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Recap / The Simpsons S8 E24 "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase"

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Original air date: 5/11/1997

Production code: 4F20

A Three Shorts episode.

Troy McClure reveals that Fox is desperately trying to create new shows for their Sunday night line-up, believing the "only" popular shows on the network were Melrose Place, The Simpsons and The X-Files.note 

Initially, this episode was made due to FOX asking Matt Groening and his crew from The Simpsons to come up with a brand-new show. They didn't come up with any (that is, until Futurama), but they did supply three pilots for Simpsons spinoffs:

Chief Wiggum P.I. (Police action shows from the 1970s and 1980s) — Clancy Wiggum, the corrupt, now-former Chief of the Springfield Police Department and a single father, has gone into business for himself in New Orleans with his partner Seymour "Skinny Boy" Skinner (aching to return to his Big Easy roots) along for the ride. In this episode, Chief Wiggum's son Ralph gets kidnapped by a Southern crime lord and the crime-fighting duo must find him.

The Love-matic Grampa (Cheesy fantasy sitcoms of The '60s, My Mother, the Car in particular) — Having "got lost along the way" to Heaven, Abe Simpson's spirit now inhabits the "love tester" machine at Moe's Tavern and gives the bartender tips on how to win over women. In this episode, Abe helps Moe score a date with a woman who enters his bar asking for roadside assistance — but when Moe gets date jitters, he sneaks the machine into the restaurant.

The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour (Variety shows of The '70s, specifically The Brady Bunch Hour and Laugh-In): The Simpsons, minus Lisa — who declined to participate and is replaced by a blonde teenager — host a cornball 1970s sketch comedy show, with special guest star Tim Conway.

McClure ends the show with a mock preview of the upcoming ninth season, which will include magic powers, multiple weddings, long-lost triplets, and Homer befriending a tiny, green space alien named Ozmodiar that only he can see note .

This episode contains examples of:

