Don’t be like Marge Simpson and Don Draper this Monday.
That’s perhaps the unexpected takeaway from memorable eclipse storylines on both “The Simpsons” and “Mad Men.” Marge and Don both look directly at the sun, with mixed results. And they’re not the only ones with bad eclipse habits.
As the continental United States embraces Eclipse Fever, here are a handful of recent TV series and movies that have incorporated the solar event into storylines and plots. The website Eclipse Guy has put together a thorough database of movies, TV series, music videos and commercials that have included eclipse scenes; IndieWire has curated a list of six recent ones on the small screen.
The 433rd episode of “The Simpsons,” 2009’s “Gone Maggie Gone,” starts off with a sequence in which Marge, who gives her camera obscura to Homer (who had naturally broken his), decides to peek at an eclipse with her naked eye. Big mistake. See why, above: Marge goes temporarily blind, and her eyes must be covered for two weeks. And without Marge in charge, baby Maggie soon goes missing. “Gone Maggie Gone” was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award four outstanding animated program.
This wasn’t the first eclipse on “The Simpsons.” In the landmark 1993 episode “Marge vs. the Monorail,” it takes a solar eclipse to finally stop the runaway train.
Don Draper (Jon Hamm) doesn’t like rules. He’s not going to use some silly cardboard box to take a look at the solar eclipse. But he’s playing the long game with Sally’s teacher, Miss Farrell (Abigail Spencer). So when he takes his daughter to an eclipse party thrown by Miss Farrell, he passes himself off as safe and innocent. But when she’s not looking, Don looks directly at the eclipse, through his sunglasses.
That’s a no-no. But Don Draper’s too cool for it to matter.
The episode “Seven Twenty Three” aired during “Mad Men’s” third season, also in 2009. Per creator Matt Weiner’s nod to authenticity, it was based on the real solar eclipse visible in upstate New York on July 20, 1963. EclipseGuy.com confirms that Weiner even made sure the time of day was spot-on: “The eclipse was total as seen from a path through Alaska and Canada, and would have been partial in New York State. Maximum eclipse occurred at 20:36 DT over northwestern Canada, so the timing in the show – afternoon – seems accurate. We don’t get to see the eclipsed Sun, but the details seem reasonable in most other respects.”
The 200th episode of “ER,” “When Night Meets Day,” features a unique dual story, cutting between Carter’s (Noah Wyle) day shift and Pratt’s (Mekhi Phifer) night shift. Along the way, a solar eclipse wreaks havoc, thanks to cult victims suffering from a mass poisoning tied to the eclipse. Said one comment on EclipseGuy.com: “I was pleased that the writing team spent some time to include some correct facts about eclipses and didn’t mind the computer graphic of the solar eclipse overhead.”
Horatio Caine, who do you think you are, Don Draper? Those cool sunglasses aren’t cool enough to protect you from the sun’s rays – use officially produced solar eclipse glasses. Otherwise it might be a case of taking the eye… [puts back on glasses] out of “CSI.”
In the 2007 “CSI: Miami” episode “Sunblock,” Horatio (David Caruso) investigates a murder that takes place during a solar eclipse. He soon realizes that this may be the work of a serial killer, who normally strikes at night.
The commenters at EclipseGuy.com weren’t impressed: “Looks like the moon was moving at about 260,000-miles per hour… totality would be over in a blink of an eye. Then again, the producers of the show made it get dark almost immediately after the moon started encroaching upon the sun’s disk. The falling shadow reminds me of the old opening of a TV soap opera I remember from when I was a kid: ‘The Edge of Night.'”
A solar eclipse occurs in the very first episode of “Heroes,” and continues to be a theme throughout the series’ run. (It’s in the show’s logo, after all.) In the two-part Season 3 episodes “The Eclipse, Part 1 and Part 2,” a total solar eclipse even robs both the heroes and the villains of their superpowers. Creator Tim Kring once said the idea for the eclipse was “that there is something larger that they’re being drawn to.”
Back when Syfy was still “Sci-Fi,” the network aired the three-part miniseries “Tin Man,” a retelling of “The Wizard of Oz” starring Alan Cumming, Zooey Deschanel and Richard Dreyfuss. The villain here aims to lock the O.Z. (a distant world even farther from Kansas) in darkness by placing its two suns permanently behind the moon.
Two suns? Better get an extra pair of eclipse glasses.