72. Selma’s Choice

(originally aired January 21, 1993)
Patty and Selma are pretty tragic characters: they have developed a long-lasting co-dependency on each other thanks to a world that can barely tolerate them, let alone accept them. While Patty is pretty comfortable with their situation, Selma yearns for more: a man who loves her and a baby she can lavish her love unto. Even at their rawest, we still feel for these characters because they feel so genuine, their struggles relatable and seem sympathetic. That being said, I’m sure these shows must be a bitch to write, but the episode keeps its theme consistent throughout, even with two big set pieces in the front and back end. We start at a funeral parlor where the Simpsons and Bouviers pay respect to the passing of dear great aunt Gladys. It’s in her video will and her warning to her nieces to raise a family and not die alone that really hits Selma hard. Her gift to them of a grandfather clock pushes it even further: time is ticking for Selma, so if she wants a family, it’s now or never.

The second act is devoted to Selma’s attempts to find a decent catch, which very quickly devolves into nabbing any male with a heartbeat. While seeing her attempt to seduce bag boys and her freakish date with Hans Moleman is amusing, there’s an underlying sadness to her fruitless endeavors. While at times they come close to clashing, the gags mostly work as relief from the dour side of the plot. There’s a scene where Selma has decided she wants to be artificially inseminated, and Marge and Patty discuss it with her that feels like it’s from another show, so raw and emotional. Also great kudos to Julie Kavner, who gives a different nuance to all three roles, each with their own ideas and opinions, all distinct despite their shared gravely nature (the scene ends with them murmuring in three-part harmony.)

Set up early in the episode is Homer and the kids’ excitement over Duff Gardens, an amusement park sponsored by the brewery, similar to how Sea World and Busch Gardens are under the Anheuser-Busch umbrella. When a sandwich-related incident leaves Homer too sick to go, Selma steps in to take Bart and Lisa for the day, and gets her first hands-on experience with tending to children… and everything goes wrong. The third act is full of potent satire toward Disney parks: the Seven Duffs, the drunken Hall of Presidents, and of course the insufferable It’s a Small World knock (“Duff beer for me, Duff beer for you, I’ll have a Duff, you have one too…”) Lisa’s freakout after drinking the water from said ride is a real highlight, as I’ve always wondered how absolutely rancid theme park water must get. In the end, Selma finds an outlet for her matronly desire: Gladys’ iguana Jub-Jub. This was a sweet show, with a lot of satisfying elements. While it’s not quite as tight as other episodes, it’s still got a lot of great character study and humor to keep it going.

Tidbits and Quotes
– A welcome, albeit brief, return of Captain Lance Murdoch, celebrity sponsor of Duff Gardens, who appears relatively infirmed and continuously thrashed around and injured by the park’s rides. Regardless, Homer is sold (“Bart, warm up the car. We’re going to Duff Gardens!”)
– A spectacular moment where Homer appears to have been tricked by his own brain: the voice in his head comes up with a mean-spirited witty retort, and he repeats it out loud and laughs, causing him to get scolded.
– Homer is a man of quiet dignity: he fails to complete a place mat maze for children for the umpteenth time, and when asked by a waitress if he’d like another, he modestly responds, “Please.”
– Lionel Hutz has a brief appearance as executor of Gladys’ estate, and his voicing over the video will in attempts to get inheritance money is lovably sleazy (“You’d be surprised how often that works, you really would!”)
– Selma’s date tape of her doing the cherry stem trick with a cigarette is so disturbing, so that’s exactly why I used it as the post picture. Even someone as grizzled as Willie is disgusted (“Back to the loch with you, Nessie!”) Speaking of, I love his leisure shirt and chains; an odd side of him we’ve never really seen since.
– A great bit where a phony gypsy tries to sell Selma a love potion, but falls victim to her own truth serum. But if the truth serum seems to be legitimate, then why would the love potion be fake?
– I always found it a little unsettling that Lisa, an eight-year-old girl, suggests Selma consider artificial insemination, but it’s immediately mollified by Homer’s giddy response (“You gotta be pretty desperate to make it with a robot.”) Also, the sign at the Springfield Sperm Bank is, without question, the best sign joke in the entire series: “Put Your Sperm In Our Hands.”
– The sandwich saga is pretty amusing, where Homer continuously can’t say no (“Marge, I’d like to be alone with the sandwich for a moment.” “Are you going to eat it?” “………..yes.”)
– Lisa’s freakout is amazing, with the monstrous version of Selma featuring some fantastic animation. Also some great blurring effects in the POV shot when Lisa’s swaying her arms to the music of the electrical parade.

10 thoughts on “72. Selma’s Choice

  1. No mention of Selma’s ham radio, and the man on it saying “I have a ham radio” in a fictional language (a brilliant read by Hank Azaria)?

    Or of Gladys reading Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” at the start of the video will, and only Marge wanting to hear it?

    1. I’ve just noticed, actually, that the episode aired a week before the 30th anniversary of Frost’s death.

      Intentional, or a coincidence? One would think the latter, until they notice that there was no new episode the following week (the next episode, “Brother From the Same Planet”, airing the week after)…

  2. You know, I forget this episode even exists until I watch it and I’m not sure why as I am constantly laughing my ass off during it. The stuff with Lisa getting drunk at the end is so terrific, especially with her comment to Homer at the end.

  3. This episode is fantastic and has always been one of my favorites. The story of Selma longing for more in life is solid but there are so many hilarious gags crammed into this one that never fail to amuse me and make me laugh so hard. Among my favorites are Selma’s date with Hans Moleman, Homers sandwich dilemma and everything to do with Duff Gardens culminating in Lisa’s hysterical hallucination and subsequent freak out.

  4. An amazing episode, in my opinion. It’s got that typical season 4 feel of the episodes having a fairly emotional hook to it, while also having a ton of fun jokes, like Homer’s interpretation of artificial simulation, Barney’s offspring, Bart pranking Lisa making her think Gladys is “alive”, everything to do with Lisa drinking the water (“I am the lizard queen!”), Hutz’s tape, etc. If you couldn’t tell, this episode is near the top of the list for me.

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