  • Acrofatic: Big Daddy rather handily escapes from the parade while being chased by Wiggum and Skinner. The rotund Wiggum has no issues chasing Big Daddy, either.
  • Actually Pretty Funny: In the "Chief Wiggum, P.I." intro, Ralph adds a "G" to the "P.I." sign on his father's office door. The latter is mad for a second, then laughs along, even patting him on the head in response.
  • Actor Allusion: Gailard Sartain's performance as Big Daddy is a reference to the character of Daddy Mention that he played in The Big Easy
  • Adults Dressed as Children: Jasper wears a Little Lord Fauntleroy outfit in The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour.
  • Affably Evil: Big Daddy is a remarkably cordial criminal mastermind, treating Ralph very well despite kidnapping him.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Troy McClure comes back from a commercial break sitting in a chair next to a distinguished-looking man. He says "Welcome back. I'm talking with the Curator of the Museum of TV and Television, Mr. John Winslow," leading you to think he's going to start asking Winslow questions. Instead, Troy stands up and starts walking the other direction, while he introduces the next segment.
  • Animated Actors: Portrays the Simpsons cast as this, with Lisa even becoming the victim of The Other Darrin in the final segment.
  • Animated Credits Opening: Though The Simpsons is animated anyway, The Love-Matic Grandpa opening has a more crude animation style.
  • Art Shift: The Love-Matic Grandpa changes to a more simplistic, limited art style to resemble an Animated Credits Opening.
  • Backstory of the Day: Seymour Skinner was suddenly born and raised in New Orleans. Too bad he can't seem to pronounce the city's name the same way twice, and he remembers Mardi Gras as "Marty's... something".
  • The Big Easy: Parodied in Chief Wiggum P.I., where Chief Wiggum moves to New Orleans and is visited by the Simpsons. "Chief Wiggum, I can't wait to hear about all the exciting, sexy adventures you're sure to have against this colorful backdrop," Lisa lampshades. Also, so-called "New Orleans Native" Skinner doesn't even know it's Mardi Gras until somebody opens up a window and there's a massive float passing by.
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: The end of The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour:
    Homer: I wish our special guest Tim Conway didn't have to leave so soon.
    Tim Conway: I'm still here. Fox wouldn't spring for a decent hotel room.
    Marge: (laughs) He's just kidding. We'd like to thank Fox and the good people at Budget Lodge.
  • Black Comedy Burst:
    • Twice in The Love-matic Grandpa Grandpa Simpson makes comments that really clash with the short's mood. Notably they pass without a laugh track.
    That's the second time he's pulled the plug on me.
    I've suffered for so long. Why can't I die?
    • Not quite Black Comedy, but this exchange in Smile-Time Variety Hour is a similar Mood Whiplash burst.
      Homer: Well, I know one thing in this world that's still pure and good.
      Marge: Christian love?
      Homer: No. Candy! Sweet, sweet candy!
  • Bottomless Magazines: Parodied in Chief Wiggum P.I., as Wiggum fires numerous rounds from a pair of double-barreled shotguns without reloading during the opening credits, and later fires ten shots from a single revolver. Both instances have him utterly failing to hit his target.
  • Brainless Beauty: The replacement Lisa seems to have been held back in school... multiple times. Also could be an In-Universe reference to Dawson Casting, where Fake Lisa may actually be in her 20s despite playing a high school student.
    Fake Lisa: I'm Lisa, peppy, blonde, and stunning! Sophomore prom queen five years running! Go-o-o-o, Lisa!
  • Breather Episode: After the particularly dark "Homer's Enemy".
  • Calling Card: Played with in Chief Wiggum P.I.. Near the beginning, while Wiggum and Skinner are discussing about their current situation, a skull is thrown through the window, and the duo realise they have an enemy. Later on, another skull was left behind after Ralph was kidnapped. Cue Skinner: "Big Daddy's trademark calling card... it's right here inside the skull."
  • Chair Reveal: In the climax of Chief Wiggum P.I., Big Daddy runs into his office and gets into a chair so he could pull off a dramatic reveal when Wiggum and Skinner arrive. However, due to the house's layout, they clearly saw Daddy get into the chair and turn around from the front door — and they still act surprised when he reveals himself.
  • Cut the Juice: In The Love-Matic Grampa Homer pulls the plug and shuts down Grampa to shut him up as he's berating Homer... for pulling the plug on his life support.
    Grandpa: That's the second time he's pulled the plug on me.
  • A Day in the Limelight: For Chief Wiggum, Skinner and Ralph in Chief Wiggum P.I., plus Moe and Abe in The Love-Matic Grampa.
  • Death by Adaptation: The premise of "The Love-Matic Grampa" is that Abe got killed by a falling shelf of cans at the grocery store and his ghost is possessing the Love Tester at Moe's Tavern.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: The Framing Device takes place in the "Museum of TV and Television".
  • Dinner with the Boss: Parodied in The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour, where the family consists of beavers and the boss is a skunk (played by Tim Conway).
  • Dirty Cop: Revealed to be the reason Wiggum was fired in the first segment.
  • Due to the Dead: Defied.
    Abe: You buried me naked and sold my suit to buy a ping-pong table!
  • "Everybody Laughs" Ending: Chief Wiggum P.I. ends with one.
  • Expository Theme Song: The Love-matic Grampa.
  • Fat, Sweaty Southerner in a White Suit: Big Daddy. The first two words on the trope name are even something he laments at one point when he has to run from Wiggum.
  • Fun with Homophones: When Beaver Bart gets scolded for saying "damn", he points out the fact he lives in a dam note  to excuse his language.
