Ah, a Sideshow Bob episode that’s also a slamming incitement of the Republican Party. I don’t usually like to talk about my personal politics on this site…but this is exactly how I view the Republicans, especially lately.
The episode starts off with Homer listening to good old KBBL radio, which I guess is a talk radio station now, with the wonderful tagline of “no sports, no talk, no information, for mindless babble, we’re you’re station!” Homer’s tuning in to a local Conservative blowhard who I assume is a parody of Rush Limbaugh named Birch Barlow. Barlow is ranting about the evils of the Democratic Party, and explains that there are three things that Springfield will never get rid of: the bats in the library, some old lady’s compost heap she protects with a shotgun, and Mayor Quimby. Homer seems to like Barlow, but we see that Lisa is also listening, but for a school project. And while she’s listening we get a really pointless but hilarious little scene where Bart claims he has a project too, about fireworks, which causes Marge to ruin his fireworks. We then learn that he actually did have a project for some visiting Japanese principals, and everyone is deeply ashamed of him.
But things really start to happen when Lisa is riding in the car with Homer and complains about him listening to Barlow again. After a goofy gag where they switch whose driving so she can listen to her music, we see her listening again as Barlow gets a call from a fellow Republican who is complaining about Springfield, and Lisa realizes that it’s Sideshow Bob. Lisa freaks out and explains who Sideshow Bob is to Homer, before getting home and informing Bart hat his mortal enemy is on the radio, which leads Bart to freak out after listening to Dr. Demento, since apparently they’re enemies too. But when he learns it’s Bob he gets even more scared.
We start to see Mayor Quimby deal with political pressures in the town, even after his “Gripe at the Mayor” night at the Retirement Castle, and it escalates when Barlow makes it his mission to get Sideshow Bob released from jail. I absolutely love Bob’s quote “Attempted murder, now honestly what is that? DO they give a Nobel prize to attempted Chemistry?” So great. And shockingly, the local conservatives get all on board with releasing an attempted murderer, and they start to pressure Quimby to the point that he actually lets Bob go. And as soon as Bob is released from prison he heads to the Republican Party Headquarters, which is a terrifying castle, and we’re introduced to the local Republicans of Springfield, and the people they picked are so great. Mr. Burns, Birch Barlow, Dr. Hibbert, Wolfcastle, the Rich Texan, the Blue Haired Lawyer, and a goddamn Nosferatru. After some strange Latin chanting they discus who they’ll nominate for mayor of Springfield this term, and Barlow suggests Bob, which they’re all down for.
So now it’s political campaign time! And for some bizarre reason their first stop is to go to Springfield Elementary for a…debate? Sure. They start stumping for the children, and Bob just does silly clown antics, which impress the children. Bart and Lisa then realize they need to help Quimby, and make it their job to save his campaign. But after causing a stunt that actually makes Quimby look good, Bob and his Republican goons kidnap Bart and drive off in a car with him, threatening him before tossing him out of the car. There’s then an amazing gag where Archie and his friends throw Homer out of their car and demand he stays out of Riverdale. But that doesn’t stop Bart, he and Lisa keep campaigning for Quimby, even passing out bumper stickers, which all get put on Milhouse by the bullies. “The mummy’s ready for his mystical journey!”
And then it’s debate time. Oh political debates, such a shit-show. The best part of any debate is the next morning when they release the long list of facts that the candidates lied about. Our political system rocks. Anyway, the debate begins, which is moderated by Larry King, and we see that Mayor Quimby has some crazy flu and has been slamming back extra-drowsy pills, so he’s quite a mess. Things don’t go well for Quimby, since he’s a sweaty mess, and it ends up becoming a reverse Nixon/Kennedy debate. And even though the debate quickly is revealed to be bullcrap, since they reference a city councilman who doesn’t exist, Bob wins in a landslide and becomes the new mayor. And man is it great that Sideshow Bob’s acceptance speech is just him standing in front of one of those Citizen Kane posters while just laughing maniacally.
Once Bob has becomes the mayor, he begins a reign of terror almost immediately, all focused on the Simpsons family. He announces that they’re going to destroy their house for a freeway, and he makes Principal Skinner move Bart back to kindergarten. Although it’s pretty great that Bart is completely down for this, since he’s finally the smartest kid in class, and gets first dibs on the toys, like the Flintstone’s phone. “Yabba dabba do, I’m talkin’ to you!” But as usual, Lisa gets suspicious about the election, and starts doing some investigation on the topic. She heads to the record office, and the dude working there just hands her the results of the election no problem, so she starts reading them, slowly but surely.
But things really get crazy when Lisa falls asleep reading the name, and gets a letter from a mysterious informant who wants to tell her the secrets of the election. So Homer brings Bart and Lisa to a parking garage to meet their Deep Throat, who ends up being Mr. Smithers. He explains that the election was a sham, and that they should look for Edgar Neubauer to figure out how. So the kids begin hunting for Neubauer, and end up finding him in the cemetery. Turns out Bob and the Republicans fixed the election by swamping the polls with fake votes from every dead person in town, even the pets. “The dead have risen and they’re voting Republican!” So the kids get a recall trial going, and for whatever reason hire Lionel Hutz. Hutz quickly gives up, and the judge just straight up lets these two children cross-examine the mayor. Bob’s being stony at first, but Lisa comes up with a great plan, and ends up telling the court that Bob is too dumb to come up with a plan like this, and it must have been Birch Barlow. This pisses Bob off enough that he ends up having a freak out in the courtroom, and admits that he fixed the election, and shows them all the evidence that he keeps hidden in his hair. The court then arrests him for fraud, and Bob is sent to jail for the fourth time thanks to Bart and Lisa, and is sent to a minimum security prison where he gets to row against Princeton.
This is definitely one of the best Sideshow Bob episodes of all time. It has Bob committing a crime, Bart and Lisa trying to uncover a mystery like little detectives, a court room scene with Lionel Hutz, and even some crazy political jokes. This is just an episode that’s firing on all cylinders, and absolutely aces it. It’s everything I love about a Sideshow Bob episode, and is also probably the most political episode of the show yet. Yeah, the one where Mr. Burns runs for governor has a lot of campaign stuff too, but this one is so much crazier, and makes a lot harder jabs at the Republican Party, which as a liberal I appreciate quite a bit.
Take Away: Don’t vote Republican. And it’s also super easy to rig a small-town mayoral election.
“Sideshow Bob Roberts” was written by Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1994.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons