Original air date: 9/24/1995
Production code: 2F17
Plot SummaryBart and Milhouse are poring over the latest issues of Radioactive Man (as well as a knock-off comic) at the Android's Dungeon when Jeff Albertson (Comic Book Guy) lets them know that the character's about to go Hollywood with a big-budget movie adaptation starring Rainier Wolfcastle in the title role. Already the nerds of the online world (including the three nerds that Homer was friends with on season 5's "Homer Goes to College", the eccentric 1980s pop singer Prince and CBG himself) are scrounging up rumors about the production, with eyes and ears extending to the boardroom of the movie studio behind the project, who want to make a Radioactive Man movie that won't be like the campy 1970s TV version note . They need a location to shoot in, and decide on Springfield — based on its tiny, misspelled Variety ad, it's obviously a town that doesn't need to toot its own horn.
Springfield's businesses jack up their prices in anticipation of the moneyed film crew, while the kids at Springfield Elementary are given new reason for excitement — auditions for the key role of sidekick Fallout Boy will be held at the school. At first, Bart appears to be a lock for the part, but he's slightly shorter than what the filmmakers want, and by the time he's managed to at least appear taller, they've decided to go with Milhouse instead.
Production commences. Homer allows the crew to use the Simpson house as a filmmaking location and gets to slack off with Teamsters, the city imposes taxes on wearing poofy director's trousers and another one on not wearing such pants as well as other silly regulations, horses are painted to look like cows, and Wolfcastle's elocution lessons prove to have limited success. But it's Bart who learns that Milhouse is miserable with the day-to-day grind of filmmaking. From there Milhouse literally runs away from the production, ruining the shooting of a key, one-take-only action sequence.
As the filmmakers attempt to salvage the production, Bart realizes Milhouse is hiding in the former's treehouse and tries to convince him to go back — as does Mickey Rooney, who's been sent by the studio to give him a pep talk on child stardom. Milhouse's decision is final, though. And while it would be logical to recast Bart as Fallout Boy, the filmmakers briefly attempt to go forward with Rooney instead. In the end, the matter proves moot; thanks to Springfield's gouging, the production has run out of money. The filmmakers return to Hollywood to regroup and are warmly welcomed by a town that treats people right.
This episode contains examples of:
- Accidental Misnaming:Principal Skinner: Students, I have an announcement. One of your favorite comic book heroes, Radio Man —
Nelson: Radioactive Man, stupid!
Principal Skinner: Strange, I shouldn't have been able to hear that.
- This was a call back to a similar joke in Three Men and a Comic Book where Mayor Quimby referred to the hero as "Radiation Man" in a speech and being rudely corrected by Jimbo Jones.
- Made even funnier when the official comics reveal that Radioactive Man was once called Radio Man.
- Artistic License Film Production: The Radioactive Man movie was doomed to fail, not only because of the town's ridiculous taxing, but also because of the crew's more-than-apparent ineptitude:
- One scene involves Rainier Wolfcastle being swept away in a river of actual acid with no one on set wearing anything more than a pair of safety goggles for protection.
- The movie is also apparently filmed with only one camera - they make Milhouse do the same scene a zillion times so they can get it from different angles, instead of having several cameras focused on the scene.
- Bart is rejected for the part of Fallout Boy despite his natural talent due to being an inch too short, despite the fact that all sorts of filming techniques exist that can be used to make characters look taller or shorter as needed.
- Milhouse is subjected to an extreme dose of x-rays and comments that he's sitting on a broken bottle, with the director telling him to "use it."
- All this is lampshaded in one scene where they paint horses so they look like cows, because according to them, cows don't really look like cows on the screen. And when they want horses, they tie a lot of cats together.
- Art Shift: The first episode to use digital paint techniques, to wildly varying degrees of success. See Off-Model below.
- As You Know: A stagehand helpfully points out that Moe had just killed the original Alfalfa, for the sake of anyone from the future listening into the incident via flashback.
- Bait-and-Switch: "Congratulations, Bart Simpson: you're our new Fallout Boy!...That's what I'd be saying to you if you weren't an inch too short. Next!"
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Anything that misleads Bart into thinking he'll be Fallout Boy.
Homer: Didn't you direct "Unnatural Discretion?"Director: (Delighted) Why yes, I did?Homer: Phew-wee, phew-wee!! You know, I never walk out of a movie, but, Euggh!
