Original airdate: November 28, 2010
The premise: Bart tends to a wounded pigeon and ends up forming a kinship with the newly healed bird. When Santa’s Little Helper eats Bart’s new favorite pet, Bart is devastated, and it creates a big rift between a boy and his dog.
The reaction: Man, this has got to be the most boring episode yet. A shred of a simple story amidst just layers and layers of padding and stretching scenes out as far as possible. It takes three minutes for the episode to actually start, after the full opening theme, an extended couch gag, and two lengthy extended scenes that were just random and existed to fill time. And it really, the actual “conflict” of the episode didn’t even happen until halfway through. The first half is Bart caring for the bird, then using it to send people messages. That’s it. Nothing interesting or captivating is happening, the characters aren’t dealing with any problems, it’s just… Bart hanging out with a bird. “Bart the Mother” comes to mind, which featured Bart out-of-character as a treacly mess over these bird eggs, but at least there was motivation and reason for it. Here, Bart just cares for the bird, just ’cause. SLH ends up eating the poor bird, and Bart is pissed at him. Then we get even more padding: the choir at the funeral, the Itchy & Scratchy cartoon, Homer looking through inkblot tests… it just keeps going. Ultimately, they’re gonna give the dog away to an ostrich farm (?), where the conflict is resolved when Bart strangles a hostile ostrich to death. Yeah. So, I guess he learned that birds can be dangerous? That the tally of birds killed is now even between them? I don’t understand, but I don’t really care either. A shockingly dull, dull outing.
Three items of note:
– The Itchy & Scratchy episode is particularly frustrating, entitled “Dogday Hellody of 1933.” I had no idea what that means; turns out it’s a play on the film Broadway Melody of 1936, a film I’m sure everyone over eighty years old remembers. But why the 1933? The short is actually based on the Disney cartoon “Pluto’s Judgement Day,” which was released in 1935. So, still have no idea where the 1933 came from. Anyway, first thing that confused me was the look of the cartoon. I recalled Dead Homers already did a pretty thorough analysis of this, so if you want, you can check that out, with visual accompaniment. They were trying to go for a soft, watercolor look for the backgrounds to match the original cartoon, but it ends up looking like it’s just blurry and out of focus. On top of that, it stands in direct contrast with the crisp, clear digital characters put on top of it. There are a line of crystal clear Scratchys that couldn’t stand out more against a super blurry jury box that they’re actually supposed to be behind. The cartoon ends with the likes of Edward G. Robinson, Harpo Marx and Bing Crosby beating the shit out of a dog. Why is this cartoon being shown now, and on Bart’s widescreen television? Is Krusty showing a re-run? “Streamboat Itchy” and “Scratchtasia” were parodies of classic animation, but were produced in the past, in-universe. Nothing in this shit makes any sense to me.
– It seems like every trick in the book was used to bring this thing to length. This may be a first that I’ve noticed in which they literally just hold frames to pad out the time. Homer and Marge meet with Skinner, who pleads with them to keep Bart’s spirits down to retain peace in the school, a scene that starts with a kernel of a humorous idea, but drags on far too long. The final shot is a wide shot of the three of them with Marge murmuring. Then we just hold on them for two whole seconds, with absolutely nothing but the ticking of the clock on the wall, which I guess was actual audio from the editor desperately trying to make sure he hit the air length mark.
– Not much else to really comment on, so let’s just do a quick guest star line-up. Danica Patrick appears as herself in Homer’s dream, which feels incredibly lazy. I almost would have preferred she literally just burst in the Simpson backyard in a race car, at least it would have injected some much needed energy into this sleeping pill. In the final act, Rachel Weisz voices the family therapist, who I suppose must have a name, but she exhibits no discernibly personality or characteristics, so whatever. We are indeed a long fucking way away from Tracey Ullman as Emily Winthrop (“Pull the bloody chain, boy!!”)
One good line/moment: Probably the biggest laugh I’ve gotten so far is SLH randomly jumping in to grab the bird. By twelve minutes in, I was near comatose with how dull the episode was, so the dog appearing to eat that fucking bird was like a Godsend. I only wish he would have swallowed faster, it would have been even funnier.