The Boy Who Knew Too Much
"The Boy Who Knew Too Much" is the twentieth episode of The Simpsons' fifth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on May 5, 1994. In the episode, Bart runs away from a pursuing Principal Skinner after attempting to skip school. During part of his escape, he witnesses an event in which Freddy Quimby, the spoiled nephew of Mayor Quimby, is accused of beating up a French waiter. Though the entire town believes that Freddy is guilty, Bart witnessed something else. At the trial, Bart testifies for Freddy, claiming that the waiter simply hurt himself because he was clumsy. Though attempting to deny the allegations, the waiter proves the truth in Bart's words by falling out the window.
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jeffrey Lynch. The new character Freddy, voiced by Dan Castellaneta, was given the same type of cheekbones and nose as Quimby to make them resemble each other. The episode features cultural references to films such as Westworld, Last Action Hero, and Free Willy, and the fictional characters Huckleberry Finn, Eddie, and Darwin. Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger and his wife Maria Shriver are also referenced in the episode. Since airing, the episode has received mostly positive reviews from television critics. It acquired a Nielsen rating of 10.1, and was the fifth-highest rated show on the Fox network the week it aired.
On a sunny day in Springfield, Bart is not excited about going to school; in part because he has to travel there on a prison bus, sit in new chairs that are very uncomfortable; and even more so when Ms. Krabappel informs the class that they will spend two hours longer than usual at school that day (due to Bart tampering with the clock). When arriving at school, Bart forges a note claiming a dentist appointment so that he can skip school, but Principal Skinner is not convinced. Skinner chases Bart through Springfield, and as he finally corners him, Bart jumps into a passing car. The car is driven by Freddy Quimby, nephew of Mayor Quimby, who is going to his birthday party. At lunch, Freddy is served chowder, but he ridicules the waiter for mispronouncing it in a French accent, even though Freddy himself mispronounces it with a Boston accent. He then follows the waiter into the kitchen, and apparently roughs him up. Bart, hiding under a table, secretly witnesses the true turn of events. Freddy is charged with the crime, presumably assault and battery, and is put on trial.
During the trial, despite Quimby's attempts to rig the trial, the whole town seems to believe that Freddy is guilty due to his demeaning behavior and intolerance of how every person around him says "chowder"; he even threatens to kill his own lawyer and the jury for it. Only Bart knows otherwise, and he confesses to Lisa that he's the only one who knows that Freddy didn't actually assault the waiter. He doesn't want to testify, however, because the only way Bart can confirm that Freddy's innocent is by admitting that he skipped school, and thus would face punishment from Skinner. At the trial, the jury consists of Homer, Skinner, Hans Moleman, Ned Flanders, Helen Lovejoy, Jasper, Patty, Apu and Akira.
Homer votes against the others because he wants to create a deadlock so that the jury is sequestered at a hotel with free room service and cable television. In court, Lisa convinces Bart to testify, and Bart tells everyone that Freddy did not assault the waiter, but that the waiter injured himself in a series of clumsy actions. The offended waiter attempts to deny that he is clumsy, but in the process, he trips over a chair which causes him to fall out of the window into an open-roof truck filled with rat traps, thus proving the point. Freddy is cleared of all charges, and Skinner, although praising Bart for being honest and coming forward, reminds him that this does not change the fact that he skipped school.
Despite Bart's logical argument that his act of selflessness nullifies his misbehavior and that leaving him in peace would be the fairest thing to do, Skinner is unmoved and not only proceeds to coldly give Bart three months in detention, but then increases his punishment to four months for nothing more than the pride of annoying Bart. At night Marge tries to talk to Homer about the things he missed at home but he continuously tries to fool her with his fake eyeglasses. However, Marge sees past this and Homer finally admits to missing being at home with her.
"The Boy Who Knew Too Much" was written by John Swartzwelder and directed by Jeffrey Lynch. Executive producer David Mirkin "loved" that the whole situation of Bart seeing the waiter injure himself and not telling the truth ties together with the Homer plot in that it causes Homer to get jury duty and then only caring about going to the hotel. Mirkin thought it "worked really well". The new character Freddy was voiced by The Simpsons cast member Dan Castellaneta, who also provides the voice of Mayor Quimby. Freddy was given the same type of cheekbones and nose as Quimby to make them resemble each other. When Bart is fleeing from Skinner, a shot of Bart running down a hill from the season four episode "Kamp Krusty" was re-used. At the release of season five on DVD, a review described the image as possibly the "best the series has ever looked on DVD". However, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" was one of the few episodes in which technical issues still remained; for example, Bart and Lisa's image was fuzzy toward the beginning, and the episode featured for the last time "some of the hand drawn dimensions that would be eliminated once the show switched over to digital compositing and desktop cartoon creation".
