Dead Putting Society
"Dead Putting Society" is the sixth episode of The Simpsons' second season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 15, 1990. In the episode, Homer's son, Bart, and Ned Flanders' son, Todd, decide to enter a miniature golf tournament. Homer becomes confident that Bart will win and makes a bet with Ned that the father of the boy that does not win will have to mow their neighbors lawn in their wife's Sunday dress. On the day of the tournament, Bart and Todd make the finals but decide to call it a draw, forcing both Homer and Ned to fulfill the requirements of their bet.
The episode, which was the first to prominently feature Ned and the rest of his family, was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Rich Moore. While animating "Dead Putting Society", the animators went on a field trip to a local miniature golf course to study the mechanics of a golf club swing. Since airing, the episode has received positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 14.3 and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
When Homer is mowing his lawn with obvious frustration, his next-door neighbor Ned Flanders invites him into his basement rumpus room for a beer. Upon seeing Ned's house and observing his exaggeratedly perfect relationships with his wife and son, Homer erupts at Ned, accusing him of showing off. Ned angrily asks Homer to leave in response. Later, however, he feels guilty and writes a letter to Homer saying that he is really sorry and that he loves him as a brother. Homer is amused by Ned's sentimentality and reads the letter to the family at the breakfast table. Marge is not happy with the family's reaction and chastises Homer for making light of Ned's sincere apology. Afterwards, Homer takes Bart and Maggie to Sir Putt-A-Lot's Merrie Olde Fun Centre for a round of miniature golf. They unexpectedly run into Ned and his son Todd, and end up going golfing together.
The game goes well for everyone (especially Bart), except for Homer, who is obviously still jealous of Ned. Meanwhile, Bart and Todd find out about an upcoming children's miniature golf tournament, with a first prize of $50. They enter it, and although Todd is very good at miniature golf, Homer becomes confident that Bart will win. He tells Bart that it is not okay to lose and forces him to stare angrily at a picture of Todd for 15 minutes every day. Later, when Bart looks at his meager collection of trophies in his room, Lisa offers to help him practice. Utilizing spiritual books that calm Bart's mind, they meditate. Meanwhile, Homer makes a bet with Ned on whose boy is a better golfer: the father of the boy who does not win the tournament will mow the other father's lawn in his wife's Sunday dress.
On the day of the tournament, Homer threatens Bart to win no matter what. In an extremely close match, Bart and Todd each do well, and tie by the time they reach the eighteenth hole. Bart and Todd agree that the competition is not worth the stress, that they are equally good and that they should call it a draw, splitting the award evenly. As a result, Ned and Homer are forced to wear their respective wives' Sunday dresses and mow each other's lawn. People around the neighborhood laugh at them and Ned actually enjoys it (commenting that it reminds him of his fraternity days), much to Homer's dismay.
"Dead Putting Society" was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Rich Moore. Martin was an experienced miniature golfer and based much of the golf-related scenes in the script on his own experiences. Parts of this episode are also based on the 1984 film The Karate Kid, including the way Bart practices for the miniature golf tournament by balancing on a trash can in a "crane position". For "Dead Putting Society", the animators went on a field trip to a local miniature golf course to study the mechanics of a golf club swing. Moore commented that the reason for this was that much of the humor on The Simpsons comes from making the scenery look lifelike; "The realism of the background serves as the straight man for the absurd situations."
This episode was the first to prominently feature Ned Flanders and the rest of the Flanders family, and contained the first appearances of Maude and Rod Flanders. Maggie Roswell was given the role of Maude, Ned's loving wife, and became a regular cast member with this episode. She had previously played supporting parts in the show's first season. Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart, commented on Roswell's acting: "Maggie has been blessed with a skill in creating one of the hardest things to create: the 'normal sound,' whatever that is. So she can easily slip into the gal next door [...]."
"Dead Putting Society" originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 15, 1990. In its original American broadcast, the episode finished 35th in the ratings for the week of November 12–18, 1990, with a Nielsen rating of 14.3, equivalent to approximately 13.3 million viewing households. It was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week.
Since airing, the episode has received positive reviews from television critics. The Orlando Sentinel 's Gregory Hardy named it the ninth best episode of the show with a sports theme. Doug Pratt, a DVD reviewer and Rolling Stone contributor, praised the episode as one of the best from season two. He commented that the miniature golf challenges "are delightful, the denouncement is highly amusing [...], and the beauty of the whole episode is that it could just as easily be an episode in a live action TV sitcom, though the slight touches of fancy enabled by the animation enhance its comic impact." Dusty Sanders of the Rocky Mountain News commented that the title of the episode is "funnier than the content of most TV sitcoms." The reference to The Karate Kid was named the 21st greatest film reference in the history of the show by Total Film's Nathan Ditum.
DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson commented that "considering what a prominent character Flanders became, it's strange to realize that "Dead Putting Society" was the first show to feature him heavily. He'd made some token appearances in the past—most notably in season one's 'Call of the Simpsons'—but 'Dead Putting Society' much more clearly defined the Ned we'd come to know and love. It also featured scads of good little bits and gags and seemed like a solid program." The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, commented that apart from "the memorable lawn mowing sequence at the end, this episode is notable for our first viewing of the gaudy, gadget-filled, God-fearing splendour that is the Flanderses' home."
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Dead Putting Society". BBC. Retrieved 2009-06-07.
- Martin, Jeff (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Dead Putting Society" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Jean, Al (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Dead Putting Society" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Ditum, Nathan (June 6, 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Total Film. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- Brown, Daniel (July 22, 2007). "Eat My Sports – A Retrospective". San Jose Mercury News. p. 1C.
- Cartwright, Nancy (2000). "Lady, That Ain't No Gutterball!". My Life as a 10-Year-Old Boy. New York City: Hyperion. p. 96. ISBN 0-7868-8600-5.
- Yandel, Garre (November 15, 1990). "TV Watch – Best Bets – CNN carries on exclusive 'Conversation' with Bush". The Atlanta Constitution. p. H/17.
- Associated Press (November 22, 1990). "Nielsen Ratings /Nov. 10–18". Press-Telegram. p. A24.
- Hardy, Gregory (February 16, 2003). "Hitting 300 – For Sporting Comedy, 'The Simpsons' Always Score". Orlando Sentinel. p. C17.
- Pratt, Doug (2005). Doug Pratt's DVD: Movies, Television, Music, Art, Adult, and More!. UNET 2 Corporation. p. 1094. ISBN 1-932916-01-6.
- Sanders, Dusty (February 16, 1995). "'Mad About You' Resurrects Alan Brady In Subtle Tribute". Rocky Mountain News. p. 17D.
- Jacobson, Colin. "The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
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- "Dead Putting Society" at The Simpsons.com
- "Dead Putting Society" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Dead Putting Society" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Dead Putting Society" at TV.com