"There's No Disgrace Like Home" is the fourth episode of Season 1. It was an early episode, showing early designs for a few recurring characters. Several critics have noted that the characters acted differently from the way they would in later seasons. The episode features the first appearance of Dr. Marvin Monroe, and the first series appearance of Itchy & Scratchy, who had previously appeared in the Ullman Shorts. The episode also marks the first appearance of Eddie and Lou.
After an embarrassing experience at his company picnic, Homer begins to wonder if his family is too dysfunctional. Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa and Maggie attend family therapy sessions with Dr. Marvin Monroe, an unorthodox psychotherapist who uses shock therapy to "cure" them.
The episode begins with Bart and Lisa in the living room, pushing and shoving each other, while having an argument. Homer quickly rushes in to break them up. He tells them to get the bad behavior out of their system, because they are going to Mr. Burns’ company picnic, and he doesn’t want his family to embarrass him in front of Mr. Burns. In the kitchen, Homer admires all of the gelatin desserts that Marge has prepared for the picnic. Homer is hoping to earn brownie points with Mr. Burns because Mr. Burns commented once before on how he liked Marge’s gelatin dessert. The Simpsons drive to Mr. Burns’ mansion and each family member carries a dessert in their lap. As they arrive at the mansion and walk up to the front door, Homer reminds his family that they need to behave and show him some love and/or respect. At the front door to the mansion, Mr. Burns greets his guests. The kid in the family ahead of the Simpsons, makes a smart aleck comment, and Mr. Burns orders Smithers to fire the father of the child. A nervous Homer and the rest of the family make it through their greeting with Mr. Burns without incident.
Cut to the backyard of the mansion where Homer once again tells his family that they have to act normal. Bart and Lisa quickly run off to play in the water fountain and Homer chases after them leaving Marge and Maggie behind. Another woman carrying a baby approaches Marge and suggests that they go place their babies in the nursery and grab a glass of “punch” together. Marge is reluctant at first, but then after seeing Homer chase the misbehaving kids around the backyard she decides to have a glass of “punch.” Cut back to Homer who is disciplining Bart, when Smithers comes over a loudspeaker and announces the father-son sack race. Homer reminds Bart that they have to let Mr. Burns win. Meanwhile, Marge is conversing with all the wives of the workers; she begins to get a little tipsy from having a little too much “punch.” Back to the sack race, where Smithers gives Mr. Burns a head start and then fires the starting gun. Mr. Burns is out in front of everyone, when suddenly Bart can’t stand it anymore and decides to make a break for the finish line. Homer quickly hops up ahead and tackles Bart just short of the finish line, allowing Mr. Burns to finish first. Meanwhile, a heavily intoxicated Marge leads all the women in a song and dance number, when Homer, who is chasing Bart and Lisa, runs by and is shocked at Marge’s behavior. He quickly whisks her away from the punch and tells her to keep it together because Mr. Burns is about to give a toast.
Everyone at the picnic gathers as Mr. Burns gives a toast, he thanks everyone for coming, but tells them all to leave immediately as the hounds will be released in 10 minutes. Everyone heads out, and Homer notices the family ahead of them; the son gives the father a kiss and tells him he had a great time. Mr. Burns witnesses this, and Homer overhears Burns tell Smithers to give that man a raise. Homer quickly turns around, and tells Bart to give him a kiss; Bart reluctantly agrees, Homer puts on a cheesy smile, and Mr. Burns is not amused. Outside in the parking lot Homer confronts the father from the “perfect” family ahead of him, and tells him he can stop the fake cornball routine. But the father doesn’t understand what Homer is talking about. Homer watches as the two kids from the “perfect” family politely open the car door for each other and he notices that the wife offers to drive the family home after a long day. Homer turns to his family and sees Bart and Lisa fighting over the backseat and Marge in the front seat, who looks like she is about to vomit. As the “perfect” family drives off, Homer envisions the clouds opening up and a beam a sunlight coming down upon them as they float up to the Heavens. When Homer turns back to his family, he envisions them as devilish creatures trying to pull him down to Hell. Homer, ashamed of his family, drives them home.
The next day, Marge and the kids eat TV dinners in the living room and watch TV together when Homer walks in and decides that tonight they are all going to eat at the dinner table like a normal family. Cut to everyone seated at the dinner table: Lisa asks if he is happy now and when Homer says yes, everyone begins piling food into their mouths. Homer yells at them to stop and tells Bart to offer a prayer first before everyone eats. Bart’s half-attempt at a prayer forces Homer to lead a prayer of his own. During his prayer he expresses his dissatisfaction with the way his family behaves. When Marge and the kids tell Homer they think that nothing is wrong with the family, Homer decides to prove to them that there is something wrong. He leads the family in a tour around the neighborhood, peeking into random houses to observe their neighbors’ family life. The first house they peek into contains a happy family sitting down to a nice fancy dinner. Bart suggests that this family is the exception to the rule and Homer shows his family another house. Inside the next house, the two parents have a nice conversation with their son, but the father hears the Simpsons just outside his window and chases them off with a shotgun. The Simpsons run off into another family’s yard, walk up to the window and peek in. Only after Bart comments about what a dump the place is and after Homer tramples the flowerbed do they realize that it is actually their house. Everyone goes back inside except for a bummed Homer, who announces that he is going to Moe’s for a while.
