“As someone who has fallen off cliffs multiple times, the best thing we can do is teach him how to fall off cliffs.” — Homer
The Simpsons‘ yet record-breaking 30th Season Premiere episode, “Bart’s Not Dead“, not only does assure what the title says, but it also makes evident that the show itself is far from dead. The show’s creativity is still on a good level, no matter how much time passes.
The episode sees Bart being dared by the school bullies but, after initially refusing the dare (and subsequently making Marge happier than ever), Bart later accepts to take a dare as he becomes the center of attention (in a bad sense) in school (even Ralph Wiggum tries to turn his back on Bart, only to face him again after a self spin). The bullies then dare Bart to jump into a reservoir. Bart fails the jump, thus falling into the floor and seemingly getting badly injured.
In the hospital, Bart recovers and comes up with a lie to cover up with Marge, who again had hope of Bart being a good boy, and he tells he’s been on Heaven, and that Jesus told him a message for Marge, “things will get better”. The little lie suddenly turns into a big lie after three Christian movie producers (voiced by guests Pete Holmes, Dave Attell, and Kevin Michael Richardson) want to make a movie out of Bart’s story. Homer quickly gets a deal, and starts producing the film with Ned Flanders (credited as Homer’s assistant in the film’s credits). They go through some auditions, with guests Emily Deschanel and Gal Gadot, who audition for Marge and Lisa, respectively, in one of the episode’s funniest scenes.
The movie (with Jonathan Groff as Bart) is a huge success (scoring a 98% in “Rotten Communion Wafers”). But, after Lisa makes Bart feel guilty for his lie, he decides to tell the truth, which causes anger among the town’s citizens. After apologizing, Ned and Homer announce they’ll donnate all the profits of the film to charity. Bart and Lisa then have a talk in the roof where Bart asks Lisa if God will ever forgive him. Lisa answers that, if there’s a God, he’ll forgive him as long as he has enough remorse. The roof suddenly breaks and the siblings are saved by an actual miracle, Homer having raked the leaves for once.
The episode, written by Stephanie Gillis and directed by Bob Anderson, perfectly manages to deliver a nice story of Bart’s guilty feeling over his little lie becoming something much bigger that, like a balloon, has to explode sooner or later. Some of the best moments of the episode are the auditions for the movie. Homer’s jokes out of Emily Deschanel’s show ”Bones” and not being able to differenciate her playing Marge’s part from real Marge, even though he asked her to some particular moves when acting as Marge, sure can get some laughs. Homer’s lines about ”DC Comics” and ”Wonder Woman” during Gal Gadot’s audition is also a good, classic, Simpsons-style, fuuny pop-culture reference. Emily Deschanel and Gal Gadot both offer hilarious performances.
A weak point of the episode could be the Bart’s Not Dead movie itself, as only a couple of nice lines and a rather irrelevant musical number (well-performed by guest Jonathan Groff) are shown from it. The movie itself could have had more content. It had the potential to include more pop-culture references. Well, more from the film should have been shown. Having Homer written it, lots of Homer-esque humor could have fitted in the movie. Nevertheless, the movie is not an important point of the episode after all. Bart’s feelings are.
Another well-crafted part of the episode is the ability the show has to irreverently satirize religion, no matter which one. From Jesus telling Bart (during a dream) that “God is love” and immediately hitting the boy with a wood-made “Love” word, to Homer going to “Hindu Heaven” asking to be reincarnated (into a Turtle) instead of having to stay at Christian Heaven with Ned Flanders, the show has always had a compelling talent to joke about religion(s).
The episode not only says “Bart’s Not Dead”, but it also shows clearly that neither are ‘The Simpsons’, healthier than ever in their 30th Season.
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- Bart jumps into the reservoir from the “Dead Boy’s Ledge”, while the bullies watch it from the “Haw-Haw Heights”, both places within the “Echo Canyon”. “This Place sure has a lot of names”, points Jimbo.
- Among the protest signs: “B.S. is B.S.”, “That’s why I am a Wiccan” (Moe carries this one), “Never Trust Non-Hollywood Films”, “The Last Half Dragged”, “Bart Lies, Jesus Cries”, and “Kill The Father”(held by Patty and Selma).
- Apparently, Grampa Bouvier (Marge’s father) was missing a leg. He was still missing it in Heaven during Bart’s dream, as he seemingly lost it in a bet.
- Remarkable quotes:
- “Like most of America, I think I know the movie business.” — Homer
- “Our father who art in heaven, holler out your name. Thy kingdom come, I’m almost done.” — Homer’s prayers.
- “Our movie is a hit and a lie.” — Marge
“Oh, all hit movies are lies, Marge. Did you see Argo? None of that happened. And I have strong doubts about The Incredibles.” — Homer