Much Apu About Nothing

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"Much Apu About Nothing"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no.Season 7
Episode 23
Directed bySusie Dietter[1]
Written byDavid S. Cohen[1]
Production code3F20
Original air dateMay 5, 1996 (1996-05-05)[1]
Guest appearance
Joe Mantegna as Fat Tony[2]
Episode features
Couch gagMarge, Bart, Lisa, and Maggie are mounted moose heads on the wall and Homer is a bearskin rug on the floor. A game hunter sits on the couch and smokes a pipe.[2]
CommentaryMatt Groening
Bill Oakley
Josh Weinstein
David S. Cohen
Susie Dietter
Episode chronology
← Previous
"Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'"
Next →
The Simpsons (season 7)
List of episodes

"Much Apu About Nothing" is the twenty-third episode of the seventh season of the American animated television series The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 5, 1996. In the episode, a referendum is placed on the ballot that will require all illegal immigrants in Springfield to be deported. After learning that Apu will be deported if the measure passes, Homer helps him 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 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.


A brown bear roams the streets of Springfield, frightening the townspeople despite its docile and curious, rather than aggressive, behavior. After Homer ignores official advice to remain indoors in order to buy beer, he comes face-to-face with the bear after failing to get into his car via the power line, whereupon the police tranquilize the bear (and Barney Gumble, accidentally). Despite bears being a rare sight in Springfield, Homer leads a march of angry citizens to city hall, where they demand Mayor Quimby do something to protect them from bears. After Quimby deploys a bear patrol, which involves the use of high tech vehicles, including B2 Spirit aircraft, Homer is angry to learn his taxes have increased by $5 to maintain it. Another crowd of angry citizens marches to the mayor's office demanding lower taxes. To appease them, Quimby blames the higher taxes on illegal immigrants. He creates Proposition 24, which will force all illegal immigrants in Springfield to be deported.

Springfield residents start to harass local immigrants, regardless of status. At the Kwik-E-Mart, Apu confides in Homer that he is also an illegal immigrant. Apu fears that if Proposition 24 passes, he will be forced to leave the United States, since his visa originally issued for his computer science studies expired many years before. After blackmailing Kearney when he attempts to buy beer using a fake ID, Apu visits Fat Tony to obtain false citizenship. At Tony's urging, Apu pretends to be an American citizen, even speaking in a faux American accent, but soon feels guilty about committing fraud and abandoning his Indian heritage, and destroys his fake passport.

After seeing how distraught Apu is at the prospect of being deported, Homer vows that he and his family will help him. Selma refuses to marry Apu for citizenship purposes, chiefly on the grounds of wanting to marry for love or money, and not wanting an (even more so) unwieldy multibarrelled surname. Lisa discovers that Apu, as a long-term resident in the U.S., will not have to leave if he passes a citizenship test. Homer agrees to tutor Apu, but is unable to teach him accurate facts regarding U.S. history or political science needed to pass the exam. After falling asleep whilst studying and subsequently forgetting everything Homer taught him, Apu passes the test and becomes a US citizen. At a congratulatory party, Homer tells his guests deporting immigrants is awful because they help the country thrive. He inspires them to vote no on Proposition 24, but it still passes with 95% of the vote. When Proposition 24 is enacted, Groundskeeper Willie is the only resident deported.


"Much Apu About Nothing" was written by David S. Cohen and directed by Susie Dietter.[1] Joe Mantegna guest stars in the episode as Fat Tony.[2] 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.[3] 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.[4] 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.[3]

Another inspiration for the episode came from California's Proposition 187, which proposed the rescinding of employment rights and benefits from illegal immigrants.[2] 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."[4]

Apu studying computer science is based on Cohen's own academic background, where he met and became friends with Indian people in the department. Similarly, the scene where Apu does an in-depth explanation of what caused the American Civil War, only for the test taker to respond with "just say slavery", is something that actually happened to a friend of Cohen when she took her citizenship test.[4]

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".[3]

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".[3]

Cultural references[edit]

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".[4] 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.[1] 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.[3]

When Chief Wiggum attempts to tranquilise the bear terrorising the neighbourhood he remarks, "Sweet dreams, Smokey." This is a reference to Smokey Bear, an advertising campaign by the U.S. Forest Service to raise awareness of inadvertent human caused forest fires.

Homer's claim that a $5 bear tax is the "biggest tax increase in history" parodies a Republican slogan against Bill Clinton's 1993 budget, which included several tax increases. The "biggest tax increase in history" line was used to attack Clinton in the 1996 Presidential election.

When organising the deportations, Chief Wiggum states "First you'll be rounding up your tired, then your poor, then your huddled masses yearning to breathe free". This is a reference to the sonnet The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus, which is a sonnet about immigration to America.


In its original 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.[5] The episode was the fourth-highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files, Beverly Hills, 90210, and Melrose Place.[5]

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."[6]

Jennifer Malkowski of DVD Verdict considered the best part of the episode to be when Homer tries to teach Apu American history, noting Homer's "relevant and complex" diagram of a stovepipe hat. Malkowski concluded her review by giving the episode a grade of B+.[7]

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."[2]

In 2000, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening named this his third favorite episode of the show.[8]

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".[9]

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?"[10]

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.[11] Mike Moffatt also called it "the best all-time discussion of faulty reasoning".[12]


  1. ^ a b c d e Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia (eds.). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. p. 205. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
  2. ^ a b c d e Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Much Apu About Nothing". British Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved November 30, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d e Oakley, Bill (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Much Apu About Nothing" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  4. ^ a b c d Cohen, David (2005). The Simpsons season 7 DVD commentary for the episode "Much Apu About Nothing" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
  5. ^ a b "Nielsen Ratings". The Tampa Tribune. May 9, 1996. p. 4. Retrieved on January 2, 2009.
  6. ^ Jacobson, Colin (January 5, 2006). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season (1995)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved December 1, 2008.
  7. ^ Malkowski, Judge (January 16, 2006). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved December 1, 2008.
  8. ^ Snierson, Dan (January 14, 2000). "Springfield of Dreams". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  9. ^ Foster, Dave (February 25, 2006). "The Simpsons: The Complete Seventh Season". DVD Times. Retrieved December 1, 2008.
  10. ^ Thomas B. Gold (2008). "The Simpsons Global Mirror" (PDF). University of California Berkeley. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 7, 2009. Retrieved July 18, 2011.
  11. ^ Anthony, Scott (August 12, 2008). "Innovation lessons from Lisa's rock". Harvard Business Review Blog Network. Retrieved August 12, 2012.
  12. ^ Moffatt, Mike (April 3, 2009). "Tiger Repelling Rocks and Stimulus Packages". Archived from the original on August 16, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2012.

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