243. Bart to the Future

(originally aired March 19, 2000)
It almost seems unfair that this episode must inevitably be compared to “Lisa’s Wedding,” one of the greatest, perhaps the most touching show the series has ever done. But that’s the risk you run when you return to the well, I suppose. Certainly the writers can take another stab at interpreting the Simpsons’ future, go in a different direction and explore the personalities in a different time, place and mental state decades down the road. It may not be “Wedding,” but it can be its own unique enjoyable experience. Or, we can get this episode, which is unimaginably lazy and completely devoid of anything interesting or funny to say about the future, or anything else for that matter. Our intro to the future vision is even clunky: while “Wedding” spent time setting up the Renaissance fair, as well as Homer and Lisa’s strained relationship, this episode literally shifts gears on a dime to an Indian casino, where Bart ends up getting caught sneaking in by the management. The casino manager shows unto Bart a vision of what his future holds if he does not change his bad boy ways.

Future Bart is a wanna-be musician and worthless bum, living with Ralph in a shitty bungalow by the sea. When they are booted from said residence, and all other attempts at mooching off loved ones proves fruitless, Bart is left with one option: move in with and incessantly bother Lisa, President of the United States seeking re-election. It makes for a great story when your main character is a pathetic loser who aggravates everyone for the entire running time, receives an unearned “success” at the end and learns nothing. Plus, what a boring interpretation of Bart. A slacker who still has his ten-year-old mentality? The Bart in “Wedding” makes a lot more sense. Hell, him as a Supreme Court Justice makes more sense than the Bart we have here. It’s just plain sad to see him like this, and irritating that I harbor so much hatred for this character. Everyone else is just as much a bore. Lisa as President? Again, unoriginal and improbable characterization. And to pad the story out more, we’ll have Homer search for Lincoln’s gold. Brilliant work, guys.

Everything in this show just feels lazy and off. Not only have none of the characters matured, but neither have their voices. Bart, Ralph and Milhouse in particular still sound like kids; call back to the great voice Cartwright did for Bart in “Wedding.” What happened? I guess they figured it would be too much work. The future technology is not funny and too outlandish, providing no interesting or telling views for life in the future like “Wedding” did. …yeah, this whole review has just been comparisons to the other future show, but what do you propose I do? The differences are clear as day how one is brilliant and the other is crap. “Wedding” created a vision of the future that was believable, both in terms of the characters’ position later in life and of the universe it created and what differences there would be based on trends in our present. In this episode, it’s all just characters doing wacky things and old future jokes we’ve seen so many times before (Soylent Green! Outrageous!) Putting aside the comparison to the transcendent “Wedding,” this episode is just abysmal. It really felt like they were sleepwalking through it. But even that gives them too much credit.

Tidbits and Quotes
– How they get to the casino is really astonishing. They turn back from the insect-overrun campground, there’s a brief pause in the car, then Bart announces impromptu, “Hey, look, a casino!” And Homer immediately turns in, and there we are. I guess the impulsive nature of it could be the point, but it was just so fast and random, it just felt like they had no idea how to segue and just gave up.
– I guess I should address the return of Gabbo and Arthur Crandall. Or maybe I won’t, since there really isn’t anything to say about it other than it’s there.
– This future world doesn’t strike me from the start. Ralph rooming with Bart? I mean, realistically, I feel Ralph will need to be living with assistance since he’s mentally handicapped. But why have him in the episode at all? We don’t get into what his job is or what his future is like; he’s just there. It would have made more sense if Bart was mooching off Milhouse, who could have had a lucrative job and maybe a girlfriend or wife who convinced him to kick him out, then that starts the plot moving. I’d buy that. But instead, we have Milhouse as Lisa’s secretary for some Godforsaken reason. And Kearney’s part of the secret service? What? It’s like they desperately needed these familiar characters to fall back on rather than develop some new material that could stand on its own. Just sad, really.
– Future Bart really is just obnoxious. Seeing him bilk a blind Flanders out of more money is really disheartening. As is the cheap joke of making Rod and Todd gay.
– I guess the fanboy in me likes that Nelson’s outfit is kind of fitted like Biff’s from Back to the Future Part II. And I buy him as a sleazy nightclub owner. But then for no reason in the third act he’s there with Bart at Camp David.
– There’s very, very little positive I can say about this episode, but I like this exchange explaining why the country is broke (“Remember when the last administration decided to invest in our nation’s children? Big mistake.” “The balanced breakfast program just created a generation of ultra-strong super-criminals.” “And midnight basketball taught them to function without sleep.”)
– The air of not giving a shit is so strong in this show… the other Simpsons just appear in the White House for no reason, Bart manages to barge in on Lisa’s live address, and everywhere else for that matter. There’s also the scene where Homer axes through the floor, revealing he’s right above the Oval Office, which makes no sense, then our next scene starts with an expansive shot of said office, where we see the ceiling is completely intact. Amazing.
– Bart really is awful in this episode, almost effectively blowing Lisa’s re-election chances. Then he’s handled with kid gloves until the very end, where he “saves the day” by stalling the world’s leaders saying they’ve sent “checks” out. Even though that makes absolutely no sense and only “solves” the problem in the most temporary of ways. Lisa would have been better off accepting Kearney’s secret murder plan.
– The only other bit I like is the Chinese representative (“You pay now! Now!” “What happened to you, China? You used to be cool.” “Hey, China still cool! You pay later! Later!”) It’s not particularly funny, but it’s an amusing performance, and something I quoted with friends quite a lot for one reason or another.

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7 responses to “243. Bart to the Future

  1. I’m always going to think the future where Bart is a Supreme Court Justice as the true future of the series.

  2. “I mean, realistically, I feel Ralph will need to be living with assistance since he’s mentally handicapped”

    hahaha.

    Caught this one again in syndication land recently and was kinda amused by the absurdity of all of it, but of course it’s bad, yeah.

    I did like Nelson’s outfit too. I noticed on this season’s HOLIDAYS OF FUTURES PASSED or whatever it was called, in one of the group shot montage pic at the beginning, Lisa is dressed like Annie fucking Hall. Kinda odd.

  3. One thing I never got about this episode is what they did with Ralph. He seemed to have gotten several IQ points smarter, but still fell out of Air Force One three times. Eh, screw it.

    I will say that there was a period last year when the line “We’ve inherited quite a budget crunch from President Trump” was funny, though not as funny as Trump’s campaign.

  4. “Putting aside the comparison to the transcendent “Wedding,” this episode is just abysmal.”

    One might say groin-grabbingly transcendent!

  5. Just watched this and it really is a disaster. “I can’t believe smell you later replaced goodbye.” Could this be the start of the trend of explaining everything for us?

    • It probably was. I guess the only interesting part of this episode is that it predicted that Donald Trump would be President and that the next one will be a woman, so things may look dark now, but hopefully it won’t be like this forever.

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