Lifetime of Simpsons

S04 E02 – A Streetcar Named Marge

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Oh man. This episode is so nuts. Especially when you’ve either read or seen Streetcar Named Desire, because this was definitely the first time I’d ever come across the story in pop culture, and it becomes infinitely funnier when you know how completely wrong the tone of Streetcar is. It’s so great.

The episode starts off with the family watching the Miss American Girl Pageant, which is a pretty great parody of Miss America, and adds something to it that I really wish was in it. They make the girls dress up as the stereotypes of their state, like having one participant in Mount Rushmore, or another with a slot-car race track around her hips. That would be hilarious. But while the rest of the family is getting super into the pageant, Marge is getting ready to go audition for a community theater production of a Streetcar Named Desire, but done as a musical. But since this is a Marge episode, the family is super crappy towards her, and just blatantly ignores her while she talks about the audition. But even after Marge tells them about the play about ten times, Homer pitches a fit when she finally leaves, claiming that he’d never heard of it, and poor Marge has to assume that she must have just been wrong, and accepts Homer’s reality.

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So she heads off to the audition for the amazingly named “Oh, Streetcar!” and we get to see the random assortment of townsfolk that come to audition. We even get to see Jasper doing dancing stretches and prancing around like a ballerina. We’re then introduced to yet another weird Jon Lovitz character, the director of the play Llewellyn Sinclair. And while Sinclair probably isn’t as memorable as Artie Ziff or Professor Lombardo, he’s still pretty great and insane. He lets the people know that he’s incredibly strict and has high standards, since his grade-school play was enjoyed by all, which intimidates Marge. The men then take their shirts off to audition for the role of Stanley, since having no shirt is the most important part of that role, and it goes to Ned Flanders, since apparently he’s ripped, which is always a funny joke, but I think one that works better with Willie than Ned. Then it’s time to audition the Blanche’s, and Marge barely gets a bar out before Sinclair shoots her down, saying that she doesn’t have the frailty needed for the role. But then as Marge heads over to a phone and calls Homer, admitting that ambitions are stupid and that she’s wasting her time, Sinclair changes his mind and decides Marge is perfect for the part.

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The rehearsals then begin, and boy is the cast for “Oh, Streetcar!” crazy. We have Marge, Ned, Helen Lovejoy, Otto, Apu, Lionel Hutz (who is also suing Sinclair on behalf of the people who didn’t make the audition), and Chief Wiggum. They begin rehearsing, starting right off with the rape scene, but things start to get ruined when Maggie starts wrecking the rehearsal by playing around on the bed. So Sinclair recommends sending Maggie to the daycare that his sister runs. Which turns out to be a crazy objectivist place called the Ayn Rand School for Tots, which is a terrible idea. And Maggie is instantly not cool with the place, since they won’t let her use her pacifier. And without Maggie the rehearsals continue, as we get to see a variety of insane outfits Sinclair wears, and Marge struggling with the role. It also doesn’t help that Homer is being a complete ass at home, just sitting in bed playing a bowling game on a big-ass old school Gameboy while Marge is trying to talk about the play. He even acts like going to the play will be a big pain in the neck for him.

We then get one of the best parts of the episode, the fact that Maggie is running a prison break in the daycare while the rehearsals are going on, all while “the Great Escape” music is playing. Back in the theater, Marge is still having trouble getting into Blanche, and begins doubting her ability to play the role, until Homer shows up and starts being awful. Having him around gets Marge all riled up and after hallucinating Homer’s face and body over Ned she finally gets the rage and passion of Blanche, and pretty much attempts to kill Ned with a broken bottle. And now that she knows the secret to acting, Marge starts preparing for the role, even speaking in a Southern accent at the dinner table to get used to it. I think it’s adorable that Lisa offers to speak with an accent to help, and hilarious that Bart decides to help by speaking in a Cockney accent. But while the kids have embraced the play, Homer is still being a jerk, annoying Marge every time he speaks. We then get the hilarious scene of Marge practicing with Ned in the Flanders house while Homer reenacts the “Hey Stella!” scene from Streetcar. Homer then amps up his shittiness by telling Marge that he can’t fake an interest in her “kooky projects.” Jesus Homer.

We wrap up the minor B-plot at that point by showing Maggie’s pacifier heist, which is so great. It’s such a funny scene, and was even adapted again in that great CGI short. I love every bit of that scene, especially her rappelling from the roof like Mission: Impossible. Homer and the kids then show up to pick her up before the performance, and the babies have now taken over the daycare, just sitting around in silence while sucking on their pacifiers like the Birds. I especially love the great nod of having Alfred Hitchcock walk by with a dog when they leave the creepy daycare.

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Its then time for the play and right before the production begins Sinclair fires Otto and takes his role. The play begins, and it’s so good guys. The lyrics are so funny, especially the incredibly insulting lyrics to the “New Orleans” song, which I’ve heard seriously pissed off the city of New Orleans. There’s also Apu’s weird newsboy song with the wonderful lyrics of “Will this bewitching floozie seduce this humble newsie?” Man I wish this musical existed in real life, because it’s hilarious. Even the insane scene where Blanche is going mad and is flung around on wires while smoke and lasers are going off is wonderful. Exactly as Tennessee Williams dreamed. And then the play ends with the hilariously upbeat “You Can Always Depend on the Kindness of Strangers,” song which when you’ve read or seen the play, is the most ridiculous and hilarious thing in the episode. It’s so perfectly wrong. Then the cast comes out and everyone starts to applaud, and I think it’s adorable that Eddie and Lou give Chief Wiggum a standing ovation. But as the crowd goes nuts Marge notices that Homer appears to be falling asleep, and starts to get mad. Yet when she talks to Homer afterwards, and the kids run off, it turns out that Homer wasn’t falling asleep, he was deep in thought, and very sad. He realized how horrible Stanley was to Blanche, and starts to recognize that he acts like Stanley. But Marge forgives him, and everything ends happy.

This is such a wonderful episode, and really introduced a type of Simpson joke which is among my favorite, crazy musical theater. Any time they write a couple lyrics from a fake song are hilarious, and man do I wish the writers had tried to make something on Broadway back in the day. Book of Mormon is amazing, but if classic Simpsons writers had made a comedy musical back in the day it would have been one of the best things every put on the stage. And god is Streetcar a hilarious choice for a happy musical adaptation. It’s just genius.

Take Away: Show interest in your spouse’s ambitions and “kooky projects.”

“A Streetcar Named Marge” was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Rich Moore, 1992

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