The Parent Rap
"The Parent Rap" is the second episode and official premiere of the thirteenth season of The Simpsons. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on November 11, 2001. In the episode, Bart and his father, Homer, are sentenced by the cruel judge Constance Harm to be tethered to each other as a result of Bart stealing police chief Wiggum's car. Eventually, Homer's wife, Marge, is fed up with the punishment and cuts the rope, which instead leads to Judge Harm sentencing them to have their heads and hands locked up in wooden stocks.
The episode was written by George Meyer and Mike Scully, who also served as the show runner for the episode, and Mark Kirkland worked as the director. The writers based the story on “a couple of incidents” in real life in which troublesome children, through alternative sentencing, were tethered to their parents. The episode marks the first appearance of the infamous and notoriously cruel Judge Constance Harm, who is played by actress Jane Kaczmarek. When it was first broadcast, “The Parent Rap” was watched by 14.4 million viewers, making it the second most watched show of its timeslot that night. After its release on DVD and Blu-ray, however, the episode garnered mixed reviews from critics.
When Homer makes Bart and Milhouse walk to school, the boys get into trouble and are arrested for stealing Chief Wiggum's squad car. Milhouse gets off but when Bart comes to the bench, Judge Snyder takes a vacation and Judge Constance Harm takes over and lays down the law. She holds Homer responsible for Bart's deeds and sentences him and Bart to be tethered together. The two are against it at first, but after a while, the two begin to bond. Marge finally gets fed up with the punishment, when Bart has stay in the room when she and Homer make love, and cuts the tether. Only now, Bart and his parents get brought back before Judge Harm. Homer and Marge have their heads and hands locked up in old-fashioned wooden stocks. Not being able to bear the punishment any longer, they break free and decide to get back at the judge. When the plan goes awry, they accidentally sink the judge's houseboat and are once again brought into court.
Bart asks Judge Harm to go easy on his parents and accepts responsibility for his own actions. Judge Harm's harsh expressions briefly softens and she admits she appreciates him being responsible for his actions. However, she also realizes that she must still lay down the law. Just before she is ready to bang her gavel and punish Bart to serve time in juvie, Judge Snyder comes back from his fishing trip just in time to stop her verdict. He declares a verdict of "Boys will be boys", dismissing the case and sending an irate Judge Harm on her way when she tried to complain about him being too lenient.
Afterwards, Marge asks the family not to break the law for an entire year, a promise Homer instantly breaks when he unintentionally runs over Hans Moleman.
Production and cultural references
“The Parent Rap” was co-written by George Meyer and Mike Scully, and Mark Kirkland served as the director for the episode. It was first broadcast on the Fox network in the United States on November 11, 2001. The title of the episode is a reference to The Parent Trap. Even though "Treehouse of Horror XII" - the first episode of the thirteenth season - had aired the previous week, "The Parent Rap" was considered the official premiere of the season. “The Parent Rap” was the last episode written in its production line. “As I recall, we got toward the end of the season and we had to write another episode in a hurry”, said Meyer in a DVD audio commentary for the episode. Judge Constance Harm is a parody of Judge Judy.
The writing staff contributed a rough outline for the episode, and Meyer and Scully went into one of the writer's room and “basically, kind of locked [themselves] in for five days” writing the episode. Meyer and Scully both thoroughly enjoyed the writing process of the episode; “It really came together easily”, stated Meyer, “...because we had known each other so long and were comfortable with each other's style”. Ian Maxtone-Graham, one of the writers for The Simpsons, commented that the draft Meyer and Scully had written was “awfully good”.
The episode was based on “a couple of incidents” that the writers had heard about in which troublesome children, through alternative sentencing, were tethered to their parents. The scene in which Homer and Marge get spanked by Springfield's citizens as part of their punishment was also based on an alternative sentencing, in which the sentenced had to wear certain shirts or signs that indicated whether they, for example, had not paid taxes. The scene in which Bart accidentally drives away with police chief Chief Wiggum's police car was based on one of Scully's friends in high school, who stole a still running police car parked at a Dunkin' Donuts while the police were in the store.
