Hungry, Hungry Homer
"Hungry, Hungry Homer" is the fifteenth episode of the twelfth season of The Simpsons. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 4, 2001. In the episode, Homer becomes a Good Samaritan after discovering the simple joys of helping people in need – which is put to the test when he goes on a hunger strike after the owner of the Springfield Isotopes baseball team attempts to discredit him when Homer stumbles on his plot to discreetly move the team to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Nancy Kruse, and guest starred Stacy Keach as Howard K. Duff VIII. Since airing, it has received generally mixed reviews from television critics.
The Simpson family visits Blockoland, a theme park similar to Legoland which is completely made of blocks. Lisa is ripped off when her Eiffel Tower kit has a missing Blocko piece. In response, Homer "sticks up for the little guy", and he gets Lisa the piece she needs. He also stands up for the little guy by helping Bart get a girlfriend for an upcoming school dance and helps Marge get two free hair streaks (along with helping the beauty salon increase its profit margin to accommodate Marge's streaks). When he tries to help Lenny by getting him a refund on his tickets for the Springfield Isotopes baseball team (previously introduced in the season 2 episode "Dancin' Homer"), Homer encounters the Isotopes' owner Howard K. Duff VIII. The owner, who turns out to be a good deal more intimidating that Homer expected, refuses to give Homer a refund, but in his haste to leave Homer accidentally enters a room and discovers evidence that the Isotopes are moving to Albuquerque. Duff insists that they are not moving and he has Duffman drug Homer to cover up the truth.
Homer is shocked and attempts to alert the media to the plan, but when Homer comes back with the press Duff had removed all traces of the evidence Homer found in the room. The journalists dismiss Homer's story and call him a liar. In response, Homer stages a hunger strike in which he chains himself to a pole near Duff Stadium in order to force the owners of the team to admit they are moving to Albuquerque, with support from Lisa, who compares him to Cesar Chavez. He attracts a great deal of attention, so during the night the team decides to move him into the ballpark and exploit his popularity using the name "Hungry, Hungry Homer." The team publicly say that Homer is on a hunger strike until the Isotopes win the pennant, covering up Homer's real message.
After almost two weeks of starvation, Homer has begun to waste away, and he eventually gets too weak to move on his own. He nearly gives in after seeing all the fans eating at the ballpark, but he gets visited by the spirit of Cesar Chavez (looking like Cesar Romero, since Homer doesn't know what Chavez looks like), telling Homer to not give up. Thinking Homer's gone crazy and his smell starting to become bothersome to nearby players, the team's owner unchains Homer, replacing him with a new publicity act named "Paint-Drinking Pete", and, in a public ceremony, offers him a free hot dog. Homer realizes the hot dog is topped with Southwestern ingredients (such as mesquite grilled onions, mango-lime salsa and jalapeño relish), proving the team really is moving to Albuquerque. The crowd then takes notice that the hot dogs are even wrapped with "Albuquerque Isotopes" paper and become enraged. Howard tries to continue his lies but the crowd orders Howard to tell the truth. Howard refuses to tell the truth and orders Duffman to get rid of Homer, but Duffman turns against him and throws him out of the stadium. Homer's hunger strike is over as he celebrates under a shower of food thrown by the cheering fans, praising him as a hero for exposing Howard's lies.
As a result of Homer exposing the scheme, the mayor of Albuquerque decides to abandon his plan to steal the Isotopes and instead plans to purchase the Dallas Cowboys and force them to play baseball because, as he menacingly proclaims at the end of the episode, "For I am the Mayor of Albuquerque!"
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Nancy Kruse. The episode was originally pitched by Al Jean from his daughter, although it is not certain. The origin of the episode is that Mike Scully in season 8 pitched an episode where Homer gets a motorcycle, however the town passes a helmet law that requires riders to wear a helmet, leading Homer to go on a hunger strike in protest. The writers shelved the idea of Homer having a motorcycle (though it would be used for the season 11 episode "Take My Wife, Sleaze"), but held on to Homer having a hunger strike until Al Jean pitched this episode. Another inspiration was that a team was moving to another city. Dan Castellaneta adlibbed the lyrics to Homer's "Dancing Away My Hunger Pains" song. The ending scene with the mayor announcing his plans to take over the Dallas Cowboys has been edited from all U.S. syndicated reruns, but has been seen on overseas syndicated reruns and on the season 12 DVD set.
After being drugged, Homer wakes up lying on top of the dog house. Bart comes out into the garden and says "Good Grief" in a parody of the Peanuts television show. Later, when Homer returns to the Duff Stadium and finds the private room empty, a man plays "wah-wah" on a muted trumpet, again a reference to Peanuts.
Colin Jacobson of DVD Movie guide gave the episode a mixed review writing "Though it has something of a rehashed feel – an impression that we’ve seen this episode before – “Hungry” still manages to be fairly effective. Chock full of laughs? No, but the show has its moments. Or maybe I just like it because it’s the origin of the word “hungy”, which I used for many years. I forgot I stole it from this episode!" Judge Mac McEntire of DVD Verdict said of the episode that the best moment was pretty much any scene with Duffman.
This episode has also been credited for popularizing the word "meh", which later entered the Collins English Dictionary. The word is an interjection expressing boredom or indifference, and an adjective describing something boring or mediocre. The word, which has its root in Yiddish, is expressly spelled out in the episode:
- Homer: Kids, how would you like to go to ... Blockoland!
- Bart and Lisa: Meh.
- Homer: But the TV gave me the impression that --
- Bart: We said, "Meh!"
- Lisa: M-e-h, meh.
The word had been used on several previous occasions on the show, the first such usage being in the season six episode "Sideshow Bob Roberts" in 1994. In that episode, Lisa is given the town's voting record for the mayoral election; in response to her question that she "thought this was a secret ballot," the official responds "meh". John Swartzwelder, the writer of "Hungry, Hungry Homer" has stated that he "originally heard the word from an advertising writer named Howie Krakow back in 1970 or 1971 who insisted it was the funniest word in the world."
- Scully, Mike (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Hungry, Hungry Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Selman, Matt (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Hungry, Hungry Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Simpsons Season 12 DVD, Commentary "Hungry, Hungry Homer".
- Payne, Don (2009). The Simpsons The Complete Twelfth Season DVD commentary for the episode "Hungry, Hungry Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Chernoff, Scott (2007-07-24). "I Bent My Wookiee! Celebrating the Star Wars/Simpsons Connection". Star Wars.com. Retrieved 2011-08-28.
- "Doh! Go Isotopes!". Seattle Post-Intelligencer (Hearst Corporation). 13 May 2003. p. C8.
- 'Meh': new word for indifference enters English dictionary
- Zimmer, Ben (2012-02-26). "The ‘meh’ generation". The Boston Globe. Retrieved 2012-02-27.
- Hann, Michael (2007-03-05). "Meh — the word that's sweeping the internet". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2007-10-14.
- Boswell, Randy (2008-11-18). "Canadian politics: The definition of 'meh'". Vancouver Sun (Canwest News Service). Retrieved 2008-11-21.
- Macintyre, Ben (2007-08-11). "Last word: Any word that embiggens the vocabulary is cromulent with me". The Times (London).
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- "Hungry, Hungry Homer" at The Simpsons.com
- "Hungry, Hungry Homer" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Hungry, Hungry Homer" at the Internet Movie Database
- 'Meh': new word for indifference enters English dictionary ()