Retro Recaps: The Critic (Season 2, Episode 6) – All The Duke’s Men
The past year regarding the race to see who will be the next President of the United States, has been a spectacle in itself (largely egged on by a number of media networks, on a mad quest for ratings).
As we come up on the National Conventions regarding the major political parties, a certain businessman who has decided to run, put me in mind of an episode of the animated television show, The Critic. In the show’s 2nd season in 1995, cocky businessman Duke Phillips, thought he had what it took to take control of one of the most powerful countries in the world.
And so, let’s dive into my latest Retro Recap, of The Critic‘s episode, All The Duke’s Men.
As the show starts, we find Jay Sherman working with his son Marty, to write a speech. Marty wants to run for 8th grade class president, at the United Nations International School he attends. However, when they try to find a ‘hook’ that they can use to drum up support, Marty claims that he doesn’t have anything major going for him, as he’s just an average kid.
Jay figures this is the hook they need, feeling Marty claiming he’s just like his classmates, is the perfect slogan to pitch to them (“they’ll lap it up like cheap booze at Drew Barrymore’s Sweet 16 Party!”).
Marty goes before the students the next day, telling how he’s “The Regular Kid,” and that he’ll work hard to build the best homecoming float ever.
He also eagerly shouts out to many different members of the school in their native languages (even Klingon!), and gets plenty of affirmative returns!
The campaign slogan works, and Marty wins by a landslide!
Jay shows a video of the kids cheering for Marty to his girlfriend/assistant Alice, and his boss, Duke Phillips. This causes Duke to consider running for President of the United States.
“But you’re not a politician, you’re a businessman,” counters Jay.
“All the better,” says Duke. “I made a multi-national media conglomerate out of a humble fried chicken franchise.”
(This is true, as the giant sign outside of the Phillips Broadcasting building, tells how it was formerly Duke Phillip’s House of Chicken and Waffles)
After seeing how well Marty’s campaign went, Duke asks Jay to become his speech writer, and even offers him any position in the government he’d like.
Jay thinks long and hard about this, and asks his friend, actor Jeremy Hawke, for some advice.
However, Jeremy doesn’t provide anything concrete, except telling how easy it was for him to ‘play’ a President in a spy film (right).
Meanwhile, Marty attempts to rally his class to help him build the homecoming float. However, when they find that electing Marty means they’re expected to do work, they abandon him! Fortunately, Jay, Alice, and her daughter Penny, agree to help him.
During their work, Jay explains his trepidations about Duke to Alice, afraid that his boss will end up standing for the wrong things if he runs for President. She counters this thought, encouraging Jay to act as a conscience, and guide him.
Duke then goes public with his Presidential plans, quickly catching the people’s ear about ‘who’ he is. He first appears on a late-night talk-show, with host Tom Snyder.
“It’s time we had a President who’s not beholden to ‘special interests,'” Duke tells Tom. “I’m a self-made Billionaire, and the only person who can bribe me, is a Bazillionaire.”
Positive public opinion quickly escalates for Duke, and he grows even happier when he receives a request to meet with Bob Dole, figuring he’s got the Republicans “running scared.”
The two meet, and Duke eagerly tells of his wish to become the Republican Party nominee. However Bob warns Duke against it, threatening to release a video of Duke getting teary-eyed over reading a poem to a cat.
“Fine, I’ll run as an Independent,” promises Duke, wishing to still keep his ‘secret shame,’ secret.
While Duke struggles to make his way Independently, Marty struggles in his attempts to build the homecoming float by himself. He wishes to just give up, but Jay reminds his son that building a great homecoming float, was one of his campaign promises to the other 8th grade kids.
“But all they want to do is goof off and eat candy,”complains Marty.
“Well son, as President, you’re above that,” says Jay (before remembering how well ‘goofing off and eating candy’ worked out for a certain 2-term President in the 1980’s).
Jay then works on more speeches for Duke, pushing him into the good graces of the NRA, the Jewish Community, and zombies (“I promise you zombies, more raw human flesh, than any President since Roosevelt!”).
We then catch up with Marty. The Homecoming Parade is now on, and his float concept of George Washington on a horse, has only been completed up to the horse’s hindquarters.
The 8th grader’s float is still entered into the parade, but a stray flaming baton from a cheerleader in front of the float hits the sculpture, leading to it becoming (in the words of Principal Mangosuthu), “A flaming horse’s pa-toot!”
Even so, the students cheer at the final result…though the float soon breaks away, crashing into a theater (advertising Cats: Now and Forever), followed by a huge explosion.
“And nothing of value was lost,” sighs Jay.
Back at Duke’s campaign headquarters, the picture is less rosy.
His campaign adviser tells him that he’s not a big hit with women voters. Duke then shows his ignorance to the common person, when he is surprised that women have the right to vote.
He is also forced to take down a number of anti-Irish campaign ads, when he is informed that ostracizing this part of the population is also politically incorrect.
Duke then tries a number of new tactics. They range from marrying actress June Lockhart, to using a hypnotic, ‘evil eye’ on negative reporters.
