Wednesday, 29 September 2010

THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS


SEASON 22 EPISODE 8 (EPISODE 472)

THIS IS IT:
The Fight Before Christmas was the 2010 festive episode taking something of an angular Treehouse Of Horror format (four short stories) take on the holiday season.  It begins with Marge on the roof of 742 Evergreen Terrace putting up the decorations and switching on the lights while being attacked by bats (“wrong holiday”).  When her sleigh model falls off the roof she shouts out to Homer that she could do with some help to which he responds that he is busy watching a re-run of an important American football game at which point Maggie pops up in front of him wanting to watching her A Fluppet Christmas Special DVD.  With this we cut to Lisa wrapping the Christmas tree with yellow “police line do not cross” tape telling Marge that she is “marking a crime scene” before bringing out a “Fir Is Murder” sign.  At this point Marge points out that Lisa will be picking holes in her gingerbread house next (“you mean your gingerbread McMansion”) which Homer promptly defends before beginning to eat some gingerbread men which Bart grabs from him to put out for Santa Claus.  Marge comments how it is good that at least one person is in the Christmas style however it turns out that Bart is just putting the biscuits out as bait so that he can capture Father Christmas (which he will do so with his BB gun).  The reason for this is that for the past three years he has asked for a dirt bike but instead only got toys that he immediately broke.  Disheartened Marge walks off commenting “even Matt Davis himself couldn’t save this Christmas” prompting a rare Marge “doh!”  At the stroke of midnight while Bart sleeps he is wakened by the sound of a steam train outside.  With this he runs outside and it is Otto manning the Polar Express.  This version of the Polar Express is fuelled by hemp making things somewhat psychedelic while soundtracked by The Doors.  When the train gets to the North Pole Bart gets off and approaches an elf that resembles Moe (which he mistakes for a goblin) and asks him how to get to Santa.  Moe responds that “only the top elves get to see Santa, you start in the wrapping room”.  After taking the freight elevator down to the Wrapping Room only Milhouse and Nelson are at work causing Bart to question “isn’t this the busy season?  Where is everybody?”  Apparently they have all been laid off.  Bart then points out that you don’t need to wrap everything you just need to put bows on things and they are ready.  This causes Moe to comment “you are clearly too smart to be down here with these dinglebells” and he immediately promotes Bart to Toy Inspector.  Suddenly Milhouse and Nelson get laid off to which Nelson responds “I can’t lose my health insurance my lungs are full of candy cane dust”.  Moe then says they can go work for the Easter Bunny before remembering that “he ain’t real”.  Down in the Inspection Room Bart begins work rebranding defective toys (eg a bear missing an eye becomes a pirate bear) as Moe notes “kid, you’ve got a lot of shoddy money saving ideas.  Like a major airline but you were here on time”.  We then cut to the Clausco Building where Bart emerges from an upper floor elevator with a suspicious looking long present.  Playing piano on this floor is Schroeder from Peanuts while two elves are painting “Bart Simpson – Vice President” onto the door of his new office.  At this point Lisa approaches saying “so you’re the brown-nosed reindeer that’s jingled all the way to the top”.  He responds “just point me to Santa” as she clocks him as remaining looking for revenge for the toy that he never got revealing the BB gun hidden in his present.  With this threat Lisa calls for security as two snowmen in caps come running towards them only to melt away as Bart turns the heating to max.  In the puddle of one of the snowmen is the sad sight of a photograph of him and his family having fallen from his wallet.  Coldly Bart just picks up the carrot from his nose and takes a bite.  From here Bart kicks down Santa’s door where Krusty is playing the part.  As he looks around Bart sees that the place has fallen into ruin but still threats for his dirt bike to which Krusty/Santa responds “kid, this company is bust.  For years I have been giving out free toys and getting cookies in return, it’s not a sustainable business model”.  Bart responds “oh come on, things aren’t that bad” as Krusty/Santa points out that he’s eating his own reindeer.  On this revelation Bart says “you win” and Krusty/Santa tells him to head home as “there maybe a pair of work socks under your tree”.  At this point Krusty/Santa reveals that Bart has been away 25 years of earth time.  With Bart now gone Krusty/Santa says “kids never change, always dumb as potatoes” as he presses a secret button that transfers his office into a glittering nightclub type room with Run DMC “Christmas In Hollis” playing.  