Homer Goes to College
|"Homer Goes to College"|
|The Simpsons episode|
|Episode no.||Season 5|
|Directed by||Jim Reardon|
|Written by||Conan O'Brien|
|Original air date||October 14, 1993|
|Couch gag||The family sits on the couch, only to be squashed by the Foot of Cupid from Monty Python's Flying Circus.|
James L. Brooks
"Homer Goes to College" is the third episode of the fifth season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 14, 1993. In the episode, Homer causes a nuclear meltdown during a plant inspection and is required to study nuclear physics at college. When Homer neglects his studies, the college dean has three nerds tutor him. Homer enlists the nerds' help in playing a prank on a rival college, leading to their expulsion. Homer invites them to live with the Simpsons, who soon grow tired of their new housemates.
The episode was written by Conan O'Brien and directed by Jim Reardon. It 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 by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Homer is placed in a test module van that simulates a power surge. He has no idea what to do, so he pushes buttons at random and causes a nuclear meltdown, even though the van contains no nuclear material. Despite Mr. Burns' offer of a bribe, the NRC officials tell him that Homer's job requires college training in nuclear physics. After Homer is rejected by every school he applies to, Mr. Burns helps him enroll at Springfield University.
Homer neglects his studies, instead living his fantasies of college life gleaned from adolescent movies and TV shows. Thinking college life is full of pranks, partying and rigid deans, Homer insults Dean Peterson, thinking he is a crusty, old administrator — when in fact the young dean relates well to the students and is a former bass guitarist for The Pretenders.
Homer is asked to demonstrate how a proton accelerator works and causes a nuclear meltdown in class. Dean Peterson recommends Homer receive tutoring. When his tutors — three nerds named Benjamin, Doug, and Gary — try to help Homer understand physics, he refuses to cooperate. Instead, he and Bart convince them to pull a prank on rival college Springfield A&M University by kidnapping the school's mascot, a pig named Sir Oinkcelot. When the pig falls ill after Homer feeds it malt liquor, the nerds are blamed for the incident and expelled.
Homer invites them to move in with the Simpsons. Their presence quickly disrupts the normal family routine. When Marge orders Homer to evict them, he tries to get them re-admitted to college with an elaborate hoax: he will nearly run down Peterson with his car, but the nerds will push him from harm's way at the last moment. Homer hopes the dean will be so grateful to the nerds for saving his life that he will readmit them. The plan backfires after Homer's car actually hits the dean, seriously injuring him. At the hospital, Homer asks that Benjamin, Doug, and Gary be reinstated. The dean agrees and they move back into their old dormitory room.
The end of the semester is approaching and Homer is unprepared for his final exam, so the nerds help him cram for it. Despite his best effort, Homer slacks off and gets an F. The nerds hack into the school's student records and change his grade to an A+, but Marge finds out and forces Homer to take the course again to set a good example for Bart and Lisa. During the end credits, Homer's return to college is full of clichés: a food fight, phonebooth stuffing and fraternity hazing. Homer flashes the audience during his graduation ceremony.
"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. 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". 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.
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. 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.
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. 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.
The episode contains several references to the film Animal House, including the song "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen, which plays throughout the film. The couch gag with the huge pink foot squashing the Simpsons is a reference to The Foot of Cupid from the television series Monty Python's Flying Circus. The film Monty Python and the Holy Grail is also referenced when Benjamin, Doug, and Gary imitate the Knights who say Ni. They play Dungeons & Dragons, hold arguments over Star Trek, and their room number is 222, a reference to the television series Room 222. Homer has posters of Albert Einstein and W. C. Fields hanging on his wall. 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. A picture in the dorm showing 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. 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. Mr. Burns' escape pod resembles the one used by R2-D2 and C-3PO in the first Star Wars film. 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.
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." Thomas Rozwadowski of the Green Bay Press-Gazette listed Homer's line "Curly, straight. Curly, straight" whilst he torments the pig as "instantly memorable". In 2019, Consequence of Sound ranked it the top episode on its list of top 30 Simpsons episodes.
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?" 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.
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.
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.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Homer Goes to College". BBC. Retrieved 2008-04-12.
- Jean, Al. (2004). Commentary for "Cape Feare", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- O'Brien, Conan. (2004). Commentary for "Homer Goes to College", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- 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.
- Groening, Matt; Castellaneta, Dan; Jean, Al. (2004). Commentary for "Bart's Inner Child", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Readon, Jim. (2004). Commentary for "Homer Goes to College", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Richmond & Coffman 1997, p. 122.
- Turner 2004, p. 287.
- Chernoff, Scott (2007-07-24). "I Bent My Wookiee! Celebrating the Star Wars/Simpsons Connection". Star Wars.com. Archived from the original on April 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-04-22.
- Ditum, Nathan (June 6, 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Total Film. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- Rozwadowski, Thomas (2007-07-29). "Wanna be S-M-R-T? Take lessons from 'The Simpsons'". Green Bay Press-Gazette.
- "The Simpsons' Top 30 Episodes". Consequence of Sound. 2019-12-17. Retrieved 2019-12-27.
- Jacobson, Colin (2004-12-21). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season (1993)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-04-05.
- "The Simpsons' Writers Pick Their Favorite 'Itchy & Scratchy' Cartoons". Vulture. 2014-03-26. Retrieved 2014-03-27.
- The Associated Press (1993-10-21). "Nielsen Ratings/Oct. 11-17". Long Beach Press-Telegram.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia (eds.). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M.
- Turner, Chris (2004). Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation. Foreword by Douglas Coupland. (1st ed.). Toronto: Random House Canada. ISBN 978-0-679-31318-2. OCLC 55682258.
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