68. Mr. Plow

(originally aired November 19, 1992)
A lot of “Homer-gets-a-job” shows seem to seem to find Homer in his new occupation kind of randomly. Not to accuse this episode to be guilty of that, but the decision to be a plowman wasn’t quite as built up or memorable as beginnings of “Deep Space Homer” or “Homie the Clown.” Groundwork is set though: a blizzard in the opening signals a need for someone to rid the roads of Springfield of snow, and when Homer ends up totaling both cars, he goes to an auto show where he’s suckered into buying a snow plow. The car show is our gag segment of the show; doesn’t run too long and has some great stuff, like the repetitive giggly car model, the Fourth Reich car manufacturers using not-so-fake crash test dummies, and of course, Adam West, in a fantastic guest appearance.

“Mr. Plow” is one of those renowned classic episodes: Mr. Plow, the Plow King and their respective jingles are pretty much show staples, and for a very good reason. Although for me, the episode isn’t as impacting to me as others this season. I felt there could have been some good material in Homer on the job, but we really only get one quick montage of him actually doing any work; the rest is him raking in the accolades, which I guess was the point, since his fantasy in getting the plow to begin with was to be reprimanded on high (in a great dream of him assisting President Bush). Then when Barney becomes his rival, who all of a sudden becomes an asshole. Shooting out Homer’s tires in the act break is funny, but then his vindictive commercial to follow just seemed like too much. It kind of came out of nowhere for me. I guess maybe it’s subtle payback for past events, which we see in perhaps the most tragic of all flashbacks, showing an ultra studious Barney getting his life ruined when Homer offers him his first Duff. Since that sequence was only there for a joke, their rivalry seemed to come only out of story obligation.

I don’t mean to sound like I’m shitting on this episode; it’s just that a bunch of the absolutely perfect classic episodes that are universally praised I don’t hold in that highest of high regards. It’s still a great show; the third act of Homer tricking Barney, then his epic rescue mission is wonderful, as is the bizarre end where God takes hand of the situation and melts the snow out of nothing but random spite. There’s a great Godfather reference in Bart getting pelted by snowballs, which is funny by itself, and also as a recreation of that famous scene (reminds me of later when they did it again many years later, with James Caan actually getting shot, and how not funny that was). I also like the strange element of Marge finding the Mr. Plow jacket a huge turn-on; it’s rather odd, but a really sweet touch and reminder of the strength of Homer and Marge’s relationship. In the end, while I don’t think it’s a perfect episode, it’s still got plenty of great gags and heart to make it more than a worthy watch.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer smashing the car in his own driveway is a great reveal, as is later when the insurance adjuster asks him what kind of establishment Moe’s is, leaving Homer to have to think fast (“It’s a pornography store. I was buying pornography.”)
– I love Crazy Vlaclav’s Place of Automobiles (“She’ll go 300 hectares on a single tank of kerosene.”) “Put it in H!” is a random line my friends and I would quote back in the day, best used whilst getting in a car.
– Classic Homer line when Marge gets upset that he bought the plow without telling her: “If you’re going to get mad at me every time I do something stupid, then I guess I’ll just have to stop doing stupid things!” Also great is his usurping of the church alter to shamelessly promote his business.
– Gotta love the infomercial for Captain McAllister’s CD of sea shantys. He’s only been in two episodes so far and has more than proven himself to be a reliable secondary character.
– Great line from Homer before his commercial: “It may be on a lousy channel, but The Simpsons are on TV!” The commercial itself is classic of course (“My prices are so low, you’ll think I suffered brain damage!”)
– As mentioned, Adam West is fantastic, particularly his second appearance when Homer shows up at his house asking if there was a job for him. With a titled zoom, West muses, “There was, when I called you… forty-five minutes ago…” Such an intense read. Hilarious.
– Homer gives another horribly disguised voice in putting in the fake call to Barney, promising him a $10,000 bill for the job. Barney is unusually sharp, asking back what president is on it. Homer must perform an ass pull: “Uh… all of them. They’re having a party. Jimmy Carter’s passed out on the couch.” Barney is sold.
– Similar to the swearing in in “Lisa the Beauty Queen,” we get another national tragedy reference in Kent Brockman announcing an avalanche trapping Barney mirroring Walter Kronkite finding that JFK has been assassinated.
– Kent Brockman gives a great outro line in giving a more scientific explanation for the melting snow than a mere act of God: “Could this record-breaking heat wave be the result of the dreaded Greenhouse Effect’? Well, if 70-degree days in the middle of winter are the ‘price’ of car pollution, you’ll forgive me if I keep my old Pontiac.”

7 thoughts on “68. Mr. Plow

  1. Two mentions of Adam West, but none of Linda Ronstadt. “Señor Plow no es macho, es solamente un borracho…”

  2. “Barney is unusually sharp”
    I disagree with that, and with the comments on Barney being an asshole. Barney proved more than once that theres a great, sharp, efficient, succesfull man behind the beers(as the flashback showed), and his assholery is just a consequence of this unbeliveble character; a character that, obvoiusly, is suffocated by beers most of the time(both sides perfectly pictured in this episode) but its always there.

  3. I will admit, this episode was just slightly lesser than I remember it being. I still love it as I laugh a lot during it, but it isn’t perfect. In fact, it just got knocked out of my top 10 episodes by Stark Raving Dad and A Streetcar Named Marge. Strange how after 20 years my list is still able to change.

    Still, it has a catchy song, the celebrity bits are great (I have no idea who Linda Ronstadt is though), and I love the animation in the snow.

  4. I get your point about the randomness, but that doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to bother you, both here and in future episodes. Life tends to be rather random at times, so it doesn’t bug me when the Simpsons fall into some scenarios in a fairly random way. Yeah, it break storytelling conventions, but the show has always been about breaking established rules.

  5. This episode has a pretty decent story and premise, but it’s ramped up by its amount of hilarious jokes. This is one of the funniest episodes in a season filled with them, with many classic bits to boot (“It’s a pornography store. I was buying pornography.”, “Put it in H”, the commercials, Brockman’s report…). There’s just so many classic and hilarious bits here I can’t not love the episode.

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