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life fast lane

Life on the Fast Lane

"Life on the Fast Lane", also known as "Jacques To Be Wild", is the ninth episode of The Simpsons first season, which originally aired on March 18, 1990. It was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by David Silverman. Albert Brooks guest starred as Jacques, with him being credited as "A. Brooks". The episode deals with Marge becoming infatuated with Jacques, a French bowling instructor. It won the Emmy Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less) in 1990.

Plot

It is Marge's 34th birthday, and her gifts include a gallon of cheap "French" perfume from Bart and a homemade macaroni-and-glue card from Lisa. However, Homer has completely forgotten about the date. He quickly leaves to go to the Springfield Mall to buy Marge a last-minute gift and impulsively settles on an expensive bowling ball. The birthday party takes place at the Singing Sirloin, a restaurant featuring singing waiters, recommended by Patty and Selma. Marge is highly insulted that her primary "gift" is something Homer selfishly wants for his own use, even going to the extent of having the ball engraved with his name and having the holes drilled for his fingers. To spite him, Marge decides to keep it and use it anyway.

Marge goes bowling for the first time ever, but is unsuccessful. At the bowling alley she meets Jacques, a handsome French bowling instructor in the next lane, who offers her bowling lessons. She finds in Jacques a sensitive and charming man, nearly the exact opposite of Homer. After one "lesson", Jacques invites her to have brunch with him. Although she feels guilty, she agrees.

On their brunch date they encounter Helen Lovejoy, a known gossip who speculates about what Marge is doing having brunch with a man who is not her husband. Jacques assures her that it is merely a bowling lesson. However, when Helen is out of earshot, Jacques invites Marge to his apartment. Marge accepts the invitation, but has a moral dilemma en route. She reaches a fork in the road, one direction leading to Jacques' apartment, the other to the Springfield Nuclear Plant where Homer is working. After much deliberation, she proceeds to the plant, where she tells Homer she loves him. Homer happily leaves work with Marge in his arms.

Production

When the episode was originally planned, it called for Albert Brooks to voice "Björn", a Swedish tennis instructor, but Brooks thought it would be funnier to make the character French and so the change was made. The title was originally to be "Bjorn to Be Wild", thus accounting for the episode's alternate title "Jacques to Be Wild". During Marge's phone conversation with Patty and Selma, Maggie can be seen sucking her pacifier repeatedly, a concept dropped in later episodes as it was deemed too much of a distraction from the dialogue. The original backstory for Barney's Bowlerama was that it was owned by Barney Gumble. Over time it changed to Barney just being an employee, as the writers could not imagine Barney owning anything. It was later revealed that Barney's uncle was the owner. Homer's line, "too exciting", when he sees the lingerie store was written by James L. Brooks, and the exterior of the Bowlerama was designed by No Doubt member Eric Stefani. Albert Brooks improvised almost all of his dialogue, producing over three hours of material. Marge's laugh was an ad-libbed, natural laugh by Julie Kavner, who was laughing at something Albert Brooks has just said. The line "four onion rings!" was one the many lines that Brooks ad-libbed and when saying it, Jacques loses his French accent. An extended audio clip of Albert Brooks' unused dialogue was made available on "Disc Three" of The Simpsons The Complete First Season DVD. The sequence when the family throw the pizza box away was specifically designed by John Swartzwelder to look surreal, with the family panning into each other. The moon was designed to resemble a bowling ball in the scene in which Jacques drops Marge home. The restaurant that Jacques and Marge attend is called "Shorty's"; it was originally intended that a chef's hat would be shown moving around in the background, implying that the owner was short, but the concept was dropped as it seemed to be too much of a silly idea. The episode's conclusion is a reference to An Officer and a Gentleman, which David Silverman had to watch first, so that he knew how to set the scene out. The episode also marks the first appearances of Lenny Leonard and Helen Lovejoy.

Cultural references

The title is a pun on The Eagles' song "Life in the Fast Lane," while the alternate title "Jacques to Be Wild" is a reference to Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild". Marge's dream resembles a dance number from The Gay Divorcee. The end scene, in which Marge walks into the power plant, and Homer carries her away, is a reference to the film An Officer and a Gentleman, and features the same music, "Up Where We Belong."

Reception

This episode won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or Less) in 1990, defeating fellow Simpsons episode "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", and becoming the first The Simpsons episode to win the award. In a 2000 Entertainment Weekly article, Matt Groening ranked this episode as his second favorite episode of all time, behind "Bart the Daredevil". Entertainment Weekly placed the episode twenty-first on their top 25 The Simpsons episode list, calling it "a showcase for the series' bedrock of character and heart. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, called it "A very good, very assured episode that has seen some viewers (particularly female ones) tearing out their hair at the conclusion." IGN.com named Albert Brooks' guest performance in this episode, along with his four other appearances, the best guest appearance in the show's history. In a DVD review of the first season David B. Grelck gave the episode a rating of 4/5, placing it as, along with "Homer's Night Out", his favorite of the season.. Another DVD review from The Digital Bits called it "one of the first season's best loved episodes".

Legacy

The March 15, 2004 edition of the Dear Abby column was pulled, as it had emerged that one of the letters was a fake. A newspaper editor noticed that the problem cited in the letter was identical to the plot of "Life on the Fast Lane". Kathie Kerr, a spokeswoman for the Universal Press Syndicate stated that "It did sound too similar not to be a hoax".

References

External links

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