Classic Simpsons Reviews: “Bart’s Dog Gets an F” Gets a C+.

2.16 Bart’s Dog Gets an F

Bart has to train Santa’s Little Helper at an obedience school for dogs, or risk losing him because of his unruly behaviour.

Having Lisa be sick during the episode is important thematically, as she gets love and care while the family dog is threatened with expulsion from the household. It’s an interesting parallel that asks us to examine why we think of pets as part of the family, but then treat them as expendable when the chips are down.

(Easy answer would be “Because it’s a freaking dog.”)

I find this episode to be unfocused, and for that reason one of the weaker entries in season 2. This may come as a surprise since I’m such a sap, but the sentiment doesn’t land nearly as well as it does in “Bart Gets an F” or “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish.”

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You know the quilt is doomed the moment you see it. You knew Herb was doomed the moment you saw him. The journey toward the latter inevitability is far more interesting.

I can see how Bart’s fight to train his dog might be motivated by his own behavioural problems and resulting feelings of inadequacy. The writers don’t do enough to address that link, though. That, and the fact that Santa’s Little Helper hasn’t been a problem once in the previous 28 episodes makes the emotional payoff with Bart ring hollow. The ending has the dog just suddenly start responding to Bart’s commands out of nowhere, seemingly for no other reason than the writers wanted a happy ending.

There is a moment where Bart starts having fun with the dog and being more loving, and I suppose the suggestion is that this is what gets Santa’s Little Helper to start obeying commands, but there isn’t enough of a moment where we see that click for the dog. We also don’t see Bart get any payoff himself from having taught discipline to another living being. The potential is there, but it just doesn’t gel. Either have Bart learn the lesson, or show him not having learned it in a pointed way (“Three Men and a Comic Book” would be an episode that succeeds at this).

In the series premiere, Santa’s Little Helper was a representation of the beauty that comes out of the Simpson family’s imperfections, so I expected a bit more here. It’s not like I want a scene where the dog starts talking and pleads with the family not to let him go, but the writers endow Santa’s Little Helper with almost total indifference, even toward Bart.

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It’s still funny, but I’m not as emotionally invested as I could be.

I found the satirical look at gaudy materialism with the Assassin shoes a lot more interesting than the “A” story. The Assassins are a parody of Air Jordans, and having Homer drool over Flanders’ pair is some funny stuff (even if we know the shoes only exist to be destroyed by the dog).

And Tracey Ullman as the dog instructor stops this from being a total [insert loveable household pet here] episode.

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Again, not without funny moments.

Well, kudos to the writers for trying to write an episode from the dog’s point of view. It’s by no means schlock, but it’s well outside the top half for season two.

Best Moment: Santa’s Little Helper’s graduation. I remember laughing so hard at Ullman’s line, “You son of a bitch” that it gave me an asthma attack. (I was seven. Walking at a brisk pace gave me an asthma attack.)

Best Quote: “Lisa, you wasted chicken pox. Don’t waste the mumps.” -Bart

Classic Simpsons Reviews: “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou” lovingly torpedoes the American Dream™.

2.15 Oh Brother, Where Art Thou

Homer finds his long lost brother, an auto manufacturer named Herb. Herb gets Homer to design a car for him, but Homer ruins his brother by designing a monstrosity.

I think the chalkboard gag (“I will not sell land in Florida”) is a Glengarry Glen Ross reference, but I could be wrong. Regardless, it anticipates the episode’s theme of capitalistic hubris.

The Herb episodes are my favourite explorations of the so-called American Dream. The Simpsons is wonderful at presenting broad issues in a thought-provoking way without necessarily taking a hard stance that might ignore nuance. As they do with religion, the writers present capitalism as a relatively neutral mechanism that can yield positive or negative results depending on who wields it. For Herb, capitalism is the best and worst system there is. He rises to the top of the automotive world by doing dishes for rich people, and yet it only takes one bad decision to destroy everything he has worked for.

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This pretty well encapsulates what The Simpsons has to say about the idea of the Everyman.

Herb’s energy and optimism bespeaks an undercurrent of “USA, USA, USA” (which he chants in his redemption episode in season 3), and yet he is bought out by a Japanese auto manufacturer at the end of the episode. That which provides him with opportunity proves fickle in the end, which is neither an endorsement nor a condemnation of capitalism; it’s a harsh analysis, but not an unfair one.

