Seinfeld’s “The Contest”, Arrested Development’s “Pier Pressure”, The UK Office’s Christmas special, Abbi and Ilana’s birthright trip on Broad City, the Chappelle’s Show episodes with Rick James and Wayne Brady, The Larry Sanders Show’s two-part finale.
Off the top of my head, these are some of the most memorable episodes of televised comedy in the last quarter century — and there is no debate that “Homer at the Bat” from The Simpsons’ third season comfortably belongs on the list.
You surely remember the episode that featured a who’s who of 90s MLB superstars, including Ken Griffey Jr., Roger Clemens, Darryl Strawberry, Jose Canseco, Wade Boggs, Ozzie Smith, and Don Mattingly (shaved sideburns and all), who were recruited as ringers for Mr. Burns power plant company softball team.
For more on the episode, be sure to check out this oral history originally published in Sportsnet magazine.
To celebrate Homer Simpson’s induction to the baseball Hall of Fame earlier this year, The Simpson’s released a special hour-long mockumentary (directed by Morgan Spurlock) looking back at “the greatest corporate softball league game ever played.”
Here are some takeaways and highlights from Sunday’s special episode, “Springfield of Dreams.”
• The mockumentary was shot and presented in the style of Ken Burns’ Baseball documentary on PBS, with the same graphics, the same manipulation of still images, and the use of chapter headings (only this time featuring chapters with titles like “Eat. Sleep. Baseball. Eat.”)
• “I was drunk in the beginning and unconscious at the end”- Homer, summarizing his baseball career.
• Canseco, Smith, Boggs, Mattingly, Clemens, Griffey Jr., Steve Sax and Mike Sciosca (who had the best/most smooth line delivery of the group) all made appearances in this episode. From what I could tell, the only player who didn’t take part in the special was Strawberry.
• In the introduction, Bob Costas sets the stage for the global climate at the time when Homer stepped up to the plate, was plunked in the head by a wild pitch with the bases loaded, and won the game vs. Shelbyville by referencing roller blade Barbie in the same sentence as the collapse of Soviet Union, and a spirited clarification on the difference between a biscuit and cake.
• My biggest takeaway: Not enough Bob Uecker! The Brewers broadcaster and absolute legend (Google him for stories that, well, can’t be printed on a family-friendly website) only appeared in a few very short interview clips.
• In this universe, the Major League version of the Cleveland Indians are an actual team, and “Wild Thing” Rick Vaughan is a real athlete.
• Some people say there’s no such thing as magic, but those people aren’t magicians”- Homer on the magic behind his “wonderbat,” carved out of a tree struck by lightning.
• What I didn’t expect to find in this episode but did: An interesting conversation on the role of cheating in the tradition of baseball (“win any way you can as long as you’re not caught.”), which is still relevant today in the age of iWatches as it was when Mr. Burns was stacking his team.
• When introducing him, the narrator says Canseco was always known for his “puritan ethic and teetotalling ways.”
• The best moments – by far – were the continual flashbacks to the actual “Homer at the Bat” episode, which just shows how tough a task it was for this episode to be truly funny whilst relying heavily on athletes and sportscasters to carry a comedic load.
•Bogg offers a great and thoughtful monologue on why Pitt the Elder- and not Lord Palmerston, as Barney Gumble argues — is U.K.’s greatest Prime Minister (a cameo from Russell Brand, who adds his choice, Margaret Thatcher, to the debate was a nice touch).
• “At a certain point you stop needing a barber, and start needing a shrink”- Mattingly on the sideburn complex he developed.
• Low-key MVP of the episode? A moustache-less Nick Offerman, who appears as Brad Pitt (whom Costas argues would play Mr. Burns— “Billly Beane before there was Billy Beane”— if this story was made into a movie), George W. Bush, and longtime Simpsons writer John Swartzwelder.
• “He’s carted off a comatose hero.”- Costas on Homer’s moment of glory.
• “It is with great humility that I enter the Hall of Fame…and it’s about damn time.” – An excerpt from Homer’s HoF speech.
• I watched the episode with a mixed group of people who had and hadn’t seen the original Homer at the Bat, and it played well for both crowds thanks to leaning heavily on extended clips from the episode.