The Simpsons: 30 Things You Probably Missed In Marge vs. The Monorail

Daniel Welsh

While every Simpsons fan has their own opinions about what the best episode of the animated sitcom is, there are a few that everyone can pretty much agree are undeniable classics.

Cape Feare, in which Sideshow Bob chases The Simpsons into witness protection. Last Exit To Springfield, otherwise known as “Dental plan! Lisa needs braces!”. And, of course, Marge vs. The Monorail.

Originally airing in 1993, Marge vs. The Monorail is often hailed as a turning point for the TV phenomenon, coming at a time when the show was really coming into its own, and carving a niche in terms of its jokes-first approach to storytelling.

Marge vs. The Monorail (Photo: Fox)
Marge vs. The Monorail (Photo: Fox)

And then, of course, there’s the musical number, which has gone on to become one of the most iconic scenes in Simpsons history.

With the show now celebrating its 30th birthday, we’re taking a trip down memory line and looking back at one of its most famous episodes, with 30 things you probably didn’t know about Marge vs. The Monorail...

1. The episode was written by Conan O’Brien, who would go on to achieve huge success in America as a talk show host

In 2014, Conan paid tribute to the episode with a performance of the famous Monorail Song with the LA Gay Men’s Chorus at the Hollywood Bowl as part of a concert centred around iconic Simpsons tunes.

A year after Marge vs. The Monorail, Conan would return to The Simpsons, playing himself (Photo: Fox)
A year after Marge vs. The Monorail, Conan would return to The Simpsons, playing himself (Photo: Fox)

2. The Monorail Song is what the episode is best remembered for, but did you know it’s actually a parody?

The song – co-written by Conan O’Brien and Simpsons show-runner Al Jean – is a parody of the showtune Ya Got Trouble, taken from The Music Man. In fact, the whole episode is a take-off of the classic Broadway show, which centres around an American town being conned by a mysterious stranger.

3. That aside, Marge vs. The Monorail is a particularly musical instalment of The Simpsons

The episode opens with a parody of The Flintstones’ opening song, as performed by Homer, who later serenades Marge with a line from the folk song The Riddle Song (before being distracted by the thought of chicken, obviously).

Lyle Lanley leads the residents of Springfield in The Monorail Song (Photo: Fox)
Lyle Lanley leads the residents of Springfield in The Monorail Song (Photo: Fox)

4. Marge vs. The Monorail also features one of The Simpsons’ most iconic cameos ever from Leonard Nimoy, but he wasn’t producers’ first pick to appear

They originally offered the cameo to George Takei, who had already appeared in The Simpsons once before. He ultimately turned them down, as he was on the board of directors for the Southern California Rapid Transit District, and didn’t want to be seen poking fun at anything related to public transport (yes, really!).

5. In fact, producers only went for Leonard Nimoy after ruling out a second Star Trek actor

William Shatner had already turned The Simpsons down once before, so to avoid being spurned a second time, they decided to chance it with Leonard Nimoy.

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"The cosmic ballet goes on..." (Photo: Fox)
"The cosmic ballet goes on..." (Photo: Fox)

6. It’s a good job they did, as Nimoy proved so popular they asked him back for a second appearance four years later

He served as the narrator in the X-Files-themed episode The Springfield Files, delivering this ridiculous introduction:

7. As it turns out, the over-the-top version of Leonard Nimoy portrayed in The Simpsons would probably suggest his cameo in this particular episode was written in the stars...

His name is, in fact, an anagram of “deny monorail”.

8. Early in the episode, when Mr Burns and Smithers are dumping toxic waste in the park, one of the tress has been carved with the message “MB + HS”

This is presumably a nod to Marge Bouvier and Homer Simpson, in the early years of their romance.

"I think it's full, sir..." (Photo: Fox)
"I think it's full, sir..." (Photo: Fox)

9. In the Springfield Shopper’s front page about Mr Burns being fined $3 million, Smithers is seen in the background struggling with the statue of justice

“Sold!”

Mr Burns' appearance in court is also a reference to Silence Of The Lambs (Photo: Fox)
Mr Burns' appearance in court is also a reference to Silence Of The Lambs (Photo: Fox)

10. The Monorail Song features an impressive cast of Springfield residents

Dancing with Homer on the steps at the end are *deep breath* Chief Wiggum, Ned and Maude Flanders, Krusty and Sideshow Mel, Dr Marvin Monroe, Mayor Quimby, the Van Houtens and Jacques, who attempted to seduce Marge in Life In The Fast Lane.

"Mono... d'oh." (Photo: Fox)
"Mono... d'oh." (Photo: Fox)

11. Lyle Lanley claims to have sold monorails to Ogdenville, North Haverbrook and Brockwell

Like Springfield (and, indeed, its rival, Shelbyville) these places are all made up, though obviously exist in The Simpsons universe, as Marge pays a visit to North Haverbrook later in the episode.