The Dr. Hibbert long lost brother mini-twist is delightfully Shakespearean. In writing The Comedy of Errors, Shakespeare decided “Hey, I’ve got one set of twins here, why not two! Just as Shakespeare pushes his comedy just a little further into the absurd to amplify the satire, so does The Simpsons.

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An undeserving Homer gets his; a hard-working orphanage director does not. The covert criticism of the American Dream is so strong in this episode.

I think this episode and “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” might be the best early examples of the greatness we see in seasons 3 through 7. It’s equal parts sentimental and hilarious, with just the right amount of absurdity.

I love the rolling down of the limo window to reveal Herb as Homer’s reflection disappears. That’s some good storyboarding happening there.

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The bag of chips and the limo are a subtle and perfect juxtaposition.

As for Herb, Danny DeVito just absolutely nails him. He’s inspiring; an alpha, and yet so vulnerable. The hubris with which DeVito endows Herb is the antithesis of Homer’s, and yet comes from the same place. Homer is too selfish, obtuse, and lazy; Herb is too empathetic, too smart, and too enterprising for his own good. He wants to give an extraordinary position to an average schmo, because that’s how he, like Homer, started.

The brilliance of this episode lies in how you know what the ending is going to be; of course Homer is going to find a way to screw up and ruin his brother, but you don’t care because the journey is so good.

Like the dialogue:

Herb: “Homer you’re the richest man I know.”

Homer: “I feel the same about you.”

The writers were criticized for the sad ending, which sees a ruined Herb telling Homer he doesn’t have a brother as far as he’s concerned, but I’m gonna go to bat for the writers on this one. The episode ends with Bart telling Homer that he thought his car design was cool. That little scrap of validation is good enough for him, and so the writers frame it as a happy ending in spite of the devastation Homer has caused. A life was destroyed, but hey, at least Homer got a compliment. That’s a phenomenal commentary on the great big lie that the American Dream rewards exceptionalism; in truth, it rewards mediocrity far more often.

It’s not unlike the ending of Homer’s Enemy, where the supporting characters lovingly chuckle at a sleeping Homer during Frank Grimes’ funeral. The writers are critical of Homer here, and so are critical of the viewers for elevating him to hero status. I find that bold and insightful.

Best Moment: The reveal of “The Homer,” Homer’s awful car design.

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The Simpsons doesn’t imitate real life; real life imitates The Simpsons.

Best Quote: “You know that little ball you put on the aerial so you can find your car in the parking lot? That should be on every car!” -Homer

Yes, it’s a real thing.

Classic Simpsons Reviews: “Principal Charming” is a deceptively good commentary on relationships.

2.14 Principal Charming

Homer tries to set Principal Skinner up with Selma, but Skinner and Patty fall in love instead.

In “The Way We Was,” I griped about the lack of Bouvier plot development justifying why Marge chooses to be with Homer. “Principal Charming” partially makes up for that, as the Patty and Selma A story is both touching and hilarious, and Homer, while he complains a few times, is a champ for trying to help Marge’s sisters (who never thank him for his efforts).

Homer’s man-finding radar is classic. I love that it lands on Smithers and only comes up with “Jerk” as a reason why he shouldn’t date Selma. That’s way under the radar, so to speak.

I had forgotten about the “Homer Sexual” crank call to Moe’s. I find myself chuckling; and yet, does that joke get made in 2015? It’s funny, and yet kinda crowbarred in. I’m gonna say “possible Homer Sexual” as a con for Skinner either doesn’t fly now or is given just a little extra analysis. I’m not saying it’s off the wall problematic, I just think it’s interesting to evaluate what jokes from 1991 look different now.

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I’ll say it again: Homer is at his best when his obtuseness is coming from an almost intelligent place.

Anyway, the character developments for Patty and Selma are all great. We learn that they work at the DMV, which, of course they work at the DMV, the most miserable place in America. Patty is hilarious when she rebuffs Skinner’s attempt at the “yawn while putting your arm around your date” move. And Selma’s break up with Barney on their date is phenomenal. She tries to come up with a half-hearted line and just says “whatever” and walks away. Patty and Selma are the Sedins of deadpan humour, and are very well acted by Julie Kavner.

Also of note is how convincing Kavner and Harry Shearer are playing opposite each other as Patty and Skinner. They sound like real 40-somethings trying to make their world-weary feelings for each other work.

The Simpsons actors’ ability to take any two characters and play them off each other with interesting results is a huge reason for the series’ longevity.

