Bart Gets Famous
"Bart Gets Famous" is the twelfth episode of The Simpsons' fifth season. It originally aired on the Fox network in the United States on February 3, 1994. In the episode, Bart gets a job as Krusty the Clown's production assistant. However, he soon becomes sick of the job and comes close to quitting. During one of his shows, Krusty says he needs to use Bart in a sketch. Bart becomes an accidental star when he says, "I didn't do it" during the botched sketch. He becomes famous for his catchphrase but soon becomes tired of being known for one line.
The episode was written by John Swartzwelder and was the first episode of the series to be directed by Susie Dietter. Many characters from the show have catchphrases, and the episode mocks the use of catchphrase-based humor. The writers chose the phrase "I didn't do it" because they wanted a "lousy" phrase "to point out how really crummy things can become really popular". Conan O'Brien, a writer for The Simpsons during the fourth and early part of the fifth season, guest stars as himself. The writers decided to include him in the episode after he received an audition from NBC to replace David Letterman as the host of Late Night. In its original broadcast, "Bart Gets Famous" finished 40th in ratings with a Nielsen rating of 11.7, and was viewed in 10.74 million households.
Bart goes on a class field trip to a box factory. He gets bored with the tour and escapes from the class to go to the Channel 6 TV studio nearby, where he encounters Krusty the Clown. Krusty is angry that his assistant has failed to get him a Danish, as Bart had eaten it, and fires his assistant on the spot. Bart steals a Danish from Kent Brockman and gives it to Krusty, who becomes grateful and asks him to become his new assistant. Bart soon gets disillusioned with being Krusty's assistant because the cast members do not treat him well and he does not receive any credit for his work. However, before Bart decides to quit, Krusty offers to let him say one line in a sketch when Sideshow Mel is unavailable thanks to Bart giving him a sandwich with cheese which triggers his lactose intolerance. Bart messes up his lines and stumbles, accidentally destroying all of the props on the stage. With the crowd and cameras focused on him, he exclaims "I didn't do it", which causes the audience to erupt with laughter. Seeing Bart's popularity, Krusty uses him and his "I didn't do it" catchphrase in later sketches, and eventually creates a franchise out of it.
Bart and his catchphrase continue to be popular, while Krusty creates a wide array of merchandise featuring Bart's likeness. Bart becomes sick of his fame and begins to fear that the fad will wear off, so he tries to expand his act and personality during an interview on Conan O'Brien's late-night talk show, to no avail. Bart decides to stop performing, but Marge convinces him that he should continue because he makes people happy. Bart arrives at Krusty's show and enthusiastically delivers his line, but the audience is bored with the line and does not react. With fans no longer interested in Bart, Krusty ditches him.
Marge gives Bart a box of items she kept during his stint as a celebrity to help him remember this time of his life. Lisa says that she is glad that "Bart can go back to just being himself, instead of a one-dimensional character with a silly catchphrase." The Simpson family — along with Barney Gumble, Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, and Nelson Muntz — then recite their respective catchphrases, prompting an unamused Lisa to go to her room.
"Bart Gets Famous" was written by John Swartzwelder. The episode mocks the use of catchphrase-based humor. Many characters from The Simpsons have catchphrases, including Homer ("D'oh!"), Bart ("Eat My Shorts", "¡Ay, caramba!" and "Don't have a cow, man!"), Marge (her worried "hmmmm") and Maggie (her pacifier suck). The writers chose the phrase "I didn't do it" because they wanted a "lousy" phrase "to point out how really crummy things can become really popular". It was also an intentional call back to the first season episode "Krusty Gets Busted" where it was a catchphrase of Krusty the Clown. The episode ends with a self-referential scene in which several characters say their catchphrases, including the Simpsons, Ned Flanders, Nelson Muntz, Mr. Burns and Barney Gumble. All of the characters gather around Lisa and stare at her with an anticipating look, and Lisa, displeased, finishes the episode by muttering "If anyone wants me I'll be in my room", to which Homer says "what kind of a catchphrase is that?"
