The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular
"The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" is the tenth episode of The Simpsons' seventh season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on December 3, 1995. As the title suggests, it is the 138th episode and the third clip show episode of The Simpsons after "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show" and "Another Simpsons Clip Show". While the "138th Episode Spectacular" compiles sequences from episodes throughout the entire Simpsons series like the previous two, it also shows clips from the original Simpsons shorts from The Tracey Ullman Show and other previously unaired material. Like the Halloween specials, the episode is considered non-canon and falls outside of the show's regular continuity.
The "138th Episode Spectacular" was written by Jon Vitti and directed by David Silverman, and is a parody of the common practice among live-action series to produce clip shows. It has received positive reviews, and was one of the most watched episodes of the season with a Nielsen rating of 9.5.
Troy McClure hosts this episode, which highlights individual scenes and sequences from throughout the show and offers never-before-seen outtakes. McClure starts the episode by showing a brief presentation of how The Simpsons series was conceived by Matt Groening, James L. Brooks, and Sam Simon. He goes on to present some clips of the original shorts that aired on The Tracey Ullman Show, including the first one, "Good Night", in its entirety. Next, a presumed commercial break is introduced with a trivia question about the message that appears when Maggie Simpson is scanned by the cash register during the show's opening sequence; the answer is revealed (falsely) to be "NRA4EVER." The show then returns to McClure, who responds to questions from fan mail by showing clips that contain the answers. The letters include questions on Homer's growing stupidity, how the cast and crew can create an episode per week, and hints of Waylon Smithers' homosexuality.
Another commercial break is then introduced with a trivia question, this time concerning which two popular characters have died within the past year; the answer is revealed to be Bleeding Gums Murphy and Dr. Marvin Monroe, although neither of them were ever popular (and the latter was not actually dead, as revealed in "Diatribe of a Mad Housewife"). McClure then presents deleted scenes from Simpsons episodes, "Krusty Gets Kancelled", "$pringfield (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Legalized Gambling)", "Mother Simpson", "Treehouse of Horror IV", "Homer and Apu", and "Burns' Heir".
McClure also reveals that alternate endings to part two of "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" were created to prevent the staff on The Simpsons from spoiling the mystery that "all of America was trying to solve [...] this past summer". These alternate endings, most of which consist of random characters shooting Mr. Burns, conclude with a more elaborate ending in which Smithers is revealed to be the assailant. Troy McClure ends the episode by showing a montage of "hardcore nudity" (scenes of The Simpsons characters naked), set to the KC and the Sunshine Band song "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty".
As the title suggests, "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" is the 138th episode of The Simpsons, although it is the 155th episode when placed in production order. It is the third Simpsons clip show, after "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show" and "Another Simpsons Clip Show". It was written by Jon Vitti, who used the pseudonym "Penny Wise" in the closing credits because he did not want to be credited for writing a clip show. The episode was directed by David Silverman, who also did not want to be credited, and used the pseudonym "Pound Foolish" in the closing credits.
During the early years of the show, Fox network officials forced the Simpsons staff to produce clip shows in order to save money. Originally, the producers were ordered to produce one clip show per season in order to meet episode limits imposed by the network. Fox network officials reasoned that clip shows could be produced at half the cost of a normal episode, but syndication rights could be sold at full price. The staff, however, felt such a large number of clip shows would alienate fans of the series.
Former show runner Bill Oakley thought the episode was one of the better clip shows of The Simpsons, because it had more original and interesting material than the others. Oakley enjoyed showing deleted scenes from previous episodes and the Simpsons shorts, and particularly enjoyed the montage of couch gags at the beginning of the episode. The staff tried to entertain themselves while producing the clip show, and Oakley said by having the only actor be Phil Hartman as Troy McClure, it was "guaranteed to be fun".
One of the clips shown in the episode comes from the season four episode "Marge Gets a Job", in which Smithers has a dream that he is sleeping and Mr. Burns flies through a window into his room. The sequence shows Burns flying towards a happy-looking Smithers. The original clip went on for a few seconds longer, but had to be trimmed down in order to remove portions that showed "Mr. Burns land[ing] in a particular position on Smithers anatomy". There were also issues with "the lump in his bed", which the animators said they had drawn as his knee, but the censors had mistakenly believed was an erection.
A deleted scene from the season five episode "Burns' Heir" is also shown, in which a robotic Richard Simmons dances outside Burns's mansion to the 1976 song "(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty". It was cut from "Burns' Heir" because the writers did not think it was funny, nor did it do well with a test audience, although Oakley thought the animation was terrific. To the production staff's surprise, the scene would make the audience "erupt with laughter" when screened at animation conventions and college presentations, so they decided to insert it in this episode.
