The seventies were the golden age of cabbies, Travis Bickle would drive anywhere, anytime. He’d take passengers to the Bronx, Brooklyn. He’d take them to Harlem. He didn’t care. It didn’t make a difference. The Simpsons season 26, episode 14, “My Fare Lady,” plows deep into the checkered past of cab comedy, referencing the Harry Chapin seventies hit song and the James L. Brooks seventies cult television hit. But they completely ignored the seventies film classic Taxi Driver, which turned 39 last week.
We first see Marge in the Simpson family kitchen at 742 Evergreen Terrace. She is wearing a green dress, pearls and blue hair. I think that is a good choice. She appears like an angel, scheduling the weekend pickups and drop-offs of the kids while her husband, Homer, sneaks out the window to suck suds at Moe’s. Moe is a funny guy – but looks aren’t everything.
Loneliness has followed Moe his whole life, everywhere. In bars, in cars, sidewalks, stores, everywhere. There’s no escape. Moe is God’s lonely man. In tonight’s episode, because of Homer, Carl and Lenny, his life take a turn. Moe loses his bar and gets a day job at the nuclear plant where the days can go on with regularity over and over, one day indistinguishable from the next. A long continuous push of the mop. Then suddenly, there is a change, a chance encounter in a cab convinces him that he’s got to get organezized. Get his bar back in order. Call in some tabs. Get Barney back on the sauce.
You see, all Moe’s life needed was a sense of someplace to go. People shouldn’t devote their lives to morbid self-attention, especially when one of their running gags is a series of botched holiday suicide attempts. With just a lot of hard work and endless dedication, Moe can almost become a person like other people. If only he weren’t a goblin with such an ugly ethnic face. Sure, he can confound a safety inspector who shaved his Freddy Mercury cover band mustache and doesn’t match his ID badge, but he can’t keep a sassy woman of a certain age satisfied. The Laney Fontaine heart paddle bit was bittersweet, as Elaine Stitch died last year, but The Simpsons treat it as an homage, remembering the stage actress as a bundle of vulgarity, with energy to spare. Stritch played in the episode “Elementary School Musical” from season 22.
Both Marge and Moe learn that when you get a job, you become the job. Moe has been a barkeep so long that, even though he could rise to a supervisory position in a nuclear plant, he can never stray too far from his pickled eggs.
Marge, while she is certainly the cheeriest cab driver ever to wear a “here to there smile” this side of Alex Rieger, is too much of a Springfield housewife to compete on the rough streets of social network enabled peer-to-peer ride sharing. Being a soccer, or hockey, music and swim lesson-mom, is very competitive and while she may have the Nardos to run Helen Lovejoy off the road and into the Springfield water tower, Marge is no match for the Jim Ignatowski-led hack revolution. They came armed with car air fresheners, which can take the top off a perm like Oddjob’s derby in Dr. No.
Christopher Lloyd’s Jim Ignatowski was an iconic character on the TV series Taxi, which was co-created by The Simpsons’ own James L. Brooks. Brooks came up through Mary Tyler Moore and is responsible for some of the greatest bits of The Simpsons. As producer, Brooks is in charge of quality control, kind of like the job Homer had at the plant before he was reassigned as plant waterer. You might say Homer has quite a few problems besides his budding femininity. His energy seems to go in the wrong places, not a good quality when you’re safety inspector at a nuclear plant. It probably all started when he was an under-over-privileged kid thumbing rides to cub scouts.
The gags came fast n furious tonight. My personal favorite was Mr. Burns asking for a round dollar figure for how much a man may profit by gaining the world while losing his soul. The episode didn’t break any new ground. It was basically just a family caper. The pixel animation opening was cute, for a bit, but pixel art isn’t real art. The transition and the second part pf the couch gag, The Jetsons’ takeoff, were more dazzling. The Simpsons loves to tweak older cartoons. While Lenny, Carl and Homer all see Moe the Bartender as a mother’s milk dispenser, all he sees are dry and thirsty mouths, except for Homer, who is a sloppy, drooling mouth. Thank God for the rain to wash the trash off the sidewalk.
We never learn whether or not Marge earns enough money hustling fares to buy a fridge, with an ice maker no less. The talking smiley face in Moe’s Tavern is poised to take the place of his Love Tester, but the series probably won’t follow through, in spite of their traditional commitment to jokes. Tonight’s episode wasn’t Bertrand Russell. But what do you want?
“My Fare Lady” was written by Marc Wilmore and directed by Michael Polcino. The Simpsons stars Dan Castellaneta as Homer Simpson, Julie Kavner as Marge Simpson, Pattie and Selma Bouvier, Nancy Cartwright as Bart Simpson, Yeardley Smith as Lisa Simpson. Hank Azaria plays Moe Szyslak. Harry Shearer is Mr. C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest star: Christopher Lloyd as Jim Ignatowski and Rich Sommer as Young Man.
But It All Went By So Fast: The Simpsons sponsored by Laramie Jr: The Future Belongs to Smokers! Spaceball Game. The World’s Tree. The World’s last polar bear. Andromeda and Fitch. Spacey’s Department Store. Space C. Penny. Barnes & Nebula. Printer margins for the homeless. War in Mideast. Peace in Midwest. Try Laramie, High Tars. Laney Fontaine, Let’s See What I Remember. EP7GO8. Springfield Playhouse: Tonight In Concert: Laney Fontaine. Absolutely No Smoking, Except For Laney. Medieval torturer or S&M top in the background in the nuclear plant kitchen.