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.]

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