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"Bart the Genius"
The Simpsons episode
Bart the Genius.jpg
Promotional Image featuring Homer finding out that Bart cheated on his I.Q. test and chases him through the house.
Episode no. 2
Prod. code 7G02
Orig. airdate January 14, 1990
Show runner(s) James L. Brooks
Matt Groening
Sam Simon
Written by Jon Vitti
Directed by David Silverman
Chalkboard "I will not waste chalk"[1]
Couch gag The family hurries on to the couch, and Bart is flung into the air. He comes down during the shot of the TV.[2]
DVD
commentary
Matt Groening
James L. Brooks
David Silverman
Jon Vitti

"Bart the Genius" is the second episode of The Simpsons' first season, which originally aired on the Fox network on January 14, 1990. It was the first episode written by Jon Vitti. It was also the first ever episode to use the signature title sequence, as well as the first regular episode. The episode features Bart Simpson's experiences of life as a genius after he cheats on an intelligence test. It marks the first use of Bart's catchphrase "Eat my shorts." As the second episode produced, directly after the disastrous animation of "Some Enchanted Evening," the future of the series depended on how the animation turned out on this episode.[3] The animation proved to be more acceptable and production continued.[4]

Contents

Plot

The episode starts with the Simpson family playing a game of Scrabble in order to help Bart prepare for an intelligence test he will take at school the next day. Not taking the game seriously, Bart lays down all his tiles in the order they were placed on his letter stand. He invents the word "Kwyjibo" explaining it as meaning "a big, dumb, balding North American ape, with no chin..." to which Marge adds, "...and a short temper." At this point, Bart is chased around the house by an enraged Homer, who instantly understands that Bart's explanation of a "Kwyjibo" accurately describes him.

At school the next day, Bart and his friends graffiti a wall, and Bart gets into big trouble. Bart is having trouble with the test, so he switches tests with Martin Prince, a very intelligent student. At a meeting with Bart's parents after school that day to discuss his behavior, psychiatrist Dr. J. Loren Pryor identifies Bart as a genius based on the test results. Bart's IQ is 216, which Homer misreads upside-down as 912. Homer, Marge, and Principal Skinner are all surprised by this, but all are pleased to enroll Bart in a school for gifted children. Only Lisa refuses to believe that Bart is a genius.

At the new school, Bart is intimidated by the other students, who are studying confusing advanced topics, do not share his interests, and are suspicious and disdainful of him. They use their greater knowledge of different systems of measurement to trick Bart out of his lunch. Homer is newly appreciative of Bart and shows unusual interest in spending time with him. The two bond over their shared hate for an opera that Marge forces the family to attend. After Bart visits his old school, where he is ostracized by his friends for being so smart, he prepares to confess his cheating to his father, but holds off at the opportunity to play catch with Homer.

After Bart's science project explodes, he tells Dr. Pryor that he would like to return to his old school, to study the behavior of average children. After a frustrating attempt to write up a proposal for this experiment, he confesses that he cheated on the test. At home that evening, Homer helps Bart remove the chemicals. Bart eventually confesses and tells Homer the truth, he adds that he has enjoyed the past few weeks, because he and Homer are closer than ever. Homer is again furious, and he chases a green and naked Bart upstairs. Marge and Lisa observe, with Lisa casually noting, "I think Bart's stupid again." The episode ends with Homer banging on Bart's bedroom door. Homer attempts to lure Bart out by pretend to make peace with him, but Bart doesn't fall for it. Realizing that Bart is not that stupid enough to fall for his trick, Homer continues banging the door in anger to no avail. [1][2]

Production

The concept for the episode developed from writer Jon Vitti coming up with a long list of bad things Bart could do and imagining the potential consequences. The only idea that developed into an interesting episode concept was Bart cheating on an IQ test.[5] This idea was based on an incident from Vitti's childhood when a number of his classmates did not take an intelligence test seriously and suffered poor academic treatment because of it. Because Bart was already obviously unintelligent, Vitti reversed the problem for his episode.[6] Vitti used all his memories of elementary school behavior to produce a draft script of 71 pages, substantially above the required length of about 45 pages. It was Vitti's first script for a 30-minute television program.[5] Bart's use of the phrase "Eat my shorts" was intended to reflect his adoption of catchphrases he had heard on TV; the creative team had told Vitti that he should not come up with original taglines for the character.[5] The scene where the family plays Scrabble was inspired by the 1985 cartoon The Big Snit.[7]

Director David Silverman had difficulty devising a legible Scrabble board for the opening scene that would convey the idea that the Simpsons were only able to devise very simple words.[8] The design of Bart's visualization of the math problem was partially inspired by the art of Saul Steinberg. The increasing appearance of numbers in that sequence derived from Silverman's use of a similar tactic when he had to develop a set design for the play The Adding Machine. Each successive scene in the sequence was shorter than the one before it by exactly one frame.[8] The scene where Bart writes his confession was done as one long take to balance the shorter scenes elsewhere in the episode. It was animated in the United States by Dan Haskett.[8] There were a few problems with the finished animation for the episode. The banana in the opening scene was colored incorrectly, as the Korean animators were unfamiliar with the fruit,[7] and the final bathtub scene was particularly problematic, including issues with lip sync. The version in the broadcast episode was the best of several attempts.[8]

