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Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment

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"Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 171
Directed by Bob Anderson
Written by John Swartzwelder
Showrunner(s) Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Production code 4F15
Original air date March 16, 1997
Couch gag The family are depicted as cowboys; the couch, like a horse, rides away.[1]
Commentary Matt Groening
Josh Weinstein
Dan Castellaneta
Dave Thomas
Bob Anderson
David Silverman
Guest appearance(s)
Seasons

"Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment" is the 18th episode of The Simpsons' eighth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 16, 1997.[2] Prohibition is enacted in Springfield and Homer helps fight it by illegally supplying alcohol to the town. It was written by John Swartzwelder, and directed by Bob Anderson.[2] Dave Thomas guest stars as Rex Banner and Joe Mantegna returns as Fat Tony.[2]

Plot[edit]

During St. Patricks day, the town gathers in downtown for events and activities. A prohibitionist movement emerges in Springfield after Bart is accidentally intoxicated during the St. Patrick's Day celebration. The municipal government, wanting to keep the voters during election season, agrees to consider a ban. They discover that alcohol has actually been banned in Springfield for two centuries, and moves to enforce the law, prompting Moe to disguise his bar as a pet shop. However alcohol still continues to flow into the town due to the mob and with their bribery of the local law enforcers. With the town becoming impatient with the police's incompetence, Chief Wiggum is replaced by Rex Banner, an officer of the U.S. Treasury Department. Rex Banner sets up blockages on the city entrance bridges and buries all of the alcohol in a mass grave at the city dumps.

In the meantime, Homer figures out a way to keep Moe's bar operating, by becoming a bootlegger. One night, he and Bart sneak out to the city dump to reclaim the beer that was disposed of when the Prohibition law was enacted, escaping Rex Banner in the process. He then sets up shop in his basement pouring the beer into the finger holes of bowling balls. Using an intricate set of pipes under the Bowl-A-Rama, he bowls the balls into Moe's. Upon discovering it, Marge actually finds it a very good idea (since Homer is actually using his intellectual faculties and that he's making enough money to support the family). The media realizes someone's allowing Springfield's underground alcohol trade to flourish, and they give the still-unknown Homer the nickname "Beer Baron".

When his supply of liquor runs out, Homer begins to distill his own homemade liquor. However, his stills start to explode, due to Homer not knowing how to properly make his own alcohol. He is then confronted by a desperate ex-Chief Wiggum who is going through his garbage. Wiggum tells Homer about his distaste for Rex Banner. In an attempt to rekindle Wiggum's career, Homer allows the former Police Chief to turn him in, hoping that Wiggum will become police chief by doing what Rex Banner couldn't. After confessing to his crimes in public, Homer believes he is now a free man. Homer is told that he is to be punished, with Wiggum thinking he will just get a "slap to the wrist." The punishment that awaits him is expulsion from the town (and presumably death) by an archaic catapult, showing how anachronistic the law really was. Marge tells everyone that this law and punishment make no sense and it's meaningless to punish Homer, especially for their freedom to drink. Rex Banner steps up to lecture the town on the reasons why the law must be upheld. While he lectures the assembled Springfield citizens, Rex Banner accidentally steps on the catapult. Wiggum then has him catapulted and gets his job back. The town clerk then finds out that the Prohibition law was actually repealed a year after it was put in place, and so Homer is released. The mayor then asks if Homer can become the Beer Baron again and supply the town with alcohol, but Homer tells him that he is retired. Within five minutes Fat Tony is only too happy to oblige when Mayor Quimby asks him to flood the town with alcohol once more, and Springfield salutes its qualities as Homer proclaims his undying love of alcohol by saying, "To alcohol! The cause of... and solution to... all of life's problems." The entire town cheer Homer with beers in hands.

