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Recap / The Simpsons S4 E19 "The Front"

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Original air date: 4/15/1993

Production code: 9F16
"I think all you people are despicable. For shame!"
After watching a mediocre episode of The Itchy and Scratchy Show, Bart and Lisa decide that they know enough about the show and what's funny to pen their own episodes, but after getting rejected by Roger Meyers, Jr. because of their age, the duo use Grampa Simpson as a front. Meanwhile, Homer and Marge go to their high school reunion, where Homer is revealed to have never graduated because he failed remedial science and goes to night school to make up the lost credit.

This episode contains examples of:

  • Absurd Phobia: Homer is such a big fan of donuts that he freaks out when his science teacher sets one on fire as an experiment.
  • Acquaintance Denial: The episode opens with Bart and Lisa watching Krusty's show and remarking on how he's trying to distance himself from his Jewish heritage. Then Homer runs in with a plunger stuck to his head and Bart and Lisa discuss what names they're going to take to distance themselves from him.
  • Ant Assault: In response to a mediocre episode of The Itchy & Scratchy Show, Bart and Lisa decide to write their own episode of the show called "Little Barbershop of Horrors", where Itchy gives Scratchy a haircut. Bart writes that instead of shampoo, Itchy covers Scratchy's head with barbecue sauce, then opens up a box of flesh-eating ants. The ants eat Scratchy's flesh, and Scratchy screams in pain as his head is reduced to a skull.
  • Are You Pondering What I'm Pondering?: After Bart suggests that he and Lisa could write a better episode of Itchy and Scratchy, Lisa poses this question to Bart, to which Bart casually responds "Probably not" before showing his Imagine Spot listed below.
  • Art Shift: The other cartoon nominees depicted in the episode (Strongdar, Master of Akom and Action Figure Man) have characters with Caucasian-colored skin instead of yellow skin.
  • Barbershop Episode: Show Within a Show example; the episode of Itchy and Scratchy that Bart and Lisa write upon seeing Homer accidentally cut off Marge's hair while trimming the hedges is "Little Barbershop of Horrors", where Itchy gives Scratchy a very painful haircut.
  • Berserk Button: Calling Krusty's hair blue. He walks out on hosting an awards show over a pun on The Blue Lagoon.
  • Beyond the Impossible: Grandpa somehow managed to take his underwear off without taking off his pants. Not even he knows how he did it.
  • Big "NO!": During Homer's Comical Overreacting.
  • Bill... Bill... Junk... Bill...:
    Marge: Third notice... final notice... some guys are coming... an invitation to our high school reunion!
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: Bart lets out a "D'oh!" after losing a game of Rock Paper Scissors against Lisa.
  • Brick Joke: Homer has a plunger stuck to his head at the beginning of the episode. At the end, it happens again. It doubles as Book Ends because those are Homer's first and last scenes in the episode.
  • Cannot Tell Fiction from Reality: As he and Marge get ready for their high school reunion, Homer looks forward to seeing his old friends "Potsie, Ralph Malph, The Fonz." Marge tells him that he's thinking of Happy Days.
    Homer: No, they weren’t all happy days. Like the time Pinky Tuscadero crashed her motorcycle. Or the night I lost all my money to those card sharks and my dad Tom Bosley had to get it back.
  • Call-Back: After Homer "wins" all the prizes, former principal Dondelinger announces that the prizes are invalid because Homer never graduted from high school. In "The Way We Was" it was already established that Homer wasn't very academically oriented to begin with, and when he shows up at the prom, Dondelinger's surprised to see him there, even saying: "Simpson? I thought you dropped out."
  • Class Reunion: Homer's subplot is about him being humiliated at his and Marge's high school reunion when it's discovered that he never technically graduated, and the epilogue shows the couple attending the next reunion.
  • Comical Overreacting: Homer screaming and mourning at the teacher burning a donut for a science experiment.
    Homer: This is not happening. This is not happening!!
  • Comically Missing the Point: Homer when Marge notices she received an invitation for a class reunion but Homer didn't.
    Homer's brain: This is it, Homer. It's time to tell her the horrible secret from your past.
    Homer: Marge, I ate those fancy soaps you bought for the bathroom.
    Marge: Oh, my God!
    Homer's brain: No, the other secret!
  • Couch Gag: The family forms a chorus line joined by Vegas dancers and animals.
  • Creator Backlash: In-universe, though subverted: Abe accepts an Outstanding Writer Award for an episode of Itchy & Scratchy even though Bart and Lisa actually wrote it. During his acceptance speech, he clarifies that he hadn't even seen Itchy & Scratchy until he saw a clip of the episode nominated and goes on a rant on how disgusted he was that such a violent cartoon passes off for entertainment in the modern era.
