"The Call of the Simpsons
" is the seventh episode of The Simpsons
' first season
, and originally aired February 18, 1990. It was written by John Swartzwelder
and directed by Wesley Archer
. Albert Brooks
made his first guest appearance on The Simpsons
in this episode as the voice of Cowboy Bob. In the episode, Homer
purchases an RV
and the Simpsons family set off for a vacation in the wild. Accidentally driving it off the edge of a cliff, the family is trapped in the woods. As Homer and Bart
try to find a way back to civilization, Homer gets himself covered in mud and is mistakenly taken for Bigfoot
by a naturalists. The news about the encounter spread quickly and Bigfoot hunters emerge to the woods to capture Homer.
Homer is envious of Ned Flanders
's new RV and goes to Bob's RV Round-Up to buy one of his own. The sly con-man
Cowboy Bob tells Homer that because of his poor credit, he only qualifies for a second hand, dilapidated RV. Thrilled with the new RV, Homer takes his family on an excursion
. After seeing the gridlock
on the freeway, he decides to take a shortcut through the Springfield
tells him the road is getting bumpy and that they should retreat, but he tells his family not to worry and then starts speeding. The family, afraid that they might crash, screams at him to stop. He hits the brake and comes to an abrupt halt at the edge of a huge gorge
. With the RV tilting back and forth at the edge, the family slowly creeps out of it just before it plummets into the abyss and explodes.
Stranded in the wilderness, Homer and Bart leave Marge and Lisa at the camping place while they set out to search for civilization, unaware that baby Maggie is tagging along. As they stroll through the woods, they hear a noise and assume it is a rattlesnake, when it is actually Maggie behind them sucking on her pacifier, and they run away. Separated from Homer and Bart, Maggie is soon adopted by a family of grizzly bears. While looking for food, Homer and Bart fall into a fast-moving river and they lose their clothes. To hide their intimate parts, they use plants and mud to cover themselves. Homer finds a bee hive and digs his hand inside it to get the honey out of it, but instead gets bombarded by bees and he flees in the direction of water, which turns out to be thick mud. Homer emerges from the brown goop and, due to the bee stings, mumbles like an animal at a nearby nature photographer for help. Mistaking Homer for Bigfoot, the man takes a picture and flees. Soon the forest is infested with Bigfoot hunters. Reporters find Marge and Lisa and warn them about the hideous creature roaming the woods. When she sees the picture of Homer, Marge identifies the monster as her husband and tries to clear up the misunderstanding, but the authorities now think that she is married to Bigfoot.
Meanwhile, Homer and Bart smell food coming from inside a cave, and when they enter it they find Maggie with the bears. They grab her and slowly walk away from the bears. Cold and near exhaustion, they begin looking for civilization again, until one of the hunters spots Homer and shoots him with a tranquilizer gun. Homer is then taken to a lab for tests where scientists observe him, unsure if he is actually a below-average human being or a brilliant beast. They allow Homer to return to his family until they can determine to what species he belongs.
A plot twist that involved Homer being carried away to an eagle nest and being raised as a baby eagle was suggested for this episode by James L. Brooks
, who was one of the show runners at the time, but they ended up going with Maggie being raised by bears instead. The sequence with Marge and Lisa by the bonfire was originally longer and included a conversation between the two mentioning boys, but was cut from the episode. In the original script, Homer and Bart were not talking in the scene where they concealed their private parts with mud and moss, but Sam Simon thought it would be "too funny to leave as a stage direction" and they added dialogue to the scene.
Albert Brooks, who did the voice for Cowboy Bob in this episode, was not sure if he wanted to be identified with a cartoon show or not at the time, like many of the other early guest stars on The Simpsons, and was therefore credited as A. Brooks in the ending credits. This episode was a satire of the Bigfoot specials that had aired on the FOX network at the time when this episode was written. A lot of resources were spent on the backgrounds in the episode, trying to make them very realistic and with lots of observational details such as trees, rocks, fences and the way the cars were positioned. Burger King figurines were made out of the camping designs of the Simpsons family in this episode.
The TV anchorman's order to "get those bears out of here" is a reference to Mr Peebley's weekly order to Botch in the cartoon series Help!... It's the Hair Bear Bunch!
"The Call of the Simpsons" received mixed reviews from critics. Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide
, both criticized and praised the episode saying: "This episode is a bit less than the sum of its parts. The early stuff at the RV Round-Up is much better than the main camping story, although there's some nice Marge-Lisa bonding, and who could resist Maggie and the bears?" In a DVD review of the first season, David B. Grelck gave the episode a rating of 1.5/5, adding "the surrealism of Homer as bigfoot is a major misstep. This type of gag would be very different today, if done at all. Jon Bonné at MSNBC
called the episode "a perfect example of the first season’s bizarre and fruitful balance between edgy humor and softly-drawn neuroses" and stated that "it was this combination that made Groening’s shorts for the Ullman show so compelling, and ultimately what made it possible for The Simpsons
to break the molds of network television."
The episode was nominated for an Emmy Award in 1990 in the category "Outstanding Sound Mixing for a Comedy Series or a Special". IGN.com named Albert Brooks' guest performance in this episode, along with his four other appearances on The Simpsons, the best guest appearance in the show's history.
In its original American broadcast on February 18, 1990, "The Call of the Simpsons" finished second place in the ratings for that day, with a Nielsen Rating of 14.6 and a 12 percent audience share.