Worst Episode, Ever?
Guest stars rocked 14th season premiere of The Simpsons. The episode, Long Live Rock!, featured a who’s who of music superstars, including Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Elvis Costello, Tom Petty, Lenny Kravitz and Brian Setzer.
Like most animated programs, The Simpsons’ voices are recorded first. Animators then follow the vocal cues in rendering the characters. Most of the drawing takes place in Korea. Each episode takes nine months to create.
Being a guest voice on The Simpsons is like getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It’s proof that you’ve arrived, are still in the game or at the very least are cool to kids.
Usually, casting celebrities on the show begins with an idea from one of the writers. But not always.
As the series closes in on 300 episodes, more than a hundred celebrity guest voices have been featured. In just one episode last May, Stan Lee, Jan Hooks, Carmen Electra, Reese Witherspoon and Dennis Weaver all took part.
Some, of course, work better than others. Many fans complain that celebrity-filled episodes are usually pretty lame. However, some celebs belong in Springfield. Setting aside semi-regulars Kelsey Grammer (as evil Sideshow Bob) and the late Phil Hartman (legal dud Lionel Hutz and B-movie idol Troy McClure), here’s a Top Ten list of who worked best, divided into two categories.
CELEBRITIES AS CHARACTERS
Dustin Hoffman: Lisa’s Substitute
Hoffman shone as substitute teacher Mr. Bergstrom in this early episode, in which he was coyly billed as “Sam Etic.”
Michael Jackson: Stark Raving Dad
If this was Jackson (no one at The Simpsons has ever confirmed it), he never appeared more human or sympathetic than he did here as a cartoon. He plays Leon Kampowsky, a hulking mental patient who thinks he’s Michael Jackson. Jackson as a crazy white guy? Could be. The voice over was credited to John Jay Smith. Lisa later makes a sly reference to Jackson and Hoffman in Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie: “Everyone had a cameo. Even Michael Jackson and Dustin Hoffman. Of course, they weren’t credited, but you knew it was them.”
Jackie Mason: Like Father Like Clown
Another oldie but a goodie, with Mason as Krusty the Klown’s cranky pop, Rabbi Krustofski, in a send up of The Jazz Singer. “Seltzer is for drinking, not for spraying,” sez Krustofski.
Rodney Dangerfield: Burns, Baby Burns
Dangerfield was a perfect fit as Burns’ boorish son Larry in this eighth-season outing. “Whoa, this guy’s got more bread than a prison meatloaf.”
Jon Lovitz: A Streetcar named Marge
Lovitz perfectly overplays Springfield director Llewellyn Sinclair, who casts Marge (opposite bare-chested Ned Flanders) in a musical version of A Streetcar named Desire. “I have directed three plays in my career, and I have had three heart attacks,” Sinclair says. “That’s how much I care, I’m planning a fourth.” Lovitz has popped up in a few episodes, even resurrecting his old Critic character Jay Sherman.
CELEBRITIES AS THEMSELVES
Ringo Starr: Brush With Greatness
Decades after she sent Ringo a portrait she painted, Marge receives a belated thank you note from the former Beatle. “Dear Marge,” he wrote, “Thanks for the fab painting of yours truly. I hung it on me wall. You’re quite an artist. In answer to your question, yes, we do have hamburgers and fries in England, but we call french fries ‘chips.’ Luv Ringo.” Two other Beatles, Paul McCartney (with wife Linda) and George Harrison, also jammed with The Simpsons.
Adam West: Mr. Plow
In this great episode, Homer meets West behind the wheel of a battered Batmobile at an auto show. Homer: Gasp! Adam West! Kids! Batman!
Lisa: That’s not the real Batman. Adam West: Of course I’m the real Batman. See, here’s a picture of me with Robin. Bart: Who the hell is Robin?
Kim Basinger, Alec baldwin and Ron Howard: Brush With Greatness
The stars head to Springfield for peace and quiet until Homer, their personal assistant, blabs. Howard, who also once appeared as a Hollywood Square on The Simpsons, does a great job goofing on himself. Homer calls him both Fonzie and Horshack, but not Opie.
James Woods: Homer And Apu
The intense actor takes Apu’s place at the Kwik-E-Mart in order to research a role as a convenience store clerk. Naturally, he is robbed. Robber: All right, you. Hand over the cash and don’t try any funny stuff. Woods: Hey, pal, I assure you — if I tried any funny stuff, you would be in hysterics.
Mel Gibson: Beyond Blunderdome
At a test screening, Homer declares Mel Gibson’s new movie, a remake of Mr. Smith Goes To Washington, to be “more boring than church.” Gibson hires Homer to rework the film and he turns it into a mindless, ultra-violent mess. Producer: You desecrated a classic film. This is worse than Godfather III. Gibson: Whoa, whoa, hey, whoa! Let’s not say things we can’t take back.
Good night, Springton … there will be no encore!
Worst Episode, Ever?