New Kids on the Blecch
"New Kids on the Blecch" is the fourteenth episode of the twelfth season of The Simpsons. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 25, 2001. In the episode, a music producer selects Bart, Nelson, Milhouse and Ralph to be members of the next hit boyband, who record songs containing subliminal messages about joining the Navy.
The episode was written by Tim Long and directed by Steven Dean Moore. The episode's title is a play on the boyband New Kids on the Block and Mad Magazine's tendency to use the word 'blecch' a lot. The episode has received positive reviews from critics and was watched by almost 10 million viewers.
After seeing 38-year-old Carlos Lopes in the 1984 Summer Olympics on TV, Homer decides to participate in the Springfield marathon to prove to Marge that he is fit. In the end though, Bart comes out as a surprise winner, by entering from a side alley near the end, wearing a stereotypical Italian costume as a disguise. Unfortunately, while receiving the trophy, a bird rips off Bart's fake moustache, causing an angry mob to chase after him. Cornered, he accepts a ride from a stranger to escape. The stranger introduces himself as 'L.T. Smash', who happens to be a music producer. Smash offers Bart a career as a member of a boyband known as "The Party Posse", as his stunt showed he has the right bad boy attitude. Bart accepts, and becomes the Party Posse's fourth member, joining Nelson, Ralph and Milhouse. The Party Posse quickly ascend to stardom, albeit using complex voice enhancers built by NASA. They perform at Springfield Elementary to high applause.
The band releases a single video (directed by Ang Lee), titled "Drop Da Bomb", which contains the chorus, 'Yvan eht Nioj'. Lisa's growing suspicion around The Party Posse eventually results in her discovering the line is a subliminal recruiting message to join the Navy, as 'Yvan eht Nioj' is 'Join the Navy' written backwards. In addition, while freeze-framing the video Lisa discovers that a recruiting poster featuring Uncle Sam was included in the video for a split second. Lisa sees that Otto has decided to join the Navy, and so goes to find L.T. Smash, where she discovers that he is actually Lieutenant Smash. He says he is working to recruit people for the United States Navy, and that bands have often been used for recruiting. Lisa points out her discoveries to Homer and Marge, but they dismiss her accusations as jealousy of Bart. The events come to a head when The Party Posse perform at a concert on an aircraft carrier, which only increases Lisa's suspicion towards the band. During the first song (which also contains subliminal messages), Smash learns from his superior officer that Mad Magazine's next issue will lampoon The Party Posse, calling them 'The Potty Posse', and thus the band will no longer have any recruiting power. Smash's superior officer also explains the new administration is having 'Project Boy Band' shut down and turns off the band's voice enhancer, exposing the group's mediocre singing voices, and causing the concert to fail.
Aggravated by his superior officer's actions, Smash goes insane and threatens to send the carrier out to sea. When Smash completes his threat, a terrified audience leaves the carrier. Smash sails the ship to New York City in an attempt to destroy Mad Magazine Headquarters. Despite the attempts of boyband 'N Sync to stop Smash, he destroys the Mad Headquarters with the ship's missiles, although the Mad workers manage to survive. After Smash's criminal actions, he is arrested and the potential of the fraudulent Party Posse remains unfulfilled. However, the Posse is upset they did not appear on the cover of Mad.
The episode ends with 'N Sync talking about the Navy, saying that it is out there every day protecting them from Godzilla, pirates and jellyfish. Lance Bass then reveals that the band has signed JC Chasez up for the Navy and two navy MPs drag Chasez off screeching.
The episode was written by Tim Long and directed by Steven Dean Moore. Mike Scully was angry that they had not pitched enough story ideas, so he pitched this episode, along with "Trilogy of Error". During the pitch session, he suggested that 'N Sync guest star on one of the pitched episodes. The decision to add a government conspiracy came late, an idea which was pitched by George Meyer. At the table read for the episode, the cast ad-libbed the lyrics and music.
'N Sync instantly said yes to being asked to guest star, although Justin Timberlake had to record his lines separately from the rest of the band due to a family death. During the recording session, the staff brought their kids along to meet the band. Tom Hanks, who was filming Cast Away in the same studio, wanted to meet them and came by. The song that introduces 'N Sync every time they walk in is "No Strings Attached". Timberlake was reluctant to say "Word" since he swore it was something he would never say, so as a joke the editing team reused the one take where he said "Word" after nearly every line.
Annie Alleman of The Herald News named the episode her fourth favorite Simpsons episode. Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide said "When it parodies boy bands, “Blecch” has its moments. Granted, it’s tough to really mock boy bands, as they always bordered on self-parody; the Party Posse tunes sound a lot like the real thing. Still, the show works pretty well until it gets to the Navy side of things. Then it just becomes dopey and lacks the moderate bite of the earlier scenes. The show also becomes unintentionally eerie when it features an attack on New York". Judge Mac McEntire said the best moment of the episode was the irate choreographer. Corey Deiterman of the Houston Press listed 'N Sync as one of the top five worst musical guests in Simpsons history.
At one point in the episode, a flag is depicted on the side of a technical employed by military fighters in Middle Eastern dress. The flag in the episode resembles the flag adopted by the Syrian opposition in the Syrian Civil War, but is actually the Independence flag. The resemblance was cited by some supporters of the Syrian government and media in the Middle East as evidence that the Syrian rebellion was a foreign plot.
- Long, Tim (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "New Kids on the Blecch" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Scully, Mike (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "New Kids on the Blecch" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Kirkpatrick, Chris (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "New Kids on the Blecch" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Selman, Matt (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "New Kids on the Blecch" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Animation World Network. "U.S. Primetime TV Ratings For The Week Of February 19 – 25, 2001 | AWN | Animation World Network". AWN. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- Alleman, Annie (2003-02-13). "'Simpsons' -- favorites from a classic favorite". The Herald News. p. D1.
- "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season (2000)". Dvdmg.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "DVD Verdict Review - The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season". Dvdverdict.com. Retrieved 2012-11-07.
- "The Five Worst Musical Guests In Simpsons History". blogs.houstonpress.com. Retrieved 2013-03-21.
- Mackey, Robert. Egyptian TV Cites ‘Simpsons’ Episode as Proof Arab Spring Was Foreign Plot, New York Times, "The Lede" blog. Accessed May 6, 2014.
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