Scullyfied Simpsons: Season 9, Episode 12: "Bart Carny"

Airdate: January 11, 1998

Synopsis: While at the carnival, Bart trashes Adolf Hitler’s limo. (“What did he do to you?”) Homer and Bart become carnies to pay off the debt, and befriend father-and-son carnies Cooder (Jim Varney) and Spud. After their booth gets shut down (thanks to, surprise surprise, Homer), the two begin living at Evergreen Terrace… ultimately pulling a trick (i.e: a faux act of kindness) that puts Our Favourite Family out on the street.

Review: This review is going to be very short. This is another episode that’s too dry on laughs, and with too weak a plot. I mean it. This plot is stretched out way too far, and there are too many dry spots in between.

Character was not as much of a mess as much as it was forgotten. None of the characters here were very entertaining. Why is Bart the straight man? Why is Homer an idiot? Why is he a pyromaniac? Why are the two partners in crime? Their characterisation is confusing and simplistic. Lisa also gets hit in the first act, although it’s not really bad: it’s there to remind us that as intelligent as she is, she’s still just a kid.

The plot was also dull as dishwater. Why is Homer working the carnival booth? Because, under the command of Grand Leader Scully, Homer must get into moronic antics that “move the plot” for an episode to pass inspection! Whatever.

The humor was a mixed bag. The gags at the fair during the sunrise were actually a little funny, although the gags at the fair itself, not so much. Homer explaining that the water in the dunk tank was dangerously low was just there to explain what would happen next: he gets dunked, and it’s cringeworthy.The glass boat scene was funny… then Homer and Bart did some slapstick, acting like partners in crime.

I do see where the plot was going… and I wasn’t a fan. The exposure of the carnies as just a bunch of failures and conmen seemed predictable. There’s little complexity to the two. They’re just there to prove the stereotype of them being backstabbers and conmen 100% true. Previous episodes, when they had one-shot characters, gave them complexities, and helped develop our main characters. For example, I refer to Mr. Bergstrom, the substitute from “Lisa’s Substitute”, one of my favorite episodes of the show. There, not only is Mr. Bergstrom a quirky and fantastic teacher that turns out to be tragically underrated and underused due to the complexities of the American school system, but he manages to make Lisa realize the benchmark of a good education, while at the same time, truly question her faith in Homer. Cooder and Spud don’t do anything: they just act like conmen. It’s simple and predictable characterisation.

That’s the problem with this episode; it’s simplistic. Simple can be good, but the greatest seasons of The Simpsons were complex, deep… and thus, fantastic. This episode? Not so much….

OK, I’ll admit that the ending was fantastic.


  • This episode was written by veteran writer and notable recluse John Swartzwelder. He managed to write both the best episodes of the show (“Rosebud”, “You Only Move Twice”) and the worst  (“Kill the Alligator and Run” and the slop we have here).
  • This episode was also co-produced by Brian Scully and Julie Thacker. Gee, wonder how they got the job.
  • Marge shuddering is actually my second favourite joke in the entire episode.
  • Cool to see Krusty explain the joke of the “squirt gun” joke. And by cool, I mean stupid.
  • …and that’s it. This episode was uninteresting.

Jerkass Homer Meter 2.5

Jerkass Homer Moment: Not really jerkass, but Homer is such an idiot during the “bribe” scene with Chief Wiggum.

Zaniness Factor: 1

Zaniest Moment: I think they went too far with the “Dunk Tank” scene.

Favorite Scene: The resolution to the plot. For a poor episode, it’s actually pretty funny. Take that, ring toss!

Least Favorite Scene: Did we really need the gardening scene? Pointless openings would become the norm in later seasons.

Score: 4.

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