Tooncrap #26 - The Simpsons: The Boys Of Bummer

Take me out of this episode
FOX: 2007

Written by: Raymond Gallant

I'll come out and say this first off. I don't think everything past season 10 of The Simpsons is terrible. I see a lot of people often talking about how they gave up around that time when the quality began to seriously dip, and I don't blame the people who did leave the S.S Bartman by the time the new millennium began. Episodes began to get formulaic, Homer became more of a jerkass with every season, the show once bound towards semi-realism now became a full on cartoon world, and if you look back at the back list of most episodes past the tenth season, I swear a generous 47% of them focus on Homer and Marge's marital problems.

And then there's episodes like the induction today that have no redeeming value to them. One major issue the show has in recent seasons is how mean spirited it became as time rolled on. And for a lot of people, the worst occasion for this was the season 18 episode "The Boys of Bummer", better known as "Let's torment a child for one mistake until he tries to kill himself."

This one has been heavily requested, and it's time to finally strike it out. Let's review this thing.

We open the episode at the Springfield little league park, which makes for the rare occasion where an episode's main story doesn't start in the second act. Bart is playing for the Springfield Isotots team, who are one game away from going to the championship game. Bart manages to catch the winning out for the Isotots, and due to the fact that Springfield pretty much sucks at everything, the team (especially Bart) are given heaps of praise, to the point that it starts to go to Bart's spiky head.

Later that day in the less important B plot of the episode, Homer and Marge go to Costingtons to buy a dress for Marge and boast more about Bart's success. Homer gets bored, and decides to sleep on a bed, which is enough for his random endorsement of the mattress to give him the job of mattress salesman.

Yeah, this was during what I have to believe was at least a 12 season run where I think the writers absolutely forgot Homer worked at the power plant. And of all the side jobs he's had, from fireman to safety salamander, to blue pants salesman

which Leva Bates does much better by the way

the job of mattress salesman is easily one of the dullest ones they've ever given him. Which is I guess a blessing in disguise then that this is the mere B plot of the episode.

It's the championship game, and the Isotots are beating Shelbyville five to two. It's the bottom of the ninth, and the bases are loaded, so any possible screw up could ruin the chances of Springfield winning the pennant. An easy pop fly ball heads Bart's way, and he's confident that he'll catch it.

And he of course doesn't.

The crowd tells him to get the ball, but he continues to fail at doing so in a tragic fashion. He fails horribly, costing Springfield the pennant, much to the anger of the crowd to end the first act. And to be fair, the first act isn't horrible enough to really give it reasoning to be added to Tooncrap.

But then act two begins... Oh boy.

The crowd continue their rage at Bart. Homer defends Bart, but quickly changes his tune once they threaten to turn on him. Bart runs out of the stadium into Chief Wiggum's police car, who decides to bring him back in because you know, Bart hasn't been abused enough yet. My issue with this isn't so much that Bart's being punished by the people of Springfield as it is the overwhelming abuse that continues. And it only gets worse from here.

Lisa tries to cheer up Bart by taking him to meet Jugglin' Joe LaBoot, a former baseball player who much like Bart, cost his team the championship in comic fashion. So you'd think maybe we'd finally have some sympathy for Bart to turn things around. Nope. LaBoot considers Bart to be much worse, and chides him some more, continuing to his current depressed state.

Back to the B plot, Homer sells a mattress to the Lovejoys in hopes to improve their love making. Turns out that Homer is a pretty terrible salesman, and they demand a refund. He just gives them his mattress instead. This leads to Homer and Marge suffering from discomfort, while the Lovejoys are Abel to raise some Cain.

The next day, the entire city of Springfield is covered with graffiti with the words "I Hate Bart Simpson" on it.

Marge puts glasses on for some reason, despite that never being a thing ever and never will be again.

It turns out that the one who graffito tagged the entire town was Bart himself, who has become deranged and suicidal. Despite all this though, and the anguish he's clearly in, the town still hates him, with Wiggum even telling him to jump. And Bart obliges.

Bart survives with a bump on the noggin at worst. However, despite the entire city seeing what they've done to him, they still show up to boo and scrutinize Bart.

It's official, Springfield is almost as bad as the town that tried to murder a kid for having HIV. Almost.

Marge tells the city that they should be ashamed of their actions, and they finally realize that hey, maybe we shouldn't be trying to near lynch a ten year old for screwing up. So, you'd think that maybe this would just mean that Springfield will forgive Bart, and bygones will be bygones. Episode done, right?

There's still six minutes, so let's convolute things some more.

You see the new plan is to simply recreate the championship game so that Bart can get the game winning catch without telling him what's up.

How does that make things better? Sure, it's not trying to drive him to suicide, but this just is bound to turn him back into an egotistic jackass again. Bart doesn't get a lesson in humility, Springfield is forced to lie about something for him, and no value in this last act is given to anyone.

The B plot ends with Homer and Marge trying to steal back their mattress. The Lovejoys aren't willing to just give it back, but in the spirit of King Solomon, he cuts the mattress in half, and Homer and Marge have sex behind a billboard on the way home.

So we wrap up the episode with the championship game in the same position as last time. However, every time Bart tries to catch the ball, things go wrong in decreasingly funny fashion.

We even get a Steve Bartman reference because let's face it, that's mostly what this episode is in reference to. May as well have had Bart pull a Bill Buckner while we're at it.

After 78 tries, Bart finally catches the ball and gets his moment. And if that ended the episode, it would be fine.

60 year's later, Bart reminds Milhouse of the catch. Milhouse just up and tells him that it was all fake, destroying Bart's pride. Then he just says that he lied about lying, and Bart gloats some more. The end.

And that's "The Boys of Bummer". I'd be lying if I said it was the worst episode of the series. There have been far worse in my opinion. The whole mattress plot is forgettable enough to get your mind off the far worse A plot, which just feels like the show trying to play off the Steve Bartman outrage, and how the city of Chicago turned Bartman into a pariah for his actions.

But it never feels funny. It just feels mean spirited and cruel. Much like "One Coarse Meal" we're turning a character to attempted suicide, and nobody feels bad about it. Hell Wiggum telling Bart to jump feels worse than Spongebob helping Mr. Krabs drive Plankton to want to kill himself. It just leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

And the whole "Springfield turning Bart into public enemy number one" isn't even a fresh concept. Season 15 had the episode "The Bart Mangled Banner", and that too had Springfield want to kill Bart for an accident, but that one felt worse than this. With all the annoying patriotism and ignorance you really don't want to see when you're watching the Simpsons.

So overall, this is horrible, but I'd say not the most enraging thing I've inducted. Either way, this foul ball of an episode deserves its spot in Tooncrap.