Lifetime of Simpsons

S07 E18 – The Day the Violence Died

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Look what time it is! It’s time for me to struggle like crazy because my fingers have a weird inability to type the word “Scratchy” right. I really didn’t remember how many episodes there were that were devoted to Itchy and Scratchy in some way or another, and while most of them are a lot of fun; this is probably the best one of them all.

The episode starts off with Bart and Lisa watching a special marathon of the cartoon, because they’re celebrating their 75th anniversary, or as they hilariously call it, their Diamond Jubilee. They’ve clearly been sitting in from of the TV for ages, and Bart makes Lisa swear that “If I ever stop loving violence, I want you to shoot me,” which really made me laugh. And during a break in the marathon, the kids learn that there’s going to be a huge parade the next day celebrating the event, and that some people are already lining up to get good seats. So they of course decide to head downtown at 11 o’clock at night to get good seats. But Marge shoots that down, and forces Homer to go with them, instead of just not letting them go, but whatever.

So they get downtown, and when they set up their lawn chairs at the spot they want, the kids notice that the Android’s Dungeon is still opening, and leave Homer to go check it out. There’s a bunch of people buying Itchy and Scratchy stuff, and Comic Book Guy is even playing a weird Itchy and Scratchy/Fritz the Cat mash-up, which is such a weird reference that I’m sure baffled me as a kid. And while Bart and Lisa are looking at the merchandise, Bart finds a framed picture of a very early drawing of Itchy, which surly will not have anything to do with the rest of the episode. It’s probably going to revolve around the Fritz the Cat thing.

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So the next morning comes quickly, and Bart, Homer, and Lisa start marveling at the parade and all the ridiculous floats that are involved. Now, I’ve talked about this before, but it seems so strange to me that Itchy and Scratchy seem to be a national thing, but are headquartered in Springfield. Yeah it makes narrative sense, but it’s so strange that this little town is so vastly important to the nation’s entertainment. Anyway, Bart starts following the parade, until it ends up getting into the rough part of town, where he’s abandoned. And while watching the parade head into the distance, Bart comes across an old bum named Chester Lampwick, who vehemently hates Itchy and Scratchy, and explains that he’s actually the person who created Itchy, and that Roger Meyers Sr stole the character from him.

Bart obviously thinks that Lampwick is crazy, but changes his mind when Lampwick turns out to have a film-reel of the first Itchy cartoon. So Bart, Chester, and Milhouse head to the Elementary School to use their projector, and the kids are treated to “Manhattan Madness,” the first ever Itchy short. We see Itchy kill an Irishman (“Look out Itchy, he’s Irish!”) and Teddy Roosevelt, just like he would eventually do to Scratchy, and the kids are convinced. Unfortunately the projector lights on fire, destroying the last copy of the print. Chester is pretty irritated about this, but seems resigned to the fact that his life sucks, and just plans to go off and keep being a bum, but Bart convinces him to try and get money from Roger Meyers Jr, and stay at the Simpsons house until they can meet with him.

So Bart sneaks Chester into his basement so they can hold out until Meyers will be available to meet with. Unfortunately Lisa figures out Chester is down there when she tells Marge that “there’s a weird smell and a lot of cursing coming from the basement, and dad’s upstairs.” So Chester is found out, but they let him stay there until the meeting, which we skip right over to. Chester and Bart head to Itchy and Scratchy studios, and Roger Meyers Jr basically laughs them out of his office since they have absolutely no evidence, and they’re booted from the premises. So Bart and Chester hit the mall to talk to Lionel Hutz about suing Meyers, but they can’t afford his $1,000 retainer, and are still screwed. But that night after Grandpa and Chester start fighting because Chester screwed him over at some point, Bart asks Homer for the thousand bucks, and Homer just goes ahead and forks that over. So the trial is on!

