“Another Simpsons Clip Show” (season six, episode three; originally aired 9/25/1994)
In which the show prompts you to ask your heart what its fondest desire is—and delivers a clip show anyway…
Clips shows are one of the necessary evils of television production. Sometimes they’re used to boost a long-running program toward syndication numbers. Sometimes they’re used as a way to give an overworked writing staff a temporary pause. Sometimes, one of the strongest urban earthquakes on record delays the writing and animating of other episodes, and it’s also the year where a 25-episode order required some assists from Al Jean, Mike Reiss, and their Critic staff—and, hey, wouldn’t a clip show be a perfect stopgap?
Yet so committed to producing a quality product were the writers of golden-age Simpsons that they even went full-ass on a mercenary, traditionally half-assed TV staple: the clip show. “Another Simpsons Clip Show” pales in comparison to the 100-percent-original installments surrounding it, but it’s still ingenious in its way, a sly critique of a TV convention few enjoy watching and even fewer enjoy crafting. Nearly 20 years before Community and How I Met Your Mother were using the structure of the clip show to generate flashbacks to episode that don’t exist, “Another Simpsons Clip Show” tweaked the custom by taking the lazy, recycled nature of such episodes to the extreme.
That almost none of the footage used in “Another Simpsons Clip Show” is new is the episode’s big meta joke; unlike their counterparts on live-action series, the writers and director David Silverman—the latter of whom doesn’t get to hide behind his clip-show pseudonym Pound Foolish in the episode’s DVD cut—could reuse existing material for flashbacks as well as the framing sequences that lead into them. That’s a practice carried over from the limited-animation houses of the 1960s and ’70s, which proved especially inspirational to a new wave of late-night cartoons that was just starting to come together in The Simpsons’ wake—not to mention one of “Another Simpsons Clips Show”’s many satirical targets, The Ren & Stimpy Show. When Marge walks in on the kids re-watching The Itchy & Scratchy short “Flay Me To The Moon” (previously seen in “Homer The Heretic”), the visuals originate from 1990, even though Julie Kavner’s speaking from a recording booth in 1994.
But the episode’s verve for salvaging goes even deeper than that. At the end of Homer’s story of love-gone-wrong—lifted from season five’s “The Last Temptation Of Homer”—Mr. and Mrs. Simpson swap spit to the sounds of Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe.” The deep-voiced loverman’s signature tune is appropriate makeout music, but it’s also a Simpsons refrain, having previously played a pivotal role in “Whacking Day.” “Another Simpsons Clip Show” constantly pillages the show’s past—even when it’s not doing so consciously.
There’s an incredibly prescient perspective within this half-hour, recalling as it does episodes that are still fondly remembered as some of the series’ best. Sure, there’s no “Last Exit To Springfield” or “Marge Vs. The Monorail,” but “I Love Lisa” and “The Way We Was” would slot comfortably alongside those other episodes in a list of greatest Simpsons achievements. As such, “Another Simpsons Clip Show” raises an intriguing philosophical quandary: How much do these flashback extravaganzas reinforce our impressions of the show’s finest half-hours? The Simpsons was still spinning gold at an unprecedented, unrivaled rate at this point in its run, but is the glimmer of a gut-churning-yet-hysterical moment like when Ralph Wiggum’s “heart rips in half” brightened by its inclusion here?
As previously mentioned, the roll out of season six’s first episodes coincided with the syndicated debut of many of the episodes highlighted here. For the first time in the show’s history, The Simpsons truly was repeating itself—so this was a reflective period for the series. If there was a time for viewers to realize, “Gee, there sure have been a lot of challenges to Homer and Marge’s marriage,” it would’ve been the fall of 1994; if the syndicated repeats and a nascent online community weren’t canonizing elements of the series, “Another Simpsons Clip Show” certainly was. The episode’s throughline is set by five previous years of storylines taking a skeptical look at romance, that dead commodity that Lisa notes “was acquired in a hostile takeover by Hallmark and Disney, homogenized, and sold off piece by piece.”
Yet even as The Simpsons looks backward, it’s breaking new ground. Following the lead of “So It’s Come To This: A Simpsons Clip Show,” “Another Simpsons Clip Show” anticipates the meme-ification of TV comedy and online supercut culture with montages of the series’ most dependable gags. Bart would eventually outgrow his crank-call phase, but you could probably fill an entire 30-minute timeslot with 24 years of Homer audibly reacting to life’s most delicious temptations. It only goes for 20 seconds here, but the task of comedic time-killing is fulfilled nonetheless.
Far be it for me to have any truck with such a knowingly empty vessel as “Another Simpsons Clip Show,” but for all the self-awareness on display, the episode does take an awfully long time to reach its final conclusion. Perhaps it’s because so much of the conversation around the dinner table is centered on fantasy versions of love and romance, but the Simpson kids needn’t dig for so long to find the ideal of a committed, loving relationship. And if your memory of these clips is better than the Simpsons’, you don’t need 22 minutes of reminding about it, either: No matter their squabbles, differences of opinion, and seeming incompatibility, Marge and Homer Simpson are one of TV greatest romances because they’ve beat the odds (and the Ziffs) time and time again—and The Simpsons has shown them doing so. A lot. Really, the show’s willingness to show that Marge and Homer don’t always get along makes them one of the medium’s most realistic examples of wedded bliss. And if you don’t believe that, “Another Simpsons Clip Show” has the montage to back it up.
- Clip-show contrivances aside, Marge actually gets a lot of great material in this episode. I especially love her awkward segue out of the second commercial break: “Well, as Jerry Lee Lewis would say, there’s a whole lot of frowning going on.” (Comic Boy Guy moment: Actually, Marge, Dave “Curlee” Williams and Roy Hall would say it first—though they’re probably frowning because someone screwed them out of the publishing rights.)
- Note to self: Use Artie Ziff’s “Not so much for myself, but I am so respected, it would damage the town to hear it” as the cover for any future wrongdoings.
- Next up is “Itchy & Scratchy Land.” If memory serves, that one needs more Bort license plates in the gift shop.