"Back to school, back to school, to prove to dad I'm not a fool..."
In Real Life
, adults furthering their education by returning to school is a fairly common occurrence—and one that can happen for any number of reasons, even out of a genuine love of learning.
However, in the realm of movies and TV, this situation is looked upon as purely humorous. Plots in which the main adult character—and it usually is the lead
; only occasionally will you see a more minor character as the focus of this sort of story—has to return to school are pretty much exclusive to the comedy genre.
Your average John Q. Dropout's reason for completing his education is nearly always related to his career, sometimes to obtain a new job requiring a higher degree of education and other times because his current job demands it. Stupidity and incompetence will often be lampshaded
. The character will often be thrown amongst people outside their age group, or at least act in that way.
When actual school children have to repeat a grade you want Held Back In School
If you're looking for the 1986 comedy of the same name, go here
open/close all folders
- The title character of Billy Madison had to retake all 12 grades in order to take over his father's company.
- In An Extremely Goofy Movie, Goofy had to return to college (and the same one his son, Max, was attending, no less!) to get a job.
- Goof Troop actually had one where he had to repeat grade school.
- The premise of the movie Back to School is that Rodney Dangerfield's character goes to college in order to convince his son that it's worthwhile (after the son uses the father's self-made success as an argument that college isn't necessary).
- The title character in Ernest Goes To School has to redo 12th grade to keep his job since the school board require all school employees to have a high school diploma.
- Nick Rivers from Top Secret appears to be back to school, painfully, in the middle of the movie. He is tremendously relieved when he realizes he was only being tortured by two goons and that was just a nightmare he had when he passed out.
- Larry Crowne is a fairly realistic version: Larry went into the Navy right out of college and only goes when he get's fired from his job for not having a college diploma, so he goes to Community College to have a better chance on the job market.
- In the Don Camillo e Peppone series, there is one arc where Peppone (the mayor of the village) has to take the primary school finals because he missed them during the troubled years of WW2. He almost fails; Don Camillo trades the correct solutions for political concessions.
Live Action TV
- In Avenue Q, There is the song "I wish I could go back to college" In which Nicky, Kate, and Princeton say they wish they could go back to college and in the end they all decide they'd be losers if they went back, because they would be thinking "these kids are so much younger than me"
- Torg has this inflicted on him in the "Torg Potter" stories from Sluggy Freelance. Humiliation takes a back seat, however, to the fact that someone new tries to kill him each school term.
- An episode of The Simpsons had Homer go to college to attain his degree in nuclear physics (because he works at a nuclear power plant, people—it just makes sense). The joke was that he kept on expecting college life to be like a raunchy frat comedy (like the one he was watching called School of Hard Knockers) and kept on being dumbfounded when it wasn't.
- There was an earlier episode where he had to take a night course run by his old high school principal because he never finished remedial science. His final exam gives us a classic:
Homer: All right brain, you don't like me and I don't like you, so let's just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.
Homer's Brain: It's a deal.
- A Family Guy episode revolves around Brian returning to Brown University after it's revealed early in the episode that he dropped out, and The New Yorker doesn't hire anyone without a college degree. Mentioned later in "Jerome is the New Black" when Quagmire chews out Brian on everything that he hates about him, one of which is that Brian "...failed college twice, which isn't nearly as bad as your failure as a father..."
- And Peter posed as a high school student to get kids to stop licking toads. Hilarity ensued when he started believing he was real high school student and behaved as such, including dating the high school hottie Connie D'Amico.
- Inverted when Stewie, the infant, also poses as a high school student to show Brian how easy being cool is. He succeeds, and even wins the heart of the hottie Peter dated, unfortunately, being an infant, he wasn't well endowed, so she dumped him, and he got her taken away on child molestation charges.
- Peter also had to go back to school and finish the third grade in order to get a promotion at the brewery. Hilarity Ensues and like in the toad episode he starts believing he was a real third grader and acting as such, including getting Quagmire to pose as his father so he could leave school to attend a ball game.
- A small gag used in a third season episode when Peter is about to be killed by a bear while on a hunting trip with Chris, his childhood flashbacks appear showing he has to repeat the fourth grade several times and finally passed right before his hunting trip.
- In the TaleSpin episode "Sheepskin Deep", Baloo returns to finish school so he'll be able to attend a class reunion. The really hilarious part is that it's elementary school, the same one Kit attends, and we see him trying to fit into the tiny little desk and everything.
- An episode of South Park has Officer Barbrady go back to school—and the third grade no less—after it's revealed that he's illiterate.
- In an episode of Hey Arnold!, Arnold's 81-year-old grandfather, who dropped out due to the Great Depression, goes back to elementary school. He quickly advances to the sixth grade, and then becomes a delinquent, before becoming a good student again and graduating.
- Lampshaded in the episode of Futurama where Fry has to prove he has what it takes to be a College Dropout after Leela told him that the increase in education standards put him on the level of a high school dropout. He was formerly a dropout of Coney Island University (Go White Fish!)
- The Flintstones had an episode where Fred has to attend classes in high school and it's a struggle. However, he's a whiz in the local geology course, which he notes he learned the hard way considering he works in a quarry.
- Another episode had Fred going to night school at "Princestone U".
- Done in an episode of Johnny Bravo, "Prep School Johnny". Johnny goes back to school because he didn't finish a class. Hilarity Ensues.
- Cat of CatDog must complete one final day of high school to graduate.
- Beetlejuice in the cartoon, has to finish kindergarten in order earn his license back. His license to drive people crazy, that is.
- I Am Weasel and I. R. Baboon had to return to third grade because of a typo. If they don't, Weasel won't be allowed to keep his Nobel Prizes and Baboon won't be allowed to keep the banana he got as a consolation prize. Weasel's tendencies to overcomplicate third grade questions made it hard for him but they eventually passed. However, someone pointed out another typo, showing it was fourth grade they hadn't finished. It was revealed the Red Guy was the typist.
- In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "Lesson Zero", Twilight Sparkle's descent into madness is prompted by her fear of being sent back to Magic Kindergarten.
- An Al Brodax Popeye cartoon had Popeye consigned to school after Olive spurns him for being an "uneducated ignoramus." He starts at grade 7, but his constant hilarious answers for basic questions cause him to regress a grade each time until he winds up in kindergarten.
7th grade teacher: What did Caesar say when Brutus stabbed him?
Popeye: He said, "Ouch!"
6th grade teacher: What is the difference between a verb and an adverb?
Popeye: A voib is an animal, and an advoib is a female voib!
- In God, the Devil and Bob Donna has gone to college (presumably not able to go while she was pregnant with the kids) and has some trouble picked a major because she's worried she won't get another shot at it. Bob reminds her she will always have another shot, she's earned it.
- In The Fairly Oddparents episode "The Old Man and the C Minus", Timmy's Dad entered a Game Show titled Are You Brighter than a 4th Grader? and lost because he answered "sea cucumber" to all questions except the one where "sea cucumber" was the right answer. He then admitted he didn't finish fourth grade and his wife forced him to go back to school to set an example for their son.