Posts Tagged ‘Bart’s New Friend


Compare & Contrast: Hypnotic Personality Changess


“What about Clemens?” – C.M. Burns
“Sir, he’s in no condition to play.” – Mr. Smithers

A person suddenly changing their whole personality basically only happens in fiction.  It can be the steel screw who becomes a softy, the wallflower gaining rock solid confidence, even the idiot who’s suddenly smart.  The usual way to do this is with a bonk on the head, which generally comes complete with a second one near the end to put everything back the way it was.  (NOTE: Brains don’t actually work that way, please do not attempt at home.)

Sometime in the very early 1990s, a then unknown Judd Apatow sat down and wrote a teleplay that took that tried and true television premise and applied it to Homer Simpson.  The twist, if it can be called that, is that instead of his noggin getting a floggin’, Homer got himself altered through hypnosis.  A few meaningfully pronounced words, and, presto change-o, Homer Simpson thinks he’s a little kid again.  Hilarity is presumed to ensue.  (He and the episode would’ve been better off if he’d cornered the real-estate market instead, but that’s neither here nor there.)

The problem is that this premise is parchment paper thin even before you start noticing all the holes in it.  The go to joke for the personality switch episode is “whoa, s/he’s acting totally out of character”, beyond that there isn’t much there.  What’s worse, your character’s normal personality is the one that makes sense in context.  Having them act completely abnormally is generally an awkward fit, at best.

“Bart’s New Friend”, as Zombie Simpsons so often does, brings out the worst of this old and not terribly good premise.  By making Homer a little kid who’s friends with Bart, they not only have to shoehorn Kid-Homer into all kinds of bizarre places, but also gave him nothing to do while he was there.  When he (twice) shows up to play with actual kids, he doesn’t interact with them or really do anything, the episode just wants us to know he’s there.  The same is true when they’re at home, where all that happens is “Homer is a kid”.  The family barely reacts and nothing outside of that is even happening.

The beginning of the episode is Homer working a ton because he’s now the only safety inspector and actually has to do his job.  That whole rationale is dropped completely for the rest of the episode until a lone mention at the end that the other guy game back.  We don’t see anything with the plant or Homer’s co-workers after their safety inspector reverts to childhood.  Lenny and Carl don’t try to take him to Moe’s to jog his memory, Burns doesn’t disbelieve his story, nothing.

Similarly, Marge, Lisa and Bart don’t have anything but Homer going on.  Basically the only time we see any effect on anything is Homer’s brief appearances with the other kids, but even those are glossed over to the point of barely happening.  Here’s the dialogue from when Bart and Homer are playing in the park:

Bart: If you wedgie me, my friend will beat you up.
Dolph: That’s not your friend, it’s your screwed up Dad.
Jimbo: Pretty sad, really.
Kearney: We’ll leave you alone.
Bart: You did it, Homer!  You saved me from the bullies!  You’re the coolest kid I ever met.
Milhouse: What about me?
Bart: You’re in the top hundred.
Milhouse: Boo-yeah!
Bart: Now you’re not.
Milhouse: Oh.

For one thing, this is hacktacularly expository.  Bart and Dolph explain what’s going on, then Bart recaps it for us (“You saved me from the bullies!”), but nobody actually does anything but stand around.  More importantly, in that entire scene Homer doesn’t say a single word.  He is literally a prop.

Silent Homer

Please do not interact with the story’s main character.

That silent cameo is about the closest this episode comes to actually showing us some of the effects of the tortured premise it went out of its way to employ.   This is the mid-life crisis equivalent of buying that sports car model that was cool when you were fifteen and then leaving it in the garage.  It was a dumb idea even before they didn’t try to have any fun with it.

Compare that to the time The Simpsons employed the exact same premise with, of all people, Roger Clemens.  In just a few quick scenes, Clemens goes through an identical story to Kid-Homer, and we actually get to see some of the effects of it, with Clemens being unavailable for the championship game and clucking away instead of pitching.

Better yet, it’s one of those perfect note jokes that builds on everything around it.  A man acting like a chicken is one thing; maybe it’s funny, maybe it’s not.  But a big league star pitcher acting like a chicken because he was hypnotized by a quack on orders from an evil rich man who paid him to be a ringer in a smalltown softball game?  That’s so good that your final (non-song) call back to it can be a minor part of a still photo and it’s still hilarious:

Homer at the Bat12

Look at Roger Clemens, he just did an entire episode of Zombie Simpsons in two scenes and you can tell it just by looking at him.

A young Judd Apatow who didn’t know how to write yet may have once pronounced himself satisfied with this, but The Simpsons did it better in less than a page.  Bloated out to full script length, it’s typical Zombie Simpsons.



