Fear of Flying (The Simpsons)
"Fear of Flying" is the eleventh episode of The Simpsons' sixth season. It was first broadcast on the Fox network in the United States on December 18, 1994. In the episode, Homer is banned from Moe's Tavern and struggles to find a new bar. When he destroys a plane after being mistaken for a pilot at a pilots-only bar, the airline buys the Simpsons' silence with free tickets. The family discovers that Marge is afraid of flying.
The episode was directed by Mark Kirkland, and written by David Sacks. It features numerous guest stars, including Anne Bancroft as Dr. Zweig. Additionally, Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger, and George Wendt appear as their characters from Cheers. It received positive reception from television critics, and acquired a Nielsen rating of 9.6. The authors of I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide commented positively on the episode, as did reviews from DVD Verdict and DVD Movie Guide.
After pulling a prank on Moe, Homer is banned from Moe's Tavern and looks for another place to drink (including the Cheers bar). He eventually settles for an airline pilots' bar, but is mistaken for a pilot and is put in the cockpit of an airplane, which he promptly damages. Fearing public humiliation, the airline gives the Simpson family free tickets to anywhere in the United States they desire (except Alaska and Hawaii). However, the idea of plane travel fills Marge with anxiety as she has a fear of flying, and after a panic attack on the plane, the trip is postponed.
Marge does not want to talk to anybody about her fear, and Lisa worries that Marge's decision to keep her feelings bottled up will cause them to "come out in other ways". When Marge begins to show signs of her lingering flight-related trauma by insisting the cat and the dog are living in sin, cooking giant feasts, and shingling the roof in the middle of the night, Lisa convinces Marge to undergo treatment with therapist Dr. Zweig. Homer, however, grows increasingly paranoid about Marge's therapy.
Zweig uncovers the roots of Marge's fear, including the moment she realized her father was not a pilot, but an apron-wearing flight attendant, a job that was mostly reserved for women at the time. Her shame is eased when Zweig assures her that male flight attendants are now very common and that her father could be considered a pioneer. Marge also brings up memories of her grandmother poking her in the eye as a baby while playing airplane, a toy plane catching fire, and having a plane fire at her and her mother, but the therapist just ignores them. Marge is cured of her fears, but when she and Homer attempt to fly on a plane again, the plane crashes into a lake.
"Fear of Flying" was directed by Mark Kirkland, and written by David Sacks. The story of the episode came about when Sacks came into the writers' room with an idea for an episode where Marge goes to a therapist "for one reason or another". Sacks and the other writers then structured the rest of the plot around that storyline. Anne Bancroft was called in to voice Zweig. Before Bancroft recorded her part, the animators based Zweig's design on a temp track from cast member Tress MacNeille as the therapist. After Bancroft had recorded her part, Zweig was redesigned to fit with Bancroft's voice. They added split glasses and a streak of silver in her hair to give her a more mature look.
The staff was able to get the central cast of the American sitcom Cheers, with the exception of Kelsey Grammer, to reunite and guest star in the episode. The staff could not arrange the script to allow time in the episode for Grammer, who already had a recurring role on The Simpsons as Sideshow Bob, to voice Frasier Crane. Ted Danson guest starred as Sam, Woody Harrelson as Woody, Rhea Perlman as Carla, John Ratzenberger as Cliff, and George Wendt as Norm.
Homer enters the Cheers bar in a scene which is a parody of a typical episode of the comedy series Cheers. All of the speaking characters are voiced by the actors who played them in Cheers. Ironically, Frasier Crane remains silent despite being played by Simpsons veteran Kelsey Grammer, the voice of Sideshow Bob. Marge's dream sees her in the role of Mrs. Robinson from Lost in Space, while Homer plays Dr. Smith. The scene where Marge and Jacqueline Bouvier duck down when a biplane shoots at them in a cornfield is a parody of Alfred Hitchcock's film North by Northwest.
Homer's Mount Lushmore caricature resembles Eustace Tilley, the mascot of The New Yorker. Homer's line about getting out of Springfield is lifted from It's a Wonderful Life, while Homer's all-time favorite song is revealed to be "It's Raining Men" by The Weather Girls.