The montage of nude scenes over the ending credits includes the original animation of Homer and Marge snuggling from Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy, which was dropped from that episode and reanimated after Fox censors thought it was too explicit.
Due to the amount of interest in the ending of the "Who Shot Mr. Burns?" episode, David Mirkin wrote several "terrible endings" and recorded several alternate endings with Harry Shearer serving as the only voice actor. Mirkin's original intention was to fool the production staff and also leak the endings to various media outlets; much to his surprise, Mirkin failed to successfully fool the staff. Several endings were animated that showed various characters, such as Barney, Moe, and Apu, shooting Mr. Burns, and were presented as part of this episode.
During the opening credits the episode is advertised as having "twenty-three percent new footage", while the rest are clips taken from previous episodes. The five shorts used in this episode are "Good Night", which was featured in its entirety, and portions of "The Perfect Crime", "Space Patrol", "World War III", and "Bathtime". Some parts of the episode contain montages of only a few seconds-long clips, such as those referring to Homer's increased stupidity ("Blood Feud", "Flaming Moe's", "Marge vs. the Monorail", "Deep Space Homer", and "Treehouse of Horror V"), or those suggesting Smithers' homosexuality ("Rosebud", "Dog of Death", "Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy", and "Marge Gets a Job").
|Episode name (in order of appearance)||Season||Clip description|
|"Good Night"||shorts||Homer and Marge tuck the kids into bed.|
|"The Perfect Crime"||shorts||Maggie reveals the thief of Marge's cookies, Bart.|
|"Space Patrol"||shorts||Bart, Lisa, and Maggie play Space Patrol and get into a fight.|
|"World War III"||shorts||Saying that it is World War III, Homer tests how long it takes his family to get into the bomb shelter.|
|"Bathtime"||shorts||Homer tries to force Bart to take a bath but Bart pranks Homer instead.|
|Montage sequence||2–6||Homer gets more and more stupid each season.|
|Montage sequence||3–5||Waylon Smithers fantasizes about Mr. Burns.|
|Montage sequence||4, 5 & 7||Various deleted scenes from previous episodes.|
|“Who Shot Mr. Burns? (Part II)"||7||(unaired) Alternative ending in which Waylon Smithers is revealed to have shot Mr. Burns.|
|Montage sequence||1–6||"Hardcore nudity" in The Simpsons.|
The entire setup of Troy McClure presenting the episode is a parody of the practice by live-action series to produce clip shows in general, by celebrating a completely arbitrary milestone and by making exaggerated use of the conventions of traditional highlights shows, such as a grand introduction and relentlessly showbizzy host.
The episode makes references to several films and television shows. The Tracey Ullman Show is referred to as "the nation's showcase for psychiatrist jokes and musical comedy numbers", while the outtakes right before the commercial breaks parodies television series such as Roseanne and Home Improvement (which regularly aired similar outtakes). The deleted scene from "$pringfield" in which Homer plays blackjack with James Bond parodies the 1967 film Casino Royale. The deleted scene from "Burns' Heir" in which the robotic Richard Simmons is shot through the head and repairs itself parodies the liquid metal T-1000 in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991). The episode satirizes the Fox network in particular, as the two specials mentioned in the beginning, Alien Nose Job and Five Fabulous Weeks Of 'The Chevy Chase Show', are references to two actual programs that have aired on the network: The Chevy Chase Show (1993) and Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction (1995). Several famous musical themes are used or parodied in the clips, such as when Homer sings the theme song from The Flintstones, and Johann Strauss II's Blue Danube is heard in the background of one scene. The show's producers are depicted as animated characters in the introduction: Groening is a bald Southern patriot who wields a gun wearing an eye patch, a reference to the promotional poster of the 1970 film Patton, and his own comic strip Life in Hell; Brooks is seen as Rich Uncle Pennybags, the tycoon from Monopoly; and Simon's appearance resembles Howard Hughes. One of Smithers' fantasies is a parody of Marilyn Monroe's famous happy birthday song to President John F. Kennedy, while another one is an allusion to Peter Pan flying through the window. The book that Krusty tries to sell is a reference to Madonna's book entitled Sex. "NRA4EVER," the message that appears on a cash register during the opening sequence reference in a trivia question, is a reference to the National Rifle Association.
