The Simpsons “Waiting for Duffman” episode is barbarous. Brewing beer is as old as civilization itself. It is the first sign that civilization is about to get civilizized. Ancient Egyptians and Mesopotamians made beer brewers into the first gods. But the first true god of suds was Duffman. Sure, Spuds Mackenzie came before him, but he was a dog. The St. Pauli girl may look better on a poster, but she’s a girl who can handle your liquor. The most interesting man in the world starts to repeat on himself after a few. With great taste comes great responsibility.
Duffman is a man and like most men in glass bottles, he’s not unbreakable. Pelvic thrusts can really be tough on the hips. What better replacement can there be for the muscular party animal than a balding, middle aged worker drone whose hips are concealed, and protected, by layers of protective-grade, beer-belly fat? And what better representative for Joe six-pack than Homer Simpson? MacBain is too banal and Drederick Tatum too dreadful. Homer has been waxing poetic for beer since he was seventeen and had his very first beer. It was a very good beer, purchased with a fake ID. Homer’s name was Brian McGee. He stayed up listening to Queen when he was seventeen. Homer makes beer drinkers look good, if only by comparison and you can’t buy that kind of goodwill. Well, maybe once or twice, but the third time you should get one on the house.
The audience knows from the outset that Homer is going to win the Duffman contest. Not because he gave beer the best head. Not because he’s the star of the show and it wouldn’t make sense for him to watch someone else win and not because we’ve seen commercials for it all week. It was because Contestant Number 12, who was disqualified after it was revealed he drank rival beer Old Ogdenville Ale, was always called Contestant Number 12. It’s the same kind of tipoff you get when Captain Kirk and the usual executive landing party goes to a planet with a crewman in a red uniform on Star Trek. The fix was in.
It is such a sad turn that Homer has to stay sober while others party around him. Not because he and his family had their dignity and privacy stripped from them on a national reality show competition, “So You Think You Can Duff,” but because whenever Homer gets clearheaded he has a tendency to develop a conscience. The Simpsons have been taking on quite a few social ills this season, some of which they’ve taken on before. Drinking beer, like last week’s premise, counting cards, isn’t a crime. And if it were it would be a victimless crime, like punching someone in the dark. The Simpsons have been accused of being a little preachy and it seems like the series revels in the accusations. They came for Joe Camel and we said nothing. They came for the Frito Bandito and still, we said nothing.
The Simpsons always find ways to redeem its preachiness with crassitude. Kent Brockman casually reports that there are no more elephants, a very real possibility, but not refreshing news. Tonight’s most uncomfortable laugh was when Homer told Marge that t-shirt cannons never killed anyone and launched one through the Flanders’s window to a portrait of his late wife, Maude, killed in a tragic t-shirt cannon incident. The look on stupid Flanders’ face was priceless.
The most sustained laugh was when Homer was told to show up for Duffman service sober because it’s a job and he wouldn’t show up at the nuclear plant drunk. While Marge explains that Homer would find it a pleasure to stay clean and an honor to wear the Duffman boots, even though they probably don’t stay dry in the rain, Dan Castellenata goes through vocal acrobatics, trying to come up with some answer to the original question. Marge plays the joke down later, when Homer asks if she’s ever thought she made a giant mistake in her life. I expected a full Marge reinterpretation, but was cut short by context.
The Simpson family is well aware of their codependences and other assorted foibles. Lisa and Bart are proud beer babies. Marge, the perennial enabler, has no problem enjoying the watered-down Schlitz they call Duff in front of her newly sober husband. Lisa knows she’s been psychologically affected by growing up in an environment where her father is constantly being chased by angry mobs, but she has a coping tool. Some kids have imaginary friends, Lisa developed an imaginary therapist, Dr. Shulman. We probably won’t see him again. Homer’s subconjunctival hemorrhage was a little tough on the eyes. The Simpsons can leave the eyes alone next week, tonight’s trauma was enough for two weeks, I’m sure.
The overproduced Game of Thrones sequence, a new star rises in the yeast, was a cute setup, though not a classic sequence, to the Taking of the Oath. The old commercial for Duff, made from Canadian rain, tastes like nickel champagne, with the mounted heads of animals, was okay, but not great. The Simpsons have offered up quite a few classic commercial send-ups. The revelation that Duffman was actually a fascist icon that was repurposed when Woody Woodpecker wasn’t available for a mascot was good for a chuckle, though.
“Waiting For Duffman” was dedicated to the late, great co-creator of The Simpsons. Sam Simon was a comic genius. He changed the landscape of animation and TV sitcoms. He was a really nice guy who spent the last years of his life buying circuses and zoos and freeing the animals. Simon spent so much money saving animals that PETA named their headquarters after him.
Tonight’s episode had all the laughs, tears, irony and cynicism recommended for the weekly Simpsons allowance, but it was tepid. Warm beer is preferred in England, but in Springfield beer should be more cool and refreshing. I’m glad everything was sorted out in the end. As we learned in “The Shinning,” no beer should make Homer go crazy and tonight his insanity had a moral compass. It was a relief to see him sucking on Surly’s oversized bottle cap, his degeneracy, and Barry Duffman’s, restored.
The “Drink, Drink” song was written in 1924 by Sigmund Romberg, with lyrics by Dorothy Donnely, for the American operetta, The Student Prince. Homer moves from the Wall of Never Was with Barney, Gil, Carl, Lenny and a guy in the baseball cap, to the Has-Been Wall with McBain, Tatum and Krusty the Clown.
“Waiting for Duffman” was written by John Frink and directed by Steven Dean Mooore. 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 Chief Wiggum, Carl Carlson, Moe Szyslak, and Apu Nahasapeemapetilon. Harry Shearer is Mr. C. Montgomery Burns and Waylon Smithers. Guest stars: R. Lee Ermey. Cat Deeley as herself. Stacy Keach as Howard K. Duff VIII.
But It All Went By So Fast: SpringCycle The One Day a Year You Ride a Bike. Keep Hops Alive. Wishing you a cold smooth recovery. Eyesine. Round One: Foamy Head Pouring. Round Two: Oh Yeah Saying. Round Three: Crowd Surfing. Stay Tuned for Local News. Blitz. Strolling Rock. Duff Strong Tea. Dry Lips Sink Ships. Knights of Another Round Table. I like a man with a six-pack. Try our grass-fed lettuce. Six aisles of olives. Obituaries: H. Simpson – Father of three. Extra pallbearers needed. Was briefly Duffman. Duff Beer: it’s way below par, which in golf is good. Duff 9 Pack when a 7 Pack just won’t do. Beer consumption projection. Can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff. Surviving A Blimp Fire. Duff presents the Springfield 500. Spectators may not keep flying wheels. Springfield’s best and Seattle’s worst coffee.