12. These places also cropped up in an episode of Supernatural more than a decade later

In the 2006 episode Something Wicked, they’re named as the places the mysterious Shtriga had previously attacked. Clearly, there was a Simpsons fan in the writers room on that show, who felt the use of those fictional towns would be particularly cromulent.

"By gum it put them on the map..." (Photo: Fox)
"By gum it put them on the map..." (Photo: Fox)

13. There’s a star-studded turn-out when the Springfield monorail opens

This includes Lurleen Lumpkin – the country singer who almost turned Homer’s head in Colonel Homer – who has apparently fallen on hard times. In this episode, she’s voiced by Doris Grau, a script supervisor on The Simpsons, who also voiced Lunchlady Doris.

14. But Lurleen isn’t the only celebrity in attendance

While newscaster Kent Brockman is reporting, his dopplegänger can also be seen in the crowd.

A Kent Brockman lookalike can be seen in the crowd while the newscaster interviews Lurleen (Photo: Fox)
A Kent Brockman lookalike can be seen in the crowd while the newscaster interviews Lurleen (Photo: Fox)

15. There’s a bit of a pothole plothole

As we know, Marge wanted to use Mr Burns’ $3 million to fix Main Street’s shoddy roads, though it ultimately goes to the Monorail (“you should have written a song, like that guy”). However, as YouTuber MKtheinstrumentalist points out, when the anchor cuts through the road, the potholes have all vanished – which is unfortunate, as they could have actually been instrumental in Homer’s “M” anchor saving everyone’s lives (doughnuts, is there anything they can’t do?).

16. Homer’s monorail uniform was inspired by Star Wars

In fact, a joke cut from the episode saw Selma commenting that Homer looked like “Darth Vader without the helmet”. This wasn’t the only Star Wars reference, though, as Mayor Quimby also quoted “may the force be with you” to Leonard Nimoy (despite apparently thinking he was “one of the Little Rascals”).

Homer during his first (and last) ride at the helm of the monorail (Photo: Fox)
Homer during his first (and last) ride at the helm of the monorail (Photo: Fox)

17. Towards the end of the episode, we learn the town charter says Chief Wiggum shall “receive one pig every month and two comely lasses of virtue true”

Future references to the charter would reveal that if “food stuff should touch the ground, said food stuff should be turned over to the village idiot” and that it’s “illegal to put squirrels down your pants for the purposes of gambling”.

Mayor Quimby and Chief Wiggum fight over the charter (Photo: Fox)
Mayor Quimby and Chief Wiggum fight over the charter (Photo: Fox)

18. Marge vs. The Monorail was directed by future Oscar-winner Rich Moore, who won an Academy Award for his work on Zootopia

He also directed Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph and its sequel, Ralph Breaks The Internet, as well as multiple classic episodes of The Simpsons and Futurama.

19. The episode also continues the early Simpsons trend of featuring a “vs” in its title

Other examples from around this time include Bart vs. Thanksgiving, Lisa vs. Malibu Stacy and Homer vs. Lisa And The 8th Commandment.

20. This is also one of many episodes which sees Homer claiming something is his “lifelong dream”

This time it’s being a monorail driver, although Marge points out his lifelong dream was actually to “run onto the field during a baseball game”.

The results of Homer's "lifelong dream" (Photo: Fox)
The results of Homer's "lifelong dream" (Photo: Fox)

21. In later years, Marge vs. The Monorail would also spawn some of the most popular Simpsons memes

These include “Mr Snrub” and Leonard Nimoy’s vanishing act towards the end of the episode.

22. The writers were initially concerned that Matt Groening would want to cut the joke, so were thrilled when it was left in.

Us too, to be honest. Imagine if we didn’t have this gif to amuse ourselves.

23. There were apparently some concerns about the more action-packed moments of the episode, too

Director Rich Moore told Joe in 2018: “That was one of the very first big action episodes of The Simpsons… it wasn’t just storyboarded sequentially, I planned out a bunch of scenes that could be edited in a more live-action way, which is different for animation.

“At the time, the studio that I was working for hated that! They wanted to know exactly the sequence. You now, their thinking was more like ‘this scene will be cut to this one and then this one etc.’ They did not appreciate my approach but the proof is in the pudding, as I say.”

24. The Springfield monorail would finally be revisited more than 20 years after it was first constructed, in the 2017 episode The Old Blue Mayor Ain’t What She Used To Be

The beginning of the episode saw the monorail track being converted into a mall, only for the train to spring back to life, crushing Sebastian Cobb and a statue of Leonard Nimoy, who died in 2015.

