The Homer They Fall
"The Homer They Fall" is the third episode of The Simpsons' eighth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 10, 1996. After Homer Simpson realizes he has a bizarre medical condition that renders him unable to be knocked out, he decides to embark on a career as a boxer with Moe Szyslak as his manager. It was written by Jonathan Collier and directed by Mark Kirkland. The episode guest stars Michael Buffer as himself and Paul Winfield as Lucius Sweet.
The Simpsons visit a high-tech gadget store and Bart buys a gimmicky utility belt from Comic Book Guy for $4. He shows off its features to his classmates until he is beaten up by Dolph, Jimbo and Kearney, who steal the belt. In response, Homer decides to talk with the bullies' fathers at Moe's Tavern, but he is also beaten; however, they are unnerved when they cannot even knock Homer down, and are then chased away by a shotgun-wielding Moe.
Moe is impressed by Homer's ability to absorb severe punishment and suggests he take up boxing, with Moe – a former boxer himself – as his trainer and manager. Marge is annoyed by the idea, but a medical test diagnoses Homer with a rare genetic abnormality effectively rendering him near-invulnerable to knockout punches. However, while training, it is discovered that Homer is a weak puncher, and is extremely out of shape. Moe strategizes that Homer should stand still in the ring and let his opponents exhaust themselves trying to knock him out, and then knock them down with a tap. Marge insists that Homer get a physical by a competent doctor, hoping he won't pass the requirements for a boxing license. However, Homer easily passes the state requirement to box, wrestle or "be shot out of a cannon", as the state Springfield is in had apparently been founded by circus freaks.
Homer does well in his first fights, mainly because he's competing in Springfields "hobo fight" circuit, against opponents almost as out of shape as he is. At every match, he follows Moe's advice and starts to gain widespread attention, eventually becoming the top ranked fighter in the Springfield Hobo Boxing Association. Moe's former boxing manager, Lucius Sweet visits Moe and announces that the current Heavyweight Champion, Drederick Tatum is being released from prison and is ready for a comeback fight, and Sweet wants Tatum to fight Homer. Tatum has become infamous for scoring one-punch knockouts in his opening move, resulting in matches to which last only a few seconds. Lucius hopes that due to Homer's fame as a human punching bag, he will at least be able to endure a few rounds before being bludgeoned unconscious. Moe, despite knowing full well that Tatum is far too strong for a fighter of Homer's ability, still wants to take his last shot at the big time and promises Sweet that Homer will last three rounds with Tatum.
Tatum is paroled and the media begins hyping the fight. The odds against Homer are 1000–1 and everybody believes that Homer will lose. Even Homer himself visualizes that the only way he could win is if a heart defect fells Tatum before entering the ring. Marge makes Moe promise her that the moment Homer is in any danger, he will throw in the towel. But after Marge leaves, Moe throws away the towel in a garbage can.
The fight starts and it is soon obvious that Homer cannot withstand Tatum's fearsome barrage and is in danger of being knocked out within six seconds. Homer decides to fight back, but misses completely. Moe, seeing Homer get destroyed, flees. As Tatum readies himself to deliver the final blow, Moe flies in using the Fan Man's paramotor and carries Homer away, saving him. Outside the arena, Marge thanks Moe for saving Homer and Tatum shows respect for the love Moe showed for Homer. Sweet declares that Moe will always be a loser, but still gives him a check for $100,000. Moe starts up the Fanman's paramotor and flies off into the night, during the credits he is seen helping people around the world with the paramotor.
The episode was written by Jonathan Collier, who is a huge boxing fan. Knowing that the people on the internet would "give them grief", the writers went to a lot of effort to explain how Homer would be able to challenge for the Heavyweight Title. A lot of the scenes involving Homer fighting hobos were pitched by John Swartzwelder. Lucius Sweet is a parody of Don King, voiced by Paul Winfield who had previously played King in HBO's 1995 biopic Tyson. In the script, Sweet was described as "A Don King type who looks and sounds exactly like Don King." The similarity is even pointed out by Homer with the line "He is exactly as rich and as famous as Don King – and he looks just like him, too!" King was asked to guest star, but turned the part down. Drederick Tatum is a parody of Mike Tyson. The name came from George Meyer, who went to high school with a boy named Drederick Timmins, which Meyer thought was a cool name. Tatum's having done time in prison is a reference to the fact that, at the time of the episode's production, Tyson had just recently been released from prison after serving three years for rape. Homer is named "The Southern Dandy" as a reference to the old-time boxers and wrestlers who had similar nicknames.
In preparation for this episode, Mark Kirkland watched several boxing films and is satisfied with how it turned out. Whenever designing rooms, Kirkland tries to show a bare lightbulb because he feels that it makes things more depressing. In the scene in Moe's office, there is a brief shot of a poster advertising "Szyslak Vs. Oakley" and "Kirkland Vs. Silverman," referring to then-executive producer Bill Oakley and Simpsons directors Mark Kirkland and David Silverman. The scene where Tatum is walking to the ring surrounded by shady characters, one of whom appears to be cross-eyed, is based on a real life photo of Tyson.
The episode opens with a parody of Bonanza. The montage of Homer fighting various hobos was based on a similar montage in Raging Bull. The music is inspired by "The Flower Duet" from the opera "Lakmé" by Léo Delibes. During the montage, there is a brief parody of the George Bellows painting "Dempsey and Firpo". The "Fan Man" is based on James Miller, a fan famous for parachuting into arenas during big events. Homer's walk-out music is "Why Can't We Be Friends?" by War and Tatum's is "Time 4 Sum Aksion" by Redman. The song heard over the end credits is a rendition of Barbra Streisand's "People," sung by Sally Stevens.
In its original broadcast, "The Homer They Fall" finished 29th in ratings for the week of November 4–10, 1996, with a Nielsen rating of 10.0, equivalent to approximately 9.7 million viewing households. It was the second highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files.
In response to "Barting Over", which is about skateboarding, Raju Mudhar of the Toronto Star listed what he thought were "excellent" Simpsons episodes and scenes also related to sports. He included "The Homer They Fall," writing that Drederick Tatum is "a thinly veiled Mike Tyson parody who's made cameos over the years." Similarly, in 2004 ESPN.com released a list of the Top 100 Simpsons sport moments, ranking the entire episode at #2, saying "Greatest sports introduction ever: In the Tatum fight, Homer is introduced as the Brick Hithouse (and is also known as the Southern Dandy), and his walk-to-the-ring music is 'Why Can't We Be Friends?'" Drederick Tatum was placed at the eighteenth spot on the list. Conversely, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, called it "the dullest, one-joke episode of the entire series."
- "The Homer They Fall" The Simpsons.com. Retrieved on March 27, 2007
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 213. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "The Homer They Fall". BBC. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
- Richmond, Ray; Antonia Coffman (1997). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to our Favorite Family. Harper Collins Publishers. p. 173. ISBN 0-06-095252-0. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Episode Capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- Weinstein, Josh (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Homer They Fall" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Meyer, George (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Homer They Fall" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Homer They Fall" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Cohen, David X. (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Homer They Fall" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Kirkland, Mark (2006). The Simpsons season 8 DVD commentary for the episode "The Homer They Fall" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Associated Press (November 14, 1996). "NBC back on top in ratings race". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
- Raju Mudhar, "Simpsons' sports spoofs simply 'excellent'; Stars like Tyson often lampooned Show celebrating 300th episode," Toronto Star, February 16, 2003, pg. E.03.
- Collins, Greg (January 23, 2004). "The Simpsons Got Game". ESPN.com. Retrieved 2007-03-29.
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