Sunday, July 21, 2013

That Borgnine Guy

I just realized that it has been a little over a year since classic Hollywood actor Ernest Borgnine passed away. For me it was one of the sadder celebrity deaths of the past decade. Sure, he was 95 but it weirdly felt like he left too soon. From all appearances he was still pretty sharp and he was still working regularly (perhaps there was some validity to his personal "secret" to staying young). I just assumed that he would always be around, just popping up in random roles on TV, usually playing a lovable, smiling, old guy.

In addition to being one of my all time favorite actors, Borgnine's guest cameo on the Simpsons' 5th season classic, "Boy-Scoutz 'n the Hood" is in my top tier of Simpsons guest cameos. In fact, his first appearance in the episode is my all time favorite introductory scene of any guest star on the show.

The mere 20 seconds from when Ned addresses poor Warren to when the children cheer the arrival Mr. Borgnine contains at least six points of humor:
  • First there's the initial reveal that Warren's father can't make it to the father/son Junior Campers rafting trip because he's in prison. 
  • At the announcement of a special celebrity dad being assigned, Warren tries to offer his older brother as a substitute; which Flanders promptly writes off. 
  • It's revealed that the "celebrity" is Ernest Borgnine; a choice that's equal parts random and brilliant. 
  • Borgnine then makes his big entrance out of the adjacent bathroom, indicating that he's been in there the whole time. I also love the additional detail of him still wiping his hands and then just balling up the paper towel and casually tossing it aside. 
  • Borgnine then mentions how he assumes this room full of 8 year olds would know him best for his early role as Sgt. "Fatso" Judson from the 1953 Best Picture winner "From Here to Eternity" (in reality a contemporary room full of 8 year old would probably know him best from his voice work as Mermaid Man on "SpongeBob SquarePants"). On a personal note, for years I could have sworn he said "the lovable Sgt. 'Fatso' Judson" which would have been extra ridiculous considering the character is a sadistic villain in the film.
  • After Borgnine makes his introduction, the scene ends with all the kids (with the notable exception of Bart and Warren who wonderfully maintain their respective expressions of bewilderment and unhappiness throughout the whole scene) inexplicably bursting into cheers.
The whole brief sequence is a fantastic example of the amazing attention to detail and density of jokes that made the "classic era" of the show so acclaimed and memorable. Killer stretches like this were just routinely being throw out by the show week after week for most of that first decade and it was all the more sweeter that the great Ernest Borgnine got to be a small part of it.

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