|Episode no. 114|
Written by David Sacks
Production code 2F08
|Directed by Mark Kirkland|
Showrunner(s) David Mirkin
Original air date December 18, 1994
"Fear of Flying" is the eleventh episode of The Simpsons' sixth season. It was first broadcast on the Fox network in the United States on December 18, 1994. In the episode, the family attempts to go on a vacation but soon discover that Marge is afraid of flying.
The episode was directed by Mark Kirkland, and written by David Sacks. It features numerous guest stars, including Anne Bancroft as Dr. Zweig. Additionally, Ted Danson, Woody Harrelson, Rhea Perlman, John Ratzenberger, and George Wendt appear as their characters from Cheers. It received a positive reception from television critics, and acquired a Nielsen rating of 9.6. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide commented positively on the episode, as did reviews from DVD Verdict and DVD Movie Guide.
After pulling a harmless prank, Homer is banned from Moe's Tavern and must find another bar. Homer eventually settles for an airline pilots' bar, but is mistaken for a pilot and put in the cockpit of an airplane, which he promptly wrecks. In exchange for his silence regarding the mistake they've made, the airline gives the Simpson family free tickets to a location of their choice. However, the idea of plane travel fills Marge with anxiety as she has a fear of flying, and after numerous failed attempts to get out of the trip, she eventually has a panic attack on the plane, following which the trip is postponed.
When Marge begins to show signs of her lingering flight-related trauma, Lisa convinces her to undergo treatment with therapist Dr. Zweig.
Zweig uncovers the roots of Marge's fear: the moment she realized her father was not a pilot, but a flight attendant. Her shame is eased when Zweig assures her that male flight attendants are now very common and that her father could be considered a pioneer. Marge thanks Zweig for helping her, and she and Homer attempt to fly on a plane again, but the plane crashes into a lake.
"Fear of Flying" was directed by Mark Kirkland, and written by David Sacks. The story of the episode came about when Sacks came into the writers' room with an idea for an episode where Marge goes to a therapist "for one reason or another". Sacks and the other writers then structured the rest of the plot around that storyline. Anne Bancroft was called in to voice Zweig. Before Bancroft recorded her part, the animators based Zweig's design on a temp track from cast member Tress MacNeille as the therapist. After Bancroft had recorded her part, Zweig was redesigned to fit with Bancroft's voice. They added split glasses and a streak of silver in her hair to give her a more mature look.
The staff were able to get the central cast of the American sitcom Cheers, with the exception of Kelsey Grammer, to reunite and guest star in the episode. The staff could not arrange the script to allow time in the episode for Grammer, who already had a recurring role on The Simpsons as Sideshow Bob, to voice Frasier Crane. Ted Danson guest starred as Sam, Woody Harrelson as Woody, Rhea Perlman as Carla, John Ratzenberger as Cliff, and George Wendt as Norm.
In its original broadcast, "Fear of Flying" finished 48th (tied with Dateline NBC) in the ratings for the week of December 12 to December 18, 1994, with a Nielsen rating of 9.6. The episode was the third highest rated show on the Fox network that week, beaten only by Beverly Hills, 90210, and Married... with Children. Since airing, the episode has received many positive reviews from fans and television critics. In July 2007, Simon Crerar of The Times listed the Cheers cast's performance as one of the thirty-three funniest cameos in the history of the show.
Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, said it was "a good Marge-centric episode with plenty of clever set pieces – the tributes to Cheers and Lost in Space are fantastic", and noted that "Marge's father looks suspiciously like Moe". Ryan Keefer at DVD Verdict said that "with the cast of Cheers appearing (except for Grammer, ironically) and a funny spoof of North by Northwest, the episode is much better than you would expect", and gave it a B+.
Colin Jacobson at DVD Movie Guide said in a review of the sixth season DVD that it was "another show I didn’t recall fondly but that works exceedingly well. I hadn’t realized how many quotes I’ve stolen from this one: the name 'Guy Incognito', the dog with the puffy tail, 'a burden coupled with a hassle'. The show makes little sense in regard to continuity since Marge has flown during prior shows, but it’s consistently very funny and entertaining." The Phoenix named Anne Bancroft one of the twenty best guest stars to appear on the show.
The episode was selected for release in a 1999 video collection of selected episodes titled: The Simpsons Go To Hollywood. Other episodes included in the collection set were "Flaming Moe's", "Krusty Gets Kancelled", and "Homer to the Max". "Fear of Flying" was again included in the 2003 DVD release of the same set. It was included in The Simpsons season 6 DVD set, which was released on August 16, 2005, as The Simpsons – The Complete Sixth Season.