214. Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken

(originally aired January 17, 1999)
Pretty much all the episodes of this season I either don’t remember that well, or just remember that they’re horrible. This fell into the former, and I was quite surprised at how much I really enjoyed it. It had a fairly solid premise and theme that played throughout, characterization was strong, lots of laughs throughout, satisfying conclusion… a pretty damn good episode, helped even more coming after the last couple of clunkers. We start on the baseball field where Homer mocks and berates the haggard hometown team the Isotopes, but is quick to jump on the bandwagon many months later when he finds they made it to the championship game (Moe casually comments, “That sniper at the all-star game was a blessing in disguise.”) Following the ‘Topes win, Homer and pals have an inebriated celebration, driving his car through the school and wrecking up the place. What I love most about this opening is that everything Homer does works: his petulant and childish demeanor regarding the game (“I’m gonna warm up the car.” “But there’s only been one pitch! “And it sucked”), his quick turn-around to supporting the team when everyone else does, and of course his drunk driving, and the spectacular sequence of his faulty memory regarding the night prior (SCENE MISSING).

Chief Wiggum jumps to the conclusion that the damage at the school was caused by punk kids, thereby issuing a curfew for all minors to be indoors by sunset. The dynamic and building animosity between children and adults sets in at the start of act two with Bart and Lisa adamantly against this unfair punishment, with Homer and Marge being less than supportive. This mutual turmoil brings the kids of Springfield together as a collective in a way that makes sense. Together they agree to sneak out after dark to catch a drive-in screening of the new horror film “The Bloodening,” which is an amalgamation of scary movie tropes: a black-and-white picture allegedly unreleased to the public due to its content, and now showing with a registered nurse on staff (“trained in the treatment of terror.”) It features disturbingly soft-spoken little English kids using psychic powers to read the thoughts of the villagers, then brutally kill them. When the Springfield kids are caught by the police, they use the movie as their inspiration to enact revenge on the adults.

Through jury rigging the transmitter on the newly installed police billboard, the kids hijack the radio airwaves to put on a program revealing the dirty untold secrets of the people of Springfield. Even with Lisa in the group, this seems a little out there that they’d be able to do this, but it works so well within the story that I really don’t mind the improbability of it. The kids are caught, and it’s time for a big generational stand-off. By what means? Through song, of course. I’m not totally on board with this idea; the song isn’t terrible, but I feel there could’ve been a better means of resolving the plot. But it does bridge into the very ending that I love, where the seniors get everybody under curfew and “take back the streets.” So hey, while I can’t say this episode is perfect, it was really enjoyable, certainly at the top of the season 10 pile, though that’s not saying a whole lot. It at least proves that the writers still have some sense in them, but how much of it they can enact over a whole season seems to be questionable.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Useless cameo at the beginning by Cyndi Lauper. I guess the joke is that she sings the national anthem to the tune of her hit song. I guess? But I like the announcer’s comment after she leaves the field and most of the people in the mostly empty stands take her lead (“Thank you, Cyndi Lauper! Just to remind you, folks, we do have a baseball game today.”)
– The baseball game was a great sign for me as each scene had a joke that worked: the two players’ urine testing positive and them clinking their glasses, Marge’s mother’s advice to stick with your loser choices ’till the bitter end, the pitcher’s arm snapping (“That’s a rotator cuff, his career’s over!”), Babe Ruth the Fourth bunting, then getting tackled immediately, and Homer sitting outside in the car singing the childish edit of “Whistle While You Work,” with the middle cut out of course (“…now it doesn’t work!”)
– I like this exchange on the car ride home (“With a little middle relief, they might even make the playoffs!” “You’ll be in your cold, cold grave before that ever happens.” “Homer, would you please stop talking about the childrens’ graves?”)
– Not only does he immediately change into a ‘Topes fan at the drop of a hat, he becomes one of those boorish obnoxious super fans for Kent Brockman’s news cast. I love Castellaneta’s read for that bit (“It’s a great team, Kent! We never gave up hope! I wanna thank Jesus, and say hi to my special lady Marge. We did it, baby! Woo!”)
– Homer’s memory of what happened the night prior is fantastic, told in silent movie slides and everyone in old timey garb. He goes to Moe’s for a drink, SCENE MISSING, Homer dancing with some faeries around the may pole, SCENE MISSING, THE END. I love how the nice piano music comes to a loud end too.
– Homer has some great logic regarding blaming kids for everything (“If kids are so innocent, why is everything bad named after them? Acting childish, kidnapping, child abuse…” “What about adultery?” “Not until you’re older, son.”)
– Nelson gets a free pass from Wiggum with his fake ID as Dr. Hibbert. Cartwright does a hilarious job mimicking Shearer here.
– There’s a really sweet scene in the middle of the show with Bart and Lisa bored in the house keeping a kite afloat with a fan. They let go and it wafts into the kitchen and gets caught in Marge’s hair. Without looking up from his paper, Homer comments, “Marge, kite.” It’s such a charming, funny bit that feels so alien in this bombastic, over-the-top season, I love this stuff.
– Wiggum forces the kids to clean off the new police billboard, and leaves them with some great final words (“Let this be a lesson to you! Kids never learn!”)
– Lisa tunes the old radio past FDR’s war declaration speech after Pearl Harbor, and after a few seconds into the kids’ secret broadcast, Homer comments, “Boring! Go back to that infamy guy.”)
– Amazing bit where the kids reveal Luanne Van Houten has been cheating on Pyro with his brother Gyro. The two muscled men duke it out with giant cushioned sticks like true American Gladiators.
– Nice bit with another scandalous secret. “And guess who’s been practicing medicine without a license?” Hibbert looks worried. “That’s right: Homer Simpson!” A faint “D’oh!” is heard in the distance.
– I like the Crazy Old Man’s rantings running into the credits (“You wanna stop with the kicking? My pills are in that can! Good gravy, I don’t kick your things!”) All the way into the Gracie Films shush (“Don’t tell me to shush! You stupid lady!”)

