Little Big Mom
"Little Big Mom" is the tenth episode of the eleventh season of the American animated sitcom The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 9, 2000. In the episode, while the rest of the Simpson family goes skiing, Marge remains at the ski lodge due to her fear of skiing, only to break her leg from a falling clock. As a result, while hospitalized, Marge leaves Lisa to take care of the house. Bart and Homer refuse to help out with the chores, so in an attempt to motivate them, Lisa pulls a prank on them by making it look like they have leprosy. The episode includes a guest appearance from Elwood Edwards, and features several references to Lucille Ball and her television work.
When Marge is cleaning out the attic and looking for old things to send away to charity, Homer refuses to let her, prompting Marge to look at all the junk she is trying to get rid of. She shows Homer several skis he never used since buying them after the Nagano Olympics. To spite Marge, he decides to use them, so the family go on a skiing trip. When they are there, Marge decides that she wants to avoid skiing or snowboarding for fear of injury. Ironically, she winds up breaking her leg at the ski lodge when a loose-hanging clock falls on it. She goes to the hospital, and Dr. Hibbert declares that she must stay there until her cast is removed.
In the meantime, Lisa offers to take her place, making a structured plan for Homer and Bart to do some of the chores, which Lisa chooses through a chore hat. Unfortunately, Homer and Bart refuse to do any chores, and when Lisa finally prods them into doing some work, they do so in an extremely apathetic and ineffective manner. Marge is enjoying her time in the hospital, due to getting a massage, among other things. The lazy lifestyles of Homer and Bart have taken their toll on the house, which is now a disorganized, filthy hovel with trash everywhere, and with Lisa struggling to make ends meet. She even calls Marge and asks if she can return, but Marge, who enjoys the lifestyle of lying all day in bed not working, lies to Lisa saying she is still too injured to come back. Lisa, angered and desperate for answers, sees the ghost of Lucille Ball, who has an idea to get revenge. She suggests that she pull a clever trick on Homer and Bart while they are asleep. She does just that, and using green poster paint and oatmeal on the men, she tricks them into thinking that they have leprosy.
The next morning, Homer and Bart are told by Lisa they have leprosy from living in dirty conditions. Lisa hopes this will make them clean up the house, but they do not. After the Virtual Doctor computer program confirms that Homer and Bart indeed have "Leprosy", Homer and Bart panic and decide to visit Ned Flanders. Ned is scared to see that Homer and Bart have leprosy, and so he sends Homer and Bart to a leper colony in Hawaii, where they will be needled and sanded. Once Marge's cast has finally come off (and her excess leg hair has been waxed), she comes home to see Lisa finally finished cleaning the entire house. They decide to seek out Homer and Bart in Hawaii. When they arrive, Lisa admits that she only played a trick on Homer and Bart (though they already know the leprosy is fake because Homer ate one of the sores and found it tasty); however, they want to stay there on account of it being a "free vacation", despite the painful electric needle treatments.
"Little Big Mom" was written by Carolyn Omine and directed by Mark Kirkland as part of the eleventh season of The Simpsons (1999–2000). Elwood Edwards, known as the voice of the Internet service provider America Online, guest starred in the episode as the Virtual Doctor that confirms Homer and Bart's leprosy.
The episode features several references to the late American actress Lucille Ball and her many television sitcoms starring characters named Lucy. For example, it is the ghost of Ball that gives Lisa the idea to trick Homer and Bart into thinking they have leprosy. Ball is portrayed with a cigarette in her hand in that scene, and speaks with a raspy voice. When Lisa first sees the ghost, she cries out "Lucy?", to which Ball responds "Lucy McGillicuddy Ricardo Carmichael. [Coughs] And I think there's some more." According to Michael Karol, author of the 2004 book Lucy A to Z, the last names "are those of Ball's characters from I Love Lucy and The Lucy Show. Left out were Lucy Carter of Here's Lucy and Lucy Barker of Life with Lucy." The Simpsons cast member Tress MacNeille provided the voice of Ball in the episode. Additional references to Ball's work featured in "Little Big Mom" include Homer and Bart watching I Love Lucy with the volume turned up high, disturbing Lisa when she is trying to sleep. An Itchy & Scratchy cartoon that references the "Job Switching" episode of I Love Lucy is also seen in the episode.
Release and reception
The episode originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on January 9, 2000. On October 7, 2008, it was released on DVD as part of the box set The Simpsons – The Complete Eleventh Season. Staff members Mike Scully, George Meyer, Matt Selman, Carolyn Omine, and Mark Kirkland participated in the DVD audio commentary for the episode. Deleted scenes from the episode were also included on the box set.
While reviewing the eleventh season of The Simpsons, DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson commented: "We’ve seen 'the family goes to crap without Marge around' episodes in the past, so don’t expect any reinvented wheels here. Still, the sight of Lisa in charge adds a decent spin, and the leprosy twist – while silly – proves amusing. It’s another unexceptional show but one with its moments." Before this episode, The Simpsons had referenced Lucile Ball several times. Michael Karol wrote in Lucy A to Z that "perhaps the funniest tribute came in [...] 'Little Big Mom.'" Dan Castellaneta, who provides the voice of Homer in the series, considers this episode to be one of his personal favorites.
Because "Little Big Mom" deals with leprosy, it has never been released in Japan. According to Shari Ross Altarac in her doctoral dissertation "The Adaptation of U.S. Television in Foreign Markets: How France and Japan Put Their Distinctive Spin on The Simpsons", the reason behind this is that "Former segregation laws remain a sensitive topic in Japan, where litigation of leprosy cases and charges of human rights abuses by the Japanese government have ensued." (See Leprosy in Japan.)
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- "The Simpsons Episode: 'Little Big Mom'". TV Guide. Retrieved 2011-10-08.
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- Ross Altarac, Shari (2007). The Adaptation of U.S. Television in Foreign Markets: How France and Japan Put Their Distinctive Spin on The Simpsons. University of California, Santa Barbara. p. 87.
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