The episode featured the first appearance of judge Constance Harm, portrayed by American actress Jane Kaczmarek. The character's name was conceived by Meyer, who had always thought that Constance was a scary name. The episode makes a reference to Blue Öyster Cult's hit song “Don't Fear the Reaper”, which also plays during the episode's end credits, and inspired the title of a later episode. Meyer later got to meet the band, who said that they were “stoked” to be referenced in a Simpsons episode.
In its original American broadcast on November 11, 2001, “The Parent Rap” was seen by approximately 14.4 million viewers, according to Nielsen Media Research. The episode received a 6.9 rating/16 share among adults between ages 18 and 49, making it the second most watched television show of the night in its demographic, losing the number-one spot to Malcolm in the Middle. The episode was listed among the 15 most watched shows in its demographic that week.
Following the episode's broadcast, as well as the home video release of thirteenth season of The Simpsons, “The Parent Rap" received generally mixed reviews from critics. Writing for NY Daily News, Eric Mink gave the episode a mixed review. "To be sure, the show has its moments", wrote Mink, "But there's not much zip here, and the show has, of all things, a warm-and-fuzzy ending... 'The Simpsons' and warm-and-fuzzy is not a healthy combination". Nate Boss of Project-Blu described the episode as “filler” and praised the episode's concept, but criticized how the episode was executed. Colin Jacobsson of DVD Movie Guide also gave the episode a mixed response, and wrote that “'Rap' starts with a clever – if absurd – concept”, but “does little to churn good comedy out of its theme”, and concluded by calling the episode “disappointing”. Writing for Obsessed With Film, Adam Rayner described the episode as “woefully weak” and “an example of the farcical that the series would fall deeper and deeper into”. He did, however, praise the episode for being original. Jennifer Malkowski, reviewing the season for DVD Verdict, was more positive towards the episode. Giving the episode a rating of B+, Malkowski listed “The Parent Rap” among episodes in the season where “We see wacky scenarios force Homer to bond with his family, to a rather heartwarming effect”. Ron Martin of 411Mania was also favorable, calling the episode “decent”.
- "The Parent Rap". The Simpsons.com. Retrieved December 16, 2010.[dead link]
- Scully, Mike. (2010). Commentary for "The Parent Rap", in The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Mink, Eric (November 20, 2001). "SO-SO 'SIMPSONS' STILL CAN'T BE BEAT". Media Post News (NY Daily News). Retrieved January 14, 2011.[dead link]
- Meyer, George. (2010). Commentary for "The Parent Rap", in The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Maxtone-Graham, Ian. (2010). Commentary for "The Parent Rap", in The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Long, Tim. (2010). Commentary for "The Parent Rap", in The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- "CBS, Fox Pack Sunday Punch". Reuters. November 13, 2001. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- "CBS Gets Special Boost In Latest Week". Reuters. November 14, 2001. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- Boss, Nate (September 8, 2010). "The Simpsons: The Thirteenth Season". Project-Blu. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- Jacobsson, Colin (September 2, 2010). "The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season [Blu-Ray] (2001)". DVD Movie Guide. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- Raynor, Adam (September 20, 2010). "DVD Review: THE SIMPSONS SEASON 13". Obsessed With Film. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- Malkowski, Jennifer (September 6, 2010). "The Simpsons: The Complete Thirteenth Season (Blu-Ray)". DVD Verdict. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
- Martin, Ron (September 15, 2010). "The Simpsons Season 13 DVD Review". 411Mania. Retrieved December 9, 2010.
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- "The Parent Rap" at The Simpsons.com
- "The Parent Rap" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "The Parent Rap" at TV.com
- "The Parent Rap" at the Internet Movie Database