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22 Short Films About Springfield

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"22 Short Films About Springfield"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 149
Directed by Jim Reardon
Written by Richard Appel
David S. Cohen
Jonathan Collier
Jennifer Crittenden
Greg Daniels
Brent Forrester
Rachel Pulido
Steve Tompkins
Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Matt Groening
Writing Supervisor:
Greg Daniels
Showrunner(s) Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Production code 3F18
Original air date April 14, 1996
Couch gag The family are sea monkeys, and swim to a couch made of clam shells to stare at an open treasure chest.[1]
Commentary Matt Groening
Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Richard Appel
David S. Cohen
Rachel Pulido
Yeardley Smith
Jim Reardon
David Silverman
Guest appearance(s)

Phil Hartman as Lionel Hutz and the hospital board chairman[2]

Seasons

"22 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.[2] 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.[2] Phil Hartman guest starred as Lionel Hutz and the hospital board chairman.[2][1]

The episode depicts brief incidents experienced by a wide array of Springfield residents in a series of interconnected stories that take place over a single day. The episode's concept originated from the end segment of the season four episode "The Front", and serves as 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. The episode received positive reviews from critics, and is noted for its popularity among fans.

Plot[edit]

The episode is a series of short skits, each showing a slice of life in Springfield after Bart wonders if anything interesting happens to the town's citizens:

  1. Bart and Milhouse spit and squirt condiments from a highway overpass onto cars, then go to the Kwik-E Mart.
  2. There, Apu closes his shop to attend a party at Sanjay's house for four minutes, trapping Moleman in the store.
  3. Bart gets gum in Lisa's hair without noticing.
  4. Marge tries to remove the gum by putting a variety of foods on Lisa's head.
  5. Smithers suffers an allergic reaction to a bee sting while bike riding with Mr. Burns to the hospital.
  6. Dr. Nick comes under criticism from the hospital board for his unorthodox medical procedures.
  7. Grampa is treated with an electric light socket by Dr. Nick, saving his career.
  8. Moe gets robbed by Snake after Barney gives him $2,000 to pay for a portion of his $14 billion bar tab.
  9. While hosting Superintendent Chalmers for a luncheon, Principal Skinner burns his roast and bluffs his way through the meal, letting his house catch fire in the process.
  10. Homer accidentally traps Maggie in a newspaper vending box, and ends up uprooting the box and placing it in her bedroom.
  11. Chief Wiggum, Lou, and Eddie discuss the similarities and differences between McDonald's and Krusty Burger.
  12. Bumblebee Man's house is destroyed upon arriving home after a horrible day at work, causing his wife to leave him.
  13. Snake runs Wiggum over, and their ensuing fight ends with Herman capturing them at gunpoint in his store.
  14. Reverend Lovejoy urges his dog to use Flanders' lawn as a toilet.
  15. Various townspeople advise Marge and Lisa on how to remove the gum stuck in Lisa's hair.
  16. Cletus offers Brandine some shoes he found on a telephone line.
  17. Milhouse has to use the bathroom in Comic Book Guy's Android's Dungeon, but ends up leaving before he can use it.
  18. He goes with his father to Herman's store, where Milhouse accidentally knocks out Herman with a flail, saving his father, Snake, and Wiggum.
  19. Jake cuts the gum out of Lisa's hair, leaving her with a different hairstyle.
  20. Nelson laughs at people's misfortunes, including Lisa's new haircut, at Mrs. Glick tripping and falling into a trash can, and at an extremely tall man in a small VW Beetle car, who humiliates him to teach him a lesson.
  21. Bart and Milhouse squirt ketchup and mustard onto Nelson from the overpass, and conclude that life is interesting in their town after all.
  22. Professor Frink attempts to tell his story, but is cut off by the ending credits.[2]

Production[edit]

The episode's principal idea came from the season four episode "The Front", which contained a short sequence entitled "The Adventures of Ned Flanders", featuring its own title card and theme song, at its conclusion. The scene has no relevance to the main plot of the episode and was designed solely as filler to accommodate the episode's short runtime.[3] 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.[3] The title "22 Short Films About Springfield" was decided upon from the start of the episode's production,[3] even though there are not actually twenty-two stories in it.[4] Originally there were more scenes, but several of them had to be cut out for time.[3] 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.[3] Oakley wrote the Superintendent Chalmers story,[3] Weinstein did the Comic Book Guy and Milhouse scene,[4] David Cohen penned the Reverend Lovejoy sketch, as well as the deleted Krusty the Clown scene.[5] Brent Forrester wrote the Krusty Burger scene,[4] while Rachel Pulido wrote the Bumblebee Man one.[3] 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.[6]

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.[3] To solve this problem, a scene before the second act break, where the townspeople go to the Simpson 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.[3] 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.[7] 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.[4]

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".[3] 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.[3] 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.[5]

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.[4] 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.[4][8] The very tall man was a caricature of writer Ian Maxtone-Graham,[4] and 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.[3]

Cultural references[edit]

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,[2][9] and the music played during the segment's beginning was also taken from the film.[4] The story involving Chief Wiggum and Snake is a direct parody of the "Gold Watch" segment of the film. Snake runs over Wiggum at a red light, as Butch did to Marsellus Wallace, before crashing into a fire hydrant and beginning an on-foot chase.[4][9] 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.[2][9] The writers were pleased that Herman already existed as otherwise they would have had to create another character just for this scene.[3] The episode's title is a reference to the film Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould.[2]