  • Gay Cowboy: In The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour, Smithers dresses as a cowboy and sings a licorice whip-themed version of Devo's "Whip It".
  • Great Gazoo: Ozmodiar is a parody, and the original Trope Namer for this trope. The joke many fans missed was that in an interview, Matt Groening said that the introduction of a Great Gazoo would officially mark the death of the series.
  • Guns Akimbo: Parodied in the opening credits sequence of Chief Wiggum, P.I., in which Wiggum goes gunzerker with a pair of double-barrel shotguns and wrecks a whole street as collateral damage as he can't hit jack.
  • Haunted Technology: Grandpa's soul ends up inhabiting Moe's Love Tester machine.
  • High-Dive Escape: Played Straight (as straight as the show plays any trope) in Chief Wiggum, P.I., when Big Daddy jumps out the window of the (stolen) Governor's Mansion into the bayou:
    Skinner: He's gradually getting away, Chief.
    Wiggum: Ah, let him go. I have the feeling we'll meet again, each and every week. Always in more sexy and exciting ways.
  • Hyper-Competent Sidekick: Skinner is this to Wiggum in "Chief Wiggum P.I." Wiggum is every bit as an inept as you would expect given his track record. Skinner is the smart one who does all the real work, which includes beating up an alligator.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: Wiggum is twice shown to be a really bad shot, first in the above Guns Akimbo scene and again when he misses wildly with an alligator that is just a few feet away from him.
  • Impossible Thief: Big Daddy was somehow able to steal the Louisiana Governor's Mansion and relocate it to a swamp without being caught.
  • Ink-Suit Actor: Betty, Moe's love interest in The Love-matic Grampa, is a caricature of her voice actress Tress MacNeille.
  • It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: And the Simpson family makes their cameo in Chief Wiggum P.I. at a Mardi Gras parade.
  • Jerkass: Homer's brief appearance in The Love-matic Grandpa is outright cruel: Grandpa mentions that Homer stole and sold his funeral clothes (burying him naked) and when Homer goes "bored now" and pulls the cord of Grandpa's machine body to shut him up, Grandpa mentions when Moe plugs him in again that Homer pulled his life-support unit's plug.
  • Laugh Track: The Love-matic Grampa has a particularly obnoxious one, overreacting to every line with either loud laughs, hoots or "awww"s.
  • Literal Ass-Kicking: Wiggum does this to a police officer cleaning a fan boat before using it to chase Big Daddy.
  • Mandatory Line: The original Lisa only has one line in this episode, and it's during her appearance in Chief Wiggum P.I.
  • Missing Mom: Sarah, for some reason, is nowhere to be found in Chief Wiggum P.I. Wiggum even refers to himself as a single parent when talking to Ralph.
  • Mr. Exposition: Skinner acts as this in Chief Wiggum P.I. as Wiggum's ignorance means Skinner has to explain everything to him.
  • Never Smile at a Crocodile: Chief Wiggum gets menaced in his room by an alligator sent by Big Daddy, which gets taken out by Skinner.
    Skinner: Lucky for you this was just a warning gator. The next one won't be corked. (points to the gator's teeth, which have bottle corks stuck on them)
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Big Daddy was based on New Orleans musician Dr. John.
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: Along with the below mentioned Shout-Out, after being beaten, the Love-Matic Grampa advised Moe to tell his date that "Her rump's as big as the Queen's, and twice as fragrant". Moe takes this situation seriously and ends up getting a bowl dumped on his head.
  • Oh, Cisco!: At the end of Chief Wiggum, P.I.
    Ralph: Daddy, when I grow up, I want to be just like you!
    Skinner: Better start eating, kid.
    Chief Wiggum: Start eating?!
    (Extremely forced laughter from everyone)
    Ralph: I didn't mean it that way!
  • Out of Focus: The real Lisa has only a single line in the whole episode.
  • Out-of-Genre Experience: The episode transplants characters into new genres- Seymour becomes a street-smart detective's assistant, the eponymous family performs a song-and-dance skit, etc.
  • Overly Narrow Superlative: After the Love-Matic Grampa's advice results in Moe getting a bowl of food dumped on his head, Moe calls him the dumbest haunted love tester he has ever met.
  • Poe's Law: Some fans mistook the Stylistic Suck throughout the episode for actual bad writing. Matt Groening was worried that fans would react this way. This happened mostly due two reasons:
    • This wasn't the first episode that gave some of the Springfield recurring characters A Day in the Limelight; the previous season had the episode "22 Short Films About Springfield", which also served as the pilot for a potential spinoff titled "Tales of Springfield", albeit that one had the series' usual tone and none of the (intentional) bad writing this episode had.
    • Second, as seen in the YMMV page, many of the younger viewers had no idea the shorts were meant to be a parody of existing shows, since, at least in the second and third short's case, were based on decades old works that had very short runs (for a good reason) and thus were pretty obscure. Lisa being replaced by a Dumb Blonde teen in the third segment came as particularly baffling to some, not realizing something like that happened in The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.
  • Poorly-Disguised Pilot: Parodied. The episode revolves around Three Shorts that were alleged spin-off pilots. The hefty amount of Stylistic Suck and Cliché Storm invoked makes clear that the spin-offs wouldn’t run for long even if they actually existed.
  • Reincarnated as a Non-Humanoid: In The Love-matic Grampa Abe Simpson is reincarnated / haunts a love tester in Moe's bar, which is a parody of My Mother the Car.