While riding on the prison bus, Bart looks out the window and has a dream that features him, Huckleberry Finn, and Abraham Lincoln on a raft going down a river in Springfield. Mirkin said Swartzwelder had always enjoyed putting presidents into his jokes, and this was only one of his many references to Lincoln. The scene of Skinner chasing Bart borrows heavily from the film Westworld, especially the scene with Skinner walking across the river. The Simpsons director David Silverman said Lynch and his fellow director Brad Bird took "a long, hard look" at Westworld to make sure the animation in the scenes resembled the film as much as possible. Mirkin said of the Westworld parody: "Again, to show you what a collaboration this is, we had the animators looking at Westworld and making sure of the animation, and then we made sure that [The Simpsons composer] Alf Clausen got the brilliant soundtrack from the film. He put in a lot of touches that really made the soundtracks identical." Bart's claim to film star and recurring character on The Simpsons Rainier Wolfcastle (a parody of Arnold Schwarzenegger) that his "last movie really sucked" and Chief Wiggum's subsequent claim of "magic ticket, my ass" are in reference to Last Action Hero, a Schwarzenegger film featuring magic tickets that was panned by critics. Additionally, Wolfcastle's wife is named Maria; Schwarzenegger's wife at the time was Maria Shriver.
The Simpsons creator Matt Groening appears in a cameo as the court illustrator in the Quimby trial. He can be seen signing his name on his sketch. During the trial, Bart quips "the system works. Just ask Claus von Bulow". This is a reference to the British socialite who was accused of attempted murder, but was acquitted after two trials. Of the twelve jury members, Homer is the only one to vote "innocent", angering the other eleven jurors; the trial ends with Freddy being found innocent. This is a reference to the film 12 Angry Men. During the trial, Homer sings the jingle of the cat food company Meow Mix in his head. Jasper, a member of the jury, wants the trial to be over so that he can go home and watch television. He says that tonight on the science fiction series seaQuest DSV, Eddie, pet dog of Martin Crane on Frasier, will ride Darwin, the talking dolphin character from seaQuest DSV. Both series aired on NBC, which was the highest-rated network in the United States for most of the 1990s. The new "director's cut" of the 1993 film Free Willy that Homer watches at the deadlock hotel features Jesse being crushed by the whale Willy. Homer is later saddened by this, and says, "Oh, I don't like this new director's cut!" Homer stays with Skinner at the hotel, and in a reference to the television series The Odd Couple, Skinner picks up a cigar butt from the floor with his umbrella while cleaning the room, just as Tony Randall does in the opening credits of that series.
In its original broadcast, "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" finished fiftieth in the ratings for the week of May 2–8, 1994, with a Nielsen rating of 10.1, equivalent to approximately 9.5 million viewing households. It was the fifth highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following Married... with Children, Living Single, Melrose Place and Beverly Hills, 90210.
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, praised the episode for containing "a memorable guest character in the French waiter Monsieur Lacosse, two great slapstick sequences involving the same, and displays Principal Skinner — pursuing Bart across the mountains like 'a non-giving-up school guy', and confessing that in some ways he's "a small man; a petty, small man" — in particularly fine form." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson thought Freddy Quimby "may well be the most unpleasant character to grace the series — in an amusing way, though Freddy’s edginess makes him less amusing than his uncle. It’s rather startling to see Skinner so rapidly resume his dislike of Bart after the last episode, though. It’s fun to see his superhuman powers in the pursuit of Bart, and the mystery aspects of the show help make it a very good one. Add to that Homer on jury duty for even more entertainment." Patrick Bromley of DVD Verdict gave the episode a grade of A for its "excellent bits thrown together to make this one, joke for joke, one of the season's funniest". In 2007, Patrick Enright of MSNBC called it his tenth favorite episode of the show. He said it was a perfect example of the show's "hilarious randomness" because of jokes such as Homer singing the Meow Mix cat food jingle, and the scene in which Homer discovers that if the jury’s deadlocked, they will be sequestered in a luxury hotel. Homer justifies his decision to be the lone dissenting voice by saying, "I’m only doing what I think is right. I believe Freddy Quimby should walk out of here a free hotel (when he should have said a 'free man')."
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. pp. 142–143. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M..
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "The Boy Who Knew Too Much". BBC. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Mirkin, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Silverman, David (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Gibron, Bill (December 23, 2004). "The Simpsons - The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Talk. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Groening, Matt (2004). The Simpsons season 5 DVD commentary for the episode "The Boy Who Knew Too Much" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- "Dance with the ladies". The Age. March 25, 2005. Retrieved 2009-05-23.
- Ho, Kevin (2003). "COMMENT: "The Simpsons" and the Law: Revealing Truth and Justice to the Masses". UCLA Entertainment Law Review.
- "Nielsen Ratings /May 2–8". Long Beach Press-Telegram. May 11, 1994. pp. C6.
- Jacobson, Colin (2004-12-21). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season (1993)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved 2009-05-18.
- Bromley, Patrick (2005-02-23). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Verdict. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
- Enwright, Patrick (2007-07-31). "D’Oh! The top 10 ‘Simpsons’ episodes ever". MSNBC. Retrieved 2007-10-08.
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