel Hutz and the hospital board chairman. The episode looks into the lives of other Springfield residents in a series of linked stories and originated from the end segment of the season four episode "The Front". The episode is a loose parody of Pulp Fiction, which gave the staff the idea of a possible spin-off from The Simpsons. The title is a reference to the film Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.
- 1. Bart and Milhouse spit and squirt condiments from a highway overpass onto cars, then go to the Kwik-E Mart.
- 2. There, Apu leaves his shop for four minutes to briefly attend a party at his brother Sanjay's house.
- 3. Bart gets gum in Lisa's hair without noticing, and Marge tries to get it out by putting a variety of foods on her head.
- 4. Smithers suffers an allergic reaction to a bee sting while bike riding with Mr. Burns, who makes him pedal the bike to the hospital; however, Mr. Burns is taken inside instead.
- 5. Dr. Nick comes under criticism from the medical board for his unorthodox medical procedures, called "nonsensical diagnosis", only to treat Abraham Simpson with an electric light socket, saving his career.
- 6. Moe gets robbed by Snake after Barney gives him $2,000 to pay for a portion of his $14 billion bar tab.
- 7. "Skinner & The Superintendent": Skinner hosts lunch for Superintendent Chalmers and when his roast is burned, he pretends that the smoke from his oven is steam from the "steamed clams" he is preparing for them. He then attempts to disguise food from Krusty Burger as his own cooking, emerging from the kitchen carrying hamburgers and insisting that he said that they were having "steamed hams" (apparently local Albany dialect for hamburgers). He then tries to cover up the kitchen being on fire by claiming that it contains an Aurora Borealis. Later, his mother is heard screaming, and a fire engine races to the house.
- 8. Homer accidentally traps Maggie in a newspaper vending box, and ends up uprooting the box (with Maggie inside) and placing it in her bedroom.
- 9. Chief Wiggum, Lou and Eddie discuss the similarities and differences between McDonald's and Krusty Burger, such as the former's Quarter Pounder with Cheese.
- 10. Bumblebee Man's house is destroyed upon arriving home after a horrible day at work, causing his wife to leave him.
- 11. Snake runs Wiggum over and the two begin to fight. They roll into Herman's shop, who captures them at gunpoint.
- 12. Reverend Lovejoy urges his pet Old English Sheepdog to use Ned Flanders' lawn as a toilet.
- 13. Various townspeople - including Flanders, Groundskeeper Willie, the Sea Captain, Otto, Dr. Hibbert, Sideshow Mel, Lionel Hutz, and Üter - advise Marge and Lisa on how to remove the gum stuck in Lisa's hair.
- 14. "Cletus the Slack-Jawed Yokel": Cletus offers Brandine some shoes he found on a telephone line.
- 15. Milhouse has to use the bathroom in Comic Book Guy's Android's Dungeon and has to purchase a comic book first, but ends up leaving before he can use it. He then goes with his father to Herman's store, where he accidentally knocks Herman out with a flail, saving his father, Snake, and Wiggum.
- 16. Jake cuts the gum out of Lisa's hair, leaving her with a different hairstyle.
- 17. Nelson laughs at Lisa's new haircut, at Mrs. Glick tripping and falling head-first into a trash can, and at an extremely tall man in a small VW Beetle car, who gets out and humiliates him to teach him a lesson.
- 18. Bart and Milhouse conclude that life is interesting in their town after all.
- 19. Lastly, "The Tomfoolery of Professor John Frink" is almost seen, but the episode ends before Frink can begin his story.
The episode's principal idea came from the season four episode "The Front", which featured a short scene entitled "The Adventures of Ned Flanders" at its conclusion. The scene had no relevance to the main plot of the episode and was designed solely to fill time. The staff loved the concept and attempted to fit similar scenes into other episodes, but none were short enough to require one. Show runners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein decided to make an entire episode of linked short scenes involving many of the show's characters, in a similar style to Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. The title "22 Short Films About Springfield" was decided upon from the start of the episode's production, even though there are not actually twenty-two stories in it. Originally there were more scenes, but several of them had to be cut out for time. To decide who would write each of the segments, all of the writers chose their top three favorite characters and put them into a hat, the names were drawn out and the writers were assigned their parts. Oakley wrote the Superintendent Chalmers story, Weinstein did the Comic Book Guy and Milhouse scene, David Cohen penned the Reverend Lovejoy sketch, as well as the deleted Krusty scene. Brent Forrester wrote the Krusty Burger scene, while Rachel Pulido, whose first Simpsons episode this was, wrote the Bumblebee Man one. Richard Appel wrote a deleted "elaborate fantasy segment" revolving around Marge, the only remnant of which is her cleaning the sink during the first Lisa scene, and also did a scene with Lionel Hutz that was dropped as well.