No shortage of funny shit here. Groundskeeper Willie is introduced, and his making Bart reseed the school field is great stuff. The references to Vertigo and Gone With the Wind are seamlessly woven in and well chosen, given Skinner and Patty’s ages. And I love Moe’s line, “Homer, lighten up. You’re making happy hour bitterly ironic.”

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Skinner and Patty both have a moment after their breakup where they come full circle. I do find it irksome that Skinner’s involves a return to professional devotion, and Patty’s involves a return to filial devotion. She does have a job and he does have a mother, so it’s fair to scrutinize where the writers place their emphasis. I also challenge the assumption that a romantic relationship negates the rest of one’s relationships in their community, but I’m a relationship anarchist, so…

It’s great to see Patty and Selma given some humanity outside of being the bitter, overbearing sister-in-laws who hate Homer. Their loyalty to each other in the end is really quite moving, despite my criticisms above. Patty gives up Skinner for Selma knowing full well that Selma may have gone all in with a new flame. That’s some unconditional love right there. What could have been a throwaway ending with Patty and Skinner not working out simply because it serves the writers’ interests ends up being a very mature take on breakups. Patty says, “We decided we loved each other enough never to see each other again.” I’m happy to report that I’d describe most of my breakups this way.*

I had some reservations about the “40-something woman hellbent on finding a man” trope with Selma, but I was won over by how the writers use Patty’s just not giving a shit as a counterpoint. Patty’s lack of investment in finding someone lands her a fling, which is kinda how it works.

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Patty don’t give a FUCK.

Best Moment: Homer’s ‘find Selma a man’ radar.

Best Quote:  -“Isn’t it nice we hate the same things?” -Skinner

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Now that’s what I call love.

*-most of

Classic Simpsons Reviews: “Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment” has the pace and depth of a golden-era episode.

2.13 Homer vs. Lisa and the 8th Commandment

Lisa protests Homer’s illegal cable hookup.

One of the many things I love about Lisa is that her morals are influenced by her values as a churchgoer and by real-world social issues.

(These of course shouldn’t have to be mutually exclusive, but they often are.)

Lisa’s faith and secular humanism are never at war with each other, and so never create any by-product that would halt her intellectual growth. She reads the Bible, but also the Tao Te Ching. She views the Ten Commandments not as some archaic power trip, but as a way for people to be good to each other. And within all of that, she can still laugh at Bart’s crank calls. That’s a hard character to make believable and consistent, but Yeardley Smith manages it.

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Lisa would shit a brick if she knew how much hockey I stream online. *cough*

Part of why this episode works so well is that while it specifically chooses a religious theme, it explores it in such a universal way. Besides the fact that everyone can relate to the idea of stealing cable, we can all imagine the moral complexity of stealing from a faceless corporation as opposed to someone you know.

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More prison imagery!

I also appreciate that while The Simpsons pulls no punches in terms of making fun of religion, it does so while managing to avoid throwing out the baby with the bathwater. Lisa is troubled by Homer’s decision to steal cable, so Reverend Lovejoy suggests she protest non-violently by announcing her refusal to watch any of it. I have never been part of any organized faith, but I have to think a lot of conversations between pastors and congregation members are perfectly healthy. I can only think of The Simpsons when I try to come up with a modern comedy that acknowledges this. That nuance and the message of non-violent resistance give this episode a lot of substance.

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Also teaching kids about hell is a form of child abuse, but I’m a roll being nice to religion, so…

Homer getting cable makes for great little bits of satire of TV programming, from infomercials, to schlocky standup comedy, to late night soft-core porn. We also get introduced to Troy McClure and Drederick Tatum, who are both hilarious. And the throwback to “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge” with the friendly lemonade episode of Itchy & Scratchy briefly heard on the TV is great. No one earns its self-referential moments like The Simpsons.

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Storyboarding and cinematography are underrated elements of why early Simpsons is so good.

All the secondary characters watching the fight at the Simpson home is so much fun, with Mr. Burns’ contribution of a tiny bag of chips stealing the show. I love how the comedy there comes out of the character while contributing to the story’s theme of selfishness.

Unlike some animated programs, where there is no character or story, and the jokes are tacked on and perfunctory.

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I’m a fan of little character consistencies, too. Mr. Burns aged himself in “Dancin’ Homer” by mentioning his heckling of MLB legend, Connie Mack many decades ago. Here he mentions having watched boxer, Jim Corbett, who fought his last bout in 1903.

