The Otto Show
"The Otto Show" is the twenty-second episode of The Simpsons' third season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on April 23, 1992. In the episode, Bart decides that he wants to become a rock star after attending a Spinal Tap concert, so Homer and Marge buy him a guitar. He shows the guitar to Otto the bus driver, who plays it and consequently makes the children late for school. Racing to Springfield Elementary, Otto crashes the school bus and is suspended until he can get his license back. Bart, who respects Otto, invites him to move in with the Simpson family.
The episode was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Wes Archer. It was the first episode of the show to feature Otto Mann in a prominent role. "The Otto Show" features an appearance from Spinal Tap, a parody band that first appeared in the 1984 mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap. The episode guest stars Michael McKean as David St. Hubbins and Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel. Harry Shearer, who is a regular Simpsons cast member, also starred in This Is Spinal Tap and reprises his role as Derek Smalls.
In its original airing on the Fox Network, the episode had an 11.5 Nielsen rating and finished the week ranked 41st. The episode received positive reviews and Spinal Tap was ranked as the 18th best guest appearance on the show by IGN.
Bart and Milhouse attend a Spinal Tap concert, which degenerates into a riot. Nonetheless, Bart is impressed by the band and wants to become a rock guitarist. Homer and Marge decide to buy Bart his own electric guitar, but he finds it impossible to play. The next morning on the school bus, Bart tells Otto he thinks his guitar is broken, but Otto wows his passengers with an impromptu concert. The performance meant that they are now late for school, so Otto is forced to drive recklessly to get there in time. The bus causes numerous incidents before turning over onto its side in the town square, where it also smashes into the statue of Jebediah Springfield, breaking off its head.
When Officer Lou asks for Otto's driver's license, Otto is forced to admit he does not have a license. He is suspended without pay, and Principal Skinner takes over his route. However, Skinner finds driving the bus hard going, being a less aggressive driver than Otto, and ends up being trapped at a busy intersection for an entire day. Otto, meanwhile, goes to the Springfield DMV but he fails the driver's test that is administered by Marge's sister Patty. He is also unable to find a new job, and therefore cannot pay his rent and is evicted from his apartment. Bart finds him living in a Trash Co. Waste Disposal Unit, and agrees to let him live in the Simpsons' garage. Homer and Marge disapprove of this but reluctantly agree to let him stay.
Otto quickly makes a nuisance of himself. Homer begins to lose patience with Otto and demands that he be sent on his way. Marge and Bart encourage him to give the driving test one last try. Otto goes to the DMV to take the test again, angry that Homer called him a "sponge". Patty refuses to let him take the test after a comment he made about her being born a man. However, when Otto tells her that he wants to pass so he can prove Homer wrong, she relents out of spite for her brother-in-law. Otto performs even worse in his second test, but Patty grants Otto his license anyway after he entertains her with stories of Homer's crude behavior. Now a properly licensed driver (albeit under probationary status), Otto regains his job.
"The Otto Show" was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Wes Archer. The episode's title is a pun on auto show. The episode was the first to feature bus driver Otto Mann in a prominent role. Otto's full name is revealed for the first time. Writers Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky had originally wanted to name him Otto Mechanic, but the animators gave him the last name Mann.
"The Otto Show" features an appearance from Spinal Tap, a parody band that first appeared in the 1984 mockumentary film This Is Spinal Tap. The episode guest stars Michael McKean as David St. Hubbins and Christopher Guest as Nigel Tufnel. Harry Shearer, who is a regular Simpsons cast member, also starred in This Is Spinal Tap and reprises his role as Derek Smalls, the third member of the group. The episode follows the approach of the film by presenting the band as if they were a real group. According to executive producer Al Jean, the executives at Fox were unhappy about having the band guest star, partially because it cost a lot of money to purchase rights to play their songs. Mike Reiss said that Fox felt that the show could have gotten a "real group" for that amount of money. The animators gave many of the members of the crowd at the Spinal Tap concert long bangs, so they would not have to animate many pairs of eyes. In the final scene to feature the band, their tour bus bursts into flames after being knocked off the road. According to the writers, the scene was not in the original script and was added because they felt the band's final scene was not interesting enough.
