Homer's Barbershop Quartet
- "I'm telling you it's mighty nice
Each trip's a trip to paradise
With my baby on board!"
- ―The Be Sharps
| "Homer's Barbershop Quartet"
| Episode Information
"Homer's Barbershop Quartet" is the first episode of season 5 of The Simpsons and the eighty-second episode overall. It originally aired on September 30, 1993. The episode was written by Jeff Martin and directed by Mark Kirkland. It guest stars George Harrison as himself, David Crosby as himself and The Dapper Dans as The Be-Sharps singing voices.
- "We flashback to 1985, where Homer, Apu, Principal Skinner, and Chief Wiggum (later replaced by Barney) were the hit barbershop quartet known as The Be Sharps. George Harrison guest stars."
During the Springfield Swap Meet, Bart and Lisa notice an album cover showing Homer. They ask Homer when he recorded an album. Homer answers that he recorded an album in 1985. He mentions that every afternoon at Moe's, Chief Wiggum, Principal Skinner, Apu, and he would get together and sing.
The crowd liked the singing. Homer says that his group was a barbershop quartet, which was popular everywhere, even at church. The group initially started in Springfield, but quickly found national fame after their new agent, Nigel, approached them and said everyone in the group could sing except Chief Wiggum, who was too "Village People." The group held auditions for a replacement, with Grampa (who did a swing version of Old MacDonald had a Farm), Groundskeeper Willie (who sang Petula Clark's Downtown, but says "Doontoon" instead), Jasper (who sang Theme To a Summer Place with made up lyrics), and Chief Wiggum (disguised as Doctor Dolittle, who sang If I Can Walk With the Animals) all making unsuccessful attempts. When the barbershop trio returned to Moe's, they heard Barney singing in a beautiful Irish voice from the toilet room, and were amazed. After Barney is chosen as the new member, people still liked Chief Wiggum. After hearing him sing, however, the audience warmed up to Barney. In fact, the audience warmed to Barney so fast that Moe thought Nigel paid them to support Barney.
The group considered various names to call themselves, deciding their name should be witty initially, but should become less funny each time you heard it. They finally agreed on calling themselves "The Be Sharps." Although it was against his religion, Apu changed his last name to Apu du Beaumarche, because Nahasapeemapetilon would be too long to fit on a marquee
Back in the modern time, leaving the swap meet, Homer says he sold a spare tire, but unfortunately, a tire on the car blows out and Marge has to take a long walk to a gas station. Homer tells the rest of the story: he tried writing a new song with little luck, until Marge got a "Baby on Board" sign. This inspired Homer to write his Baby on Board song inspired by the fad. The group sang it in studio and put it on their first album, With the Be Sharps. The song became a number one hit. The group arrived in New York in 1986 to perform at the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. The Be Sharps also won a Grammy for "Outstanding Soul, Spoken Word, or Barbershop Album of the Year" from David Crosby, and Homer got to meet George Harrison, but was distracted by the brownie in his hand. Meanwhile, Wiggum's now dead singing career was being mocked by numerous talk show hosts.
Homer explains that the Be Sharps were on merchandise items - such as lunch boxes, mugs, posters, etc. When Lisa pulls out a bottle of Be Sharps Funny Foam, Homer says that it was pulled off the market when it was discovered to be poisonous. He goes on to voice his disapproval of that by remarking that, "...if you ask me, if you're dumb enough to eat it you deserve to die." He turns and finds Bart spraying the bottle into his mouth.
The name of their second album was Bigger than Jesus. Unfortunately, while the Be Sharps were becoming popular, Marge had problems raising the children, and the Be Sharps had problems of their own. They had creative disputes, brought on by Barney's new girlfriend (resembling Yoko Ono), and Barney left the group. The two recorded a "Revolution 9"-like piece, with Barney's girlfriend reciting "Number 8" over and over atop tape loops of Barney's belches. The group lost its popularity and split up, with Principal Skinner returning to Springfield Elementary School, Apu returning to the Kwik-E-Mart to continue gouging customers, Barney returning to Moe's with his girlfriend, and Homer returning to his job at the Springfield Nuclear Power Plant after a chicken named Queenie took his place. Despite numerous unanswered questions, like where the money Homer made went and why he never hung up his gold records, Homer simply sends the kids to bed and tells them he would answer their questions another day.
After Homer takes another look at the album, the group reunites to perform a rooftop concert at Moe's. During the concert, George Harrison pulls up in his limousine, sees them and says, "It's been done," referring to the impromptu concert on the Apple offices rooftop performed by The Beatles during their Get Back recording sessions. Before the episode ends, it is implied that Chief Wiggum plans to have to group arrested.
One of the writers for The Simpsons suggested that they should create an episode that focuses on Homer in a barbershop quartet and "a big parody of The Beatles". Jeff Martin, who was an "obsessive" Beatles fan, was chosen to write the episode, while Mark Kirkland, a "huge" Beatles fan, directed the episode, and ensured that The Beatles' references were accurate. Kirkland enjoyed directing the episode because unlike other episodes he directed, he did not experience any trouble animating "Homer's Barbershop Quartet". The animators liked creating The Beatles' gags and enjoyed the barbershop music. They also enjoyed working on the choreography of The Be Sharps and trying to match the characters' movements with the music.
In a scene of the episode, Lisa grabs a Malibu Stacy doll with big breasts. Raphael tells her "they took [the doll] off the market after some kid put both his eyes out." A censor note from FOX network's censors was sent about the joke, because FOX did not want such jokes on the show. The writers ignored the censors, and the joke was seen in the episode.
In its original broadcast, "Homer's Barbershop Quartet" finished 30th in the ratings for the week of September 27 to October 3, 1993, with a Nielsen rating of 12.7, translating to 11,963,400 households.
The episode received generally positive reviews from critics. Many praised the Beatles appearance and the songs.
- (2004) Audio commentary for Homer's Barbershop Quartet, season 5 DVD.