From the beginning, Springfield's nuclear power plant and its effects have figured prominently in The Simpsons. Here's a "work in progress" list of nuclear incidents in The Simpsons, which I will be adding to as we go along. Please send me any and all nuclear references in The Simpsons that you know of, including the episode title and date if possible!
My dream is that Matt Groening will give permission for some of these to be cut together to produce a PSA for NIRS or some other worthy organization working for a nuclear-free world - or even better, make one himself! I think a PSA like this, widely-distributed, could be a real game changer for the prospects of new nuclear plants being built.
Perhaps the Simpsons character which represents the nuclear threat the most, more even than Montgomery Burns, is Blinky, the three-eyed fish. Appearing in countless episodes, Blinky has served as a subtle but omnipresent reminder of the dangers of nuclear plants. The discovery in November 2009 of radioactive tritium in a well near Vermont Yankee nuclear plant is just one example of the many, many nuclear plants which are currently leaking radiation into our air, ground and water. The amount of tritium measured at the VY leak quickly increased from the initial level of 700 picocuries to over 2 MILLION picocuries per liter of water - more than 100 times the so-called "acceptable limit" for drinking water. Of course there's no amount of radiation which is safe - exposure to radiation in ANY amount WILL cause cancer and other toxic effects. So Blinky is a perfectly reasonable speculation about what we may well be seeing real soon in the waters around us. Especially with the massive amount of radioactive water being leaked and intentionally dumped into the ocean at Fukushima.
Blinky accurately presaged the occurrence of numerous and alarming genetic mutations we're now seeing in fish, frogs and other critters exposed to radiation and countless toxic chemicals in our water and earth. One cogent example is the increasing occurrence of frogs with both male and female sexual organs. Though Rachel Carson documented such mutations occuring in wildlife as the result of pesticide use a couple decades earlier in her seminal work "Silent Spring", Blinky adorably takes it a step further. A step the nuclear industry does not like or appreciate, as they have expressed to The Simpsons' creators, attempting to pressure them to be "nicer" to nukes. For example in 1990, after receiving a letter of protest from a nuclear industry group, the show's creators admitted to taking "cheap shots", offered to visit a nuclear plant and toured San Onofre. At the time, Executive Producer Sam Simon said the tour "changed a lot of people's minds. I think the facts are pretty powerful that it's a clean and safe and important source of energy. While some of the shows were in the works before, we really backed off that as a source of comedy. No more three-eyed fish." Apparently, the powers that be at The Simpsons subsequently changed their minds back, and decided nukes are not so clean and safe after all, as we can see from the more recent nuclear references in the Once Upon a Time in Springfield episode and many others documented below. And Blinky appears in a variety of episodes, for example appearing repeatedly, with a curling broom, as the logo on Homer's "Springfield Curling" team sweatshirt and T-shirt throughout the 2010 Valentine's Day episode Boy Meets Curl. During this episode, Burns also instructs Homer and crew to find the leak in the massive maze of "heavy water piping". Groening must be keeping tabs on the Vermont Yankee leak situation!
In 2013, Life imitated Art when two goldfish, rather the worse for wear, were found swimming in a lemonade pitcher filled with radioactive water in an underground steam tunnel, in a theoretically secure area at Perry Nuclear Power Plant in Ohio. There was public speculation regarding whether Homer Simpson did it, and referencing Blinky! The NRC is investigating.
Blinky also appears to have become the official symbol of Springfield as per its appearance in the official City of Springfield billboards in the 2012 episode Lisa Goes Gaga and other episodes. Blinky also makes a brief cameo during an underwater segment in the Futurama pilot episode.
And in 2013, it was announced that San Onofre Nuclear Power Plants will be permanently closed!
Thanks to Robert Singleton for contributing and sourcing several of these write-ups!
November 16, 2014 - Blazed and Confused - Extremely brief nuclear content in this one. Aside from Homer neglecting his duties while at work to try to book a camping trip he was supposed to have booked a year ago, the only nuclear content is a shot of the nuclear plant completely engulfed in flames, while the workers huddle outside. Lenny and Carl are oohing and aahing at a cute photo of Maggie sucking on a hypodermic needle that Homer just texted them from the camping trip (which turns out to be at "Blazing Guy" Festival, a parody of Burning Man).
November 9, 2014 - Simpsorama - While digging a pit in which to place the Springfield time capsule, the excavator hits a vein of green flourescent liquid. Everyone looks at Mr Burns, who stammers: "That, that could be anyone's ooze!" upon which the skeleton of an Atomic Energy Commission inspector promptly surfaces out of the ooze. We discover later, when the crew from Futurama comes back to kill Homer, that the spit sandwich Bart placed in the time capsule interacted with the ooze and other buried items to produce a plague of mutated rabbity figures in the future (figures very much reminiscent of Matt Groening's print cartoon figure Binky). Professor Farnsworth also calls upon "nuclear engineer" Homer to fix the complex portal-generating equipment which had transported the Futurama team back to the future after the Bart-like demons destroy it. This is obviously a non-starter! Lots of other non-nuclear content in this episode - my favorite: a call back to Futurama episode Jurassic Bark, as Fry, Bender, Leela and Homer walk by Panucci's, where Fry's dog Seymour is still waiting, and we hear a little of the evocative "I Will Wait for You" that plays at the end of Jurassic Bark, under a beautiful, moving timeline collage of Seymour growing old and dying waiting for Fry (who was accidentally transported into the future) outside Panucci's. Even though this is inconsistent with the Futurama canon, as Panucci's is not in Springfield and Seymour died in 2012, it's still sweet.
November 2, 2014 - Opposites A-Frack - This is a great episode! Deserving of copious notes - but for now, the nuclear content. It is discovered, thanks to water from the Simpsons' faucet catching on fire, that Mr. Burns is fracking beneath Evergreen Terrace. Lisa calls in feisty State Assembly Speaker Maxine Lombard (played by Jane Fonda) to stop the dangerous energy technology, and she does, meanwhile falling into a passionate affair with "Monty", as she calls him. Mr. Burns hires a hesitant Homer to acquire the mineral rights from all his neighbors, arguing, among other things, that fracking "doesn't create any of that awful worker-mutating nuclear waste". Marge is the last holdout, shortcircuiting her neighbors'stampede to sell out, and finally convincing Homer that fracking is unsafe - for their neighborhood at least.
October 12, 2014 - Super Franchise Me - In the opening credits, playing over "Tea for the Tillerman", we see unhappy-looking three-eyed seagulls soaring over the nuclear plant (and hear the lyrics "seagulls sing your hearts away"), then see Mr. Burns surreptitiously dumping nuclear waste in a pond (with the lyrics "while the sinners sin"). During the episode, when Bart and Lisa find Homer helping out making sandwiches at Marge's new franchise restaurant, Lisa says, "This is so sad, in his native land, Dad was a nuclear engineer."
May 18, 2014 - The Yellow Badge of Cowardge - In this episode's secondary plot, July 4th fireworks are cancelled, prompting Homer to say "Marge, if this stupid one-reactor town won't put on a fireworks show, I will!" Though as SNPP has two cooling towers, I believe that would imply two reactors, something Homer should know as a nuclear plant employee.
