Homer the Heretic

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"Homer the Heretic"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 62
Prod. code 9F01
Orig. airdate October 8, 1992
Showrunner(s) Al Jean & Mike Reiss
Written by George Meyer
Directed by Jim Reardon
Chalkboard gag "I will not defame New Orleans"[1]
Couch gag The sofa swivels round into the wall, and an empty sofa assumes its place.[2]
DVD
commentary
Matt Groening
Al Jean
George Meyer
Jim Reardon

"Homer the Heretic" is the third episode of The Simpsons' fourth season, which originally aired on FOX in the United States on October 8, 1992.[3] In the episode, Homer decides to forgo going to church and has an excellent time staying home. His behavior quickly attracts the wrath of God, who visits him in a dream. The episode was written by George Meyer and directed by Jim Reardon.[4] The chalkboard gag from this episode was a reference to the previous episode "A Streetcar Named Marge", which had made controversial references to New Orleans.[5]

Plot[edit]

On a very cold Sunday morning, Marge is gathering the family to go to church. However, after viewing the weather outside and tearing his church pants by accident, Homer refuses to go, much to Marge's anger. He then proceeds to have what he declares "the best day of [his] life": he sleeps in late, dances in his underwear (à la Tom Cruise in the film Risky Business),[2] makes his special waffle recipe, wins a radio trivia contest, watches an action-packed football game, and finds a penny. Homer attributes all his good fortune to skipping church. Meanwhile, Marge and the kids shiver their way through a rambling sermon, only to find themselves trapped at the end since the door has frozen shut. Although Groundskeeper Willie manages to defrost the doors so that everyone can go home, Marge is unable to start her car because of the freezing temperature. When they finally get home, Marge is horrified to hear that Homer intends to never go to church again. She becomes very upset with Homer and does her best to persuade him, but to no avail. After trying to seduce Marge, who is praying for him, Homer falls asleep suddenly and has a dream in which God personally appears to him. God is very angry at Homer for "forsaking his church." Homer points out that "I'm not a bad guy, I work hard, and I love my kids...so why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to hell?" God considers with Homer's point and agrees to let Homer worship in his own way. Homer then starts his own religion tailored to his personal tastes, such as making up false holidays to get out of work.

Marge, Reverend Lovejoy, and Ned Flanders all unsuccessfully attempt to convert Homer back to Christianity. The next Sunday morning, Homer is once again at home while everyone else is at church. While smoking a cigar, he falls asleep on the couch and the cigar ignites some magazines. Soon, the whole house is ablaze. Homer wakes up after his hair is caught fire but quickly succumbs to the thick smoke and faints. Apu spots the fire, and summons the Springfield volunteer fire department (of which Krusty the Clown, Chief Wiggum, and Barney Gumble are also members). Meanwhile, Ned Flanders sees the fire and rushes to rescue Homer, pulling him free of the house just as the fire department arrives. After the blaze is extinguished, Homer fears that God was delivering vengeance. Reverend Lovejoy suggests that God was actually working in the hearts of Homer's friends, despite their different faiths. Lovejoy convinces Homer to give church another try. Homer comes to church the next Sunday, but sleeps through the service. God appears in his dreams again and consoles Homer on the failure of his religion. God starts to tell Homer the meaning of life (and says that Homer will die in six months) but is cut off by the credits.[1][2]

Production[edit]

This episode originated when Al Jean commented to Mike Reiss, "We had a lot of luck with Homer stealing cable, which was based on the eighth commandment, so maybe we could look to other commandments. So we thought, 'Honor the Sabbath' would be a good one. So the 'Homer doesn't go to church' storyline was given to George Meyer."[5] Reiss and Jean thought that as a lapsed Catholic, Meyer would "bring the proper degree of rage" to the episode. Meyer also had a lot of fun making the episode, thinking that most people could relate to the bliss of staying home from church, which to him was even better than missing a day of school or a set of booster shots.[6] One of the main problems Meyer had writing this episode is that whenever Homer saw God, he had to have fallen asleep so that it appeared to be a dream. Meyer did not want to show that God was literally appearing to Homer. This resulted in him falling asleep so many times during the first draft of the episode that it was almost as if Homer had narcolepsy.[6] This was also the first episode from season four that was read to the production team. Although first reads on previous seasons had not been well received by the production team, "Homer the Heretic" read very well, particularly some of the visuals in the third act such as the house on fire and Homer being rescued by Flanders.[5]