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7 responses to “214. Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken

  1. i liked how homer switched on kent when he said “even if they lose,” flying into an unreasonable rage (“THOSE LOSERS!!!”) only to switch right back (“WOO!! NOT OVER!!”). whenever i can, i try to quote “there you have it.. ‘woo.'”

  2. “Actually, we prefer to stay” is a line I still use regularly.

  3. This episode is almost entirely the reason why I like The Simpsons – Season 10 and feel it should have lasted for 11 seasons.

    The Simpsons was made for this – intelligent, biting, and witty cultural satire. Springfield was its own mini-form of American society, that’s why it never mattered what state it was in.

    It’s interesting this is is one of the episodes not written by John Swartzwelder, and yet one of the most libertarian – a valiant cry against the government-regulated nanny state America has indeed become.

    I was picked up, had my face shoved into the ground, and was treated like shit over these bullcrap laws when I was 16 and I thank The Simpsons for making me aware that they existed in the first place. There were no signs posted in my neighborhood (still aren’t) and when I pointed this out all I got was a “Shut up, kid” and a “Ain’t no sign tellin’ you not to kill people, either” from the resident asshole wage-monkeys to Chief Wiggum.

    I considered myself a law-abiding citizen and a sophisticated mature person even at 16 and I should have been allowed to have my own opinions on the law and know that the police are out there working to keep the streets free from criminals to keep us safe. But unfortunately when I was robbed at school and told by all involved it was my fault for leaving property unattended and the police could do nothing to stop it, I realized that the police are so incapable of handling actual crime they must make the law-abiding citizens into criminals at every chance they get to prop up their arrest quotas and boost their own egos to get a power trip. Laws are written for the police and the best in blue protect and serve themselves.

    The ending is hilarious, one of my all time favorites. Pitch perfect satire, and I commend The Simpsons for being brave enough to come out and say what most wouldn’t dare once the laws stop concerning them.

  4. Episodes like this make me question why Lisa is so adamantly portrayed as a liberal – we see her staunchly opposed to this degree of government interventionism here, but given even at the time Bill Clinton’s high advocacy of these laws, it would make more sense for her to be Green Party.

    But then I suppose Lisa decided to listen to the man-impersonating alien bent on world domination, instead….. “Go ahead! Throw away your vote!” 😄

  5. This is the best post-season 8 episode and maybe the last really good episode of the show. Love the Cyndi Lauper cameo, Scene Missing, Don’t Go There, The Bloodening…so classic!

  6. wow, I didn’t think this one was so late, a real classic.
    I particularly like the fact that the bloodening is so blatantly village of the damned and Frink’s “I have tracked the sygnal and triangulated the vectors to express them as a function of my hand, —- they’re over theaaaaaaerrrr!”

    Actually for how whacky a lot in this one is, it really worked for me, especially the ending, albeit the idea of kids stuck inside with nothing to do of an evening is sort of a mock in these days of the cyber generation.

  7. Let’s not forget Homer’s line after ‘Homer’s Night Out’: “Hello, big Maggie!”

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