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"The Cartridge Family"
The Simpsons episode
The Simpsons 5F01.png
Homer purchases his gun.
Episode no. 183
Prod. code 5F01
Orig. airdate November 2, 1997
Show runner(s) Mike Scully
Written by John Swartzwelder
Directed by Pete Michels
Chalkboard "Everyone is tired of that Richard Gere story."[1]
Couch gag Everybody has their posteriors on fire as they run to a water-filled couch. They hop on board as steam emerges from them.[2]
Matt Groening
Mike Scully
Yeardley Smith
Pete Michels
George Meyer
Ian Maxtone-Graham
Donick Cary
Ron Hauge
John Swartzwelder

"The Cartridge Family" is the fifth episode of The Simpsons' ninth season, which originally aired on November 2, 1997. It was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Pete Michels.[1] In the episode, Homer purchases a gun to protect his family, of which Marge disapproves. The episode was intended to show guns in a neutral way, and faced some problems with the censors because of the subject matter. Critical reaction was mixed.



The Simpsons attend a soccer match between Mexico and Portugal. When the game starts, the crowd begins to lose interest, and under Groundskeeper Willie's direction, it turns into a violent soccer riot. The riot spreads throughout the town. Afterwards, Marge fears for the family and tells Homer to pay for a Home Security System, finding out that the system will cost $500. Homer decides to save money by buying a firearm instead. After the five-day waiting period, Homer surprises Marge with his new revolver from a local gun store, Bloodbath and Beyond. She is horrified and appalled, demanding that he get rid of the gun at once. Homer persuades Marge to come with him to the local National Rifle Association meeting to try to get her to change her mind, but after the meeting, she still remains unconvinced.

Homer starts to treat the gun as though it were a toy, casually carrying it into the Kwik-E-Mart and frightening Apu into thinking he will rob the store, firing bullets to retrieve items from the roof and shooting dinner plates as if they were clay pigeons. Finally, after a near-fatal accident at the dinner table, Marge reveals just how uncomfortable with the gun she is, begging Homer to get rid of it. Homer promises to do so, but hides it in the vegetable crisper instead. Later, Bart and Milhouse discover it and play William Tell in the kitchen. Marge steps into the kitchen just in time to stop them, and harangues Homer for breaking his promise. She then gives Homer an ultimatum: "Until you decide what's more important, your gun or your family, we can't live in the same house!"

After this, she promptly leaves with some suitcases and the children in tow and checks into "Sleep Eazy Motel". That night, Homer hosts an NRA meeting at his house but the other members are horrified and angry at his reckless gun usage and he is kicked out of the association. Realizing what his gun has cost him, Homer goes to the motel where Marge and the kids are spending the night, meaning to reconcile.

Homer and Marge make up, after Homer explains he has finally gotten rid of the gun. While leaving, Snake arrives to rob the desk clerk, demanding the cash register's contents while holding a knife to Mayor Quimby's throat. Homer pulls out his gun and foils the robbery. Marge is angry with Homer for lying again, but while he tries to apologize, Snake snatches the gun. The other NRA members arrive and stop Snake from shooting the Simpsons or decapitating Quimby, but he runs off with the money all the same. Homer finally says he doesn't trust himself and asks Marge to throw the gun away herself, because he feels sure that his attachment to it will just make him lie to her repeatedly. However, when Marge is about to throw away the gun, she sees herself holding it and decides to keep it.[1]


This was the first episode to air (barring the non-canonical “Treehouse of Horror VIII”) which was executive produced by Mike Scully.[3] Sam Simon pitched an episode for one of the first seasons which saw Homer getting a gun and nobody wanting him to have it. The episode concluded with Homer foiling a robbery and stating that although guns bring destruction, it worked for him.[4] However, this episode was pitched by Scully for either season seven or eight, before being used for season nine.[3] This provided the basic outline, and John Swartzwelder wrote the script.[3] A lot of lines in the episode put guns in a positive light, as the staff felt that they could not just make an episode about how bad they were.[3] Several of the staff, including Swartzwelder, are "pro gun" although others, such as Matt Groening, are very left wing and completely against them.[5] The episode was designed to be non-biased and to portray each side of the argument equally.[6] Scully noted that if there is any message in the episode it's that a man like Homer should not own a gun.[3] The censors were nervous about some of the episode's subject matter, such as Homer pointing the gun in Marge's face, and Bart aiming the gun at Milhouse with the apple in his mouth, but ultimately let it go.[3]