March 30, 2014 - You Don't Have to Live Like a Referee - Though this episode is entirely about Homer becoming a World Cup ref in Brazil, there's one noteworthy nuclear moment: When Homer is being recruited by the World Cup officials, he says "Noone has ever questioned my professionalism, except at my profession," holding up a picture of himself standing in front of the Springfield NPP with a giant mushroom cloud coming out of one of the power plant cooling towers.
January 12, 2014 - Married to the Blob - There's a wealth of energy references in the first part of this episode, where we find Bart and Milhouse reading a comic book,"The Death of Radioactive Man". Radioactive Man answers the sky tweet emergency signal to find the "Fossil Fuel Four": Old King Coal, Petroleus Rex, Charcoal Briquette (a French femme fatale) and as RM puts it: "the enemy of drinking water everywhere, The Fracker" attacking a nuclear plant, which our hero Radioactive Man terms "this country's safest energy source!" The Fracker responds: "Studies show I'm America's best hope for energy indepence! Ha Ha!" "Those studies were industry-financed!" exclaims RM (true dat!)
Radioactive Man vanquished by the Fossil Fuel Four!
Needing backup, Radioactive Man calls Citizen Solar, and his sidekick Wind Lad. Charcoal Briquette warns "I think you will find them lacking in energy". Appearing over a power plant tank, the wimpy Citizen Solar complains "It's too cloudy" while Wind Lad whines "People don't like the noise I make." Not surprisingly, for those who noticed the comic's title, these hijinx lead to Radioactive Man's demise, as he ironically crashes through a nuclear containment dome and fades away, uttering "Half life, Quarter life, Eighth life, Gone...." And also lead to Comic Book Guy meeting a woman who actually likes him! Some pretty fun energy stuff, sci-fi references, and callbacks to earlier Simpsons episodes too - for example we see the head of a 19-eyed squirrel (or some critter) - shades of Blinky - on the wall at the junk decor-themed restaurant where the Simpsons are dining with Comic Book Guy and his new girlfriend. She's from Japan, and immediately recognizes Homer from the Mr. Sparkle detergent boxes. We see a "Go Topes" pennant, complete with atomic symbol, on the wall of the Comic Book Store, as well as the restaurant, referring to the Springfield Isotopes Baseball team. Comic Book Guy chastises Milhouse for trying to cut in line, and says he should talk to Harlan Ellison, who it turns out is waiting in line with everyone else to buy the new RM comic which brings our hero back to life. They have a fun little exchange in which Ellison rants about kids and their modern technology, and accuses Milhouse of stealing his idea. There are Stargate and Star Wars vignettes, some beautiful take-offs of Studio Ghibli anime films, and much more. Not energy-themed, but notable: the clever couch gag drawn by the great Bill Plympton, who has provided Simpsons animated segments a couple times before.
November 17, 2013 - Labor Pains - In this episode's subplot, Lisa is chosen from the crowd at a football game to be an Atomette, one of the Springfield Atoms' cheerleading squad. She immediately picks up on the the fact that the women are being financially (and possibly sexually) exploited, and organizes a strike. We see some of the strike scenes playing over a very nice actual Woody Guthrie labor union song. The team's owner, the Rich Texan, eventually gives in, after unappealing cheerleader scabs (Patty and Selma, Nelson's mom, and the Crazy Cat Lady) completely turn off the hometown crowd. He shows up contritely at the door of the Simpons' house where the cheerleaders are hanging with Lisa, painting strike signs in the treehouse, and giving Marge a cool football team "break through the hoop" encouragement sendoff, which she enjoys. The episode's closing credits play over a nifty assortment of Atomettes merchandise, including the Atomette Home Pregnancy Test and a book, "Doorways of Cheerleaders Homes".
October 6, 2013 - Treehouse of Horror XXIV - Quite a bit of nuclear content in the very long and horror movie and TV reference-packed opening credits, including a giant three-eyed Blinky and raven wreaking destruction on Springfield denizens! Homer's glowing nuclear isotope drops down his collar, causing him to immediately mutate into a horrible gilled creature, a Reaper from the movie Blade. A nuclear spill at SNPP turns everyone into zombies. And more! The opening credits were directed by Guillermo Del Toro, and include references to all of his as well as other classic films.
September 29, 2013 - Homerland episode - Tons of nuclear content in this "Homeland" sendup, in which Homer goes to a Nuclear Plant Workers Convention - Atomic-Con - in Boise, and returns home a changed man. Although Lisa fears her father has become a terrorist, his actual goal is to save the environment by sabotaging and shutting down the nuclear plant where he works. With Lisa's help, he succeeds, temporarily anyway. New "safety" procedures are instituted - nothing that actually addresses the actual danger posed by nuclear power plants, of course! Assorted nuclear sight gags, Blinky sightings and the like in this episode. Before the convention, Homer tells Marge how sad it is that all the workers who participated in last year's convention skit are now very sick. For some reason, after Fukushima, this sort of thing does not seem funny to me anymore.
May 19, 2013 - Dangers on a Train episode - Blinky appears on a road sign which says:
Springfield: 20 Miles
Please Lower Your Expectations
May 19, 2013 - The Saga of Carl episode - A giant Blinky appears in the opening credits, gobbling up an underwater couch scene complete with aquatic Simpsons family critters.
May 12, 2013 - Fabulous Faker Boy episode - During the bizarre and wide-ranging opening credits, produced by the Robot Chicken team (and what else would we expect from them!), we see the twin nuclear towers with a green-glowing open air radioactive cooling pool in front, and three pipes spewing radioactive water from the pool. The Simpson family is driving a daredevil model car-type race course which includes a jump over said radioactive pool among other hazards. Later in the episode, when Bart's new piano teacher says he has "sausage fingers", we see Homer (relaxing as usual in his desk chair at the power plant in front of the control board) suddenly come to life exclaiming "sausage fingers!"
April 28, 2013 - Pulpit Friction episode- The three-eyed bird (does it have a name?) appears in the opening credits again.
April 14, 2013 - What Animated Women Want episode - Homer and Marge are having trouble in their marriage again, leading to this observation from Homer: "Marriage is so tough! Every second it could explode catastophically! Makes me not want to come home from my job at the nuclear plant." Also notable in this episode: great "Breaking Bad" parody couch gag, ending with live action video footage of Walt and Jesse on the couch at their extermination cover cooking scam watching The Simpsons on TV.
January 27, 2013 - Changing of the Guardian episode - When a tornado hits Springfield, we see seven (count 'em seven!) Blinkies swirling around in the tornado's funnel. In notable non-nuclear content, there's a nice little flute vignette. We see Selma's adopted daughter Ling playing the opening from Bach Flute Sonata in A Minor for Flute Alone (Movement I - Allemande) while doing complicated gymnastics routines, which Homer calls "Flutenastics". This is a lovely Bach piece that I play too!
January 13, 2013 - A Test Before Trying episode - In an episode first act quite relevant to the rate hikes currently in the news, Mr. Burns has gathered the press and his employees to announce his Annual Rite Hike, to be determined by a team of economists. Each economist has a possible rate hike percentage pinned to their back, and the first one to be brought down by the hounds is the one whose percentage will be used - 17% in this case.
Mr. Burns: And now, to help you disperse....
Kirk Van Houten: Let me guess. You're gonna release the hounds again!
Mr. Burns: Ooooh, don't be silly! Release the radioactive steam!
Which definitely does disperse the crowd, who go home to face the sacrifices necessitated by the new higher electricity rates.
This episode has great opening credits, in the style of a disaster movie trailer, voiced in the style of the late iconic movie trialer voiceover artist Don LaFontaine.
