I'm Goin' to Praiseland
"I'm Goin' to Praiseland" is the nineteenth episode of the twelfth season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 6, 2001. In the episode, Ned Flanders builds a Christian-themed amusement park to commemorate his dead wife, Maude Flanders. The episode marked the return of the character Rachel Jordan (voiced by Shawn Colvin), who had previously appeared in the season eleven episode "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily". Since airing, "I'm Goin' to Praiseland" has received mixed reviews from critics.
During an ice cream social at church, Ned Flanders is reunited with Rachel Jordan, a woman he met after hearing her and her Christian rock band sing at church after suffering the loss of his wife Maude. She quickly had to leave for the next stop on the band's tour after their first meeting, and they had not seen each other until this social. Rachel decides to stay with Ned instead of going to a motel, but leaves after being horrified when Ned's obsession with making Rachel look like his deceased wife Maude leads to him cutting Rachel's hair into a Maude-esque style while she is sleeping. Ned asks the Simpson family to help him forget about Maude by throwing away everything in the house that reminds him of her. Homer uses a woodchipper to get rid of all of Maude's possessions, (including sticking a photo of him on their wedding photo) except for a sketchbook. Ned looks through his late wife's many sketches until he finds designs for a Christian theme park, called Praiseland. He decides to realize Maude's dream by building a Christian theme park in her honor.
Ned starts building Praiseland where an old amusement park used to be located and asks people from all over town to contribute anything that can be useful for the park. Various citizens pitch in and donate. When Praiseland is finally opened, the townspeople are put off by its wholesomeness and leave—until everyone sees a mask of Maude's face rise up in the air in front of a memorial statue of her. Eventually, anyone who stands in front of the statue collapses, writhes and has his or her own personal vision of Heaven: Principal Skinner tells of being in a perfect elementary school where no one is late, the teacher's lounge is spacious, and Bart is not there to bother him; Disco Stu dances with Frank Sinatra (whose appearance at the disco is actually his version of Hell) at a discothèque version of Heaven, where Tony Manero is forced into an eternal wait in line; and Comic Book Guy (dressed as Mr. Spock) saves Captain Kirk from his malfunctioning chair aboard the Starship Enterprise and is offered make-out sessions with Uhura from the original Star Trek series, Catwoman from the 1960s Batman TV show, and Agent 99 from Get Smart.
Ned explains to his children that this is God's will, until he notices Homer trying to work the gas grill at a concession stand. He then discovers that the gas line (near Maude's statue) is leaking gas, causing everyone to inhale the fumes. He finds out from the utility that the gas is incredibly dangerous and tries to shut the place down, but Homer points out that Praiseland has brought everyone together, regardless of race, creed, color, and socioeconomic status. However, the joy is short-lived when Homer spots two orphans lighting a candle near the leaking gas line and they tackle them before an explosion can happen. The townspeople believe Ned and Homer assaulted the children and the park suffers. Ned finally shuts down Praiseland, and Rachel (now wearing a wig to cover up the Maude hairstyle from earlier in the episode) returns to accept a date from Ned. The two of them get rid of Maude's imprint on the bed by tightening the sheets, and Homer muses that they're going to be just fine.
"I'm Goin' to Praiseland" was written by Julie Thacker and directed by Chuck Sheetz as part of the twelfth season of The Simpsons (2000–2001). The idea for Praiseland came from the Christian theme park Heritage USA that was built in Fort Mill, South Carolina in the 1970s. The gas leak that occurs in Praiseland in the episode is based on a real life event that has happened at Disney World. The bible gum product that is sold at Praiseland was real unbeknown to the writers, and, according to executive producer Mike Scully, they were sued by the owners of the company that produced the real product.
The episode marked the return of the character Rachel Jordan, who had previously appeared in the season eleven episode "Alone Again, Natura-Diddily" (2000). Rachel was guest voiced by American musician Shawn Colvin in both episodes. Colvin has told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that being raised in Carbondale, Illinois meant she did not have to do much research for the guest appearances: "It's just very isolated [in Carbondale]. There was church music and that was about it. [...] I didn't have to dig too deep for the role. I suppose the whole 'Simpsons' thing is kind of like a hick town."
The episode originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 6, 2001. On August 18, 2009, it was released on DVD as part of the box set The Simpsons – The Complete Twelfth Season. Staff members Mike Scully, Al Jean, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Carolyn Omine, Don Payne, Matt Selman, Tom Gammill, and Chuck Sheetz participated in the DVD audio commentary for the episode. Deleted scenes from the episode, including an alternate ending, were featured on the box set as well.
Critics have given "I'm Goin' to Praiseland" generally mixed reviews. DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson commented that "Given its theme, 'Praiseland' comes with a large risk of turning sappy. And it does! From its thin plot to its uninspired gags, the show never manages to get any legs under it. This is forgettable Simpsons." Nancy Basile of About.com wrote in her review that episode "was part touching, part creepy and part hysterical. Homer was his old self: His heart was in the right place, but he screwed up everything. I felt for Ned, but at the same time grimaced when he touched Maude's imprint on the bed. My only real complaint is the very end. The last few episodes [of the twelfth season] have had typical sitcom wrap-up lines."
- Scully, Mike (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "I'm Goin' to Praiseland" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Gammill, Tom (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "I'm Goin' to Praiseland" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Gilmore, Molly (2011-01-21). "Soloists join forces in Oly Shawn Colvin Loudon Wainwright III". The Olympian. p. 3.
- Jordan, Mark (2006-10-13). "Colvin is back, ready to move on -- Singer-songwriter deals with fame in the '90s, depression". The Commercial Appeal.
- McEntire, Mac (2009-09-09). "Buy The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season at Amazon The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
- Stout, Gene (2002-07-05). "A 'Whole New' Colvin Still Probes The Complexities Of Human Relationships". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. p. 10.
- Jacobson, Colin (2009-09-02). "The Simpsons: The Complete Twelfth Season (1999)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
- Alberti, John (2004). Leaving Springfield: The Simpsons and the Possibility of Oppositional Culture. Wayne State University Press. p. 324. ISBN 978-0-8143-2849-1.
- Lambert, David (2009-05-20). "The Simpsons - Season 12 Street Date, Detailed Contents & 'Comic Book Guy Head' Box". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2011-11-01.
- Basile, Nancy. "'The Simpsons' Episode Guide - Season Twelve". About.com. Retrieved 2011-11-02.
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- "I'm Goin' to Praiseland" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "I'm Goin' to Praiseland" at the Internet Movie Database