The Simpsons, Season Nine, Episode Twelve, “All Singing, All Dancing”

Look, I was dreading this one too, but let’s just get through it. I remember that era dubbed the “Golden Age of Television” – a period that began and ended with Breaking Bad for some reason – and perhaps its greatest leap forward on a storytelling level was abandoning the clip show; I don’t think anybody, creator, critic, or fan, has ever spoken positively about the concept or ever thought of them as something other than a once necessary budgeting device. This one is particularly hated by Simpsons fans, which I assume is for the same reason I hate it: the incredibly dumb premise. Having the whole episode be a musical isn’t necessarily a bad thing – literally the whole premise is how often the characters break into song – but the basic character beat of Homer and Bart suddenly hating singing is very dumb and out of character, made even worse by the plot turn of Snake threatening the family. We’ve had a few minor cases this season, but this is the most extreme example so far of the writers bending characters to fit a joke or plot rather than letting jokes and plot emerge naturally from the characters, and it’s to serve a clip show! Perhaps their low expectations – there’s a joke about crummy clip shows at the end – lead to low effort, which is frustrating after they put so much effort into their older clip shows.

The bright side is that I have reason to dive into the musical numbers of the show, and the most interesting thing about them is how wide they cast their net in terms of comedy. One little interesting thing I noticed is that many of the musical numbers in Futurama have a very similar structure – two verses, a bridge, a verse, a bridge, a final verse, and an outro based on extending the verse slightly further. There’s nothing wrong with this (Bob Dylan built his career on simpler structures) but The Simpsons is interesting for the sheer variety of both musical structures and musical purposes; we’re mainly relying on Broadway musical structures that push the plot forward by outlying motivation (“Maison Derriere”, “Who Needs The Kwik-E-Mart?”, “Monorail”), but even those have a variety of structures – I’m particularly fond of the question/answer structure of “Monorail”. Outside that, we have two parodies of existing songs (“Springfield, Springfield” for “New York, New York”, “See My Vest” for “Be Our Guest”), two comedic performances of real songs (“Send In The Clowns”, “In The Garden Of Eden”), one drinking song written for the show (“We Do”), and one perfectly ordinary Barbershop/pop song (“Baby On Board”). This fits with the things I love about the show as a whole – it’s a conceptually messy bunch of disparate ideas riffing on old pop cultural traditions with little connection, and every single one of them works.

Chalkboard Gag: N/A
Couch Gag: The family run in despite a running floor. Homer trips and cries out “Marge, stop this crazy thing!”

This episode was written by Steve O’Donnell and directed by Mark Ervin, and, inexplicably, executive produced by David Mirken. The episode intentionally sets up two cliffhangers and fixes them both in two seconds, which admittedly is theoretically funny.

The beginning riffs on the real Western musical Paint Your Wagon, which did indeed star Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin, though the parody intentionally did not reference anything that actually happens in the movie. Eastwood’s appearance lifts from his Man With No Name character. I’m not pointing out the references in the clips.

Iconic Moments: Zero. We all wanted to drop this shit down the memory hole.
Biggest Laugh: