Did you forget that April 17 is Tax Day? Are you buried under the stress of trying to file your W-2s and 1099s, swearing you’ll follow some good advice and prevent this debacle again next year? You’re not alone! Sitcoms have mined this fraught annual tradition for years, and once you finally hit submit on that e-file, take comfort in knowing that there are great episodes to help you work through your financial trauma. Here are a half-dozen to watch that’ll help take the edge off of tax season, from The Honeymooners to The Simpsons.
Roseanne, “April Fool’s Day” (Season 2, Episode 22)
In a fantastic example of the original Roseanne’s greatness, “April Fool’s Day” takes place entirely on tax-filing day. Dan and Roseanne struggle to follow the byzantine IRS instructions, and big chunks of the dialogue are just them reading aloud from a real 1989 tax booklet and then throwing their hands up in dismay. In the third act, they end up charging down to a local tax office and demanding whether anyone can tell them how much you earn before you get issued a 1099. At the end, Dan has to pull Roseanne out of the office as she yells, “Us regular people are paying more taxes than the rich people because they’ve got all the lawyers to figure out the loopholes! I want to find loopholes!”
“April Fools Day” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
3rd Rock from the Sun, “Dick and Taxes” (Season 4, Episode 12)
Like Roseanne, this episode of 3rd Rock from the Sun involves several moments where characters just read from the tax code and shout with frustration. On 3rd Rock, though, the problem is different: The Solomon family (who are aliens, by the way), have never paid any taxes in their time on Earth, and then try to lie to wiggle out of the $9,000 they owe. This involves starting a pretend home business that somehow turns real, and ends with them carefully memorizing some Very Real Human Facts to convince an auditor they’re real people.
“Dick and Taxes” is available to stream on Amazon Prime.
The Honeymooners, “The Worry Wart” (Season 1, Episode 28)
Ralph Kramden happily opens an envelope with what he expects will be his tax refund, only to find that the IRS has summoned him to their offices. He assumes they’re about to audit him, and flies into an apoplectic fury, shouting, “The government is investigating me!” In the end, Ralph is fine. But he spends much of the episode going through his entire tax return with his best friend Ed, and realizes he failed to pay taxes on his gambling winnings, including $85 that he won in a poker game. Like several of the sitcom episodes in this genre, just reading aloud from the real tax code is enough to make a studio audience roar with sympathetic laughter.
“The Worry Wart” isn’t officially available to stream, but you can find bootleg versions on YouTube.
The Simpsons, “The Trouble With Trillions” (Season 9, Episode 20)
The bulk of this episode involves Homer going undercover with the FBI to investigate a missing trillion-dollar bill issued in 1945, an investigation that quickly escalates to Homer, Smithers, and Mr. Burns meeting with Fidel Castro and then finding themselves on a rickety raft near Cuba. The windup is far more quotidian, though: Homer get arrested after he fails to file his taxes on time and then fills out a fraudulent tax return. (“Will you look at those morons,” Homer chuckles as he watches coverage of Tax Day on TV. “I paid my taxes over a year ago!”)
“The Trouble with Trillions” is available to stream on Simpsons World.
All in the Family, “Archie’s Fraud” (Season 3, Episode 2)
After some obligatory yelling about Richard Nixon, Archie’s friend Mr. Munson shows up and tells Archie that he’s committed fraud by not reporting income from his side gig driving taxicabs. “It wasn’t income,” Archie insists to Edith. “It was money I earned by working on Sundays. What a man does on his Sabbath is between him and his maker!” The situation at the tax office deteriorates when Archie realizes his IRS officer is black, and then get even worse when he attempts to bribe his way out of the problem. In the end, Archie earns himself an extra three years of audits and much snide commentary about George McGovern.
Slings & Arrows, “Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair” (Season 2, Episode 4)
One of the running stories of Slings & Arrow’s second season is that flighty, obstinate lead actress Ellen Fanshaw gets audited by the Canadian version of the IRS, and realizes she’s been underpaying her taxes for years. Ellen is pretty helpless in the face of it all, gesturing fruitlessly at her hatboxes full of receipts and refusing to accept responsibility for knowing about her own finances. But the classic Slings & Arrows twist comes through in the end anyhow, as she manages to turn her audits into what are essentially therapy sessions.
“Fair Is Foul and Foul Is Fair” is available to stream on YouTube.