The monorail as depicted in 2017 (Photo: Fox)
The monorail as depicted in 2017 (Photo: Fox)

25. Marge vs. The Monorail has gone on to become a true favourite of Simpsons fans and critics

In the years since it first aired, Marge vs. The Monorail has been listed on top 10 best Simpsons episodes lists from Entertainment Weekly, TV Guide, The Times and The Guardian.

26. Simpsons creator Matt Groening has also said it has one of his favourite ever quotes from the show

The line in question? “I call the big one Bitey,” referring to the family of possums living in Homer’s monorail carriage.

"I call the big one Bitey". (Photo: Netflix)
"I call the big one Bitey". (Photo: Netflix)

27. However, not everyone was such a fan…

In fact, in 1995 voice actor Yeardley Smith – who has played Lisa since The Simpsons launched in 1989 – said the episode was among the show’s worst, criticising the humour of the episode, and suggesting the entire cast agreed with her.

28. In 2002, life began to imitate art when residents in Seattle organised a protest about proposed plans for a local monorail, which they called Coming Out With Marge Simpson

Fox apparently refused permission for Marge vs. The Monorail to be screened as part of the protest.

Marge vs. The Monorail became a reality for citizens of Seattle in 2002 (Photo: Netflix)
Marge vs. The Monorail became a reality for citizens of Seattle in 2002 (Photo: Netflix)

29. In fact, a 2019 article by City Metric suggested the episode puts forward a few strong arguments for why monorails never took off as a mode of transport

Let’s be honest, when was the last time you saw – or even heard the mention of – a monorail and didn’t immediately burst into song?

30. Lyle Lanley is often remembered as a swindler and con artist, but he’s actually much worse than that.

Don’t let the straw hat fool you. As one Reddit user pointed out in 2019, Lanley is actually one of the most sinsister villains The Simpsons has ever featured, suggesting he’s a “psychopath who wanted to kill the people of Springfield”.

In fact, not only was he happy to be complicit in multiple deaths in the city, his notepad even saw him gleefully fantasising about citizens burning to death. Grim stuff, right?

"I don't know why I leave this lying around..." (Photo: Fox)
"I don't know why I leave this lying around..." (Photo: Fox)

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Weekend At Burnsie's

After suffering another embarrassing mishap, Homer is prescribed medical marijuana to help with his pain in the episode Weekend At Burnsie's.<br /><br />Because of the explicit drug use, as well as scenes of Homer being attacked by animals in a particularly violent fashion, the episode was only aired in the UK after the 9pm watershed.
After suffering another embarrassing mishap, Homer is prescribed medical marijuana to help with his pain in the episode Weekend At Burnsie's.

Because of the explicit drug use, as well as scenes of Homer being attacked by animals in a particularly violent fashion, the episode was only aired in the UK after the 9pm watershed.

The Regina Monologues

The Simpsons came to Britain in the episode The Regina Monologues, which featured cameos from JK Rowling, Sir Ian McKellen and none other than then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.<br /><br />However, his appearance in the episode didn't go without criticism, when some questioned whether the PM could have better uses for his time than appearing in cartoon form on The Simpsons.
The Simpsons came to Britain in the episode The Regina Monologues, which featured cameos from JK Rowling, Sir Ian McKellen and none other than then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

However, his appearance in the episode didn't go without criticism, when some questioned whether the PM could have better uses for his time than appearing in cartoon form on The Simpsons.

The Simpsons Guy

In 2014, a much-awaited crossover between The Simpsons and Family Guy finally aired, though it ended up attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.<br /><br />As if the fact the episode was subpar for both shows wasn't offensive enough, The Simpsons Guy also contained an ill-advised rape joke, which came under fire from both viewers and critics.
In 2014, a much-awaited crossover between The Simpsons and Family Guy finally aired, though it ended up attracting attention for all the wrong reasons.

As if the fact the episode was subpar for both shows wasn't offensive enough, The Simpsons Guy also contained an ill-advised rape joke, which came under fire from both viewers and critics.

The Problem With Apu

In later years, The Simpsons has faced criticism over the Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who is voiced by white actor Hank Azaria, with many fans suggesting the character perpetuates stereotypes about South Asian people.<br /><br />This was explored deeply in the documentary The Problem With Apu, although Simpsons creator Matt Groening dismissed the controversy as "people pretending to be offended".
In later years, The Simpsons has faced criticism over the Indian character Apu Nahasapeemapetilon, who is voiced by white actor Hank Azaria, with many fans suggesting the character perpetuates stereotypes about South Asian people.

This was explored deeply in the documentary The Problem With Apu, although Simpsons creator Matt Groening dismissed the controversy as "people pretending to be offended".

