Review: The Simpsons - O Brother, Where Bart Thou?
by Jason Hughes, posted Dec 14th 2009 10:41AM
(S21E08) The last episode of 2009 also has the distinction of being the 449th episode of The Simpsons. The series will come back Sunday, January 10th for a 450th episode extravaganza, including a one-hour 20th anniversary special. It's certainly a big year for Tracey Ullman's one-time back-up series.
The beginning of the episode had an almost frantic pace, as it set up about four or five different possible plotlines, before finally settling on Bart's jealousy of Lisa and Maggie's relationship. His attempts to help his parents create a little brother for him were a little disturbing, but that was more than made up for by a fantasy sequence featuring many famous brothers.
I think I could have stayed in that land of brotherly love a little longer. We got to see the Mannings (Peyton, Eli and Cooper), as well as the Wright brothers, the Blues Brothers and even the Mario Brothers. The Mannings even voiced themselves; apparently the Mario Brothers couldn't be bothered!
The highlight of the segment, and possibly the entire episode, was the inclusion of the Smothers Brothers. Dick and Tommy voiced themselves and it was classic Smothers Brothers comedy both here and through the ending credits. If ever you needed proof that The Simpsons is designed to cater to a wide variety of age groups, I think this extended bit is certainly that. I'm not even old enough to remember when The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour was on television, but I know them and their act, and I'm not exactly young. I imagine this gag flew right over most of the younger fans.
Instead, they got to enjoy Charlie, Bart's little brother from the orphanage. I liked the character of Charlie, as he managed to be every bit the scamp Bart is, but still just a child. It was a very clever twist at the end to see Bart watching Sever V with Homer, after he'd failed as a guardian earlier by terrifying Charlie with the same movie. The father-son reactions alternating between horror and laughter was a pretty appropriate reaction to Saw as a franchise in general.
I found it a little odd that we weren't shown Charlie getting a happy ending, when he finally did get adopted. Instead what we saw was a torture sequence of sorts with Charlie getting dragged into a mini-van by his giggling and gabbing six new sisters. Is this a prophetic warning to Bart to leave well enough alone or he might end up with more sisters?
Still, the highlight of the episode was Nelson munching on birth control pills and become an emotional wreck. He just had bit appearances through the latter portion of the episode, but it was always the moody woman stereotype while he chomped on the "Tic-Tacs" he found outside Bart's house, and it's always funny when you mine that oft-used well with a male character.
It may not have been one of the best episodes of The Simspons, but "O Brother, Where Bart Thou?" did a good job of showing an emotionally vulnerable Bart without taking away the impishness that made him such a great character 20 years ago. But it's that balance of humanity and prankster that makes him more than a two-dimensional drawing, and that third dimension is a reason why The Simpsons remains strong, for the most part, two decades on.