OTH: The Simpsons- "Bart Gets Hit by a Car"

Two iconic, dearly departed performers premiere in a solid, if unexceptional episode.

Season 2, Episode 10

Aired January 10, 1991

Directed by Mark Kirkland

Written by John Swartzwelder

Damn, maybe I should have tried to still do two at a time, so I could have hit a double Swartzwelder jackpot alongside “Itchy & Scratchy & Marge”.

Well, let’s talk about it this most prolific of Simpsons writers. Thus far, we’ve seen that he likes to look at society and poke holes in it, primarily in “Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish” and the previous episode, as well as attempt to deconstruct the family’s core dynamics, like in “Life on the Fast Lane” and “The Call of the Simpsons” to an extent. This episode attempts to do both, but I’d argue that it never totally lands either.

It’s the core content, the general story that falls flat for me. Despite having his name in the title, there doesn’t seem to be much to do for Bart, who is expected to roll with the punches and only throws a good line in here or there, like Nancy Cartwright selling his Wizard of Oz reference after waking up from his near-death experience. On one hand, that’s not the worst thing, as the series has been overly Bart reliant lately, but we know how enjoyably shady the character can be, and he’d fit in well with what Lionel Hutz is selling.

This is really a Homer episode, which is fine for the most part. He has solid chemistry with Hutz, and Castellaneta is consistently improving his work as the character to make bits like Homer’s reaction to Hutz’s cash proposal is to die for. This also allows him to have a question of morality, in how he and Hutz are messing with the legal system. On paper, this switch up isn’t a bad idea at all.

What doesn’t work for me, and does ultimately drag the episode down, is Homer’s last-minute epiphany that he doesn’t love Marge anymore. Why does he feel that way? Because she didn’t commit perjury? That’s legit to ne. In actuality, the reason for this twist was a last minute note by Brooks suggesting that there wasn’t enough heart to the episode. That’s a fair point, but this comes off as Swartzwelder giving up and finding the first scenario he can half-ass. This doesn’t work as a reveal, nor does it add to either Homer or Marge’s character, even if the moment itself is sweet.

The Simpson vs Burns dynamic works a little better, at least. One of the best moments comes from when we see Bart and Mr. Burns’ testimonials, both of which contain sharp contrasts thanks to Kirkland’s increasingly more confident direction. The most striking detail from the entire episode comes from the end of Burns’ time on the stand, when we see even Smithers join a visibly angry crowd. As Mr. Burns becomes increasingly more evil, it’s interesting to see that he can lose even his most ardent follower.

It’s unfortunate that the family ended up losing the case. While yes, Hutz did expedite Bart’s injuries to a clearly inaccurate extent, Burns is at fault and should have compensated. Yet as we’re learning, that is not his MO, despite his wealth. It is good to see karma come and bite Homer when his greed prevents him from taking the 500K settlement Burns offers later in the episode, which is a worthwhile contrast to the pittance of $100 he offers the beginning. We get to see Homer’s rise and fall of greed thanks to his boss, and it makes for a fun enough ride.

If the rest of the episode was like this, I’d be all aboard, but the episode ultimately comes off as disjointed as this review does. Thank god for Lionel Hutz, though.

Stray Observations:

  • This is the second and last time that the title appears in the episode.

  • Snowball 1!

  • “Please allow me to introduce myself”. Ah, I see what you did there, Satan.

  • We hear the unforgettably coarse voice of Doris Grau for the first time. A legendary script supervisor, besides having the role for the series, she will continue to show up.

  • I have a quick question for those better versed in law etiquette- could Marge have evoked the fifth and chosen to not reveal her thoughts on Dr. Nick? Or even if she could, would that have just made her and her family’s case look all the worse?

  • One moment I’m all in for is when Bart goes on about how cool the million dollars would have been. We know that his mouth is smart beyond his years, but he’s ten and still can’t read a room.

  • New Character Column: The big reveal this week is Lionel Hutz, attorney at law. I’ll get to his voice credentials in the next bubble, but I’ll just say now- we haven’t seen the last of him. Thank god. We also meet Dr. Nick Rivera, although he doesn’t say his iconic catchphrase this week. Still, he’s a fun side character, a total contrast to Dr. Hibbert’s relative professionalism. We are also introduced to the blue haired lawyer, who has no formal name. Like Dr. Hibbert and Judge Harper (colored yellow this week), he’s one of the few characters on the show who is particularly good at his line of duty, but still usually allows for a good quip or two from Dam Castellaneta. Ah, and there was also the show’s take on the devil… which doesn’t look as Flandersy as he will later on.

  • it’s a small world after all- Hutz is played expertly by the late, great Phil Hartman, who was killing it as Saturday Night Live’s VIP at the time. While I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to his run, but he left the world a lot of joy before being taken away from us at the all too young age of 50. Also, NewsRadio should be a Heritage series.