29. Bart’s Dog Gets An F

(originally aired March 7, 1991)
NOTE: During the past week I was visiting my hometown in New Jersey. However, that did not hinder my Simpsons obligations. I managed to burn through six episodes with two very good friends of mine, and together we recorded brief, five-minute commentaries for them. They’re quite rambling, misguided, and mostly disposable, but hey, they’re only five minutes, and if you’re reading this, chances are your time isn’t that valuable to begin with.

These audio reviews will also be an excuse for me to write less. A bit of a cop out, but hey, I got four hundred episodes more, so cut me a break.

This final audio “commentary” is the scarcest, and for good reason. Season 2 has been full of a lot of episodes full of great and complex characters and interesting meaty plots, but this is a relatively more low-key episode featuring the exploits of the Simpson family dog. We establish Santa’s Little Helper not as a goofy cartoonish dog, but an actual true-to-life untrained mongrel, who doesn’t obey any commands, digs up the yard, harasses the neighbors, and will chew up anything it sets its fancy on. This is pretty much the overarching content for the first two acts, as the Simpsons try to continue with their lives around their nuisance of a pet.

Homer has his eyes on Flanders’ ‘Assassins’ sneakers, obnoxious and expensive footwear with mini vanity nameplates on each foot. I do enjoy Homer’s enthusiasm over a product that encourages exercise, like people who were anxious to buy Air Jordans so they could sit around the house wearing them. Meanwhile Lisa comes down with the mumps, giving Marge time to share with her the Bouvier family quilt, which has lasted six generations through the Great Depression to Marge’s link in the chain of “Keep On Truckin’.” When both of these treasured items (and Homer’s giant cookie) are destroyed by Santa’s Little Helper, there is little recourse left other than to get rid of the dog. Bart is adamant against this, of course, promising he’ll get his dog trained.

Bart enrolls Santa’s Little Helper into obedience school, taught by a no-nonsense Margaret Thatcher type voiced by Tracey Ullman, comedienne responsible for the Simpsons gracing the airwaves in the first place. She gives a fine performance, but coming off of Herb Powell from the last show, she’s not the most memorable one-off character. This show has its share of funny lines, and there’s nothing to fault it for regarding its story or characterization, but there’s not much here that is really too spectacular. In this season full of truly spectacular shows, “Bart’s Dog” will have to settle with “pretty darn neato.”

Tidbits and Quotes
– I do love the bit where a jovial but annoyed Dr. Hibbert inquires how Marge got his home number, listens, then chuckles, commenting, “How ingenious.” This is also the first time we see the Hibbert family and household, all clearly an homage to The Cosby Show, an affectionate parody to the show’s then chief ratings rival.
– Of course there’s the great scene where an increasingly angry Homer tries to chew out his neighbor for accusing SLH is in her pool, believing he’s locked him up outside. His arrogance and fury over a situation we know he’s wrong about just builds up the inevitable laugh when he gets to the window and realizes he’s just made an ass of himself.
– We get a brief line from Troy McClure on the TV, a rare (maybe only) occasion of him being voiced by Dan Castellaneta: “As an actor, my eyeballs need to look their whitest!”
– I do enjoy whenever we see the soap opera, whose name I forget. I’m also surprised they got away with showing the woman unzip her dress, revealing her bare back. Quite sultry. I also like “Father McGrath! I thought you were dead!” followed by a chipper “I was!”
– I do like Homer’s accusatory speech at the free samples girl about roping people into making a purchase, all while spitting out cookie crumbs all over himself. Also his fool-proof plan of sticking the gigantic cookie on top of the cookie jar and putting a note on it. SLH devours it ten seconds later.
– There’s a few more small things I do think are good, like the farm owner examining SLH’s pelt and genitals, and Lisa’s start of a new quilt depicting the destruction of the old one… but I don’t have much else to write about here, to be honest. Let’s move on.


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