Oh man. Here’s a weird episode. I feel like I’ve never really thought about this episode before, but it’s such a bizarre premise. Taking a living ex-president, and essentially making him Mr. Wilson in a weird Dennis the Menace riff is so odd. I guess it makes some sense with all that real-life drama that happened between the Bush’s and the Simpsons, but I’ll get into that more later.
The episode starts off with Homer being incredibly bored on a Saturday with the terrible television. Like the Grand Nationals of Sandcastle Building Preview. Homer’s desperate for entertainment, and shoots down Marge’s suggestion of reading a book with the hilarious line “because I’m trying to reduce my boredom.” And since he shot that down, she tells him and Bart to go around the neighborhood and pass out fliers about a neighborhood rummage sale. So Homer and Bart head out and Homer starts telling Bart about how great their street is, almost reaching the point where you could think it was maybe going to hit the same message as “Lemon of Troy,” but that quickly goes away when they end up coming across a huge mansion, that’s right across the street from the Simpsons house, which is a silly joke.
So Homer and Marge being going through their crap in the attic, finding things to sell at the sale. Homer complains about Marge trying to give away his Ayatollah shirt, but is okay getting rid of his rhinestone jacket that says Disco STU, since he ran out of room to white stud. And once that’s over, the rummage sale begins, with Ned walking around the tables of crap while announcing different things on a mini-PA system that’s attached to him, including Mrs. Glick’s $90 candy dish. We see some of the stuff the Simpsons are selling, like the motorized tie rack, the Olmec Head, Bart’s Mary Worth phone, extra Lisa Lionhearts, I Didn’t Do It merchandise, Be Sharpes records, and Grandpa’s sex potion. We’re also introduced to the real Disco Stu, who doesn’t advertise. We’re then treated to Homer taking over as the MC by just dragging Ned along with the PA system, and he’s great at it, selling a lot of crap. But while Homer is selling stuff, a series of moving vans show up with their new neighbor, who has bought that little mansion. And surprise surprise, its former President George HW Bush.
Logically, everyone in the neighborhood freaks out about having such a famous neighbor, and start fawning over him, which instantly irritates Homer, since Bush stole his thunder. There’s also a great scene where we see that Ned and George are incredibly the same, and become fast friends. The two families chat for a while, until Rod and Todd warn the Bush’s about how terrible Bart Simpson is. Bush gets suspicious, but things don’t really escalate with that for a while. We do get a funny scene when Homer watches Santa’s Little Helper run off to be with Bush, and says “looks like he’s barking up the wrong bush,” to himself, which leads his brain to announce “there it is Homer, the cleverest thing you’ll ever say, and nobody heard it.”
But the plot really gets going when Bart begins hanging around the Bush house, and the episode becomes a weird parody of Dennis the Menace, where he’s Dennis, George Bush is Mr. Wilson, and Barbara Bush is Mrs. Wilson. Bart immediately starts irritating Bush, not respecting him and calling him by his first name. He even comes by one day and wakes Bush up by blowing a giant horn. And this little episode of Dennis the Menace reaches its boiling point when Bush is in the garage, writing his memoirs before tinkering with a boat motor. Bart pops in and starts messing with the motor, which ends up flying around the garage, destroying things, before finally shredding all of the memoirs. This pisses off Bush so much that he grabs Bart, and spanks him.
Bart seems more confused than anything about the spanking, and heads home to tell Homer and Marge what happened. And Homer gets pissed. He starts yelling and freaking out and decides to swear vengeance upon Bush. He storms over to his house and gets in a shouting match with Bush that ends with the two promising revenge on each other. Which probably isn’t a thing that you want to do to a former President who still has a Secret Service detail.
Thus begins the silly prank-war between Homer and Bart Simpson with George Bush. The Simpsons start off by just firing 200 bottle rockets at the Bush house, hoping that one will go through an empty window and up Bush’s butt. This does not happen, but it does lead to Bush’s revenge, which is him making a crude sign calling Bart and Homer ‘Two Bad Neighbors,’ and which just confuses everyone on the street. But apparently this made the Simpsons mad enough that Bart and Homer’s next plan involves them tricking Bush into coming out on his front porch before spraying his head with super glue and slamming a rainbow clown wig on him. Which is hilarious, and leads to him going to do a speech with the clown hair.
But the clown wig gag, or Wig-gate as Bart refers to it, ends up pushing Bush over the line, and he ends up just wildly doing donuts on their front lawn, spraying mud at their house. This leads Homer and Bart to initiate their final prank, and they end up going through the sewer to sneak into his house to unleash a box of locusts. And when Bush is done doing the donuts, he heads home, and spots them walking through the sewer, so he leaps down to confront them. He loudly yells “Hey turkeys, behind you!” which really tickled me for some reason, and the three begin fighting, after the hilarious reveal that Bart never explained why Bush spanked him. So Homer and Bush begin fighting, and Bush almost straight-up garrotes Homer. But their fight eventually spills out into the street, where they’re spotted by Marge, Barbara Bush, and a visiting Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev mocks Bush for grappling with a local oaf, and Barbara makes Bush apologize. And this is the last straw, leading the Bush’s to move away from Evergreen Terrace and the Simpsons. But the episode ends on a happy note by showing that the house is immediately bought by another President, Gerald Ford, who immediately makes friends with Homer.
This episode is so dumb. But it’s a lot of fun. I feel like the whole gag revolves around the fact that during Bush’s Presidency when Bush told the US public that “We’re going to keep trying to strengthen the American family. To make them more like the Walton’s and less like the Simpsons,” which caused this weird beef between the Bush’s and the Simpsons, that ended up having “Marge Simpson” write a letter to Barbara Bush about how good the family truly is. I can’t imagine any other reason that this episode exists, and while it has a lot of great jokes, it’s a very strange episode that didn’t grab me that well. I remember liking this one as a kid, but it really fell apart for me this time. Not terrible, but it didn’t age well.
Take Away: Don’t mess with former Presidents and ex-CIA members. And as always, don’t vote Republican.
“Two Bad Neighbors” was written by Ken Keeler and directed by Wes Archer, 1996.