"King-Size Homer" is the seventh episode of The Simpsons' seventh season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 5, 1995. In the episode, Homer despises the nuclear plant's new exercise program, and decides to gain 61 pounds (28 kg) in order to claim a disability and work at home. Homer soon begins to experience the negative aspects of being obese, and his life starts falling apart.
The episode was written by Dan Greaney and directed by Jim Reardon. Joan Kenley makes her second of three guest appearances on The Simpsons in the episode as the voice of the telephone lady. It features cultural references to world's heaviest twins, the 1993 film What's Eating Gilbert Grape, and the soft drink Tab. Since airing, the episode has received positive reviews from fans and television critics, and Empire named it the best episode of the show. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 10.0, and was the third highest rated show on the Fox network that week.
Mr. Burns organizes a morning calisthenics program at the nuclear power plant, much to everyone's delight but to the dismay of Homer (the only worker who hates doing five minutes of light aerobic exercise). After learning that someone who is disabled can work from home, and thus be excluded from the exercise program, Homer tries to find a way to achieve this goal. Homer soon discovers that any employee that weighs 300 pounds (136 kg) or more qualifies as disabled, and so he decides to gain the 61 pounds he needs to reach 300. He begins eating excessively, despite Marge and Lisa's repeated warnings that he could seriously endanger his health. With Bart's help, Homer soon reaches his goal, and Mr. Burns installs a stay-at-home work terminal in the Simpson house.
Homer is given simple responsibilities but he still neglects his responsibilities as a safety inspector by simply typing "yes" every time the system prompts him. He also discovers he can no longer fit in his clothes, and he takes up wearing a muumuu as a result. Looking for shortcuts, he leaves his terminal, with a drinking bird to press the Y key to indicate "yes" on the keyboard and goes out to see a film. Refused admission because of his size, Homer is angered after the cinema manager and other members of the public tease him about his appearances. He immediately leaves, claiming that he is not food crazy and that overweight people are as hardworking as anyone else. Returning home, he discovers in his absence that the nodding drinking bird fell over and that a nuclear meltdown is about to take place at the plant unless the system is manually shut down. As he is unable to prevent it via the computer and unable to phone the plant and warn them because his fingers have become too fat to dial properly, Homer tries to run, skateboard, and drive to the plant, all of which fail as a result of his obesity. He eventually gets to the plant by stealing an ice cream truck. Homer arrives at the power plant and climbs up to reach the manual shutdown button, but ends up accidentally falling onto the gas store, blocking the release tube with the oversized lower half of his body and thus preventing the explosion. As a reward for turning the "potential Chernobyl" into a "mere Three Mile Island", Mr. Burns gives Homer a medal and guarantees that he will make Homer thin once more after he gets decontaminated from the tank. But when Homer could not even do one sit-up in their first work-out session, Mr. Burns reluctantly decides to simply pay for liposuction instead, much to Homer's delight.
"King-Size Homer" was written by Dan Greaney, and directed by Jim Reardon. It was the first episode Greaney wrote for The Simpsons. Prior to this episode he was working as a lawyer and was contemplating moving to Kiev, Ukraine, to work for a start-up company. He said that this episode "saved" him from doing so. Greaney pitched some ideas to the writing staff, but none of them were any good, so then-show runner Bill Oakley gave him the idea for this episode. Oakley had Greaney come to Hollywood to write it, and when Greaney showed the first draft to the staff, they liked it, so Oakley hired him.
The writers wanted the title of the episode to make Homer sound proud about his weight, so they decided to name it "King-Size Homer". Greaney really enjoyed working on the episode because Homer is constantly happy and goal oriented in it, instead of being a slob and "eating all the time". The Simpsons animator David Silverman designed the fat Homer for the episode. There was a discussion about what Homer would wear when he became fat, and they decided to go with a muumuu dress. The writers were also discussing about how they were going to treat Homer's fatness. They did not want Homer to come off as a "hog", so they decided that the viewer should barely see him eating after he reaches his 300 pounds goal. As the writers were trying to figure out a way to get Homer back to his old weight by the end of the episode, someone suggested that Homer should feel bad about his obesity, and therefore become thin for Marge, but that idea was scrapped in early production. Action figurines based on fat Homer were made for the World of Springfield series shortly after the episode had aired.
Homer has a dream in which he is standing at the foot of a mountain with 300 pounds as the goal at the top. A pig wearing a tuxedo appears next to him in the dream, and motivates Homer to reach the top of the mountain. Homer takes a bite of the pig's arm, and runs up the mountain. This scene was inspired by the cover of the "Sweetness and Light" issue of the National Lampoon magazine. The staff thought that Cary Grant would have been the ideal for the pig in Homer's dream sequence, but he died nine years before the episode was made, so they used cast member Hank Azaria for that voice. Joan Kenley guest starred in the episode as the telephone lady who tells Homer: "The fingers you have used to dial are too fat. To obtain a special dialing wand, please mash the keypad with your palm now." The staff flew her down from Northern California to record her part for the episode.
