Leave it to “The Simpsons” to have the final word on adding unwanted — and hated — characters to a TV show.
I’m talking about Poochie, the “proactive” and “totally in your face” canine added to the show-within-a-show, “Itchy and Scratchy,” in the eighth season of “The Simpsons,” way back in 1997 (!).
It was far from the “worst episode ever.”
As the show opens, Krusty the Clown and Rogers Meyers Jr., the creator of “Itchy and Scratchy,” are trying to re-invigorate the ratings for the show. A network type has the idea of adding a character because we’ve seen how well that works (Cousin Oliver on “The Brady Bunch,” any character Ted McGinley played on various sitcoms).
After a frustrating round of focus groups with kids who don’t know what they want, Meyers and company add Poochie, a dog. But not just any dog. He’s a “surfer dude,” complete with board, sunglasses and attitude.
Inevitably, Homer auditions for the role of Poochie’s voice and debuts in an episode in which Itchy and Scratchy pick Poochie up along the road on their way to a fireworks factory.
As Poochie raps and poses and dunks basketballs to heavy metal guitar riffs, the audience gathered in the Simpsons’ living room grows restless.
“When are they going to get to the fireworks factory?” a frustrated Milhouse whines.
The introduction of Poochie is a disaster, with even Kent Brockman weighing in, noting that kids won’t be sad when the canine is “put to sleep.”
Meyers decides to kill Poochie off on the cartoon, but Homer insists on recording a heartfelt bit of dialogue first.
Meyers and the crew appear to be touched. But when the episode airs, instead of Homer’s moving words, Poochie simply announces he must return to his planet. The animation cel bearing his likeness is crudely pulled upwards and out of view.
Then a slide appears:
Ah, Poochie. We hardly knew ye.
This was the episode that introduced the catchphrase “Worst. Episode. Ever,” intoned by Comic Book Guy. The show’s writers have some fun by having the geeky character declare he will be hurrying to the Internet to air his complaints.
Homer and the voice actress who performs Itchy and Scratchy make a personal appearance at the Android’s Dungeon. In a riff on the “Saturday Night Live” sketch in which William Shatner is asked insane questions about “Star Trek” episodes, a nerd in the audience asks about a mistake in an “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoon.
The show features a fun in-joke as the Simpsons also get a new character, Roy, who moves in with the family. By the end of the episode, Roy is out the door.
Troy McClure makes another appearance. The ham actor, voiced by the sadly missed Phil Hartman, also auditions for the voice of Poochie. “I’m Troy McClure. You may know me from such cartoons as ‘Christmas Ape’ and ‘Christmas Ape Goes to Summer Camp.'”