Homer's Phobia

In one of the Simpsons patriarch's more unpleasant moments, Homer's Phobia shows him struggling to get to grips with the fact his new friend, voiced by John Waters, is gay.<br /><br />Later in the episode, in yet more uncomfortable scenes, Homer worries that John is having a negative influence on Bart, though he later learns to accept him (in the final scene, that is).<br /><br />While gay magazine The Advocate gave it a positive review at the time, years later it is looked on slightly less favourably, with one reviewer claiming it "leaves a bad taste in the mouth".
In one of the Simpsons patriarch's more unpleasant moments, Homer's Phobia shows him struggling to get to grips with the fact his new friend, voiced by John Waters, is gay.

Later in the episode, in yet more uncomfortable scenes, Homer worries that John is having a negative influence on Bart, though he later learns to accept him (in the final scene, that is).

While gay magazine The Advocate gave it a positive review at the time, years later it is looked on slightly less favourably, with one reviewer claiming it "leaves a bad taste in the mouth".

There's Something About Marrying

By the 16th season of The Simpsons, Homer had clearly changed his view of the gay community, and in There's Something About Marrying, even becomes a minister so he can perform weddings for same-sex couples.<br /><br />The episode was praised by gay rights advocacy groups, though it was criticised by many right-wing and Christian organisations claiming it unbiased in favour of same-sex marriage, which was not yet legal in all 50 states in the US.
By the 16th season of The Simpsons, Homer had clearly changed his view of the gay community, and in There's Something About Marrying, even becomes a minister so he can perform weddings for same-sex couples.

The episode was praised by gay rights advocacy groups, though it was criticised by many right-wing and Christian organisations claiming it unbiased in favour of same-sex marriage, which was not yet legal in all 50 states in the US.

Bart vs. Australia

One of the show's earliest controversies came when the family took a trip Down Under, after Bart inadvertently manages to offend the entire nation of Australia with a prank he pulled.<br /><br />Unfortunately, life ended up imitating art when Australian people took offence over the portrayal of their country, and The Simpsons even ended up being condemned by the Australian Parliament over the episode.
One of the show's earliest controversies came when the family took a trip Down Under, after Bart inadvertently manages to offend the entire nation of Australia with a prank he pulled.

Unfortunately, life ended up imitating art when Australian people took offence over the portrayal of their country, and The Simpsons even ended up being condemned by the Australian Parliament over the episode.

Blame It On Lisa

It seems show bosses didn't learn their lesson, though, and when The Simpsons ended up taking a trip to Brazil, a similar controversy erupted, due to a storyline where Homer ends up kidnapped by a gang.<br /><br />The tourist board of Rio de Janeiro even threatened to sue The Simpsons over the episode, claiming it undid millions of dollars worth of campaigning to get people to visit the city. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso branded it "a distorted view of Brazilian reality".
It seems show bosses didn't learn their lesson, though, and when The Simpsons ended up taking a trip to Brazil, a similar controversy erupted, due to a storyline where Homer ends up kidnapped by a gang.

The tourist board of Rio de Janeiro even threatened to sue The Simpsons over the episode, claiming it undid millions of dollars worth of campaigning to get people to visit the city. President Fernando Henrique Cardoso branded it "a distorted view of Brazilian reality".

Stark Raving Dad

In 2019, almost 30 years after it first aired, it was announced that Stark Raving Dad – otherwise known as the one Michael Jackson did a guest appearance in – was being pulled from circulation, following allegations made in the documentary Leaving Neverland.  Showrunner Al Jean said: "This was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn't allow them to remain.  "I'm against book-burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we're allowed to take out a chapter."
In 2019, almost 30 years after it first aired, it was announced that Stark Raving Dad – otherwise known as the one Michael Jackson did a guest appearance in – was being pulled from circulation, following allegations made in the documentary Leaving Neverland. Showrunner Al Jean said: "This was a treasured episode. There are a lot of great memories we have wrapped up in that one, and this certainly doesn't allow them to remain. "I'm against book-burning of any kind. But this is our book, and we're allowed to take out a chapter."

That '90s Show

That '90s Show rubbed viewers up the wrong way, not because of its unsuitable or offensive content, but because it completely re-wrote the narrative of The Simpsons.<br /><br />Many outraged fans of the show lambasted writers for setting Homer and Marge's early romance in the 1990s, despite the fact the classic episode The Way We Was – which first pairs them up as a couple – was actually set in the late 1970s.
That '90s Show rubbed viewers up the wrong way, not because of its unsuitable or offensive content, but because it completely re-wrote the narrative of The Simpsons.

Many outraged fans of the show lambasted writers for setting Homer and Marge's early romance in the 1990s, despite the fact the classic episode The Way We Was – which first pairs them up as a couple – was actually set in the late 1970s.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost.