"Some Enchanted Evening" is the thirteenth episode of The Simpsons' first season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 13, 1990. Written by Matt Groening and Sam Simon and directed by David Silverman and Kent Butterworth, "Some Enchanted Evening" was the first episode produced for season one and was intended to air as the series premiere, but served as the final episode of the season due to significant animation problems. It is also the last episode to feature the original opening sequence starting from "Bart the Genius". In the episode, Homer and Marge spend a night on the town while having the children responsible by a diabolical babysitter named Ms. Botz.
The former Laverne & Shirley star Penny Marshall provided the voice of Ms. Botz. The episode features cultural references to such films as The Night of the Hunter and Psycho as well as a musical reference to A Star Is Born. Since airing, the episode has received mixed reviews from television critics; some deemed it the best episode of the season while others regarded it as the weakest. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 15.4, and was the highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
Marge is depressed that Homer takes her for granted. She calls Dr. Marvin Monroe's radio call-in therapy show and the doctor urges her to confront Homer, who hears the call on a radio at work, feels bad and wonders how to change the way Marge feels about him. He goes to Moe's Tavern after work and, on Moe's advice, brings home a single rose and a box of chocolates. Marge's mood immediately softens, and Homer invites her to a dinner at a fancy restaurant, dancing, and spend a night at a motel.
Marge and Homer now need a babysitter and hire Ms. Botz through the local "Rubber Baby Buggy Bumper babysitting service" (however, they have to call themselves the "Samsons", since their kids have a rather bad reputation with the babysitting service, and are effectively blacklisted). On Marge's advice, Ms. Botz puts Maggie to bed and has Bart and Lisa watch The Happy Little Elves. When Bart tries to suggest alternate viewing, Ms. Botz quickly puts him in his place because she dealt with troubled children like him before. After Ms. Botz leaves the room Bart tunes into a station airing America's Most Armed and Dangerous (a parody of America's Most Wanted), which profiles a wanted burglar nicknamed "The Babysitter Bandit." A mug shot of the suspect shows Bart and Lisa that Ms. Botz is "The Babysitter Bandit." Ms. Botz enters the living room and realizes that her cover has been blown. Bart and Lisa try to hide, but she easily finds them, ties them up and forces them to watch The Happy Little Elves as she continues packing the family's possessions into her suitcases. Maggie eventually wakes up and goes downstairs to discover that her siblings are tied up and watching TV. Maggie frees Bart and Lisa, and Bart is able to knock out Ms. Botz with a baseball bat.
After tying up Ms. Botz, the kids find all their telephones disabled (which Ms. Botz had done earlier) and go to a nearby payphone to alert the authorities. Meanwhile, Marge tries to call home to check up on the kids but because there is no answer, she and Homer decide to cancel their motel reservation and go home. They find Ms. Botz bound and gagged in front of the TV. Homer, thinking his children have gotten the best of another babysitter and unaware of her true identity, frees her and pays her handsomely. After advising Homer to keep both eyes on Bart, Ms. Botz makes a clean getaway, just seconds before the kids arrive with the police and news media to arrest her. As Bart tries to lead the police to the house, Homer attempts to berate him for his behavior towards Ms. Botz, only to be informed by a news reporter about Ms. Botz's true identity and that he just freed her. Realizing his mistake, a humiliated Homer attempts to save face by claiming he fought Botz and she escaped, then warning her on camera never to show her face to him again. Later that night, Homer moans about his blunder on TV, but Marge cheers him up by saying that if he raised three children who can hogtie a perfect stranger, he must be doing something right.
Even though this episode aired as the last episode of the first season, it was the first episode in production and was intended to be the first episode to air from the half-hour show. The series is a spin-off from The Tracey Ullman Show in which the family already appeared in a series of animated one-minute shorts. The characters were already created, but had to be further developed in order to carry a half-hour show. The episode was therefore meant as an introduction to the characters. The Simpsons creator Matt Groening and writer/producer Sam Simon (of such television series as Cheers) wrote the script for the episode. Both Groening and Simon are credited with developing the series along with executive producer James L. Brooks. The name of Ms. Botz was based on a real person that once babysat Matt Groening.
