Nuclear reaction leads to Simpsons’ meltdown

At first, news that TV stations were shelving episodes of The Simpsons over nuclear references sounded like some sort of April Fool’s joke. Wouldn’t this be like taking forensic references out of CSI? Singing out of Glee? Coalition references out of Harper ads?
Stations around the world, however, are yanking Simpsons episodes In the wake of the very real nuclear reactor damage in Japan. Early reports cited stations in Germany, France and Austria but even Canadian stations like Toronto’s OMNI1 and the Comedy Network are banning a couple of shows. I go into more detail about this here in this story I wrote this week for The Canadian Press.
When I asked my resident Simpsons expert–my 18-year-old son Daniel, who has never known life without the cartoon clan–to help me with a list of controversial or disturbing episodes, he came up with one that has something to do with the Springfield nuclear plant, but that’s not why it gave him the creeps. “Homer’s Enemy,” from Season Eight, features Hank Azaria doing his best William H. Macy impersonation as Frank Grimes, a new employee at the plant who can’t believe an ignorant ape like Homer is the chief safety inspector. Apparently the inspiration for the character, although he’s not drawn that way, was Michael Douglas’ role in the movie Falling Down.
What really gets to straight-arrow Grimes is how this lazy lout can be so popular with the other workers. Grimes gets so worked up he basically commits suicide by the end of the episode. Homer later dozes off at his funeral, which gets a laugh from his co-workers–just as Grimes’ coffin is being lowered into the ground.
Even Simpsons insiders cite the 1997 outing as one of the series darkest. A critic at the AV Club suggests it marks “the beginning of the end” of the series. Matt Groening loves it, putting it in his all-time Top-10. Ricky Gervais calls it “the most complete episode” ever.
Not in my house. It’s not very funny, and Homer seems more heartless and unfeeling then dumb, like nobody you could ever root for again. I can see why it is not a favourite with Dan.

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