The episode ends with a nice meta twist, as Homer cuts the cable and it immediately transitions to static. It’s a nice way of pointing a finger at the viewer…not that anyone watched this episode and actually got rid of their illegal cable hookup.

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The subtle message of ill-gotten gains as having an isolating effect on a person is nicely done.

Best Moment: Everything Monty Burns before and during the big fight.

Best Quote: “I should box your ears, you…you…you sneaky Pete!” -Ned Flanders

Classic Simpsons Reviews: “The Way We Was” paints Marge’s character into a corner.

2.12 The Way We Was

When the Simpsons’ TV breaks down, Marge and Homer tell the story of how they got together in 1974.

It’s fun to see Homer and Barney’s high school days. Them getting busted for smoking in the boys room, Homer just beginning to lose his hair, and Barney streaking through the prom are great moments.

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I kinda wish this were the whole episode.

The writers put Marge at a feminist rally and give her the idea of starting bra burning. Ok here’s the deal, kids: Bra burning never happened.

Women did picket a Miss America pageant in 1968, but no one took their bras off, no one set them on fire, and there weren’t any bra burnings anywhere else in the country afterwards. A Margaret Wente-esque New York Post writer linked the Miss America protest to an unrelated Vietnam protest, and called it a “bra burning,” and the myth lives on because it’s a convenient way to straw-man feminists.

I’m sure it’s possible Gloria Steinem singed a bra strap while stoking a campfire once or twice, but on an organized level, feminists never burned bras. It just wasn’t a thing.

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Guys. Do some research.

Marge ends up in detention, and even quips, “Last time I ever take a stand.”

Well, she does marry Homer, so…

Anyway, the acting in this show is so underrated. Dan Castellenata manages to make both Abe and Homer Simpson sound 15 years younger without sacrificing any characterization or making them sound remotely like any of the other fifty voices Castellenata does.

Also a very nice guest spot by Jon Lovitz as Artie Ziff, Marge’s would-be flame.

Marge’s mom, Jackie Bouvier makes another great appearance, with the classic line, “Ladies pinch, whores use rouge.”

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Terrible, but I’m laughing for the same reason I laugh at Lucille Bluth; the level of cruelty is just absurd enough to be more satirical than instructive.

Ultimately this episode misses the mark for me because it gives Marge very little justification for choosing Homer outside of ‘Artie got grabby’. Well…ok, fuck Artie, so there weren’t any other non-grabby guys? I don’t care if her reason for being with Homer comes from a dysfunctional place; at least give us something.

The writers do hint at it being some sort of rebellion against her family, who she overhears dissing Homer…That could be a good reason, but the Bouvier dynamic isn’t explored with enough depth to offset the fact that Homer lied to Marge, harassed her constantly, and caused her to fail an exam, but oh, he didn’t grab her, so, bar cleared.

It smacks of male entitlement when the leading woman’s romantic decisions are unmotivated and nonsensical. Whole lotta that happening here.

As for Artie’s grabbiness, this is a similar situation to “Life on the Fast Lane,” where the writers make the male threat to the show’s central monogamous relationship just happen to be a total dink. It’s a cute little trick patriarchy plays in order to justify its resplendent mediocrity.

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The writers choose to have Marge physically dwarf Artie as a mechanism for getting her character out of the corner into which they’ve painted her.

So remember, kids, the “other man” is always the asshole, whereas the patriarch, despite his many, many, many flaws, is a good notch or two above all the other men the writers happen to plunk in front of the leading woman, soooo we cool.

In The Way We Were, Barbara Streisand is a vocal anti-war activist, and Robert Redford is a politically carefree wasp. Despite their best interests, they fall in love, and their political differences eventually tear them apart. Part of why it’s an important movie, in my view, is that the solution it arrives at doesn’t involve Streisand’s character becoming more docile. Watch any film where the leading woman is strident and outspoken, particularly if there’s a political bent. In almost every case, she’ll be pacified by the end of the film.

I’m not suggesting The Simpsons isn’t allowed to go the other way in what is a very loose parody, but if you’re going to go full patriarchy in how you resolve a story’s conflict, you need to justify that and draw attention to it, otherwise I can only assume your women characters exist as a means to an end for the more important men.

Best Moment: 17 year old Homer singing “Space Cowboy” in the end credits. I’m not being flippant here; it’s fucking hilarious.

