Marge in Chains
"Marge in Chains" is the 21st episode of The Simpsons' fourth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 6, 1993. In the episode, Marge is arrested for shoplifting after forgetting to pay for an item at the Kwik-E-Mart. The family hires attorney Lionel Hutz to defend her at trial, but she is found guilty and sentenced to 30 days imprisonment. Homer, and the rest of the family have trouble coping without Marge. The townspeople start a riot when an annual bake sale missing Marge fails to raise enough money for a statue of Abraham Lincoln and they have to settle for a statue of Jimmy Carter. Mayor Quimby has Marge released from jail in order to save his career and quell the riot.
After its initial airing on Fox, the episode was later included as part of a 1997 video release titled The Simpsons: Crime and Punishment. It was released again on the 2005 edition of the same set. The episode is included in the June 15, 2004 DVD release of The Simpsons – The Complete Fourth Season. "Marge in Chains" received a positive reception from television critics. A quote by Lionel Hutz from the episode was included in The News Tribune's "Eight Great 'Simpsons' Quotes". The authors of I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide commented positively on the episode, as did reviews in The Daily Mirror and The Observer.
Many of Springfield's residents purchase "Juice Looseners" through the mail, which are inefficient and loud juicers built in Japan and shipped from there. One of the assembly line workers has the flu and coughs into the box destined for Homer, filling it with airborne germs. When the Juice Looseners arrive in Springfield, the dreaded Osaka Flu hits the town and many of the townspeople are affected by the illness. Due to exhaustion from having to look after the rest of her ill family, Marge accidentally forgets to pay for Grampa's bottle of bourbon when shopping at the Kwik-E-Mart. She is then arrested for shoplifting. Chief Wiggum tells Mayor Quimby about the arrest in confidence, and Quimby later reveals this fact to everyone in town during a public address. Marge's reputation is lowered dramatically among the townspeople, who now distrust her around their possessions. The family hires Lionel Hutz to defend Marge at her trial, but Hutz loses the case and the jury finds Marge guilty. She is sentenced to 30 days imprisonment at Springfield Women's Prison.
Marge's absence is felt at home as Homer and the rest of the family struggles to cope without her. Without Marge, the house shortly becomes a complete wreck. The annual bake sale also suffers – without Marge's marshmallow squares, the Springfield Park Commission fails to raise enough money to pay for a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Instead they purchase one of Jimmy Carter. The townspeople are enraged by this, and riot. When Marge is released from jail, the townspeople welcome her back and apologize for suspecting her. They even unveil a statue for Marge, though it is just the Carter statue with Marge's hair added to it. The last scene shows Bart and Lisa playing on the statue, which has been converted into a tether ball post.
"Marge in Chains" was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein and was the first episode that they wrote as staff writers. The script was assigned to them after somebody else had come up with the idea. The first draft of the script was "slightly more realistic" than the final version of the episode because Oakley and Weinstein had done a lot of research about women in prison, much of which was later replaced. For Apu and Sanjay's brief lines of Indian dialogue, the writers called the Embassy of India in Washington to get them to translate. The Embassy was not "interested or happy" but still did it.
In the episode, Jimmy Carter is referred to as "history's greatest monster". In the 2004 Season 4 DVD commentary for this episode, show runners Mike Reiss and Al Jean reveal that they did not like Carter, although they would vote for him ahead of George W. Bush. Kwik-E-Mart operator Apu testifies in a courtroom scene in the episode that he is able to recite 40,000 decimal places of the number pi. He correctly notes that the 40,000th digit is the number one. The episode's writers prepared for this scene by asking David H. Bailey of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (now at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) for the number of the 40,000th decimal place of pi. Bailey sent them back a printout of the first 40,000 digits.
"Marge in Chains" originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 6, 1993. The episode was selected for release in a 1997 video set of selected episodes titled: The Simpsons: Crime and Punishment. Other episodes included in the set were "Homer the Vigilante", "Bart the Fink", and "You Only Move Twice". It was included in The Simpsons season 4 DVD set, which was released June 15, 2004 – The Simpsons – The Complete Fourth Season. The episode was again included in the 2005 DVD release of the "Crime and Punishment" set.
David Crosby portrays himself in a cameo appearance in the episode as the 12-step sponsor for Lionel Hutz. During Marge's trial for shoplifting, prosecutors show the Zapruder film and assert that Marge was present on the grassy knoll when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The scene where Maude Flanders peers through a hole in a wall at Marge is a reference to the 1960 film Psycho. In Lionel Hutz's dream of what the world would be like without lawyers, the writers had wanted to use the song "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing" which was used in Coca-Cola advertisements, but they could not get the rights to it. Instead, they used a similar instrumental theme.
In its original broadcast, "Marge in Chains" finished 31st in ratings for the week of May 3–9, 1993, with a Nielsen rating of 11.1, equivalent to approximately 10.3 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Beverly Hills, 90210.
In a review of the episode in The Observer, Caroline Boucher wrote: "My domestic Simpsons correspondent, Simon, reports a particularly fine episode, Marge in Chains to the extent that he watched the tape twice." Karl French of Financial Times characterized the plot of the episode as a "modern version" of It's a Wonderful Life. Dusty Lane of The News Tribune cited a quote from Lionel Hutz in the episode among his list of "Eight Great 'Simpsons' Quotes" – "Well, he's kind of had it in for me since I kinda ran over his dog. Well, replace the word 'kinda' with the word 'repeatedly,' and the word 'dog' with 'son'."
Jessica Mellor of The Daily Mirror highlighted the episode in a review of The Simpsons season four DVD release, along with "Kamp Krusty", "New Kid on the Block", and "I Love Lisa", commenting: "Springfield's finest prove once again why they are the cleverest thing on telly." In a section on the episode in their book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood wrote: "We like Bart's plan to rescue Marge from prison by becoming the glamorous Bartina, and Lionel Hutz is supremely inept".
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