SSR #18: “Dancin’ Homer”

Introduction:
Homer has had a lot of jobs over the years, many of which have nothing to do with the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. In today’s episode, we are going to take a look at the first time Homer got to spread his wings outside of the plant gates and do something he actually enjoyed. I don’t think he got any actual money for this particular gig, but he did seem to have a lot of fun with it and he seemed to be very good at it as well. Today we are going to go down to the old baseball field and take a look at “Dancin’ Homer.”

“Dancin’ Homer” is the fifth episode written and broadcast for The Simpsons second season, and it aired on November 8th, 1990. The chalkboard gag for this episode is “I will not trade pants with others,” probably one of my favorite chalkboard gags for the ridiculousness of the concept alone. The couch gag for this episode features the family coming into the house, sitting on the couch like normal, but then Maggie pops out of Marge’s hair.

“Marge, this ticket doesn’t just give me a seat, it also gives me the right, no, the duty; to make a complete ass of myself.”
~Homer

Plot:
The story opens up at Moe’s Tavern where Barney, Moe and the other barflies are trying to ask Homer about his recent adventure in Capital City. Homer is very reluctant to reveal the details as it’s a story about “how he became a loser,” but after some convincing he opens up and starts telling the story. It starts at the Springfield Stadium during the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant’s “Employee, Spouses and No More than Three Children Night,” where he and the entire Simpson family is attending a baseball game for the Springfield Isotopes. Homer’s boss, Mr. Burns, decides to sit next to Homer and to his surprise, he asks Homer if we wants to drink a beer with him. Homer accepts the proposal and the two get drunk.

During the final inning of the game, the Isotopes are down with one out remaining and the bases loaded. Apparently the team has had a very bad losing streak, so the crowd is very demoralized and ready to leave disappointed. Homer, under the influence of alcohol, decides to jump on top of the dugout and start dancing in order to get the crowd cheering. This excites the crowd and the players as the batter manages to swing and hit a grand slam, causing the Isotopes to score their very first win. The antics of Homer Simpson displease Mr. Burns as he bans Homer from all future company outings, but the crowd is pleased and they surround Homer after the game to show their appreciation. The Isotopes’s manager approaches Homer and offers him a job as the team’s mascot, which Homer immediately accepts.

Homer becomes the mascot under the name, “Dancin’ Homer,” and has very quick success in his new job. The Isotopes continue their winning streak, and Homer continues to make headlines (even more than the team itself). He even manages to make his own routine, dancing to the tune of “Baby Elephant Walk” while spelling out “Springfield” with his entire body. The Isotope win streak unfortunately comes to an end, and after being called into the manager’s office and worrying he might be fired, Homer learns that he is being promoted and got called up to the major leagues in Capital City.

Homer isn’t sure if he wants to go through with the move and the kids are not super thrilled about leaving either, but Marge tries to encourage Homer to accept the promotion, thinking it might be his calling. As a result, the entire family decides to move to Capital City and leave their old life in Springfield behind. As they enter Capital City, the entire family is blown away by all the sights, all the amazing establishments, and a wonderful theme song, performed by Tony Bennett himself. While everyone is excited about the change in environment, Homer seems quite nervous about the upcoming game.

At the new stadium, Homer meets the mascot of the Capital City baseball team, the Capital City Goofball. Homer finds out that since he is a new addition to a team, he will only be working during the fifth inning. When his time rolls around, Homer goes out into the crowd to perform his routine, just to be met with silence and smart-ass remarks. The crowd is not amused or entertained by Homer’s performance, forcing him to be dragged off the stage. Homer is fired by the manager and the entire family has to move back to Springfield. Homer remarks to his listeners at the bar that the mascot costume is buried and things have returned back to normal. Despite not having a happy ending, everyone in the tavern is blown away by the story and gives Homer their full attention and respect, making Homer feel better about the whole experience.

“A Simpson on a t-shirt; I never thought I would see the day.”
~Marge

Personal History:
This was another episode that was on my Simpsons VHS tape, and unlike the previous episode, this was a premise I understood a lot more and could actually follow along with. It was a story of how Homer started cheering and dancing at baseball games, he got very good at it, and then when he did it for a bigger venue, it didn’t work out, and he was no longer good at it. It was simple, and as a child I got a little more mileage out it because of that. The stuff at the baseball stadium at the very beginning of the episode was also very memorable to me as a child; the kids throwing shade at the baseball players, Mr. Burns completely butchering the first pitch of the night, the incredibly long national anthem…these were things that I could understand and appreciate because as a child, I did play a lot of little league baseball, and they were things I could definitely understand, so this episode always stuck out for me because of that.

With that being said, I was never big on baseball to be quite honest. The only reasons I played it during the summer was to make my dad happy, it gave me something to do during the early summer months, and it was a way I could still see and talk to my friends when school was no longer in session. In fact, I still remember the long days in the outfield waiting for practice or the game to be over so I could go home and play video games. I guess it helped that this episode was never purely about baseball, just Homer dancing with baseball going on in the background, but still, it is interesting to think about how this episode was in a sense, kind of related and relevant to me growing up.

Marge: “Look! It’s Tony Bennett!”
Tony Bennett: “Hey! Good to see you!”

