"Dancin' Homer" is the fifth episode of The Simpsons' second season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 8, 1990. In the episode, Homer fires up the crowd at a Springfield Isotopes baseball game and is chosen to be the team's new mascot. He immediately becomes a popular attraction and the Isotopes start a winning streak. As a result, Homer is promoted to a team in Capital City, the Capital City Capitals. The Simpson family moves there, but Homer fails to enthrall the crowd, and the family returns home.
The episode was written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs and directed by Mark Kirkland. It was Kirkland's first directing role, and he has since directed many episodes. Singer Tony Bennett guest starred as himself and actor Tom Poston guest starred as the Capital City Capitals's mascot, the Capital City Goofball. Homer's chants are a reference to American baseball fan Wild Bill Hagy, who received fame for his chants at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 14.9, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
One night while drinking beer at Moe's Tavern, Homer tells the story of how he got his big break. He begins with the family attending "Nuclear Plant Employee, Spouses and No More Than Three Children Night" at the Springfield Isotopes baseball game at the Springfield minor league baseball stadium. At the game, Homer's hopes of letting loose at the ballpark are ruined when his boss Mr. Burns sits next to him. To Homer's surprise, Mr. Burns buys him several rounds of beer to show good company relations, and the two begin taunting the Isotopes together. The team is expected to lose their twenty-seventh consecutive game, reportedly the longest losing streak in professional baseball. However, when a drunk Homer fires up the crowd with an impromptu dance to the tune of "Baby Elephant Walk", the Isotopes win the game.
Homer is offered the job as team mascot of the Springfield Isotopes by the team's owner. He accepts, and because of his enthusiasm at the games, the Isotopes go on a winning streak. Homer is soon informed that he is going to be promoted to the "big leagues" in Capital City, where he will fill in for the Capital City Goofball as the mascot of the Capital City Capitals. The Simpson family pack up their things, say goodbye to their friends, and move to the big city. Homer's first performance becomes a disaster as his small-town routine flops before the big-city crowd, and he is booed off the field and promptly fired. Homer sadly finishes his story, only to find that Moe's regulars are very impressed with his tale.
The episode was written by Ken Levine and David Isaacs, and directed by Mark Kirkland. It was the first episode of The Simpsons Kirkland directed. He has since directed over 50 episodes. Executive producer James L. Brooks came up with the idea of the Moe's Tavern wraparounds at the beginning and the end of the episode. It was added because the writers did not know how to end the episode. Levine had worked as a minor league baseball announcer before the episode was produced so he was able to give directions to the animators on the characters' looks and ambiance of the episode.
Many of the new characters introduced in the episode were named after Levine's friends from his announcer career. The minor league announcer in the episode, that Levine voiced, was named Dan Hoard after his broadcasting partner in Syracuse, New York. The major league announcer was named Dave Glass after Levine's partner in Norfolk, Virginia, and the Capital City Capitals owner who fires Homer was named Dave Rosenfield after the general manager of the Tidewater Tides. The episode features a guest appearance by singer Tony Bennett, who was the first guest star to appear as himself on The Simpsons. Bennett appears in a scene in which the Simpson family meets him while taking a tour of Capital City. He also sings a song called "Capital City" over the closing credits. The lyrics and music of the song were written by Simpsons writer Jeff Martin. Tom Poston guest starred in the episode as the Capital City Goofball. The mascot has appeared in many episodes later on in the show, but he has only spoken once since "Dancin' Homer" and has been reduced to making minor background appearances. Ron Taylor was meant to reprise his role of Bleeding Gums Murphy, who he had played in the first season episode "Moaning Lisa", but was unable to record the part; Daryl L. Coley filled in for him.
"Dancin' Homer" was, together with "Old Money", selected for release in a video collection titled The Best of The Simpsons that was released May 3, 1994. In 2000, it was included on video collection of selected sports-themed episodes, titled: The Simpsons: On Your Marks, Get Set, D'oh!. Other episodes included in the collection set were "Faith Off", "The Homer They Fall", and "Lisa on Ice". The episode was again included in the 2004 DVD release of the On Your Marks, Get Set, D'oh! set. The episode was also included on The Simpsons season two DVD set, which was released on August 6, 2002. Levine, Isaacs, Kirkland, Mike Reiss, and Matt Groening participated in the DVD's audio commentary.
Homer's chants and his nickname "Dancin' Homer" is a reference to American baseball fan Wild Bill Hagy, who earned the nickname "The Roar from Thirty-Four" for his chants during the 1970s in section thirty-four at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium. Homer spells out Springfield just like Hagy spelled O-R-I-O-L-E-S with his arms. A drunk Homer performs his first dance to the 1961 tune "Baby Elephant Walk" written by Henry Mancini. Bleeding Gums Murphy makes a 26-minute-long performance of the "Star-Spangled Banner" at the game where Homer performs his first dance. Homer's line, "Today, as I leave for Capital City, I consider myself the luckiest mascot on the face of the earth" that he says in his farewell speech to the Springfield fans, is a reference to Lou Gehrig's farewell speech in the 1942 baseball film The Pride of the Yankees. The song "Capital City" that Bennett sings over the closing credits is a parody of the 1980 song "New York, New York".
In its original broadcast, "Dancin' Homer" finished twenty-fifth in the ratings for the week of November 5–11, 1990, with a Nielsen rating of 14.9, equivalent to approximately fourteen million viewing households. It was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week.
Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson said it was "probably the best episode" of the season, and commented that "Dancin' Homer" offered a "consistently satisfying show. Like the better episodes, it packed a lot of action into its twenty-three minutes, as Homer’s saga took on a near epic feeling. It also contained more wonderfully bizarre asides than usual at this point in the series’ run. From the Rastafarians who appear in the crowd when Homer performs 'Baby Elephant Walk', to the existence of the Players’ Ex-Wives section at the ballpark, the episode provided a fun and rich program." In a review of the second season, Bryce Wilson of Cinema Blend said "Dancin' Homer" felt "a bit flat", but "even in [its] lowest points, humor is easy to find." Dawn Taylor of The DVD Journal thought the best line of the episode was Homer's "Marge, this ticket doesn't just give me a seat. It also gives me the right — no, the duty — to make a complete ass of myself." Jeremy Kleinman of DVD Talk said lines from the episode such as "A Simpson on a T-shirt, I never thought I'd see the day" show a "humorous self-awareness of the emergence of The Simpsons as cultural phenomenon".
The episode was by Jerry Greene of the Orlando Sentinel named the third best episode of the show with a sports theme. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named it second best sports moment in the history of the show. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, wrote: "Understanding baseball isn't really a requirement for this episode, as the humor doesn't come from the games so much as the personalities. Tony Bennett's cameo is great, and Homer's dance has rightly become legendary."
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