Tooncrap #5 - Bart To The Future

Fail To The Chief
FOX: 2000

Written by: Raymond Gallant

The Simpsons is my favorite cartoon of all time. It's the cartoon that has ingrained into my mind the most, where any situation can call for the use of a perfectly timed Simpsons quote. But, much like most fans of the series, we knew where it started to really begin to degrade in quality much like Bart's stint as the "I Didn't Do It" boy. The show was starting to woozle wuzzle well into its tenth season.

But for as bad as season 10 was, it was season 11 that really stunk. It was the season that felt like the writers needed to shake the show up with one awful character change after another. Remember how they thought it was wise to take beloved town drunk Barney and make him a recovering alcoholic? Or how they took happy-go-lucky Apu, and felt the need to make his life miserable by making him the father of octuplets? And lest we forget the killing off of everyone's favorite character Maude Flanders.

Then there were infamously bad episodes like "Kill the Alligator and Run", an episode that is almost universally hated. And there's also the episode we're looking at for this month's induction. An episode that Entertainment Weekly once listed as the worst episode of the Simpsons (well up to that point at least). And that's Bart to the Future, which is fitting, since we have some time travel themed inductions up this month here at Game Show Garbage. So, what makes this episode so bad that Entertainment Weekly had a cow, man? Let's find out as we review this thing.

We open the episode as the Simpson family are headed to another random camping trip, however since it's mosquito season, it may not be the best time to visit Larva Lake. So, with nowhere else to go, the family stops at a local Indian casino. The show uses a rare occasion to remember it has some forms of continuity by having Marge remind Homer of her gambling problem. And since Lisa won't shut the hell up about ethics, it's only Bart and Homer going to the casino.

Since Bart is underage, he can't enter the casino either, and Homer ditches him, while of course being as courteous and respectful to the heritage of Native Americans. What? Shouting "Hi-how-are-ya!", "Hi-how-are-ya!", "Hi-how-are-ya!" seems tamer than what they could have gotten away with.

Back to Bart, who finds a way to sneak in, by stowing away in the trunk belonging to the Great Gabbo, who ain't been looking so "great" since his show got cancelled. However, Bart's attempt to score a Bloody Mary is interrupted as he's quickly caught by security, and brought to the casino owner. The owner predicts that if Bart continues his deceitful ways, he'll have nothing but a life of hardship ahead of him. Since being Native American, that means he's also a mystic, he shows Bart what he'll be like 30 years into the future.

Hey, look at that, a future storyline that doesn't date itself. At least it did something better than Lisa's Wedding. I'm still waiting for England to save our asses in World War 3.

And we see that Bart's future is indeed bleak. He's a fat, unemployed, failed musician who lives with Ralph Wiggum. And if that didn't sound pathetic enough, Ralph is the one who actually has a job and pays the rent. You know you've hit rock bottom when you're lower in the totem pole than the kid who couldn't go to the deep end of the sandbox.
Bart is also a massive moocher, constantly telling people that he'll get them back when opportunity comes his way. Fat, lazy, unemployed, a major moocher. Oh dear god, he's me! Bart and Ralph do get a business opportunity to perform at Nelson's restaurant. We also learn that "Smell you later" will replace the word goodbye in 30 years time.

Since Bart pawned his amp for a boogie board, he goes to mooch money off of Homer and Marge, who are pretty tired of bailing him out of trouble, wishing he would be more like Lisa. Lisa, who is PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!

I get that this is supposed to be an over the top version of the future and all, but really? We're just going to make Lisa president? Not that it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibility for her, but it also seems like a really lazy thing to do as well. It's like the idea a 5-year old would come up with if they couldn't make her queen of all the world. I can buy a lot of far fetched stuff in this cartoon, but I find it hard to believe that a Simpson could ever be president.

Bart doesn't get any sympathy from his parents, and they kick him and Ralph out, not before Bart tells Homer that he's changed, and he used to be cool. This will be Bart's running joke pretty much. It's much like a lot of post-season 10 jokes. Funny the first time around, but lack the punch that the jokes of the "good old days" have.

So, their next route is to mooch from Ned Flanders, who for being the show's Charlie Church that once led the perfect neighbor life, is now blind from the after effects of laser surgery. He tries to tell Bart that he'll never grow up if he keeps getting bailed out like this, to which Bart just spouts gibberish that pretty much can be summed up with "me bad want money now. Me burnout". He also gets Flanders' praise for not outing Rod and Todd.

Ha. It's funny because it's plausible.