Reception[edit]

In its original broadcast, "22 Short Films About Springfield" finished tied for 73rd in the weekly ratings for the week of April 8–14, 1996, with a Nielsen rating of 6.9. It was the seventh highest rated show from the Fox network that week.[10] 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".[11]

The episode is Bill Oakley's personal favorite episode, but it is hated by two prominent figures within the running of the show.[3] That said, the episode is frequently cited as a popular one amongst the show's fans on the Internet.[4] 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".[12] 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.[1] 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.[13] 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".[14] The episode is the favorite of British comedian Jimmy Carr who called it "a brilliant pastiche of art cinema".[15]

Legacy[edit]

The episode sparked the idea amongst the staff for a spin-off series entitled Springfield Stories[16] or simply Springfield.[17] The proposed show would focus on the town in general, rather than the Simpson family. Every week would be a different scenario, such as three short stories, an adventure with young Homer, or a story about a background character that was not tied into the Simpson family at all.[16] The idea never resulted in anything, as Groening realized that the staff did not have the manpower to produce another show as well as The Simpsons.[17][18] The staff maintains that it is something that they would still be interested in doing,[4] and that it "could happen someday."[18] "22 Short Films About Springfield" also helped inspire the Futurama episode "Three Hundred Big Boys".[5]

"Steamed Hams"[edit]

Half of a steamed hamburger; the relation between the dish and the "Steamed Hams" meme is due to Seymour calling hamburgers "Steamed hams"

The "Skinner & The Superintendent" segment of the episode became the popular subject of internet memes in 2017 and 2018. In the segment Seymour Skinner invents the term "steamed hams" to refer to hamburgers, claiming it is a common expression in Albany, New York. Over two decades after the episode's airing, the scene gained renewed popularity in Facebook groups and pages relating to The Simpsons. Fans of the show have been known to make video edits or pictures relating to the scene and, particularly in Australia, ask various stores if they stock "steamed hams". The similarity between Skinner's reference to "steamed hams"—a term he made up in the spur of the moment—and actual steamed cheeseburgers—a real life food item mainly available at restaurants in central Connecticut since the 1930s—appears to be coincidence.[citation needed]

In 2016, Australian supermarket chain Woolworths noted that "about 1000 people" commented on its Facebook page inquiring about "steamed hams". The company responded to these requests by posting an image of hams with the caption, "We've received a lot of feedback from you all in the last 24 hours about whether we stock 'Steamed Hams'. Please note that in Australia, we call them Hamburgers. 'Steamed Hams' is an Albany, New York expression. Fans of The Simpsons, this is for you".[19] The continuing popularity of the segment with Skinner and Superintendent Chalmers also caused an upsurge in fan-made YouTube remixes and variants in November 2017 and afterward, with even original writer of the segment Bill Oakley chiming in as well by releasing the original draft for the segment on Twitter.[20][21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "22 Short Films About Springfield". BBC. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Created by Matt Groening; edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. pp. 202–203. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. .
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Oakley, Bill (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Weinstein, Josh (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  5. ^ a b c Cohen, David (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  6. ^ Appel, Richard (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  7. ^ Reardon, Jim (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  8. ^ Pulido, Rachel (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  9. ^ a b c Murray, Noel (2010-03-25). "The Simpsons, "22 Short Films About Springfield"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2011-07-17. 
  10. ^ "Nielsen ratings/April 26-May 2". Long Beach Press-Telegram. 1993-05-05. p. C–6. 
  11. ^ Madden, Damian (March 31, 2002). "Simpsons: Film Festival". DVD Bits. Archived from the original on December 5, 2011. Retrieved December 19, 2011. 
  12. ^ "The Family Dynamic". Entertainment Weekly. 2003-01-29. Archived from the original on 10 May 2007. Retrieved 2007-05-09. 
  13. ^ Goldman, Eric; Dan Iverson, Brian Zoromski (2006-09-08). "The Simpsons: 17 Seasons, 17 Episodes". IGN. Retrieved 2007-10-19. 
  14. ^ Kennedy, Colin (September 2004). "The Ten Best Movie Gags In The Simpsons". Empire. p. 77. 
  15. ^ Jo Hunter; David Mattin; Jonathan Richards; Phoebe Greenwood; Jeremy Hazlehurst (2003-04-14). "Why there's no place like Homer's". The Times. p. 24. 
  16. ^ a b Groening, Matt (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  17. ^ a b Jeffery, Morgan (2014-12-12). "The Simpsons spinoff was once planned, reveals ex-showrunner". Digital Spy. 
  18. ^ a b Richards, Olly (2007-05-24). "Life In Development Hell". Empire. p. 76. 
  19. ^ "Hundreds Of People Won't Stop Asking This Grocery Store For Steamed Hams". Buzzfeed. Retrieved August 8, 2016. 
  20. ^ Frank, Allegra (January 4, 2018). "The internet revives The Simpsons' greatest joke, 'Steamed Hams': Let us now praise 'Steamed Hams'". Polygon. Retrieved January 7, 2018. 
  21. ^ Oakley, Bill [@thatbilloakley] (January 4, 2018). "Steamed Hams, but it's the original first draft in a thread" (Tweet) – via Twitter. [dead link]

External links[edit]