As Bart returns home the Polar Express finds itself being chased by Chief Wiggum in a flying police car causing Otto to panic and jump train.  The episode then cuts back to 742 Evergreen Terrace where Lisa is looking out of the window in horror at all the cut down Christmas trees being ferried on the back of trucks.  When she falls asleep her dream transports her to December 1944 where it turns out Marge is fighting overseas in World War II.  Meanwhile Homer is working at the Springfield Bomber Factory where he has wound up working because he is “too fat to fit in a foxhole” to serve in the army.  After work Homer brings home a tree which Lisa orders him not to bring into the house.  Homer responds “you don’t want a Christmas tree?  That’s crazy.  Next you won’t want a Christmas ham” to which she replies “don’t worry about that, I love meant and I always will”.  It turns out that her reason for disliking Christmas trees stems from Christmas 1943 when while shopping for said tree Marge was told that she was shipping out that night (“right before Christmas?”, “Hitler doesn’t take a holiday”).  So as a result Lisa never wants to see another Christmas tree until Marge comes back from duty safe and sound.  At this point Homer assures Lisa that Marge is safe (“they’d tell us as soon as they could”) just as a courier delivers a telegram informing that Marge is M.I.A., which Homer thinks means she has changed her name.  Distraught Lisa runs through the street repeatedly seeing Christmas trees (including Ralph decorated like a Christmas tree) serving as callous timely reminders.  Ending up in the Christmas tree lot Lisa bumps into the owner who says he has “been waiting for you” before handing her the tree Marge paid for last year which curiously is shaped like herself.  Back home Homer asks Bart “whose turn is it to cry?” to which he responds “yours”.  This prompts Grandpa to tell them to stop bellyaching before inadvertently revealing the frontpage of the newspaper to show the picture of a map on the cover that is shaped like Marge prompting the pair of them to begin crying.  With this Lisa arrives back with the tree shaped like Marge announcing how it represents their missing mother.  From here they decorate the tree while singing “O Tannebaum” in full German.  Who says Americans don’t do irony?  Meanwhile in Nazi occupied France Hitler is at La Gamaar watching Dummkopf (the Nazi version of Dumbo) as Marge sneaks into the cinema through the front door.  Inside Hitler is sat with the star of Dummkopf who steals the fuhrer’s popcorn while he is laughing at the bombing of London scene.  Behind the screen Marge sets fire to several reels of film before ripping through the screen with a machine gun aiming it at Hitler (“nein nein nein, why did I go to the 9 o’clock show?”) before ripping off his moustache and placing it on the soldier sat to his right.  The episode cuts to a shot of a door marked “ausgang” as machine gun fire is heard and while Marge walks away from the cinema it explodes in the background prompting her to say “auf wiedersehen”.  After this Lisa wakes commenting that this is the last time she ever brings these two to bed at the same time (a toy elephant and a copy of the book The Rise And Fall Of The Third Reich).  The third part of the episode features Marge writing a letter to Martha Stewart asking for help.  Upon receipt of the letter (miraculously delivered after sweeping out her hands through the window onto the screen of a U.S, mail truck that crashed and burned) she announces “Marge Simpson, I’m on my way” as she quickly finishes off knitting a rocket pack.  When she arrives she wakes Marge by saying “magical memories don’t make themselves”.  Somewhat surprised Marge asks “how did you get in here?” to which Martha reveals “a picket fence stood on its side makes a sturdy and attractive ladder”.  From here Stewart proceeds to make her bed including cutting up Marge’s wedding dress to make a dust ruffle (whatever that is).  When Bart and Milhouse run in dirty after a snowball fight cum mud fight she promptly turns them into two nutcracker toy soldier ornaments using coal scuttles for the hat and red gaffer tape for everything else before finishing off the look by using two table tennis bats wrapped in silver foil as the keys.  From here Lisa shows Stewart her homemade star from the tree made from discarded water bottles which she says is lovely before suggesting the superior method she would have used.  Having sorted out (and upset) the kids she turns her attention to the snoring Homer who has fallen asleep on the sofa reading Modern Fat Denier magazine.  Covering him with a curtain and placing various models on his being she soon turns him into a traditional Christmas tableau (whatever that is).  