When Homer puts on an old jacket he finds a can of Billy Beer in one of the pockets. While waiting in the car during the Spinal Tap concert (as well as the ensuing riot), Homer sings along to the song "Spanish Flea" by Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. The writers had a difficult time getting the rights to the song, but a writer who is related to a member of the band was able to get the rights at the last minute. Homer also hums along to Summer Samba at a later segment in the car. Homer makes a comment on their situation with Otto, saying "This is not Happy Days and he is not The Fonz!" Otto then walks in and says to Homer, "Heeeeeyy, Mr. S," in reference to the long-running situation comedy. The song Otto plays on the school bus is "Free Bird" by Lynyrd Skynyrd. Otto's statement that he would prefer to be sleeping in a Dumpster brand trash container over a "Trash Co. Waste Disposal Unit" alludes to the word's status as a registered trademark for a brand of large trash containers.
In its original airing on the Fox Network, the episode had an 11.5 Nielsen rating and was viewed in approximately 10.59 million homes. It finished the week of April 20–26, 1992 ranked 41st, down from the season's average rank of 35th. The Simpsons was the fourth highest rated show on Fox that week after Married... with Children, Beverly Hills, 90210 and In Living Color.
The episode, like the whole of the third season, received mostly positive reviews from critics. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, wrote, "A nice episode for Otto and some great moments for Skinner as he tries to drive the bus, but especially memorable for Homer's moment of forgetfulness after the concert. Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer reprise their roles from This Is Spinal Tap perfectly." MovieFreak.com's Dennis Landmann named "The Otto Show" as one of the stand-out episodes from the third season. Nate Meyers of Digitally Obsessed was also positive about the episode, giving it a rating of five donuts out of five and writing "The writing is at full throttle here, cramming tons of jokes into the episode's 20-minute runtime with stunning success." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson wrote that it was "another solid episode. Actually, it regresses somewhat from the high quality of its predecessors. The Spinal Tap material feels somewhat tacky – it was a tie-in with their then-current attempt to sell a new album – and Otto's not a strong character. I don’t think the series ever made him the lead again, and he works best in small doses. "Otto: remains very good, but it doesn’t compete with the year’s best shows.""
Especially the guest appearance of Spinal Tap was noticed. Bryce Wilson, in his review of the third season for Cinema Blend, wrote "Simpson’s voice actor Harry Shearer...reunites Spinal Tap just for "The Otto Show", an episode full of the trademark Tap banter and stage disasters that rival even the mighty 18 inch Stonehenge." IGN named Spinal Tap as the '18th best guest stars' in the show's history for this episode. Andrew Martin of Prefix Mag named Spinal Tap his favorite musical guests on The Simpsons out of a list of ten.
- 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. 87.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "The Simpsons: Season Three Episode Guide – Otto Show". BBC. Retrieved 2010-03-22.
- Martin, Jeff. (2003). Commentary for "The Otto Show", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Reiss, Mike. (2003). Commentary for "The Otto Show", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Plume, Kenneth (2000-02-10). "Interview with Harry Shearer (Part 2 of 4)". IGN. Retrieved 2010-03-22.
- Jean, Al. (2003). Commentary for "The Otto Show", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Archer, Wes. (2003). Commentary for "The Otto Show", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt. (2003). Commentary for "The Otto Show", in The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- The Associated Press (1992-04-29). "Nielsen Ratings/April 20–26". Long Beach Press-Telegram.
- Landmann, Dennis (2003-09-23). ""The Simpsons – Season 3" DVD Review". MovieFreak.com. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
- Meyers, Nate (2004-06-23). "dOc DVD Review: The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season (1991–92)". Digitally Obsessed. Retrieved 2009-08-18.
- Jacobson, Colin (2003-08-21). "The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season (1991)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2010-03-22.
- "Movie DVD for The Simpsons: The Complete Third Season". Cinema Blend. 2004-06-18. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
- Goldman, Eric; Iverson, Dan; Zoromski, Brian. "IGN: Top 25 Simpsons Guest Appearances". IGN. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
- Martin, Andrew (2011-10-07). "Top 10 Best Musical Guests On 'The Simpsons'". Prefix Mag. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
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- "The Otto Show" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "The Otto Show" at The Simpsons.com
- "The Otto Show" profile at the Internet Movie Database
- "The Otto Show" at TV.com
- "The Otto Show" profile at ign.com