Best Quote: “Hello classmates. Instead of voting for some athletic hero, or a pretty boy, you have elected me, an intellectual superior, as your king. Good for you!” -Artie Ziff

Classic Simpsons Reviews: “One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish” is one of the darkest and best early episodes.

2.11 One Fish, Two Fish, Blowfish, Blue Fish

Homer eats a poisonous fugu fish and is told he may have 22 hours to live. He makes a list of things he wants to do before he dies.

This is a great example of an episode that perfectly combines sentimentality and laughs with just the right amount of absurdity.

It begins with Homer’s gluttony and impatience, as he can’t wait ten seconds for meatloaf to come out of the microwave for dinner. The table banter is very funny, with Lisa philosophizing about the mundanity of meatloaf every Thursday and pork chops every Friday.

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It’s great foreshadowing, and nicely sets up the final image of the episode.

Lots of funny stuff when the Simpsons go to a sushi restaurant, too, where Japanese characters are (mercifully) played by Japanese actors (including George Takei!). Bart and Lisa singing the Shaft theme in the karaoke section is hysterical. The head chef making out with Edna Krabbapel is fantastic. There’s something of the mundane in much of this episode, so having Homer’s near death experience be the result of two people he never interacts with making out in the back of a car is fitting.

The “uh-oh you experienced another culture now you’re gonna die” thing seems like a bit of covert xenophobia, and I think the writers could have done a wee bit more to address it. Oh well.

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The sushi joint has a map to the hospital on the back of the menu. Funny, but have the writers been to any American fast food chains?

Homer learns from Dr. Hibbert that he may have 22 hours to live, and Homer goes through the five stages of grief in ten seconds. Besides being hilarious, it’s thematically consistent with the mundanity and thoughtless haste explored in this episode. It’s also a great satire of cookie cutter, one size fits all pop psychology

One of the many things I love about this episode is that it gives Homer a perfect blend of sincerity and buffoonery. For example, his advice to Bart, who doesn’t realize it may be the last thing he hears from his father: “Here’s three little sentences will get you through life. Number one: Cover for me. Number two: Good idea, boss. Number three. It was like that when I got here.”

One of my favourite George Carlin bits involves him saying he wants his epitaph to read, “George Carlin: He was here just a minute ago.” It’s equal parts mundane and touching, much like this episode.

This episode is one of those rare times that I’m consistently behind Homer as a character. Like when he promises to bring steak to Flanders’ BBQ the next day when he knows he’ll already be dead. Or when he makes a video for Maggie, and does spooky ghost sounds from beyond the grave. Homer is funniest to me when his obtuseness comes out of a place of sincerity and even partial intelligence. Late-era Homer goes beyond imitating humanity well; here, he does a bang-up job.

I can’t think of another primetime animated show that has dealt with terminal illness and the certainty of death as well as this episode does. The writers are bold enough to cast a pall over the entire 22 minutes, and yet they manage to be consistently funny without ever being flippant or syrupy. Homer listening to the Bible in what might be the last moments of his live is poignant stuff. If you’re an atheist (as I am) and don’t find that touching, that’s on you, not this episode.

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Homer looking up at the stars in “Mother Simpson” is easily the most beautiful and haunting image of the entire series. This might be number two, though it’s a different kind of beauty that befits the theme of this episode. Moses dies atop a mountain overlooking the promised land; Homer ‘dies’ overlooking some random fuck’s house.

As as I often point out, the acting in The Simpsons is hugely underrated. Julie Kavner (Marge) stands out in this episode, particularly when she’s reading her poem to Homer. Yeardley Smith (Lisa) and Nancy Cartwright (Bart) beautifully convey the children’s innocence and worry as they wonder why Marge seems so morose in the hours before Homer’s near death.

Usually when Marge and Homer are wrapped up in something, Bart and Lisa will have a better understanding of what’s going on than their parents do. In this episode, though, the writers stratify the adults and the children much more, which makes the narrative all the more jarring and real. That’s some good writing.

But what really steals the show here is the sound design.

As Homer completes his list of things to do before he dies, there is always some kind of lively background sound. Not necessarily in order: Lisa’s saxophone, a TV in the background, sounds of water in a creek, a police radio, music playing at Moe’s, a car engine, Maggie sucking on her pacifier, and dramatic music throughout. Then when Homer takes out the Bible (in audio book form) and sits down to listen to it, there is a sustained background silence, with crickets ever so slightly audible in the background before they too fade away as the Bible plays.

