The Dad Who Knew Too Little
"The Dad Who Knew Too Little" is the eighth episode of the fourteenth season of the American animated television sitcom The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 12, 2003. In the episode, Homer disappoints Lisa on her birthday when he gives her a thoughtless present. He realizes that he knows little about her and decides to hire private detective Dexter Colt to spy on her. Colt compiles a report about Lisa that helps Homer bond with his daughter. However, Colt soon demands to be paid $1000, which Homer refuses. In retaliation, Colt vandalizes an animal research lab and steals all the animals, leaving behind several clues that implicate Lisa. Homer and Lisa go on the run as fugitives and end up at a circus, where they meet Colt. He tries to kill Homer, but Lisa saves him and Colt is arrested.
Bart and Lisa are watching television and they see a commercial for a personal diary, the Turbo Diary, which does not allow anyone but its owner to read it. If anyone else tries to open the diary, it gives that person an electric shock. Lisa, tired of Bart reading her diary, asks Homer and Marge to get her the Turbo Diary for her birthday and they agree. The next day, Homer and Bart go to the mall to get the diary for Lisa. Homer gets sidetracked and when they finally go to the toy store, all the diaries are sold out. On Lisa's birthday, Bart gives her a laser pointer. Homer gives Lisa a personalized film he made for her. She is disappointed that she did not get the diary she wanted, nevertheless she watches the film, which is a story about Lisa as a sheriff in a Western setting. The dialog in the film helps Lisa realize that Homer knows absolutely nothing about her. She runs upstairs crying, making Homer feel bad.
The next day, Homer gets an idea from Moe to hire Dexter Colt, a private detective, to find out facts about Lisa so he can appear to know things about her. Colt begins to spy on Lisa and build up information to produce a report. Using the report, Homer starts to bond with Lisa by playing the songs that she likes and going to a protest against animal testing at a research lab. Homer and Lisa's relationship is good again as she feels he does know her after all. Homer goes to see Dexter Colt to thank him for all his work. When Colt gives him a bill for $1000, Homer refuses to pay the incredible amount. Colt swears revenge as Homer runs off into the night.
The next morning, Lisa, Homer, and Bart are watching the news. They see that someone has vandalised the research lab and stolen all the animals. Chief Wiggum says that, based on the clues collected, Lisa Simpson is the main suspect. Lisa says she is innocent and Homer knows she has been framed by Colt. Homer and Lisa escape as a fugitives and disguise themselves. While on the run, Homer confesses about the report and Colt to Lisa, and she becomes angry with him once more. The police track Homer and Lisa to a motel but they escape again and find themselves at a circus. There they find all the stolen animals, and it seems Dexter sold them to the circus as a petting zoo and sideshow attractions. Colt shows up and chases Homer into a hall of mirrors. As Colt is about to kill Homer, Lisa shows up. Colt wonders how she heard them, and Homer says that Lisa's hearing is very good and that one day when she was very young, she had heard him quietly sobbing in the closet. Lisa, impressed that Homer actually remembered something about her, flashes Colt in the eye with the laser pointer that Bart gave her, temporarily blinding him. Later, Colt is arrested and Lisa is exonerated. During the closing credits, we see that Lisa finally got her diary. When she goes to sleep, Bart sneaks in steals the diary using a pair of tongs. While the house was shown, we hear Bart walking to Homer and asking him to read him a bedtime story. Homer accepts and asks Bart to give him the diary. He opens it and gets electrocuted as a result of being an unauthorized user. The episode ends with Bart laughing at his gullible father's excruciating pain and misery.
"The Dad Who Knew Too Little" was written by Matt Selman and directed by Mark Kirkland as part of the fourteenth season of The Simpsons (2002–03). American actor Elliott Gould guest starred in the episode as himself, appearing in the television show Padz that Bart and Lisa watch at the beginning of the episode. Padz, which is a parody of the reality show MTV Cribs, takes its viewers inside the luxurious homes of celebrities. The celebrity featured in the episode that Bart and Lisa watch is Krusty the Clown, and he is seen having a fight with his neighbor, Gould, whose son has been bitten by Krusty's tame chimp. Gould had been referenced in a previous episode of The Simpsons, in which it was revealed that he was Marge's hero when she was in high school. According to The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean, Gould wrote a letter to the producers of the show thanking them for the reference. This prompted them to ask him if he wanted to do a guest appearance in the series. When Gould assaults Krusty, he names his fists and feet Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice, a reference to the film of the same name that Gould starred in.
The Simpsons cast member Hank Azaria provided the voice of Dexter Colt, basing it on actor Robert Stack who has played several detectives and agents. Kirkland was enthusiastic about directing the episode as he enjoys film noir detective films and is a big fan of actor Humphrey Bogart, who has appeared in many films of the genre. Kirkland based the design of Colt on Robert Mitchum, who, in addition to being a film noir actor, played a detective in the 1991 film Cape Fear. A viewing of detective films from the film noir period was arranged by Kirkland for his animation crew so that they would get inspiration on how to animate the scenes featuring Colt, including how to design the environments and how to make Colt act.
