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Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming

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"Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 137
Directed by Dominic Polcino
Written by Spike Feresten
Showrunner(s) Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Production code 3F08
Original air date November 26, 1995
Chalkboard gag "Wedgies are unhealthy for children and other living things"[1]
Couch gag The Simpsons are a family of sea monkeys and swim to a couch made of clam shells to stare at an open treasure chest.[2]
Commentary Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
Dominic Polcino
Guest appearance(s)

Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob
R. Lee Ermey as Colonel Leslie Hapablap

Seasons

"Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" is the ninth episode of The Simpsons' seventh season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 26, 1995. In the episode, Sideshow Bob attempts to rid the world of television.

The episode was written by freelance writer Spike Feresten, and features the fifth appearance of Sideshow Bob. Although Feresten received credit for the episode, the writing staff completely rewrote the episode and very little of Feresten's original script was left in the finished version. It was the first episode of The Simpsons to be directed by Dominic Polcino, who described it as being very difficult to direct. R. Lee Ermey, known for his role in Full Metal Jacket, guest stars as Col. Leslie "Hap" Hapablap while Kelsey Grammer reprises his role as Sideshow Bob.

The episode is a parody of "'60s-era nuclear war movies" and contains several references to Cold War films, including Twilight's Last Gleaming, Dr. Strangelove, and Fail-Safe. In its original broadcast, the episode finished 49th in ratings for the week of November 20–26, 1995, with a Nielsen rating of 8.7 and a 13% share of the audience.

Plot[edit]

At Springfield Minimum Security Prison, Sideshow Bob is disturbed when he hears the other inmates laughing at the inane antics of Krusty the Clown's television show. Believing that television is a fountain of "mindless drivel" and wanting to rid the world of it, Bob escapes while on work duty at a local Air Force Base. He gains access to a restricted area of the hangar, where he finds a 10-megaton nuclear weapon.

At the same time as these events, the Simpsons are attending an air show held at the base, before the signal on the big screen is interrupted by Bob, who threatens to detonate the nuclear bomb unless Springfield disables all television broadcasts. Upon hearing the announcement, everyone flees the airfield in panic, except for Bart and Lisa. Unable to locate Bob, Mayor Quimby decides to give in to Bob's ultimatum.

Krusty, refusing to submit to Bob's demands, takes refuge in a civil defense shack in the desert, which he uses to transmit a heavily improvised show. Bart and Lisa find their way into the cockpit of the Duff Blimp, where Bob, having lost his patience thanks to Krusty, tries to detonate the bomb, which turns out to be a dud. Lisa alerts the police to Bob's location, but Bob deflates the blimp and kidnaps Bart, before stealing the original Wright Brothers aircraft, which had been an exhibit at the air show. Bob attempts to carry out a kamikaze attack against the civil defense shack where Krusty is hiding, but the slow-moving plane ends up merely bouncing harmlessly off the shack. The authorities quickly arrest Bob and take him into custody while Bart is reunited with his family.

Production[edit]

A man wearing a cap smiles broadly.
Kelsey Grammer guest starred as Sideshow Bob for the fifth time.

"Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" was the fifth episode of The Simpsons to feature Sideshow Bob, after "Krusty Gets Busted", "Black Widower", "Cape Feare", and "Sideshow Bob Roberts". Executive producers Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein believed that every season of the show should contain an episode featuring Bob. However, Bob had already been in four episodes and the writers were having a difficult time coming up with new ways to include him.[3] The first draft of the episode was written by Spike Feresten, a freelance writer who later became known for his work on Seinfeld.[3] Although he received credit for the episode, the writing staff completely rewrote the episode and very little of Feresten's original script was left in the episode.[4] Oakley describes the episode as "one of the most arduous rewrites in the history of the show" because much of the dialogue had to be re-written.[3]

"Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" was the first episode of The Simpsons directed by Dominic Polcino. Polcino had worked as an assistant director on the show and had left the show but was offered a chance to be a director. He describes the episode as a "tough one to start with", especially the scenes with the Wright Flyer.[5] An early version of the script featured a longer scene at the air show that featured Hans Moleman flying an early flying machine.[3] The scene where Milhouse is in a jet pretending to fire missiles at his parents because he's upset with them, would later inspire the episode "A Milhouse Divided". In that episode, Milhouse's parents become divorced.[3]

A character modelled after Fox Network owner Rupert Murdoch briefly appears in a scene set in jail. The censors said that Murdoch could not be shown but Rupert Murdoch himself gave his permission for his caricature to be used.[3] R. Lee Ermey, known for his role in Full Metal Jacket, guest stars as Col. Leslie "Hap" Hapablap. The role was specifically written for him and much of his dialogue was difficult to write.[3] The line "What is your major malfunction?" is based on dialogue from Full Metal Jacket.[1]

Cultural references[edit]

The underground compound in the episode references the War Room from Dr. Strangelove.

The episode is a parody of "'60s-era nuclear war movies" and contains several references to Cold War films.[3] There were also several references to Dr. Strangelove: the underground compound resembles the War Room from the film; Professor Frink was redesigned to parody the title character; the tune that Sideshow Bob whistles while preparing the bomb is "We'll Meet Again", as sung by Vera Lynn at the end of the film; and Krusty's acting whilst he defends television is based on George C. Scott's performance as General Buck Turgidson.[3][6]

Another parodied film is the 1964 thriller Fail-Safe by Sidney Lumet: at the beginning of the third act of the episode, scenes of everyday life across Springfield are shown, and one by one, with a 'zooming' sound effect, they all freeze-frame in anticipation of the (supposedly) imminent nuclear blast; such was the ending of Fail-Safe.[3] One of the scenes before the supposed nuclear blast shows Maggie picking flowers in a field, with the camera zooming into her eye, and then the minuscule blast occurs. This is a parody of the infamous and controversial Daisy ad used by Lyndon B. Johnson in the 1964 United States presidential election.[6]

Reception[edit]

In its original broadcast, "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming" finished 49th in ratings for the week of November 20–26, 1995, with a Nielsen rating of 8.7 and a 13% share of the audience.[7] It was the fourth highest-rated show on the Fox network that week behind The X-Files, Beverly Hills, 90210, and Melrose Place.[8]

The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, wrote, "Probably the least satisfying of Sideshow Bob's gleamings - but there's enough slapstick and satire to keep things ticking along nicely."[2] DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson wrote, "Though it doesn’t compete with the best Bob shows, it has more than a few nice moments." He added that he enjoyed R. Lee Ermey's guest appearance as well as the jokes about the Fox network.[9] Jennifer Malkowski of DVD Verdict considered the best part of the episode to be when Milhouse was playing in the fighter jet at the air show. Malkowski concluded her review by giving the episode a grade of B−.[10]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 190. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. .
  2. ^ a b Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming". BBC. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Oakley, Bill (2005). Commentary for "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", in The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  4. ^ Rubin, Jeff (2006-09-29). "Soup For You - an interview with Spike Feresten". College Humour. Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2009-01-02. 
  5. ^ Polcino, Dominic (2005). Commentary for "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", in The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  6. ^ a b Weinstein, Josh (2005). Commentary for "Sideshow Bob's Last Gleaming", in The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  7. ^ "`Beatles Anthology' Falls Short in Ratings". New York Daily News. Associated Press. 1995-11-30. 
  8. ^ "'A-Beatles-C' takes a beating by NBC in Nielsen Ratings". St. Paul Pioneer Press. Associated Press. 2009-04-16. 
  9. ^ Jacobson, Colin (2006-01-05). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season (1995)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 
  10. ^ Malkowski, Judge (2006-01-16). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on 2008-12-04. Retrieved 2009-04-16. 

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