Bart, a genius? That doesn’t seem like the little hellraiser we’ve come to know, but in Season 1, Episode 2 of The Simpsons, Bart attempts to fool everyone and learns it isn’t as easy as he thinks.

The first episode of The Simpsons was a good way to establish the characters, but it wasn’t one that I felt had a lot of Simpson charm that made me enjoy the show as much as I have over the years. The second episode gave us a better view of what this show would become and is one that I remember very well, even if it isn’t one of the best. This one aired on January 14th, 1990.

This episode is notable for being the first episode to feature the opening sequence. It’s crazy to look back on how crude the animation was then and how much this sequence has changed despite being practically the same scene. The scene is a little longer than it was in later years, and I found it odd that Home doesn’t scream when Marge almost runs him over with the car. We also get the first chalkboard gag with Bart writing, “I Will Not Waste Chalk.” The first couch gag sees the family squeeze onto the couch popping Bart out of frame and then hitting the ground with a thud as we pan to the TV.

Bart The Genius centers around an aptitude test that Bart has to take at school. To prepare for the test, the family ends up playing a game of Scrabble, which is comical, to say the least. The family has four words on the board when they pan to it: hat, one, bet, fat. Marge and Homer then add he and do respectively. They’re shooting for the stars at this point. When it’s Homer’s turn, he wonders how anyone can make a word out of his letters which clearly spell the word oxidize. The writers made Homer look incompetent in this episode in a way that wasn’t quite explored in the first one. I feel like we got a much more realistic view of Homer in that respect here.

The episode hinges on Bart spray painting Principal Skinner with a speech bubble that says, “I’m A Weiner.” This leads us to the first appearance of Millhouse Van Houten (who has black hair) and Martin Prince, who decides to tattle on Bart for the graffiti and the spelling. Skinner catches Bart red-handed, literally, and tells him to see him after school. Martin apologizes for this, saying he was only looking out for the school, and Bart finally utters the famous catchphrase, “Eat My Shorts.” Bart tries to take the aptitude and goes through the most ridiculous word problem I’ve ever heard before he ends up on the floor where Ms. Krabappel (also making her first appearance) tells him to stop disturbing the children who actually have a chance to do well. That’s some pretty savage stuff coming from a teacher. Martin finishes first and is a complete asshole to Bart outside as he makes faces to taunt him as Bart completes his test. Except Bart didn’t complete his test, he switched their names.

I cracked up when Home was talking to Skinner about the whole graffiti incident, and he wasn’t catching on that Skinner wanted them to pay the $75 for the damages. It was even better when Skinner talked about childish forgeries Bart had made and realized it was Homer’s bad penmanship as he compared the notes to the check Homer handed him. It’s revealed that Bart has an IQ of 216 and that they want to move him to a school where he can do as much or as little as he wants. The weirdest part about this is how proud Homer becomes of Bart. He teaches him to put on a tie (a clip-on tie) and kisses him, much to the dismay of Bart, who has never known Homer to be affectionate. When Bart first joins the class, it seems awesome until he figures out he’s in way over his head. The teacher asks for an example of a paradox, and he comes back with, “You’re damned if you do, and you’re damned if you don’t.” The other kids confuse him with wordy math problems to take his lunch. These kids come off as absolutely terrible people, and I hated any time they were on screen.

The best scene in the whole episode is when Marge takes the family to the opera, and Homer and Bart go on a tirade, making fun of anything and everything. They go so far that Lisa joins in on the laughter at one point, much to the disgust of Marge. Things start to take a turn for Bart as he’s not enjoying this new school and starting to regret his decision as his old friends are now shunning him. He ends up walking by his graffiti that has now been framed and titled. After a failed science experiment, Bart confesses that he’s just a regular dumb kid and that he cheated on that test. I don’t know how they didn’t catch on to this sooner, considering how out of place he was. It seemed odd that we could even believe it was possible to fool everyone like that, considering who Bart is.

He tells Homer as Home is helping him wash the green off of him from the failed experiment and talks about how nice it’s been to bond as father and son in what looks to be a wholesome moment. That all changes as Homer chases a naked Bart through the house, trying to strangle him as Lisa exclaims, “I think Bart’s stupid again, Mom.” What a fitting ending to the episode.

Bart The Genius was a good improvement over the first episode, but their still not hitting their stride yet and probably won’t until Season 2. I don’t feel like it was an incredibly funny episode, but I did like the dynamic of Homer being proud of Bart in ways we don’t normally see in this series, even if it was short-lived. We got a good glimpse of Bart and Homer as characters, much like in the first episode. The dynamic between these two is often what makes this show so funny, and it’s easy to see why they make it such a focal point. I feel like it’s going to be a chore to get through this first season which is easily my least favorite of the series. These episodes are still lacking the intangibles of the episodes in later seasons, and there hasn’t been a lot to say about them, but we’re getting there.


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