Children of a Lesser Clod
"Children of a Lesser Clod" is the 20th episode of The Simpsons' twelfth season, first airing on the Fox network in the United States on May 13, 2001. In the episode, after spraining his knee during a basketball game, Homer begins taking care of the neighborhood kids to cure his boredom, prompting jealousy from Bart and Lisa, who feel that Homer is giving the kids the attention they never had.
The family goes to the YMCA to attend one-time-only free classes, along with many other Springfieldians who admit they will never return to the YMCA and pay for any of the regular classes. Lisa takes gymnastics (and gets yelled at by the Russian coach for being too old), Bart gets tricked into taking an etiquette class by a black man dressed as a gangsta rapper (who happens to be the husband of the prim and proper etiquette teacher), and Homer participates in a basketball class for men over the age of 35, but suffers a torn ACL after a dunk attempt ends with the backboard crashing down on his leg. After Homer gets his surgery, he is told by Dr. Hibbert that he cannot go to work, and he must stay home. Homer finds himself extremely bored, even going so far as attempting to cross-breed Santa's Little Helper and Snowball II. One evening, Ned wants Marge to watch Rod and Todd while he attends a Chris Rock concert (that he misinterprets to be an abbreviation for a christian rock concert and after is surprised by the language), but Marge is out identifying the body of her Uncle Lou (which ends up being a very much alive Hans Moleman, although the morgue attendant seems convinced that he is dead) so Ned asks Homer instead. The kids like having Homer take care of them, which allows Homer to establish his own day care center.
Homer starts a day care center (under Marge's ownership), "Uncle Homer's Day Care Center", to entertain himself, but makes Bart and Lisa feel like outcasts by ignoring them, giving Bart's jacket to Milhouse, forcing them out of their bedrooms for a film crew that is making a documentary about him, and having them work long hours at night to cut out felt hearts in his honor. The daycare center is wildly successful, and Homer earns a nomination for the "Good Guy Awards" ceremony. For the ceremony, Bart and Lisa splice in home movie footage of Homer at his worst (passed out on the floor drunk and almost naked during Christmas, losing Maggie in a poker game, and chasing Bart down the street while wielding a flail) to prove to everyone that Homer is a bad father and a worse person. The audience becomes outraged and Homer angrily strangles Bart on stage. Everyone in the audience becomes horrified by Homer's behavior, and decide to prevent their kids from being watched over by him. Homer escapes from the ceremony with all the kids in a van, until he crashes the van into a tree, and tries to escape before Chief Wiggum stops him. After three mistrials, Homer apologizes to Bart and Lisa for neglecting them, and promises to care for his own children (including the perpetually ignored Maggie) instead of the neighborhood kids. The family then helps themselves to the craft table, which the teamsters left behind in their house but are supposedly picking up later that day.
"Children of a Lesser Clod" was written by Al Jean and directed by Michael Polcino. Jean initially had multiple different storylines including Homer getting hurt, before he eventually pitched them all into this episode. During production, the staff members looks for an actual NBA player to appear with a shot gun during the first act, but the no player accepted the role. The line when Milhouse says he knows Bart's dad better than Bart knows him is a reference to based on a real life experience of producer Mike Reiss. During production the animators need Ralph to get off screen for a two shot so they decided that Ralph followed a butterfly.
This episode was advertised as featuring Ron Howard, in what would have been his third appearance on The Simpsons (his first two appearances can be found in Season Ten's "When You Dish Upon a Star", and Season Eleven's "Hello Gutter, Hello Fadder"). Originally, the third act involved Homer getting all the kids in Howard's latest film, an Gladiator–like picture, hence the original title of the episode being "The Kids Stay In The Picture" (a play on the title of producer Robert Evans' The Kid Stays in the Picture).
However, Ron Howard did not appear in this episode (in fact, no guest voices were used at all in this episode). The third act was about Homer winning the Good Guy Award, for caring for the neighbourhood kids. However, this was all until his own children show him as an unfit father.
When Homer puts his daycare permit in the picture frame Bart and Lisa gave him was based on a real life experience of former writer Dana Gould in which he gave his parents a newspaper article about him winning a Boston comedy competition and later found out that it was replaced by Larry Bird dunking butterfingers. The third act did not initially include a police car chase and it was placed in after the table read. The scratches in Homer's day-care video were added to the animation in post-production.
The title is a spoof of the play Children of a Lesser God and the 1986 film based upon it. The episode features the original basket for basketball. Professor Frink's use of "Flubber" alludes to the 1997 film of the same name, and also references a scene from the film in which the main character (played by Robin Williams) jumps around a basketball court with the aid of Flubber-coated shoes. A reference of George Jetson was used in this episode while Homer hallucinates about taking a basketball shot in space. He even says "Jetson!" the way Mr. Spacely does. Lugash is a parody of Béla Károlyi.
A short segment of the episode features Bill Cosby asking a child on his show Kids Say the Darndest Things about games he likes to play, to which the child promptly replies "Pokémon!" Cosby begins incoherently rambling about what Pokémon is whilst flapping his ears. This is a parodied mannerism of Cosby's that is often used on the show. Another similar gag was used in the episode "Helter Shelter". In this episode Pokémon is incorrectly pronounced "Pok-ee-mon". This is the second time Cosby has been parodied on The Simpsons. The first was "Round Springfield".
This sequence involving Bill Cosby's exaggerated mannerisms from this and other episodes on The Simpsons (as well as the Family Guy episode "Brian Does Hollywood") became an internet meme when many parodies on these particular segments became internet memes in their own right, especially on YouTube and YTMND.
A scene in the episode where Homer's festering scab wound heals over Ralph's hand in a close up was negatively received by fans. During the getaway scene, Ralph asks Homer "where are you taking us?", Homer replies "for some frosty chocolate milkshakes!" This is a reference to one of Homer's old taglines from the shorts and Season 1.
Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie Guide gave this episode a mixed review, saying "When Bart and Lisa team up to pursue a goal, the result usually succeeds. And that’s true for “Clod” – at least to a moderate degree. Like most Season 12 episodes, the program doesn’t become truly delightful, but it does more right than wrong, so it ends up as a decent success."
- Jean, Al (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Children of a Lesser Clod" (DVD). 20th Century Fox. Cite error: Invalid
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- "Children of a Lesser Clod". simpsonsarchive.com. 13 May 2001.
- Selman, Matt (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Children of a Lesser Clod" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Ahrens, Frank (July 30, 2006). "A Home For Quick Hits". Washington Post.
- ????, ???? (2009). The Simpsons Complete Twelfth Season DVD Commentary for the episode "Children of a Lesser Clod" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
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