  • Creator Cameo: The Itchy & Scratchy writers are clearly designed after and voiced by the writers of The Simpsons. The book Lisa reads about writing is by John Swartzwelder.
  • Creator Career Self-Deprecation:
    Bart: Cartoons have writers?
    Lisa: Eh, sort of.
  • Curse Cut Short: Krusty after watching Itchy & Scratchy episode "Dazed and Contused".
    Krusty: Eh, I could pull a better cartoon out of my a...heheheh-hey! Whoa! Wasn't that great, kids?
  • Cutting Corners: Went meta when Bart and Lisa visit the animation studio that produces Itchy and Scratchy. Roger Myers Jr. tells them animation is expensive, and they cut corners where they can, such as looping backgrounds. They pass the same cleaning lady and door several times as this is said.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: It's noted that Itchy and Scratchy ran cartoons entitled Itchy and Sambo back in the 1930s ("sambo" being a term, usually a slur, for a person of mixed African-First Nations heritage), a nod to the many old cartoons that utilized racist humor and caricatures and are now rather hard to find on the airwaves.
  • Don't Explain the Joke: At the reunion, Homer keeps explaining the emcee's terrible impressions to Marge, much to her annoyance.
  • Drugs Are Bad: The message of the Itchy & Scratchy short "Dazed and Contused". Itchy weakly hits Scratchy's head a few times with a hammer (Bart thinks they're building to something), and then the two tell the camera, "Kids! Say no to drugs!" End.
  • Facepalm: Marge's reaction in 2024 when it turns out Homer went to the class reunion with a plunger on his head.
  • Filler: "The Adventures of Ned Flanders" was added precisely because the episode was running short.
  • Flash Forward: To Homer and Marge's 50th high school reunion in 2024 at the end.
  • Ghostwriter: Bart and Lisa write scripts for new Itchy & Scratchy cartoons, but because the studio doesn't accept scripts from kids, they decide to use Grampa's name.
  • Gilligan Cut:
    Lisa: It's so sad that Krusty is ashamed of his roots.
    (Homer walks into the living room with a plunger on his head)
    Homer: Marge, it happened again!
    Bart: What are you going to change your name to when you grow up?
    Lisa: Lois Sandborne.
    Bart: Steve Bennett.
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Bart and Lisa talks about how Krusty is denying his Jewish heritage. Right after that, Homer shows up with a plunger stuck to his head and Bart and Lisa talk about what names they want to have when they become old enough to legally change it (Lisa will be Lois Sandborn while Bart will be Steve Bennett).
    • Later, Barney learns that Homer failed remedial science and wonders how low one can get. Right after that, someone asks about Barney where his cummerbund (the sash on the waist of a men's tuxedo) is, with Barney dejectedly replying, "It fell in the toilet..."
  • I Don't Like You And You Don't Like Me: Homer says this almost word for word to his brain when he's about to take his test.
    Homer: Alright, brain. You don't like me, and I don't like you, but let's just do this and I can get back to killing you with beer.
    Homer's Brain: It's a deal!
  • Imagine Spot:
    • Bart has one about hijacking Santa's sleigh.
      Bart: (points submachine gun at Santa) Lie in the snow and count to sixty! (jumps in sleigh and takes off) Mwahahahaha! Merry Christmas, suckers!
    • Homer has one about carting Abe to a loony bin and leaving him there after he says that in his job, he's paid "to tell a cat and mouse what to do".
  • Is This Thing Still On?: After the lame Itchy and Scratchy, the show cuts back to Krusty: "Ehh, I could pull a better cartoon out of my a— (Notices he's on, then chuckles) Hey! Whoa! Wasn't that great, kids?"
  • Kick the Dog: Roger Meyers Jr. really likes humiliating that poor Harvard grad:
    Meyers Jr.: You call this writing?! If I puked in a fountain pen and mailed it to the monkey house, I'd get better scripts!
    Graduate: But sir, at Harvard they-
    Meyers Jr.: Oh, at Harvard they taught ya? Hit the road, egghead. You should've majored in not getting fired.
    • Then later on:
      Meyers Jr.: (after crumpling Bart and Lisa's script into a ball) Hey, egghead! (Graduate sticks his head in the office) Sing 'Fair Harvard'!
      Graduate: (singing) Faaa-ir Harvard, I- (is interrupted by Meyers Jr. tossing the crumpled-up script into his open mouth. The graduate removes the paper ball, incensed) You, sir, have the boorish manners of a Yalie!
      Meyers Jr.: Here's a witty rejoinder for ya! (tosses his nameplate at the graduate's head, causing him to leave the office, moaning in pain)
    • And once more, later that night:
      Graduate: Sir! You locked my office and I wanted to get my Harvard mug!
