Lifetime of Simpsons

S26 E03 – Super Franchise Me

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When I started this project what feels like an eternity ago, I was pretty worried about the era that I’ve currently been in for the last couple of months. Because I felt like when I got to the seasons I’d never seen I would find myself in a wasteland of mediocrity that became a cruel mockery of the show that I loved. And, by and large, I’ve been pleasantly surprised that thing have been much better than I anticipated. Which is a long way to set up the fact that today’s episode is kind of everything I feared this era of the show would be. Because do you remember the episode where Marge bought a pretzel franchise? Well, this is that. But with sandwiches.

The episode begins in Ned’s home, while he’s sitting around painting some sort of lame Jesus tchotchkes, when Rod and Todd arrive to ask him for help with their homework. Ned of course agrees, and finds that the boys are for some reason supposed to find ways to save electricity around the home. So, Ned and the boy wander the house, unplugging things, and then go check the meter outside to ensure that they accomplished their goal.

However, Ned finds something surprising. The meter is still rapidly increasing. He so switches off all of the breakers, and finds that the meter is still rising. So, Ned does some investigating, and of course finds that Homer is to blame. He’s somehow rented a Ferris Wheel and has it in his backyard, and it powering it on Ned’s electricity. Ned yells at Homer, and demands that he stop leeching electricity from him. Homer then walks around, unplugging everything that’s being powered by Ned’s house, including a freezer full of meat.

Homer is terrified about this freezer though, because now all of the meat he has hoarded will thaw and become useless. Luckily Marge has an idea. She’s willing to spend all day cooking all of the meat, and turning it into sandwiches for the family. So, the rest of the family sit around while Marge spends all day saving over the stove, creating what seems like hundreds of sandwiches. And, not surprisingly, they’re all really good.

A couple days then go by, and Marge starts to notice something odd. Bart and Lisa keep asking for a whole stack of sandwiches each day, and she starts to become concerned. But when she asks them about it, they have a pretty simple answer. They’re selling the sandwiches to the other kids, because they all love them, and are willing to pay for them. Marge even goes to the school one day and sees for herself what a success the sandwiches have become.

And she’s not the only person who sees this. Because when Marge is at the school she’s approached by a woman who represents the Mother Hubbard Sandwich Shop company. She thinks that Marge has raw sandwich talent, and asks if she’s interested in opening a franchise of the sandwich shop here in Springfield. And Marge is very tempted. She thinks things over with Homer, but almost immediately agrees and signs the franchise contract.

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Marge then prepares to open her own sandwich shop, and right away realizes how tough the fast food game in Springfield is, when Krusty and Mr. Teeny come to wreck her shop. But she’s able to turn them away with the sheer quality of her sandwiches. So, she has the product down, now she just needs to get people working there. She begins interviewing folks, and ends up selecting Gil, Shauna, and the Squeaky Voiced Teen as her employees.

And, with all of that done, the only thing left to do is officially open. However, Marge finds that she’s become incredibly nervous about the shop, terrified that it won’t be a success. Homer manages to give her a pep talk, and that pushes her to do her best and succeed at the shop. And during that first day open Homer comes strolling in to see how Marge is doing, and finds that she’s still incredibly stressed out, because things aren’t like she thought they’d be.

Marge is horrified to realize that being a franchise owner kind of sucks, because the Mother Hubbard corporation gets most of the profits, and seems deadest on squeezing as much money as possible out of Marge. And, to make matters worse, almost immediately she finds Shauna stealing money from the till. So, with no other choice, Marge fires Shauna. Unfortunately, she takes Squeaky Voiced Teen along with her, leaving Marge with only a Gil as a workforce.

Marge realizes that she’s more or less screwed, so the family of course step up to help her. Homer and the kids begin working in the sandwich shop with Marge, and after quickly firing Gil they manage to whip themselves into shape. And, once they’ve ironed out the kinks, they actually start to become really efficient. They start making a profit, and they grow closer as a family while also serving some high-quality sandwiches.

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Which of course means that it’s time for some disaster to strike. Because as soon as they find themselves on top, they notice that people stop coming to the shop. And the reason why, is pretty infuriating. Mother Hubbard has opened a new shop, a Mother Hubbard Express, right across the street. It’s owned and operated by Cleetus and his family, and because there’s so many children they’re able to stay open 24/7 and their assembly line is able to churn out as many sandwiches as possible. And because the people of Springfield are fickle, they all start going to this new shop instead of the Simpsons’.

And, when everyone starts to go to the other restaurant, the Simpsons start to suffer. They’re so wrapped up financially in this franchise that they have to just keep working, hoping that someone will eventually come in. Everyone quickly starts to wear out, and eventually Marge reaches the point where she just gives up and goes to Moe’s. And while there she can’t even escape her demons, because she sees a commercial for Cleetus’ restaurant.

Marge is despondent at this point, which is the perfect time for a Moe plan to make sense. He says he knows a sure-fire way to get them out of their contract, and explains the scam to Marge. And, because she’s desperate, Marge decides to give it a shot.

We then see Marge call he lady who sold her the franchise, seemingly to complain about Cleetus’ restaurant, giving the lady one last chance to do the right thing. But, she refuses and says that that’s just how capitalism works, and the Simpsons spring their plan. They have Homer come in, in a disguise, and order a coffee, which they immediately spill in Homer’s crotch. He begins freaking out, and the corporate lady realizes that she never gave the training that Marge’s contract said that she would. So, in exchange for taking care of the liability involved, Marge says she wants out of her contract. The lady agrees, and voids the contract, gives them back their investment, and everything goes back to normal.

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I think that this episode would have been much more interesting if we hadn’t seen it before. Yeah, there are some differences between this and “The Twisted World of Marge Simpson,” but the basics are very similar. Both feature Marge more or less getting conned into opening a franchise, and realizing that she doesn’t have the knack for competition. She throws herself into the business, and ends up failing, so Homer has to do something to save her. And, when we get right down to it, “the Twisted World of Marge Simpson” is a fun episode, and this one is just kind of a dull one. It’s just not as good, and just comes off as a pale imitation, which nullifies anything that makes this episode interesting.

Take Away: Don’t trust capitalism!

 

“Super Franchise Me” was written by Bill Odenkirk and directed by Mark Kirkland, 2014.

 

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