The premise: Seeing how great a bond Lisa and Maggie have, Bart longs for that kind of connection with a brother of his own. Unable to trick his parents into conceiving one for him, Bart then opts to check out the orphanage, where he peaks the interest of impressionable young lad Charlie (voiced by Jordan Nagai, Russell from Up).
The reaction: Similar to “Pranks and Greens,” writing for Bart seems to be real difficult. I feel I could meet them halfway with Bart wanting a brother, but as this show is want to do nowadays, everything is painfully spelled out to us, most during a gigantic monologue exposition dump by Lisa about her irreplaceable sisterly bond with Maggie and how Bart will never have that. From there, we have a bunch of schemes he pulls to get his mother pregnant… which plays more unseemly than intended, at least to me. When Marge confronts him about it, Bart cranks it to “Bart the Mother” mode and tears start flowing. Who is this kid, and where’s Bart? A lot of these episodes feel so thin and unmemorable so far. At least the horrible Marge/Flanders thing from “Nada” will stick with me. These last few shows, what is there? The horrible South Park “parody”? Five seconds of the Plow King for nostalgia points? No dice.
Three items of note:
– It’s always easiest to highlight the diametric opposite nature of the show in its prime and the show now when they retread on jokes they’ve done before. Bart waits with bated breath for the announcement that his school will have a snow day… but to no avail. Back in “Skinner’s Sense of Snow” in season 12, they did the same joke, except it felt snappier and was told quicker (“Springfield Elementary… My Dear Watson Detective School. And lastly, Springfield Elementary… is open. And it’s open season on savings at Springfield Menswear… which is closed. Here, they do three fake ones, whereas they did only one before, then we get see Chalmers and Skinner at the radio station, who are making these announcements for some reason, openly admit they were fucking with Bart. What? When you’re a kid, waiting by the radio to hear those sweet sweet words of freedom, it seems like it takes forever; it’s funny in the old version because of the announcer’s completely lack of understanding that his phrasing and pauses is bizarrely misleading. The joke isn’t that your superintendent is messing with you on purpose, seemingly having nothing better to do with his time.
– This episode is on guest star overload: for Bart’s dream inspiring him to want a brother, we get the three Manning brothers, and the Smothers Brothers, who do a little routine that eats up a good amount of screen time. I’ve seen bits they’ve done that are kinda funny, but here, they’re just… not. Their humor style doesn’t exactly fit the show. Kim Cattrall, not already having an abnormally huge part in a previous episode, returns to do one line as Bart’s hypothetical third sister in a dream. But the standout is Jordan Nagai as Charlie; he’s just a kid, but I thought he did a really good job. He certainly didn’t sound like Russell, it was a different character to me.
– The resolution to the story is kind of weird to me. Bart takes Charlie to a horror movie and freaks him the hell out, which for some reason makes him feel regret. I guess he’s going to learn a lesson about responsibility? Then Charlie seems to betray him to Chief Wiggum, but is turning a double play and they run off. After our obligatory dumb “dramatic” climax, we see Charlie’s ultimate fate is being adopted by a family with six daughters. Alright, whatever. We’ll never see him again anyway.
One good line/moment: For once, I actually have a couple bits to choose from. “Be cool, he’s an orphan! You know, just like Annie, except he’s a dude and he hates tomorrow.” “I hate it so much!” Nagai’s emphatic read on that made me laugh.