Homer the Heretic
|"Homer the Heretic"|
|The Simpsons episode|
|Directed by||Jim Reardon|
|Written by||George Meyer|
|Showrunner(s)||Al Jean & Mike Reiss|
|Original air date||October 8, 1992|
|Chalkboard gag||"I will not defame New Orleans"|
|Couch gag||The sofa swivels round into the wall, and an empty sofa assumes its place.|
"Homer the Heretic" is the third episode of The Simpsons' fourth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on October 8, 1992. In the episode, Homer decides to forgo going to church and has an excellent time staying home. His behavior quickly attracts the wrath of God, who visits him in a dream. The episode was written by George Meyer and directed by Jim Reardon. The chalkboard gag from this episode was a reference to the previous episode "A Streetcar Named Marge", which had made controversial references to New Orleans.
On a freezing Sunday morning, Marge gathers the family to go to church. Homer refuses to go, much to her annoyance and dismay, after he sees the weather outside and accidentally tears his church trousers. Staying behind, he sleeps in late, dances in his underwear (à la Tom Cruise in the film Risky Business), makes his special waffle recipe, wins a radio trivia contest, watches an action-packed football game, and finds a penny. Homer attributes his good fortune to skipping church and declares it the best day of his life. Meanwhile, Marge and the kids shiver their way through a rambling sermon, only to find themselves trapped at the end since the door has frozen shut. The congregation is forced to stay longer while Groundskeeper Willie defrosts the doors, and then Marge is unable to start her car because of the cold.
When she and the children finally get home, Marge is horrified to hear that Homer intends to never go to church again. She tries to persuade him otherwise, but to no avail. That night, Marge prays for her husband at their bedside. Homer tries to seduce her while she is doing so, but then falls asleep suddenly and has a dream in which God personally appears to him. God is furious with Homer for forsaking his church. Homer answers that "I'm not a bad guy, I work hard, and I love my kids... so why should I spend half my Sunday hearing about how I'm going to hell?" God agrees to let Homer worship in his own way. Homer starts following his own religion tailored to his personal tastes, including holidays he invents to get out of work.
Marge, Reverend Lovejoy and Ned Flanders attempt without success to bring Homer back to the congregation. One Sunday morning, while everybody else is at church, Homer falls asleep on the couch smoking a cigar, which ignites some magazines and ultimately sets the whole house ablaze. Homer wakes up but quickly succumbs to the thick smoke and faints. Apu, chief of Springfield's volunteer fire department, rushes to the Simpson house with other firefighters including Krusty the Clown, Chief Wiggum, and Barney Gumble. Meanwhile, Flanders runs into the burning house to rescue Homer and pulls him out just as the firefighters arrive. After the fire is out, Homer declares that God was delivering vengeance. Reverend Lovejoy counters that God was working through the hearts of Homer's friends, despite their different faiths. Homer agrees to give church another try and the next Sunday is there, albeit snoring loudly through the service. Appearing in his dreams again, God consoles Homer on the failure of his religion. He starts to tell Homer the meaning of life, but is cut off by the ending credits.
This episode originated when Al Jean commented to Mike Reiss, "We had a lot of luck with Homer stealing cable, which was based on the eighth commandment, so maybe we could look to other commandments. So we thought, 'Honor the Sabbath' would be a good one. So the 'Homer doesn't go to church' storyline was given to George Meyer." Reiss and Jean thought that as a lapsed Catholic, Meyer would "bring the proper degree of rage" to the episode. Meyer had a lot of fun making the episode, thinking that most people could relate to the bliss of staying home from church. One of the main problems Meyer had writing this episode is that whenever Homer saw God, he had to have fallen asleep so that it appeared to be a dream. Meyer did not want to show that God was literally appearing to Homer. This resulted in him falling asleep so many times during the first draft of the episode that it was almost as if Homer had narcolepsy. This was also the first episode from season four that was read to the production team. Although first reads on previous seasons had not been well received by the production team, "Homer the Heretic" read very well, particularly some of the visuals in the third act, such as the house on fire and Homer being rescued by Flanders.