This was the first episode of The Simpsons where the animation was produced by Film Roman. Up until this point, Film Roman had mostly worked on Garfield and Friends and Bobby's World episodes, and were not used to the speed with which Simpsons episodes were produced, however they quickly adjusted. Film Roman went on to do the animation for the rest of the series and eventually The Simpsons Movie. Previously, the animation was produced by Klasky Csupo.[7]

The chalkboard gag for this episode, "I will not defame New Orleans", was made as an apology to the citizens of New Orleans after it was musically insulted in the previous episode.[5][8]

Along with "Mr. Plow", another episode of the fourth season of the Simpsons, this is one of the few television episodes that prominently featured snow outside of Christmas or Thanksgiving centric episodes.[5][9]

The abrupt cutting off of God's voice before he reveals the meaning of life was intended to be cut off by a voiceover promotion for whatever FOX program aired after The Simpsons. However, FOX did not pick up on this and so God's voice was instead cut off by the show's credits.[5]

Cultural references[edit]

Reception[edit]

In its original broadcast, "Homer the Heretic" finished 36th in ratings for the week of October 5–11, 1992, with a Nielsen rating of 12.0, equivalent to approximately 11.2 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Married... with Children.[10] Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, loved the episode. They described it as "A brilliant episode, underlining everything that The Simpsons is about. Homer hates church, Marge wants the kids to see Homer as an example, and everyone pulls together in the end. Good stuff, and if God really is like that, he's a groovy kind of guy."[2] In 2012, HitFix's Alan Sepinwall cited the episode as his favorite of the show, writing that it "captures everything that was and is great about the series: social satire, extraordinary quotability ('This Things I Believe'), a good family story, and an innate sweetness in spite of Homer's outsized antics."[11] In 2004, ESPN.com released a list of the Top 100 Simpsons sport moments, ranking Benjamin Franklin and Jimi Hendrix's air hockey game, a scene from the episode, at #83.[12] The episode's reference to Risky Business was named the 45th greatest film reference in the history of the show by Total Film's Nathan Ditum.[13]

The writers of the FOX program King of the Hill put "Homer the Heretic" among the five best episodes of The Simpsons, including "Brother from the Same Planet", "Lisa's Wedding", "Lisa's Substitute", and "Behind the Laughter".[14] When asked to pick his favorite season out of The Simpsons seasons one through twenty, Paul Lane of the Niagara Gazette picked season four and highlighted "Brother from the Same Planet" and "Mr. Plow" which he called "excellent", along with "the sweetly funny" "Lisa's First Word", and "Homer the Heretic".[15]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c 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. 114.
  2. ^ a b c d e Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Homer the Heretic". BBC. Retrieved 2008-01-20. 
  3. ^ Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  4. ^ Groening, Matt; Meyer, George; Reardon, Jim (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  6. ^ a b c Meyer, George (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  7. ^ Reardon, Jim; Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  8. ^ Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "A Streetcar Named Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  9. ^ Vitti, Jon (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Mr. Plow" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. 
  10. ^ Hastings, Deborah (October 15, 1992). "Presidential debate helps put ABC on top". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E. 
  11. ^ Sepinwall, Alan (2012-02-17). "Best. Episode. Ever? Pick your 'Simpsons' favorite". HitFix. Retrieved 2012-02-17. 
  12. ^ Collins, Greg (January 23, 2004). "The Simpsons Got Game". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2008-04-05. 
  13. ^ Ditum, Nathan (June 6, 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Total Film. Retrieved 2009-07-22. 
  14. ^ Staff (February 13, 2003). "'King' scribes chime in with best bets". Variety (Reed Elsevier Inc.). p. A8. 
  15. ^ Dzikiy, Phil; Paul Lane (September 25, 2008). "TELEVISION: 20 years — A 'Simpsons' extravaganza". Niagara Gazette. 

External links[edit]