- This interaction when the film crew is preparing to shoot a scene in the Simpsons' house:
- Batman Parody: The Radioactive Man film is directly parodying the Batman blockbusters of the 1990s, including a call-back to the 1960s TV series, where a wacky villain is shown named the Scoutmaster and the fight scenes have onomatopoeic words flashing to the screen.
- Beatnik: The Radioactive Man crew is greeted by one upon arriving back at Hollywood at the end.
- Blatant Lies: After Milhouse runs away, the film's editor claims that he can splice together existing footage so well that the audience won't be able to tell the difference. However, his cut jumps to completely random scenes with no sense of continuity just to fill out a conversationnote . The director fires him on the spot, and the editor responds "And with good cause!"
- Brick Joke: At the beginning of the episode, Bart explains to Milhouse that "Radioactive Man has his famous catchphrase, 'Up and at 'em,' with 'at 'em' spelled A-T-O-M in a delicious pun". Later on, we see that Wolfcastle is completely unable to say the phrase as a pun.
- Two of the sound effect cards in the '70s Radioactive Man scene are "SNUH!" and "BORT!" SNUH was the name of the anti-cartoon violence organization Marge started in "Itchy & Scratchy & Marge". Bort was the unexpectedly popular souvenir license plate in "Itchy & Scratchy Land".
- That the original actor for Radioactive Man is dead was first established in "Three Men And A Comic Book".
- Camp Straight: Either this or Ambiguously Gay is the best way to describe the overtly flaming Seventies "Radioactive Man" villain the Scoutmaster.
- Celebrity Is Overrated: Milhouse experiences this big time, to the point that he didn't really want to be Fallout Boy in the first place and simply got forced into it. As the episode goes on, Milhouse is just further and further disillusioned no matter how much Bart or anyone else tries to spin being a celebrity to him.
- Chekhov's Gun: Any time someone's wearing a hat in this episode, it's to facilitate the Running Gag.
- Couch Gag: The couch ejects a sheet of paper like a fax machine that has a screenshot of the family, which then floats up into the air, before sliding beneath the couch.
- Cutaway Gag: Homer's television uttering one sentence about everyone talking about Radioactive Man as it flicks through seventeen channels.
- Dance Party Ending: The flashback to the '70s Radioactive Man movie ends with all the characters dancing alongside scantily-clad women.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Moe got kicked out of Hollywood for killing the original Alfalfa from "Little Rascals". He's still broken up about it.
- Death by Adaptation: That said, the real original Alfalfa, Carl Switzer, did not die in 1934, but managed to live to the age of 31. Then, he was shot to death, rather than beaten to death here. Not only was he not an orphan, but both his parents managed to outlive him.
- Department of Redundancy Department: Main headline: "Who will be Fallout Boy?" Secondary headline: "Who will be Fallout Boy?"
- Didn't Think This Through:
- The one-shot scene that cost a million dollars and involved real acid required Milhouse to be on set for it to work. Nobody thought to check that Milhouse was on set before executing the scene and it goes horribly wrong.
- Wiggum sends out a pack of angry police dogs to find Milhouse and only realizes afterward there's a good chance they'll kill him when they do.
- Downer Ending: Bart never gets to be Fallout Boy, and despite his and Mickey Rooney's best efforts, Milhouse refuses to continue acting. And thanks to Springfield's price gouging and Mayor Quimby inventing new taxes on the fly to take them for every dime, the film crew runs out of money and the movie is cancelled. Leans more towards Bittersweet Ending once the production team comes back to Hollywood and they are treated much better, with the possibility of a quick recovery.
- Epic Movie: The Radioactive Man movie adaptation is intended as this.
- Foreshadowing: Moe reveals he was a child actor. His love of acting would be explored further in season 11's "Pygmoelian".
- Former Child Star: Moe was one of the original Little Rascals until he kills the original Alfalfa in a fit of rage when he stole his bit. Fortunately for Moe, Alfalfa was an orphan owned by the studio.
- Funny Background Event: As Moe goes into his childhood flashback, Barney keeps trying to get his attention.
- A Good Name for a Rock Band: Emo band Fall Out Boy named themselves after Radioactive Man's sidekick in this episode.
- Gosh Dang It to Heck!: Radioactive Man treats Fallout Boy's Catchphrase "Jiminy Jilikers!" as a curse word.
- Horrible Hollywood: In Moe's story of how his past as a Little Rascal ended, killing the original Alfalfa didn't give him any lasting consequences because Alfalfa was an orphan belonging to the studio.
