In December 1989, The Simpsons was first broadcast and is still very successful.
The animated series focused on nuclear power plant worker Homer Simpson (Dan Castellaneta), his wife Marge (Julie Kavner) and their three children: Bart (Nancy Cartwright), Lisa (Yeardley Smith) and baby Maggie, with the quirky but lovable Springfield family.
The Simpsons aired an episode early on that contained life-saving instructions that were put to the test, with a plethora of memorable storylines spanning 30 years.
‘The Homer on the Bat’
Since its première, the show’s producer and writer, Mike Reiss, has worked on the series. He recalls one particular episode in his 2018 book, Springfield Confidential: Jokes, Secrets, and Outright Lies from a Lifetime Writing for The Simpsons, which was truly formative.
‘Homer at the Bat’ changed the tone, the casting, the show’s reality,”‘Homer at the Bat’ changed the tone, the casting, the reality of the show,” “It also saved a little boy’s life. Really! What more could you ask for? That Homer be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame? Yeah, that happened too.”
The premise was that Mr. Burns was Homer’s boss.
Starting a softball team, Burns. Since the majority of the production team of The Simpsons are avid sports fans, the writers were popular with sports storylines.
“This was Season 3 of the show, and the previous 17 episodes were about baseball, miniature golf, boxing, soapbox racing and football,” Reis explains. “It’s back to baseball now.
The Simpsons were sports-crazy, as was to be expected for a series written primarily by single men. … Everyone on the team loved sports… except me.
The ‘Simpsons’ episode with cast members did not go over well.
Producers recruited Major League Baseball players Wade Boggs, Jose Canseco, Roger Clemens, Ken Griffey Jr, Don Mattingly, Steve Sax, Mike Scioscia, Ozzie Smith and Darryl Strawberry for the episode. While the star power was impressive, the storyline lacked the realism for which The Simpsons was often praised.
“Up to this point, The Simpsons had been praised for its authenticity,” Reiss commented. “But this episode didn’t just stretch reality, it broke it, chopped it into pieces and left it for dead in a drainage ditch. It was a very different Simpsons episode, including the fact that the Simpsons were barely in it. Here, the guest stars were in charge.”
The cast made no secret of their distaste for the storyline and voiced their concerns about the stark change in content.
“Needless to say, our cast didn’t like the show,” recalls Reiss. “Our table read of the script was a total bust.
Two of our actors complained about the script, the only time that ever happened.
The baseball players were much easier to deal with.”
A background poster for ‘The Simpsons’ saved a life
Despite the cast’s lack of enthusiasm, the episode was a huge success and paved the way for easier access to attract major guest stars. A scene that could have easily gone unnoticed ended up providing some vital information.
“The show really saved a child’s life,” Reiss revealed. “The show opens with Homer choking on a donut; his friends ignore a prominently placed poster showing the Heimlich maneuver to study the sign-up sheet for Burns’ softball team.”
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While many Simpsons fans may have ignored the poster, one viewer took note of the life-saving advice.
“A week later, the news in Los Angeles reported on an 8-year-old boy who saved his friend who was choking,” Reiss recounted. “When asked where he learned the Heimlich, he said, ‘It was on a poster on The Simpsons.’ A true story.”