And guess what? Bart's a terrible musician too, who can only do ripped off versions of Jimmy Buffet songs. He comes home to see that he's been evicted as well. Things are looking bleak, so Bart puts a gun to his head... And learns that he didn't win the lottery. Heh. We also can actually advance the plot further now since Bart also learns that Lisa will be moving into the white house, which means that being her no good brother, he's free to mooch away.

Lisa is the first straight female president. However, despite being in charge of the nation, it turns out America is suddenly broke. Are we sure this is THIRTY years into the future? Bart eventually gets into the white house, and tells Lisa that he's here to be her secretary of "keeping it real". If you mean secretary of smelly mooch, then you're on the money. This is of course, not something that Lisa needs.

At the dinner table, everyone's present. Even baby Maggie. Yeah, turns out Maggie's daughter ends up looking just like her. Hence the joke that falls flat. And since this, you know, VISION OF BART'S FUTURE, was too thin to keep the focus on him for about 20 minutes, we learn that Homer is on the hunt for Lincoln's gold, which is supposedly buried somewhere in the white house. Lisa is already seeing the signs of Bart being a nuisance as he uses her private helicopter to pick up Ralph. When she chews out Bart, he tries the "you used to be cool" line again.

Since Lisa's also got the problem with having to try and bail out the country, she needs to raise taxes. Though this will get people pretty pissed if she straight up just calls it a tax raise. So, her assistant Milhouse suggests a temporary refund adjustment as a great way to just out and out lie. And she could have gotten away with it too.

If it weren't for this meddling moocher, who just full on blurts that it's a tax hike, while trying to shill his awful tapes. This results in Lisa getting incredibly low approval ratings over her plan. So, her next course of action is to bring in the creditors to show America's past generosity. However there is the problem of having Bart just screw things up again, so Lisa gives him a special assignment at Camp David as secretary of keeping it real.

But Bart soon learns the truth in a sort-of-shining parody, as the ghost of Billy Carter tells him that he was sent to Camp David because he's an embarrassment. Also, Marge and Homer finally find Lincoln's gold, which is just a lazy metaphor. Well that was a payoff worth waiting for.

Back at the white house, Lisa is almost about to be bludgeoned by the angry foreign creditors, when Bart comes in to bail her out, by telling them that they totally sent the money out to them. This seems to work, causing the creditors to be more easy going. So, the moral of the story is that you can be the person running the country, and still suck at your job, and only the wisdom of an unemployed failure can truly save the day... or something like that.

Lisa asks Bart what she can do to possibly repay him, to which he simply says "Legalize it". Makes sense, since the writers had to be high when coming up with this episode. Oh, and Bart may have burned down the white house with his stereo. Back in the present, Bart is even curious why the vision of his future had a side plot with Lincoln's gold. But the episode actually ends with Bart really not learning his lesson about not letting his future go this route, which made the episode so worth it.

And that's Bart to the Future. This is one I haven't watched in a while, and looking back on it now, it is a pretty bad episode. None of the jokes are all that funny, the plot is really stupid, and despite being an episode set in the future, they barely do much involving technology and how the world has changed. There's very little, and none of it is all that interesting. Lisa's Wedding had more fun with the idea of 15 years in the future, and it worked greater. It's just a shame they dated the episode to represent 2010. But then again, who really thought we'd be going into 2014 with The Simpsons on its 25th season?

It also doesn't help that the plot feels far fetched even for a story set in the future. It feels really pulled out of its ass. Again, I can believe that Bart's life doesn't turn out so well. You can only live by the "underachiever and proud of it" mantra before it bites you in the ass. But Lisa as president, even for a character with the genius of Lisa, I think really felt like they couldn't find a better and more creative way to use her. She could be someone in the government, hell, I could even buy her as mayor or governor. But president really feels like they couldn't think of anything that could work for a far funnier story. And the signs that this episode was pulled out of the poop chute were made more obvious with the shoehorned Lincoln's gold subplot. It was barely a major part of the episode, and the outcome was forgettable with no real interesting payoff. Other than the "rail-splitting, theater going freak" line. That warranted a chuckle. One of very few this episode really elicits.

But for the flaws within, is it the worst episode of all time? I don't know, I've seen far worse. I'd even argue the episode "Kill the Alligator and Run" from the same season is even worse considering its horrid plot and lack of any great jokes. But this episode is still bad. A sign that the writing was on the wall, instead of being in this episode. It's awful, it's tooncrap, and it can eat my shorts.