Here’s an episode that’s really emblematic of why I love the Simpsons. It’s an episode about Bart getting hit by a car, and it’s wacky as hell. What an insane concept. It’s a crazy legal episode that introduces two amazing characters, and really sets the tone for the Simpsons to come. It’s great. Let’s dive in!
Right off the bat, Bart is hit by Mr. Burns’ car. The title of the episode isn’t exactly trying to hide the plot, but man it gets straight to the point. Bart is just skateboarding around, and gets whacked by Burns’ car. Burns and Smithers argue about what to do about Bart, and his soul starts to head to heaven, where there’s a handy elevator to transport him. I love that there’s a voiceover of instructions on the heaven elevator, and that it’s in both English and Spanish. One of the things the voiceover instructs not to do is spit over the side, so of course Bart does it, and for that minor offense is sent straight to Hell. Thanks religion. So Bart plummets to Hell, which is straight out of a Heironomous Bosch painting, and he gets to meet the Devil. I love the Devil in the Simpsons, he’s like a sleazy used-car dealer. He chats with Bart, then checks his records on his old Packard Bell-looking computer, and realizes that something must be wrong, because Bart isn’t supposed to be in Hell quite yet. Because apparently there’s predestination in the Simpsons universe. So Bart is sent back to the land of the living.
Bart wakes up and is surrounded by his family, and one of my favorite Simpsons characters of all time, Lionel Hutz! I love Hutz so much. Bot of Phil Hartman’s classic characters are amazing, and it’s really a toss up between whether I like Hutz of Troy McClure more. He’s just so incompetent and sleazy. It’s great. So Bart wakes up and the notice that this strange lawyer has snuck into their room, and he tries to convince the family to sue Mr. Burns, and gives Homer his business card, which is also a sponge. Once Hutz leaves Dr. Hibbert shows up to tell them that Bart’s injuries are minor, and he’ll be fine soon. The next day Homer goes to work, where Lenny is has the super insane line “Hey Simpson, I head Burns crushed your boy.” Jesus! Anyway, it turns out that Burns’ lawyers have recommended that he pays Homer to keep him from suing, so he calls Homer to his office, and only offers $100, which don’t come close to covering the medical bill. Homer gets offended at the small amount, and decides to sue Burns, especially after wiping his head with Hutz’s sponge card. He heads to Hutz’ office, which is in the mall apparently, and they get to planning.
Their first mission is to get re-examined by a shady doctor, and here we meet the always amazing Dr. Nick Riviera! He also apparently works in the mall. Dr. Nick starts looking and Bart, and finds all sorts of other problems with Bart. We cut over to Burns and Smithers, who are discussing the case, and I love that Burns wants to just fire Homer, but is stopped when Smithers mentions that it doesn’t look good to fire the man whose boy he hit with a car. Burns thinks about this, and can only imagine good headlines for Burns’ heroic firing of Homer, but he decides to do what Smithers suggests, and they decide to try and talk the Simpsons out of the lawsuit. Hutz is getting ready for the trial, and begins coaching Bart on how to lie in his testimony. I’ve mentioned before that there are a lot of professions that I only knew about from the Simpsons when I was a kid, and lawyer was definitely one of them. I grew up assuming all lawyers were like Lionel Hutz, which really makes that profession not look good.
And the trial begins. I love that one of Mr. Burns’ first statements was “I should be able to run over as many kids as I want!” I’m no lawyer, but that seems like a solid defense. Burns and Bart then give their recollections of the event, and they’re hilarious. They’re both ridiculously cartoony, and in Bart’s he’s just minding his own business before a super evil Burns shows up, actively trying to run Bart down. And when it’s Burns’ turn he tells a story about how he was just off driving with Smithers, when Bart purposely ran into Burns’ car, and despite Smithers’ wishes to leave the boy Burns comforts him, crying out to the heavens dramatically. Of course no one in the courtroom believes Burns’ story, leading him to yell at them “you believed his cock and bull story!”
Things aren’t going well for Burns, so he decides to have Marge and Homer over to his mansion to try and settle out of court. I love that when Marge asks Burns if he likes animals because of all the trophies in his home, he says he just likes their heads. Burns tries to liquor Homer up, and offers him $500,000 to settle the case, and leaves them to discuss, while secretly listening from behind a painting like he’s a Scooby-Doo villain. Homer is all for taking the money, but Marge expresses her guilt, admitting that they’ve not telling the truth, and using phony doctors. Burns hears that, and comes back into the room, saying the deal is off. The next day at the trial Burns’ lawyer calls Marge to the stand, knowing that she’ll tell the truth. She admits that she didn’t think Dr. Nick was a legitimate doctor, and the whole case ends up unraveling, especially after she says that Bart was barely hurt, and was fine practically the next day. They lose the case, and get nothing.
Later that night, Homer starts to get irritated with Marge, while his inner monologue gets aggressive about the fact that she cost the family $500,000, so he heads to Moe’s to drink his sorrow away. Marge shows up at Moe’s to talk to Homer, and he admits that he’s worried he doesn’t love her any more, because he’s always going to look at her and think that she’s the woman that cost him a fortune. But Marge tells Homer to look in her eyes, and after some reluctance, he does, and realizes that he loves her more than anything, and always will. It’s shocking how many episodes end with Homer and Marge thinking that their marriage is over, and then realize that they can get through it. Usually it happens in bed though, not in Moe’s.
This was a weird episode. It was a lot of fun, and had some great gags, especially with having Burns, Dr. Nick, and Lionel Hutz in it, but it was also about such a weird topic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen another show have a story about one of the main characters being hit by a car. It also started the Simpsons tradition of having insane courtroom scenes. It introduced some great characters, had great laughs, and stuck some emotion in at the end. And that’s a great episode to me.
Take Away: Don’t use doctors and lawyers who work at malls. And I guess tell the truth when you’re in court.
“Bart Gets Hit By a Car” was written by John Swartzwelder and was directed by Mark Kirkland.
Categories: Lifetime of Simpsons