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Friday, September 7, 2012

Retro Review: The Front

Original Airdate
April 15 1993

Or the One Where
Bart and Lisa ghost write an episode of Itchy & Scratchy using Grampa's name, while Homer retakes a failed high school science class to earn his diploma. 

The Setup
After watching a lackluster episode of Itchy & Scratchy, Bart and Lisa determine they could write a better episode, but are forced to submit it under Grampa's name to be taken seriously.

Notable Notes
This episode features a one minute short, "The Adventures of Ned Flanders" at the very end of the episode; it is completely unrelated to the events of the episode, and was added simply because the episode consistently came up short and the creators needed to fill time. It inspired the writers of the season seven episode "22 Short Films About Springfield".

Artie Ziff, Marge's one time high school boyfriend, makes a brief reappearance at Marge and Homer's high school reunion; however, Jon Lovitz was unavailable to reprise the role, so Dan Castellaneta performs the voice in this episode. 

Not surprisingly, this episode is filled with tons of gags and in-jokes about TV writing and animation, including a parody of the post-credits sequence which followed most Stephen J. Cannell-produced shows. We also see more of the Itchy & Scratchy episodes than in any other episode, including end credits and the aforementioned post-credits sequence. 

Quotable Quotes
Lisa: Look, there's only one way to settle this. Rock-paper-scissors.
Lisa's brain: Poor predictable Bart. Always takes 'rock'.
Bart's brain: Good ol' 'rock'. Nuthin' beats that!
Bart: Rock!
Lisa: Paper.
Bart: D'oh!

Lisa: Grampa, how'd you take off your underwear without taking off your pants?
Grampa: ...I don't know.

Roger: Hey how would you kids like a tour of the studio? Abe are you coming?
Abe: Any stairs?
Roger: Just one.
Abe: Nuts to you.

Lisa: Didn't you wonder why you were getting checks for doing nothing?
Grampa: I figured, 'cuz the Democrats were in power again.

Dondelinger: Alright here are your exams, fifty questions true or false.
Homer: True.
Dondelinger: Homer I was just describing the test.
Homer: True.
Dondelinger: Look Homer just take the test and you'll do fine.
Homer: False.

Teebore's Take
For whatever reason, I've never been a big fan of this episode. It's not bad, at all, and provides plenty of laughs on par with what we've come to expect from episodes of this vintage, but I've never considered it a classic on par with many of the other episodes from this season. Then again, I've never been a big Itchy & Scratchy fan (nor a fan of the shows that inspired it, like Tom & Jerry), and this episode is filled with I & S cartoons. There are lots of individual pieces to the episode I like, such as the writing and animation gags (as when Bart, Lisa and Roger Meyers Jr. are walking down a hall with repeated background animation as Meyers explains that cartoons reuse backgrounds to save money), the minor subplot involving Krusty using nictotine patches (culminating in his body being covered by the things), and the rock/paper/scissor gag quoted above, one of my all time favorite Simpsons quotes and something that I reference every single time rock/paper/scissors gets trotted out. But the parts never quite coalesce into a great episode, leaving the whole somewhat less than those parts.


Still a solid, funny episode on par with the rest of the season, just not an unquestionable classic.


  1. Wow. I forgot all about this episode...
    Though i do remember the rock/paper/scissors bit and i've definitely witnessed you quoting it.
    Semi related, there are some episodes of Tom and Jerry which are awesome, like the one where Jerry floods the basement and goes ice skating. And the one during thaksgiving where Jerry is babysitting another mouse and they gorge on giant olives and stuff. CLASSIC

  2. @Sarah: I tend to forget about this one too, especially the fact the rock/paper/scissors bit comes from it.

    I don't think I've even watching enough Tom & Jerry to recall a specific episode.

  3. I think I pretty much liked this episode when I saw it.

    I also like the "How to By Action Figure Man" clip at the reward show.

    Wouldn't a Notable Note be that this is the first time we learn Grandpa Simpson's first name is Abraham? Or am I wrong on that?

    I've always found the whole Itchy and Scratchy "They fought and bit" credit sequence very odd.

    On a similar note, for the longest time I thought the Itchy and Scratchy theme some was "We fight and fight. We fight and fight and fight."
    Basically, all fights, no bites. So when this episode came on, I thought that end sequence was "We fought and fit." Fit being an intentionally improper past tense of fight created so the song sounded better. I'm not sure where I'm going with this...maybe that I was a dumb kid?

    Also, I was incredibly confused by the Ned Flanders short. Why it was there. Why the Simpsons hadn't done anything like it before. Why it hadn't been done again. For a long time its existence was just confusing to me. Until I got older and found out they just tacked it on because the episode was too short.

  4. @Dr. Bitz: I also like the "How to By Action Figure Man" clip at the reward show.

    All of those clips were pretty great, but I do especially like that one.

    Wouldn't a Notable Note be that this is the first time we learn Grandpa Simpson's first name is Abraham? Or am I wrong on that?

    We knew that already. At the very least, his name was said during "Old Money" (the one where his girlfriend dies and leaves him a ton of money). I can't remember if that episode was when it was revealed, but it was definitely mentioned prior to this episode.

    I'm not sure where I'm going with this...maybe that I was a dumb kid?

    Probably, but I was too. I thought the same thing for the longest time.

    For a long time its existence was just confusing to me.

    Yeah, it confused me too, though I don't think it caused quite the same existential crisis in me that it did you. :)

  5. I loved it when grandpa Simpson says on the award ceremony that he's never seen Itchy and Scratchy and he doesn't like the show.

  6. @Arion: Yeah, his whole acceptance speech rant is pretty great.


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