"Duffless" is the sixteenth episode of The Simpsons' fourth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 18, 1993. After getting arrested for drunk driving, Homer tries to remain sober, at Marge's request. Meanwhile, Lisa attempts to prove that Bart is less intelligent than a hamster after he ruins her first science fair project. It was written by David M. Stern, and directed by Jim Reardon. The episode received a positive reception.
Bart has a dream that he is at the school science fair presenting a Go-Go Ray. He zaps all the teachers, resulting in their dancing uncontrollably. Principal Skinner declares him the winner, but Bart wakes up realizing it was Lisa messing with him.
At breakfast, Lisa shows the family her science fair project, a steroid-enhanced tomato that she hopes will cure world hunger. Bart's project is to study the effects of cigarette smoking on dogs; his "volunteer" is Santa's Little Helper.
At the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant, Homer ducks out of work early and accompanies Barney on a tour of the Duff brewery. After the tour, Homer refuses to let the exceptionally drunk Barney drive home and forces him to hand over his keys. On their way out of the parking lot, their car is pulled over by Police Chief Wiggum, along with Eddie and Lou. They administer a breathalyzer test to Homer, which he fails. He is arrested, his license is revoked, and he must attend traffic school and Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
At school, three days before the science fair, Lisa leaves her super tomato under Bart's care for a moment and he takes the opportunity to hurl it at Skinner while he is bent over tying his shoe. When Lisa sees what Bart has done with her project, she is furious. Lisa appeals to Marge for help, who suggests she run a hamster through a maze. Lisa takes the idea to heart, but instead of just testing the intelligence of a rodent, she pits a hamster against an unknowing Bart to find out who is smarter. After two simple tests, the hamster leads two to zero.
In bed, Marge gives Homer a magazine quiz about his drinking. Hearing his answers, she asks him to give up beer for a month, to which he agrees. Homer tries not to think about beer while he rides Lisa's bike to work. After a series of severe temptations, Homer crashes the bike as hundreds of bottles of Duff parachuted down on him from a blimp.
Bart later discovers Lisa's plans to humiliate him at the science fair and preempts them with a project of his own, "Can hamsters fly planes?". Lisa tries to reason that his project has no scientific merit, but everyone ignores her. A cute hamster sitting in the cockpit of a miniature plane wins over Skinner and he hands Bart the winning ribbon, much to Lisa's dismay.
At Homer's Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, he is kicked out by Reverend Lovejoy after confessing that his desperation for the taste of beer led him to "sneak into the football stadium and eat the dirt underneath the bleachers". But he exhibits more positive changes such as losing weight, saving over $100 and no longer sweating while he eats. After thirty days of sobriety, Homer rushes back to Moe's, despite Marge asking him to stay home. However, after seeing how alcohol has ruined the lives of Barney and the other barflies, he turns around and goes home. Homer and Marge ride a bike into the sunset.
Bart's go-go ray idea was "stolen" from the opening credits of Johnny Quest. Mike Reiss said they did not want to show the hamster getting shocked but had to for plot purposes. The first line Richard Nixon says, during the Duff commercial, was taken verbatim from the Kennedy-Nixon Debate during the 1960 Presidential Campaign. Adolf Hitler's head, among other things, can be seen going by in bottles of Duff when the quality control man is not paying attention.
When Bart reaches for the cupcakes and collapses, it is a parody of a scene in A Clockwork Orange, where the main character Alex reaches for a woman's breasts. The Duff clock is a parody of the "It's a Small World" clock. In the Duff TV advertisement, a group of women were leading an anti-sexism protest in front of the McMahon and Tate building, a reference to the advertising agency from Bewitched. The scene toward the end where Moe points toward individual customers declaring they will "be back" before pointing toward and addressing the viewer (later revealed to be Barney via a cutaway) is a parody of the end of the film Reefer Madness. The final scene, where Homer and Marge cycle into the distance while "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" plays is a reference to the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Homer's song "It was a Very Good Beer" is sung to the tune of the 1961 song "It Was a Very Good Year"; one of its lyrics is Homer stating he stayed up and listened to the music of the British band Queen. Bart sitting in the chair, stroking the hamster is a reference to James Bond character Ernst Stavro Blofeld, who strokes a cat in his chair.
"Duffless" aired during February sweeps and finished 19th in the weekly ratings for the week of February 15–21, 1993 with a Nielsen rating of 15.2 and was viewed in 14.2 million homes. It was the highest rated show from the Fox Network that week.
The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood said, "A superb episode with a sincere message. Homer is excellent throughout, but it is the cameos by Principal Skinner and Edna Krabappel that steal the show, especially the latter's reaction to Milhouse's Slinky." Entertainment Weekly ranked the episode as number eleven on their list of the top twenty-five The Simpsons episodes.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (1993). "Duffless". BBC. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
- "Duffless". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- Reardon, Jim (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Duffless" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Reiss, Mike (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Duffless" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Stern, David M. (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Duffless" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2004). Commentary for "Duffless", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Duffless" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Stern, David (2004). The Simpsons The Complete Fourth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Selma's Choice" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Bates, James W.; Gimple, Scott M.; McCann, Jesse L.; Richmond, Ray; Seghers, Christine, eds. (2010). Simpsons World The Ultimate Episode Guide: Seasons 1–20 (1st ed.). Harper Collins Publishers. p. 1070. ISBN 978-0-00-738815-8.
- Associated Press (1993-02-25). "CBS wins its third ratings race in 'sweeps'". Press-Telegram. p. 4E.
- Associated Press (1993-02-24). "Nielsen Ratings/Jan. 15-21". Press-Telegram. p. C6.
- "The Family Dynamic". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-01-21.
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