      Meyers Jr.: Shut up! (once again tosses his nameplate at the grad's head, causing him to leave in pain once more)
  • Lame Pun Reaction: Krusty was not impressed with the script for the awards show.
    "Well, here we are. The star of The Blue Lagoon and me: The blue-haired goon!" (Krusty realizes what he just said.) "What the...? That's terrible!" [...] "First of all, my hair is green, not blue! I've got nothing to work with here! Nothing!" (Krusty walks off stage)
  • Limited Animation: "Strong-Dar, Master of Akom: The Wedding Episode". See also the Wraparound Background example below.
  • Lonely at the Top: Artie Ziff is a wealthy businessman and would trade everything for a night with Marge.
  • Mean Boss: Subverted with Roger Meyers. Although Meyers is an asshole to most of his writers (specifically, the one he fired for mediocre writing and chucked his nameplate at his head twice), that's because the scripts they're producing for him are garbage. He's much nicer to writers who actually do their jobs and come up with scripts worth producing, like Grampa (allegedly). A deleted scene shows him firing Abe after Abe made that inflammatory speech about how awful the cartoon he won is.
  • Medal of Dishonor: Homer wins all kinds of awards at his high school reunion that are by all accounts very demeaning. They include "Most Weight Gained," "Most Hair Lost," "Most Improved Odor," "Most Oldest Car," "Lowest Paying Job," and "Least Distance Traveled to Get to the Reunion." Rather than take insult, Homer is proud of all these supposed accomplishments and is despondent when they get confiscated once Dondelinger discovers (and reveals to everyone at the reunion) that Homer never technically finished high school.
  • Mistaken for Insane: Bart and Lisa write scripts for The Itchy & Scratchy Show while using Grampa's name and face to fool the studio execs (since they don't hire kids). When he tells Homer that he gets paid $800 per week to "tell a cat and mouse what to do", Homer has an Imagine Spot of him wheeling Abe to the looney bin.
  • Noodle Incident: Grampa rehearses his acceptance speech for the Cartoon Awards and comments on how honored he is that "the same man who once took a shot at Teddy Roosevelt could win back your trust".note 
    • Lisa once watched a series of cartoons called Itchy and Sambonote  and thinks they're worse than the mediocre episode of Itchy and Scratchy she and Bart just watched.
  • Oh, No... Not Again!: Homer's reaction to getting a toilet plunger stuck to his head. Becomes a Brick Joke at the end of the episode, when Homer somehow gets another plunger stuck to his head before showing up to his 50th high school reunion in 2024.
  • Pet the Dog: Roger Meyers Jr. gives Bart and Lisa a tour of the studio just because.
  • Pig Latin: When Homer reveals he never passed remedial science in high school:
    Marge: And you're a nuclear technician??
    Homer: Marge... ix-nay on the uclear-nay echnician-tay.
    Marge: What did you say?
    Homer: I don’t know, I flunked Latin too.
  • Poor, Predictable Rock: Trope Namer. When Lisa and Bart play a game of Rock-Paper-Scissors to decide whose name goes first in their fan-script, Lisa wins because of this trope.
    Lisa's brain: Poor predictable Bart, always takes rock.
    Bart's brain: Good old rock, nothing beats that.
  • Produce Pelting: After Grampa's acceptance speech the audience throw fruit at him as he walks off the stage.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Grampa delivers one to the audience after winning at the Annual Cartoon Awards (as seen in the picture on top) and gets booed off the stage. It seems to strike a chord with a couple of guys though.
  • Recycled Animation: The animation of Roger Meyers throwing a paper weight at a writer's head is recycled a scene later.
  • The Reveal: The viewers (along with Bart and Lisa) learn that Grampa Simpson's first name is Abraham.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Having forgotten his name, Grandpa checks his underwear. When his granddaughter (speaking for herself and her brother) asks how he was able to remove his underwear without taking off his pants, he shudders and admits, "I don't know!"
  • Ripped from the Headlines: The idea for this episode came about because of the episode of Tiny Toon Adventures written by three teenage viewers. Adam I. Lapidus, the writer of the episode, thought the same thing could occur in-universe via Bart and Lisa.
  • Self-Deprecation: The episode takes a lot of shots at the Simpsons writers and their Ivy League college degrees.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: Played for laughs regarding Homer's subplot. He goes back to school to make up for the science credit he never received, achieves it (surprisingly), and boasts that he'll have nothing to be ashamed of at his next high school reunion. He then inexplicably shows up to said reunion with a plunger on his head, botching his last attempt to impress his high school peers.
  • Shout-Out:
    • The title is a nod to The Front, a 1976 film about writers "fronting" for colleagues blacklisted during the 1950s.
