“Nobody’s Here” – Beethoven’s Fifth in The Simpsons
A question posted on the AMS-listserv really demands a quick blog entry in reply. Since the question has since been withdrawn from the list, here is a public answer:
The inquiry regarded the identification of an answering machine clip in an episode of The Simpsons that uses “Nobody’s Home” sung to Beethoven’s Fifth.
The episode to which you refer is 7F11 (season 2, episode 11): “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish” (24 January 1991). It is the classic episode where Homer eats improperly prepared Fugu (puffer fish) at a sushi restaurant–it’s one of the few early episodes that still shows up on reruns from time to time. With only 24 hours to live, Homer dives into his “bucket list.” In the midst of speeding from one task to another he gets pulled over by the cops and subsequently thrown in jail. I couldn’t find a copy of it on the interwebs, so here is the excerpt from my own copy of the DVD made available here under terms of “fair use” until Fox inevitably makes me take it down:
[Update: Fox took it down within about 45 minutes...try viewing it here.]
I had forgotten the “atmosphere” joke–ha!
Anyway, the answering machine tape that they reference is probably this one: “Crazy Calls” from the mid-1980s. Beethoven appears 28 seconds in:
That is worth a future blog post in and of itself!
The switch from “Nobody’s Home” to “Nobody’s Here” adds to the spoof while likely avoiding a lawsuit from the answering machine tape folks. Though, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure they’d have had much ground to stand on!
This isn’t the only instance of Beethoven’s Fifth in The Simpsons:
By coincidence (or fate…knocking at my door–sorry!), just this evening I saw a rerun of “Bart Has Two Mommies” from the seventeenth season–some fifteen years after the answering machine episode. The “Ode to Joy” theme plays when neighbor kids Rod and Todd Flanders have the blocks removed from their teeter-toter.
In the sixth season, know-it-all Martin Prince plays the disco-inspired “Fifth of Beethoven” during a flash-forward episode called “Lisa’s Wedding” (2F15).
My personal favorite appears in an episode from season fifteen called “Margical History Tour,” whose title succinctly references Marge Simpson and the Beatles. The episode itself spoofs the movie Amadeus. Just for fun, let’s watch this clip in German:
Nelson, the show’s bully, here playing the part of a young Beethoven transforms–though not by very much–his trademark “Ha ha” laugh into the same opening motif used in the answering machine clip above. As a side note, every musicologist would be proud of Lisa Simpson’s comment at the end of the episode that the film Amadeus full of inaccuracies.
There are likely more Fifth Symphony references, but I digress. Back to the dissertation…