Bart vs. Thanksgiving
"Bart vs. Thanksgiving" is the seventh episode of The Simpsons' second season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 22, 1990. In the episode, Lisa makes a table centerpiece for the Thanksgiving dinner, which Bart accidentally destroys. After he is sent to his room by his parents, Bart runs away from home and stays at a soup kitchen for homeless people. Bart returns home eventually and climbs to the roof of the Simpson family's house, where he hears Lisa sobbing. He apologizes to her, and the family happily enjoys a meal of leftovers.
The episode was written by George Meyer and directed by David Silverman. Voice actor Greg Berg guest starred as Rory, one of the homeless people at the soup kitchen. The episode features cultural references to Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, and the three poets Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Edgar Allan Poe. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 11.9, and was the third highest-rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
It is Thanksgiving and Lisa assembles a decorative centerpiece for the dinner table. The Simpson family sits down to give thanks along with Grampa, Patty, Selma, and Marge's mother. When Lisa places the centerpiece on the table, she argues with Bart about where it should go since there is no room left for the turkey. In the ensuing fight, Bart accidentally throws the centerpiece into the fireplace and it burns up. Devastated, Lisa runs to her room crying, while Bart is sent to his room by Homer and Marge for ruining Thanksgiving.
Convinced he has not done anything wrong, Bart decides to run away from home, taking Santa's Little Helper with him. Walking the streets alone, cold, and hungry, he visits a bread line that is serving Thanksgiving dinner for homeless people. A television crew led by Kent Brockman is covering the event, and they interview Bart on live television. The family sees the report and calls the police. Homer and Marge start to regret the bad things they said to Bart. Bart eventually returns home feeling remorseful. However, the situation is worsened when he gets a bad dream that his family make him grovel and beg an apology and then blame him for everything from Homer's baldness to the state of the country. When he wakes up, he realizes that it was all his own imagination. He climbs up onto the roof of the house to think things out. Hearing Lisa cry because she misses him, Bart calls for her to come onto the roof. He realizes that what he did was wrong and apologizes to her, and she kisses him. Bart rejoins the family to enjoy a meal of Thanksgiving leftovers later.
The episode was written by George Meyer and directed by David Silverman. It was the first script Meyer wrote on the show, and he thought he made "quite a few mistakes, but it turned out really well overall." The staff decided to do a Thanksgiving episode after they found out that an episode would air on Thursday, November 22, 1990, the date of Thanksgiving that year. The Simpsons had previously aired at 8:00 p.m. EST on Sunday night but the Fox network switched its timeslot to the same time on Thursdays at the beginning of the second season. The idea of Bart going up on the roof was suggested by Meyer who used to go up on the roof himself when he had fights with his family.
Voice actor Greg Berg guest starred as Rory, one of the homeless people at the soup kitchen. Marge's mother, Jackie Bouvier, voiced by Julie Kavner, makes her first physical appearance on The Simpsons in the episode, though she was first referenced in a flashback in the season one episode "Moaning Lisa". Bill and Marty, voiced by Harry Shearer and Dan Castellaneta, also make their first visual appearances, although they were heard on the radio in previous episodes, including Bart Gets An F. They are two radio show hosts and deejays on Springfield's own radio station KBBL. Homer listens to their radio show when he drives to pick up Grampa at the retirement home for the Thanksgiving dinner.
At the beginning of the episode, Homer and Bart watch Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, an annual United States parade that includes floating helium balloons modeled after famous fictional characters. When Homer and Bart talk about the balloons modeled after Bullwinkle and Underdog, The Simpsons is self-referenced as Homer tells Bart that if the parade "turned every flash-in-pan cartoon character into a balloon, it would be a farce," and a giant balloon of Bart can be seen on the television in the background. Not coincidentally, 1990 was the year that Bart was turned into a balloon for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. While watching the Thanksgiving football game, Homer says he is cheering for the Dallas Cowboys. Two of the fictional Dallas Cowboys players are named Jay Kogen and Wallace Wolodarsky after two writers on The Simpsons.
The song that plays on the radio during the break in the Thanksgiving football game is "Get Dancing" by Disco-Tex and the Sex-O-Lettes. The game is played at the Pontiac Silverdome, then home to the Detroit Lions, who also play on Thanksgiving. Lisa says the following about her centerpiece: "It's a tribute to the trailblazing women who made our country great. See, there's Georgia O'Keeffe, Susan B. Anthony, and this is Marjory Stoneman Douglas. I'm sure you haven't heard of her, but she worked her whole life to preserve the Florida Everglades." The poem Lisa is seen writing in her room after her centerpiece is destroyed is a reference to Allen Ginsberg's poem "Howl". Lisa also keeps a book of Ginsberg's work on a bookshelf next to Jack Kerouac's novel On the Road, and a collection of poems by Edgar Allan Poe. Feeling hungry, Bart decides to steal food from the old, rich Mr. Burns, who lives on the corner of Croesus and Mammon, two mythological figures of greed. A member of Burns' security staff reads the novel Les Misérables.
In its original broadcast, "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" finished thirty-seventh in the ratings for the week of November 19–25, 1990, with a Nielsen rating of 11.9, equivalent to approximately eleven million viewing households. It was the third highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Married... with Children and In Living Color.
Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. The authors of the book I Can't Believe It's a Bigger and Better Updated Unofficial Simpsons Guide, Warren Martyn and Adrian Wood, wrote: "Marge's mother Jackie is particularly nightmarish in her first real appearance. The final sequence on the rooftop with Lisa and Bart is lovely, and Homer's comment to Marge is a magical wrap-up to a good episode." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson said the episode "maintained a nicely irreverent tone most of the time — irreverent enough to make it amusing, at least," and added: "The interaction of the Simpson and Bouvier families at dinner was terrific, and Bart’s experiences on skid row made their point while they still managed to be pointed and clever. 'Bart vs. Thanksgiving' was another winner." Bryce Wilson of Cinema Blend said "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" and "Lisa's Substitute", another season two episode, were the first episodes that "asked [the audience] to truly care about the characters, and they work beautifully." Both Dawn Taylor of The DVD Journal and Jacobson thought the most memorable line of the episode was Jackie's line to Marge: "I have laryngitis and it hurts to talk, so I'll just say one thing — you never do anything right." A reviewer for DVD.net, on the other hand, thought the best line was Homer's "Oh Lord, be honest – are we the most pathetic family in the universe, or what?"
- Meyer, George (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Jean, Al (2002). The Simpsons season 2 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Bart vs. Thanksgiving". BBC. Retrieved 2009-04-12.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family. Created by Matt Groening; edited by Ray Richmond and Antonia Coffman. (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ASIN 0060952520. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M. ISBN 0-06-095252-0, 978-0-06-095252-5. p. 41.
- Hastings, Deborah (November 29, 1990). "Bart edges out Bill Cosby rerun". South Florida Sun-Sentinel. pp. 3E.
- Jacobson, Colin. "The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season". DVD Movie Guide. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- Wilson, Bryce (April 19, 2004). "The Simpsons — The Complete Second Season — DVD". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- Taylor, Dawn (2002). "The Simpsons: The Complete Second Season". The DVD Journal. Archived from the original on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-03-23.
- "The Simpsons — Season Two". DVD.net. Retrieved 2009-04-06.
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- "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" at The Simpsons.com
- "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" at TV.com
- "Bart vs. Thanksgiving" at the Internet Movie Database