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The Simpsons/Stark Raving Dad
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Stark Raving Dad is the first episode of the third season of The Simpsons, and the thirty-sixth episode overall. When Homer wears a pink shirt to work, he's sent to an insane asylum where he meets a 300lb man claiming to be the pop singer Michael Jackson.
And: Harry Shearer
Special Guest Voice: John Jay Smith (Leon Kompowsky/Michael Jackson)
- Blackboard: "I am not a dentist."
- Couch Gag: The Simpsons all leap onto the couch, but it tips backwards and sends them through the wall.
- Early Version: This script originally involved Homer taking Barney to rehab in the mental hospital and doing something crazy that landed him in the asylum instead.
- Alternate Opening: On the January 30, 1992 rerun, this episode ran with an alternate opening that was only shown once. Only three days earlier, in a speech to the National Religious Broadcaster's convention in Washington, then President George H. W. Bush said "We are going to keep on trying to strengthen the American family, to make American families a lot more like the Waltons and a lot less like the Simpsons." The scene involved the Simpsons watching Bush's speech on television (unanimated, just using the actual video footage) and Bart responding with "Hey, we're just like the Waltons. We're praying for an end to the Depression, too." The scene can be found on the season four DVD boxset.
Behind the Scenes
- Casting: Michael Jackson personally phoned Matt Groening and offered do a guest voice on the show and previously wrote a hit song for the series, "Do the Bartman." Writing partners Al Jean and Mike Weiss wrote this episode specifically for him, after an idea by James L. Brooks, hoping that he wouldn't have any issues with it. For the most part, Jackson reportedly liked the script but had a few notes: he wanted the scene where he and Bart stayed up writing a song and he nixed a joke about Prince, instead changing it to Elvis. He also pitched the story idea where Bart lets rumors slip that Michael Jackson was coming to his house and everyone being disappointed with what they were met with.
- Credit: One of Michael Jackson's requirements for doing the show was that although he would do the speaking parts for the character, he wanted the credit to go to a soundalike. He also decided not to do the songs in the episode, which instead were performed by Kipp Lennon. When asked why he didn't want to do the songs for the show, Jackson said he was playing a joke on his brothers.
- Legal: The staff of The Simpsons wasn't allowed to confirm that Michael Jackson actually did a voice in the episode, although they may have hinted strongly at it and many publications reported that it was him without exact confirmation from the producers.
- Sequel: An unproduced sequel to this episode was written in the fourth season, which would have brought Leon back as Prince instead of Michael Jackson. He would proceed to make Springfield less repressed and generally more like Prince. The script was written by freelancers with polish by then new writer Conan O'Brien and sent to Prince for approval. Prince sent back a sheet of notes with costuming requests, but the notes didn't correspond to the script they sent.
It turned out that, completely coincidentally, some random person wrote a Simpsons episode starring Prince and mailed it to him around the time that the episode was being written. Accounts of who wrote the episode vary, which could have been Prince's friend or chauffeur. In the end, Prince hated the legitimate Simpsons script and the writers hated the phony script so the episode never happened. It is one of three scripts that writers wrote but never produced (a Thirtysomething crossover and an episode where Bart goes to military school).
Allusions and References
- America's Funniest Home Videos: The television show that Homer is watching while Bart fills out the sanity test is America's Funniest Home Videos, a reality TV series originally hosted by Bob Saget on ABC. The show awarded cash prizes to the videos which were deemed the "funniest" by the audience, often featuring slapstick and physical comedy. The show premiered in 1989, around the same time as The Simpsons did.
- Michael Jackson: This episode revolves around a mental patient who believes that he is Michael Jackson. Jackson is one of the most famous singers in history and recorded hits like "Thriller", "Beat It", "Smooth Criminal" and "Billie Jean". Prior to his solo career, he sang with his family in the Jackson 5.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Most of the mental institute scenes are parodies of the novel and film One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The film tells the story of a man who fakes being insane in order to get out of jail time. He then goes on to attempt to liberate the patients from the harsh care of Nurse Ratched. One clear example of the parody in this episode is the "Chief", who was thought mute by the patients and nurses.