  • Required Spin Off Crossover: Parodied by the family showing up in New Orleans in Chief Wiggum, P.I. and Homer dropping by the bar in The Love-matic Grampa.
  • Rerouted from Heaven: Grandpa gets crushed by a shelf, his Winged Soul Flies Off at Death but collides with a plane and falls back to Earth. As the intro says he "floated up toward Heaven and got lost along the way".
  • Running Time in the Title: The Simpson Family Smile Time Variety Hour, which of course only runs for a third of the episode, totaling roughly eight minutes. Of course, by the time those eight minutes are up, you're probably pretty glad that there aren't another fifty-two behind it.
  • Shout-Out: After being beaten up by the bully trio (for calling Kearney gay), the Love-Matic Grampa sings Daisy ala HAL 9000.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • The Love-matic Grampa is a good replication of My Mother the Car in how it starts with a crazy premise and then is forced to get really contrived to keep the gimmick going. The gags and the story structure (romantic Farce building up to a Happy Ending) owe more to Love, American Style, and also hits that mark really well.
    • The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour isn't much of an exaggeration of The Brady Bunch Hour at all. The Brady show really was that corny and over-the-top. It helps that Simpsons musical director Alf Clausen had worked on The Brady Bunch Hour's sister show Donny & Marie.
  • Smelly Skunk: Homer's boss (Tim Conway) on the Beaver Family sketch in The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour.
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: The second and especially the third segments lean heavily on this. The opening skit of the Variety Hour is "what if we were beavers?" and goes downhill from there.
  • Special Edition Title: This is one of the few episodes between the first season and the high-definition episodes to not have the traditional opening with Bart Writing Lines and/or a Couch Gag.
  • Special Guest: Phil Hartman as Troy McClure, Gailard Sartain as Big Daddy and Tim Conway As Himself.
  • Stylistic Suck: All three segments are deliberately badly scripted bland and cheesy TV spin-off shows. The idea of "The Love-matic Grampa", for instance, is an obvious parody of the awful concept of My Mother the Car.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Inverted in "The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour". Lisa declined participating, so she was replaced with a blonde teenager.
  • Take That!: Pretty meta with The Love-Matic Grampa, because My Mother the Car is an old shame for series producer James L. Brooks.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: "The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour" theme song:
    Remember me? My name is Marge,
    The TV mom whose hair is large!
    (Maggie sucks her pacifier.)
    Step back mom, it's Bart's turn now!
    Eat my shorts! Don't have a cow!
    I'm Lisa — peppy, blonde, and stunning!
    Sophomore prom queen five years running!
    Goooo Lisa!
    • Homer doesn't get his own lyrics because he's too busy being scared by the "special ghost".
  • The Other Darrin: In-universe and parodied with Lisa in The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour. Specifically, she's a parody of the fake Jan from The Brady Bunch Variety Hour.
  • The Parody: The spin-off shows are mostly spoofs of Miami Vice, Magnum, P.I., Starsky & Hutch, My Mother the Car, Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, The Osmonds, The Partridge Family, The Brady Bunch, the Smothers Brothers and The Flintstones.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Big Daddy has this reaction when he is spotted by Wiggum and Skinner and has to run.
    Big Daddy: The Chief! Ooh, I suppose I'd best to run. Lord o' mercy, I wish I weren't so fat.
  • Tired After the Song: After the closing number on The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour, the Simpsons are seen panting heavily under forced smiles.
  • To Be Continued... Right Now: "Chief Wiggum P.I. will return... right now!"
  • Variety Show: The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour.
  • Villain: Exit, Stage Left: Parodied in Chief Wiggum P.I., in which Big Daddy swims away through the river... slowly.
    Skinner: He's gradually getting away, Chief.
    Wiggum: Ah, let him go. I have the feeling we'll meet again, each and every week. Always in more sexy and exciting ways.
  • Villains Out Shopping: Big Daddy.
    Big Daddy: New Orleans is my town. I got interests, and I ain't talkin' about stamp collecting, though I do find that extremely interesting.
    Skinner: Oh yeah? That makes two of us.
  • Waking Non Sequitur: Abe comes to having been manhandled by Jimbo, Dolph and Kearney. He starts singing "Bicycle Built for Two" when Moe begs him for advice.
  • Waxing Lyrical: In "The Love-Matic Grampa" Abe quotes the segment's Expository Theme Tune.
    Abe: Son, it's me! I floated up toward heaven but got lost along the way!
  • What's a Henway?: In The Simpson Family Smile-Time Variety Hour, when Homer learns that their special guest is Tim Conway:
    Homer: What's a Tim Conway?
    Tim Conway: Oh, about 120 pounds.
  • Winged Soul Flies Off at Death: Happens to Grampa in the intro for The Love-Matic Grampa. Animated in a simplistic style, it shows that Grampa was crushed to death by a falling shelf, and his winged soul flew off "but was lost along the way" (the intro shows him getting sucked into a jet engine and losing his wings), and falls into Moe's love-tester machine, which he ends up possessing.
  • Writers Cannot Do Math: The Roman numeral copyright date for The Love-matic Grampa appears to be MCXIIILMCL, which doesn't equate to any actual year in Roman numeral dating. It could be taken as a really convoluted attempt to write the year 2313 (which would actually be MMCCCXIII). In the DVD commentary, the writers admit they just threw random numerals together for Rule of Funny.