March 10, 2013 - Black-Eyed Please episode - Superintendent Chalmers and Principal Skinner are explaining to Homer and Marge why the teacher bullying Lisa can't be fired, due to her two weeks of tenure, leading to this exchange:
Homer: I hate unions. There's this guy at my plant, caused three meltdowns and he still keeps his job.
Marge: Homer, that's you!
Shortly thereafter, we see Homer asleep in the control room at work. Ned comes in, seeking forgiveness for punching Homer in the eye after he found Homer getting high with his parents.
Homer: Flanders, how did you get in here? This place is a highly-sensitive area!
Outside the control room window, Lenny leads a troop of Boy Scouts on a tour, asking "Who here wants to touch radiation?" They all raise their little hands.
Later, Homer consults with Edna, who suggests the "nuclear option" is the only solution to Lisa's problem with the bullying teacher.
Homer: How much plutonium do you want? I gotta warn ya, it might take me 20 minutes to get it.
But Edna actually means putting Bart in Lisa's classroom to drive the teacher away. Which works like a charm.
Last but not least, the three-eyed bird reappears in the opening credits of this episode, which are especially notable because the couch gag was drawn by the great Bill Plympton.
December 16, 2012 - To Cur With Love episode - In the non-couch gag opening credits, there's a great sequence in which Mr. Burns is giving away a million dollar Montgomery Burns Alternative Energy prize, part of the court-mandated settlement for his causing "a billion dollars worth of environmental damage." While Kent Brockman prattles on about the prize, Burns bats away a now-evolved Blinky, who is buzzing him from the air. In addition to the usual three eyes, Blinky also now has wings and a dragon-like forked tongue. Burns admonishes Blinky to "Go have one of your enormous litters" and Blinky lets out a very unfish-like screeching roar. The three finalists for the prize range from Otto's slave-powered bus, to Apu's hot dog-powered Perpetual Motion machine, to Prof. Frink's Frinkasonic MHV, a sound wave-powered vehicle (which runs amok as soon as the crowd loudly starts expressing its approval).
Later in the episdoe, Abe is telling the family about "the fateful day when Mr. Burns was lobbying for the go-ahead on his nuclear plant." We see a younger Burns and Waylon Smithers, Sr. with a picture of twin nuclear cooling towers and a sign saying "Springfield Nuclear Coming Soon" handing out Isotoads - stuffed frogs sporting an atomic symbol and mechanical voices. When Burns pulls the pull-ring of the toy he's about to give to a young Homer, the frog says "Cancer clusters are random occurrences."
Also of note, this episode closes with the charming short "Montgomery Burns Explains the 'Fiscal Cliff'" - not a nuclear thing, but just one of those great little Simpsons digs at the powers that be.
The snapshot of Homer's long-lost dog Bongo sleeping with Homer's T-shirt years later was reminiscent for me of the poignant closing sequence of the Jurassic Bark episode of Futurama, where we see Fry's dog waiting for him to return in vain over passing decades, with an evocative soundtrack of "I Will Wait For You" from The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
December 9, 2012 - The Day The Earth Stood Cool episode - When Springfield suddenly becomes cool, the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant is featured prominently in a New York Times Travel section article titled "Under The Cooling Towers, A Trendy Oasis Beckons".
And the closing credits run over a brilliant and weird little vignette, a newsreel-type short featuring Monty Burns delivering "A Brief Message About Artisanal Nuclear Power", all about how nuclear power used to be made by hand, and how modern nuclear producers are returning to the old ways to once again produce high-quality, individually-sourced, hand-crafted nuclear power. You can see this segment plus more screen shots from this episode here!
November 11, 2012 - Adventures in Baby-Getting episode: Marge realizes she want to have another baby, so Homer gets his sperm tested to see if they're still viable - they aren't, leading to this exchange with his fellow SNPP workers:
Marge: Homer can't make a baby because his swimmers got nuked.
Lenny: Oh, that's a shame!
Carl: Yeah, that's why I wrap my plums in tin foil every day.
September 30, 2012 - Moonshine River episode: Our friend Blinky appears in an aquarium at the Ayn Rand Daycare Center in the extended opening credits.
March 4, 2012 - Exit Through the Kwik-E Mart episode: In the elaborate opening credits, which spoof the Game of Thrones opening theme, when the nuclear cooling towers appear, a flock of three-eyed birds come flying crazily out of the towers. (There's also a three-eyed bird - a raven - in Game of Thrones!) These opening credits also appear in the 2013 Hardly Kirk-ing episode. The closing credits are cool too, with a mostly acapello version of the theme song performed by Nick McKaig.
March 11, 2012 - How I Wet Your Mother episode: Though mostly a parody of the movie Inception, this tale starts with hijinx at the nuclear plant, including the usual gross safety lapses. Mr. Smithers accidentally leaves the supply closet unlocked and Homer takes massive advantage, stealing tons of stuff, as do other plant employees. We see some of the assorted boxes of supplies, with labels including "Putty, Serious", "Putty, Silly", and "Plutonium Rods".
March 19, 2012 - Them, Robot episode: For an episode that is mostly set at the nuclear plant, there is very little actual nuclear content. The story revolves around Burns' decision to replace all the human workers with robots - except Homer. There is one great little vignette where Marge recalls the parade celebrating Burns' first day in Springfield, led by majorettes carrying a sign saying "Bow Down To Your Future", and Burns riding an elephant with an atomic headdress, promising "cheap power, plentiful jobs, and all your swimming holes shall be warm and bubbling." Hmmmm, where have I heard that before?!
I loved: Burns reading Tina Fey's Bossypants!
May 20, 2012 - Lisa Goes Gaga episode: This episode is all Gaga - Lady Gaga that is. Unfortunately not quite as creative as Lady G. herself. Nuclear content: We see Blinky on two billboards touting Springfield, which the Gaga Express is speeding past on the way to a gig. The signs read: Springfield: The Little Town that Can't and Won't and Springfield: Sister City to No One. Despite two original songs in this episode, the best song of the episode is "Homerface", a parody of "Pokerface" sung by Homer under the closing credits.
Best line: Lisa goes off on Lady Gaga in a playground rant: "I denounce thee for positing a world where social acceptance and walking on heels are easy!"
January 16, 2011 - Flaming Moe episode:
This episode opens with a big brawl between the incoming day shift at the nuclear plant, including Homer, Carl and Lenny, and the outgoing night shift, who have offended the daytimers by being better than them (and knowing it). The fracas is busted up by security in hazmat suits with armbands saying NP - which I assume means Nuclear Police. Burns is making out his will, during which we find out all of his many meaning-laden middle names: Charles Montgomery Plantageneto Schicklgruber Burns. The will leaves the bulk of his estate to his turtle, and a disillusioned Smithers confronts Burns, then goes off in a huff, leading to a sequence of events in which Smithers does a makeover on Moe's, turning it into a gay club now called Mo's. Other stuff happens, but nothing nuclear-related, unless you want to count the almost meltdown Moe has when he's challenged (by Smithers) to kiss Smithers in order to prove Moe's claim to be gay. The episode title is a play on previous episode from season three "Flaming Moe's".
January 23, 2011 - Homer the Father episode:
Our friend Blinky is featured in the opening credits, on a billboard crowing: "Now with 50% more fish eyes!"
Homer is watching a series of 80's sitcom reruns (beautifully parodied here!) from which he garners some much-needed parenting knowledge. Apu stops by to bring Homer his nuclear power plant ID, which Homer left in the birthday card rack at the Quickee Mart. Bart overhears them discussing the value of Homer's nuclear knowledge, and resolves to sell nuclear secrets to whoever will get him the Street Assassin bike he wants - Homer won't spring for it, thanks to the parenting advice he's getting from the sitcoms. Bart sucks up to Homer in order to pal around with him at the plant, and makes a deal with some Chinese spies. But Bart is racked by guilt when Homer, touched by Bart's apparent chumminess and hard work, gets him the bike after all.
October 9, 2011 - The Falcon and the D'Oh Man episode:
In this Season 23 opener, the opening credits consist of Homer singing "Sneaking in at Noon" (to the tune of "Walking on the Moon"), while we see some exterior and interior scenes at the Nuclear Power Plant, including the S.N.P.P Cafeteria, which I don't recall seeing before. Keifer Sutherland guest stars as new S.N.P.P security guard Wayne Slater, who has a mysterious Jack Bauer-like past. Although a fair amount of the episode is set at the plant, there's not much actual nuclear content. We do see a safety sign in the locker room that admonishes "Don't Do This" with a graphic of a mushroom cloud explosion. There are a lot of good spy and horror movie cliches and references in Wayne's flashbacks, hence the parodying title. And Homer has a cool flash forward that references "The Terminator" films, in which he's leading a Skull Crushers union protest against the robots who took their jobs. The episode closes with the revelation of the Nedna poll results (should Ned Flanders and Edna Krabapple stay a couple?), and Sutherland adds his special touch to the final curtain shush.
November 6, 2011 - Replaceable You episode:
Homer is actually reading a safety manual: "Nuclear Safety Procedures" at the Power Plant - for about 7 seconds, until he gets bored and tries to take a nap. His new assistant Roz (played by Jane Lynch) interrupts, and soon gets him demoted by shining a light on his perpetual work negligence. Homer gets her back by causing her to have a personal meltdown at the plant's awards ceremony for Employee of the Millenium, with a little help from neighbor Ned who knows Roz from way back when at Bible Camp. In the meantime, Lisa and Bart compete in a science fair, and corporations plot to do evil. Professor Frink blows off a hot date with Miss Wyoming and helps the kids save the day. The episode ends with a heartwarming, heaven-raising dance scene. Fun details include the Simpson's version of NAMBLA (North American Man Bot Love Association), and a great collection of magazines including Robotics Illustrated featuring Bender on the cover.
November 27, 2011 - The Man in the Blue Flannel Pants Episode:
Nicely done parody of Mad Men, with John Slattery and Matthew Weiner lending their voices, though I found the music for this episode less on target than usual. Homer is tapped to become SNPP's new schmoozing and drinking Accounts Man, leading to great scenes of the behind the scenes corporate shenanigans it takes to keep nuclear power in favor with those in political power. As for nuclear content, there are a couple good digs at the beginning and end on Homer's incompetence at his once and future job, including this from Smithers, in response to Burns' suggestion that he may have a place for Homer higher up in the organization: "As Safety Inspector, he hasn't exactly set the world on fire, although he came close a couple times." When Homer returns to his Inspector job at the end of the episode, we see that the fireworks going off over Springfield, as Marge and Homer happily snuggle in bed, are coming from a cooling tower in flames.
December 4, 2011 - The Ten-Per-Cent Solution Episode:
In which, Krusty gets fired, and goes for yet another comeback. Helping him is the agent who first helped him hit the big time, Annie Dubinsky, brilliantly voiced by Joan Rivers. We see a pre-Krusty Hershel performing a topical nuclear joke in the mid-60's at the Village Id: "Hey, hey, scary world. Start with the A Bomb and skip right to the H Bomb. These geniuses can blow up the planet, but they don't know the alphabet!" Among others in the coffee and martini-sipping nightclub audience are a young Seymour Skinner, in uniform, and his mom. After catching his act, Dubinsky advises him to lose the beret, and make his comedy "a touch more physical", leading directly to creation of the Krusty persona. Krusty hits the big time, and promptly dumps Dubinsky for a big name agent at United Parasites. Now, decades later, the Simpsons (who else?) convince Dubinsky to help Krusty again. Lots of good satire of TV and movie classics, and subtext galore in this episode!
January 2010 - Once Upon a Time in Springfield episode:
"You nuclear workers have no idea how valuable you are. Times have never been better for your industry, now that all the protesters who marched in front of nuclear plants are dying off from radiation poisoning." - Gator McCall, Executive Recruiter, Nuclear Energy
and, on a sign in front of a nuclear plant that's recruiting Homer, Lenny and Carl:
"Capital City Nuclear - The Cleanest Energy There Is
Except Once In a While, But Then, Watch Out"
February 14, 2010 - Boy Meets Curl episode:
Blinky appears repeatedly, with a curling broom, as the logo on Homer's "Springfield Curling" team sweatshirt and T-shirt, before Homer, Marge, Seymour and Mother Skinner go on to Vancouver to win Olympic Gold in curling. Earlier in this episode, Burns instructs Homer and crew to find the leak in the massive maze of "heavy water piping". Groening must be keeping tabs on the very current and evolving Vermont Yankee leak situation!
May 2, 2010 - To Surveil With Love episode:
Smithers reports to Burns that the hollow mountain in Nevada where they've been disposing of their nuclear waste is full, and they need a new disposal spot (possibly a Yucca reference?). Burns asks whether his plan to push the waste down has been implemented, and Smithers says it didn't work, pushing the waste down just made it come up in a different spot. So they cook up a new plan: put the nuclear waste in a bag belonging to the most clueless employee. Homer just happens to have a new Duff duffle bag at work courtesy of a big Duff giveaway at Mo's the previous night, so that's where the nuclear waste gets hidden. After Homer accidentally leaves his bag behind in a train station terminal, it's tagged as an unattended bag and carelessly blown up by the bomb squad, creating a mushroom cloud and making everyone think there's a terrorist threat. This leads to one of the episode's main story lines, the installation of security cameras all over Springfield.
A non-nuclear notable in this episode: The opening credits take a break from their usual format, and instead illustrate the pop song "Tik Tok" by Kesha, with Lisa getting "lead air vocals".
October 10, 2010 - MoneyBART episode:
In the opening credits, we see a three-eyed bird flying across the screen carrying a three-eyed fish (a la Blinky!) This is the first time I remember seeing a three-eyed bird on the Simpsons! Anyone know if there's ever been one before? This mirrors the actual radiation spreading outside nuclear sites, which is leading to radioactive bunnies (among many other animals) and radioactive bunny poop being found, for example outside the Hanford Nuclear Waste Dump (formerly the Hanford Nuclear Weapons Factory). Three-eyed birds also appear in How Munched is that Birdie in the Window (November 28, 2010) and The Fool Monty (November 21, 2010) episodes among others. And there's a graphic design company called Three Eyed Bird Design in Minnesota!
In this episode, Bart's Little League team, the Isotots (team caps bearing a diagram of the atom) need a new coach, and Lisa, needing some extra-curricular activities to fill out her resume, jumps in. Among the other books she's studying to bone up on coaching are "Schrödinger's Bat" (I love math jokes! Upon further research, I discovered this is not a joke made up by the Simpsons' writers, but an actual baseball column - or perhaps both - and the name of a band too!)
