280. The Bart Wants What It Wants

(originally aired February 17, 2002)
If you’re going to do an episode featuring a one-off romance, you need two important things: your love interest to be a distinct and interesting character, and for the relationship to have some kind of deeper purpose. Jessica Lovejoy was the devious daughter of the minister, the bad girl Bart was head over heels over, until he realized she was maybe too hardcore even for him. A prototypical Ralph was this sweet, naive, somewhat dim kid who attached himself to Lisa, while she had to figure out how to let him down gently. These stories not only feature entertaining characters and situations, but also because they involve kids, they are believable grade school stories. This episode is the first of many future “Bart-gets-a-celebrity-voiced-girlfriend” shows, and like the others, it features none of those three things. At least I can say this episode isn’t as bad as the others this season; nothing here genuinely infuriated me, I was more bored than anything.

So the girl here is Greta, voiced by Reese Witherspoon, daughter of Rainier Wolfcastle. Right there you’d think there would be some interesting connection between father and daughter, or that it play into the story, but no. Greta has no real discernible characteristics other than she’s sweet. That’s it. She’s just a sweet girl who’s head over heels with Bart. The plot, I guess, is that Bart is too naive to notice that this girl is falling for him, and when Lisa alerts him to this fact, he decides he has to break up with her. Then he’s shocked to find she’s then dating Milhouse, and realizes he may have made a huge mistake. Now moving on to my next point, that the writers seem to have forgotten that Bart is ten years old. When he talks about letting Greta go and that he may have lost “the one,” it just feels so, so strange. When you’re a kid, you don’t think of relationships like that; your “girlfriend” is just this girl you hang out with and occasionally you kiss. I guess the joke is supposed to be they’re treating it more seriously, but it just doesn’t feel right at all. Later iterations of those show would involve Bart and a pregnant girl, an arranged marriage, and other stories better suited for a teenager than a kid.

When Bart finds out Greta is going with Milhouse to Canada on her father’s new film shoot, he is destined to go after her to win her back. So, the Simpsons are going to Canada! Just like that. Here’s what drives me nuts, when the show covers a stupid bullshit plot turn with a stupid bullshit joke. The family has no reason to pick up and rush to Canada so Bart can get his stupid girlfriend back. Maybe he could have conned Homer into driving him there; that I would buy. But not Marge and Lisa, there’s no way that this could work. So here’s the dialogue with Bart and Marge: (“This is for love, Dad. Someday, you’ll feel what I feel.” “It’s only fair. We went to Europe when Lisa lost her balloon.”) Brilliant. That’s how they hand-wave it. Again, if the writers could care less if this shit makes sense, then why should I? So we get a quick Canada montage, Bart and Milhouse fight, Greta breaks up with both of them, then the boys join the Canadian basketball team. Another crappy episode in the can. This episode’s greatest sin is being the predecessor to the aforementioned future Bart-girlfriend episodes, but on the whole it’s just very bland and inoffensive. Which is exactly what I want to think of what I think Simpsons.

Tidbits and Quotes
– More lazy, lazy writing. We start off with Homer being chased by a helicopter; he’s stolen the Olympic torch because he’s sick of his favorite shows getting pre-empted. Not a terrible conceit, but it still makes no sense. So after killing a minute and a half, we get this from Homer: “I’m bored. ……hey, a fair!” It’s as if he’s the writers, jumping from set piece to set piece, never focusing on one thing.
– At the Springfield prep school, we get more of characters just appearing in places they don’t belong. What’s Lenny and Carl doing there? And Flanders? And with him, we get another motherfucking joke where Homer moans loudly at the idea of the less fortunate getting money. Why do the writers think this is so goddamn funny?
– Rather than listen to Lisa’s request the school apply for a bond issue (which makes total sense for an eight-year-old to know), Skinner opts to just take off with as much stuff as he can swipe from the prep school (“Principal Skinner, you’re just stealing.” “Welcome to Dick Cheney’s America.”) OHHHH!! SICK BURN! SO EDGEEEEEEEEE!!
– Wolfgang Puck is at the prep school too. That’s it. Another worthless celebrity cameo out of the way…
– I like Homer’s adivce Bart gives about women (“Don’t give them nicknames like ‘Jumbo’ or ‘Boxcar,’ and always get receipts. Makes you look like a business guy.”)
– Though I feel they didn’t do nearly enough with him, Rainier’s got some great lines here (“Bart, your little tie makes me smile.” “Laughing time is over.” “Remember when I said I’d eat you last? I lied.”) Instead of developing his relationship with Greta and the boy she likes, we get a scene where Homer carts him to the bar with his new “best friend,” which has nothing to do with the main story and does nothing but kill time.
– Skinner tries out stand-up comedy at Floppy’s. This whole scene is awful. First, Krusty is the emcee. Why is Krusty, a world-renown celebrity, hosting open-mike night at a shitty dive? It’s not like he gives any jokes, he just plays off Captain McAllister and introduces Skinner. It could have been anyone. But it’s just more cramming in familiar faces for the audience. Second, Skinner is doing bad comedy, except it’s not funny to us. It’s not like Krusty bombing in “Last Temptation of Krust,” it’s just Skinner being pathetic and sad. But I guess the writers though it was a hoot, because we cut back to him on stage again at the very end. I guess they were trying to do a Seinfeld thing. Whatever.
– I kind of like the montage of Bart stalking Greta and Milhouse. The two lovebirds get caricatured on the boardwalk, and Bart gets caricatured creepily staring at them from behind a trash can.
– This is a really small moment, but it just really bugged me. On set of Rainier’s movie, he picks up an actor and impales him through another actor. This is all one take, it’s not like we’re seeing his done with dummy actors or visual effects. This is just him shoving one person right through another guy’s gut. It’s almost like they forgot they were in the context of a movie shoot, and just wrote a scene from an actual McBain movie, and figured fuck it, it works fine. I dunno.

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15 responses to “280. The Bart Wants What It Wants

  1. Plots like this always made me wonder why they didn’t just age the cast 7 or so years. They clearly want Bart and Lisa to be teenagers, based on the storylines (and dialogue) they give them. Why not just make it so and stop with these creepy grade-school relationships?

    • That always bothered me, too. It’s obvious they want to tell high school set stories, but those are not what the characters are. Age them or write a different show. Doing these stories with elementary school aged kids is weird.

  2. Guy Incognito

    I’m going to be honest, I’ve never seen this episode. I’m not missing much I assume.

  3. I remember the confusion that occurred when this episode premiered. For weeks in advance, FOX had been promoting this one as “The Simpsons are going to Canada!” And when the first two-and-a-half acts had nothing to do with Canada, a bunch of people on the No Homers Club actually thought FOX was mistakenly airing the wrong episode.

    When I think “Bart’s crushes”, I think of Laura Powers and Jessica Lovejoy, and that’s it. Greta and all these other girls just kind of blur together, because the writers failed to give them anything remotely resembling a personality. The only girl since then who’s come close to being memorable is Gina Vendetti from “The Wandering Juvie”, but even then, I still have only the vaguest memories of that episode.

    The laziness of the writing is really starting to piss me off at this point in the series’ run. In the middle of Season 13, they know they’re going to be on forever now, so they don’t have to bother with plots that make sense. Just throw in a set piece about the Olympic torch and a random ending with a curling game and the Canadian Basketball League. Nothing has to make sense because nobody will care if it doesn’t.

  4. I’m not sure I would call Krusty a world-renown celebrity; I always thought of him as famous, but only in Springfield, particularly in Last Temptation of Krust.

    But agreed (as usual), this is shit. I remember when I started following this blog, it was like a pleasant walk down memory lane, and an excuse (not that one really needs any) to slap on old Simpsons episodes. Now it’s just getting kind of depressing!

    • They’ve had bits implicating Krusty’s fame extends well beyond Springfield. The guy was knighted, for Pete’s sake.

      • oh shit, you’re right! “i dub thee sir-” “urgent call for mr. clown!” “this better be important…”

        touche, good sir.

      • To me, Krusty is sorta like an even less successful Carrot Top… he’s probably had some mainstream success but is mainly only known about in hushed whispers and as a washed-up “comedian”. Carrot Top — and, like, Pauly Shore, and people like that — may have had some mainstream success, may have mingled with Hollywood royalty and whatnot, but are known mainly as novelty acts and eventually returned to stand-up/prop comedy/that kinda shit. So I always assumed that about Krusty… some big success, but mostly just a guy living off of former glories who hates being himself…

        Either way, probably the most intriguing character on the show, tied with Skinner..

  5. Hmm, I guess it wasn’t this episode with the Tetris joke at Wolfcastle’s yardsale, right? I can’t recall that episode but that was a neat sequence.

