The premise: The school informs Bart’s parents of his lengthy track record of not doing any homework; in response, Homer cracks the whip, while Marge has a more sympathetic outlook. Noticing the opposite reactions, Bart sets his parents against each other to get out of doing schoolwork, but when he does, finds his pranking isn’t as fun without the thrill of potentially being punished.
The reaction: Another episode starring Anti-Bart; worrying about school and what his parents think of him? Who is this character? A lot of this felt like “Itchy & Scratchy: The Movie” in reverse, particularly in showing Homer and Marge with reverse points of view. In that episode, Marge is the actual attentive parent, so seeing her concerned with her son’s behavior at school makes sense. Similarly, Homer is completely oblivious, and is easily manipulated and won over, so him being a pushover to Bart’s whims also is logical. Here, they’re switched, and it makes no sense, delving further into the bizarre once they resolve their marital spat, openly vowing to put their marriage before their kids. Homer I can meet halfway about this, but Marge?! No fucking way. Then Bart sets himself up to get caught pulling a mega prank and basks in the glory of his punishment. Remember the kid who wantonly smashed mustard packets into the carpet with a hammer for no reason other than he was a rambunctious ten-year-old? Whatever happened to that little scamp?
Three items of note:
– We open with a filmstrip being shown in Krabappel’s class of a city of the future, a surprisingly well done piece aping 1950s style designs. It’s not particularly funny, but it captures the spirit and the look of those old Tex Avery “[blank] of Tomorrow” shorts. It certainly is the first thing I’ve enjoyed this whole season, and we’re at what, episode fourteen?
– The underground train station actually boasts some very well designed sets, they were very interesting to look at. Kinda reminded me of the D.C. train tunnels in Fallout 3. There’s some pretty good artistry in this episode, too bad the story is so boring.
– It’s funny how big things can happen in these new episodes without any sort of elaboration or reaction. We’re introduced to the railway in act three, which Bart activates, causing monstrous tremors all throughout the town. This surely would create some kind of panic that Quimby would have to address, but instead, it’s just glossed over completely. I feel some of these episodes introduce elements or brush up against plot turns that could be interesting if explored, but doesn’t even bother to try.
One good line/moment: There are actually a couple good bits here. My favorite is where Bart is chasing the letter to the school mail room, dives past the mail slot and right under a similar slot marked “Ice Cream Wrappers.” Then he’s buried under a bunch of wrappers. It was so weird and well timed, it actually made me laugh.