(Original Air Date: March 24, 1996)
Probably their most prolific guest star was the late, great Phil Hartman whose show contributions can scarcely be minimized. Over nine seasons and fifty-three episodes, Hartman played nineteen individual characters, the best known of whom were Lionel Hutz and Troy McClure!
Ah, Troy McClure! You may remember him from such episodes as "Homer vs. Lisa and the Eighth Commandment", "Bart's Dog Gets an F", "Bart the Murderer", "Saturdays of Thunder", "Lisa the Greek", "Homer Alone", "Bart's Friend Falls in Love", "A Streetcar Named Marge", "Marge Gets a Job", "New Kid on the Block", "Mr. Plow", "Duffless", "Marge in Chains", "Marge on the Lam", "Bart's Inner Child", "Burns' Heir", "The Boy Who Knew Too Much", "Lady Bouvier's Lover", "Secrets of a Successful Marriage", "Sideshow Bob Roberts", "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy", "Lisa's Wedding", "Lisa the Vegetarian", "Marge Be Not Proud", "Bart the Fink", "Lisa the Iconoclast", "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular", "A Fish Called Selma", "The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show", "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase", "Lisa the Skeptic", "Das Bus", "Lisa the Simpson", "This Little Wiggy" and "Bart the Mother". It's that 28th one that comes to mind when Troy is brought up in conversation, not just because it's the only one that features Troy McClure as the central character, but because it has some of the best writing the show can offer... and it's quite simply a great showcase for the talents of Phil Hartman.
Based on actors Troy Donahue and Doug McClure, Troy epitomized the washed up actor, well past his hey day, taking industrial and TV Hosting jobs to keep going. Most of the times you would see him, he would be appearing at the beginning of some show-within-a-show, reminding us of just what films we should be remembering him from.
He's also the character who most blatantly broke the fourth wall (which is saying something) by hosting two episodes about The Simpsons! Season 7's "The Simpsons 138th Episode Spectacular" was a clip show with deleted scenes and host segments by McClure. It even featured Creator Matt Groening as a character (although, for only a second) and it all ended with HARD CORE NUDITY! The following year "The Simpsons Spin-Off Showcase" again saw Troy McClure hosting an episode about The Simpsons' ridiculous spin off ideas, including some of the most forced character matches you could imagine, including Selma Bouvier marrying... well, all kinds of people.
The 19th Episode of the 7th Season ran with that premise and thrust boy-toy Troy into the spotlight once again... albeit in an episode of an animated show on channel 11! After Bart (Nancy Cartwright) and Lisa (Yeardley Smith) check out a TV Edit of The Muppets Go Medieval, Marge (Julie Kavner) tells us that Troy was quite a heartthrob in his day... and Homer (Dan Castellaneta) hints at just why that is!
Meanwhile Troy (Phil Hartman) himself is barreling through Downtown Springfield in his... heh, heh... Delorean! It turns out he's legally blind (as the cars all over Main Street can attest). Chief Clancy Wiggum (Hank Azaria) can't bear to force a handsome man like Troy to wear GLASSES (plus, Troy bribes him), so he just tells Troy to go to the DMV for a new driving test.
And guess who works at the DMV? Marge's sisters Patty (Julie Kavner) and Selma (Julie Kavner)! Selma is quite smitten, of course, and when Troy also bribes her with Dinner, she can't help but pass him, blindness and all. Luckily for her, Troy's legal blindness makes him see her as quite the babe.
Babe or not, when the press sees Troy with Selma they go crazy, simply because... he's being seen with... a woman. You see Troy has one of those not-too-well-kept secrets about a certain fetish he has. Springfield's Mob Boss said it best with "I said he SLEEPS WITH THE FISHES!" (Note: Although voiced by Joe Mantegna in every episode but this one, he was voiced here by none other than... Phil Hartman!)
Suddenly Troy McClure's in the headlines again and is (gasp) actually hearing from his agent. Said agent, MacArthur Parker (Jeff Goldblum[!]), is advising him to play up the family angle to keep his career afloat! If he's lucky, he might even become a star again! As soon as Troy proposes to Selma, at a "private" (read: unattended) drive in showing of The Muppets Go Medieval, "Mac Parker" gets troy a job in one of the greatest Simpsons Moment of all time.
In a theatre somewhere off Broadway, Troy McClure stars in the multi-million-dollar musical version of Planet of the Apes, brilliantly entitled Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off!"! I can't tell you how many times I've seen this episode and I still laugh every time. Hartman's voice makes the whole thing, from his incantation of "I CAN SIIIIIIIIING!" to his "Company" rendition of the song "Dr. Zaius" (a spoof/ pastiche of Rock Me Amadeus by Falco) during which the Orangutans break-dance, to the finale where Astronaut Taylor proclaims that he hates every ape he sees "from Chimpan A to Chimpan Z", this is Hartman's performance. His breathless "Thank You" to the crowd is par for the course, too!
The real question is, will Selma stick with "Mr. Troy's Wild Ride" even when she comes to know it's a sham marriage? Nah, that's not really a question!
This is one of those rare episodes in a comedy show where just about every base is covered, from the minute, blink-and-you'll-miss-them Easter eggs, like posters from some of Troy's past films. As Selma becomes more of a Hollywood Wife, she starts to dress more like Marilyn Monroe. In every minor scene, there's a laugh, like Troy getting his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame... at the expense of Buster Keaton! This is even a good episode from a Simpsons Family standpoint. Bart and Lisa's interaction with Uncle Troy is hilarious and Homer Simpson's accidentally self-effacing moments are true keepers. There are enough great lines in this episode to make up for an entire book of Rod McKuen poetry, man! It's just all around great, and an excellent showcase for one of the funniest guys you could ever hope to see or hear: Phil Hartman.
There are so many great episodes of The Simpsons (and... a hand full of crappy ones). The Simpsons remained a good show after Troy and Lionel passed away, but the influence and impact of Phil is still felt today. Classic episodes like this one are just a part of his legacy. If he were alive today, reading this, you know what he'd say? He'd say "Holy-! Who the hell is this guy? It was a 24 minute episode. No review should take longer to read than the episode would take to watch! Shut up, already!"
Who am I to argue? Four Stars out of Five for The Simpsons: "A Fish Called Selma"! Best... Episode... Ever!
I'm J.C. Mašek III, you may remember me from such reels as the next one!
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The Simpsons: A Fish Called Selma (03/24/1996) reviewed by J.C. Mašek III
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