Then as Homer begins to come around Stewart knocks him out with some of her hubby’s holiday helper.  With everything now attended to Marge comments positively how it resembles the Christmas of a childless gay couple but resigns to it “just not being the same”.  With this she waves her wand and returns the Simpsons Christmas to what it was.  At this point Marge wakes up saying “I guess I’ll never have a perfect Christmas” just as the family come into her room wishing Merry Christmas complete with breakfast in bed in the form of the ingredients (“now we just have to make it”).  As Marge smiles they begin singing “It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Breakfast” and Homer attempts to make breakfast before messing it up and changing the song to “We’re Gonna Go Out For Breakfast” (“it’ll be any place you choose, as long as its run by Jews, ‘cause they don’t think this holiday’s so great”).  Finally Maggie’s dream begins with her curled up with A Fluppet Christmas Special as we are entered into a wonderful puppet version of The Simpsons.  They look truly fantastic made this way, something you would want to watch for an entire episode.  And its film in front of a life studio audience (well, with canned laughter).  The section begins with Homer carrying cases in a Hawaiian shirt singing an “Aloha” song.  With this Lisa runs in asking if he got a good house sitter at which point Moe appears to a booing response from the audience.  After saying “sticks and stones may break my bones…” the audience proceeds to pelt him with said items until he spot cookies and runs over to devour them in the style of Cookie Monster.  Homer reminds Lisa to “pack only necessities” which to her is a saxophone and him is a six pack of Duff.  Meanwhile Moe is on the phone speaking to a lady (“hey baby”) inviting her to his new “bachelor pad at 742 Evergreen Terrace”.  After the call the phone remains stuck to his hand as a human hand appears to rip it off.  Now ready to leave Homer announces “nothing stands behind us and sunny Hawaii” as suddenly Mr Burns arrives at the door declaring “Merry Humbug everyone”.  Homer confesses that he got the week off work by telling Burns that he has a neck injury so he quickly attaches a false neck brace as Burns enters the room.  Homer asks Burns why he has come to visit as he replies “last night I had a visit from three spirits” as the camera cuts to Grandpa and Jasper in a box taking the role of Statler and Waldorf with Grandpa commenting “I wish this show had a visit from three new writers”.  Burns then spots the luggage and asks if Homer is going anywhere which coincides with Moe entering the room with a surfboard saying “hey guys you’ll need this on your trip to Hawaii” before Homer bashes him with said board prompting Burns to comment “your goblin fainted”.  As Burns asks “Simpson, where’s your Christmas tree?” the doorbell rings and it is Homer dragging in Flanders’ white tree with Flanders attempting to wrestle it back.  Eventually Homer wins, ripping off both Ned’s arms in the process.  Satisfied by this Burns says “I won’t interrupt you any longer, Merry Christmas to all” at which point popstar/fashionista Katy Perry in human form wearing a red rubber dress with pictures of the family on appears looking for her boyfriend Moe.  She immediately asks “what are you people doing in my boyfriend Moe’s bachelor pad?” prompting a gasp of shock.  With this Moe returns stating “that’s right, she’s into puppets” causing Burns to ask “what’s going on here?”  Homer comes clean over his lie so Burns orders “release the hounds” as only barks are heard and no hounds are seen.  Then up pops up sock puppet stating “we blew the budget on Katy Perry”.  Seeing the situation Perry helpfully announces “someone totally needs a hug” as she grabs Burns who says “I kissed a girl and I liked it”.  As a result “all is forgiven” and the Simpsons are free to go to Hawaii once they have all sung one Christmas carol in the form of the original unabridged 39 Days Of Christmas.  From here they sing down to the 30th day before it is announced that tonight’s episode was brought to you by the symbol umlaut and the number e (“not the letter e but the number whose exponential function is the derivative of itself”) which then cuts to Jasper and Grandpa as he comments “well, its been a long run but I think this will kill it” to which Jasper responds “what The Simpsons?”  “No, Christmas”.  And we laugh.  The credits then role as the remaining days thirty to twelve are sung out (with twenty eight being a repeat) before the final cut is to Moe hopping to try and kiss Katy Perry at which point he gives in and says “I’ll just kiss your belly button” at which point she replies “that’s not my belly button but I didn’t say stop” in what is one of the filthiest jokes in Simpsons history.