In the episode, Bart appears on the talk show Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Conan O'Brien was a writer for The Simpsons during the fourth and early part of the fifth seasons. During the production of the episode, he received an audition to replace David Letterman as the host of Late Night on NBC, after Letterman defected to CBS. The writers decided that since the episode featured Bart getting famous, it would give them an opportunity to work in O'Brien's show. The part was written just after O'Brien's audition for Late Night, but before he knew he was going to be the host. O'Brien recorded his part shortly after Late Night with Conan O'Brien premiered, but he believed NBC would have fired him before the episode aired. He described being a guest star on the show as "really delightful", adding that "it's like being frozen in amber. I know people will be watching The Simpsons long after I'm dead."
"Bart Gets Famous" was the first episode of the series to be directed by Susie Dietter. The design of the insides of the box factory featured in this episode was discussed at great length by Dietter and executive creative consultant Brad Bird. Bird wanted the design to be more lively but Dietter wanted it to be more boring to go with the story. Dietter's design was used in the finished episode. The box factory manager's voice, performed by Dan Castellaneta, was based on Wally Ballou, a character portrayed by Bob Elliott of the comedy duo Bob and Ray. Mayor Quimby's wife Martha makes her first appearance in this episode. Her outfit (a pink dress and a pillbox hat) is similar to the clothing worn by Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis on the day of the Kennedy assassination.
At the beginning of the episode, Bart can be heard whistling The Simpsons' theme song and Marge tells him "not to whistle that annoying tune". Bart imagines himself appearing on Match Game in 2034 alongside Billy Crystal, Farrah Fawcett Majors O'Neal, Loni Anderson, Spike Lee and Kitty Carlisle's head in a jar. Bart records an "I Didn't Do It" rap with the backing track from MC Hammer's "U Can't Touch This".
In its original broadcast, "Bart Gets Famous" aired during the week of January 31-February 6, 1994, the first week of February sweeps. It finished 40th in ratings with a Nielsen rating of 11.7, and was viewed in 10.74 million households. It was the highest rated show on Fox that week.
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, "even without that final sequence, this would still be one of the best episodes, with Bart at his very best. The scenes in the box factory are superb, as is Martin and Skinner's joyful singing and, once again, Edna and Bart's enforced team-up." DVD Movie Guide's Colin Jacobson wrote "lots of great moments pop up in this excellent program. Bart’s rise to fame sparkles via its deft parody of instant — and fleeting — fame, and many wacky bits show up along the way such as Homer’s fear that Bart got turned into a box. [...] This might be Season Five’s best show." Patrick Bromley of DVD Verdict gave the episode a grade of A- and Bill Gibron of DVD Talk gave the episode a score of 4 out of 5.
- Richmond & Coffman 1997, p. 133.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Bart Gets Famous". BBC. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Mirkin, David. (2004). Commentary for "Bart Gets Famous", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Turner 2004, pp. 60-61.
- Silverman, David. (2004). Commentary for "Bart Gets Famous", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- O'Brien, Conan. (2004). Commentary for "Bart Gets Famous", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Shister, Gail (1994-02-03). "Conan O'Brien is returning to 'The Simpsons'". The Buffalo News.
- Dietter, Susie. (2004). Commentary for "Bart Gets Famous", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- Groening, Matt. (2004). Commentary for "Bart Gets Famous", in The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season [DVD]. 20th Century Fox.
- The Associated Press (1994-02-10). "CBS takes lead in sweeps with 4 of top 10 shows". Rocky Mountain News.
- The Associated Press (1994-02-09). "Nielsen Ratings /January 31-February 6". Long Beach Press-Telegram.
- Jacobson, Colin (2004-12-21). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season (1993)". DVD Movie Guide. Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Bromley, Patrick (2005-02-23). "The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Verdict. Archived from the original on 20 April 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Gibron, Bill (2004-12-23). "The Simpsons — The Complete Fifth Season". DVD Talk. Archived from the original on 27 May 2009. Retrieved 2009-05-27.
- Groening, Matt (1997). Richmond, Ray; Coffman, Antonia, eds. The Simpsons: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family (1st ed.). New York: HarperPerennial. ISBN 978-0-06-095252-5. LCCN 98141857. OCLC 37796735. OL 433519M.
- Turner, Chris (2004). Planet Simpson: How a Cartoon Masterpiece Documented an Era and Defined a Generation. Foreword by Douglas Coupland. (1st ed.). Toronto: Random House Canada. ISBN 978-0-679-31318-2. OCLC 55682258.
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