The episode was first directed by Kent Butterworth. Klasky-Csupo, the animation studio that produced the earlier Simpsons shorts, was in charge of the animation, with one exception. During the years of producing the shorts, everything was created in-house. As a budgetary consideration production was subcontracted to South Korean animation studio AKOM. While character and background layout was done in Los Angeles, inbetweening, coloring and filming is done by the overseas studio. A debacle erupted when this episode, the first to return from Korea, was screened in front of the production staff at the Gracie Films bungalow. Brooks' initial reaction to the animation was "This is shit." Afterwards the room almost cleared. A heated argument ensued between Brooks and Klasky-Csupo animation studio head Gabor Csupo, who denied that there was anything wrong with the animation and suggested that the real problem was the quality of the show's writing.
The producers felt the animation did not exhibit a distinct style envisioned for the show. At the time there were only a few choices for animation style. Usually, they would follow the style of either Disney, Warner Bros., or Hanna-Barbera. Disney and Warner Bros. cartoons had a universe that was bendy and the characters seemed to be made of rubber. The producers wanted a realistic environment in which the characters and objects could not do anything that was not possible in the real world. One example with the early animation being cartoonish was that the doors behaved liked rubber when slammed. The style of Hanna-Barbera featured the use of cartoon sounds, which they did not want either.
The producers considered aborting the series if the next episode, "Bart the Genius", turned out as this episode, but fortunately it turned out to suffer only a few, easily fixable problems. Afterwards, the producers entreated Fox to postpone the series premiere for several months. The premiere then switched to "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire", which had to be aired in December, being a Christmas special. This ensured that more time could be spent fixing the animation problems and rewriting much of this episode. Directorial retakes were handled by David Silverman, who already had considerable experience directing the shorts. Silverman estimates that about 70% of everything had to be redone. Most of these retakes consisted of changing the backgrounds. The result is an episode where the animation is uneven, because it shifts between the early animation and the retakes. It is still possible to see the doors slam like they were made of rubber. The Fox censors wanted to replace the sentence "the blue thing with the things", which they believed to be too sexual. Due to the fledgling position of the Fox network, Jim Brooks had obtained an unusual contractual provision that ensured the network could not interfere with the creative process by providing show notes, so the producers simply ignored the censors.
The episode featured a few early character designs. Moe Szyslak has black hair in this episode, which was later changed to grey. Barney Gumble has yellow hair, which was later changed to brown in order to differentiate the character's hair color from that of his skin. Because of the delayed airing, there are also a few continuity errors. Santa's Little Helper for example does not appear in this episode, despite being introduced in "Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire". Hank Azaria was at the time credited as a guest star for portraying Moe Szyslak. In this episode Moe was originally voiced by Christopher Collins, but when Azaria came with his version, they decided to overdub Collins' voice. Azaria became a regular cast member in the second season.
Ms. Botz's pursuit of Bart into the cellar is reminiscent of Robert Mitchum's pursuit of a young boy in the film The Night of the Hunter. Moe's Tavern plays "The Man That Got Away" from the 1954 remake of A Star Is Born directed by George Cukor and starring Judy Garland and James Mason.
In its original broadcast, "Some Enchanted Evening" finished 12th for the week in the Nielsen ratings with a rating of 15.4, being seen by approximately 14.2 million homes. The episode was the highest-rated show on the Fox network that week.
Since airing, the episode has received mixed reviews from television critics. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, said: "It's quite a shock to discover that this confident, fully rounded episode was the first to be made. The perfect template." Colin Jacobson at DVD Movie Guide said in a review that he "thought “Evening” was a reasonably good episode." and added that "Still, it’s an awkward piece, and not one I enjoyed a great deal. To be sure, 'Evening' was generally entertaining, but it's nothing special." In a DVD review of the first season, David B. Grelck gave the episode a rating of 1.5/5. Another DVD review from The Digital Bits calls the behind the scenes story more interesting than the actual episode.
According to Al Jean, viewers thought this episode was the best episode of the first season after the season ended. However in 2006, IGN.com named "The Crepes of Wrath" the best episode of the first season. Penny Marshall, who played Ms. Botz, ranked on AOL's list of their favorite 25 Simpsons guest stars.