Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?
"Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?" is the third episode of the eleventh season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 24, 1999. In the episode, Homer becomes a food critic for a Springfield newspaper and ends up annoying the restaurant owners of Springfield after he makes negative reviews just to be mean, advice he took from fellow critics. Springfield's restaurant owners then attempt to kill Homer by feeding him a poisoned éclair. American actor Ed Asner guest starred in the episode as the newspaper editor that hires Homer. The episode has received generally mixed reviews from television critics since airing.
Springfield Elementary arranges a trip to the offices of The Springfield Shopper for the students. Homer volunteers to escort children on the trip and drives to the newspaper office. There, they are introduced to the newspaper's beginnings and the workings in the inner office. While they are there, Homer smells cake and follows it to a retirement party for the newspaper's food critic. Homer crashes the party and starts pigging out on the food. The editor, seeing Homer's liking for food, offers him a job as their food critic. He asks Homer to prepare a 500-word sample review first.
Homer initially struggles with the review, but he soon gets the help of Lisa who helps him express himself. Soon Homer gets a reputation for giving out excellent reviews to every restaurant he visits. At the Springfield Shopper office, the editor introduces Homer to other critics. They chide him for being too generous in his reviews. Homer foolishly gives into their peer pressure and starts giving out a series of bad reviews, criticizing everything. Lisa argues with him for being needlessly cruel and declares she will not help him with his reviews. Homer attempts to continue reviewing by himself. Meanwhile, the local restaurateurs hold a secret meeting, regarding Homer's negative reviews. Soon, they decide to kill him. A French chef declares that he will do the deed, by feeding Homer a poisonous éclair at an upcoming food festival.
At the food festival Homer goes on his reviewing duties. Bart overhears some of the restaurateurs discussing the murder plot and alerts Marge and Lisa. They split up, looking for Homer before it is too late. Homer, meanwhile, has reached the French chef's stall and is about to eat the éclair. Lisa runs up and shouts that it is poisoned, but when Homer shrugs it off, she yells that it is low-fat. Homer throws the lethal pastry away in revulsion, causing it to "explode" when it lands on a crater. The police rush to the scene and arrest the Frenchman. Despite the plot being foiled, Homer and Lisa walk off into the distance with an angry mob stalking him. After the scene goes black and the end credits begin, Homer is clearly heard receiving his comeuppance, in the form of a beating, from the restaurant owners.
"Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?" was written by Al Jean and directed by Nancy Kruse as part of the eleventh season of The Simpsons (1999–2000). American actor Ed Asner guest starred in the episode as the newspaper editor that hires Homer. The character is based on Lou Grant, the character Asner played in the series The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Lou Grant. The episode features several other references to popular culture. For example, the song Homer sings upon being given the food critic job is set to the tune of "I Feel Pretty" from the musical West Side Story. The restaurant Planet Springfield is a parody of Planet Hollywood, containing items such as the film script for The Cable Guy (1996), Herbie from The Love Bug (1968), a model of the RMS Titanic from Titanic (1997), an alien similar to those from Mars Attacks! (1996), models of a TIE Fighter, an X-Wing and C-3PO from Star Wars, as well as "the coffee mug" from the film Heartbeeps (1981) and "the cane" from Citizen Kane (1941), which is not a real prop.
"Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?" originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 24, 1999. On October 7, 2008, the episode was released on DVD as part of the box set The Simpsons – The Complete Eleventh Season. Staff members Mike Scully, Al Jean, George Meyer, Dan Greaney, Matt Selman and Nancy Kruse participated in the DVD audio commentary for the episode. Deleted scenes from the episode were also included on the box set.
Since airing, the episode has received generally mixed reviews from critics. In 2003, Ryan Lane of The Daily Orange listed it as the ninth best episode of the series, noting that the "most recent episode on the list is also perhaps the show's last classic." Nancy Basile of About.com listed the episode as one of the episodes she felt "shined in season eleven". In 2011, Keith Plocek of LA Weekly's Squid Ink blog named "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?" the sixth best episode of the show with a food theme. While reviewing the eleventh season of The Simpsons, DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson on the other hand commented that "after the solid ['Brother's Little Helper'], Season 11 dips with the more mediocre ['Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?']. Oh, the show has its moments, especially when Homer’s criticism becomes more mean-spirited. Still, the program rarely becomes anything more than okay; it’s certainly enjoyable but that’s about it."
Karma Waltonen and Denise Du Vernay analyzed "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?" in their book The Simpsons in the Classroom, in which they demonstrate how episode of the series can be used in teaching. They wrote: "Although the show's characters do not often model expository writing, we can still find ways to use The Simpsons to illustrate the importance of style. Young writers, for example, may find that their writing resembles Homer's when he attempts to write restaurant reviews in 'Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner.' Homer's diction is poor, his piece rambles off, and he attempts to make the word count by repeating 'Screw Flanders' several times. We can thus illustrate that students need to reduce wordiness [...], while developing their arguments through pertinent content or parallelism. We can also stress revision by showing what Lisa is able to do when she helps her father brainstorm. For example, when they need two more words to end the review, Lisa replaces 'Screw Flanders' with 'Bon appétit'."
- 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. pp. 524–525. ISBN 978-0-00-738815-8.
- Lane, Ryan (2003-02-14). "Reviewer rates 10 best ‘Simpsons’ episodes ever". The Daily Orange. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- Jane, Ian (2008-11-01). "The Simpsons - The Complete Eleventh Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- Basile, Nancy. "'The Simpsons' Season Eleven". About.com. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- Plocek, Keith (2011-11-11). "Top 10 Simpsons Food Episodes: Tomacco Ribwich with a Side of Guatemalan Insanity Peppers + Skittlebrau". Squid Ink (LA Weekly). Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- Jacobson, Colin (2008-11-19). "The Simpsons: The Complete Eleventh Season (1999)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2011-10-02.
- Waltonen, Karma; Vernay, Denise Du (2010). The Simpsons in the Classroom: Embiggening the Learning Experience with the Wisdom of Springfield. McFarland. p. 119. ISBN 978-0-7864-4490-8.
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- "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?" at The Simpsons.com
- "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner?" at the Internet Movie Database