This was the first episode of The Simpsons where the animation was produced by Film Roman. Up until this point, Film Roman had mostly worked on Garfield and Friends and Bobby's World episodes, and were not used to the speed with which The Simpsons episodes were produced. However, they quickly adjusted. Film Roman went on to do the animation for the rest of the series and eventually The Simpsons Movie. Previously, the animation was produced by Klasky Csupo.
In the scene in which Jimi Hendrix and Benjamin Franklin play a game of air hockey in Heaven, Hendrix was supposed to have a speaking line of his own to respond to Jefferson's line. It was cut late during production because the voice actor for Hendrix did not sound enough like Hendrix. Jefferson's line was kept because "nobody knows what he sounds like", whereas Hendrix had a distinct voice.
The abrupt cutting off of God's voice before he reveals the meaning of life was intended to be cut off by a voiceover promotion for whatever FOX program aired after The Simpsons. However, Fox did not pick up on this and so God's voice was instead cut off by the show's credits.
The brand label on Homer's shower radio reads "No-Soap, Radio!", so-named for the punch line of a well-known practical joke. The scene where Homer dances in his underwear to the Royal Teens song "Short Shorts" is almost identical to a scene in the 1983 Tom Cruise film, Risky Business. The burning floor collapsing beneath Flanders' feet is a reference to the film Backdraft.
In its original broadcast, "Homer the Heretic" finished 36th in ratings for the week of October 5–11, 1992, with a Nielsen rating of 12.0, equivalent to approximately 11.2 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Married... with Children. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, loved the episode. They described it as "A brilliant episode, underlining everything that The Simpsons is about. Homer hates church, Marge wants the kids to see Homer as an example, and everyone pulls together in the end. Good stuff, and if God really is like that, he's a groovy kind of guy." In 2012, HitFix's Alan Sepinwall cited the episode as his favorite of the show, writing that it "captures everything that was and is great about the series: social satire, extraordinary quotability ('This Things I Believe'), a good family story, and an innate sweetness in spite of Homer's outsized antics." In 2004, ESPN.com released a list of the Top 100 Simpsons sport moments, ranking Benjamin Franklin and Jimi Hendrix's air hockey game, a scene from the episode, at #83. The episode's reference to Risky Business was named the 45th greatest film reference in the history of the show by Total Film's Nathan Ditum.
The writers of the Fox program King of the Hill put "Homer the Heretic" among the five best episodes of The Simpsons, including "Brother from the Same Planet", "Lisa's Wedding", "Lisa's Substitute", and "Behind the Laughter". When asked to pick his favorite season out of The Simpsons seasons one through twenty, Paul Lane of the Niagara Gazette picked season four and highlighted "Brother from the Same Planet" and "Mr. Plow" which he called "excellent", along with "the sweetly funny" "Lisa's First Word", and "Homer the Heretic".
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 114. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Homer the Heretic". BBC. Retrieved 2008-01-20.
- Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt; Meyer, George; Reardon, Jim (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Meyer, George (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Reardon, Jim; Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Homer the Heretic" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Jean, Al (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "A Streetcar Named Marge" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Vitti, Jon (2004). The Simpsons Season 4 DVD commentary for the episode "Mr. Plow" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Hastings, Deborah (October 15, 1992). "Presidential debate helps put ABC on top". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
- Sepinwall, Alan (2012-02-17). "Best. Episode. Ever? Pick your 'Simpsons' favorite". HitFix. Retrieved 2012-02-17.
- Collins, Greg (January 23, 2004). "The Simpsons Got Game". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2008-04-05.
- Ditum, Nathan (June 6, 2009). "The 50 Greatest Simpsons Movie References". Total Film. Retrieved 2009-07-22.
- Staff (February 13, 2003). "'King' scribes chime in with best bets". Variety. Reed Elsevier Inc. p. A8.
- Dzikiy, Phil; Paul Lane (September 25, 2008). "TELEVISION: 20 years — A 'Simpsons' extravaganza". Niagara Gazette.
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