- Otherwise inverted, as Hollywood is shown as a place full of good, kind people who are taken advantage of by the people of Springfield.
- I Didn't Mean to Kill Him: Combined with Bait-and-Switch:Bart: Hey, Milhouse. I just want you to know I'm glad at least one of us got the part. ("Milhouse" explodes) Milhouse!
(movie crew rushes over)
Bart: (visibly upset) I didn't do it! I wished him well! I wished him well! (detached head falls into his arms) AHH!
Crew member: (frustrated) Stupid dummy wasn't supposed to explode yet.
- Informed Ability: We never actually see Milhouse act outside of a few very brief clips, but we're told he's Van Johnson good.
- Informed Flaw: According to the director, Bart is an inch too short to cast as Fallout Boy, despite being drawn taller than Milhouse, who gets the role.
- Insane Troll Logic:
- The director thinks Springfield must be a great place to film because it doesn't have a fancy ad or correct spelling.note
- The rationale for using animals to portray different species.
- Milhouse is disillusioned with playing a superhero onscreen and says that real heroes are people who work to cure heart disease and end world hunger. Bart calls those heroes inferior to movie heroes because they haven't actually succeeded at their goals, while the movie heroes get "results."
- Karma Houdini: Moe killed the original Alfalfa from "Little Rascals" but, since Alfalfa was an orphan belonging to the studio, Moe doesn't receive any punishment worse than being kicked out of Hollywood.
- Kill on Sight: Inverted for laughs. The "Wanted!" Poster the production staff makes for Milhouse reads "Dead or Alive" but the "Dead" was hastily scribbled over.
- Last-Second Word Swap: Lionel Hutz introduces himself to Milhouse as his agent, lawyer, unauthorized biographer, and drug dealer... keeper-away-er.
- Made Myself Sad: Nelson reflexively "Ha-ha"s himself in a mirror after failing his audition and then has a Heel Realization upon discovering how much it stings.
- Made of Iron: Rainer Wolfcastle survives being washed away by a giant wave of acid and knocked through his trailer with little more than Clothing Damage.
- Metaphorically True: When Mickey Rooney appears, he states he was the number one box office draw from "1939-1940". Bart immediately declares this spans two decades (as in one year from each decade).
- Naked People Are Funny: The horribly toxic acid does not kill Rainier Wolfcastle, but it does melt his costume down to the underpants.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: The Scoutmaster from the 1960s Radioactive Man is modeled after Paul Lynde.
- Non-Answer: When Wiggum unleashes the police department's dogs to find Milhouse, the Van Houtens ask Wiggum if they are going to just find Milhouse or find and kill Milhouse. Wiggum does a silent Oh, Crap! for a second before mumbling out gibberish as an answer, which an angry Kirk points out.
- Off-Model: This was the first episode to be done in digital ink and paint (back when 99% of animation was still done with cels and traditional ink and paint; digital ink and paint was mostly just done in high-budget movies prior to circa 2000-2001, and some cartoons used cels until 2005), so a lot of the color and character designs will look off for those who aren't used to seeing it this way. It's obvious the that the software used wasn't exactly top-of-the-line.
- Old Shame: In-universe: The director of the Radioactive Man movie does not want the movie to be like the campy 1970s version (which is a lot like the campy 1960s version of Batman starring Adam West and Burt Ward).
- One-Person Birthday Party: Brought up when Nelson laughs at himself for screwing up the audition for Radioactive Man's sidekick, Fallout Boy.Ha-ha! Wait a minute...that hurt. No wonder no one came to my birthday party.
- Parental Neglect: Milhouse's parents ignore what he wants and force him to be an actor against his will and then buy incredibly expensive stuff that they intend to have Milhouse pay for. It's unclear how they respond to their son insistent refusal and that the movie is shut down anyway.
- The Real Heroes: Brought up by Milhouse as a point for his belief that Celebrity Is Overrated, but it is openly mocked by Bart, who says that the "real heroes" are losers because the "Real World" issues just keep on coming, and if you want real results (read: bad guys dying and such), you should call on the Stallones, the Schwarzeneggers and (in a lesser measure) the Van Dammes.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Mickey Rooney gives one to Springfield after the movie's budget runs out. Even though Quimby was moved by it and feels guilty, he refused to give them their money back.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: The "Flim Springfield" ad the filmmakers find.
- Running Gag: Hats getting sucked up by malfunctioning fans.
- Screw This, I'm Outta Here: Milhouse legs it after being unable to cope with the pressure of being Fallout Boy any longer.