Favorite/Memorable Moments:
As I said in the previous section, the first act of the episode is pretty heavily focused on the first baseball game and the company outing in general, and overall, I think the writers did a good job of keeping the act engaging. There’s a lot of funny jokes and gags, with Mr. Burns completely whiffing the first pitch of the night (which I feel like was the show’s first visual instance of Mr. Burns being completely weak and hopeless on a physical level), Homer’s zipper being undone when the “Jumbo Vision” camera zooms in on Homer’s unzipped pants, and when Marge tries to get an autograph for Bart, which turns into the athlete coming on to Marge and signing the baseball with his hotel address. It’s all lighthearted fun at the baseball diamond and I think it was a good way to set the story up. Watching Homer and Mr. Burns being drunk and being friendly is kind of strange, especially when you consider the previous episode, but as I said, it works in getting everything together. I also really enjoyed the joke of Bleeding Gums Murphy’s rendition of the national anthem, which was really just an incredibly exaggerated singing of the lyrics for twenty-seven minutes (not real time, obviously).

The second act really just kind of focuses on small clips of Homer’s success and the eventual transition into the Capital City part of the episode. There aren’t a huge amount of jokes or gags here as it’s mainly played to just to tell the story of where this episode is ultimately going to end up. I think my favorite part of this section, and maybe the entire episode in general, is when Homer is taunting one of the baseball players with a chant just for the guy to turn around and tell him that if he doesn’t stop, he will “shove this bat where his sun doesn’t shine.” This eggs Homer on for a few seconds, just for him to realize what exactly the athlete was implying and immediately backs away from the exchange. I also like the way the writers depicted Homer getting a leave of absence from the power plant, which was basically just the supervisor encouraging Homer to stay away as long as he wants.

When the final act rolls around, the main focus was obviously on Capital City. I can tell the writers really had fun with creating this new environment and locale for the family to explore and it is fun watching the Simpsons experience city life. Just the fact they are mesmerized by every little thing, including the witnessing of a “street crime,” just really shows how small of a community the Simpsons come from, and it’s nice seeing them out of their element. I also really enjoyed the cameo and singing of Tony Bennett during this part as well, particularly when the Simpsons interact with him during the song. It’s a great use of celebrity self-insertion and is something I really enjoy about the show moving forward as the Simpsons writers and producers seem to have a lot of fun when they have guest stars on board.

Goofball: “The fifth inning will be yours. Everybody has settled in, had a few beers…it’s a very important inning!”
Homer: “Wow, the fifth!”
Goofball: “It’s also the inning where I wish I had a zipper on the front of this thing, if you know what I mean.”

My Review:
I have to say, while it was fun going through this episode again, I feel like a majority of that fun was mostly due to nostalgia and recollections of seeing this episode a lot from my childhood. It has some good and funny moments, tells a simple, but interesting story of Homer trying something new, and is overall a pretty harmless episode. However, I have to admit that while I was watching, I was surprised with how fast it was moving. Homer gets hired as the mascot at about the 10-minute mark, gets promoted at the 13-minute mark, arrives in Capital City at the 16-minute mark, and gets fired at the 21-minute mark (and that’s after the 2-minute song about Capital City). There’s just a lot of things happening and I almost feel this episode could have benefited from having a slightly longer run-time. Now, with a 30-minute time-slot (with commercials), that was a bit of an impossibility and I don’t think doing a two-part episode would have been a great idea either, but the entire story just feels kind of rushed in some places.

I think it’s mostly just a case of wanting to see a bit more of certain things, and less of others. It kind of has a “Bart the Genius,” from Season 1 type of vibe to it, although I do think this episode is way more engaging than that one. The national anthem, while a funny joke, just kind of goes on a bit too long. The family saying goodbye to their friends, neighbors and family members in the second act; while nice, didn’t seem incredibly necessary. And then, as glorious as the Capital City theme song is, it’s still just two minutes of the story not really progressing anywhere. I think if the writers and producers cut down on some of those things, I think we could have gotten a little more out of Homer’s time with the Isotopes, or maybe even a little extra time in Capital City as well. After all, the story Homer was telling his friends at the bar was about his exploits in Capital City right? So why was that part literally only 25% of the episode?

As usual, I feel like I must clarify; I don’t think this is a bad episode at all. In fact, this is an episode I can reference or mention to my dad and he can smile and remember it very fondly because it is very iconic in its own right. And as I’ve already stated, it’s an episode that I remember fondly from my childhood as well. It just felt really rushed and ended too soon for me on this particular watch; a watch where I’m generally trying to be a bit more analytical and a bit less blinded by nostalgia since I’m trying to essentially review each individual episode. It’s definitely not the worst of Season 2 and I’d still probably rate the episode higher than most of Season 1, but it was just very middle of the road for me here.

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That’s going to do it for this week’s episode. I apologize for the lateness, but I had a lot going on this week and could not find the time to finish it until this evening. I’m going to try and get the next one done before Thanksgiving, but please understand if I am unable to make the deadline, as it is Thanksgiving week after all. It’s also a bit of a shame that I will be unable to review “Bart vs. Thanksgiving” until after the holiday, but that’s just the way these episodes debuted and I almost feel like Thanksgiving kind of arrived a bit early this year. With that being said, I’m really excited about next week because we will be taking a look at one of my all-time favorite Season 2 episodes, “Dead Putting Society!”

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