    • "Master of Akom" is a reference to AKOM, which did the animation for several Simpsons episodes, including this one. When the episode was dubbed for Brazilian audiences, Strong-Dar was renamed "He-Man".
    • The Vanity Plate for The Itchy & Scratchy Show is a parody of the one for Stephen J. Cannell Productions. Cannell was said to be so flattered by this, that he later hugged showrunner Mike Reiss for it.
    • The Adventures of Ned Flanders segment at the end, which the writers have fully admitted was just there for padding, is based on similar segments in Archie Comics used for when they had two extra pages to fill.
  • Shoot the Television: The "Little Barbershop of Horrors" cartoon ends with Elvis shooting the television after Scratchy's skull gets stuck in it. Pictured on the trope page.
  • Solemn Ending Theme: The ending theme to The Itchy & Scratchy Show is a slower-paced version of the opening theme, played on a piano and sung by a woman.
  • Somebody Doesn't Love Raymond: When the "Adventures of Ned Flanders" theme song says that "Everyone else loves Ned Flanders," Homer interjects to say that he does not. The singers then sing "Everyone who counts loves Ned Flanders!"
  • Something Only They Would Say: During the class reunion, Dondelinger doesn't recognize Homer until the latter says "D'Oh".
  • So Unfunny, It's Funny: Bobby Mindix, apparently the old class clown of Marge and Homer's year, drops a lot of stock impressions (i.e. Richard Nixon and Ed Sullivan) and quotes that are, at most, barely funny. However, they're made much funnier by Homer's apparent belief that they're top-shelf humor, and him laughing his head off every time and trying to explain the references to Marge.
  • Stylistic Suck: The Itchy and Scratchy episode that kickstarts the plot is a deliberately terrible one where Itchy just whacks Scratchy with a hammer before both turn to the camera just to give a poorly implemented "Drugs Are Bad" message.
  • Take That!
    • The season premiere clip of The Ren & Stimpy Show not being finished in time for the awards ceremony was a shot at creator John Kricfalusi, who not only trash-talked the show's art style in Animation Magazine but had a notorious habit of being such a perfectionist that it would delay production on episodes anywhere from nine months to a year.
    • The Itchy and Scratchy short Dazed And Contused mocks very special episodes of cartoon shows in the late 1980s and early 1990s which shoehorned in unsubtle anti-drug and anti-violence messages.
    • Merchandise-Driven cartoons don't get off easy either, as one of the other nominees is an episode of Action Figure Man entitled "How To Buy Action Figure Man," the clip of which being shown depicts a child in a toy store whining to his mother to buy him a toy.
  • Tempting Fate: Right after Homer says there'll be nothing for him to be ashamed of at the next class reunion, a Time Skip shows him going there with a plunger on his head (which he doesn't even notice until Dondelinger points it out).
  • This Explains So Much: After Homer admits to eating the fancy soaps:
    Homer: Marge, I never graduated from high school.
    Marge: That still doesn't explain why you ate all the soaps. Wait, maybe it does...
  • What Could Have Been: In-universe example. When Bart and Lisa were writing their first Itchy and Scratchy story, Lisa suggested Itchy could cut down Scratchy's head but Bart deemed it too obvious and came up with the idea they used instead of it.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!:
    • Krusty, when he is introducing himself with Brooke Shields for the cartoon awards, ends up getting incensed about a joke in his opening line.
    "Well, here we are. The star of The Blue Lagoon and me: The blue-haired goon!" (Krusty realizes what he just said.) "What the...? That's terrible!" [...] "First of all, my hair is green, not blue! I've got nothing to work with here! Nothing!"
    • Krusty mentions this in regard to the Itchy and Scratchy episode "Dazed and Contused", which basically had Itchy tapping Scratchy's head with a mallet repeatedly, then saying "Kids, say no to drugs!"
      Krusty: (Back on the air, smoking a cigarette) Ehh... I could pull a better cartoon out of my a... (turns to the camera and notices he's back on the air and immediately stops himself and tosses away the cigarette) ...ahhehehahahaha! (runs to them) Hey, whoa! Wasn't that great, kids?!
  • Wraparound Background: In one scene, Roger Meyers Jr. discusses this phenomenon with Bart and Lisa during their visit to his studio. The hallway background loops several times throughout the conversation—complete with the same watercooler and cleaning lady each time. According to the episode's DVD commentary, the Simpsons staff placed the cleaning lady there to make the looping more obvious to the viewers.
    Roger Meyers Jr.: Sometimes, to save money, our animators will re-use the same backgrounds over and over and over again.
  • Writers Suck: The entire theme of the episode is about how lazy and talentless the Itchy & Scratchy staff are, with heavy Self-Deprecation involved (such as most of them being Harvard graduates).