The episode was the first to feature the series' full title sequence, including the chalkboard gag and couch gag. Matt Groening developed the lengthy sequence in order to cut down on the animation necessary for each episode, but devised the two gags as compensation for the repeated material each week.[7] Groening, who had not paid much attention to television since his own childhood, was unaware that title sequences of such length were uncommon by that time.[7] As the finished episodes became longer, the production team were reluctant to cut the stories in order to allow for the long title sequence, so shorter versions of it were developed.[8] The episode also introduced the characters Martin Prince and his parents, Richard, Bart's teacher Edna Krabappel and Dr. J Loren Pryor.[2]

Cultural references

In the opening scene, Maggie spells EMCSQU with her blocks, a reference to Albert Einstein's mass-energy equivalence equation. A picture of Einstein also appears on the wall of Dr. Pryor's office.[1] At one point Homer erroneously refers to Einstein as the inventor of the light bulb. Dr. Pryor compares Bart's proposed work among ordinary children to Jane Goodall's study of chimpanzees.[2] Goodall was pleased to be mentioned in the episode, sending the program a letter,[7] and Vitti an autographed copy of her book.[5] The conductor of the opera the family attends is named Boris Csupowski, a reference to animator Gabor Csupo.[1] The opera attended by the family is Carmen, by French composer Georges Bizet; the song that Bart mocks is a famous aria called the Toreador Song.[1]

Reception and legacy

In a 1991 interview, Jon Vitti described "Bart the Genius" as his favorite among the episodes he wrote to that point.[6] James L. Brooks also mentioned the episode among his favorites, saying that "we did things with animation when that happened that just opened doors for us."[9] The show received mail from viewers complaining that the throwing away of a comic book was an incident of censorship.[7] Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, the authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, strongly praised the episode calling it "superbly written and directed, often a literal child's-eye view of education, the first Simpsons episode proper is a classic." They went on to say, "these twenty minutes cemented Bart's position as a cultural icon and a hero to all underachievers, and managed a good few kicks at hothouse schools along the way. Especially worthy of note is the sequence where Bart visualises his maths problem, the viewing of which should be a required part of teacher training."[2] Bart's quote of "Well, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't" has been sampled in the song "Deep, Deep Trouble".

In its original American broadcast, "Bart the Genius" finished 47th place in the weekly ratings for the week of January 8–January 14, 1990 with a Nielsen rating of 12.7. It was the second highest rated show on the Fox Network that week.[10]

The invented word "Kwyjibo" inspired the creator of the Melissa worm.[5]

References

  1. ^ a b c d e Richmond, Ray; Antonia Coffman (1997). The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to our Favorite Family. Harper Collins Publishers. pp. 18. ISBN 0-00-638898-1. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Bart the Genius". BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/simpsons/episodeguide/season1/page2.shtml. Retrieved 2007-08-05. 
  3. ^ Brooks, James L.. (2001). The Simpsons The Complete First Season DVD commentary for the episode "Some Enchanted Evening". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox. 
  4. ^ Groening, Matt. (2001). The Simpsons The Complete First Season DVD commentary for the episode "Some Enchanted Evening". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Vitti, Jon. (2001). The Simpsons The Complete First Season DVD commentary for the episode "Bart the Genius". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox. 
  6. ^ a b Jankiewicz, Pat. "Jon Vitti." Comic Scene #17, February 1991.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Groening, Matt. (2001). The Simpsons The Complete First Season DVD commentary for the episode "Bart the Genius". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox. 
  8. ^ a b c d e Silverman, David. (2001). The Simpsons The Complete First Season DVD commentary for the episode "Bart the Genius". [DVD]. 20th Century Fox. 
  9. ^ Braun, Kyle. The Simpsons Movie Interviews. Ugo.com. Retrieved on August 5, 2007.
  10. ^ Buck, Jerry (January 19, 1990). "ABC's 'Roseanne' takes first place in Nielsen ratings". St. Petersburg Times. p. 5D. 

External links

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Simple English

"Bart the Genius" is the second episode of The Simpsons' first season, which first started on the Fox network on January 14, 1990. It was the first episode written by Jon Vitti. It was also the first ever episode to use the signature title sequence, as well as the first normal episode. The episode has Bart Simpson's experiences of life as a smarty-pants after he cheats on an intelligence test. It is the first episode that uses Bart's catchphrase "Eat my shorts." As the second episode was made, right after the bad animation of "Some Enchanted Evening," the future of the series relied on how the animation turned out on this episode. The animation proved to be more acceptable and production continued.

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