So this is kind of a heavy week for Lifetime of Simpsons. We get a lot of weird episodes with some heavy topics and morals being discussed. And after yesterday’s weird ugliness and muddled characterization, we get this insane little palette cleanser of an episode that just steers into the zaniness of the Simpsons, and becomes one of my favorite silly episodes they ever made.
We start things off by showing Bart entering the Elementary School as the only kid not wearing green on Saint Patrick’s Day, which of course means he gets ganged by other kids who start pinching him. Which was always such a stupid tradition, and when I forget to wear green on that day I just tell people I get a mulligan since my name is Patrick, and that’s festive enough. But the school was only there for that scene, so we cut over to Moe’s, where all the horrible drunks are waiting outside for it to open at 9 am so they can get drunk. And the revelry starts right off the bat, because we next see the whole down ready for a St. Paddy’s Day parade, where Marge and the kids are also, because I guess Marge took the kids out of school for this? But still made them go in the morning? I don’t know, doesn’t matter. The whole reason for Bart to be down at the parade was so he could buy a big plastic horn to yell at people with, and be stumbling around the parade when a giant Duff truck shows up, firing beer out of a fire hose. And all the beer fires right down Bart’s horn, and into his mouth, getting him super drunk, in front of the whole town and the news.
And it doesn’t go well. Bart’s drunkenness narrowly avoids a giant orgy in the streets of Springfield, and everyone gets ashamed of alcohol. Which keeps going when Kent Brockman does a report on Bart where he derides Springfield’s love of alcohol, and in passing mentions the idea of Prohibition. And, of course, that idea spurs on the religious crazies in town (Helen and Maude) who head to Town Hall to protest at Mayor Quimby. And while they’re debating the idea of Prohibition, a little mysterious clerk that happened to be in the office reading old town laws finds that technically Springfield has Prohibition, and has had for 200 years, and that the punishment for drinking alcohol is catapult, the best punishment possible. And since we don’t want to follow the fact that they also have a law saying ducks have to wear long pants, we go with the Prohibition thing.
Springfield is then declared a dry city, and all of the Duff from the brewery is buried in a landfill at the dump, while Duff quickly goes out of business trying to sell alcohol-free beer, because they apparently only sell beer in Springfield. But with legal alcohol kicked out of town, that only means it’s time for speakeasies! So Moe quickly transforms his bar into a “Pet Shop” which is selling booze and jazz music almost immediately. Fat Tony start bringing alcohol in from Shellbyville, and the town essentially becomes the Roaring 20’s, with everyone gladly going to the speakeasy to drink, giving Moe better business than he’s had in years. But the shit hits the fan when the Temperance freaks show up at Moe’s, and get pissed when they find Chief Wiggum there, drunk.
The Temperance women make a fuss, and Wiggum ends up getting fired as police chief as Quimby hires a guy named Rex Banner, a tough no-nonsense cop who is basically Elliot Ness. And Banner quickly turns Springfield into the Untouchables, getting rid of the mob, and cleaning up all the alcohol in town through the power of Tommy guns. And with Fat Tony taken care of, Moe and his speakeasy are out of alcohol. So Homer and Bart start brainstorming, and Homer ends up coming up with a pretty good idea. So he and Bart head out, hilariously telling Marge “If we don’t come back, avenge our deaths!” And the two numbskulls head to the dump, with a U-Haul, where they dig up all the buried beer, and load it up. They briefly get in a car chase with Banner through a cemetery, but they escape, and start their smuggling operation.
Homer and Bart then bring the beer down to the basement, which they ban Marge from entering, and start their complicated operation. Their plan is to take the beer, pour it into bowling balls, bring the balls to the Bowlarama, then intentionally throw gutter balls so that the balls go down a secret chute that takes them straight to Moe’s. And they’re doing quite well with it. Homer’s making a lot of money, and Moe’s is slinging a lot of suds. Everybody’s happy! Except Rex Banner, who is starting to get really fixated on this mysterious Beer Baron whose supplying Springfield with booze. And when he runs into an obviously drunk Barney he starts yelling old-timey insults at Barney, getting him to squeal, setting up the downfall of Homer and the Beer Baron.
But Banner isn’t the first person to figure things out, because Marge discovers the plot, and is shockingly okay with it, since it’s the cleverest thing Homer’s ever done, and it’s only violating a stupid 200 year old law. And we see that Marge is a better detective than Banner, because he finally finds Moe’s, but is tricked when Moe claims that it’s not a speakeasy, and just the “best damned pet shop in town.” And in the end, it wasn’t Banner who starts to ruin Moe’s business, it’s the supply, because the beer Homer dug up from the dump is officially gone, leaving Homer with only one option. He’s gotta start making his own alcohol!
Homer and Bart then go buy a bunch of bathtubs, and set up a crazy distillery in their basement, brewing and distilling all kinds of alcohol. Marge finally starts to have a problem with the plan, even though the money is still rolling in, and Homer’s weird bathtub liquor is a huge success. But problems start arising when his liquor stills start exploding, which Homer cleverly covers up by saying he’s just farting. Although when he goes to check on them and ends up lighting on fire, he agrees that things have gone too far, and decides to stop being the Beer Baron. But how?
He doesn’t want to just turn himself in, and decides instead to help good old Wiggum, who is now wandering the town, asking people if he can arrest them. So Homer and Wiggum team up and figure out a plan that can get Homer out of the Beer Baron business, and get Wiggum back on top. They have Wiggum publically announce that he caught Homer, giving him full credit for the collar. Unfortunately that means Homer’s going to have to be catapulted. The whole town shows up for his punishment, even making sure it works by testing it on a cat. But Marge tries to come to the day, and gives an impassioned speech about how Prohibition is stupid, and that they shouldn’t catapult Homer. But Banner rebuts with his own speech, which is cut short when he wanders onto the catapult and Wiggum sends him soaring out of town. And right as Homer is about to follow him, that weird clerk from earlier reads the rest of the parchment he found earlier, and finds that even though Springfield prohibited alcohol 200 years ago, they repealed the law 199 years ago, so the entire episode was pointless! The town celebrates, Fat Tony floods it with alcohol, and they have a big party while Homer says the classic summation: “To alcohol. The cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.”
What a fun, stupid episode. I love it so much. This is exactly the type of silly Simpsons that I love. It has all my favorite hallmarks of a goofy episode. Something weird happens in the town that drastically changes it, Homer apparently quits his job and starts playing a major role in this new paradigm, Homer is shockingly good at that role, Homer gets caught, the town stops caring and everything goes back to exactly how it was before the episode began. Episodes that follow that structure are often super stupid, but also super enjoyable, and man was this one great. I love everything about it. Seeing Springfield, a town full of horrible drunks, having to deal with Prohibition was hilarious, especially because of the wonderful decision to have everything revert back to the 20’s. They even had a damn narrator in certain parts of the episode like it was a radio drama! Rex Banner is a hilarious character, and it’s so funny seeing how competent he is, but is somehow unable to catch Homer, who is ridiculous obvious in his Beer Barony. And then, a catapult later, everything returns to normal, just like any good zany episode.
Take Away: Prohibition doesn’t work; it just makes people want it more and willing to go to ridiculous extremes to get it. And catapults are a shockingly bad deterrent to crime.
“Homer vs the Eighteenth Amendment” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Bob Anderson, 1997.