It’s been known for a few years now, but due to a recent reddit posting, The Simpsons‘ ‘McBain movie’ joke is getting a new lease of life. However, on closer inspection, the genius of the Simpsons’ creators in making this ‘film within a TV show’ is a little misplaced.
McBain made his Simpsons debut in Season 2, punching his police captain through a third-floor window. He was the classic ’80s action movie star – the muscle-bound cop with an enormous gun and no regard for the rules, trying to bring down a corrupt, drug-dealing senator while simultaneously avenging the death of his partner.
It was The Simpons‘ way of taking the piss out of the big, dumb movies of the day, and they weren’t exactly being subtle about it. McBain’s obvious likeness to Arnold Schwarzenegger has been an ongoing joke (“Oh Maria, my mighty heart is breaking”), while the name ‘McBain’ was obviously a parody of Bruce Willis’ character from Die Hard, John McClane (or possibly a direct lift of Gary Busey’s character from the film Bulletproof).
Then a few years ago, a video started doing the rounds which showed if you stitch all the little segments of McBain’s movies together, it creates a fairly cohesive three-minute film.
People hailed the genius of The Simpsons’ writers and producers – those five scenes aired over three seasons; what foresight and intelligence they had for planning such an elaborate, patient joke.
But while the above clip plays out as your classic ‘beginning, middle and end’ story, the McBain snippets didn’t air in the order shown above.
Scene 1 is from the episode ‘The Way we Was’ (Season 2, Episode 12).
Scene 2 is from ‘Saturdays of Thunder’ (Season 3, Episode 9).
Scene 3 is from ‘The War of the Simpsons’ (Season 2, Episode 20).
Scene 4 is from ‘Last Exit To Springfield’ (Season 4, Episode 17).
Scene 5 is from ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou?’ (Season 2, Episode 15).
Let’s review the McBain film as it actually aired:
Scene 1 – McBain reveals Mendoza is a drug dealer to the captain.
Scene 5 – McBain kills Mendoza.
Scene 3 – McBain can’t avenge his partner with a pea-shooter.
Scene 2 – McBain’s partner Scowie is killed.
Scene 4 – Mendoza takes McBain captive with a salmon puff.
Muddying the waters even further is that the McBain scene in ‘Oh Brother Where Art Thou’ was written first, but ‘The Way We Was’ aired beforehand. So the final ‘scene’, where McBain throws Mendoza out the window into an exploding petrol tanker, was actually the first written.
Disregarding what was written when, let’s re-watch the McBain movie in the order it actually aired.
McBain wants to take down Mendoza, then he does, then he wants to avenge his partner, then his partner dies, then Mendoza takes McBain captive. Not so cohesive, is it?
When asked about the McBain movie, Simpsons executive producer Al Jean told Entertainment Weekly they never had a big movie in mind.
“It was always just conceived as the most melodramatic fragments of a bigger movie where we never really had a big movie in mind,” Jean said.
He then joked, “If we edited together all the Itchy & Scratchys, we’d have The Simpsons Movie 2.”
A few years ago – around the time the McBain movie first surfaced on YouTube – a friend pointed out that The Simpsons has now been crap for longer than it was good. Regardless of current quality levels, there was a time – before South Park – when The Simpsons was the funniest, smartest show on TV. These McBain gems (regardless of their continuity they are funny as hell) come from that Simpsons era.