Radioactive dialogue in this episode:
Marge: Didn't you get radiation poisoning working at the Springfield Nuclear Plant?
Mike Scioscio: I sure did, and it made me a super manager! I can also demagnetize credit cards.
Also notable: The opening credits show the behind the scenes at a Simpsons manufacturing facility, "revealing" the evil labor practices and gross contents that go into making Simpsons merchandise.
Date - American History X-cellent episode:
Mr. Burns gets arrested when a stolen painting is accidentally discovered in his mansion, and Smithers takes over the nuclear plant.
November 21, 2010 - The Fool Monty episode:
The three-eyed bird appears in the opening credits again!
December 6, 2010 - The Fight Before Christmas episode:
Eschewing the traditional opening credits format, this episode opens with a panoramic sweep of a Christmas-festooned Springfield landscape, starting with a close-up of two red and white candy cane-striped nuclear plant cooling towers. Other dangerously adorable items in this episode: Bart has a BB gun with the label "BB King". And the episode closes with an uncharacteristic (for the Simpsons) dirty joke between puppet Moe, and his date, a live action Katy Perry in a skintight Simpsons-festooned red dress. I guess she just has that effect on people, even Simpsons writers.
November 22, 2009 - Pranks and Greens episode: In the opening credits, the Simpsons do a special Simpsons version of the Twelve Days of Christmas, and Blinky is featured on the third day with the lyric "three-eyed fish".
November 15 , 2009 - The Devil Wears Nada episode: Carl is promoted to supervisor at the Nuclear Plant, and shanghais the unwilling-Homer into being his assistant. Among other things, they go off to Paris for Fission Week.
April 9 , 2006 - Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore episode:
Mr. Burns outsources his entire plant to India, and sends Homer to train his new employees.
April 30, 2006 - Girls Just Want to Have Sums episode:
nuclear content? but there's a great flute moment at the end. Lisa, having pretended to be a boy to get into a good math class, just collected her best in school math award, revealed her charade, and is sermonizing on what she learned. However the band director tells her to hurry up, "you're cutting into the time for the best flautist award!" Then Martin Prince skips out on stage with his flute in Renaissance costume, playing a great little "Thick as a Brick". Also notable in this episode: Stab-a-Lot: the Itchy and Scratchy Musical.
November 20, 2005 - See Homer Run episode:
Homer's running for Mayor, and during the campaign, there's a great little political commercial from the "Nuclear Workers for Truth", detailing Homer's failings at his job (no doubt a parody of the infamous Swift Boat for Truth spots that targeted candidate Kerry).
November 7, 2004 - Treehouse of Horror XV episode:
As per usual, this annual Hallowe'en episode is made up of several short vignettes. In "The Ned Zone", a parody of "The Dead Zone", Homer clonks Ned on the noggin with the bowling ball he's tossing around trying to get his frisbee down from the roof. This dislodges a brain tumor no one knew Ned had, saving his life, but also causes him to start having premonitions about people's deaths. Homer eagerly solicits info on his own demise, and Ned foresees that he himself will kill Homer by shooting him. Bart points out that thoughts like this are par for the course on their block, but Ned is so distressed by his vision, he throws the gun Homer borrows from Chief Wiggum into the lawn chipper to prevent this outcome. But then he foresees Homer blowing up the nuclear plant by hitting the Core Destruct button, and realizes his actions have created a much worse outcome. Ned tells Homer never to go to the nuclear plant again, and he agrees - after today, because it's Lenny's birthday and they're having ice cream cake. Ned goes to the plant to warn Homer not to push the Core Destruct button, but due to a faulty intercom, Homer thinks Ned is telling him to push the button - and of course unquestioningly complies. In an unsuccessful attempt to prevent the button-pushing, Ned finally does shoot Homer. So both of Ned's visions turn out to be part of the same deadly scenario, as often happens in "The Dead Zone", where the lead character gets visions in bits and pieces, and doesn't always interpret them correctly. The Simpsons and Ned all end up in Heaven, where Homer finally gets his frisbee back, speculates about whether he could blow up Heaven, and mouths off to God.
Also of musical note, the song "Standing Tall", theme from iconic 80's sitcom Perfect Strangers, in the open (great sitcom parody Keepin' it Kodos) and closing credits (over sitcom-style snapshots from the episode), as well as a dance scene featuring characters from the open and all three vignettes at the end of the last vignette, "Belly of the Boss", dancing to a great Ella-esque version of "I've Got You Under My Skin", with vocals by Marie Cain.
May 23, 2004 - Fraudcast News episode:
After it appears Mr. Burns has died, Kent Brockman reports: "As owner of Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Mr. Burns generated both electricity and contempt."
But Burns isn't dead, just oversensitive to all the criticism. So he Burns buys up all the media in Springfield, except Lisa's indy newspaper, The Red Dress Press, and starts airing content like "What's Nuked, Pussycat?" a great Itchy and Scratchy pro-nuke propaganda film in which Scratchy, an anti-nuke protestor, gets decapitated by a wind turbine, among other alternative energy fiascos.
January 25 , 2004 - Diatribe of a Mad Housewife episode:
Homer is DWE - driving while eating - a massive order of Krustyburger "food", and he's paying no attention to his driving, with predictable results. When he tries to get the car under control, he can't, because a Krusty collectible toy is stuck under the brake pedal. Meanwhile, at the nuclear plant, Burns and Smithers are meeting with a nuclear inspector:
Inspector: Mr. Burns, the Department of Nuclear Security is very impressed with your plant.
Burns: Yes, we're well protected against every threat from bomb-toting Bolsheviks to golden-armed jazzbos.
At this crucial moment, Homer's car crashes through the wall, careening through the room and pinning the inspector against the bookcase. With his dying breath, the inspector begs: "Promise me you'll report this!"
Homer gets fired, and other shenanigans ensue, including the main storyline of Marge becoming a scandalous romance novelist.
December 14 , 2003 - Tis the Fifteenth Season episode:
During the office Christmas party at the nuclear plant, there's a big Merry Xmas sign where the X is replaced by a graphic of the atom. This episode also includes a variety of cool animation techniques in meta-cartoons Christmas with the California Prunes, The Year Santa Got Lost, and Mr. Mcgrew's Christmas Carol.
December 2 , 2001 - A Hunka Hunka Burns in Love episode:
During the dramatic bowling alley scene, after Snake kidnaps Burns' new fiancee Gloria and Homer, we see a video game in the background called "NUKE CANADA".
Also noteable, this charming closing dialogue, after Gloria remembers why she was attracted to Snake in the first place, and chooses him over Burns:
Burns: I don't get it Simpson, I'm a bad boy.
Homer: Oh, I know!
Burns: I'm absolutely evil.
Bart: You're preaching to the choir, man.
Burns: What do I have to do, grow a devil beard?
Marge: Devil beard?
Burns: You know, the little goatee thing?
Homer: You mean a Van Dyke?
Burns: No, a Van Dyke has a moustache, doesn't it?
Lisa: I think it can.
Bart: Are you talking about a soul patch?
Burns: No! Wait - maybe....
