Postcards from the Wedge

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"Postcards from the Wedge"
The Simpsons episode
Episode no. 455
Production code MABF04[1]
Original air date March 14, 2010[2]
Showrunner(s) Al Jean
Written by Brian Kelley
Directed by Mark Kirkland
Couch gag The couch is a piñata. A blindfolded Ralph hits it, and the family falls out.

"Postcards from the Wedge" is the fourteenth episode of The Simpsons' twenty-first season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on March 14, 2010. In the episode, Homer and Marge once again try to discipline Bart after Mrs. Krabappel tells them that Bart has not been doing his homework, but Bart has a plan to manipulate Homer's strictness and Marge's sympathetic ear, which backfires when Homer and Marge see through the plan and decide to ignore Bart. These themes had been seeded in the previous season (e.g. "Double, Double, Boy in Trouble", and "The Good, the Sad, and the Drugly"), would culminate in the show's first ever true grounding, and the first to stand for the rest of the episode.

The episode was written by Brian Kelley and directed by Mark Kirkland. The episode features references to the shows Pokémon, House and The Jetsons. The episode received mostly positive reviews and got an 18-49 Nielsen Rating of 2.6/8.

Plot[edit]

At school, after Mrs. Krabappel shows a video from 1956 to her students about the future, she tells her students to turn in their homework project (which they had three months to do). Bart did not even attempt to complete his homework, so he tries to make his homework on the fly out of odds and ends found in his desk. Unfortunately, Mrs. Krabappel does not approve, and prepares to send a letter to his parents. She gives it to Martin to mail and he heads out the door. Bart shoots an eraser at the pull station, breaking the glass, pressing the button and activating the alarm. Everyone evacuates, but Bart runs through some 6th graders and gets through them. He almost gets the letter when it drops out of the mail slot, but Groundskeeper Willie heads off with the mailbag.

Homer and Marge then receive the letter from the teacher informing them Bart is one month behind on his homework. When Homer is informed that he does not have to help Bart with this work; he is eager to increase his son's workload (commenting he wants him to "be Korean by the time he's (Bart) done"). Marge, however, is concerned that the heavy workload will dissuade Bart from liking school (ignoring or unaware of the fact that he already hates it). When Bart realizes his parents do not agree on this issue, he uses their opposing views to avoid homework entirely. Lisa explains that this is a wedge issue, an issue that sharply divides two parties.

Marge and Homer begin to argue more and more, with Bart inciting the two to argue about very minor things that even do not involve his homework, and Lisa calling him a sociopath. Marge seeks counsel from Ned Flanders, who recalls having a minor argument with Maude on the day she died. He mentions that this argument still haunts him. Marge also counsels Patty and Selma, who, eager to break up Marge and Homer, encourage her to "stick to her guns", saying that then she will be "free and happy" like them; however, knowing how her sisters feel about Homer, and then thinking about how her life could end up like theirs, Marge immediately heads out to make things right with her husband. Meanwhile, Homer falls asleep at work, dreams about accidentally killing Marge and realizes that he too wants to apologize. The two spot each other in traffic, rush out of their vehicles and embrace. They then decide to let Bart fend for himself, and Bart is stunned when they pay no attention to any of his antics.

Bart and Milhouse then decide to play a prank on Principal Skinner. To evade capture, the two hide in the abandoned Springfield subway system where they discover the subway trains still work. They race down the tracks and cause a seismic tremor to shake the town. When Homer and Marge fail to react to this, Bart confesses to Nelson he no longer feels a thrill when he plays a prank. Nelson suggests Bart receives no gratification from pranks unless someone loses their temper.

Bart then decides to destroy Springfield Elementary, which was damaged by the first subway tremor, by driving the train under it. Homer and Marge find a note from Lisa informing them of this prank, and they decide to take immediate action. They rush to the subway station, where Homer tries to push the emergency kill switch. It is stuck, but Homer then imagines that the switch is Bart, pretends to be strangling him, and he succeeds in stopping the subway. However, the school is destroyed anyway when a flagpole falls against the already damaged building (much to Nelson and Krabappel's delight). And finally, after 21 seasons of being sent to his room, or punished in other different ways, Bart gets grounded, and for the first time ever, stays grounded, also having to tweet Homer about his current activities (despite Homer not knowing anything about Twitter, and not wanting to), and his parents have returned to their basic purpose: keeping their son in line. Lisa confronts Bart, who is bored, unhappy and suffering, due to his punishment and backlog of homework, and says that she did not write the note to Homer and Marge, noting that it is poorly spelled. She figures out that Bart himself wrote it, since he still writes "Springfield Elementery" on all of his tests, and knowing he is the only one who would misspell the name of the school he goes to every day. Bart is relieved when she tells him she will keep his secret so that everyone still thinks of him as a bad boy.

Bart's Grounding[edit]

This episode is notable as the first time in the series' entire history that Bart is grounded. The seeds of this event were sown in the previous season with episodes like "Double, Double, Boy in Trouble", in which there is a focus on punishment. This is especially so with a scene where Homer sends Bart's doppelganger to bed without supper, while Marge shows a little sympathy. That scene served as the template for this episode. Additionally, the grounding began to be referenced for the first time since Season 15's "Fraudcast News", with the grounding of Milhouse in "The Good, the Sad, and the Drugly", and with Homer threatening to ground Bart at the end of "Waverly Hills 9-0-2-1-D'oh", marking the first time the grounding had been referenced in more than one episode that season. "The Devil Wears Nada" further pushed these themes further with Ned Flanders revealing he grounded his sons, adding to the total of references to three in that production block.

Prior to this episode, the only times Bart was actually grounded was in the comic books. The "When Bongos Collide" crossover is a notable example of this. But the comic books are not considered canon. The grounding at the end of this episode marks a turning point in the show's history. A build up over 21 seasons, that began with Bart being sent to his room in "Homer's Night Out", and had escalated with episodes like "Bart vs. Thanksgiving", and "Marge Be Not Proud". With this episode, the series had become like the vast majority of television shows out there.

Reception[edit]

Ratings[edit]

In the original American broadcast, "Postcards from the Wedge" was viewed by 5.233 million viewers and got an 18-49 Nielsen rating of 2.6/8 coming second in its timeslot after The Amazing Race making it the third most viewed show on Fox that night after a new episode of Family Guy and a rerun of "The Great Wife Hope", but the second highest rated show on FOX that night after Family Guy."[3]

Critical reception[edit]

The episode received positive reviews. Robert Canning of IGN gave the episode an 8, stating the episode was "outstanding" and that "Again, the story was nothing entirely new, but the jokes were smart and fun and worth sitting on the couch for a half-hour.".[4] Ariel Ponywether of FireFox News gave the episode a B- and said that "There were some very solid moments in this episode, with some surprisingly subversive humor throughout, and the final scene was a real winner. The middle stretch slows down the episode’s pacing a bit."[5] On Yahoo! TV, the episode received 84%, saying it was good out of 6 ratings.[6] Todd VanDer Werff of The A.V. Club gave the episode a B and stated "I don't think the plotting here was as tight as it might have been – lots of threads were introduced and then mostly left dangling, and the end was particularly abrupt – but I laughed fairly frequently, and that will be enough".[7] Jason Hughes of TV Squad said that "All in all, while it was an unexpectedly serious episode, it was a pleasant enough one as well. No big guffaws, but enough smiles to go around."[8]

The episode won the Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Animation, for Charles Ragins' Background Design.

References[edit]

External links[edit]