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Recap / The Simpsons S 7 E 19 A Fish Called Selma

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Original air date: 3/24/1996

Production code: 3F15

When Troy McClure (you may remember him from such Simpsons episodes as "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" and "Lisa the Vegetarian"!) is sentenced to renew his driver's license after getting pulled over for erratic driving, he meets Selma (who is still looking for a man so she can have a family and not die alone) and decides to marry her to revive his moribund movie career (which fizzled out due to bad project choices and the urban legend that he is sexually attracted to fish, which got him in trouble at the Springfield Aquarium), which Selma has no problem with — until Troy's agent wants Troy and Selma to have a baby.

Incidentally, Vulture did "An Oral History of The Simpsons’ Classic Planet of the Apes Musical" that gets much more than you'd expect out of discussing a two minute long joke.



  • Adaptational Attractiveness: An in-story example. The stage version of Zira in the Planet of the Apes musical is depicted as an attractive nurse rather than the matronly scientist she was in the movie.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations: One of Troy's first new roles is on a Planet of the Apes musical.
  • Artistic License – Animal Care: At the end after breaking up with Troy, Selma tells her iguana Jub Jub that she's going to give him microwaved cockroaches as a treat when they get home. It is best for iguanas not to be fed any insects, since they are herbivores and all.
  • Bad "Bad Acting": Impressively, the animators manage to convey this in the performance of whoever was supposed to be playing Dr. Zaius in the musical. He has a tendency to go over-the-top in his body language, like when he drops his jaw after Troy says he couldn't play the piano before. Meanwhile, Troy's performance is more of a case of Took the Bad Film Seriously.
  • Bait-and-Switch:
    • Selma asks Troy what he's currently working on, and he responds that he's been reading a lot of scripts...because it's cheaper than going to the movies.
    • We start a scene with Troy and Selma in a restaurant:
      Troy: [laughing] That's too funny! I can't remember when I've heard a funnier anecdote. [laughing] All right, now you tell one.
    • As Troy and Selma are in the middle of a makeout session, he then pulls away, takes out some breath spray, says "Just a sec" and initially aims the container at his mouth, only to then spray it into hers.
    • When Troy drunkenly tells Homer why he's marrying Selma, Homer stares ahead in what is implied to be shock. Cut to the wedding itself, where upon Reverand Lovejoy saying the infamous line, we cut to the crowd, where the camera focuses on Homer...
  • The Beard: Selma, for Troy, albeit Troy isn't gay, but allegedly sexually attracted to sea life. Troy mentions that if he was gay he wouldn't need to enter into a fake marriage, in a nod to how it was starting to be seen as socially acceptable to be openly gay in Hollywood in the mid-90s.
  • Bestiality Is Depraved: This episode peppers in an absurd amount of jokes about Troy’s fish fetish, even putting it into the episode's title, without straight up saying it.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The final line reveals 20th Century Fox is willing to produce Troy's ridiculously outdated-sounding vanity project.
  • Blind Without 'Em: Troy McClure is pulled over for reckless driving. His license requires him to wear glasses, but they make him look like a nerd, so we usually never see him with any.
  • Bowdlerise: In-universe, this appears to be the case for the musical production of Planet of the Apes, which omits the cursing that was present in the 1968 film.
    George Taylor: Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!
    Troy McClure: Take your paws off me, you dirty ape!
  • Brutal Honesty:
    Selma: Is this a sham marriage!?
    Troy: Sure, baby. Is that a problemo?
  • By the Lights of Their Eyes: "Marge, could you close your eyes? I'm trying to sleep."
  • Career Resurrection: In-Universe. Troy undergoes one after marrying Selma.
  • Character Development: The entire point of the episode was to provide this for Troy.
  • Compressed Vice: Troy's career-ruining fetish for marine wildlife comes out of nowhere, and it never comes up again.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • A lot of the portraits at The Pimento Grove are of actual celebrities who made guest appearances in past episodes.
    • During the wedding, Lovejoy refers to Selma as "Selma Bouvier-Terwilliger-Bouvier", referring to her previous marriage to Sideshow Bob in "Black Widower".
  • Couch Gag: The family are malfunctioning wind-up dolls who waddle their way to the couch (or at least near it).
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Troy McClure and Selma. The Simpsons do appear, but they're pretty much the supporting cast.
  • Disco Dan: Troy is shown to be very out of touch with contemporary styling by depicting him driving a DeLorean DMC12 and living in a Zeerust home full of midcentury modern furnishings.
  • Earth All Along: A line from Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off is the Trope Namer.
    Oh my God! I was wrong! It was Earth, all a-long!
  • Everyone Has Standards:
    • Troy McClure hasn't acted in twelve years, so he's anxious to accept the offers that his agent says are "pouring in". Except the one from Paramount for "a buddy comedy with Rob Lowe and Hugh Grant". ("Those sick freaks?" he shouts.)
    • Selma ends up marrying Troy, but learns it's just a ploy by him to improve his career. She is convinced to continue the marriage, citing all the perks, until Troy decides to have a baby with Selma. She leaves him, not wanting to bring a child into a loveless marriage.
  • The Fantastic Trope of Wonderous Titles: The Contrabulous Fabtraption of Professor Horatio Hufnagel currently provides this trope's page image.
