Trash of the Titans
"Trash of the Titans" is the 22nd episode of The Simpsons' ninth season and the 200th overall. It originally aired on the Fox network on April 26, 1998. The episode, which was written by Ian Maxtone-Graham and directed by Jim Reardon, sees Homer Simpson run for the job of Springfield's Sanitation Commissioner after becoming enraged at what he deems to be a poor refuse collection service. Steve Martin guest stars as Ray Patterson, the incumbent commissioner, while U2 play themselves after requesting an appearance on the show.
Inspired by a friend's experience in politics, Maxtone-Graham decided to have Homer run for Sanitation Commissioner, although one draft of the episode saw him running for mayor. The staff also wanted the episode to be about trash, and created the concept of "Love Day" as a means of generating waste. The episode's resolution was much discussed by the staff, with one proposed idea being that Springfield would be raised up and the excess rubbish swept underneath it (this idea was later used in Treehouse of Horror X when Lisa and Bart become superheroes and use their skills to clean around the house and then lift it up to push all the debris underneath). The episode also features a parody of the song "The Candy Man" and an incident involving comedian Redd Foxx.
"Trash of the Titans" won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less), something the staff believe was due to the environmental message at the end. In 2008, over ten years since the original broadcast, an airing of the episode in the United Kingdom courted controversy, when it was aired on Channel 4 in April 2008 before the 9pm watershed, with the word "wanker" left unedited.
A local department store, Costington's, announces the formation of a new August holiday intended (as Lisa points out) to boost sales: Love Day. The Simpsons celebrate it, but the vast amount of packaging it produces causes the garbage to build up. When Homer eventually takes it out, he is infuriated with the garbage men as they drive away without collecting the Simpson family's trash. Angered by their ignorance, Homer insults the men by calling them "trash-eating stinkbags", but this only angers them into a fight with Homer, and as a result, the family's garbage service is cut off, leading to the Simpsons' garbage piling up on their front lawn. Homer and Bart think it is easy to throw trash out the window, and as the mess continues to grow, Marge tells Homer to apologize for the remark, but he insists on doing things his way.
Homer awakens one morning to find that the pile of trash at the front of the house has been removed. He proudly boasts that he beat city hall only to learn that Marge had written a letter of apology to the Springfield Sanitation Commissioner, forging Homer's name. Homer then goes to see the Sanitation Commissioner, Ray Patterson, demanding the apology letter to be returned. Despite returning the letter, Patterson tries to be civil with Homer, but Homer insists he will get in a fight with the sanitation department. Eventually Homer decides that he will run for Sanitation Commissioner, remaking it into his image.
Homer begins to promote his campaign. It starts off badly with Homer being beaten up after interrupting U2's PopMart Tour concert, but picks up when Homer, after prompting from Moe, thinks of a slogan for his campaign: "Can't someone else do it?" Homer spreads his message to the town and promises expensive services such as round-the-clock garbage service and having the sanitation workers do all the cleaning, leading to his landslide victory in the election. After being sworn in to the office, he shows what he plans to do by singing a parody of "The Candy Man" entitled "The Garbage Man".
However, fulfilling his promises proves quite costly and after Homer's mass spending spree, Mayor Quimby denounces him for spending the Sanitation Department's yearly budget of $4.6 million in only a month. To solve the budget crisis and pay the workers for their services, Homer gets cities all over the United States to pay him to mash their excess garbage into the abandoned mine shaft on the outskirts of Springfield. The rest of the family warn Homer that this will be endangering the town, but he claims there is nothing to worry about. Eventually, despite the budget crisis having ended and the workers receiving their salaries as promised, the garbage builds up underground and begins to erupt, pouring trash all over the town. At a town hall meeting, Homer gets fired from his post and replaced with Ray Patterson, but Patterson declines reinstatement to the position, expressing his amusement at them "wallowing in the mess [they] made." With no one else to fill for Sanitation Commissioner to clean up the trash, Quimby then takes extreme measures by moving the entire town five miles down the road from its current site, but Lisa points out that even though they are transplanting Springfield, they will just start littering again when they finish moving.
As the episode is the 200th, at its first table reading David Mirkin joked that the show was "half way there." At the time of the DVD commentary's recording the production team had "just done the 400th ("You Kent Always Say What You Want") about two weeks ago."
The production team wanted the episode to be about trash, and Mike Scully pitched the idea that Homer should run for office. Writer Ian Maxtone-Graham had a friend who had made their way in Chicago politics, through the Sanitation Commission, and so he decided that Homer should run for Sanitation Commissioner. They then spent a lot of time trying to get to the point that Homer would have an "over filled trash can", and through its extensive use of packaging, the concept of Love Day was formed. Originally the episode saw Homer running for mayor, but this idea was abandoned. The ending was talked about for a while, with the original idea being that the whole town would be raised up and the rubbish be swept underneath. The ending was not intended to carry an environmental message, but it played well and is what the staff believe won the episode an Emmy.
