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The Springfield Files

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"The Springfield Files"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 163
Directed by Steven Dean Moore
Written by Reid Harrison
Showrunner(s) Al Jean
Mike Reiss
Production code 3G01
Original air date January 12, 1997
Chalkboard gag "The truth is not out there".[1]
Couch gag The Simpsons fly in on jet packs.[2]
Commentary Matt Groening
Al Jean
Mike Reiss
Reid Harrison
Steven Dean Moore
David Silverman
Guest appearance(s)
Seasons

"The Springfield Files" is the tenth episode of The Simpsons' eighth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 12, 1997.[1] In the episode, Homer believes he has discovered an alien in Springfield. It was written by Reid Harrison and directed by Steven Dean Moore. Leonard Nimoy guest stars as himself and David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson guest star as agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully, their characters on The X-Files.[1] The episode serves as a crossover with The X-Files and features numerous references to the series. The story came from former showrunners Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who returned to produce this episode while under contract with The Walt Disney Company. It received mostly positive reviews from critics; Jean and Reiss won an Annie Award for producing it.

Plot[edit]

In a framing story, Leonard Nimoy is hosting a programme about alien encounters, and begins the episode by talking about an "encounter" that occurred in Springfield. On a Friday, Homer tells Lenny and Carl that they should sneak out of work early and start drinking beer. Homer puts in an old tape of them working into the security camera. That night at Moe's, after drinking over 10 beers, a drunken Homer is forced to walk home after Moe refuses to allow Homer to drive, but takes a wrong path and ends up in the woods. In a clearing, he encounters a glowing, thin-boned alien. Although the alien tells him "Don't be afraid," Homer panics and runs home screaming.

The rest of the family do not believe Homer's story and his attempts to report the alien sighting to the police are dismissed by Chief Wiggum. Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully of the FBI hear of the sighting and go to investigate. After receiving no results from their psychological tests of him, Homer fails to provide any proof that he actually saw an alien. Homer is ridiculed by most of the neighborhood; even Marge refuses to believe in his claims, but Bart admits that he believes Homer. The next Friday night, the pair camp out in the forest. The alien arrives and promises peace, but Homer scares it away when he accidentally steps on their campfire and screams in pain. Bart captures the entire incident on tape.

Nimoy bids the audience goodnight. He is then reminded that the show still has ten minutes left by an off-screen Squeaky-Voiced Teen, at which point he runs to his car and leaves. The Squeaky-Voiced Teen takes over narrating duties.

Following the successful capture of the alien's existence, Homer and Bart present it to the media. Everyone in town finally believes Homer, even knocking on his door and asking Homer questions. During a church lecture, Reverend Lovejoy gets emotional talking about the character E.T. Meanwhile, Lisa maintains that there must be a logical explanation for the alien. Friday comes again and everyone goes to the forest. The alien appears, promising love, but the townspeople begin to riot, and charge at the alien. Lisa and Waylon Smithers stop them just in time, showing that the "alien" is actually Mr. Burns. Smithers explains that Burns receives longevity treatment once a week in order to cheat death; this leaves him disoriented, as well as giving him a soft, high pitched voice as a result of a vocal cord scraping. Back to his normal self, Burns reveals that his green glow is due to many years of working in his nuclear plant. After threatening to bring "fear, famine [and] pestilence" instead of peace and love to the people of Springfield, he is given another booster injection from Dr. Nick. Reverting to his "alien" self, he begins to sing "Good Morning Starshine", with the entire crowd, even a returned Nimoy, joining in.

The Squeaky-Voiced Teen closes the episode with a botched attempt at telling the viewers to watch the skies.

Production[edit]

Chris Carter, creator of The X-Files, called it an "honor" for his show to be satirized in the episode.

The episode was produced by Al Jean and Mike Reiss, who had served as showrunners of seasons three and four. They returned to the show to produce this and several other episodes while under contract with The Walt Disney Company.[3] The episode was written by Reid Harrison and directed by Steven Dean Moore.[1] It had one of the longest episode gaps between its conception to the time it was finished.[4] The idea was first conceived at a story retreat. Jean found a copy of TV Guide while in the bathroom, with The X-Files on the cover. Feeling a crossover would be a good idea, he came back into the room, told Reiss his idea, and the pair pitched it.[4] None of the other staff wanted to do it, so Reiss and Jean decided to do it themselves.[4] Before the episode was produced, the script was sent to Chris Carter, the creator of The X-Files, who said that it was an "honor" to be satirized by The Simpsons.[4][5] Jean was worried that the episode was not funny, as at the table reading there were only a few of the writers present and as such, the script got no laughs at all.[4] It took a long time to come up with an ending, and an explanation for the alien. Originally, it was just going to be left as a mystery.[6] Mulder and Scully's office was designed to be exactly the same as the one used in The X-Files.[7] After it had been finished, Fox sent the episode out for a critical review, which was "really great".[6] The scene with the "Homer is a dope" T-shirts originally had an extra line: "I told you, we're sold out!", thus filling in the plot error in the actual episode in which Homer asks for some T-shirts, despite just being told that they were sold out.[7] The scene after Homer's first encounter with the alien, in which he runs through a field writing "Yahhh!" in the grass, was written by David M. Stern, and added in after the original read through.[4]