Followed by a closing title card bearing the legend: "Dedicated to the memory of George Harrison"
March 29, 1998 - Simpson Tide episode:
Homer joins the Naval Reserve, and due to his usual combination of incompetence, ignorance and innocence, gets assigned to work on a nuclear submarine, the S.S. Jebediah. The sub's commander, Captain Tenneile (played by Rod Steiger) puts Homer temporarily in charge, while he climbs into a torpedo tube to clear an obstruction. Of course the first thing Homer does is accidentally fire the captain at an approaching sub, and then pilots the Jebediah way off course into Russian Waters. This leads to media speculation that Homer's a communist who has hijacked the sub. More hijinx and parodies of sub movie cliches ensue, before Homer saves the sub from sinking by inserting Bart's confiscated earring into a pinhole leak, enabling the sub to safely surface. But when they do, they're surrounded by a multi-national ring of looming battleships, including a Norse longship replete with Vikings, and the S.S. Antartica, awash in penguins. Homer is saved from too dire a fate due to his review panel of Naval officers themselves facing indictment for a laundry list of criminal behavior: Tailhook, accepting bribes from military contractors, torpedoing a Carnival Cruise ship, and impersonating the First Lady. The episode closes with one last nuclear reference, as Bart tries to get parental approval to get a tattoo of, among other eager suggestions, "Weapons Grade Plutonium". Homer's response: "Ask your mother."
Other fun vignettes during this episode include a parade in Red Square, Homer and the Sarge in Basic Training, the reliably heart-warming Marge and Homer in the bedroom, and Principal Skinner in civil defense gear selecting student occupants for a fallout shelter.
Favorite quote, as Homer prepares to leave on the sub:
Marge: Are you sure you'll be okay?
Homer: We have orders not to fire on anybody but Greenpeace.
November 5, 1995 - King-Size Homer episode:
Burns: "Homer, your bravery and quick thinking have turned a potential Chernobyl into a mere Three Mile Island!"
In the real world, C. Montgomery Burns is the top write-in vote getter in New York City's 2009 Mayoral Race:
And in the fictional world, Burns tops the list too:
Forbes Richest 15 Fictional Characters
Science Friday had a very interesting segment with David X. Cohen (Executive Producer of Futurama and former Simpsons writer) and Simon Singh (author of The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets) talking about Math on the Simpsons.
1980 - Dietrich's Arrest - A two-part episode in which Det. Dietrich participates in an anti-nuclear demonstration, against the orders of superiors, and gets arrested. Dietrich often serves as the conscience/moral center of the show, and the character is consistently portrayed as extremely knowledgable, sharing what he knows at every opportunity, and right about everything he says, no matter how outside the box. So I think in these episodes, the character can be assumed to be speaking for the show's writers in expressing his anti-nuclear convictions. We learn in this episode that Dietrich went to both medical school and law school as a teenager, further burnishing his rep as being exceedingly intelligent. There's also a nuclear engineer character, sounding a bit crazed as he not very effectively states the pro-nuke position, along with Levitt, who offers a few pro-nuke platitudes. Thoughtful Wojo ponders the current energy crisis, but is swayed by the book Dietrich gives him, "Nuclear Power: License to Kill", and by the episode's end has turned into an effective debater, not taken in by the engineer's passionate arguments, or the pamphlet he proffers, "Nuclear is Now, Nuclear is Wow". The recent accident at Three Mile Island and movie The China Syndrome are also referenced in this episode.
1981 - Lady and the Bomb - A woman thinks her husband is suffering from radiation poisoning because he works at a hospital with a nuclear medicine department, and thousands of gallons of radioactive materials are stored in the basement. She's come to this conclusion because he's become impotent, and she can't imagine any other cause for this malady. So she heads to the 12th Precinct demanding action, and threatening to blow up the building with a homemade bomb if the radioactive materials aren't moved within two hours. This episode contains a lot of still highly-relevant info about nuclear storage - or lack of it - including a discussion of various disposal options like salt domes, abondoned mines, and shooting radioactive waste into space. Almost 35 years later we're still in exactly the same situation, discussing the same options, only with tons more radioactive waste languishing in inadequate and unsafe storage sites onsite at facilities all over the country and the world. In this episode, Wojo is the knowledgable nuclear skeptic, challenging the spin attempted by the hospital's representative. Wojo asks the all-important, and still unanswered question: Why keep making more radioactive material when there's no safe way to dispose of it?
1982 - Hunger Strike - A man on a hunger strike is brought in for disruptive behavior - he chained himself to a fence in Washington Square, hoping to be arrested, and bring attention to his demands: Though portrayed as a bit of a wack job, he clearly articulates his nuclear concerns:
And later in the episode, Wojo reiterates:
Also notable in this episode, a young Stanley Kamel (who played the psychiatrist in Monk) as an arrogant psychiatrist matching wits with Dietrich (and losing)
1977 - Atomic Bomb - A graduate student, James Thayer, builds a nuclear bomb as a protest. It's a working model, "about 2 kiloton, I would judge", says Thayer, and all he's missing is the plutonium. The device is confiscated by Nick, Wojo and Sgt. Kavanaugh of the bomb squad, and brought to the 12th Precinct, where it is then taken by the FBI and classified Top Secret for national security, over the protests of Thayer who needs it for his Master's Thesis grade. The clueless bomb squad tech is skeptical about whether the contraption is really what the student says it is, but of course the ever-erudite Deitrich immediately recognizes it as an atomic bomb. So does the Teller-esque, Strangelovian scientist with a pronounced accent, Dr. Reinhold Bauer from the "Energy Commission", brought in by the FBI. He's inappropriately excited by the bomb, very complimentary to the student, and obviously parodying one of the scientists who switched political sides in WWII, musing aloud about how different things would have been "if we had developed this first". Sgt. Kavanaugh worries, presciently, about what will happen if more people follow the lead of the grad student: "I think that we're in for a whole pile of trouble if the wrong person or persons gets the idea of doing what that kid done. We don't even have training films on these things." A sub-plot involving a cryonics business allows an interesting debate between the atomic and cryonic scientists regarding the relative merits of their disciplines to the public good and the future of humankind. The student and the scientist debate too:
Thayer: I built that thing to show that it could be done, but I'm against the whole principle.
Bauer: Young man, we are scientists. What the world does with our science is another matter.
Thayer: I don't feel that way. I think it's immoral and it's inhuman! We owe a debt to mankind to deal with progress with caution and with responsibility!
Followed by this exchange with the ever-philosophical Det. Yemana (who perhaps was given these lines because he's Japanese):
Bauer: Look at him, look at that boy. He's going to waste a brilliant mind!
Bauer: Passing up the chance of a lifetime.
Yemana: Maybe he's given us one.
Thayer leaves with this final warning: I got a C in Physics last semester. Think what the kids with Bs and As could do... especially if they're angry!
Deitrich gets the last word, which is "there's tons of plutonium unaccounted for in this country", further adding to Barney's stress. There's also some humorous topical dialogue about the declining credibility of the FBI, due to burgeoning lawsuits and "Our image has suffered a lot the past few years. I knew it was coming though, when our series was cancelled." A great episode, written by Tom Reeder and Reinhold Weege, which addresses a lot of very serious issues like nuclear proliferation, and the morality of nuclear development, in a very non-pedantic way!