IS IT ANY GOOD:
This is a dense fucking episode, essentially four modern episodes squeezed into one.

WHAT IT TAUGHT ME:
Christmas is complex and even the most wholesome stories can be mutated and mocked.  That and Katy Perry is quite attractive.

EXTERNAL REFERENCES:
The Polar Express.  Dumbo in Germany was Dummkopf and featured a flying elephant dropping a bomb on Big Ben, Westminster, the Houses Of Parliament, a red double decker bus and the Royal Shakespeare Company.  And then Dummkopf chokes Winston Churchill with his trunk.

BEST LINES:
“Three gingerbread workmen died making that”.  “But you wanted those toys”, “I wanted them until I got them”.  “Someday TV will be invented and it will be free and then it will cost money”.  “Your goblin fainted”.

BEST JOKES:
I like Grandpa and Jasper taking the role of Statler and Waldorf.

PERIPHERAL MOMENT:
A Fluppet Christmas Special.  The model of Bart’s ball bearing gun is BB King.  The sign in the Wrapping Room that says “Report Nog Abuse”.  The 1944 Studebaker calendar with the tagline “the car of the future”.  The Springfield Bomber Factory in 1944 was previously Mama Mussolini’s Meatball Factory.  Homer’s co-workers at the Springfield Bomber Factory include Mrs Skinner, Mrs Van Houten and Mrs Wiggum.  In 1944 there was an Itchy & Scratchy “Loose Lips Sink Ships” poster featuring Itchy cutting Scratchy’s lips off.  The 1944 newspaper War Extra edition features the headline “Allied Armies Advance” and a map that resembles the shape of Marge.  Martha Stewart’s homemade magic wand is made up of: an old car antenna marinated overnight in the tears of a heartbroken leprechaun baked at 350 until a rainbow shoots out of the oven.  The 39 Days Of Christmas are: 39 Fopps-a-fopping, 38 Fishwipes hugging, 37 Coopers cooping, 36 boot blacks boffing, 35 buskers busking, 34 something something, 33 ???, 32 Dutchmen plotting, 31 Doctor’s leeching, 30 year average lifespan, 29 Smiths a-forging, 28 coopers cooping, 27 eelers eeling, 26 anarchists bombing, 25 swamis foreseeing, 24 sideburns curling, 23 monks a-chanting, 22 rats a-plaguing, 21 coxswains calling, 20 flautists fluting, 19 footmen bowing, 18 gungas dinning, 17 seventy-si-ix, 16 midwives birthing, 15 alienists aliening, 14 jacks a-ripping, 13 scriveners scrivening, 12 lords a-leaping (it ends).

REALITY CROSSOVER:
Not in this one.

MVP:
Moe.

GUEST APPEARANCES:
Katy Perry and Martha Stewart.

SONGS:
“Strange Days” by The Doors and “Christmas In Hollis” by Run DMC.

EPISODE LINKS:
It’s just a Christmas episode.

PERCULARITIES:
Katy Perry liking Moe.

BART ON THE BLACKBOARD:
No blackboard, it has a cold opening.

OTHER:
I would pay to see a full episode of Muppet Simpsons.

FINAL WORDS:
There is still life left in this show yet.

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