The episode ranked among the ten most heavily viewed episodes of the seventh season. After its initial American airing, the episode received a Nielsen rating of 9.5, and a Nielsen rank of 48. The episode has become study material for sociology courses at University of California, Berkeley, where it is used to "examine issues of the production and reception of cultural objects, in this case, a satirical cartoon show", and to figure out what it is "trying to tell audiences about aspects primarily of American society, and, to a lesser extent, about other societies." Some questions asked in the courses include: "What aspects of American society are being addressed in the episode? What aspects of them are used to make the points? How is the satire conveyed: through language? Drawing? Music? Is the behavior of each character consistent with his/her character as developed over the years? Can we identify elements of the historical/political context that the writers are satirizing? What is the difference between satire and parody?" Considered a spoof of television clip shows, the episode is seen drawing attention to prevailing televisual conventions and reminds viewers that The Simpsons itself participates actively in that same cultural legacy.
The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, thought "the out-takes are up to standard" and contains "a number of great self-referential moments". Simone Knox praised its visual style in her article Reading the Ungraspable Double-Codedness of "The Simpsons". The episode itself has been described by some critics as a kind of self-imposed benchmark of the show itself, with writer Bill Keveney commenting, "the show picks its own benchmarks, as it did in 1995". Knox referred to it as not simply a clip show, "but a ‘clip show’ that looks at the series with a sense of hyper-self-consciousness about its own textuality." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson said even though the episode is a clip show, it "gussies up the concept with some interesting elements, and keeps repetitive material to a minimum. Instead, it offers lots of then-unseen footage as well as old snippets from The Tracey Ullman Show. It still feels like a cheap way to crank out a new episode, but it’s one of the better clip shows you’ll see." Jennifer Malkowski of DVD Verdict gave the episode a B+ grade and commented, "apart from the creative material, what really makes this [episode] shine is the hilarious hosting by Troy McClure." Dave Foster of DVD Times criticized the episode: "Despite some interesting concepts such as a bored Troy McClure presenting to much amusement and the presence of deleted scenes and Tracey Ullman shorts amongst the clips, this is an episode that tries hard to find a hook but never quite manages, assuring it'll never make it into regular rotation on this viewer's watch."
- Groening, Matt (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Treehouse of Horror" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Some syndicated airings end "Good Night" after Homer and Marge are in bed and don't include the part where all three of the kids get in bed with them after being too scared to sleep in their own rooms.
- Groening, Matt (2005). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Mirkin, David (2005). The Simpsons The Complete Sixth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Another Simpsons Clip Show" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2005). The Simpsons The Complete Sixth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Another Simpsons Clip Show" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Oakley, Bill (2005). The Simpsons The Complete Seventh Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Weinstein, Josh (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Mirkin, David (2005). Commentary for the episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns (Part One)". The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Mirkin, David (2005). Commentary for the episode "Who Shot Mr. Burns (Part Two)". The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Richmond & Coffman 1997, p. 191.
- Ott, p. 85
- Ott, p. 86
- "The Simpsons: The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular Recap". TV.com. 2008-10-29. Retrieved 2009-02-01.
- The referenced clips are from the episodes "Mr. Plow", "Bart of Darkness", "Rosebud", "'Round Springfield", "Bart's Girlfriend", "Homie the Clown", "Bart vs. Australia", "Homer Badman", "Lisa's First Word", "Brush with Greatness", "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy", "Homer Badman", "And Maggie Makes Three", "Treehouse of Horror III", "Sweet Seymour Skinner's Baadasssss Song", "Homer the Great", "Like Father, Like Clown", "I Love Lisa", "The Call of the Simpsons", and "Colonel Homer".
- Knox, Simone (Summer 2006). "Reading the Ungraspable Double-Codedness of "The Simpsons"". Journal of Popular Film and Television (Heldref Publications) 34 (2): 72–81. ISSN 0195-6051.
- Ott, p. 79
- Ott, p. 83
- Ott, pp. 87-88
- Ott, p. 82
- Ott, p. 87
- Turner 2004, p. 3.
- "Prime-Time Ratings". The Orange County Register. December 6, 1995. pp. F02.
- Thomas B. Gold (2008). "The Simpsons Global Mirror" (PDF). University of California Berkeley. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-04-07. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
- Ott, p. 78
- Martyn (2006)
- Jacobson, Colin (2006-01-05). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season (1995)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Malkowski, Jennifer (2006-01-16). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Foster, Dave (2006-02-25). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Times. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M.
- Martyn, Warren; Adrian Wood (2000). I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide. Virgin Books. Section: "138th Episode Spectacular. ISBN 0-7535-0495-2.
- Ott, Brian L. (2007). The Small Screen: How Television Equips Us to Live in the Information Age. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 78–98. ISBN 1-4051-6154-X.
- Turner, Chris (2004). Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation. Foreword by Douglas Coupland. (1st ed.). Toronto: Random House Canada. ISBN 978-0-679-31318-2. OCLC 55682258.
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