Recap / The Simpsons S 1 E 4 Theres No Disgrace Like Home
Episode - 7G04
First Aired - 1/28/1990

After being humiliated at a company picnic, Homer forces Marge and the kids to be more well-behaved, but after nearly getting caught spying on the neighbors, Homer decides to pawn the TV and pay for a session with Dr. Marvin Monroe.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Accidental Misnaming: When Mr. Burns is greeting the Simpsons.
    Mr. Burns: And this must be, uh... (glances at flash card given by Smithers) Brat.
    Bart: Bart.
    Homer: Don't correct the man, Brat.
  • Bad Boss: Mr. Burns seems to have designed his company picnic as more of a means to weed out employees he doesn't like rather than host a pleasant evening for them. He fires a man just on the suspicion that he doesn't have a happy family, forces every father and son to take part in a potato sack race that is arranged for him to win, and threatens to release the hounds on everyone once the event is over.
  • Big Blackout: The family members apply so many electric shocks at each other at Dr. Marvin Monroe's therapy that they take the power from the city.
  • Brick Joke: The "perfect" family that Homer idolizes at the beginning of the episode is later seen at Dr. Marvin Monroe's center all angrily looking away from each other. Looks like they weren't as good a family as Homer thought they were.
  • Can't Hold Her Liquor: At the company picnic, Marge—who admits she's "not much of a drinker"—joins the other wives for a glass of punch. Intoxication Ensues.
  • Characterization Marches On: Homer's most popular characterization as a crude, clumsy, lazy, ignorant man, with alcoholic tendencies, makes this an extremely odd episode to watch, especially for those who have never seen the show in its early days. He is embarrassed by his family's boorish behavior, including Marge getting drunk at his boss's party, and takes them to family therapy. If this was written after the first season, the roles would undoubtedly be reversed. Adding to this, Homer sells the TV in order to pay for the therapy; again, something he'd never even contemplate doing post-season one. While Homer is somewhat called out on it later that episode, since most of the things he was ashamed of them doing were his fault in the first place, he shows a lot more devotion to his family here than in later seasons. Then again, Homer has yet to discover the joys of taking out the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, ect... mortgage which he does in later seasons.
    • Regardless of how Homer turned out, he still proved that he loves his family despite his faults, in later seasons. For example, he is willing to work a 2nd job at the Kwik-E-Mart to afford shelter for "Lisa's Pony," suffer incredible pain while jumping Springfield Gorge in Bart's place, or filing for divorce just so he and Marge could have a proper wedding (the first one was a shotgun wedding in Vegas.)
    • Homer's brief quotation of his mother made her out to be just as bitter and verbally abusive as his father (who hadn't even completely settled into that characterization yet) instead of the loving but neglectful Cool Old Lady they will eventually introduce.
  • Contrived Clumsiness: Bart shocks Lisa and claims that "My finger slipped". Lisa shocks him back and says "So did mine".
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Mr. Burns fires a man because his son remarked that he had to miss ball practice.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: In spades. As noted in the commentary, everything about the episode is wrong compared to what the show soon became, with Homer being the one embarrassed by his family's antics being the most glaring (as usually this is a characteristic more appropriate for Marge or Lisa). Bart and Maggie (and maybe some of the ancillary characters, like Moe, Mr. Burns, Dr. Monroe, and the two cops, Eddie and Lou) are the only ones whose personalities aren't altered.
  • Electric Torture: As a last resort, Dr. Monroe hooks up the Simpsons to electrical devices that enable each member to shock the other. Monroe meant it as a form of aversion therapy, but the Simpsons just keep shocking each other indiscriminately.
  • Escalating War: What the shock therapy ultimately degrades into. Bart at first shocks Homer for the fun of it, then Lisa, with both retaliating in kind. Quickly the whole family just start frantically shocking one another in a petty fight.
  • Hypocritical Humor: More in sync with his later characterisation, the episode frequently notes a lot of the family woes Homer is embarrassed about are caused by him.
  • Identical Stranger: A whole family of identical strangers to the Simpsons (only much more kempt) are seen exiting Marvin Monroe's office, with the Homer lookalike even spouting Homer's old Catch Phrase ("Let's all go out for some frosty chocolate milkshakes"). Homer takes this as a sign that Monroe knows his stuff. Earlier in the episode, they can briefly be seen in the background at Mr. Burns' company picnic.
  • Ill-Fated Flowerbed: Homer does this, with a twist, while taking his family on a peeking tour of the neighborhood's houses.
    Bart: Whoa, look at this place. What a dump.
    Homer: That's what you think. I just trampled this poor sap's flower bed. (laughs)
    Marge: Homer, this is our house.
    Homer: D'oh!
  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: This episode marks the first time Homer says "Mmm, [food item]...".
  • Missed Him by That Much: Eddie and Lou were searching for "a family of peeping toms" (the Simpsons looking at other house windows). Their search dog was growling at Homer, who says he had wieners on him. So they leave, dragging their dog with them.
  • Not So Above It All: Despite his insistence that he's the Only Sane Man in his family, Homer frequently displays his own failings. He reacts with angered violence towards his children's quips, fails to pay attention to the counseling he forced the rest of the family to go through, and abuses the shock therapy with the rest of his family.
  • Out-of-Character Moment: Marge gets drunk and actually embarrasses Homer, who wants their family to be normal and appreciated by the rest of society. Part of Early Installment Weirdness, of course. Really, the only ones who act in character are Bart and Maggie.
    • Then again, getting wasted isn't exactly out of character for Marge. For example, she aids a felon friend in Ruth Powers in the Season 5 episode "Marge on the Lam," and becomes a gambling addict later that season when Mr. Burns opens a casino. While she escapes charges in the former, the latter is much more depressing because she neglects her family.
  • Papa Wolf: While Homer was embarrassed by his family, he will not let anyone insult them. A drunken Barney did so, causing a barfight between them.
  • Running Gag:
    • This is the first time Mr. Burns mentions releasing "the hounds" and the first time that he has to consult Smithers on who Homer is. Though the latter is probably justified since Burns doesn't seem to care to know the names of ALL his employees.
    • This episode is notably the last proper appearance of Homer's Catch Phrase "Let's all go out for some frosty chocolate milkshakes", a Running Gag from the Tracey Ullman era. Every time the show has referenced the line since, it has been a Call-Back to how old and weird it is.
  • Therapy Backfire: The episode has Homer insist the family go to a therapy session. They all blame him (although this might have been annoyance at him having sold their TV to pay for it). Even escalating to electroconvulsive aversion therapy can't stop the family from feuding with each other (if anything, they end up browning out the clinic and several surrounding blocks in the ensuing electroshock fight). Dr. Monroe gives up, refunds Homer's money, and begs them to never tell anybody that they visited the clinic.
  • Wheel of Feet: Bart and Lisa do this when running away from a house with the rest of their family.
  • Window Watcher: Homer takes the whole family out on a Window Watching escapade in order to demonstrate to them that their family's personal interactions aren't normal.
  • Would Hurt a Child: At least one member of the family targeted one year old Maggie in the shock therapy session.