"Duffless" is the sixteenth episode of The Simpsons' fourth season and originally aired on the Fox network on February 18, 1993. After getting arrested for drunk driving, Homer tries to remain sober, at Marge's request. Meanwhile, Lisa attempts to prove that Bart is less intelligent than a hamster after he ruins her first science fair project. It was written by David M. Stern, and directed by Jim Reardon.
Homer escapes from work to go on a tour of the Duff brewery with Barney. After the tour, he drives home, believing that Barney is too intoxicated. Homer is stopped by policemen and fails a breathalyzer test, resulting in him losing his driving license. He is also assigned Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. Marge's concern persuades Homer to give up alcohol for a month. Homer struggles through the month, tempted by boredom and advertising. However, once it is over he makes a trip to Moe's Tavern. Homer sees the misery of the other drinkers at Moe's, and goes home for a bike ride with Marge.
For the Springfield Elementary School science fair, Lisa grows a giant tomato with the aim of curing world hunger, but Bart throws it at Principal Skinner, destroying it. Lisa appeals to her mother Marge for help, who suggests she run a hamster through a maze. She takes the idea to heart, but instead of just testing the intelligence of a rodent, she pits a hamster against an unknowing Bart to find out who is smarter. After two simple tests, the hamster leads two to zero.
Bart finds Lisa's project notes and hides them. He plans to lead her on a treasure hunt to get them back but she finds them after just a second. Homer tries not to think about beer while he rides Lisa's bike to work. At the science fair, Lisa's project and chance for revenge are both ruined by Bart's project: "Can hamsters fly planes?". Lisa tries to reason with the ignorant viewers that his project has no scientific merit, but everyone ignores her. A cute hamster sitting in the cockpit of a miniature plane wins over Skinner. He hands Bart the winning ribbon, much to Lisa's dismay.
- Bart's go-go ray idea was "stolen" from the opening credits of Johnny Quest. Mike Reiss said they did not want to show the hamster getting shocked but had to for plot purposes. The first line Richard Nixon says, during the Duff commercial, was taken verbatim from the Kennedy-Nixon Debate during the 1960 Presidential Campaign. Adolf Hitler's head, among other things, can be seen going by in bottles of Duff when the quality control man is not paying attention.
- The episode contains the first appearance of Sarah Wiggum.
- There's a brief, two second snippet used from Bart the Daredevil of a close-up of Homer making a disappointed face and he says "D'oh" which is dubbed in when he gets arrested.
When Bart reaches for the cupcakes and collapses, it is a parody of a scene in A Clockwork Orange, where the main character Alex reaches for a woman's breasts. The Duff clock is a parody of the "It's a Small World" clock. In the Duff TV advertisement, a group of women were leading an anti-sexism protest in front of the McMahon and Tate building, a reference to the advertising agency from Bewitched. During the tour of the Duff Brewery, bottles can be seen which contain Adolf Hitler's head as well as a miniature three-eyed "Blinky" fish (from "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish"). The scene toward the end where Moe points toward individual customers declaring they will "be back" before pointing toward and addressing the viewer (later revealed to be Barney via a cutaway) is a parody of the end of the film Reefer Madness. The final scene, where Homer and Marge cycle into the distance while "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" plays is a reference to the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Homer's song "It was a Very Good Beer" is sung to the tune of the 1961 song "It Was a Very Good Year"; one of its lyrics is Homer stating he stayed up and listened to the music of the British band Queen. Homer's driver's license gives Springfield's zip code as 49007, the zip code for Kalamazoo, Michigan. Bart sitting in the chair, stroking the hamster is a reference to James Bond character Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who strokes a cat in his chair.
"Duffless" aired during February sweeps and finished 19th in the weekly ratings for the week of February 15–21, 1993 with a Nielsen rating of 15.2 and was viewed in 14.2 million homes. It was the highest rated show from the Fox Network that week.
The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood said, "A superb episode with a sincere message. Homer is excellent throughout, but it is the cameos by Principal Skinner and Edna Krabappel that steal the show, especially the latter's reaction to Milhouse's Slinky." Entertainment Weekly ranked the episode as number eleven on their list of the top twenty-five The Simpsons episodes.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Created by Matt Groening; edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ASIN 0060952520. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. ISBN 0-06-095252-0, 978-0-06-095252-5. p. 109.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (1993). "Duffless". BBC. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
- "Duffless". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- Reardon, Jim (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Duffless" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Reiss, Mike (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Duffless" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Stern, David M. (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Duffless" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Duffless" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Bates, James W.; Gimple, Scott M.; McCann, Jesse L., Richmond, Ray; Seghers, Christine, ed. (2010). Simpsons World The Ultimate Episode Guide: Seasons 1–20 (1st ed.). Harper Collins Publishers. p. 1070. ISBN 978-0-00-738815-8.
- Associated Press (1993-02-25). "CBS wins its third ratings race in 'sweeps'". Press-Telegram. p. 4E.
- Associated Press (1993-02-24). "Nielsen Ratings/Jan. 15-21". Press-Telegram. p. C6.
- "The Family Dynamic". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
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- "Duffless" at The Simpsons.com
- "Duffless" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Duffless" at the Internet Movie Database
- "Duffless" at TV.com