    “, we get more of characters just appearing in places they don’t belong. ” I never understood this criticism being used so frequently (especially over on Dead Homers)… it’s a small town, people show up at the same events in the small town, it wasn’t a big deal at the “chili cookoff” or the casino or anything else from classic episodes, why does it matter here? I agree that sometimes it does seem kinda wrong (and kudos, Mike, for actually pointing it out in golden-era episodes, like “why is Burns a Stonecutter?”) and I realize on way older episodes, they’d have nameless and usually voiceless “crowd characters”, but in general, I just don’t understand the reiteration of this criticism in every single episode. I almost always shrug with, “it’s just a really really really small town” … with a mountain and an ocean/beach and a forest and a race track and a Blockoland and tons of snow and so on …. a really really small fucked up town…

    • The Tetris joke is in “Strong Arms of the Ma” next season, I think.
      I get what you’re saying about the small town thing, but certain events are catered to certain people. This is a prep school; Kent Brockman and his daughter are there, Skinner looming in the bushes spying on the competition, that all works. There are also characters who aren’t there, like the Hibberts or the Lovejoys, who would make sense to be there, affluent couples who can afford to send their kids to such an opulent school. But working schmoes Lenny and Carl? Flanders, whose kids go to public school? It just doesn’t make much sense to me. I’m fine with characters showing up places as long as it makes sense for them to be there.

      • I don’t know how common the phenomenon is, but where I grew up there was a private school that would actually have these sorts of elaborate carnivals that actually were open to the public, so I can buy that an event like this would bring in townspeople looking for a weekend outing.

      • Thanks for letting me know about the Tetris joke. The more I read your reviews and think about the decline, my consensus is starting to become more in line with the idea that the show — even recent episodes — has had some clever SEQUENCES and moments but it’s just that the show isn’t funny anymore. I mean, one joke out of 100 is going to hit, probably… it’s just too bad the other 99 are lame.

        Anyway…

        I see what you’re getting at with your criticism, and it doesn’t seem hard — especially now with computers (crowd scenes were REALLY HARD to animate back in the day; now they could just place in a bunch of random spectators) — to come up with some more characters that DO belong. It seems like they just throw in fan favorites, like Comic Book Guy, and Sideshow Mel is ALWAYS at these things… I know they’re doing it just to get those characters to be on screen or for one throwaway line from them, but sometimes I like to think maybe those characters are just nosey… Comic Book Guy going to random shit because he doesn’t have friends, I could understand… Sideshow Mel seems to want to know EVERYTHING that’s going on EVERYWHERE, so I get that… Lenny and Carl… hm. I dunno. In a way, we know a lot about them, in a way we know nothing at all about them.

  6. – “Again, if the writers could care less if this shit makes sense, then why should I?”
    You’re not supposed to care if it makes sense or even think about it. You’re supposed to just watch things happen and laugh at jokes. That’s pretty much all the writers expect of us.

    – “And with him, we get another motherfucking joke where Homer moans loudly at the idea of the less fortunate getting money. Why do the writers think this is so goddamn funny?”
    Apparently the writers think it’s hilarious to have Homer be so selfish that people other than him are getting money.

    – “(“Principal Skinner, you’re just stealing.” “Welcome to Dick Cheney’s America.”) OHHHH!! SICK BURN! SO EDGEEEEEEEEE!!”
    This begins my biggest problem with The Simpsons until 2009: their mean-spirited digs at the Bush administration. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Bush and/or Cheney jokes when they’re funny, but this is just a petty dig.

    – “Wolfgang Puck is at the prep school too. That’s it. Another worthless celebrity cameo out of the way…”
    Given how God-awful his delivery is, I’m kinda glad they kept his lines to a minimum.

    – “Why is Krusty, a world-renown celebrity, hosting open-mike night at a shitty dive? It’s not like he gives any jokes, he just plays off Captain McAllister and introduces Skinner. It could have been anyone.”
    Why does Krusty do anything? The club, I’m sure, paid him enough for Krusty to agree.

    – Yeah, not a huge fan of this one. A couple moments get a chuckle, but that’s about it. I think my favorite is when Lou “breaks up” with Wiggum.

  7. [QUOTE]Skinner opts to just take off with as much stuff as he can swipe from the prep school (“Principal Skinner, you’re just stealing.” “Welcome to Dick Cheney’s America.”) OHHHH!! SICK BURN! SO EDGEEEEEEEEE!![/QUOTE]

    That line was originally going to be “Welcome to George W. Bush’s America,” but it was changed.

  8. Break ups are stupid and they suck

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