"A Tale of Two Springfields" is the second episode of the twelfth season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons and is the 250th episode of the series overall in both broadcast and production order. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 5, 2000. In the episode, Homer discovers that Springfield has two different area codes and ends up leading a revolt that splits the town in two.
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Shaun Cashman and guest starred The Who. The episode was inspired by Don Payne, based on the area where his mother lived, where one side of town would spread rumors about the other side. Larry Doyle then pitched that the two sides of Springfield would be divided because of a telephone area code. The episode features cultural references to The Who and the Norman Rockwell painting Freedom of Speech, and has received positive reviews from critics.
A badger takes up residence in Santa's Little Helper's doghouse. After several failed attempts to lure it out (including Homer crawling into the kennel, thinking it is Milhouse but getting attacked by the badger), Homer calls animal control. When he is unable to get through, Marge explains that the phone company has introduced a new area code to Springfield. Half of the town now has a 636 area code, the other has 939. At a town meeting to explain the change, Homer rallies an angry mob to protest the change, noting that the upper class side of town got to keep their area code while the poorer half were forced to switch. Homer proposes that the town split into two halves, and the mob agrees.
Homer is declared mayor of New Springfield after rejecting a franchise offer from the Arizona Cardinals and tensions immediately arise between the two towns. While unveiling the 'Olde Springfield' town plaque, Mayor Quimby attempts to bond with New Springfield, but Homer throws a beer can at him. Old Springfield businesses begin discriminating against customers from New Springfield, and condescending to them on the nightly news. Bart and Homer shut off the power to Old Springfield. Old Springfield retaliates by hijacking a beer truck heading for New Springfield and dumping its contents in the river; Homer and New Springfield then cut off their water supply. When the lack of water reveals gold in the river bed, making Old Springfield even richer, an enraged Homer has a wall built between the two towns. However, a lack of supplies and sanitation drives away all of the New Springfield residents, who stream over the wall, leaving the Simpsons alone.
Bitter, Homer attempts to sabotage a concert in Old Springfield by The Who. He and Bart sneak into The Who's hotel room and convince them to play New Springfield instead. When Old Springfield realizes that their concert has been stolen, they follow the sound of the music to the wall, where The Who are playing for an audience of The Simpsons. A riot begins to break out as the residents of Old Springfield begin hurling flaming garbage over the wall. The members of The Who hear about the area code problem and suggest that the townspeople get speed dial to resolve their differences. Pete Townshend's opening riff from "Won't Get Fooled Again" crumbles the wall, and the citizens of Springfield reunite and dance to the music. Meanwhile, the badger leads an animal invasion of the town to "get 'em while they're dancing".
The episode was pitched by John Frink and Don Payne. The episode was inspired by Don Payne's mother's neighbourhood, where one side would spread rumors about the other side. Larry Doyle then pitched that the sides split apart because of different area codes. During production the staff did not want one side to be slobs like Homer Simpson and the other snobs like Mr. Burns, but this ended up happening in the final product. The writers later opened a website about what badgers eat.
The phone from the educational cartoon was voiced by Dan Castellaneta. Pete Townshend did not guest star in the episode as he did not know he would be providing his own voice and assumed someone else would, as in Yellow Submarine. Roger Daltrey, John Entwistle and Pete's brother Paul Townshend provided guest voices in the episode. After a number of calls were made by the show's casting director in Los Angeles to The Who's managers in London, the group agreed to appear on the show. The animated versions of the band members included Daltrey in his trademark tight T-shirt and long curls, even though Daltrey cut his curls in the mid-1980s, as the staff wanted to use the image The Who are best known for. The Who recorded their lines in England, but still weighed in on script details. During the production the staff decided to animate Keith Moon in honor of him since he died in 1978 instead of The Who's current drummer Zak Starkey.
When Roger Daltrey hits Marge with his microphone he improvised and said "Shut the fuck up, Marge." This was later included in deleted scenes for the season's DVD release.
Colin Jacobson of the DVD Movie Guide gave the episode a positive review saying "Maybe it’s the low expectations that accompany 21st century Simpsons episodes, but “Tale” works for me. It takes a simple premise and turns in a good number of strong comedic bits. Hey, and a mention of “golden showers” keeps the Season 12 perverted sexual practices streak going!", although he criticized the animation of The Who other than Daltrey, saying that "That’s particularly odd in the case of Pete, as he’d gone awfully bald and gray by 2000." Jennifer Malkowski of the DVD Verdict said the Greatest Moment was a tie between "Sacred bond" and "Who huddle." Nancy Basile of About.com gave the episode a 5 writing "Finally! I loved this episode because, flashy guest stars aside, it got back to the heart and soul of the show."
In 2007, Simon Crerar of The Times listed The Who's performance as one of the thirty-three funniest cameos in the history of the show. There was a backlash from Internet fans who found the scene of Homer nearly getting disemboweled by the badger and showing his internal organs to Lisa to be too disgusting for The Simpsons, citing the gore to be more at home in such animated shows as South Park and Family Guy.