Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

These days, Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker in Star Wars) can generally be found performing voice-overs for cartoons. Occassionally he even gets to play himself.

Yesterday I sat down to watch The Simpsons and was pleasantly surprised to find they were showing the episode Mayored To The Mob. I’d heard about this, but never actually seen it. Initially (I mean for the first act) it’s all about Springfield’s bi-monthly science-fiction convention. (yes, Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con)

As with all the best Simpsons, the one-liners and sight-gags come thick and fast…

Even Marge is feeling post-modern
Homer: “Are you sure this is a sci-fi convention – it’s full of nerds!”

It even manages to become one of those rare SF beasts - an American show containing a joke about Doctor Who.

Like any of these kids can even remember the show
By the time Mark Hamill shows up, it just keeps on getting better and better.

Luke Skywalker accidentally vwings Wonder Woman
Mayor Quimby: “We’re screwed! Use your light-sabre!”

Mark Hamill: “And break it??? George Lucas makes me pay for these!”

I shan’t tell you what happens, but I was sniggering at both the programme and myself like an MTV character. Alas, the eighth minute loomed, and with it, as is the way with The Simpsons, the story went off in another direction entirely, in this case to chronicle Homer beginning his new career as Mayor Quimby’s bodyguard.


Mayor Quimby moans in pain as his two bodyguards approach.

Bodyguard #1: “Ey boss! We were just talkin' about ya.”

Quimby: (furious) “You call yourselves bodyguards?!? You’re fired!”

Bodyguard #1: (cooly) “Fired, eh? Who else are ya gonna find to take a bullet for ya?”

Quimby: “I’ll tell you who! HIM!” (points at Homer)

Homer: “Woo-hoo!”

Marge: (disapprovingly) “Homer! I don’t think you were listening to what he just –“

Homer: (folding his arms decisively) “I said… ‘Woo. Hoo.’”

Marge: (worried)”Hrrrrrrrrm.”

Still, I kept on laughing.

Then tonight I got home from church and came across Hamill's episode of The Muppet Show.

May the farce be with you
And it’s even more of a joy today than it was in the early 80s. When the infamous Pigs In Space sketch gets going, for a while it’s just 3 characters from Star Wars in a spaceship, with nohing to tell you you’re actually watching The Muppet Show. It might just as well be a forgotten TV sitcom spin-off from the movie, complete with laugh-track. When muppets do show up of course, this is hardly out of keeping with Star Wars anyway – I’m looking at you Yoda.

Anyway, beyond this adventure, The Star Wars Holiday Special, The Making Of Star Wars, Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game and C-3PO's appearance on Swap Shop, I have to wonder just how much live-action TV Star Wars there is out there, and whether there’s some way of fitting it all together into one cohesive storyline.

Oh I know, they break the fourth wall and everything, but somehow muppets just take you with them on that one. Even in this show, Luke Skywalker turns out to be related to Mark Hamill, who upon hearing the laugh track, actually waves at the audience off-camera. And he’s backstage at the time! By the time we get the stage curtains peeling back to reveal Scooter playing in his room with a superimposed see-through band (the “monophonic symphony six-string orchestra”), followed by jumpcuts to him in another place and another costume, we’ve well and truly abandoned any pretence that this is all happening live on stage at a theatre.

Scooter and his Monochromatic Symphony Six-String Orchestra
After that, the station fast-forwarded 15 years to show an episode of Muppets Tonight (the same format but set in a TV station) guest-starring Martin Short.

I remember this series – the BBC started showing this primetime to much fanfare in 1996, but quickly moved it to mornings before it vanished completely. There were complaints that the humour was too American, parodying as it did shows (and I assume adverts) that we’d never got in the UK. Whilst it didn’t quite have the same charm as The Muppet Show, Muppets Tonight was still mad and silly, and I took a rebellious delight in enjoying all the old running jokes once more, despite the BBC’s decision that I really wasn’t that interested.

Johnny Fiama and Sal Minella
Sal Minella: "Johnny Fiama, coming through!"
Johnny: "Hey Sal, what'd you drop-kick him for? He's just a kid selling chocolates."
Sal: "Yeah, right Johnny, and I'm a monkey."
They stare at each other for a couple of seconds. Johnny raises an eyebrow.
Sal: (carrying on) "Okay, Johnny Fiama, coming through!"

No Mark Hamill this time though. One of these days I might actually have to watch those darn films.

My future?
"I only had two problems wrong with that blog entry."
"Only two? What were they?"
"The words... and the pictures!"


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