The opening sequence where soccer is portrayed as the most boring sport imaginable was intended to show that soccer was more boring on television than live, but both Michels and Groening enjoy the game.[3][5] The referee at the game is a caricature of the janitor at Film Roman, who supplied director Pete Michels with every piece of soccer information he needed to design the episode.[6] Pelé also makes an appearance at the match, although is voiced by Hank Azaria.[3]

The episode closes with music from The Avengers. After the music had been recorded Scully felt that it did not suit the ending and so wished to change it to something else. However, it was too late in production to get the full orchestra back to do a recording, and union rules meant that previous recordings could not be reused.[3]

Cultural references

The gun shop is based on the shop that the Los Angeles Police Department went to during the North Hollywood bank robbery to acquire more powerful firearms.[6] The title of this episode is a play on the name of 1970s television series The Partridge Family.[2] The end music is the theme to the 1960s show The Avengers,[2] and the song playing when Homer is sitting and watching things go by while he is waiting five days for his gun is "The Waiting" by Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Petty rarely lets his music be used on television, but being a fan of The Simpsons, he allowed them to use it.[3]


The episode received several positive reviews, being included in the Herald Sun's list of the top twenty The Simpsons episodes.[7] It was also named the fifth best episode in the show's history in an article by The Florida Times-Union.[8] The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette also praised the episode, calling The Simpsons "the only sitcom in memory to treat gun control with any fairness."[9]

On the other hand, the episode has been criticized by several outlets. The staff received several complaints from the NRA about the portrayal of the organization in the episode, despite the fact that they take Homer's NRA membership card away from him when they see his irresponsible behavior.[3] Ian Jones and Steve Williams criticized the episode, calling it "a messy, unfocused lampooning of gun culture."[10] Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide found that it was "one of the most politically unambiguous episodes ever," but that "[it] is very dull and the plot isn't sustainable."[2]

The episode was not initially aired on the United Kingdom satellite channel Sky One due to scenes of flagrant gun misuse, yet was aired several times on the free channel BBC Two in an earlier evening timeslot.[11] Channel 4 airs an edited version of the episode that does not include the ending where Marge goes to throw the gun away, but keeps it after admiring herself in the trash can lid reflection with the gun in hand.[12] The episode was also included on the Too Hot for TV VHS and DVD, along with "Treehouse of Horror IX", "Natural Born Kissers" and "Grampa vs. Sexual Inadequacy".[13]


  1. ^ a b c Gimple, Scott (1999). The Simpsons Forever!: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family ...Continued. Harper Collins Publishers. p. 16. ISBN 0-06-098763-4.  
  2. ^ a b c d Warren Martyn; Adrian Wood (2000). ""The Cartridge Family"". BBC. Retrieved 2007-06-12.  
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Scully, Mike. (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Cartridge Family". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.  
  4. ^ Meyer, George. (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Cartridge Family". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.  
  5. ^ a b Groening, Matt. (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Cartridge Family". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.  
  6. ^ a b c Michels, Pete. (2006). The Simpsons The Complete Ninth Season DVD commentary for the episode "The Cartridge Family". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.  
  7. ^ "The Simpsons Top 20". Herald Sun. 21 April 2007. pg. w09.
  8. ^ Nancy McAlister. "A sassy 'Simpsons' celebration; Fox hits a Homer as it broadcasts the 300th episode of the animated sitcom tonight". The Florida Times Union. 16 February 2003. pg. D1.
  9. ^ Jonah Goldberg. "The Simpsons: Bedrock American Values". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 14 May 2000. pg. E1.
  10. ^ Ian Jones, Steve Williams. ""NOW LET US NEVER SPEAK OF IT AGAIN"". Off The Telly. Retrieved 2007-08-14.  
  11. ^ Steve Williams, Ian Jones. ""THAT IS SO 1991!"". Off The Telly. Retrieved 2007-08-14.  
  12. ^ ""Channel 4 Edit"". Retrieved 2009-09-01.  
  13. ^ "The Simpsons: Too Hot for TV". Fox. Retrieved 2007-10-25.  

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