  • He Really Can Act: In-Universe. His appearance in Stop The Planet Of The Apes, I Want To Get Off! shows that Troy is in fact a legitimately talented actor. The reason he's considered washed-up has more to do with his poor choices of roles, his addictions, and (obviously) the fish thing.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Flagrant hypocrisy from Troy.
      Parker: Paramount wants you to star in a buddy comedy with Rob Lowe and Hugh Grant.
      Troy: Those sick freaks?!note 
    • The line "You're also lazy" in "Dr. Zaius" also counts, since "crazy" and "lazy" is an extremely lazy rhyme.
  • I'm Going to Disney World!: Troy's reaction to the possibility of being McBain's sidekick:
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: When Troy tries to have sex with Selma to conceive a child, he just keeps making roaring noises at the door of their bedroom. Selma wants to break the ice and offers him some wine. He quickly runs to the bed, empties both glasses, and returns to the door to continue with the roaring.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: MacArthur Parker looks like his voice actor, Jeff Goldblum.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Troy is able to win over Selma by talking about the benefits she gets out of the sham marriage.
  • Literal Metaphor: No, when Fat Tony said Troy was "sleeping with the fishes", he did not mean Troy was dead.
  • Noodle Incident: Troy McClure's unseen fish fetish. Whatever it entails, it has him banned from Sea World and can be described as him "sleeping with the fishes".
  • Not Even Bothering with an Excuse: When Selma confronts Troy about their sham marriage, he spins it as a good thing because unlike many other sham celebrity marriages, they know where they stand. Being desperate, Selma agrees to go along with the charade because she'll no longer be alone, and she'll get the perks of being a celebrity's wife, up until Troy's agent tells them they need a Trophy Child to keep up the illusion.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping: When Troy says, "I'm sorry, this whole concept's foreign to me!", Phil Hartman's Canadian accent noticeably slips through on the word "sorry."
  • Opposites Attract: Troy is a very upbeat and shallow character while Selma is negative and emotional.
  • Out of Focus: The main Simpson family don't get much focus in this episode, as most of the screentime is focused on Troy and Selma.
  • Pet the Dog: When Selma is reprimanded for smoking in a fancy restaurant, Troy lights up a cigar so she won't feel embarrassed. This was before the whole thing turned to publicity.
  • Pop-Culture Pun Episode Title: The title is a reference to A Fish Called Wanda.
  • Punny Name: MacArthur Parker is one on the song "MacArthur Park" (and the actual MacArthur Park in downtown Los Angeles).
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The premise of a celebrity marrying solely to convince the public that they have non-deviant sexual urges may have been inspired by the failed Michael Jackson-Lisa Marie Presley marriage, which ended a few months before this episode ran and was widely suspected of being a career-reviving ploy. (Columnist Jonah Goldberg actually referenced this episode in a National Review piece in 2005, as Jackson's child molestation trial was nearing its end.)
  • Shout-Out: The musical Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!, in addition to being a parody of Planet of the Apes (1968), also contains the number "Dr. Zaius", set to Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus". See also Punny Name above.
  • Song Parody: "Dr. Zaius", a parody of Falco's "Rock Me Amadeus".
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Subverted; it looks like Homer might object, but he's too busy humming the tune to Gary Glitter's "Rock and Roll, Part 2" in his head.
  • Special Guest: Jeff Goldblum as MacArthur Parker. Oddly, because the Planet of the Apes (1968) musical is such an iconic moment for Phil Hartman, people forget that Goldblum is in this episode too (he was working on one of his biggest films, Independence Day, when he recorded his lines according to Josh Weinstein). The fact that he is not a Celebrity Star but voicing a one-off secondary character might also be a factor.
  • Trophy Child: Defied: Troy's agent wants Troy and Selma to have a baby to improve Troy's career, but Troy doesn't know the first thing about sex with a real woman and Selma doesn't want to bring a child into a sham marriage. Troy then suggests hiring a child actor to be in on it, but by then, Selma's just tired of the illusion.
  • The Unreveal: Troy's "abnormality" is purposefully alluded to but never spelled out. Though Fat Tony's line about Troy McClure "sleeping with the fishes" — which, in this case, doesn't mean that Troy was drowned by the Mafia — is about as close to alluding to Troy's sexual fetish as primetime TV will allow. The Simpsons: Virtual Springfield featured a paparazzi photo with a drunk Troy and a fish in a compromising position.
  • Weird Aside: How Homer lets the truth slip:
    Marge: It was a beautiful wedding. I don't think I've seen Selma happier.
    Homer: That reminds me — Troy said something interesting last night at the bar. Apparently he doesn't really love Selma and the marriage is just a sham to help his career. Well, enough talk. Let's snuggle.
    Marge: WHAT?!
  • You Might Remember Me from...: Used Repeatedly In-Universe. It's a Troy episode, so this trope is all over the place.


Video Example(s):


Stop The Planet of The Apes

Hilariously parodied in this classic bit, where Troy McClure (You may remember him from such Simpsons episodes as "Bart's Friend Falls in Love" and "Radioactive Man"!) stars in a musical about Planet of The apes, featuring breakdancing orang-utans and a whole number about Dr. Zaius.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (16 votes)

Example of:

Main / AllMusicalsAreAdaptations

Media sources: