ST. LOUIS – America’s longest-running animated series and beloved sitcom “The Simpsons” kicks off its 34th season on Sunday.
“The Simpsons” debuted as a FOX-network series in 1989, nearly three years after breaking into the television scene as an animated short to “The Tracy Ullman Show.” Matt Groening’s creation has withstood of test of time with more than 700 episodes across parts of five decades.
For many years, “The Simpsons” has starred in the Animation Domination lineup on Sunday nights for FOX 2. Quite fittingly, the fictional family from Springfield (USA) has even given St. Louis some spotlight in various occasions.
According to fans from Simpsons Wiki, some sort of St. Louis or East St. Louis connection has been referenced in at least 11 episodes. From the Gateway Arch to sports and other tidbits, here’s a look into some of the times “The Simpsons” and St. Louis crossed paths.
Not until semi-recently did “The Simpsons” showcase the signature St. Louis spot. It’s featured in Season 22 episode “Homer The Father” as part of an opening scene of “Thicker Than Waters,” a fictional sitcom within the fictional sitcom.
The scene shows the Waters family flying a kite, which later gets caught on the top of the Arch. The short snippet was meant to show a family enjoying an upper-class lifestyle in the 1980s.
A season 15 episode, the “Margical History Tour,” also involves a brief bit about the Arch in which Marge tells a story about Lewis and Clark passing through the St. Louis area, which is portrayed on the Mississippi River in the vicinity of the Arch grounds.
St. Louis Cardinals
Two popular St. Louis Cardinals icons found their way onto episodes in the 1990s. Ozzie Smith in season 3’s “Homer at the Bat” and Mark McGwire in season 11’s “Brother’s Little Helper.”
Smith is one of eight MLB players recruited by Homer’s boss Mr. Burns to play for the Springfield nuclear power plant’s softball team. Many baseball stars in the episode, including Smith, run into troubles just before Springfield’s championship game.
Ozzie entered “The Springfield Mystery Spot” with the intention of a quick visit before the big game, but he ends up falling into a trap he can’t escape. Homer loses playing time to outfielder Darryl Strawberry, but later takes a hit-by-pitch to clinch a title for Springfield.
Meanwhile, McGwire had a much-shorter cameo, though it came one year after his historic 70-home run season in 1998. Earlier in the episode, Bart is diagnosed with attention deficit disorder and takes some medication under Marge’s guidance. It leads to unusual side effects and Bart forming a theory that Major League Baseball is spying on Springfield with satellites.
To prove his belief right, McGwire appears and tells Bart the league is “spying on you.” Bart asks McGwire why before he then proceeds to say “Do you want to know the terrifying truth or do you want to see me sock a few dingers?” Big Mac then distracts Bart and the group around him by smashing baseballs into the air before he takes and hides some loose documents, perhaps a joke associated with the steroid era of baseball.
In season 4’s “Homer the Heretic,” Homer skips church on a Sunday and falls back asleep. In a dream with God, Homer comes to some realizations about his life. The conversation later involves asking “Does St. Louis still have a football team?” Homer tells him, “They moved to Phoenix.” That gut-punch came five years after the NFL Cardinals moved from St. Louis to Arizona.
The early seasons of “The Simpsons” gave St. Louis considerable publicity, some of those moments as early as 1991. In season 2’s “Principal Charming,” Homer and Marge deal with one of their in-laws Selma missing on an opportunity to marry Principal Skinner. One distraction in the episode comes when Marge and Homer look back at old photos, including one of Homer next to a car shaped like a bowling pin outside of the Bowler’s Hall of Fame Museum in St. Louis. The Hall of Fame did indeed call St. Louis home from the 1980s to 2008 before it moved to Arlington, Texas.
In season 3’s “Flaming Moe’s,” Homer shares a drink recipe with bartender Moe while he is short on booze. The drink is an instant success among customers, though Moe steals Homer’s credit for the recipe. Eventually, the drink becomes so popular the Moe hosts Aerosmith for a concert at his bar. Lead singer Steven Tyler opens the show screaming “Hello, St. Louis!” One of his bandmates corrects him on the fact they are in Springfield.
Also in season 3, the “Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington” episode leads the Simpson family to visit the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC. Bart somehow finds his way onto the “Spirit of St. Louis” plane hanging from the ceiling. Bart makes comical airplane noises and pretends to operate the plane before Homer yells, “Bart, get out of the ‘Spirit of St. Louis.'” The actual plane is one Charles Lindbergh made historic flights on from The Gateway to the West to the nation’s capital. The ‘Spirit of St. Louis’ has been displayed at the real-life museum for decades.
East St. Louis
Not in actual scenes, but in dialogue, East St. Louis came up on three separate occasions. That includes season 2’s “They Saved Lisa’s Brain,” season 11’s “Days of Wine and D’oh’ses,” and season 13’s “Blame It on Lisa.”
The first occurrence comes as the butt of a joke. Springfield is in the process of being taken over by more intelligent citizens after a study revealed Springfield was the country’s 299th most-livable cities out of 300 cities surveyed. East St. Louis falls last on the list, leading Comic Book Guy to say “Take that, East St. Louis.”
On the second reference, Homer is trying to help his close friend Barney live a sober life and two plan out an excursion. Homer tells a travel agent he is planning a trip to St. Louis. The agent asks, “East St. Louis?” Homer then replies, “Is there any other St. Louis?” Those plans get scrapped and it eventually leads Barney to taking helicopter-flying lessons in Springfield.
Most recently, in a 2002 episode, the Simpson family receives a large phone bill and discovers Lisa has been supporting a Brazilian orphan who had a child missing. The family agrees to make a trip to Brazil to help find the missing child. While reviewing travel options, Lisa adds it would be cheaper if they changed planes in East St. Louis or one of a few other cities.
Other references/A look ahead
In season 8’s “The Two Mrs. Nahasapeemapetilans,” the Simpson family friend and Kwik-E-Mart owner Apu runs into an unwelcomed reminder of a once-pending marriage that fell through, When he meets that woman, Apu pretends that Marge is his wife-to-be and it leads to planning a fake wedding. One arrangement called for a tiger to be sent to Springfield. A travel agent tells two specialists that the tiger was mistakenly sent to St. Louis, then one replies in anger “Mm-hmm. I should send you to St. Louis!”
Nedgar Flanders, a relative of Homer’s neighbor Ned Flanders, tells his family not in an episode, but rather “The Simpsons” comic book short, that he married “some tramp” he met in St. Louis. The comic is titled “Flanders’ Book of Faith.”
The upcoming Simpsons season has not yet revealed any plans to reference St. Louis. Season 34 will run from Sept. 25, 2022 to Spring 2023, according to Simpsons Wiki. The season premiere episode “Habeas Tortoise” is planned for 7 p.m. Sunday if there are no delays from NFL football.