U2 contacted the show about doing a guest spot, rather than the other way around. The writers immediately wrote them one, in case they changed their minds. The band's head of Principal Management Paul McGuinness and Susie Smith, an employee of Principal Management also make brief appearances in the episode. U2's drummer Larry Mullen, Jr. appears in the episode, although he has no dialogue. Steve Martin guest stars as Ray Patterson.
The episode marked the first appearance of Costington's department store, whose slogan is "Over a Century Without a Slogan". It took "a lot of wasted man-hours" to come up with both the name and slogan.
The scene where Ray Patterson is reinstated (to which he enters and exits to the Sanford and Son theme song) was a reference to a moment that occurred during a stand up show of comedian Redd Foxx (who starred on Sanford and Son). During a show in Vegas, Redd Foxx came on stage to the Sanford and Son theme song, only to find that there were very few people in the audience. Foxx angrily stated that he refused to do a show with such a small audience and walked off the stage. The house orchestra, puzzled by Foxx's leaving, simply played him off with the Sanford and Son theme song again. The same incident was the basis for the joke in "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons" where Moe Szyslak walks onto the stage and, without breaking his stride, walks off.
In its original broadcast, "Trash of the Titans" finished 16th in ratings for the week of April 20-26, 1998, with a Nielsen rating of 10.5, equivalent to approximately 10.2 million viewing households. It was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, beating King of the Hill.
This episode won the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less) in 1998. Jim Reardon won the Annie Award for "Outstanding Individual Achievement for Directing in an Animated Television Production". 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: "Although not a great episode, this one has a series of high points that keep you amused until the end." In a 2006 article in USA Today, "The Trash of the Titans" was highlighted among the six best episodes of The Simpsons season 9, along with others including "The Joy of Sect," "The Last Temptation of Krust," "The Cartridge Family," "Dumbbell Indemnity," and "Das Bus".
During Toronto City Council deliberations over the proposal to turn the abandoned Adams Mine in Northern Ontario into a massive dump site for Toronto's garbage, then-councillors Jack Layton and Olivia Chow surprised their council colleagues by playing "Trash of the Titans." "It was absolutely stunning," Layton later told The Globe and Mail. "It was so accurate to what was going on." Layton, who would later become leader of Canada's New Democratic Party and Leader of the Official Opposition, called The Simpsons "the single most important influence on progressive social commentary in the world."
In 2008, the episode caused controversy in the United Kingdom, for use of the word "wanker". The word is first used by Adam Clayton, and later by Mr. Burns, at the end of the episode. While the word is not well known in the United States, it is considered offensive in the United Kingdom. On April 15, 2008, "Trash of the Titans" was broadcast on Channel 4 at 6pm, with both mentions of the word broadcast.
Ofcom, which deals with television complaints in the United Kingdom, received 31 complaints from viewers who felt that the episode should not have been shown before the 9pm watershed. Channel 4 said that the error was caused by a member of the compliance staff, who had incorrectly certified the programme as suitable to be shown from 6pm. The error was not corrected by the acquisitions department. Ofcom said that while they were "concerned", it would not look into the incident any further because it was "an isolated incident".
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Trash of the Titans". BBC. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
- Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Trash of the Titans" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Maxtone-Graham, Ian (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Trash of the Titans" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Smith, Yeardley; Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Trash of the Titans" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt; Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Trash of the Titans" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Meyer, George; Scully, Mike; Maxtone-Graham, Ian; Groening Matt (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Trash of the Titans" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Scully, Mike; Appel, Richard; Dean Moore, Steven (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilons" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Associated Press (April 30, 1998). "'Merlin' works ratings magic". Rocky Mountain News. p. 14D.
- "Emmy winners in full". BBC News. 1998-09-14. Retrieved 2007-03-01.
- "26th Annual Annie Awards". AnnieAwards.com. Retrieved 2007-03-01.
- Clark, Mike (December 22, 2006). "New on DVD". USA Today (Gannett Co. Inc.). Retrieved 2007-10-24.
- Caldwell, Rebecca; Shoalts David (2003-03-01). "My favourite episode". The Globe and Mail. Archived from the original on May 29, 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-02.
- Dowell, Ben (2008-06-09). "The Simpsons: Channel 4 apologises for pre-watershed swearing". The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
- "C4 sorry over Simpsons swearing". Chortle.co.uk. 2008-06-09. Retrieved 2008-06-09.
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- "Trash of the Titans" at The Simpsons.com
- "Trash of the Titans" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
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- "Trash of the Titans" at the Internet Movie Database