At Moe’s, Homer sits at the bar, watches some boxing on TV and drinks a beer when Eddie and Lou, the two local corruptible cops, stop in for a beer. They mention that they are searching for a family of prowlers and their scent dog goes crazy when he picks up Homer’s scent. Lucky for Homer, the cops are oblivious to the dog and leave without incident. Homer explains what is on his mind to Moe and Barney, and when Barney tells Homer that he got dealt a bad hand and that no one could control his kids, Homer becomes defensive with Barney and punches him in the face. An unfazed Barney pounds Homer on the top of the head and Homer goes down hard, mimicking the fight on TV. As Homer lies on the ground he looks up at the TV and sees a commercial for Dr. Marvin Monroe’s Family Therapy Center. Dr. Monroe claims he can fix any family’s problems or double their money back. Homer suddenly realizes the answer to his problems and dials the toll-free phone number from the commercial.
Marge and the kids watch an untitled Itchy & Scratchy when Homer walks in the living room and announces he has made an appointment at Dr. Monroe’s Family Therapy Center. The family balks at the idea, but Homer is insistent even though it is going to cost $250. Homer decides to use the money from the kids’ college fund to pay for the appointment, but when it is revealed that the fund has only $85.50 in it, Homer goes to extreme measures and pawns the TV for the remainder of the needed money. The family pleads with him not to, but Homer is on a mission to make his family better. In the waiting room at the Family Therapy Center, Homer approaches the cashier with $250 in cash. As he holds the money in his hand, he begins to wonder if the therapy will be worth it. When Homer sees a happy family exit from a treatment session, Homer becomes determined again to make his family better. Homer plunks the money down and Dr. Monroe comes out into the waiting room to greet the Simpsons.
The therapy treatment begins as Dr. Monroe brings them into another room, sits them down and asks them each to draw a picture that represents the source of their unhappiness. Marge and the kids all draw a picture of Homer, while Homer gets lost in the task and begins drawing a picture of an airplane. Dr. Monroe explains to Homer that he is viewed as a stern authority figure. When Bart chimes and agrees with Dr. Monroe, Homer becomes filled with rage, picks up a lamp and threatens to smash Bart with it. Dr. Monroe calms Homer down and asks the family to try a different exercise. The next exercise involves the family beating each other with giant foam mallets. The exercise doesn’t seem to work though, as the family grows tired of swinging the mallets; the exercise ends when Bart removes the foam from his mallet and whacks Dr. Monroe in the knee with it. Dr. Monroe can see that the Simpson family is not responding to conventional treatment, so his next exercise for the family is a bit different. He places each of the Simpsons in his or her own chair, hooked up to deliver an electric shock. Each chair has buttons that when pressed will deliver an electric shock to another corresponding chair. With all of the Simpsons strapped in, Dr. Monroe instructs them only to shock someone else if that person hurts them emotionally. The exercise goes haywire when everyone goes free for all and mashes the buttons shocking each other repeatedly. This causes a power loss in the Family Therapy Center and all across Springfield. A quick cut to Mr. Burns shows that he is loving all the energy use. Back at the Family Therapy Center Dr. Monroe screams at the Simpsons to stop, but no one listens and Dr. Monroe is forced to pull the plug on the machine because the Simpsons are overheating it. Dr. Monroe kicks the Simpsons out, but before he can, Homer demands double his money back just like the commercial said. Once outside, Dr. Monroe pays Homer $500 and the Simpsons happily walk away. They all feel a sense of camaraderie with each other and feel good for having “earned” the $500. Everyone expresses love towards Homer and he announces that with the $500 he is going to buy a brand new TV and a cart to serve food on occasional holidays.
The episode shows telltale signs of being one of the earliest shows of the season produced. The characters act slightly different from how they would in later seasons. Lisa is a brat, Marge is a drunk and Homer is concerned that his family is going to make him look bad. It was an early episode for Mr. Burns, in which he had a voice different from the one it would later become. Originally, the character was influenced by Ronald Reagan, which was later dropped. The idea that he would greet his employees using index cards was inspired by how Ronald Reagan would greet people. The episode marks the first time Burns says "release the hounds". It also marked the first appearance of Eddie and Lou, although Lou was not black, but instead yellow like the rest of the characters. Lou was named after Lou Whitaker - a former Major League Baseball player. It is the first appearance of Itchy & Scratchy, although the cat and mouse duo appeared in the shorts.
The idea behind the scene in which the family takes turn to electrically shock each other was based on Laurel and Hardy throwing pies at each other, albeit played out more sadistically. The scene was rearranged in the editing room, because when it was first produced it played out differently. The edits made to the finished product were preliminary; however, they were received well and remained unchanged.
This episode marks the introduction of Dr. Marvin Monroe, Itchy and Scratchy, and Eddie and Lou (two of Springfield's policemen); Lou is not African-American in this episode, though he is later, and Smithers, who was drawn as an African-American in the previous episode, is drawn a yellow lighter than Burns in this one. This episode also marks the first use of Burns' "release the hounds" comment.
The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, note: "It's very strange to see Homer pawning the TV set in an attempt to save the family; if this episode had come later Marge would surely have taken this stance." They continue, "A neat swipe at family counselling with some great set pieces; we're especially fond of the perfect version of the Simpsons and the electric-shock aversion therapy." In a DVD review of the first season, David B. Grelck gave the episode a rating of 2.0/5.0, placing it as one of the worst of the season.
This episode would have been one of the first seen by British viewers. It was the first episode to be broadcast by the BBC on November 23, 1996, on a Saturday at 5:30pm, because the episodes were shown out of order. The episode was screened with five million viewers that was slighly less than the show, Dad's Army, which previously held the timeslot. The episode also faced competition from ITV's screening of Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
The scene where the family turn electrically shocking each other would later appear in the film Die Hard 2.