Thursday, April 29, 2010

The Simpsons Get Lost – or Vice-Versa?

The survivors of a devastating crash turn up on a seemingly deserted tropical island. When rescue does not come, they form their own society with conflicts, power struggles, and violence galore. When food runs out, they partake of the meat of the indigenous wild boar population. At the drop of a hat, they will alternately work together or turn on one another. And, oh yes… There is an unseen monster in their midst!

Clearly, I’m describing the contemporary television series LOST… at least at the beginning; before it veered off into the wonders of time travel, weird science, alternate realities, and the ultimate battle between cosmic good and evil!

But, NO… I’m describing a 1998 episode of THE SIMPSONS!

(Pause for effect)

Yes, really!

The Season 9 episode “Das Bus” (aired February 15, 1998) was intended by its writers and producers to be a send up of “Lord of the Flies” – and it certainly was all that – but, in one of those amazing coincidences we love, it also presages LOST!

The children of Springfield, on their way to a Model UN conference, are washed up on a remote island when the elementary school bus drives off a (very tall and incongruously off-the-beaten-path bridge). Bus driver Otto is picked up by mercenary mariners and sold into sea-going slavery… but that’s another story never dealt with. Sucks to be Otto, dude!

The kids, Bart, Lisa, Milhouse, Martin, Nelson, Sherri and Terri, Ralph, Wendell (the sickly white kid), and Louis (the usually unidentified black kid), are the focus of our story.

After quickly dispensing with Bart’s “Gilligan’s Island-like dreams” of bamboo cars, coconut radios, and monkey butlers, the kids set to work on creating their society.

Remarkably, they not only parallel the basic setup of early LOST, they also settle into LOST’s CHARACTERIZATIONS… which, I remind you, did not make their pop-cultural debut until 2004!

Bart = Jack. Lisa = Kate. Milhouse = Hurley and Charlie. Nelson = Sawyer, Locke, and Sayid. Sherri and Terri = Shannon. Martin = Dr. Arzt. Those are the definitive ones.

We’ll give Michael to Louis by default. Wendell could be a complaining character like “Neil Fro-gurt” – though, hopefully, he never gets shot with a flaming arrow! And I suppose Ralph COULD have been Boone (…That is, if Boone were “special”).

If only Santa’s Little Helper had come along to simulate the role of Vincent (The Dog of Death).

I saw this episode when it originally aired and, of course, it meant nothing – beyond being a typically good episode of THE SIMPSONS. But now, as LOST winds down its sixth and final season, seeing this again has an entirely new meaning – one its staff could never have imagined!

On the episode commentary, even the participants are somewhat taken aback at the similarities to LOST that would manifest themselves six years later!

And, while the fate of the cast of LOST is still unknown at this writing, the Simpson Kids eventually DO get rescued… though it occurs off-camera – and is summed up in ONE FLIP LINE… read by the great James Earl Jones to close the episode.

What? You were expecting it to happen any other way? This is THE SIMPSONS, after all!

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