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The Simpsons

The Simpsons is an animated comedy about a family in the fictional town of Springfield. The family is made up of selfish father Homer, fretting mother Marge, precocious daughter Lisa, rebellious son Bart and silent daughter Maggie. FOX 1989-???

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Episode 2 - Bart Stops to Smell the Roosevelts

23 February 2012

Synopsis: After yet another Bart prank Principal Skinner is getting chewed out by Superintendent Chalmers. Skinner unexpectedly stands up for himself and forced Chalmers to take charge of Bart's education. Chalmers manages to get Bart interested in Teddy Roosevelt and the other troublesome boys become intrigued too. On a trip to the forest though Nelson is injured and his mother sues Chalmers. Chalmers is fired and Bart decides to fight against this by occupying the school.

The Good: This was a passable effort at recreating the old Simpsons formula. Take a member of the Springfield community, get them involved with the Simpsons and a potential change in their life. Then show us why things have to go back to the way they have always been. Of course not all parts of the formula were present but there were more than there might have been.

Superintendent Chalmers was a really good choice for this kind of treatment because we know him well but don't know much about his background. The little we do know about him comes from his low opinion of American public schools. So I particularly liked that this one piece of knowledge we do have was expanded upon. Chalmers claims that boys need a different kind of education from girls and should be outside playing, exploring and building. It was plausible that the bullies (and Milhouse) would respond to this.

We've seen the writers use historical figures to good effect before and Teddy Roosevelt is as good as any. I liked Bart trying to imagine him being shot during a speech and yet continuing to talk as if he were The Terminator.

The Bad: As I said, the formula wasn't followed closely enough to lead to a satisfying story. Although we got an idea of how Chalmers would like to teach we didn't get much more information on his background. We didn't get a sense of why he became a Superintendent instead of a teacher even though the story could easily have led to that. With Nelson injured it seemed clear that Chalmers can't keep up with modern precautions and health and safety. If that angle had been played up there would have been poignancy in him returning to his role as a Supervisor and no longer being able to teach.

Instead the story was resolved in silly fashion with Chief Wiggum accidentally shooting Chalmers superior. There was no real emotional resolution and Bart and friends weren't punished for their criminal actions in taking over the school.

It was an episode without much in the way of consequence I'm afraid. The episode opens with Bart pulling a huge prank on Skinner and he goes unpunished. Considering his prank cost both the school money and the local children a better education it really undercut the story to not hear what his punishment was. Worse than that Bart swaggered out to brag about what he had done. That makes no sense. Why would he want to expose himself to being punished for it?

In a similar vein Homer walks into this auction saying loudly that he never wanted to have kids. It was wrapped up in a wittier comment than that but it should never have been said. Yes Homer is thoughtless but I don't see him hurting Lisa's feelings so casually. It's an example of how the writers have forgotten that real emotions are where humour comes from. By going for the laugh line they actually made the family look less real. Can you imagine Season 3 Homer telling Lisa he never wanted her? Even in a joking way?

Best Joke: Homer comes up to the treehouse to see if Bart and the bullies (and Milhouse) are getting into trouble. Marge yells that his ice cream and brownie are ready. He leaves but returns shortly carrying his desert to check on them again. Marge is worried that they are up to something. Bart tries to confide in Homer about their plans but Homer is distracted by his ice cream melting. He whines to Marge who tells him to come down and she will get him some more ice cream. Homer's conclusion to all this is to leave the treehouse again saying "You guys need to get a woman!"

The Bottom Line: Adequate.

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