While Homer is in the clothes store, as the camera pans with him, two mannequins wearing similar outfits and riding on bikes are shown. These are based on Billy and Benny McCrary, the world's heaviest twins who weighed over 700 pounds (318 kg) each. They received fame after appearing in the The Guinness Book of World Records in a picture that depicts the twins riding their Honda motorcycles. Also Homer operates an Apple Lisa as his stay-at-home work terminal when the Apple Lisa was discontinued in 1986. They would appear again in the same season in the episode "The Day the Violence Died". The scene in which Bart and his friends observe the obese Homer through a window is based on a scene from the 1993 film What's Eating Gilbert Grape.
Homer thinks that he can order the soft drink Tab by pressing the tab key on the keyboard. When Homer vents gas from a nuclear reactor, the gas destroys crops of corn. A farmer looks and says, "Oh no, the corn! Paul Newman's gonna have ma' legs broke!" This is in reference to the legend of Newman's Own popcorn products, in which Newman threatened anyone who might attempt to steal his popcorn. At the cinema, Homer tries to watch the film Honk If You're Horny, starring actor Pauly Shore and actress Faye Dunaway.
In its original American broadcast, "King-Size Homer" finished 45th (tied with Grace Under Fire) in the ratings for the week of October 30 to November 3, 1995, with a Nielsen rating of 10.0. The episode was the third highest rated show on the Fox network that week.
Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from fans and television critics. In 2008, Empire placed The Simpsons at the top of their list of "The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time", and noted "King-Size Homer" as the show's best episode, calling it "An unimprovable mix of sharp dialogue, hilarious sight gags and heart." Kimberly Potts of AOL Television named the episode the seventh best episode of the show, while Michael Moran of The Times ranked it as the tenth best. "King-Size Homer" appeared on The Star-Ledger's list of the ten best episodes on The Simpsons that represent the comic and emotional scope of the show. The Herald Sun put the episode at ninth place on their list of the top twenty episodes of The Simpsons, and highlighted the scene in which Homer is seen "commandeering an ice cream truck in a frantic dash to the nuclear plant to avoid an impending meltdown". Todd VanDerWerff of Slant Magazine named the episode the show's fifth best, stating "while there are a lot of funny jokes in this episode (including Homer's fingers that are too fat to dial), the best thing about it is the sight of Homer, weighing well over 300 pounds, dressed in a muumuu and a 'fat guy hat.' The climax is a little forced and cartoon-y...but Homer's weight gain works so well visually that the episode gets away with a lot more than it might."
Dave Foster of DVD Times said: "The glee to which [Homer] takes to the challenge and the enthusiasm which Bart brings to the project show these two really do connect when the situation is oh so wrong, and the method in which the writers tackle the not-always-so-obvious downsides to such a disability are both adult and astutely amusing." Jennifer Malkowski of DVD Verdict considered the best part of the episode to be during Homer's shopping trip to The Vast Waistband. The website concluded its review by giving the episode a grade of A. DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson enjoyed the episode and called it "one of the series' more cynical episodes", and said that it "pours on the laughs". He continued by saying, "It's amusing to see Homer's pursuit of obesity, and it exploits his idiocy well. It lacks the expected mushiness about the plight of fat folks, though it does make a point about sensitivity in an understated way." Despite the numerous laughs at Homer's appearance from the staff of The Simpsons on the DVD audio commentary for the episode, 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: "this isn't one of the best episodes. Homer's at his most irritating and childish here—you really want Marge to beat him up." They added that Homer's antics with the computer, such as the scene in which he tries to find the any key, and Mr. Burns running exercise classes are the highlights of the episode.
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- Greaney, Dan (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "King-Size Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Oakley, Bill (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "King-Size Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Silverman, David (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "King-Size Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "King-Size Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Reardon, Jim (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "King-Size Homer" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "King-Size Homer". BBC. Retrieved 2007-03-06.
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- "The 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time". Empire. Retrieved 2008-03-29.
- Potts, Kimberly. "'The Simpsons' Best Episodes Ever". AOL Television. Retrieved 2008-12-06.
- Moran, Michael (January 14, 2010). "The 10 best Simpsons episodes ever". The Times. Retrieved 2010-01-14.
- Sepinwall, Alan (April 26, 1998). "The best of "The Simpsons" doing their worst". The Star-Ledger. p. 5.
- "The Simpsons Top 20". Herald Sun. April 21, 2007. p. W09.
- VanDerWerff, Todd (2007-08-01). "5 for the Day: The Simpsons". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 2011-09-08.
- Foster, Dave (2006-02-25). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Times. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Malkowski, Judge (2006-01-16). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
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