As Homer is looking for a place to drink, he even tries a lesbian bar, the She She Lounge. However, he soon realizes that "this lesbian bar doesn't have a fire exit". He then leaves, saying "Enjoy your deathtrap, ladies!". This is a reference to the famous Greenwich Village gay bar, the Stonewall Inn. This mafia-owned and -run bar "had no rear exit, so if there had been a fire on a weekend night, hundreds of customers would have had to escape through a single narrow passage leading to the front door."
In its original American broadcast, "Fear of Flying" finished 48th (tied with Dateline NBC) in the ratings for the week of December 12 to December 18, 1994, with a Nielsen rating of 9.6. The episode was the third highest rated show on the Fox network that week, beaten only by Beverly Hills, 90210, and Married... with Children.
Since airing, the episode has received many positive reviews from fans and television critics. In 2007, Simon Crerar of The Times listed the Cheers cast's performance as one of the thirty-three funniest cameos in the history of the show. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, said it was "a good Marge-centric episode with plenty of clever set pieces - the tributes to Cheers and Lost in Space are fantastic", and noted that "Marge's father looks suspiciously like Moe". Ryan Keefer at DVD Verdict said that "with the cast of Cheers appearing (except for Grammer, ironically) and a funny spoof of North by Northwest, the episode is much better than you would expect", and gave it a B+. Colin Jacobson at DVD Movie Guide said in a review of the sixth season DVD that it was "another show I didn’t recall fondly but that works exceedingly well. I hadn’t realized how many quotes I’ve stolen from this one: the name 'Guy Incognito', the dog with the puffy tail, 'a burden coupled with a hassle'. The show makes little sense in regard to continuity since Marge has flown during prior shows, but it’s consistently very funny and entertaining." The Phoenix named Anne Bancroft one of the twenty best guest stars to appear on the show.
The episode was selected for release in a 1999 video collection of selected episodes titled: The Simpsons Go To Hollywood. Other episodes included in the collection set were "Flaming Moe's", "Krusty Gets Kancelled", and "Homer to the Max". "Fear of Flying" was again included in the 2003 DVD release of the same set. It was included in The Simpsons season 6 DVD set, which was released on August 16, 2005, as The Simpsons – The Complete Sixth Season.
- "Fear of Flying". The Simpsons.com. Archived from the original on 2008-06-11. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
- 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 0006388981. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. ISBN 0-00-638898-1, 978-0-00-638898-2. p. 161.
- Mirkin, David (2005). The Simpsons season 6 DVD commentary for the episode "Fear of Flying" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Kirkland, Mark (2005). The Simpsons season 6 DVD commentary for the episode "Fear of Flying" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2005). The Simpsons season 6 DVD commentary for the episode "Fear of Flying" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Fear of Flying". BBC. Retrieved 2008-03-27.
- Eisenbach, David (2006). Gay Power: An American Revolution. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 85. ISBN 0-7867-1633-9.
- Elbert, Lynn (December 23, 1994). "Nielsen Ratings". Rocky Mountain News. p. 40D. Retrieved on October 29, 2008.
- Crerar, Simon (2007-07-05). "The 33 funniest Simpsons cameos ever". The Times. Retrieved 2010-08-09.
- Keefer, Ryan (August 29, 2005). "DVD Verdict Review - The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2008-09-26.
- Jacobson, Colin (2003). "The Simpsons: The Complete Sixth Season (1994)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-10-08.
- "The Simpsons 20 best guest voices of all time". The Phoenix.com. 2006-03-29. Retrieved 2008-11-20.
- "The Simpsons Go To Hollywood (VHS)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
- "The Simpsons Go To Hollywood (DVD)". Amazon.com. Retrieved 2008-10-17.
- "The Simpsons - The Complete Sixth Season". The Simpsons (20th Century Fox). August 16, 2005
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- "Fear of Flying" at The Simpsons.com
- "Fear of Flying" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Fear of Flying" at TV.com
- "Fear of Flying" at the Internet Movie Database