Production[edit]

The main plot of the episode is based on the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, in which alcohol was banned in the United States.[3] As The Simpsons has many episodes that have stories and jokes related to alcohol, the writers thought it was strange that they had never done an episode related to Prohibition, and that the idea seemed "perfect."[3] The episode features a vast amount of Irish stereotyping at the St. Patrick's Day celebration. This was a reference to when Conan O'Brien was a writer for the show and was of Irish descent, and his use of Irish stereotypes.[3] Various writers were very concerned about Bart getting drunk. This was why he drank the beer through a horn, to show that it was only accidental.[3] This was a toned down version of what was in John Swartzwelder's original script.[4] Originally Chief Wiggum's first line was "They're either drunk or on the cocaine", but it was deemed too old-fashioned.[5] The discovery of "more lines on the parchment" was a simple deus ex machina to get Homer freed and to end the episode.[3]

When Homer first enters Moe's "Pet Shop" the man that tips his hat to him outside was a background character used in the early seasons.[5] The riot at the beginning of the episode was taken from footage from the end of the season 6 episode "Lisa on Ice" and updated.[6] The line "To alcohol! The cause of... and solution to... all of life's problems," was originally the act break line at the end of act two, but was moved to the very end of the episode.[7]

Censorship[edit]

During the riot, a scene where an Irish mob blow-up a British chip shop named "John Bull's Fish & Chips" was censored on British television and the rest of Europe.[8] The episode first aired while the conflict in Northern Ireland known as The Troubles was ongoing and four years after the Shankill Road bombing in which ten people were killed by a Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) bomb which exploded prematurely in a chip shop.

Cultural references[edit]

The shot of the diner, a reference to Edward Hopper's Nighthawks.

The episode parodies the series The Untouchables, with the character of Rex Banner based on Robert Stack's portrayal of Eliot Ness,[1][9] and the voice of the narrator being based on that of Walter Winchell.[5] Barney leaving flowers outside the Duff brewery is, according to show runner Josh Weinstein, a reference to people leaving flowers at the grave sites of various Hollywood figures, with him specifically citing Rudolph Valentino and Marilyn Monroe as examples of this trend.[3] It may also be a direct reference to the Poe Toaster. The shot of the diner is a reference to Edward Hopper's Nighthawks painting.[3] A sign in Moe's Bar says "No Irish Need Apply" a reference to Anti-Irish sentiment.[10]

Reception[edit]

In its original broadcast, "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment" finished 39th in ratings for the week of March 10–26, 1997, with a Nielsen rating of 8.9, equivalent to approximately 8.6 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files.[11]

The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, called it "A nice episode in which Homer actually devises a clever plan to keep the beer flowing."[1] The Toronto Star described the episode as one of Bob Anderson's "classics."[12] The Daily Telegraph also characterized the episode as one of "The 10 Best Simpsons TV Episodes."[13] Robert Canning gave the episode 9.8/10 calling it his favorite episode of the series.[14]

Homer's line "To alcohol! The cause of... and solution to... all of life's problems" was described by Josh Weinstein as "one of the best, most truthful Simpsons statements ever."[3] In 2008, Entertainment Weekly included it in their list of "24 Endlessly Quotable TV Quips".[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment". BBC. Retrieved 2007-03-28. 
  2. ^ a b c Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 231. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. .
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Weinstein, Josh (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  4. ^ Groening, Matt (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  5. ^ a b c Silverman, David (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  6. ^ Anderson, Bob (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  7. ^ Weinstein, Josh; Silverman, David (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  8. ^ http://www.independent.ie/entertainment/tv-radio/doh-the-simpsons-are-about-to-land-26521423.html
  9. ^ Thomas, Dave (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Homer vs. The Eighteenth Amendment" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  10. ^ http://www.independent.ie/lifestyle/10-irish-references-in-the-simpsons-26699140.html
  11. ^ Associated Press (March 20, 1997). "Four newsmagazines in the top 10". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E. 
  12. ^ Rayner, Ben, "Offering up the goods on Springfield's finest; The Simpsons have breached the boundaries of animation. Today a director details how they do it, writes Ben Rayner," Toronto Star, October 30, 2005, pg. C.06.
  13. ^ Walton, James (2007-07-21). "The 10 Best Simpsons TV Episodes (In Chronological Order)". The Daily Telegraph. Telegraph Media Group. pp. Page 3. 
  14. ^ Canning, Robert (2009-08-11). "The Simpsons Flashback: "Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2010-06-01. 
  15. ^ "24 Endlessly Quotable TV Quips". Entertainment Weekly. 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-17. 

External links[edit]