|"New Kids on the Blecch"|
|The Simpsons episode|
|Episode no.||Season 12|
Episode 14 (262nd overall)
|Directed by||Steven Dean Moore|
|Written by||Tim Long|
|Original air date||February 25, 2001|
'N Sync as themselves
|Chalkboard gag||"I will not buy a presidential pardon"|
|Couch gag||The couch is outside a prison wall. A siren wails and a searchlight moves as The Simpsons (dressed in striped prison jumpsuits) tunnel their way to the couch.|
Tom Gammill and Max Pross
Steven Dean Moore
"New Kids on the Blecch" is the fourteenth episode of the twelfth season of The Simpsons. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 25, 2001. In the episode, a music producer selects Bart, Nelson, Milhouse and Ralph to be members of the next hit boy band, who record songs containing subliminal messages about joining the Navy.
The episode was written by Tim Long and directed by Steven Dean Moore. The episode's title is a play on the boy band New Kids on the Block and Mad Magazine's tendency to use the word "blecch" in their parodic titles. The episode has received positive reviews from critics and was watched by over 18 million viewers.
After watching an Olympic Games documentary on TV, Homer decides to participate in the Springfield marathon to prove to Marge that he is fit. Bart dons a stereotypical Italian disguise and wins the marathon by cheating, but a bird pulls off his fake mustache during the trophy presentation. To escape from the outraged crowd, Bart accepts a ride from a stranger, who introduces himself as music producer L.T. Smash. He offers Bart a chance to join Nelson, Ralph and Milhouse in the Party Posse, a boy band he is putting together. Bart accepts the opportunity, and the four boys quickly rise to stardom, secretly using voice-enhancing software developed by NASA to improve their singing abilities.
The Party Posse releases a single whose accompanying video includes the strange line "YVAN EHT NIOJ" in its chorus. Puzzled, Lisa analyzes the video and finds a subliminal recruiting message for the United States Navy within it; she also realizes that the chorus is simply "JOIN THE NAVY" written backwards. Seeing that the single's hidden message is beginning to affect the Springfield populace, Lisa confronts Smash, who reveals himself as a Navy lieutenant and explains that popular music has long been used as a recruiting tool by the military. Homer and Marge dismiss Lisa's claims as stemming from jealousy of Bart's fame.
During a Party Posse concert aboard an aircraft carrier, Smash's superior officer informs him that a parody of the band in an upcoming issue of Mad will ruin its recruiting power, and also that the boy band project is being shut down. The officer turns off the Party Posse's voice enhancers, exposing the boys' lack of singing talent and destroying their popularity. Smash goes insane and commandeers the carrier, taking it out to sea as the terrified audience jumps overboard and swims back to the docks. He sails to New York City and destroys the Mad headquarters, despite the sudden arrival of boy band 'N Sync in an attempt to stop him. The employees survive unharmed and Smash is arrested, though Bart and his friends are disappointed at not having a chance to appear in Mad, but take comfort in reading the article that would've made fun of them.
The episode ends with praise for the Navy by 'N Sync, who suggest that viewers enlist. JC Chasez is surprised and dismayed to learn that his bandmates have signed him up without his knowledge, and two military police officers drag him away screaming.
The episode was written by Tim Long and directed by Steven Dean Moore. Mike Scully was angry that they had not pitched enough story ideas, so he pitched this episode, along with "Trilogy of Error". During the pitch session, he suggested that 'N Sync guest star on one of the pitched episodes. The decision to add a government conspiracy came late, an idea which was pitched by George Meyer. At the table read for the episode, the cast ad-libbed the lyrics and music.
'N Sync instantly said yes to being asked to guest star, although Justin Timberlake had to record his lines separately from the rest of the band due to a family death. During the recording session, the staff brought their kids along to meet the band. Tom Hanks, who was filming Cast Away in the same studio, wanted to meet them and came by. The song that introduces 'N Sync every time they walk in is "No Strings Attached". Timberlake was reluctant to say "Word" since he swore it was something he would never say, so as a joke the editing team reused the one take where he said "Word" after nearly every line.
Annie Alleman of The Herald News named the episode her fourth favorite Simpsons episode. Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide said "When it parodies boy bands, 'Blecch' has its moments. Granted, it's tough to really mock boy bands, as they always bordered on self-parody; the Party Posse tunes sound a lot like the real thing. Still, the show works pretty well until it gets to the Navy side of things. Then it just becomes dopey and lacks the moderate bite of the earlier scenes. The show also becomes unintentionally eerie when it features an attack on New York". Judge Mac McEntire said the best moment of the episode was the irate choreographer. Corey Deiterman of the Houston Press listed 'N Sync as one of the top five worst musical guests in Simpsons history.
At one point in the episode, a flag is depicted on the side of a technical employed by military fighters in Middle Eastern dress. The flag in the episode resembles the flag adopted by the Syrian opposition in the Syrian Civil War, but is actually the Independence flag. The resemblance was cited by some supporters of the Syrian government and media in the Middle East as evidence that the Syrian rebellion was a foreign plot.
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