340. Fat Man and Little Boy

(originally aired December 12, 2004)
This episode appeared to be a potentially interesting Bart story, then got swayed by silliness, locked its focus into loud, obnoxious Homer, then at the end of the third act, remembered Bart’s story and brought him back to resolve it. To Bart, losing his last baby tooth signifies the end of his childhood. It’s a premise that could work, examining Bart trying to man up while still remaining a kid. Instead, he adopts a cynical attitude via sarcastically sloganed T-shirts, which he soon turns into a business. For some reason, the entire town goes apeshit over them, despite it being a ten-year-old writing on blank shirts with magic marker in plain stock text. He eventually gets a distributor in Goose Gladwell, an eccentric Willy Wonka-type who runs a local joke store. Bart is soon rolling in cash, because these shirts are somehow a red hot commodity and can bring in hundreds and hundreds of dollars a week in Bart’s share alone. I guess a simple story about Bart’s malaise about losing his childhood wasn’t interesting enough.

The story gears shift to Homer when he’s laid off and becomes dependent on Bart’s earnings, which, again, must be so great that they can support the entire family. Plus Marge doesn’t appear to be annoyed by any of this at all. Homer fears for his position as alpha male of the house, but instead of rectifying it, takes the advice of an on-the-nose animal program and decides to spend his time nurturing Lisa. Currently she’s building a diorama on the history of nuclear power, though I’m shocked that current-day Lisa isn’t protesting its dangers to the environment. Wanting to help her out, Homer acquires some plutonium from the plant and makes it an actual nuclear device. He crosses paths with Bart, who has just been swindled out of his T-shirt rights from Gladwell, so he ends up threatening the man with atomic annihilation until he gets the money his son is owed. So I guess now it’s a father-son show somehow. The show had promise initially, then the whole T-shirt thing just distracted from the emotional core it was setting up, and the episode got lost. Ah well, not like I should expect any different at this point.

Tidbits and Quotes
– Homer being shocked at Lisa and Janey’s playground limericks of almost-swears just didn’t work. I know they tried, but I don’t think there’s a way you can time that properly. Plus why is he surprised? Homer loves childhood limericks (“You lie like a fly with a booger in its eye!” “The fly was funny, and the booger was the icing on the cake!”)
– The beginning actually has some good stuff in it: Bart praying that the tooth fairy, God’s daughter, not take money off the top from his bounty, his Sgt. Activity fantasy turning into a life insurance commercial, even a dumb joke about Homer getting a potato peeler pierced through his forehead is staged and timed in a funny manner. I also like Bart’s Viking funeral for his toys, but before that we get a scene of him naming them off, all Mapple-style names where they just tweak the names of actual products (Duopoly, Parchoosey, Ravenous Ravenous Rhinos). It must take a bit to come up with these names, and I ask, why bother?
– “I like T-shirts with a nice joke, like ‘Support Our Troops!'” I genuinely do not understand this Marge line. I feel like I almost get it, but I’m not quite there. Can someone help me out here?
– Bart selling his shirts on the schoolyard and them being a hit makes sense, but to all the adults in town? And then later possibly across the country? I just don’t get it. Also Wiggum shuts his shop on his front lawn down for no reason whatsoever.
– I guess the writers thought Goose Gladwell was funny because he’s kind of like Willy Wonka. He’s not funny. The only thing I laughed at is when he leaves the Simpson home, Marge comments, “What a delightful sprite!” Don’t know why, but I was amused by that.
– Lenny and Carl appear at the Gilded Truffle apparently just to chew out Homer. Homer then proceeds to berate a waiter who considers it pathetic that he takes money from his ten-year-old, which it is. Marge tells him to use his inside voice. “I don’t have an inside voice!!” Yeah, we’ve figured that out over the last seven seasons or so.
– Homer playing Malibu Stacey with Lisa is a cute scene, but it would have been better if the episode had been leading up to this point.
– The Krusty Brand Geiger Counter is a pretty good gag (“That thing’s gonna blow! Drop this toy and run!”)
– So did Homer actually build a miniature nuclear reactor? It seemed to have some functionality as it raised the temperature, so it must be dangerous in some capacity. It just seems a little… stupid.

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24 responses to “340. Fat Man and Little Boy

  1. I’ve only seen this one once or twice, and can’t remember a thing about it. Even the tidbits isn’t ringing any bells.

  2. Yeah, it sucks. The whole Willy Wonka ripoff was just stupid.

  3. I honestly don’t understand the title of this episode. Can somebody explain how WWII bomb codenames fit into the theme of the episode?

