Much Apu About Nothing
"Much Apu About Nothing" is the 23rd episode of The Simpsons' seventh season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 5, 1996. In the episode, a referendum is created that will require all illegal immigrants from Springfield to be deported. After learning that his friend Apu will be deported, Homer decides to help Apu prepare for a United States citizenship test so that he can become a legal citizen.
The episode was written by David S. Cohen, and directed by Susie Dietter. Joe Mantegna guest stars in the episode as Fat Tony. The title of the episode is a parody of William Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from fans and television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 8.2, and was the fourth highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
On an ordinary day, a brown bear strolls onto the streets of Springfield, frightening the town. The bear is eventually subdued by the police, who tranquilize it. Homer convinces Springfield that something needs to be done to protect them from bears, and the town takes their complaint to Mayor Quimby, who gives in easily. Soon, the Bear Patrol is created. Homer is then shocked to see taxes have been raised five dollars to maintain the patrol, and this warrants another visit by the town to the Mayor's office. To appease them, Mayor Quimby blames the high taxes on illegal immigrants. He then creates Proposition 24, which will require all illegal immigrants in Springfield to be deported.
Springfield starts to harass and hate all immigrants. At the Kwik-E-Mart, Apu confides in Homer that he is an illegal immigrant. Apu explains that if Proposition 24 passes, he will have to leave the United States, as his visa expired many years earlier. Apu is forced to go to Fat Tony to obtain a false United States citizenship, and on Fat Tony's advice, he starts acting American, by doing things like speaking with an American accent. However, feeling guilty and embarrassed about taking the fraudulent route and forging documents (Apu is shown remembering his parents bidding him farewell, telling him to "make us proud, son," as he set forth his journey to the USA, for his education and eventual Ph.D), he realizes he has disgraced his parents by turning his back on his Indian heritage, and tears up the fake passport.
Homer vows that he and his family will help Apu. Lisa discovers that Apu will not have to leave if he can pass a United States citizenship test. Homer agrees to be Apu's tutor to help prepare for the exam. Apu demonstrates excellent knowledge of the United States, but Homer is a terrible tutor and replaces Apu's knowledge with false information. Apu falls asleep while studying Homer's notes, but forgets it all when he wakes up which Lisa says is good. Apu then goes to take the test, and because he originally knew a lot about the history of the United States, he passes the test and becomes a citizen of the United States. At a congratulatory party, Homer tells his guests how terrible it would be if immigrants were deported, explaining they make the United States thrive. He inspires them to vote no on Proposition 24, but it still passes, with 95% of the population voting yes. After the ballot is passed, the only person who is deported was Groundskeeper Willie.
"Much Apu About Nothing" was written by David S. Cohen and directed by Susie Dietter. Joe Mantegna guest stars in the episode as Fat Tony. Much of the inspiration for the episode came from news reports of bears roaming streets in Southern California around the time when the episode was in production. Cohen said that when a bear swims in somebody's pool or goes in somebody's garbage can, it becomes a popular news item in California. The show runner of The Simpsons at the time, Bill Oakley, commented that the news reports often create an anti-bear hysteria, and that is one of the inspirations for the episode.
Another inspiration for the episode came from California's Proposition 187, which proposed the rescinding of employment rights and benefits from illegal immigrants. Cohen decided to name the referendum "Proposition 24" because 24 was the number he had on his Little League Baseball uniform. Cohen commented that "the main theme of the episode is illegal immigration and anti-immigration sentiment, which is a big issue here in California. So both the intro with the bear and the main theme are yanked from the California headlines."
The final script of the episode was "very close" to Cohen's first draft. "I was looking at the old drafts and this episode probably changed as little as any script I've written from the original inception to the final aired version," Cohen said. Oakley commented that some writer's scripts get rewritten many times but Cohen's "usually do not get rewritten that much because they are so good". Oakley added that Cohen has a very distinctive comedy style so there are certain jokes in the episode that "just really sound like Cohen".
Something Oakley and his partner Josh Weinstein wanted to do while they were show runners of The Simpsons was to explore side-characters, such as Apu, "a little deeper". Apu's origin is revealed in this episode, and Oakley is proud of being the one who suggested that. Another character that was explored deeper in their period as show runners was Ned Flanders in the episode "Hurricane Neddy".