The trial begins with the Blue-Haired Lawyer basically saying the obvious, that they have no evidence, and that they have footage of the earliest known Itchy and Scratchy short that is fully credited to being created by Roger Meyers. And George Gershwin and Joseph Kennedy, but its Meyers we care about. But there’s still no evidence, even though Lampwick promises that Roger Meyers Sr stole all of his ideas, and none of the characters he made were actually his. And when things seem bleakest, Bart remembers something, and borrows $750 from Homer and races off to the Android’s Dungeon where he buys that Itchy sketch from earlier, because it turns out that it was from the “Manhattan Madness” sketch that they watched. Bart gets the sketch out of the frame, and it turns out to have been made by Chester, with a note to Roger Meyers telling him to keep trying, even though he’s terrible. And the case is closed! Roger Meyers Jr tries to tell the court that all of animation is based on plagiarism, even calling out that Chief Wiggum is Edward G Robinson, which is hilarious, but it doesn’t work, and he’s ordered to give Chester a massive amount of money, which ends up bankrupting the studio.

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But the episode isn’t over at that point! Chester pays the Simpsons back for all the money Homer spent, and then heads off to buy his lifelong dream, a solid gold house. And the family tries to settle back into normalcy, but Bart and Lisa are pissed off that there aren’t Itchy and Scratchy episodes on Krusty anymore, and have been replaced with this weird ultra-conservative Schoolhouse Rock video. We see a potential amendment that would let police abuse protesters sing about how he wants to change the Constitution to punish liberals. And this cannot stand, so Bart and Lisa decide that they’re going to do everything they can to get Itchy and Scratchy back on the air.

So they head over to the sketchy motel that Roger Meyers is having to live in, but he’s not really optimistic about the show coming back, since it takes a lot of money for the studio to function, and he’s so broke he had to take his dad’s head out of the cryogenic freezer it’s been in. Next they go to another rich person they know, and try Chester Lampwick, who is living in his solid gold house, while dressed in a tuxedo, offering to shine Kent Brockman’s shoes. And Chester is even more ambivalent about the whole project, and admits that he has no interest in financing the cartons, preferring to let them die. And this leads Bart and Lisa to head back to their house, defeated, and research animation law, to no success. They think about bailing on the project, and helping Apu get out of jail for public nudity, but Marge convinces them they can do it, and right on cue they find something that will save Itchy and Scratchy. So they run off to save the day, and are shocked that there’s already a press conference going on, because Itchy and Scratchy has already been saved by these two weird kids who look like versions of Bart and Lisa that you would see on a bootleg t-shirt. Lester and Eliza have found that the US Post Office stole Roger Meyers terrible mailman character, and the government has given him a huge settlement. Lester and Eliza also helped Apu, and got Krusty back with his estranged wife, which Bart and Lisa hadn’t even heard about. So the episode ends with Itchy and Scratchy back, but Bart and Lisa a little weirded out that it wasn’t them that saved the day for once.

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This episode is a blast. I really love the main story that flows through the first two acts, with Chester Lampwick and his claims that he got screwed over in the 20s and had his character stolen, because man is that a real thing. Bill Finger got screwed over for creating Batman, both of Superman’s creators got screwed, and there’s a ton of classic animation characters that were totally stolen from that time period. I know that Walt Disney had a partner that we’ve largely forgotten, with the great name of Ub Iwerks, but I don’t believe his story follows with Chester, even though Roger Meyers Sr is such a parody of Walt Disney, at least I hope Iwerks didn’t get as screwed over as Lampwick, but I bet there are some people who got destroyed by Disney along the way. The last third of the episode kind of falls apart for me, that is until the amazing reveal that there are these weird off-model rip-offs of Bart and Lisa that have saved the day, which works similarly to the joke from yesterday’s “Homer the Smithers” episode, when the show just gave up and said that of course Homer was going to be the one picked to help Burns. Because of course Bart and Lisa were going to solve this problem, these two children have solves countless issues in the city, especially for its entertainment, and the reveal that they still got what they wanted, but not because of something they did, was truly amazing.

Take Away: Don’t plagiarize, or at least make sure you get rid of all incriminating sketches.

 

“The Day the Violence Died,” was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Wes Archer, 1996.

 

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