Lifetime of Simpsons

S11 E02 – Brother’s Little Helper

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So yesterday’s introduction to Season Eleven was…less than ideal. But surely things are going to pick up quick right? Nope!

We start things off with Bart being utterly insufferable to Principal Skinner during some sort of festival at the Elementary School based around teaching fire safety. The volunteer fire department is there with the fire-engine and all of their stuff, showing the kids how important knowing about fire is. But Bart’s too busy being an asshole to Skinner and mocking everything he says. Although we do get a great little scene where Maude and Ned Flanders are acting in some little skit about not falling asleep with lit cigarettes in your hands, which is pretty great, especially when the children laugh at Ned actually being on fire.

However, disaster strikes when the firemen try to get the hose to extinguish Ned, and find that it’s missing. They track it down to the gymnasium, and find that Bart has been filling the entire building up with water, ruining the gym. But they open the door and are able to keep Ned from dying, while Bart just laughs and laughs at Skinner’s fury.

Skinner then brings Homer and Marge in talk about the massive vandalism that Bart has caused to the school. Homer and Marge are pretty blasé about the whole thing, while Skinner explains how terrible Bart is. He then gives them the ridiculous ultimatum that Bart has to either start taking experimental ADD medication, otherwise they’ll expel him. Which seems ridiculous, but Marge and Homer go with it, and go to some sketchy medical lab to talk with them about the medicine Focusin, which is somehow able to control guinea pigs like slaves.

So Homer and Marge bring the meds home, and Homer decides that the best way to get Bart to take the pills is to trick him, and try to just flick pills into his mouth. And Bart isn’t really into taking this weird, untested medication that he knows nothing about, which pisses Homer off. Homer just keeps trying to trick his son into medication, until Marge is finally able to use the most powerful weapon a mother has, guilt, and convinces him to start taking the pills.

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And at first it doesn’t seem like anything is working. Because the next morning he’s still acting like his normal self, sticking oranges in his pants like they were giant testicles, and just being a general brat. However, at school, after discussing with all the other kids what medication they’re on, the pills finally kick in. Because the rest of the kids in class are busy looking at dogs fighting over a fanbelt, and Bart suddenly has no desire to go watch, and actually wants to start learning. So hey, I guess the meds are doing some good.

The family is really into the new Bart at first too. He’s studying, doing well in school, reading self-help books, and being helpful. Bart even starts giving Homer financial advice and gets him some sort of computerized memo device, which I do seem to remember being something you would buy from Radioshack around this point. So everything’s going great! That is until Homer and Marge decide to take a night out and go watch Showgirls in theaters while leaving Bart to watch Lisa and Maggie. Which proves to be a problem when they get home and see Lisa hiding outside with Maggie, because Bart has lost his mind.

They go upstairs and find that Bart has covered the ceiling of his room with coat-hangers, and is busy wrapping tin-foil around himself. He claims that this is all to keep the satellites that have been spying on him from continuing their mission. He also take Homer’s little day planner thing, claiming that the people spying on him, Major League Baseball, are also scanning the planners.

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So yeah, clearly something is wrong. Marge and Homer bring Bart down to the lab where they got the Focusin, and find that this erratic and paranoid behavior is a pretty common side-effect. They decide that it’s time to take Bart off the Focusin, and get him addicted to some new drugs that will calm down the paranoia. Which isn’t something Bart really wants. So he grabs a bottle of Focusin, downs a whole bunch of it, and runs away into the city to cause havoc.

And what’s the first thing Bart does now that he’s hopped up on experimental drugs? He breaks into an army base and easily steals a tank. Which is probably something you shouldn’t be able to do, but whatever, Bart gets the keys and starts driving around town, destroying everything in his path. Homer, Marge, and basically the rest of the town start following Bart to see what he’s going to do, and find that he’s stopped his rampage at the Elementary School.

Marge has a heart to heart with Bart, and he agrees to get out of the tank and stop his rampage, after blowing up one thing. So everyone waits to see what he’s going to blow up! First they think it’s the school, then the church (“not the church, Jesus lives there!”), then a frame store, and finally just pointing it at the sky. Which is where he finally fires. And wouldn’t you know, he hits something, and a mysterious satellite ends up falling from the heavens and crashing next to them. And guess what, Bart was totally right. It’s from the MLB, and it has all kinds of data about Springfield. But everything is swept under the rug when Mark McGwire shows up, hits some balls to distract the audience, and steals the data.

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Yikes. This is probably one of my least favorite episodes I’ve hit on this project. It was just rough. I’ve mentioned before a couple of times that this go-through of the series I’ve really started to cool on Bart. I used to find him the funniest of the family members when I was a kid, but now he can be pretty annoying. He usually has the least amount of depth, and his characterization can wildly change episode to episode. Sometime we get lucky and get a sweet, nuanced Bart. But not here! Here we get a chaotic, horrible Bart who does all kind of shitty thing in the beginning of the episode, and just remain completely unlikeable the entire time. And then we get into the whole idea of over-medicating children. Listen, some people need medication to get through life. Brain chemistry is a messy thing, and sometimes the only way to make things right is to use a pill to balance things. But I really don’t like pumping kids so full of medication. I’m not one of those crazy people who think vaccines are giving kids autism, those people are terrible, but I grew up in a time when any kid who didn’t listen to their parent would get pumped full of Riddilin. And that doesn’t seem right. We do shockingly few studies on the long-lasting effects of medication on children, and it really seems to me that tossing random experimental pills into them.

Take Away: Don’t overly medicate your kids just because they’re hyper! And if your kids act as shitty as Bart does in this episode, that’s on the parent, not the medicine.

 

“Brother’s Little Helper” was written by George Meyer and directed by Mark Kirkland, 1999.

 

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