1977 - Corporation - A corporate lawyer comes to the precinct complaining about a protestor, who calls himself The Hawk, who has been vandalizing the offices of Federated Paper Company, a division of McMillan Chemicals. According to the lawyer (one of 57 employed by the corporation), the company makes, among other chemical products:"xx, xx and soft drinks". The lawyer is stereotypically glib, smarmy and self-centered, and the protestor, loud and crazed, but expressing valid environmental concerns. Dietrich remains the voice of reason, expounding on some of the dynamics of corporate pollution, which we are still living with 30-some years later. The protestor threatens to, and then does, drink an unidentified vial of red chemicals xx from the lab. He finally fesses up that it's "food coloring, containing red dye #2", adding "When I die of cancer in 30 years, it's on your head!" A more compelling sub-plot is the interaction between Wojo and a homeless elderly robbery victim, who turns out to be more "with it" then she initially appears, and as turned on by Wojo as most women are - she wants him to take her to Bermuda like her late husband did.
1975 - Doomsday - This early episode also touches on the environmental themes that would become more developed later in the show's run, with William Windom as a man threatening to blow up himself (and the stationhouse) to draw attention to the deplorable conditions in New York City, including the "sludge 20 miles off Long Island, " This episode also features a pre-Dietrich appearance by Steve Landesberg as a bunko priest, peddling Bibles probably stolen from hotel rooms.
November 24, 1982 - No Nukes is Good Nukes - Steve and Elyse join a demonstration against the use of nuclear weapons at a nuclear research lab on Thanksgiving and get arrested, leading to a heartwarming denouement - Thanksgiving dinner brought to jail by the family and passed through the bars. Although much of the episode has to do with various family members' reactions to their parents protesting, being in jail on Thanksgiving, and refusal to sign a pledge to not protest anymore in exchange for getting out of jail quickly, there's also some fairly substantive discussion of the evils of nuclear proliferation, the arms race, freedom of speech, and the Constitutional right to dissent. There's also a brief but cogent exchange about the true history of Thanksgiving, and the effect of the Europeans' invasion of North America on Native Americans. When I consider the idea of a current sitcom addressing the issues this episode addresses, frankly, that's hard to imagine! And early on in their first season no less! The fact that major broadcast TV networks are now owned by nuclear weapons manufacturers makes that extremely unlikely. Production note: this episode was directed by the great Frank Bonner, WKRP's Herb Tarlek.
February 14, 1985 - Don't Know Much About History - Although nuclear protest was treated seriously in the No Nukes is Good Nukes episode, in this episode it's played for laughs. Alex is competing with his good friend James for the attention of a student they're tutoring. When James takes the young woman to a poetry reading (which Alex crashes), the featured poet reads a poem called "The Nuclear Holocaust and You - A Christmas Poem", which turns out to be a goofy, stereotypical parody of beat poetry.
April 16, 1989- Rain Forests Keep Falling on My Head - Jennifer becomes a fatalist after learning about the hole in the ozone layer, and other potentially apocalyptic environmental issues in her ecology class. I found her passionate exposition - basically: "why bother to do anything because there's no future?" to be a very realistic portrayal of the feelings all of us who are educated about environmental challenges face in figuring out how to live our lives in the face of possible environmental devastation. These are certainly feelings I've had to come to terms with over and over again throughout my activist career. Elise and Steven's attempts to move Jennifer towards action rather than despair were somewhat hackneyed and simplistic, but still pretty much on target.
2009 - Vegas - There are lots of nuclear references throughout this series, however this episode, written and directed by series co-creator Robert C. Cooper, and the penultimate in the series, is particularly notable from a nuclear point of view. In this parallel reality episode, occurring on another version of Earth, a Wraith has crash-landed his dart on Earth following the destruction of his hive ship above the planet. For three months, he's been hiding out in Las Vegas disguised in Goth getup, while he builds a device to communicate his whereabouts - and Earth's - to his peeps back in the Pegasus Galaxy. Building this device involves the use of radioactive materials, and the Wraith has fed on a number of humans, leaving behind radioactive residue. Alternate John Sheppard, a dissolute detective and dishonorably-discharged (though heroic) veteran, has gotten on his case, though he doesn't have a clue about the perp's true nature. Alternate Drs. McKay, Keller and Zalenka from Atlantis, and Woolsey (here an FBI agent), show up to try to track down the Wraith and cover up his messy trail, before word about aliens gets out to the public. Having met our version of Sheppard due to a previous space-time rift (possibly McKay and Mrs.Miller episode?), this McKay trusts this Sheppard enough to fill him in on the true danger posed by the Wraith, despite Sheppard's refusal to sign a non-disclosure agreement. The scientists' attempt to detect the Wraith's radioactive project leads to this telling, and scientifically/historically accurate exchange:
McKay: Recalibrating the scanners to look for similar isotopes at maximum sensitivity just shows us huge patches of radioactive desert.
Woolsey: From 40 years of nuclear testing.
Zalenka: Yeah, we're talking hundreds of square miles.
McKay: It's like a needle in a haystack.
Zalenka: Or he could have abandoned whatever resources he had and just gone into hiding.
McKay: Oh yes, he probably got a job as a Klingon at Star Trek - The Experience.
Woolsey: That shut down.
Zalenka: Really? Damn, I wanted to see that!
Very good episode, aside from some overly-long chase and establishing scenes, with notable appearances as poker players by Steve Schirripa and Frank Vincent from the Sopranos, Joel Goldsmith (composer of numerous Stargate themes and episode music along with lots of other movies and TV shows), and some actual professional poker players. Curiously, we don't see central characters Teyla or Ronon at all in this episode. Also interesting, the Wraith is shown applying complex makeup and prosthetics to hide his true appearance, resulting in what I assume is the use of actor Neil Jackson's actual face as his human appearance (with still a tad makeup - no one could be that pale! - but not the camouflaging prosthetics we see the Wraith apply).
add comment from contractor re nuclear rocket testing? or re movies shot in desert?
This seems like an appropriate place to reference this chilling but little-known bit of nuclear history: During the shooting of the movie,
2010 - Excellence in Broadcasting - In this episode, Brian careens from loathing Rush Limbaugh to worshiping him and back again. The vision of Quahog as "RepublicanTown", during the song of the same name, prominently features three nuclear cooling towers. Unlike many of the celebrity voice impersonations on this show, Limbaugh voices his own character.
February 6, 2010 - Not My Job segment - During questioning of US Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, this telling exchange occurred:
Mo Rocca: Did he say he was gonna collapse? This is the man in charge of our nuclear arsenal!
Sec. Chu: Nukes can only protect you so much.
2011 - The Russian Rocket Reaction - This episode has a boilerplate Chernobyl joke. The guys and gals are discussing Howard's opportunity to go up to the International Space Station and install his team's new telescope design:
Bernadette: Hang on a second, NASA doesn't have a Shuttle anymore, how are you gonna get up there?
Howard: Well, it's really cool, you fly to Moscow, they take you out to Kazakhstan, and then you get into a Russian Soyuz rocket, which shoots you into a low Earth orbit - or just sits there on the launch pad because the Kazakhy Mafia sold the rocket fuel on the Black Market.
Bernadette: Are those Russian rockets safe?
Howard: Well, as safe as it can be, when it was built by the good folks who brought you Chernobyl!
This episode also has a great variation on Schrödinger's Cat: Schrödinger's Friendship, in which Sheldon doesn't know if Leonard is his friend or not his friend, based on Leonard's possible future attendance at a party given by Sheldon's mortal enemy, Wil Wheaton (Star Trek's Wesley Crusher). Of course they all end up at the party, which also includes an amusing scene with Brent Spiner (Star Trek's Data) negotiating with Leonard over some collectible Data dolls.
