As far as narrative tropes go, one of the most entertaining motifs in television and film has always been The Heat Wave. Whether record breaking temperatures precipitate exaggerated depictions of sweaty, sun-stroked desperation in cartoons, or sizzling pavements push everyone a little bit closer to snapping their neighbor’s neck in live-action drama, it’s when the heat is on that onscreen characters show their truest selves.
Here’s a compilation of some fantastically scorching summertime scenes:
The Simpsons – Season 6, Episode 1: “Bart of Darkness”
After breaking his leg, Bart is ironically imprisoned in his room during the hottest part of the summer. While spying on Springfield residents (à la Hitchcock’s Rear Window) he witness a murder (à la Hitchcock’s Rear Window). In fact, the whole episode is a lovely parody of Hitchcock’s Rear Window.
Hey Arnold! – Season 1, Episode 6: “Heat / Snow”
During a heat wave, Arnold’s block is the epitome of sweltering, and it’s such a memorable episode that it’s hard not to associate it with one’s actual sweatiness on a suffocatingly hot day. And remember how lots of kids’ shows divided the episodes into two shorter plots? Well the second half of this brilliant show was about Arnold, Gerald et al coping with a blizzard.
The Sandlot (1993)
Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez would most definitely continue playing baseball until he collapsed. But on a steamy day when that outcome seemed exceedingly likely, the boys vote to eschew balls for boobies and take a field trip to the public pool. It’s a classic moment in cinema, but many forget that Squints would never have had his moment with Wendy Peffercorn without the maddening drive of the sun’s rays.
Barney Miller – Season 2, Episode 5: “Heat Wave”
With the canned laughter on top, this 1970s sitcom couldn’t feel any more stifling. Feel no obligation to watch the entire episode, but it’s an excellent indicator of how humor – and racial/gender propriety – has changed over the last four decades.
Roswell – Season 1, Episode 9: “Heat Wave”
Besides the smokin’ hot female leads, played by the regrettably C-Listed Shiri Appleby and the now iconic Katherine Heigl, this episode about the effects of unprecedented heat fits nicely into the show’s typical themes of high school drama and lust. I’m assuming the CW was a bit overwhelmed with its surfeit of supernatural adolescent soaps in the early millenium because this melodramatic gem was cancelled after three seasons. And check out Colin Hanks’ swagger!
Recess – Season 5, Episode 1: “The Coolest Heat Wave Ever”
If there was an issue that kids struggled with, the loyal gang on Disney’s Recess was sure to address it. The rascals are in full form in this episode, putting their heads together (as they typically do to defeat their universal foe) to beat the heat.
Do the Right Thing (1989)
The mother of all heat wave films, Spike Lee’s depiction of one Brooklyn block during a scorcher is seminal. According to physics, it’s friction that causes heat; in this joint, however, the heat causes friction. Civil folks’ tempers are tested and prejudices erupt.
Which heat wave scenes are most memorable for you?