The episode originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 12, 2003. It was viewed in approximately 7.6 million households that night. With a Nielsen rating of 7.1, the episode finished 39th in the ratings for the week of January 6–12, 2003 (tied with new episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and 48 Hours). It was the third highest-rated broadcast on Fox that week, following a National Football League playoffs game and an episode of Joe Millionaire. On December 6, 2011, "The Dad Who Knew Too Little" was released on Blu-ray and DVD as part of the box set The Simpsons – The Complete Fourteenth Season. Staff members Jean, Selman, Kirkland, Ian Maxtone-Graham, Carolyn Omine, Matt Warburton, and David Silverman, as well as cast member Yeardley Smith and former Simpsons guest star "Weird Al" Yankovic, participated in the audio commentary for the episode.
In February 2004, "The Dad Who Knew Too Little" won a Writers Guild of America Award in the "Animation" category for its script. Other nominations in that category included the Simpsons episodes "Moe Baby Blues" and "My Mother the Carjacker", both from 2003, and episodes of Futurama, King of the Hill, and The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius. "The Dad Who Knew Too Little" received a negative review from critic Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide. He wrote: "How many times will the series go to the 'Homer neglects Lisa and gets in trouble' well? Many, and the result is usually the same: mediocrity and sentimentality. 'Little' proves to be no less predictable than its brethren, though the private detective angle adds some mirth. Still, it’s an unexceptional episode that feels like one we’ve already seen many times."
Homer gives his email, email@example.com, to Dexter Colt in the episode so that they can keep contact. In an article for the technology section of the Time website, Selman wrote that he registered that email before the broadcast of the episode, thinking that "if anyone wanted to write an email to Homer, it would be fun to answer back." Once the episode had aired, he logged in to find that his inbox had reached its maximum 999-message limit. According to Selman, most messages "were of the simple, 'Who is this?' or 'Are U Matt Groening?' or 'LOL Homer Rulzzz LOL!' variety. But many people wrote long, thoughtful, attempting-to-be funny missives to [Homer]".
Selman responded to many of the messages in the character of Homer. He initially intended to answer them all, but gave up when he received even more messages after deleting some of the answered ones in his inbox. At first, Selman answered the messages individually, trying to come up with clever responses for each one. He then ran out of ideas and his answers started getting less clever, and eventually he would just copy a few responses and use them on all the messages. These responses were, according to Selman, written along the lines of "Dear Nerd, I didn’t even know the internet was on computers these days, let alone some kind of electric mail dealie. Please send all future letters (and beer) to: 642 Evergreen Terrace, Springfield USA then a zip code. Praise Jebus! —Homer Simpson." Selman would also occasionally just reply with a simple "d'oh!".
In 2008, Homer's email name "Chunkylover53" drew media attention after it had been used by hackers. Users of AOL Instant Messenger (AIM) who had added an account with the screen name Chunkylover53 to their contact list could see that the account had changed its status message to include a link and the text "click that and click RUN (or RUN from current location) or save to desktop and double click, it's a *new* internet-only exclusive Simpson's episode that is only being released to the internet fans! Enjoy!" The link led to an executable file (.exe) that installed a Trojan on the computers that ran the file. Rootkit software was installed on the infected computers, which were also deposited into a Turkish botnet, according to Christopher Boyd of Actiance's SpywareGuide. Selman has stated that he was not involved with the spreading of the malware, and Boyd wrote that "the AIM screen-name 'Chunkylover53' is not necessarily connected to the 'official' firstname.lastname@example.org email address – anyone could have set up that AIM screen-name, using whatever EMail address they feel like. However, people will naturally add 'Chunkylover53' to their AIM accounts thinking it will be the 'real' Homer."
- Simpsons World The Ultimate Episode Guide: Seasons 1–20. HarperCollins. 2010. pp. 667–711. ISBN 9780594045052.
- Selman, Matt (2011). Audio commentary for "The Dad Who Knew Too Little", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Valdivia, Victor (2011-12-22). "The Simpsons: The Fourteenth Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2012-08-21.
- Jean, Al (2011). Audio commentary for "The Dad Who Knew Too Little", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Kirkland, Mark (2011). Audio commentary for "The Dad Who Knew Too Little", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Associated Press (2003-01-16). "New hits make big ratings reality for ABC, FOX". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
- Lambert, David (2011-09-28). "The Simpsons - Finalized Box Art, Details and Extras for 'The Complete 14th Season' DVDs, Blu-rays". TVShowsOnDVD.com. Retrieved 2012-08-19.
- Jacobson, Colin (2011-12-16). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fourteenth Season [Blu-Ray] (2002)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2012-08-02.
- "Awards Winners". Writers Guild of America. Archived from the original on 2012-05-25. Retrieved 2009-04-28.
- "Writers Guild Award winners named". USA Today. 2004-02-23. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- "Simpsons scoop script nominations". BBC News. 2004-01-20. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- "Simpsons fans get e-mails from Homer". CBBC Newsround. 2003-01-30. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- Selman, Matt (2008-07-16). "Defending ChunkyLover53". Techland (Time). Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- Leyden, John (2008-07-14). "Homer Simpson's email address hacked". The Register. Retrieved 2012-08-27.
- Elliott, Amy-Mae (2011-01-26). "10 Fascinating Facts About E-mail". Mashable. Retrieved 2012-08-27.
- Mills, Elinor (2008-07-11). "Malware targets 'Simpsons' fans on AIM". CNET. Retrieved 2012-08-26.
- Boyd, Christopher (2008-07-11). "Homer Simpson and the Kimya Botnet". SpywareGuide (Actiance). Retrieved 2012-08-26.
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