1997 - How to Marry a Billionaire - When billionaire Duncan Briggs comes to FYI to be interviewed, Stage Manager John approaches him for a job. Briggs asks his assistant Williams, "Didn't the foreman of our plutonium factory get vaporized last week?" "Send us a resume," Williams instructs John.
1997 - Mama Miller - Miller Redfield's mother comes for a visit, and the FYI team are stunned by the way she disparages her son. She repeatedly calls him Dummy, explaining "When I was pregnant with Miller, we were living downwind of a nuclear testing facility."
1989 - Miles' Big Adventure - While returning from vacation, Miles' return flight is delayed by an Air Force pilot who has hijacked an F15-Eagle loaded with nuclear warheads.
1967 - Case of the Missing Monkee -
1980 - Jennifer Moves - At the beginning of the episode, Bailey has an exchange with Herb about various forms of energy, including solar and nuclear. Bailey is circulating a petition and asks Herb to sign it. Herb says "Absolutely not! Herbert R. Tarlek doesn't sign anything! Besides I read somewhere that solar energy is dangerous, it leaks or something." Bailey corrects him, "It's nuclear energy that leaks." Herb replies, "Everything leaks, water, oil, you name it - it's the nature of things." Later in the episode, Bailey points out to Jennifer that all the men in her new community are going bald, and speculates about whether there's a nuclear plant nearby.
1980 - I Am Woman - It's a tangent from the main plot, wherein Bailey leads a protest against the impending destruction of WKRP's building. But about halfway through the episode, Les starts talking about all the causes Bailey's involved in, and goes off into a very nice little rant about nuclear waste, citing the hundreds of thousands of years it remains radioactive, and also pointing out that we only know how to store it for 20 years, adding repeatedly that "no one knows what to do with it!" Although Les is generally portrayed as a crackpot, in this particular case he's exactly right! And over 30 years later, everything he said still holds true!
November 8, 1956 - Commotion on the Ocean short film - Yes folks, even the Three Stooges have nuclear content! In this flick, they're janitors at a newspaper, gunning for jobs as reporters. They see an article in the paper about missing atomic secrets, and then take a phone message for the editor, who's gone to supper. It's a tip from a reporter that a foreign spy has stolen the atomic secrets! They resolve to go after the spy themselves, become heroes, and prove themselves worthy of the reporter jobs they covet. Of course a neighbor friend of theirs turns out to be the spy, and the usual hilarity, hijinx and slapstick ensues. The spy stashes microfilm copies of the secrets inside three watermelons, a reference to the actual use of pumpkins to store secret evidence against Alger Hiss by Whittaker Chambers. Not much else in the way of nuclear content here, but still worth noting as a sign of the general anxiety about nukes, expressed via the cosmic zetgeist of the time. Also noteable: this is Shemp's last appearance in The Three Stooges, as he had passed away by the time this film was completed. In one scene a double is used with his face obscured, some footage from previous films is repurposed here, and in other scenes Shemp's absence is worked into the script in various ways.
December 4, 1955 - Jack Hunts for Uranium episode - Dreaming of great riches, Jack goes prospecting for uranium (and find a buried gas pipeline). This episode also stars Mel Blanc.
January 3, 1958 - Lucy Hunts Uranium episode - The Ricardos and Mertzes meet Fred MacMurray on a train to Las Vegas, where Ricky will be working at the Sands. And they all end up uranium hunting. A misunderstanding and mutual mistrust lead to a wild car chase through the desert in three great classic cars, and nobody gets the government's $10,000 reward for uranium discoveries.
February 22, 1983 - Please Don't Feed the Buzzards episode - Lenny and Squiggy have a treasure map, which they try to keep secret. Instead, they end up in the middle of the desert drunk with Carmine and Frank. At least they think it's the desert. Actually, it's a nuclear test site, and two men in Hazmat suits with Geiger counters show up, warning them that if they don't leave right away, they'll have "a hangover that glows in the dark".
November 18, 1982 - The Challenge episode - This British satire, whose usual targets are governmental bureaucracy and incompetence, does a fairly cogent job of discussing nuclear war.
February 22, 1985 - The Scenario episode - This generally lighthearted yet still progressive sitcom about a governor and his staff and family, which starred the great Robert Guillame as an extremely competent, confident and successful Black man, thoughtfully takes on a weighter subject than usual, when the crew pile into a bomb shelter for a nuclear attack exercise. Along the way, they discover the futility of trying to survive a direct nuclear attack, as they fail at effectively handling one stage after another of the rapidly deteriorating theoretical situation. They end up asking the question no one can answer, but which must continually be asked, "How do we get everyone in the world to give up their nuclear weapons?" As things go really downhill, the governor's daughter Katie wants to leave the shelter to "breathe some air, look at the stars..." and everyone else follows suit. Benson unplugs the computer that's been feeding them stages of the scenario, saying: "I'm sorry, but the war you have been conducting has been temporarily disconnected." One of the episode's writers worked in the launch control center of a North Dakota nuclear missile silo in the 1960's, so his knowledge of the subject was far beyond theoretical. The original script was described as offering a significantly anti-nuclear message, but it took four years and several rewrites to get it past the network brass and on the air. This New York Times article details some of this interesting background.
February 16, 1987 - Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Loudon episode - One of Dick's guests on "Vermont Today" turns out to be a pro-nuclear war activist, spouting all kinds of insanity about how people have basically failed, and there should be a limited nuclear war to wipe a bunch of them off the face of the earth, and start over. This prompts Dick to call him a "weenie". The audience doese not like the guests views, but loves Dick's response. The show's producers then exploit this to promote Dick as a xx style insulting show host, attracing tons of fans.
March 20, 1987 - Stavograd episode - In a dramatic two-part episode, the Airwolf team is captured and accused of being spies when they go to help a Soviet nuclear plant in meltdown. The Soviet scientists conflict with the military authority, and various collaborations and alliances are formed between the Airwolf crew and assorted Soviet civilan and military folks as they try to stop all three reactors from melting down. All sorts of technically absurd things are tried, like jet fighters shooting missiles at the reactors to stop the fire, and using lasers to seal the overheating reactors. Of course the stereotyped Soviet military commander is made a fool of, and the Airwolf team saves the day in the end. The US government doesn't come off well either, as the Airwolf managers disavow knowledge of the team and abandon them for diplomatic reasons, and the government is shown airing inaccurate news releases downplaying the danger of the event. Although largely unrealistic, this had uncomfortable echoes of the triple reactor meltdown at Fukushima. And the casual sexism and sexual harrassment suffered by the token woman on each crew was a good reminder that at least things have changed a little since the 1980's! Fun to see William B. Davis as an intelligence officer of Airwolf's overseers The F.I.R.M. 10 years before his stint as Cigarette Smoking Man on The X-Files.
November 20, 1981 - During the monologue, Johnny says: "The Nuclear Regulatory Commission today suspended the operating license for the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Plant (enthusiastic applause from the audience).... Their earthquake prediction facilities were not up to snuff. They bugged a gopher hole, and they would only shut down the reactor if they heard the gopher screaming." This episode featured Ricky Schroder, Bob Hope and Susan Sarandon.
Toy nuclear lab
Came with actual uranium-containing ore and a comic book titled: "Learn how Dagwood splits the atom!"
heard on Wait Wait - Branford Marsalis - Not My Job segment
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