"Mother Simpson" is the eighth episode of The Simpsons' seventh season. It first aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 19, 1995. After faking his own death to get a day off work, Homer reunites with his mother Mona, who he thought had died 27 years ago. It was directed by David Silverman and was the first episode to be written by Richard Appel. Glenn Close makes her first of seven guest appearances as Homer's mother.
|The Simpsons episode|
Homer sitting on his car hood watching the stars after Mona leaves. This scene has been described as one of the most emotional in the show's entirety.
|Episode no.||Season 7|
|Directed by||David Silverman|
|Written by||Richard Appel|
|Original air date||November 19, 1995|
|Couch gag||The Simpsons are set onto the couch like bowling pins.|
Upon learning that Mr. Burns wants all of his employees to clean up a highway maintained by his company on Saturday, Homer, seeking to get out of his work, fakes his own death using a dummy. The next day, Marge finds out and orders Homer to go to the Springfield Hall of Records to explain himself. While sorting out the problem, Homer gets into an argument with a clerk who claims that Homer's mother is still alive, in spite of his belief that she died when he was young. Seeking to prove that she is really dead, Homer visits what he believes to be her grave, only to discover that it belongs to Walt Whitman. After falling into a grave that had been dug for his "corpse", Homer finds himself approached by a woman who chastises him for falling into her son's grave, and recognizes her as his mother Mona, leading the two to share an emotional reunion.
Bringing her home to meet with his family, Lisa soon bonds with her paternal grandmother, but while the two are sitting on the front steps during a conversation between them, Mona runs inside the house when a police car drives by. Suspicious, Lisa shares her concerns with Bart, who had raided Mona's purse and found several driver's licenses with different names, while Marge and Homer begin to wonder why Mona left her son and never returned for 27 years. The family soon decide to confront Mona, who reveals the truth about her disappearance. In 1969, Mona became inspired by a group of hippies and their beliefs, and soon joined them in protesting against a germ warfare laboratory owned by Mr. Burns, which was deliberately trying to poison everyone in Springfield. The group soon detonated an "antibiotic bomb" inside the lab, killing all the germs. An angry Burns attempted to stop the hippies, but was trampled by them. While fleeing with them, Mona went back to help Burns, but she was recognized as one of the perpetrators, forcing her to leave Homer and his father Abe and go into hiding.
Upon learning that Mona had sent Homer a care package every week she was gone, but that he never received them, the pair head to the post office to claim them. But while there, Burns recognizes Mona, and calls in the FBI, who track her to the Simpsons home. Before she can be arrested, Homer receives an anonymous tip-off that his mother is about to be arrested, and escapes with her. The tipster is later revealed to be Chief Wiggum, who had been a security guard at Burns' lab until the antibiotic mist cured him of the asthma that had prevented him from joining the police academy. Learning she must go into hiding once more, Mona and Homer say goodbye, and she departs with another group of hippies. After she leaves, Homer remains well into the night, sitting alone on his car and watching the stars.
The idea for "Mother Simpson" was pitched by Richard Appel, who decided to do something about Homer's mother, who previously had only been mentioned once. Many of the writers could not believe that an episode about Homer's mother had not previously been produced. Part of the fun of an episode about Homer's mother for the writers was that they were able to solve several little puzzles, such as where Lisa's intelligence came from. The ending shot with Homer gazing at the sky was decided at the table read, but the drawing at the end was inserted by David Silverman because it was felt that the scene was so touching that no other lines were needed. As a result, no promos were aired over the credits during the original airing of the episode. Bill Oakley has admitted that he always gets teary-eyed when he watches the ending.
Glenn Close, who was directed by Josh Weinstein, was convinced to do the episode partially because of James L. Brooks. Mona Simpson was designed in a way so that she would somewhat resemble Homer in her face, such as the shape of her upper lip and her nose. There were several design changes because the directors were trying to make her an attractive older and younger woman, but still be Simpson-esque. The inspiration for the character comes from Bernardine Dohrn of the Weather Underground, although the writers acknowledge that several people fit her description. Mona Simpson's crime was intentionally the least violent crime the writers could think of, as she did not harm anyone and was only caught because she came back to help Mr. Burns. The character was named after Richard Appel's wife at the time, the novelist Mona Simpson. When Mona gets in the van, her voice is done by Pamela Hayden because Glenn Close could not say "d'oh!" properly and thus they used the original temp track recorded by Hayden.
