Lifetime of Simpsons

S08 E14 – The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show

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Oh boy, an episode about TV shows jumping the shark, and another goddamn opportunity for me to be put face to face with my weird inadequacy of typing the word Scratchy. Let’s jump on in folks!

Things start off right at the end of a one-man pie fight that Krusty was apparently having with himself, which the kids are going crazy for. And right after that his show segues into an Itchy and Scratchy episode, keeping the momentum up. And we get a pretty standard Itchy and Scratchy where Scratchy is thrown into a volcano. But when it’s over we see that Bart and Lisa weren’t even watching the show, and that they’re kind of bored with the loveable duo. Plus it looks like they aren’t the only ones, and pretty much the whole town has given up on the murderous animals. Their ratings are terrible and are tanking Krusty’s show, so he calls Roger Meyers Jr into his office and demands that the cartoon make some changes, otherwise he’ll cut them from the show and fill it with some crazy Japanese anime. So Meyers has to actually give a damn for once and try to fix his show.

So we cut right over to the Springfield Mall where Marge is trying to buy a brassiere and doesn’t want Bart and Lisa around, so she tells them to wander off. And wouldn’t you know, as soon as Marge walks away some strange dude shows up and asks Bart and Lisa if they want to come with him. Of course they do, and they end up in a focus group with Nelson, Milhouse, Ralph, and that blonde girl with pigtails who bought a Lisa Lionheart doll. They’re going to be playing some Itchy and Scratchy to see what the kids are and aren’t clicking with while the old mirror in the room may cough, sneeze, or talk quietly. The kids then watch an episode, and the man asks them some questions about how to make Itchy and Scratchy better, resulting in them wanting a “realistic down to earth show that’s completely off the wall and swarming with magic robots.” This pisses Roger Meyers off, who yells at the kids for not being helpful. At which point Lisa saves Itchy and Scratchy for the third time and tells Meyers that there’s nothing wrong with the show, they’ve just gotten bored with the characters. Which gives Meyers a wonderful idea!

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We then cut right over to a boardroom where the writers for Itchy and Scratchy are getting yelled at by Roger Meyers, Krusty, and the first appearance of Lindsay Naegle, although I don’t think they call her that. They tell the writers that they need to add a new character to the show, and it has to be a cool dog that has all the terrible adjectives the 90s loved. The writers decide to just half-ass it and call the dog Poochie, and thus a monstrosity was born. And things just get worse when an animator has to come up with a design while Krusty, Naegle, and Meyers are all barking terrible ideas at him, which results in a surfer-hippie-kung fu- hip hop dog. Great idea guys. And now that they have their character they announce him in the newspaper along with an open audition to voice the radical new character.

So of course, one of the Simpsons is going to get involved, even though Bart thinks it’s a little weird to add a new character. Which leads to my favorite gag in this episode, the weird addition of some teenager who lives with the Simpsons called Roy that they just don’t explain and barely acknowledge. But we don’t focus on Roy and instead move on to Homer auditioning for Poochie, since he has a ridiculous voice. So he goes down to the studio where we see he’s up against powerhouses like Troy McClure and Otto, who both give great reads. And when Homer does his line reading he tries way too hard, and loses Meyers interest, that is until Homer starts acting like himself and sassing him. Which causes Meyers to change his mind and hire Homer to be the voice of his impending disaster.

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Now that Homer has his job he gets right to work with the rigorous voice-acting that we’ve come to know and love from Itchy and Scratchy. And when he starts he meets his coworker June Bellamy, a woman who voices both Itchy and Scratchy. The two start to bond as Homer beings working on his first episode. June also delivers an amazing line when Homer asks if the cartoon is broadcast live:

June: “No, Homer, very few cartoons go to air live. It’s a tremendous strain on the animator’s wrist.”

Fantastic. And once the first episode is recorded they begin a media blitz to get the character as amped up as possible, which surely won’t backfire. The whole town starts to get Poochie fever, and Homer and June are even invited to the Android’s Dungeon to get creeped out be nerds. They ask them all kinds of weird obsessive questions that today would get put in comments sections, and Homer just mocks them. So things are going well.