Jay grows doubtful about continuing to work on the campaign given Duke’s current actions, but is enticed to continue as speechwriter, when Duke promises that Jay can make and star in a film if Duke wins the election.
With the Guam Primaries(?) coming up, Duke wants Jay to write him a new speech. He also introduces Jay to his Vice-Presidential running mate.
“He’s a former ambassador, cabinet member, and ex-governor of New York,” Duke proudly proclaims.
Those criteria might fly fine for some, but to Jay, it can only mean one thing: Duke has chosen Jay’s Dad, Franklin Sherman, as his running mate! And Franklin, is known for his little…quirks.
The Primaries get underway, and as expected, Franklin babbles away like a crazed mental patient.
After the fiasco, Duke demands Jay write a speech wherein he can fire Franklin, but Jay claims he can’t do that to his own family.
Things reach a head when during a review of Francis Ford Coppola’s new musical (“Apocalypse Wow“), a loud and flashing message is broadcast, demanding people “vote for Duke!”
This causes Jay to vocally refuse to help Duke any further, and once more refusing to help him fire Jay’s father.
Duke then takes over the stage of Jay’s show, and ‘honestly’ tell the people watching, what he really will do as President.
“I’ll run this country like I run my company,” he proclaims. “I’m gonna raid the pension fund, dump chemicals in the ocean, and sell our best assets to the Japanese!
“Half of you states are in the toilet, and you’re not coming out! New York, you know what I’m talking about! California, kiss your smoggy butt goodbye! New England, you’re going back to Old England!”
After leaving the stage, June Lockhart tells Duke off, claiming she wants a divorce, and thinks he’d be a terrible President.
She also calls on her former TV co-star Lassie to attack Duke, and the entertainment mogul finds himself trying to fend off the angry collie.
Needless to say, it looks like Duke’s campaign is over, as Jay shows up to deliver the final words.
“Well, that’s our show for tonight, folks! We didn’t review many movies, but tune in next week, when we have Gentle Ben, maul Newt Gingrich! Good night, everybody!”
And that was All The Duke’s Men.
It’s hard to believe that all these years later, the show’s story has somewhat become reality, as we currently have an opinionated businessman trying to take the Presidential Seat (I won’t name names, but you all know who).
Of course, much like The Simpsons, the show’s writer gets in plenty of jabs at former Presidents and wannabes. There’s a few jabs at Reagan, and in Marty Sherman’s run for class president, former Presidential candidate Michael Dukakis can be seen (“I thought I would start small, with an election, I could win.”). Though even the school’s 8th grade class has no faith in Mike, booing him off the stage.
There’s even a scene where Duke wonders what became of Independent Presidential candidate Ross Perot, and we see that Ross and his VP nominee James Stockdale, are down on their luck, delivering pizzas.
We also see how Duke’s wealth and power, extend into other parts of his empire, outside the media. Duke takes Jay to his theme park, and shows him his Hall of Presidents exhibit, with a number of figures having their speeches changed to drum up support for Duke.
John F Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, and Bill Clinton’s audio have changed to give their support, but the figure of “Slick Willy,” looks a little different (see left).
“That’s not Clinton,” points out Jay. “That’s just one of your mechanical Hillbilly Bears.”
“Yeah, but so far nobody’s noticed,” replies Duke.
Of course, Jay manages to slip in a few of his own ‘wishes’ into his bosses’ speeches. One that comes to pass, is the tarring and feathering of Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Duke originally promises to do this if elected President, but when other political figures see how well Duke’s poll numbers are doing, they try to fulfill some of his campaign promises to get voters on their side. Bill Clinton is one person, and he signs the bill that leads to Arnold promising: “I’ll be BAWK!”
Like some other episodes of the show, this one has some jokes or story points that seem to still bring up some topics that are relevant, all these years later.
Notable is when Duke appears before the NRA to gain their support.
“I believe Americans have the right to bear arms,” Duke declares, “Except for vicious, cop-killing assault rifles!”
Needless to say, that exception is met with a ‘flurry of outbursts’ from the crowd.
However, Duke strikes back with some heavy weaponry of his own at the naysayers (“Bazooka Duke says chew on this!”)…and his ‘I mean business’ tactic actually wins over the survivors in the room.
Marty Sherman’s running for Class President works as a nice lead-in and parallel to Duke’s story, notably in how fickle voters can be at times.
With such an entertaining story about politics as this one, it should also be noted that writer Patric Verrone, has quite a remarkable list of credentials. He attended both Harvard College and Boston College Law School. He was editor on the Harvard Lampoon, and even wrote for The Tonight Show, before going into animation writing, on shows like The Critic, and Futurama. Plus, he is also a former president of The Writers Guild of America (West).
In writing this Recap, I decided to see if Patric was on social media, and hit the jackpot. I inquired about some of the eerie coincidences in the episode, to current events. His response?
Hotchie Motchie indeed, Patric. Hotchie Motchie, indeed!