The design of Joe Friday is based on his design in "Dragged Net!", a parody of Dragnet that was done in Mad Magazine in the 1950s. Mona becoming a radical after seeing Joe Namath's sideburns is a parody of how many 1960s films have a sudden transformational moment and play music such as "Turn! Turn! Turn!" and there was much discussion among the writers as to what that moment should be. The song originally intended to be taped over Mr. Burns' cassette of "Ride of the Valkyries" was "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go", but it was too expensive to clear, so ABBA’s "Waterloo" was selected instead.
"Mother Simpson" draws upon a number of references to 1960s popular culture. Three songs from the 1960s appear in this episode: "Sunshine of Your Love" by Cream, "Blowin' in the Wind" by Bob Dylan, and the Jimi Hendrix cover of "All Along the Watchtower". Mona Simpson is seen reading Steal This Book by Abbie Hoffman. Mona mentions that she worked a number of jobs while on the run, including "marketing Jerry Rubin’s line of diet shakes, proofreading Bobby Seale's cookbook, and running credit checks at Tom Hayden’s Porsche dealership." Rubin, Seale and Hayden were three liberal radicals from the 1960s. Rubin did indeed have a line of diet shakes, and Bobby Seale did write some cookbooks. However, Tom Hayden never owned a Porsche dealership.
The radicals use a Spiro Agnew alarm clock, which is based on a real item. When Mr. Burns drives a tank towards the Simpson house, he is wearing oversized headgear. This is a reference to a public relations stunt by Michael Dukakis in 1988. When Mr. Burns plays a tape of "Ride of the Valkyries", it has been recorded over by Smithers with "Waterloo" by ABBA, a reference to Smithers' implied homosexuality and to the helicopter beach attack scene in Apocalypse Now, in which "Ride of the Valkyries" is famously played. Maggie is shown dancing in her diaper and covered in slogans in a parody of the filler scenes of Laugh-In in which Goldie Hawn and other female cast members like Ruth Buzzi and Jo Anne Worley danced in a bikini with slogans and drawings painted on their bodies. The two FBI agents are Joe Friday and Bill Gannon from Dragnet. Bill Gannon is voiced by Harry Morgan, the man who played Gannon in the original series.
In its original broadcast, "Mother Simpson" finished 45th in ratings for the week of November 13 – 19, 1995, with a Nielsen rating of 10.0, equivalent to approximately 9.6 million viewing households. It was the fourth highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Beverly Hills, 90210, The X-Files, and Melrose Place.
"Mother Simpson" is one of Oakley and Weinstein's favorite episodes; they have called it a perfect combination of real emotion, good jokes, and an interesting story. In 1996, "Treehouse of Horror VI" was submitted for the Emmy Award in the "Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming less than One Hour)" category because it had a 3D animation sequence, which they felt would have given it the edge. Pinky and the Brain eventually went on to win. Bill Oakley feels that had this episode been submitted, it would have easily won. The joke about Homer apparently being familiar with Walt Whitman is one of David Silverman's favorite jokes.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Mother Simpson". BBC. Retrieved 2007-07-30.
- "Mother Simpson". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia (eds.). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M.
- Appel, Richard (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Mother Simpson" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Oakley, Bill (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Mother Simpson" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Silverman, David (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Mother Simpson" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Mother Simpson" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Weinstein, Josh (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Mother Simpson" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Associated Press (November 9, 1995). "CBS has a first-rate weekend". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
- Goldman, Eric; Iverson, Dan; Zoromski, Brian. "Top 25 Simpsons Guest Appearances". IGN. Retrieved 2007-08-03.
- Kim, Wook (2008-05-11). "Springfield of Dreams: 16 great 'Simpsons' guest stars". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008-05-11.
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