Homer Loves Flanders
"Homer Loves Flanders" is the sixteenth episode of The Simpsons' fifth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 17, 1994. In the episode, Ned Flanders invites Homer to a football game and the two become good friends. However, Ned soon grows weary of Homer's overbearing friendship and stupid antics, and begins to hate him.
The episode was written by David Richardson and directed by Wesley Archer. It was the last episode to be pitched by writer Conan O'Brien before he left The Simpsons. The episode features cultural references to films such as Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Deadly Tower, and The Ten Commandments, and songs such as "Two Tickets to Paradise", "Macho Man", and "Helter Skelter". Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 10.9, and was the third highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
Homer is distraught when he is unable to acquire tickets for an upcoming football game involving the Springfield Atoms. When Ned Flanders wins two tickets to the game on a radio competition, he invites Homer as his guest. Though reluctant because of his dislike of Flanders, Homer is desperate to attend the game and accepts. Ned pays for all the food and even gets the winning quarterback, Stan "The Boy" Taylor, to give the game ball to Homer. Overwhelmed by Ned's generosity and no longer ashamed to be associated with him, Homer becomes friends with Ned and his family. Homer begins acting overly grateful and annoys Ned and his family to no end by interrupting their family time together. The situation is not helped after Homer follows Ned to a homeless shelter for charity work; Homer becomes bored with Ned's slowly dishing soup for the homeless and takes over, however his impatience is mistaken for generosity by a newspaper photographer, and the resulting article declares Homer a hero. Homer's popularity with the townspeople surges and eclipses Ned's reputation. The Flanders family and the Simpson family go on a camping trip, but the families do not get along. When the Simpsons initiate a food fight, Ned later tells his wife that he has grown to hate Homer.
Upon returning home, Homer remains oblivious to Ned's animosity. He arrives at the Flanders's house expecting to play golf, but Flanders and his family get in their car and race off without him. Pulled over by Chief Wiggum for speeding, Ned takes a sobriety test as disapproving townspeople watch, and his good name is destroyed after Wiggum announces that Ned is "high as a kite" (even though he simply fell over). At church, when the entire congregation bow their heads in prayer, Homer inhales very loudly through his nose, causing Ned to finally snap and yell at Homer. This alarms the congregation who denounce Flanders as bitter and jealous, but nevertheless, Homer sticks up for Ned and everyone apologizes to him for not getting the full story and misjudging him. Ned is touched at Homer for sticking up for him and the two reconcile their friendship.
Shocked, Lisa and Bart, thinking that everything would be back to normal by now, consider that this may be the end of their wacky adventures. However, the following week, Homer once again hates Ned and everything is back to normal, much to Lisa and Bart's relief. The family then spends the night in a haunted house (which formerly belonged to Homer's Great Uncle Boris), and are heard screaming after the lights go out.
"Homer Loves Flanders" was the last episode to be pitched by Conan O'Brien before he left The Simpsons. David Richardson was assigned to write it, and Wesley Archer to direct it. Richardson wrote the episode at a Motel 6 in Hemet, California while he was dating an actress who was shooting a film there. In this season, the staff wanted to take a deeper look at the relationships of the characters. One of the things they wanted to explore in particular was what Homer and Flanders have in common and how they could turn into friends. Former show runner David Mirkin enjoyed making Homer and Flanders get along because they do not normally act that way.
The episode begins with the Simpson family watching a news broadcast in which the news anchor Kent Brockman calls the United States Army a "kill-bot factory". Mirkin said this was a joke the staff "particularly loved to do" because it pointed out how negative and mean-spirited news broadcasts can be, and how they are seemingly "always trying to scare everybody" by creating panic and depression. In one scene in the episode, Marge begins hallucinating after drinking from Springfield's water supply, which has been spiked with LSD by Springfield's rival town, Shelbyville. The Fox network's censors wanted the scene to be cut from the episode because they did not like the idea of Marge "getting high" on LSD. Mirkin, however, defended the scene and argued Marge was not "doing it on purpose", so the censors ultimately allowed the scene to remain in the episode. In another scene, Homer becomes frustrated at God for not getting the tickets to the game, so yells at a waffle stuck to the ceiling that he believes is God. Marge points out to him, however, that it is just a waffle that Bart threw up there. This scene, inspired by some melted caramel stuck to the ceiling of the Simpsons writers' room, is one of Mirkin's and Richardson's "all time favorite" jokes.
When Homer hears the 1978 song "Two Tickets to Paradise" by Eddie Money on the radio, he sings along and plays air guitar. As Homer is eating nachos at the football game, he makes up a song called "Nacho Man", a reference to Village People's 1978 song "Macho Man". When Flanders is mistakenly arrested for taking drugs, Chief Wiggum asks him "Where's your Messiah now?", a line commonly mistakenly believed to be spoken by Edward G. Robinson's character Dathan in the 1956 film The Ten Commandments but in fact originates from Billy Crystal's stand-up impersonation of Robinson. Ned's dream involves him shooting at people inside the university clock tower based on the 1975 movie The Deadly Tower, itself based on Charles Whitman's 1966 killing spree. The scene where Homer chases Flanders's car is a parallel of the sequence in Terminator 2: Judgment Day, in which Robert Patrick's character T-1000 chases the heroes in the police car after escaping from the hospital. When Rod and Todd are watching television in the Flanders's living room, a picture of Leonardo da Vinci's painting The Last Supper can be seen behind them. The homeless shelter that Homer and Flanders visit is called Helter Shelter, a reference to the 1968 song "Helter Skelter" by The Beatles.
In its original American broadcast, "Homer Loves Flanders" finished 43rd in the ratings for the week of March 14–20, 1994, with a Nielsen rating of 10.9. The episode was the third highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place.
Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. In 2007, Patrick Enright of MSNBC called the episode his eighth favorite of the show. He praised the references to Terminator 2 in the episode, as well as Lisa's self-referential quote about how, "by next week, we'll be back to where we started from, ready for another wacky adventure." The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, thought the episode had "some great existential musings" from Lisa. They added that it also "contains some nice moments highlighting the differences between the Simpsons and the Flanders." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson said: "I always remembered ["Homer Loves Flanders"] to be a great episode – and I recalled correctly. Sure, the show goes with a less than creative presence; it’s an easy story to make characters behave in atypical ways. However, the development of the theme is terrific, as we learn the friendship of Homer Simpson is worse than the antagonism of Homer Simpson." DVD Talk gave the episode a 4 out of 5 score. Patrick Bromley of DVD Verdict gave the episode a B− grade, claiming the "rather large dose of sentimentality" and "fewer moments of absurdity" in the episode gave it "the feeling that it belongs in one of the series' earlier seasons". The Orlando Sentinel's Gregory Hardy named it the second best episode of the show with a sports theme.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 138. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Homer Loves Flanders". BBC. Retrieved 2007-03-21.
- Richardson, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer Loves Flanders" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Mirkin, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer Loves Flanders" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- "Nielsen Ratings". Long Beach Press-Telegram. March 24, 1994. p. C7.
- Enwright, Patrick (2007-07-31). "D’Oh! The top 10 ‘Simpsons’ episodes ever". MSNBC. Retrieved 2007-10-08.
- Jacobson, Colin (2004-12-21). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season (1993)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
- Gibron, Bill (2004-12-21). "The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
- Bromley, Patrick (2005-02-23). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
- Hardy, Gregory (February 16, 2003). "Hitting 300 - For Sporting Comedy, 'The Simpsons' Always Score". Orlando Sentinel. p. C17.
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