Columentary (title sadly not pending) is a weekly feature, in which I’ll listen to the commentary track of a sitcom, and divulge, through pretty pictures and less pretty words, the behind-the-scenes secrets the creators, writers, and cast discuss about their show. If you’ve ever wondered who was boinking who on The Brady Brunch, this is for you.
Show: The Simpsons
Episode: “Life on the Fast Lane” (S01E09)
Original Airdate: March 18, 1990
Episode Plot: After Homer thoughtlessly gives Marge a bowling ball with his name on for her birthday, she goes to the Bowlarama and meets Jacques, a suave bowling instructor. (Stop saying “bowling” so much!) Will she cheat on him in this episode from 1990, or will she remain faithful?
Players Involved: James L. Brooks, producer; Matt Groening, creator; Al Jean, producer; and David Silverman, director.
“We’re here to talk about an episode originally titled ‘Bjorn to be Wild.’ But we changed it from a Swedish guy to a French guy, I guess.”
“That was Albert Brooks who came in and said, ‘I don’t want to be Swedish, I want to be French. It’ll be funnier,’ and he was right.
“That became a national fad.”
“By this time, we had a floor plan of the house and design for all the rooms.”
“I remember very early on, I wanted a consistent floor plan to the house and geography of Springfield. I remember we drew maps…And then we realized that when we wanted a joke where the closet is next to the bathroom floor, we would switch things around. We gave up all on that.”
“We would change a few things when we need to, especially where the basement door is.”
“I think their house is next door to the school, the power plant, and Moe’s at various points during the series.”
“This is an example of Maggie sucking the pacifier all the time, which we got rid of because it became too distracting for the dialogue.”
“More freakish early designs of the show.”
“I remember at the time debating if him giving her a ball that said Homer was too crass, but it won an Emmy, so I guess it wasn’t.”
“[Albert Brooks is the] only guest star who improvised a full half-hour of his own material.”
“I remember speaking to him after he did, and his thrill was coming up with the definition of what brunch was.”
“This is a thing we’ve lost: the nightly and daily rituals of the Simpsons. Back in the early days, it was very closely observed.”
“I was just thinking how much worse of a father Homer has gotten.”
“Marge is pretty hot.”
“We stopped doing those head-on shots. That was an early decision. When the characters are seen straight on, they generally lose their personalities. It’s mostly three-quarter profile.”
“This would be an impossible story to do in live-action, for a family show.”
“Yeah, it’d be creepy.”
“That was one of the first butt cracks on TV.”
“He doesn’t seem to do that job anymore.”
“Well, he’s Safety Inspector now, right?”
“He was then, actually.”
“I think in real nuclear power plants, people aren’t actually handling radioactive material like that.”
“I’ve got other news for you: plutonium doesn’t glow.”
Josh Kurp loves Albert Brooks, but hates Jacques.