Behind Us Forever: Bart’s New Friend

This Little Wiggy6

“Then me and my friend were about to press it, but the man said not to press it, but we pressed it anyway!  And we ran and we hid in a giant tire, oh yeah, and my other friend was already there!” – Homer Simpson

In yet another desperate bid for attention, Zombie Simpsons has once again hitched its cart to a more currently successful person.  In this case, it’s Judd Apatow (who wrote a couple of good episodes of The Critic back in the day), who dusted off an old spec script he wrote twenty odd years ago.  The premise is that Homer gets hypnotized and thinks he’s Bart’s age.  I’ll just say this: there’s a reason this didn’t get made when the show was good, and it’s not because Apatow wasn’t famous then.

– Oof, that couch gag took an awful long time.

– And we get an early start on this week’s unnecessary exposition with Homer singing to himself about walking.

– So there’s another safety inspector?  I’m sure glad he and Homer repeated who he was and what he did several times.  I never would’ve caught it in one.

– The book titles are pretty good, “The Core: Mistress of Death”.  As usual, the sign gags are the best thing here.

– Lenny and Carl were there, then they weren’t.

– Now Lenny’s back.

– Ah, that’s good exposition, unneeded, nonsensical, the whole megillah: “You need to relax.  So, I got us all tickets to see the circus on Saturday.”

– Homer is ranting about parking now.  It’s like they believe that the famous phrase is “tell, don’t show” instead of the other way around.

– I get that the sideshow signs are Apatow references, but reminding the audience about the existence of Funny People isn’t a good idea.  I gave up on that movie halfway through and have never talked to a single person who liked it.

– So, Marge needed to explain to Homer that she had to use the port-a-potty, why, exactly?

– “No, I’m not”/”Yes you are” just keeps going, doesn’t it?

– “Mom, Dad’s been hypnotized to think he was ten.” – Thanks, Exposition Lisa!

– “Buddy Ebsen Died Here” on the hospital sign is pretty good.  Sadly, this episode would probably be funnier on mute.

– Hey, a briefly popped eyeball.

– I’ll give them this, 10-year-old Homer is at least a novel take on Jerkass Homer.  It’s not funny or entertaining or anything, but he’s never been an asshole quite like this.

– Culottes were funny that one time; here, not so much,

– Uh, why is Homer at the school?

– Naturally, Chalmers is there.  Remember when he was the superintendent?  Good times.

– They’re reusing the happy music from “Treehouse of Horror II” when Bart and Homer bond.  It was ironic then.  It’s kinda ironic now, but in a different way.

– Also, Chalmers and Skinner are back.

– Speaking of re-used music, Lisa’s playing “Baker Street“.

– “Lis, you know how Dad thinks he’s a ten-year-old?”/”I’ve been emotionally dealing with that all week, so, yes.” We just saw Lisa have fun with Homer.  Also too, unnecessary exposition.

– And now Bart’s explaining what we just saw.

– Now they’re at Itchy & Scratchy Land for some reason.  That was unexpected.

– The MST3K robots on the amusement park ride are a nice touch, though once again the best parts of this episode have nothing to do with its story and work fine without any sound whatsoever.

– Incidentally, if you ever do get suckered into going to Disney’s California Adventure park, the Soarin’ Over California ride is one of the few things really worth doing.  It’s a lot more entertaining in person than as filler in Zombie Simpsons.

– Marge, Chief Wiggum, Lou, and the hypnotist just showed up out of nowhere.  How did they find Bart and Homer?  Enh. At least Wiggum re-explained things.

– And Homer’s back to normal now, though he also recapped things.

– I guess the “Je Suis Charlie” thing is a nice gesture, but why was it in between the end of the story and this weird Marvel thing they needed to fill the contractually obligated runtime?

– Huh, that was Stacy Keach at the beginning.

Anyway, the numbers aren’t in for some reason, but given the lack of late football on FOX and competition from yet another awards show, I wouldn’t expect much.  I’ll update after TV By the Numbers does.

Update: Here they are, just 4.39 million.


Sunday Preview: Bart’s New Friend


Homer is hypnotized at a circus into believing he is ten years old. Bart has fun with him at first, making him his new best friend and accomplice. However, it becomes a pain when the hypnotist dies and the family is unable to turn Homer into his old self again

So I guess this was originally written by Judd Apatow more than 2 decades ago.  On just that fact alone I would be intrigued, but now that Al Jean has had his greasy mitts on it, I believe I won’t be all that inclined to switch on FOX tonight.


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