The episode's title is based on William Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing. The original title for the episode was going to be "The Anti-Immigrant Song", in reference to Led Zeppelin's song "Immigrant Song". A sign held by a protester outside the Kwik-E-Mart says "The only good foreigner is Rod Stewart!", a reference to the British singer. Brad Bird, an American director who has worked as executive consultant and director on The Simpsons, can briefly be seen in the crowd that complains to Mayor Quimby.
In its original American broadcast, "Much Apu About Nothing" finished 49th in the ratings for the week of April 29 to May 5, 1996, with a Nielsen rating of 8.2. The episode was the fourth highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files, Beverly Hills, 90210 and Melrose Place.
Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson commented positively on the episode, and said that "if any show's taken a more unusual path to a story about xenophobia, I’ve not seen it." He praised the bear scenes, which he thought was the episode's most "amusing" part. The review continued, "The parts with the immigrants are also good, especially since they make their point deftly. Add to that the hilarious sound of 'American Apu' and this is a strong program." Jennifer Malkowski of DVD Verdict considered the best part of the episode to be when Homer tries to teach Apu American history, noting that you should watch for Homer's "relevant and complex" diagram of a stovepipe hat. The website concluded its review by giving the episode a grade of B+. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, wrote: "One of the most outspoken, and certainly angriest of episodes succeeds as a savage satire on the scapegoating of immigrants. Homer has never been so frighteningly dumb, although he does come through with a rousing liberal speech." The episode is The Simpsons creator Matt Groening's third favorite episode of the show. The episode received a negative review from Dave Foster of DVD Times. He considered "Much Apu About Nothing" to be one of the season's most "tiring" episodes, "mostly because Apu is not a strong enough character to focus an episode on no matter how much writer David Cohen develops him". Foster commented that the episode deals with a political issue which is "difficult to broach in twenty minutes and is therefore reached and sewn up in a rather haphazard manner".
The episode has become study material for sociology courses at University of California Berkeley, where it is used to "examine issues of the production and reception of cultural objects, in this case, a satirical cartoon show", and to figure out what it is "trying to tell audiences about aspects primarily of American society, and, to a lesser extent, about other societies." Some questions asked in the courses include: "What aspects of American society are being addressed in the episode? What aspects of them are used to make the points? How is the satire conveyed: through language? Drawing? Music? Is the behavior of each character consistent with his/her character as developed over the years? Can we identify elements of the historical/political context that the writers are satirizing? What is the difference between satire and parody?"
In the episode, after the creation of the Bear Patrol, bear sightings decrease to zero, so Homer concludes that the Bear Patrol must be working. Lisa attempts to demonstrate Homer's logical fallacy by the example of a tiger-repellent rock, but it goes over his head. Scott Anthony of the Harvard Business Review describes this scene as a "classic example" of the informal fallacy of assuming that correlation implies causation. Mike Moffatt also called it "the best all-time discussion of faulty reasoning".
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Created by Matt Groening; edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ASIN 0060952520. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. ISBN 0-06-095252-0, 978-0-06-095252-5. p. 205.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Much Apu About Nothing". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 2008-11-30.
- Oakley, Bill (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Much Apu About Nothing" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Cohen, David (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Much Apu About Nothing" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- "Nielsen Ratings". The Tampa Tribune. May 9, 1996. p. 4. Retrieved on January 2, 2009.
- Jacobson, Colin (2006-01-05). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season (1995)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Malkowski, Judge (2006-01-16). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Basile, Nancy. "Top 10 Matt Groening's Favorite Episodes". About.com. Retrieved 2008-12-23.
- Foster, Dave (2006-02-25). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Times. Retrieved 2008-12-01.
- Thomas B. Gold (2008). "The Simpsons Global Mirror". University of California Berkeley. Archived from the original on 2009-04-07. Retrieved 2011-07-18.
- Anthony, Scott (2008-08-12). "Innovation lessons from Lisa's rock". Harvard Business Review Blog Network. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
- Moffatt, Mike (2009-04-03). "Tiger Repelling Rocks and Stimulus Packages". About.com. Retrieved 2012-08-12.
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- "Much Apu About Nothing" at The Simpsons.com
- "Much Apu About Nothing" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Much Apu About Nothing" at TV.com
- "Much Apu About Nothing" at the Internet Movie Database