Lifetime of Simpsons

S10 E11 – Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken

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It’s been a more or less fun week here on Lifetime of Simpsons, so let’s end things with a goofy episode pitting the children of Springfield against the adults, while also having one of the most fun Simpsons song parodies of all time.

The story starts off with the family heading down to the local baseball field to watch the Springfield Isotopes lose yet again. They sit in the stands listening to Cyndi Lauper sing the National Anthem for some reason, and then suffer through a terrible baseball game. Homer bails pretty early, and just waits for the rest of the family, since he knows that the Isotopes suck, and always will suck. We then immediately cut to a couple months later where the Isotopes have promptly stopped sucking, and are now in the championship game. And so, just like most sports fans, Homer jumps on the bandwagon of the winning team, and starts acting like their biggest fan, now that they’ve actually started winning.

So Homer and the barflies at Moe’s eagerly watch the Championship game, and wouldn’t you know it, the Isotopes pull ahead and win the whole thing. Which obviously means that Homer and his friends need to get drunker than they’ve ever been before. They start getting hammered and then take the party out to the streets, joyriding around in Homer’s car, before finally coming across the Elementary School. They briefly drive around the baseball diamond, and then decide to drive around the halls of the school, before ending up with a sing-along in the locker-room showers.

And the toll of that fun night is felt the next morning when Homer wakes up, more hungover than he’s ever been in his life. Lisa asks him what happened the previous night, leading to one of my favorite Simpsons jokes of all time. We see Homer’s memory like an old silent film, and as soon as he starts drinking we gets title card saying “Scene Missing,” a brief scene of him frolicking around a May Pole, another missing scene, and the end. So that’s no help. And things get worse when the news comes on and tells the town about the vandalism the Elementary School endured the previous night. And Chief Wiggum deduces that the horrible destruction had to have been caused by punk kids, and issues a new curfew, making sure no children are allowed out in Springfield after dark, to make sure nothing like this happens again.

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This is obviously not a popular measure with the children of Springfield, but there’s really not much they can do about it. Bart and Lisa are just trapped inside, having to play terrible board games with Marge while Homer’s out enjoying a carnival. Which is really driving the kids crazy. They even begin complaining together at school, trying to come up with a way to save themselves, but nothing really seems possible, since the police are really sticking to their guns, even building a crazy mechanical billboard of Chief Wiggum to intimidate them.

However, they finally find a source of rebellion while watching the TV. After Bart and Lisa briefly suffer through some terrible 90s primetime sitcom, they see a commercial for a new movie playing in their drive-in. It’s a horror movie called the Bloodening that’s essentially Village of the Damned, but if it were produced by William Castle, since the commercial has all sorts of corny promises, like having a nurse specializing in fear there to deal with people being too terrified. Bart starts calling around town, getting all of the kids on board with his plan to sneak out, and watch the movie that night.

So one by one, all of the kids in the town meet up at the drive-in, and get ready to watch a crazy black and white British horror movie, which is surely going to be up a bunch of Elementary School kids’ alley. But whatever, it’s the rebellion that counts. The kids pile up in front of the cars, and watch the movie, which revolves around a bunch of psychic kids revealing all of the terrible secrets the adults in their village have. However, right as the movie is about to end Wiggum and his goons show up, and arrest all of the kids for breaking curfew.

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Their punishment is cleaning that giant billboard, and they get to it, complaining the whole time about how shitty the adults of Springfield are. They begin wishing that they had mind powers like the kids in the movie, so they could put them in their place. But Lisa realizes that they don’t need any powers, because the kids already know all of their parent’s deep dark secrets. And with that realization, a plan begins to come together. The kids split up, and start stealing all kinds of electrical equipment from around the town.

But what are they planning? Well that becomes evident when some night in the future Lisa suggests that Homer and Marge listen to the radio instead of watching TV. For some reason they agree, and Lisa finds a broadcast with Bart doing a British accent where he and the other kids in the little gang start revealing all kinds of juicy secrets about the adults in town, like Wiggum wearing pantyhose, Krabappel stealing cafeteria supplies, and Homer eating from the Flanders’ garbage can. They then promise to keep telling secrets like these every night until the curfew is lifted.

Which obviously pisses the adults of Springfield off. They do what they always do, and hold a Town Hall meeting to discuss what’s to be done about these mysterious kids and their fake British accents. And while the people of the town complain and argue about what to do, Mayor Quimby reveals that Chief Wiggum and Professor Frink are already of the case. The two are driving around town, looking for the source of the radio signal, and they eventually find it at that billboard, since the kids turned it into their radio tower. The whole town shows up to yell at the kids, even though they’re pretty impressed with the ingenuity of their creation. But the kids fight back, and they end up singing a ridiculous song parodying a similar one from Bye Bye Birdie where the two groups basically just insult each other. But it’s brought to an end when Grandpa and all the other old people in town show up, pissed off that people are making so much noise. They threaten to punish everyone, and they do, because we then cut to a couple days later where the seniors have successfully pushed a new curfew through, which ensures that everyone under 70 has to be home by dark. The seniors have taken back the night!

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This was just another really fun little episode, and another one that’s deeply engrained in my mind, probably due to rampant syndication airtime. Honestly, the whole curfew plot is just okay, it’s not until it becomes about the kids trying to strike back at the adults in the town by revealing all of their secrets that the episode really starts to get great. Plus it has that amazing “Homer’s Night Out,” scene, and the great Bye Bye Birdie song, which is infinitely quotable. I really like the idea of the children realizing that their only real power against the adults of the town is to reveal their secrets, because kids really are beholden to the whims of adults. They also really pick up a lot of dirt on adults, because they notice a lot more than adults give them credit for. It was just a pretty solid episode from a rocky period, and I’m going to cherish these little gems as things start to get rougher and rougher.

Take Away: Curfews are dumb, and don’t sell your kids short, they pick up a lot of secrets about adults.

“Wild Barts Can’t Be Broken” was written by Larry Doyle and directed by Mark Ervin, 1998.

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