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Homer Goes to College

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"Homer Goes to College"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no.Season 5
Episode 3
Directed byJim Reardon
Written byConan O'Brien
Production code1F02
Original air dateOctober 14, 1993[1]
Episode features
Couch gagThe family sits on the couch, only to be squashed by the giant foot from Monty Python's Flying Circus.[1]
CommentaryMatt Groening
James L. Brooks
David Mirkin
Conan O'Brien
Jim Reardon
David Silverman
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Cape Feare"
Next →
The Simpsons (season 5)
List of The Simpsons episodes

"Homer Goes to College" is the third episode of The Simpsons' fifth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 14, 1993. In the episode, Homer's lack of a college degree is revealed and he is sent to Springfield University to pass a nuclear physics class. Homer, who bases his perception of college on comedy films and TV shows, goofs around and is sent to a group of boys for tutoring. The boys, who are stereotypical nerds, try to help Homer, but he instead tries to help them party and decides to pull a prank on another college. They steal Springfield A&M's mascot, but his friends are caught and expelled. Homer invites them to live with him, but his family soon become angered by their new housemates.

"Homer Goes to College" was directed by Jim Reardon and was the final episode of the show for which Conan O'Brien received sole writing credit. O'Brien would leave the series halfway through the production of the season to host his own show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien. He had been working on this episode when he was informed that he had received the job and was forced to walk out on his contract.

The episode contains several references to the film Animal House as well as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Star Trek and the song "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen, which plays during the end credits. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 11.3, and it was tied with Beverly Hills, 90210 as the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.


During an inspection of the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Homer is placed in a test module van that simulates an emergency. He is not sure what to do and starts pressing buttons at random, somehow causing a nuclear meltdown even though there was no nuclear material inside the van. The NRC officials tell Mr. Burns that Homer's job requires college training in nuclear physics, and that he must go back to college to keep his job. Homer is rejected by every college he applies to, but Mr. Burns helps him get into Springfield University.

Homer fails to do his studies, by instead focusing on his preconceived notions of college life through adolescent movies and TV shows, such as the fictional The School of Hard Knockers, which stereotype college life as pranks, partying and rigid deans. Homer insults the college dean, Dean Peterson, believing him to be a crusty, conservative administrator. In reality, the dean relates well with the students and is relatively young. Homer acts like a know-it-all in class and is asked to demonstrate how a proton accelerator operates; consequently, he causes a nuclear meltdown in class. Peterson takes him aside and recommends hiring a tutor. The tutors turn out to be three nerds named Benjamin, Doug, and Gary. They all try to help Homer understand the material from his physics course, but he refuses to cooperate. Instead, he helps them gain social skills by pulling a prank on rival college Springfield A&M University. The prank involves kidnapping the other school's mascot, a pig named Sir Oinks-a-lot. However, Homer causes the pig to weaken after feeding it malt liquor, and Benjamin, Doug, and Gary are blamed for the incident.

Dean Peterson is forced to expel the nerds, and a remorseful Homer immediately invites them to move in with his family. However, their presence quickly disrupts the normal family routine, and Marge orders Homer to evict them, leading him to try to get the three re-admitted to the college. Homer's plan involves an attempt to run down Peterson with his car, but have the nerds push Peterson out of the way at the last moment, with the hope that Peterson would readmit the nerds out of gratitude for saving his life. But the plan backfires, and Homer winds up running down the dean, seriously injuring him. At the hospital, Homer admits he must be punished for the pranks, and asks that Benjamin, Doug, and Gary be reinstated. The dean agrees to reinstate them and forgives Homer, agreeing to forget everything that has happened. The nerds thank Homer for his assistance and move back into their old dormitory room.

Unfortunately, having been preoccupied with the nerd situation, Homer is not prepared for his final exam. The nerds say the only way to pass is to cram for the final exam, which they help him do. However, despite Homer's best attempts, he gets an F. To Homer's delight, the nerds hack into the school's student records and change his grade to an A+, but unfortunately, Marge finds out and forces Homer to take the course again in order to set a good example for Bart and Lisa. Homer's next college experience is shown during the end credits, with college clichés such as hazing by a fraternity, phonebooth stuffing, a food fight, and finally his graduation ceremony where Homer flashes the audience.


"Homer Goes to College" was the final episode of the show for which Conan O'Brien received a sole writing credit.

"Homer Goes to College" was the final episode of the show for which Conan O'Brien received sole writing credit; his final writing credit altogether was for the episode "Treehouse of Horror IV", which he co-wrote with five other writers. O'Brien would leave the series halfway through the production of the season to host his own show, Late Night with Conan O'Brien on NBC. O'Brien was informed that he had been hired by NBC not long before the recording session for this episode began, and he was forced to walk out on his contract.[2][3] The concept of the episode was that Homer attends college, but bases his entire understanding of what college is on "bad Animal House rip-off movies".[3] O'Brien mentioned in the DVD commentary that the antics of the characters Benjamin, Doug, and Gary were based on three "incredible nerds" who lived in the same college dormitory as O'Brien.[3]

The Fox Network executives had wanted the season premiere to be "Homer Goes to College" because it was an Animal House parody. However, the writers felt that "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" would be a better episode because of George Harrison's involvement.[4] During the episode, Homer sings "I am so smart! S-M-R-T... I mean S-M-A-R-T!" while he lights his high school diploma (and the house) on fire. During the recording session, Dan Castellaneta was singing the song and accidentally misspelled "smart". The writers decided that it was much funnier that way, because it seemed like something Homer Simpson would do, so they left the apparent joke in. The song has since become a fan favorite.[5]

Jim Reardon directed the episode and has noted he remembers the episode for several scenes in which the action is viewed through windows, such as when Homer prank calls the dean.[6] The animators were short on time, so for the design of Gary they took an earlier drawing of director Rich Moore and made him African-American.[6]

Cultural references[edit]

Homer has a poster of comedian W. C. Fields

The episode contains several references to the film Animal House, including the song "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen, which plays throughout the film.[1] The couch gag with the huge pink foot squashing the Simpsons is a reference to The Foot of Cupid of the television series Monty Python's Flying Circus.[1] The film Monty Python and the Holy Grail is also referenced when Benjamin, Doug, and Gary imitate the Knights who say Ni.[3] They play Dungeons & Dragons, hold arguments over Star Trek, and their room number is 222, a reference to the television series Room 222.[7] Homer has posters of Albert Einstein and W. C. Fields.[7] Bart scratching the chalkboard to get everyone's attention is a reference to the film Jaws. The episode contains the first reference to the Internet on The Simpsons, as "computer signals" being sent between the Nerds and MIT.[8] A picture in the dorm shows four men wearing silver dome hats resembles the '80s new wave band Devo. The phrases the nerds say when Homer greets them ("Intruder Alert", and "Stop the Humanoid!") are from the 1980 arcade game Berzerk.

Mr. Burns asks Homer to "find the jade monkey" in a reference to the film The Maltese Falcon.[1] He also offers the nuclear inspectors a washer and dryer or the contents of a mysterious box, which parodies the gameshow Let's Make a Deal.[7] Mr. Burns' escape pod resembles the one used by R2-D2 and C-3PO in the first Star Wars film.[9] Mr. Burns tries to get Homer into college by using violence and hitting one of the members of the admissions committee with a baseball bat, a reference to the film The Untouchables.[10]


In its original broadcast, "Homer Goes to College" finished 44th in ratings for the week of October 11 to October 17, 1993, with a Nielsen rating of 11.3, and was viewed in 10.5 million households. It was tied with Beverly Hills, 90210 as the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week.[11]

The episode has received mostly positive reviews from television 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, "Homer at his most excruciatingly stupid in another superb episode — his attitude to the college's 'stuffy old dean' (who was, in fact, bassist for The Pretenders) is a joy."[1] Thomas Rozwadowski of the Green Bay Press-Gazette listed Homer's line "Curly, straight. Curly, straight" whilst he torments the pig as "instantly memorable".[12]

DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson commented that it did not "quite live up to its two predecessors "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" and "Cape Feare" this year, but it remains a strong show nonetheless. Actually, it starts a little slowly but builds steam along the way. It includes some classic moments of a Homer idiocy — hard to beat him chasing squirrels with a stick — and one of the better visual gags via Burns’ chair. Who can dislike a show in which Richard Nixon threatens Homer due to a drunken pig?"[13] The episode's reference to The Untouchables was named the 13th greatest film reference in the history of the show by Total Film's Nathan Ditum.[10]

In 2014, The Simpsons writers picked "Burning Down the Mouse" from this episode as one of their nine favorite "Itchy & Scratchy" episodes of all time.[14]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Homer Goes to College". BBC. Retrieved 2008-04-12.
  2. ^ Jean, Al. (2004). Commentary for "Cape Feare", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  3. ^ a b c d O'Brien, Conan. (2004). Commentary for "Homer Goes to College", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  4. ^ Groening, Matt; Reiss, Mike; Jean, Al; Martin, Jeff; Azaria, Hank; Lovitz, Jon; Kirkland, Mark. (2004). Commentary for "Homer's Barbershop Quartet", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ Groening, Matt; Castellaneta, Dan; Jean, Al. (2004). Commentary for "Bart's Inner Child", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  6. ^ a b Readon, Jim. (2004). Commentary for "Homer Goes to College", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
  7. ^ a b c Richmond & Coffman 1997, p. 122.
  8. ^ Turner 2004, p. 287.
  9. ^ Chernoff, Scott (2007-07-24). "I Bent My Wookiee! Celebrating the Star Wars/Simpsons Connection". Star Archived from the original on April 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
  10. ^ a b Ditum, Nathan (June 6, 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Total Film. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
  11. ^ The Associated Press (1993-10-21). "Nielsen Ratings/Oct. 11-17". Long Beach Press-Telegram.
  12. ^ Rozwadowski, Thomas (2007-07-29). "Wanna be S-M-R-T? Take lessons from 'The Simpsons'". Green Bay Press-Gazette.
  13. ^ Jacobson, Colin (2004-12-21). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season (1993)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
  14. ^ "The Simpsons' Writers Pick Their Favorite 'Itchy & Scratchy' Cartoons". Vulture. 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2014-03-27.

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