The episode's first draft was 65 pages long and needed to be cut down to just 42, so numerous scenes were cut for time or because they did not fit into the overall dynamic of the episode. To solve this problem, a scene before the second act break, where the townspeople go to the Simpsons house to provide advice of how Lisa can get the gum out of her hair, was created to include every character that did not appear anywhere else during the course of the episode. Weinstein and writing supervisor Greg Daniels was responsible for ordering and linking together the episodes, and director Jim Reardon had the challenge of segueing between each section in a way that did not make the change seem abrupt. Those that were hard to link were put before or after an act break or were given a theme song, one of which was cut from the Apu story, but was included as a deleted scene on the DVD.
Bill Oakley wrote the Chalmers scene because he is his all time favorite character from the show. The main reason he loved him was that, until Frank Grimes was created for the season eight episode "Homer's Enemy", Chalmers was the only character that "seemed to operate in the normal human universe." In previous episodes, Skinner and Chalmers' scenes together revolved around one joke: Skinner tells Chalmers an unbelievable lie, but Chalmers believes him anyway. So, their scene in this episode is made up of a string of thirteen interconnected lies. The dialogue between him and Skinner was something that had never been done before, in that it is just a long relaxed conversation with nothing important being said at all.
In the Mr. Burns story, every single word he yells at Smithers is real and used correctly. To maintain accuracy, the writers used a 19th-century slang thesaurus to look up words. Many of the Spanish words used in Bumblebee Man's segment are easily understood cognates of English and not accurate Spanish; this was done deliberately so that non-Spanish speakers could understand the dialogue without subtitles. The very tall man was a caricature of writer Ian Maxtone-Graham, and the barber was based on one from the Tracey Ullman shorts. The crowd on the street who laugh at Nelson includes caricatures of Matt Groening, Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein. Oakley wrote in the script that the street was filled with Springfield's biggest idiots and so the animators drew him, Weinstein and Groening into the scene.
The episode contains numerous references to Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Like the film, the episode's plot is episodic, though the stories are interconnected. The policemen's conversation about McDonald's parallels the famous "Royale With Cheese" discussion, and the music played during the segment's beginning was also taken from the film. The story involving Chief Wiggum and Snake is a direct parody of the "Gold Watch" segment of the film. Snake runs over the donut-carrying Wiggum at a red light, like Butch did to Marcellus Wallace, before crashing into a fire hydrant and beginning an on-foot chase. The two run into Herman's Military Antique shop, where Herman beats, ties up and gags the two, then waits for "Zed" to arrive, exactly as Maynard does in Pulp Fiction. The writers were pleased that Herman already existed as otherwise they would have had to create another character just for this scene. The episode's title is a reference to the film Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.
In its original American broadcast, "22 Short Films About Springfield" finished tied for 73rd in the weekly ratings for the week of April 8-April 14, 1996 with a Nielsen rating of 6.9. It was the seventh highest rated show from the Fox Network that week. On March 12, 2002, the episode was released in the United States on a DVD collection titled The Simpsons Film Festival, along with the season eleven episode "Beyond Blunderdome", the season four episode "Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie", and the season six episode "A Star is Burns".
The episode is Bill Oakley's personal favorite episode, but it is hated by two prominent figures within the running of the show. That said, the episode is frequently cited as a popular one amongst the show's fans on the internet. Entertainment Weekly placed the episode 14th on their top 25 The Simpsons episode list, praising the episode's structure and finding the Pulp Fiction references "priceless". Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, called it "an untypical episode, and a very good one," naming the Skinner and Chalmers story as the best. IGN named "A Fish Called Selma" the best episode of the seventh season, but found that "22 Short Films About Springfield" was "good competition" for the crown. Empire named the episode's Pulp Fiction parody the seventh best film gag in the show, calling Wiggum and Snake bound and gagged with red balls in their mouths "the sickest visual gag in Simpsons history". The episode is the favorite of British comedian Jimmy Carr who called it "a brilliant pastiche of art cinema".
The episode sparked the idea amongst the staff for a spin-off series entitled Springfield Stories or simply Springfield. The proposed show would focus on the town in general, rather than the Simpson family. Every week would be a different scenario: three short stories, an adventure with young Homer or a story about a background character that was not tied in to the Simpson family at all. The idea never came to anything, as Groening realized that the staff did not have the manpower to produce another show as well as The Simpsons. The staff maintains that it is something that they would still be interested in doing, and that it "could happen someday." "22 Short Films About Springfield" also helped inspire the Futurama episode "Three Hundred Big Boys".
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "22 Short Films About Springfield". BBC. Retrieved 2007-10-19.
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- Oakley, Bill (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Weinstein, Josh (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Cohen, David (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Appel, Richard (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Reardon, Jim (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Pulido, Rachel (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
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- Richards, Olly (2007-05-24). "Life In Development Hell". Empire. p. 76.
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