All that aural stimulation followed by silence provides finality and yet a profound sense of peace and acceptance. It’s a truly beautiful take on death, and it doesn’t even sacrifice laughs, as Homer fast forwards through the ‘begats’ in Genesis.

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Another image both touching and haunting.

And the ending…fuck me sideways. Still-alive Homer says, “From this day forward I vow to live life to its fullest,” and then it cuts to Homer eating pork rinds while watching bowling on TV. Not football or anything exciting, but bowling. The writers could have addressed the complications caused by Homer being so loving to people on his final day, but instead they wrap around to Homer’s gluttony from the beginning of the episode, and do so with powerful simplicity.

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It might as well be a sunset on a beach with the sounds of the ocean; it’s so perfect an ending.

Looking back at the chalkboard gag, even it isn’t wasted, thematically. Bart writes, “I will not cut corners” followed by quotation marks down the board. Talk about a (comedically unlearned) lesson in haste and throwing away of the present moment.

Best Moment: Homer goes through the five stages of grief in ten seconds.

Best Quote: “Thursday. Meatloaf night. As it was, is now, and ever shall be.” -Lisa

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Sap Alert! This episode made Taylor cry. It was the silence after all that stimulation of Homer’s last day. But that’s me: If something spurs tears at the end of a play, it’s as much the way the lights come down as it is the story itself.

Classic Simpsons Reviews: “Bart Gets Hit by a Car” is worth it for Phil Hartman.

2.10 Bart Gets Hit by a Car

The Simpsons sue Mr. Burns after he hits Bart with his car, and Homer encourages Bart to embellish his injuries.

The best thing about this episode is that it gives us the first appearance of crooked lawyer, Lionel Hutz, voiced by the late Phil Hartman. It’s a bland entry in terms of the family’s core narrative, but everything with Hartman is golden.

When Bart gets hit he ends up on an escalator to heaven, with a voice (Hartman) evoking a mall speaker telling him (in English and Spanish) not to spit over the edge, which of course Bart does. Bart is sent to hell, but the Devil says his time isn’t up until the Yankees win the pennant again, which isn’t for another century.

(For you sports fans, the Yankees would buy win the pennant and the World Series five years later, in 1996.)

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The Devil, already sounding like Ned Flanders (Treehouse of Horror IV). Conan O’Brien must have been watching.

Bart wakes up in the hospital with his family and Lionel Hutz around him, and we get a classic Wizard of Oz reference, with Bart saying, “You were there, and you, and…who the hell are you?” I draw attention to this moment because of how Hartman’s voice being in Bart’s dream makes the movie reference all the more layered.

And the rest of the episode is all Hartman. His business card doubling as a sponge, his law degree from “The Louvre,” his instinctive motioning to stand up when he hears a siren during his meeting with Homer; Hutz is a classic character. And influential, I think. I don’t know that Saul Goodman (Breaking Bad) or Barry Zuckerkorn (Arrested Development) look the same without Lionel Hutz.

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The Simpsons.

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Arrested Development.

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Breaking Bad.

It’s not a crucial moment, but I love Mr. Burns writing a measly cheque to pay off Homer using one of those large, cumbersome cheque writing machines with an impossible lever. I bring this up only because I know from working in one that they still have to use these in banks 25 years later.

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I fucked up a lot of cheques…

The end has Marge costing the family the case and a million bucks by telling the truth about Bart’s injuries. Homer tells Marge he doesn’t love her anymore before taking it back, and Marge’s reaction to being treated like that is basically “Cool nbd.”

It’s kinda forced, and doesn’t give Marge a lot of agency. It’s one of those rare occasions in early seasons where the sentimentality falls completely flat. I think a more interesting third act closer would’ve been Homer dealing with Bart’s feelings of having been exploited by the whole ordeal, but I was five when this episode aired, so, lotta help I could’ve done.

But the nice thing about The Simpsons at this point in the series is that weaker family episodes are worth watching thanks to an increasingly awesome supporting cast.

Best Moment: Bart spitting off the escalator to Heaven.

Best Quote: “Mr. Simpson, the state bar forbids me from promising you a big cash settlement, but just between you and me, I promise…you…a big cash settlement.” -Lionel Hutz

[Edit: A dear friend of mine pointed out that the “fake injury is fake” storyline is super problematic because the rate of false claims of that nature are infinitesimally low, but on TV it’s treated like a 50/50 shot. I’m fully in agreement with my friend. When I had my ankle broken in a car accident I was afraid of asking for more than the barebones ICBC claim for similar reasons.]