- Serial Numbers Filed Off: Radiation Dude is an In-Universe example, whose catchphrase is, "Up and let's go!"
- "Shaggy Dog" Story: In the end, the entire episode's events are rendered completely null when the production team runs out of money and are forced to cancel the movie.
- When Milhouse goes missing, a special effects technician proposes using existing footage of Milhouse to finish his role in the movie. This technique had been fairly recently used in The Crow when Brandon Lee died during filming.
- The scene from the old Radioactive Man movie is of course modeled after the Adam West Batman series, right down to having a Special Guest as the villain.note
- Moe was apparently a child actor on The Little Rascals.
- Radioactive Man's catchphrase, "Up and atom!", is borrowed from Atom Ant.
- Rainier Wolfcastle's difficulty in saying "Up and at 'em!" is similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger having trouble saying "I'll be back," for The Terminator.
- The sound effects used for the wire-tap of Bart's tree-house phone are the bridge noises from Star Trek. This was done at the behest of showrunner David Mirkin.
- One establishing shot in the movie is a blatant take from Waterworld.
- Comic Book Guy has the Flying Toasters screensaver.
- Springfield businesses raising their prices and Mayor Quimby charging the film crew taxes is Truth in Television. This happened to George Lucas and his production crew during the making of The Empire Strikes Back; it got so expensive to get permits, purchase needed supplies, book hotels, etc. that the next film was hidden under the name Blue Harvest.
- Skewed Priorities: Despite Bart otherwise being a great fit for the role of Fallout Boy, the director rejects him in favor of Milhouse solely because Bart is one inch too short. This backfires on him when Milhouse eventually quits the production, unable to take the pressure of being Fallout Boy.
- Sleazy Politician: Quimby strikes again, by milking the production budget bone dry by taxing them for everything he can think of, including wearing (or not wearing) bell-bottom jeans and even for leaving town.
- Special Guest: Mickey Rooney As Himself.
- Spinning Paper: "Who will be Fallout Boy?" and "Spinning Newspaper Injures Printer"
- Stage Mom: Kirk and Luanne make Milhouse follow through with being Fallout Boy for the sake of how much money he'll make, regardless of how he feels.
- Stealth Pun: The villain in the clip we see of the Batman (1966)-esque Radioactive Man adaptation is an Ambiguously Gay scoutmaster. It's "campy" on multiple levels.
- Stock Footage Failure: Invoked with the aforementioned attempt to finish the movie with stock footage of Milhouse as Fallout Boy.
- Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: The movie runs out of budget before it is finished. While the townsfolk bleeding the moviemakers dry is one reason, the directors also make a series of truly baffling decisions that waste money. The worst of these is a single shot that costs a million dollars involving Milhouse saving Rainer Wolfcastle from real acid. The directors didn't even bother to check if Milhouse was around before proceeding with the shot.
- Take That!: Mickey Rooney states that the only thing hollow in entertainment is the music industry.
- Tempting Fate: When the producers decide to leave Springfield, one of them comments that they only have one thousand dollars left. Quimby suddenly shows up and informs them the town-leaving tax is one thousand dollars.
- They Killed Kenny Again: Bart and Milhouse have the special edition of Radioactive Man where he and Fallout Boy get killed on every page.
- Tranquil Fury: Milhouse is told that he needs to re-do the "Jiminy Jilikers" scene again and again from different angles after shooting it for seven hours. His response is simply cold anger.
- Troubled Production: In-Universe; filming for the Radioactive Man movie ends up being disastrous, leading to the plug getting pulled on it.
- A True Hero: Milhouse, once fed up with being an actor, says that a true hero is someone like a police officer. This Trope then is mocked by Bart, who calls them losers because they don't really make a change (read: fires and crime and disease keeps happening) and "true" heroes are fictional characters that make things end conclusively.
- Unsound Effect: The '70s Radioactive Man movie is filled with them: ZUFF! PAN!! SNUH! BORT! POOO! NEWT! MINT! ZAK!
- "Wanted!" Poster: When Milhouse disappears due to the stress of playing Fallout Boy, a wanted poster is issued. Below his picture is "Dead or Alive", with "Dead" crossed out.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: "Get me two plane tickets to the state that Springfield is in." Of course, the viewer never finds out where, because they cut to the next scene and it's never mentioned again.
- Yank the Dog's Chain: Bart is led to believe he got the part of Fallout Boy three times over.