Homer's Triple Bypass
"Homer's Triple Bypass" is the eleventh episode of the fourth season of The Simpsons. It originally aired in the United States on December 17, 1992. In the episode, Homer Simpson suffers a heart attack when Mr. Burns shouts at him at work. Dr. Hibbert tells Homer that he needs a triple bypass, but the Simpson family resorts to a discount surgeon after learning how expensive the operation would be in a regular hospital. The episode was written by Gary Apple and Michael Carrington and directed by David Silverman.
After being warned by Marge about his unhealthy eating, Homer feels chest pains, which return the next morning. Marge offers him an oatmeal breakfast but he opts for eggs and bacon instead, then drives to work. On the drive, his chest pain worsens due to an incident of road rage, but he believes the irregular thumping to be the car transmission. He stops at a garage, where he is relieved when a mechanic tells him that it is probably his heart. At work, Mr. Burns yells at Homer for his poor performance and threatens him with dismissal. Homer has a heart attack, but regains consciousness after Burns tells Smithers to send a ham to Marge which then he cancels much to Homer's chagrin.
Homer is sent to the hospital, where Marge visits him after cutting coupons with Patty and Selma. Dr. Hibbert informs Homer that he needs a triple bypass, which will cost him $30,000. Upon hearing this, Homer has another heart attack, which increases the price to $40,000. While figuring out a way to pay for the operation, Marge asks Homer if he can use the health insurance that the nuclear plant provides, but Homer tells her that the workers gave up their health insurance for a pinball machine in the employee lounge. Homer then goes to The Merry Widow Insurance Company, but is denied when he has a heart attack before signing the policy. Unable to afford surgery at the hospital, Marge and Homer see a commercial for Dr. Nick Riviera, an incompetent surgeon who will perform any operation for $129.95. Leaving no other alternative, Homer decides to go for the cheaper service.
Just before surgery, Dr. Nick, unfamiliar with the procedure, rents an instructional video, but the important steps of the procedure have been taped over with a talk show called "People Who Look Like Things". During the operation, Dr. Nick realizes that he does not know what to do. Lisa, who is watching the operation in the amphitheater, uses her knowledge of cardiology to guide Dr. Nick. The surgery is successful, and Homer makes a full recovery.
"Homer's Triple Bypass" was not written by a member of the show's regular staff, but instead Gary Apple and Michael Carrington. They were brought in as freelance writers because the show was suffering from a depleted writing team after Season 3 ended and none of the remaining members wanted to do the episode. Neither Apple or Carrington wrote another episode, although the latter would provide voice work for later Simpsons episodes, such as "I Love Lisa" (as Sideshow Raheem), "Homer and Apu" (as the head of the Kwik-e-Mart), and "Simpson Tide" (as Homer's drill instructor). The idea for the episode came from James L. Brooks, who pitched the idea of Homer having a heart attack. However, the writers were uncomfortable with such a heavy topic as this. They decided to have a scene where Lisa and Bart visit Homer before his surgery and were unsure of how to do it, so they approached Brooks. Brooks made up the entire scene on the spot. Originally, the surgery was supposed to be performed by Dr. Hibbert, but it was later changed to Dr. Nick. In the original airing of the episode, Dr. Nick's phone number was the number of a real legal clinic, whose lawyers made them change it to 1-600-DOCTORB for subsequent airings.
The episode's production staff decided that David Silverman would be able to make the episode funny, so he was selected to direct it. He went "all out" and did his best to make Homer's grimaces as humorous as possible, to keep the episode at least somewhat lighter in tone. Silverman added some special touches: for example, when Homer has an out of body experience, his foot was still touching his body to signify that he was not dead. Mike Reiss' father, who is a doctor, acted as a medical consultant for the episode.
The episode was to have concluded with Homer eating a pizza in his hospital bed following the operation, and with Marge asking a nurse where the pizza had come from. This reflects the earlier flashback scene where Grampa Simpson watches Homer as an infant, chewing on a slice of pizza in the hospital. The scene was replaced with the family cheering Homer on while he is in intensive care.
The opening sequence of the episode is a parody of American television show COPS; it was not in the original animatic and added later because the episode was slightly too short to fit in its required 22-minute length. When Homer is performing a sock-puppet show to Lisa and Bart, he uses Akbar and Jeff, both of whom are characters from Matt Groening's weekly comic strip Life in Hell. Homer follows behind the house that was the birthplace of Edgar Allan Poe, which was placed in the episode by David Silverman. During this scene Homer starts to hear a heartbeat, a reference to Poe's "The Telltale Heart." The scene where Homer sings in a church as a boy is based on the film Empire of the Sun.
In its original broadcast, "Homer's Triple Bypass" finished 16th in ratings for the week of December 14-20, 1992, with a Nielsen rating of 14.3, equivalent to approximately 13.2 million viewing households. It was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, beating Married... with Children. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, authors of I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, called it "a cautionary tale that gives Dr Nick his biggest chance to shine." They also praised the "cloud goes up, cloud goes down" line. IGN noted that "The Simpsons episode, "Homer's Triple Bipass" [sic], introduced fans to one of the show's more endearing background players, Dr. Nick." Krusty's line "this ain't make-up" is one of Matt Groening's favorite lines from the show.
- "Homer's Triple Bypass". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-17.
- "Homer's Triple Bypass". BBC. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- Carrington, Michael (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Reiss, Mike (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Silverman, David (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- The Associated Press (December 24, 1992). "ABC's Arnolds rate high, but CBS is still no. 1". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
- Pirrello, Phil (November 30, 2007). "OCD: The Simpsons' Mr. McGreg". IGN. Retrieved 2008-02-18.
- Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons: The Complete Fourth Season Commentary for the Episode "Homer's Triple Bypass" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
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- "Homer's Triple Bypass" at The Simpsons.com
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