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Nuclear Power Plant Lunch Room w/ Frank Grimes

World of Springfield
by yo go re

The writers of The Simpsons recognize that Homer is a wildly fortunate character - if a real person tried to do half the things Homer does, they'd be dead a thousand times over. They decided to highlight this in Season 8, with the episode "Homer's Enemy."

Since Grimey's office would have made for a boring, limited-use environment, they instead went with the Nuclear Power Plant Lunch Room. Well, really they went with the Break Room, but they called it the Lunch Room. Part of Series 15 (the same that brought us Deep Space Homer), the set measures 8" wide, 5" deep, and 6⅞" high. Press any of the three buttons on the floor, and you'll hear sounds from the show.

The diorama depicts a specific moment in time: a beaker of acid has just smashed against the rear wall, burning a hole and revealing the shocked employee standing behind. In the episode, it was Mr. Burns and the plant vice president (a heroic dog who pulled a toddler from the path of a speeding car, then pushed a criminal in front of it); we still get the VP here, but since Playmates probably figured you might want to put Mr. Burns in this set, he's been replaced by the nameless Sam-McMurray-voiced employee with a mustache drawn on. The hole in the wall is actually a sunken element, making it look more realistic than a sticker alone would have.

The left wall of the set is really impressive - this really looks like a break room you'd see in pretty much any office! There's a row of orange cabinets with a white counter on top. Sitting on the counter you'll find a tan thermos with a white lid, a shaker of salt, a stack of styrofoam cups, a thin white cup, a coffee pot with a few errant drops painted on the counter (and a larger spill molded [but unpainted] as part of the floor), and a microwave with a hamburger and a chicken drumstick inside. Around the corner, a Hot Cocoa machine is next to the door. On the wall is a bulletin board with various signs and notices, and a note entreating everyone to "clean up your own mess." Up by the ceiling there's a pipe and a leaky vent, and a PA speaker is mounted above the door.

To complete the scene, we get six accessories: a small lavender table with grey legs, a pink tray of doughnuts, the beaker of yellow acid that ruined the wall, a brown lunch bag with "Property of Frank Grimes" written on it, a half-eaten sandwich, and a bowl of mushrooms (from the "he eats like a duck" scene). The sandwich had dips for the toy's fingers on one side and a dip for the thumb on the other, but who holds a sandwich by the side they're biting? No one, that's who.

As you'd expect, the set also includes a figure of Frank Grimes (or "Grimey," as he liked to be called). He was created as an audience surrogate, someone to be rightly incensed by the way Homer seems to skate through life, doing as little as possible and leeching off decent, hardworking people. Homer lives in a palace, owns two cars, has a beautiful wife, a son who owns a factory, fancy clothes and eats lobster for dinner; Frank Grimes lives in a single room above a bowling alley and below another bowling alley, and works nights at a foundry.

Frank's character design was based on Michael Douglas as William Foster in Falling Down. He's wearing a white short-sleeved shirt, a dark necktie, and grey pants. There's an ID badge clipped to his shirt, but there's nothing printed on it. His glasses are removable, and due to the limitations of producing a toy, the frames are much thicker than they should be. The character was voiced by Hank Azaria, who tried to do an impression of William H. Macy - the producers considered Steve Martin, but decided Frank should be voiced by someone who was familiar with the show (and thus would inherently understand his frustration). Rather fitting, then, that when they did eventually get Martin a season later, he played another character who considered Homer his enemy.

Like all the Simpsons figures, Frank Grimes talks when you put him on a compatible playset environment. And since he comes with one of those environments, you just know he's gonna talk there. Clip the sensor in his feet to one of the three pegs on the floor of the set, press the associated button, and hear one of seven phrases:

"Eh, I don't think we're being paid to sleep."
"I'm sure we all have a lot of work to do."
"My name is Frank Grimes."
"Oh, that's my degree in nuclear physics. I'm sure you all have one."
"This whole plant is insane!"
"You idiot! You nearly drank a beaker full of sulfuric acid!"
"You're eating my special dietetic lunch."

The other characters who are compatible with the Nuclear Power Plant Lunch Room are Carl, Lenny, Mr. Burns, Smithers, Homer, Bart, Lisa, Marge, Barney, Moe and Milhouse. These 12 characters (51 if you count variations) have a total of 36 unique phrases between them. Press a button without a figure on the base, and you'll hear a high-pitched alarm blaring.

"Homer's Enemy" is, without question, one of the greatest Simpsons episodes ever - and yet when it aired, there was an entire group of people who got angry about it, proving that no matter how much fun something is, there's always someone willing to hate it. Maybe they were just mad that Frank "Grimey" Grimes - the joyless, unlikeable chump - wasn't vindicated in the end.

-- 02/21/15

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