Unfortunately the premier is coming up, and the Simpsons invite everyone they know over to their house to watch the show, since it apparently is premiering in prime time. Everybody is stoked, especially Roy, and I found it endlessly amusing that Moe came in a suit. And then the episode starts. We see Itchy and Scratchy driving a car to a fireworks factory, but right before they get there they pick up a hitchhiking Poochie who they mistakenly start talking to. Which causes Poochie to go on a terrible rap about how awesome he is, which lasts an interminable amount of time. Poochie then steals their car and drives off, not even letting any violence in the fireworks factory happen. Which pisses off everyone, especially the people watching with the Simpsons. Everyone, except Ned, hated the episode, and awkwardly leave so they don’t have to talk to Homer. Even the family run to bed to avoid him.

And since everyone hates the character he voiced, Homer has started to get really depressed about the whole mess. We also get a great scene where Comic Book Guy complains about the episode, and how it pissed him off so much, which causes this amazing interaction between him and Bart that really sums up how stupid it is that anyone complains about media online.

Comic Book Guy: “Last night’s Itchy and Scratchy was, without a doubt, the worse episode ever. Rest assured, I was on the Internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world.”

Bart: “Hey, I know it wasn’t great, but what right do you have to complain?
Comic Book Guy: “As a loyal viewer, I feel they owe me.”

Bart: “What? They’ve given you thousands of hours of entertainment for free! What could they possibly owe you? If anything, you owe them!”

Comic Book Guy: “Worst, episode, ever.”

Man Comic Book Guy is a spot-on parody. Anyway, the kids in the neighborhood kids aren’t the only ones mad about Poochie, the executives are too. They begin arguing about how badly Poochie sucked, and try to figure out what to do. Homer ends up showing up and giving them some terrible suggestions that would somehow make Poochie worse, and they just blow him off. But before he leaves he listens through a crack in the door, and hears that they’re planning on getting rid of his character.

Homer, distraught about this revelation, goes home to tell the family about the horrible thing that’s happening. And they really don’t care, because they can barely contain their contempt for Poochie. So Homer goes into the voice-acting job, and refuses to speak his lines in the episode where Poochie is gruesomely murdered. Homer actually wrote his own lines which he hopes will save the character, but Roger Meyers has no intention to let him read them. That is until June threatens to quit the show if they don’t give Homer a shot. So they capitulate, and Homer reads this really emotional line: “Hello there, Itchy. I know there’s a lot of people who don’t like me and wish I would go away. I think we got off on the wrong foot. I know I can come off a little proactive, and for that I’m sorry. But if everyone could find a place in their hearts for the little dog that nobody wanted, I know we can make them laugh and cry until we grow old together.” And once he’s done with that monologue everyone applauds and is deeply moved. So Homer goes home, excited to show the family how awesome his changes were. But when the episode airs we see that even though everyone in the recording room were deeply moved, they just stop the animation before the big speech, Roger Meyers’ voice says “I have to go now, my planet needs me,” and he flies away. And once Poochie is gone a sign comes up saying he died on his way back to his home planet. Which causes everyone, especially Krusty, to become ecstatic! Except Homer, he’s pretty depressed. But they move on, and everyone agrees to go back to normal, Roy even moves out since he apparently got a spin-off. But the episode ends with everyone wanting to watch Itchy and Scratchy again, so I guess Poochie was a success?

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This is a pretty great Itchy and Scratchy episode. I say this every time we get one of these, but I really didn’t remember that there were so many episodes about Itchy and Scratchy. There’s so funny, and so often become direct parodies of the trials and tribulations that come from making an animated show. And this one really rocks, because we get to see some fun stuff making fun of how shitty people react to change. The whole concept of adding a new character to revitalize a floundering show is something that most people who obsess over TV, like me, know all too well, and it was hilarious to see what a disaster the creation of Poochie was, all while having Roy pops around as a weird secondary part of the joke. I’m sure that what happened behind the scenes of creations like the Great Gazoo are pretty damn similar to Poochie and his disastrous 90’s birth. Plus we get to see how self-entitles and shitty people can get when something they like changes. That interaction between Comic Book Guy and Bart is so similar to things that you see in comments sections when people bitch and moan about changes to their favorite shows or comics. But I think the thing that really amused me in this episode was the fact that Poochie kind of worked. They created him to revitalize people’s passion in Itchy and Scratchy, and he kind of did. He became a common enemy that everyone could rally behind to hate, and when he died we see that everyone went back to loving the show. Poochie pulled a New Coke.

Take Away: Don’t feel like the people who make your entertainment owe you anything. And don’t trust Poochies.

 

“The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show” was written by David S Cohen and directed by Steven Dean Moore, 1997.

 

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