  4. This was an episode I enjoyed a lot when it first came out (although, since I was 12 at the beginning of Season 16, I can say that for most of them). Sure, it’s not all that funny in the present, but it’s definitely zany – see some of the jokes in the first act, and the ‘Korean animation’ gag. When I was that young, zany was enough.

  5. This is above average by Season 16 standards, but that isn’t saying much.

  6. I admit, I do like “Pobody’s Sherfect Nithead.”

  7. – “I like T-shirts with a nice joke, like ‘Support Our Troops!’” I genuinely do not understand this Marge line. I feel like I almost get it, but I’m not quite there. Can someone help me out here?

    My take on it is that you can’t really SUPPORT troops by wearing a shirt. “Oh, hey, look, we’re supportive, we have a t-shirt that says we are and you should be supportive, too!” End… I mean, what does it mean to SUPPORT them? Either that, or she is just oblivious to or angry about war and she thinks the idea of “supporting” troops is a joke.

    “Also Wiggum shuts his shop on his front lawn down for no reason whatsoever.”

    Isn’t it illegal to have a business without some kind of license or whatever? If his shirts were making so much money that everyone in town was wearing them and giving him money, he would probably be taxed/fined, though it’s a weird subject since Bart is way below 18 years old. But shutting it down makes sense. I don’t think the scene is necessary but eh.

  8. The shirts’ phrases are easily the best part of the episode. Sad when minor blink-and-miss-’em gags reign over the main action.

  9. Turns out that bit in the opening of Homer being shocked at that “Suzy had a steamboat” rhyme was something they cut from “When Flanders Failed” way back in Season 3, because they couldn’t make it work. Apparently, thirteen years later, they decided “What the hell, it still doesn’t work, but it’s going in the show anyway.”

    Another one of those episodes I remember virtually nothing about. It just sort of wanders around aimlessly until it finds an ending, and the writers are perfectly okay with that. Whatever. Seven years later, “American Dad” did the whole “son replaces father as the alpha male of the house” storyline much, much better.

  10. Great review of this rather odd episode (imo) Mike and great comments so far, I agree with most of you. I would just like to add that I think the writers of this show use fake product/brand/company names, etc., like Maple instead of Apple, either to avoid being sued (and losing their precious multi-millions they have made so far) or in the same vein (humor and parody, that is) as MAD/Cracked magazines. Maybe both reasons apply. Just saying.

    • Mapple, not Maple. It’s less fun that way.

    • Old comment is old but obviously they aren’t going to use real brand names but the thing is, they DID clever twists on fake brands from day one.
      Duff could be a real beer. You know that it’s not but the name works.
      Buzz Cola? That probably IS real that’s how good a name it is.
      Malibu Stacy is clearly a take on Barbie.
      The names not only work as fake product names but you instantly know what the name is parodying.

      Nowadays you’d have Cuddweiser, Boca-Bola and Marbie. Not funny, not clever, just kinda sad.
      I mean come on, Funtendo Zii is the best they could do? Funtendo Zii.
      That’s something someone throws up in a brainstorm before a long pause and everyone else keeps going as whoever said it looks shamefully at the floor hoping it will swallow them up.

  11. Sorry and thanks for the correction GP!

  12. Spectacular episode.

  13. Also, I loved the “Miss Lucy” scene… until you made me think about it. I hope you’re happy.

  14. – “I also like Bart’s Viking funeral for his toys, but before that we get a scene of him naming them off, all Mapple-style names where they just tweak the names of actual products (Duopoly, Parchoosey, Ravenous Ravenous Rhinos). It must take a bit to come up with these names, and I ask, why bother?”
    According to the commentary, the writers thought it was funny. They admitted there was no need to actually change the names.

    – ““I like T-shirts with a nice joke, like ‘Support Our Troops!’” I genuinely do not understand this Marge line. I feel like I almost get it, but I’m not quite there. Can someone help me out here?”
    I’m guessing this was another EDGY attempt at slamming the Bush administration by claiming the idea of supporting the troops (and, thus, the Afghanistan an Iraq wars) is a joke.

  15. The only thing I liked in this episode was the sgt adventure bit at the start.
    one line however is pretty disturbing and not in a good way, the line about Marge being pleased “that an eccentric single man takes interest in your child”

    Is this a dig about child molesters?

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