Category: Television

How I Got Thrown Out of The Late Show With David Letterman

late-show The first thing you need to understand is I didn’t mean to get thrown out of The Late Show With David Letterman.

Why would I? For much of the 1980s, his NBC show was my absolute and utter favorite thing in all of the pop culture world. I loved that show more than R.E.M. or The Replacements or Bloom County or This is Spinal Tap. I loved Dave more than Raising Arizona or Lord of The Rings or Bob Dylan.

S2, E11: “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish”

“Well, if there’s any consolation, it’s that you’ll feel no pain at all until sometime tomorrow evening, when your heart explodes.” – Dr. Hibbert.

Written by: Nell Scovell.

What would you do if you ate poison fugu and were told had only 24 hours to live? Me, I’d probably grab Rox and we’d hop a plane to wherever The Replacements were playing, hoping to die within their reach.  (Because in the fantasy world where I’d actually eat sushi, The Replacements are eternally touring.)

But the omnivorous Homer Simpson has a better head on his shoulders than I do, because he makes a list of mostly family-oriented things to experience on what he believes and sets about doing those things with the utmost sincerity. But because he is Homer Simpson, his execution leaves much to be desired.

Of course Homer is going to oversleep and get a late start, and of course Homer is going to fuck up his list – but he does it because he actually connects with his father for once – and of course, Homer is going to get arrested and miss the family dinner. 

But all of these things aren’t just played for laughs: they’re also sad because Homer is going to die, and while I’m on record as supporting the cynical social satire Simpsons over the heartwarming family comedy Simpsons, this one is also firing on all cylinders comedically, and it strikes a perfect balance between funny and sad.

Or it’s possible that getting to see The Replacements again has made me a bit soft in the head. Which is fine, as well.

S2, E10: “Bart Gets Hit By A Car”

“Remember: lie, cheat, steal and listen to Heavy Metal music!” – The Devil.


Written by: John Swartzwelder

Weirdly enough, I couldn’t remember much about this episode beyond the fact that Bart gets hit by Mr. Burns in the opening scene, but when I first heard Phil Hartman’s voice as the Escalator to Heaven I literally yelled “PHIL HARTMAN!” at the TV.

It’s really not saying much to say that Phil Hartman was my favorite of all of the guest voices on The Simpsons, but it’s kind of interesting to notice that his characterization of Lionel Hutz was there from the very very start, even as Azaria was still not quit there with Dr. Nick, who also makes his debut in this episode.

And really, just the thrill of knowing that Hartman was going to start turning up again and again was good enough for me, despite the fact that this episode was pretty rote: Burns is evil, Homer is scheming, Marge is honest, etc.

Of course, the specifics of Burns evilness, Homer’s schemes and Marge’s honesty are reliably funny, as is Bart’s trip to Hell after Burns hits him, but we really don’t learn anything – I mean besides that Bart isn’t supposed to arrive in Hell until the next time the Yankees won the pennant “and that’s nearly a century from now!”  

And the end, where Homer has to look into Marge’s eyes to be reminded that he still loves her even though her honesty cost them $1,000,000 is maybe the first “Simpsons did it” in the history of The Simpsons, as they’d pretty much done the same thing at the end of “Bart vs. Thanksgiving.”


S2, E9: “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge”

“I guess that one person can make a difference, but most of the time, they probably shouldn’t.” – Marge.


Written by: John Swartzwelder.

Here’s what I love about this episode: it lets nobody off of the hook.

It goes after censorship do-gooders who want to impose their own personal morality on the entire world all the while consuming that art fervently underneath the guise of “cataloging” it.

It goes after bottom-line, bottom-feeding entertainment execs who hide behind the principle of free speech to purposely load the world with crap just because it sells.

It shows that Marge has a point, as Maggie is shown to be influenced by the cartoon no matter what it shows – and the children of Springfield stop watching Itchy & Scratchy toactually go outside and play when a more wholesome version airs.

It shows that the entertainment execs have a point, as the people who rallied around Marge want to next go after the nudity in Michelangelo’s “David” – and the children of Springfield stop watching Itchy & Scratchy toactually go outside and play when a more wholesome version airs.

Where I personally fall on this subject can probably gleaned from the fact that – in all of the long years – the only piece of non-content Simpsons memorabilia I ever purchased was an (long gone) Itchy & Scratchy Show T-shirt.

That said, I really hate art that beats me about the head with my own opinions, a la The Newsroom. As a comedy, even a comedy with a point of view, The Simpsons was always free to make fun of what was clearly that point of view, especially in service of a good joke.

S2, E8: “Bart The Daredevil”

“TRUCK-O-SAURUS!!” – Homer & Bart.


Written by: Jay Kogen & Wallace Wolodarsky.

So here’s a thing I’ll freely admit: when this episode first aired, I really didn’t like the ending. It felt “too cartoony” to me, and here’s why: after spending most of the back half of the episode explaining how dangerous and deep Springfield Gorge was, to have Homer fall into it – twice! – just stretched the bounds of credulity.

Of course, this was still during the era where the focus was on Bart, and the writers really hadn’t established Homer’s absolute indestructibility as a series trope, so this first instance of that felt weird to me.

I was an idiot.

In an episode that featured the Simpson family car getting destroyed by a giant fire-breathing robotic monster truck, cats and dogs laying down together so Bart could jump them and the brilliant site gag that illustrates this piece (one of my favorite Simpsons moments ever), Homer falling into the Springfield Gorge – twice! – was actually the perfect ending.

Pure, brilliant slapstick, continually topping itself and culminating with the ambulance crashing into the tree and Homer rolling out and back into the gorge. 

The whole sequence was definitely a reminder to smarty-pants overthinkers like me that, yes, The Simpsons was very very much a cartoon, and therefore would sometimes be governed by the same laws as previous cartoons.

From the historical standpoint, this episode marks the first appearance of Dr. Hibbert, a character created to reference the fact that The Simpsons had moved to Thursdays to directly take on The Cosby Show.  However, as is often the case with first appearances, neither the writers quite had a take on the character, so there wasn’t any inappropriate statements followed by laughter – just a straight, stern doctor.