In celebration of the 500th Episode of my favorite TV show of all-time, The Simpsons. I'm counting down my Top 40 favorite episodes.
#10: Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment
March 16, 1997
PLOT: After the St. Patrick’s Day parade gets out-of-control, Springfield reinstates Prohibition, inspiring Homer to be the sole source of alcohol, adopting the moniker as “The Beer Baron”.
Couch Gag: The couch sits in the middle of a desert; the family, in western cowboy garb, sits on the couch, which gallops off into the sunset.
This episode is pure hilarity. There is no emotional journey any character makes. There is no lesson (except maybe that Prohibition is stupid). Its just unadulterated Simpsons humor at its best.
As the plot description summarizes, this episode tales the tale of the short-lived Prohibition that befalls Springfield after a chaotic St. Patrick’s Day Parade; one in which sweet, lovable Bart accidentally gets drunk. As the town looks for an answer for their alcohol craving, Homer takes matters into his own hands and becomes the Beer Baron, and thusly, keeps the townspeople pleasantly soused. Town officials call in Rex Banner to help stop the underground drinking, but it turns out Banner is just as hapless as the rest of the police force.
This episode is really strange when you take a step back and look at it. Major things happen in it, but all go back to status quo in the 22-minute runtime and the show carries on as if nothing has happened. This show, like most sitcoms, do not have any long-running story arcs; even so much as taking metaphysical pot shots at times at the “return-to-normal” structure of the episode (See: “Homer Loves Flanders”), but for some reason, this one is sticking out to me as a special case of this.
This is probably partly do to the fact that the episode employs a sparing use of a 1920s-era voiceover, which makes it feel like it is taking place back during America’s original Prohibition Era. It could also be because the plot is based heavily on the introduction of Rex Banner, an Elliot Ness-type trying to catch Homer in the act; a character we meet and who is quickly given a permanent sendoff. This quick exit is reminiscent of other one-shot characters – Frank Grimes and “The Real” Seymour Skinner – who shake up the fabric of the show, only to watch it snap back into place.
It’s always fun to see Homer succeed and this is one of his greatest schemes. Its great to watch all the creative ways he delivers the beer, thanks in large part to an underground Rube Goldberg machine that connects the bowling alley with Moe’s Tavern. Its so utterly far-fetched that its just pure genius.
Rex Banner is a fantastic single-episode character, playing the comic foil to one of Homer’s shining achievements. He’s just the straight-laced sap you love to watch get bested, even if he means well.
Watch this episode drunk, as it will make you feel like it’s the proper thing to do.
“To alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life’s problems.” –Homer Simpson