Cultural references[edit]

  • The Leonard Nimoy segments are a send-up of the paranormal documentary series In Search Of..., which Nimoy hosted.[8]
  • In addition to the appearances of Mulder and Scully, the episode features several other references to The X-Files.
    • Mulder's FBI badge has a picture of himself only wearing a speedo on it; this is a reference to a scene in The X-Files episode "Duane Barry" in which David Duchovny wore just a speedo.[4]
    • In the scene where Scully gives Homer a lie detector test, The Smoking Man is in the background.[2][7]
  • The Budweiser Frogs appear in the swamp, chanting their names, "Bud... Weis... Er." They are then eaten by an alligator who growls "Coors!".[4]
  • Homer's suggestion that he and Bart fake an alien encounter and sell it to the Fox network is an allusion to the Alien Autopsy hoax.[8]
    • As Homer recounts his experience to Chief Wiggum, he recalls the alien having a sweet, heavenly voice and appearing every Friday night "like Urkel", from the ABC/CBS sitcom Family Matters.[4]

There are also numerous film references.

The FBI line-up, described by Mike Reiss as the "most illegal shot" in the history of the show as the writers did not get permission to use any of the characters besides Kang/Kodos.[6]
  • Marvin the Martian, Gort, Chewbacca, ALF, and one of the Kang and Kodos siblings make up the FBI line-up.[2]
  • The music played by the Springfield Philharmonic comes from the 1960 film Psycho.[4]
  • The narration sequences are based on the 1959 film Plan 9 from Outer Space.[7]
  • In one chapter title, the phrase "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" being printed out ad infinitum is a reference to the 1980 film The Shining.[1]
  • Mr. Largo conducts five of his students in playing the famous five-note tones from the 1977 film Close Encounters of the Third Kind.[1]
  • Milhouse plays a Kevin Costner's Waterworld arcade game, moving just a few steps before having to insert another forty quarters, a reference to the budget overrun on Kevin Costner's 1995 film Waterworld.[1]
  • Homer explains that he got the idea of looping security camera footage from "a movie about a bus that had to speed around the city, keeping its speed over 50, and if its speed dropped, it would explode" in reference to the 1994 action movie Speed, although Homer mistakenly believes it was called "The Bus That Couldn't Slow Down".

Reception[edit]

In its original broadcast, "The Springfield Files" finished 26th in ratings for the week of January 6–12, 1997, with a Nielsen rating of 11.7, equivalent to approximately 11.3 million viewing households. It was the third-highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files and the series premiere of King of the Hill.[9]

Al Jean and Mike Reiss won the Annie Award for Best Individual Achievement: Producing in a TV Production for their work on the episode.[10] The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, said that it was "a very clever episode, with the line-up one of the best visual gags in ages".[2] IGN ranked Leonard Nimoy's performance in this episode, and "Marge vs. the Monorail", as the 11th-best guest appearance in the show's history.[11] Total Film's Nathan Ditum ranked Duchovny and Anderson's performances as the fourth-best guest appearances in the show's history.[12] Skeptical Inquirer reviewed the episode positively, stating that "It's rare that a popular, prime-time network television show turns out to be a "slam dunk" for skeptics."[8] Critic Chris Knight speculated that if The X-Files is one day forgotten, those who see this episode will probably still appreciate the scene with ALF, Chewbacca, and Marvin the Martian.[13]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 222. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M.
  2. ^ a b c d Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "The Springfield Files". BBC. Retrieved March 27, 2007.
  3. ^ Jean, Al (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "Simpsoncalifragilisticexpiala(Annoyed Grunt)cious" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Jean, Al (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Springfield Files" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ Ayers, Mike When Mulder and Scully Went to Springfield: An Oral History of the ‘Simpsons’-’X-Files’ Crossover Wall Street Journal. January 22, 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Reiss, Mike (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Springfield Files" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  7. ^ a b c d Moore, Steve (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Eighth Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Springfield Files" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  8. ^ a b c Brown, Mike. "Skeptical 'Simpsons' episode spoofs aliens, pseudoscience – animated television series – News and Comment". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved March 27, 2007.
  9. ^ Associated Press (January 16, 1997). "Newsmagazines show ratings muscle". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
  10. ^ "Legacy: 25th Annual Annie Award Nominees and Winners (1997)". Annie Awards. Archived from the original on May 12, 2008. Retrieved December 5, 2008.
  11. ^ Goldman, Eric; Iverson, Dan; Zoromski, Brian. "Top 25 Simpsons Guest Appearances". IGN. Retrieved March 26, 2007.
  12. ^ Ditum, Nathan (March 29, 2009). "The 20 Best Simpsons Movie-Star Guest Spots". Total Film. Retrieved August 2, 2009.
  13. ^ Chris Knight, "Keeping the spring in Springfield: The Simpsons still going strong in Season Eight", National Post, August 19, 2006, pg. TO.26.

External links[edit]