"Bart Star" is the sixth episode of the ninth season of the animated television series The Simpsons, which originally aired on Fox in the United States on November 9, 1997. The title of this episode is a play on Bart Starr. Written by Donick Cary and directed by Dominic Polcino, the episode guest starred Joe Namath, Roy Firestone, and Mike Judge.
Following a Health convention held in Springfield, the children of Springfield (including Bart) are deemed to be overweight. To help them stay in shape, the parents enroll their children in pee-wee football. The coach, Ned Flanders, helps keep the team undefeated, but Homer heckles him relentlessly. Flanders finally snaps and turns the job over to Homer.
Homer initially acts tough towards Bart, but when he is reminded of how his father was hard on him as a child, he decides to be nicer to Bart (and meaner to his father). The next day, he becomes a lousy coach and decides to cut many players from the team, and replaces star quarterback Nelson with Bart, causing an uproar from the team. Bart is unable to play the position well and causes the team's first loss and ruined their undefeated season; Nelson bluntly threatens Bart's life if he loses again. While training at night Bart meets Joe Namath, who promises to help him, but soon after Joe's wife fixes the car, which had broken down due to vapor lock, Joe leaves without helping Bart.
Lisa suggests that Bart pretend he is injured to get out of quarterbacking, which he eagerly does, but Homer claims that without Bart the team must forfeit. Bart tells Homer that he sucks at being quarterback; Nelson concurs. Homer, still not getting it, encourages Bart yet again to keep at it. This causes Bart to become angry and quit the team. Homer, instead of realizing his own fault, gets angry at Bart and cuts him from the team. Homer also cuts Milhouse, much to Milhouse's delight. Homer and Bart have a fallout. Homer calls Bart a quitter. On the next game, Nelson is made quarterback again and the team wins, but Homer has nobody to celebrate with and becomes lonely. Afterwards, Homer finds Bart and persuades him to rejoin the team. He apologies to Bart for blindly encouraging him for something that Bart was not good at. The next day, during the championship game, the score is tied when Chief Wiggum comes to arrest Nelson. Bart decides to pretend he is Nelson, assuming the charges are minor (they are actually burglary and arson). The team finally wins the championship, and unsuccessfully tries to carry Homer off the field. Joe Namath reappears to give his final thoughts on the episode and on vapor lock, the third most common cause of engine stalling.
The episode was written by Donick Cary, who obtained inspiration from an experience in high school he had with a football coach who had a son on the team. Similarly, show runner Mike Scully had been on a soccer team whose coach would give his son special treatment.
George Meyer obtained inspiration for the scene toward the beginning of the episode where Rainier Wolfcastle is taunting the children from an experience he had with Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was following Schwarzenegger during a hike, and overheard him taunting his children. Schwarzenegger's influence was seen in the same scene, as he was appointed to be the chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, on which he served from 1990 to 1993.
The final scene took a long time to write. The writing staff found it difficult to come up with a resolution that would end on positive terms for Bart and Homer, and was originally different when it was read at the writing table.
Joe Namath, Roy Firestone, and Mike Judge guest starred in the episode. Scully jokingly claims that Judge was paid $1,000,000 to appear in the episode, where he voiced the cameo of Hank Hill. The appearance was actually a cross-promotion for Judge's animated show King of the Hill which followed The Simpsons on Fox's Sunday schedule in 1997 and was co-created by former Simpsons writer Greg Daniels. Other King of the Hill characters (Hank's niece Luanne, Hank's wife Peggy, Hank's son Bobby, and Hank's friends, Dale Gribble, Bill Dauterive, and Boomhauer) were present in the scene, although none of them spoke. Marv Albert was originally going to play Firestone's part as a sports radio host, but was dropped following sexual assault charges that were made against him around the time the episode was in pre-production. Albert would later appear, however, in the season 20 episode "The Burns and The Bees".
In its original broadcast, "Bart Star" finished 27th in ratings for the week of November 3-9, 1997, with a Nielsen rating of 10.8, equivalent to approximately 10.6 million viewing households. It was the third highest-rated show on the Fox network that week, following The X-Files and King of the Hill.
Since airing, the episode has received positive reviews from 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, thought well of the episode, saying, "A fun episode, where you root for Bart and, unusually, Nelson - all the way through. Homer is just too stupid for words, but that's excusable because we finally see Ned Flanders lose it, big time!" In 2011, Keith Plocek of LA Weekly's Squid Ink blog named the scene in which Homer tries to purchase "beer that has candy floating in it" (which Homer calls skittlebrau) at the Kwik-E-Mart as the fourth best food moment on the show.
- Martyn, Warren; Wood, Adrian (2000). "Bart Star". BBC. Retrieved 2007-11-11.
- Gimple, Scott (1999). The Simpsons Forever!: A Complete Guide to Our Favorite Family ...Continued. Harper Collins Publishers. p. 17. ISBN 0-06-098763-4.
- "Bart Star" The Simpsons.com. Retrieved on November 11, 2007
- Cary, Donick (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart Star" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Scully, Mike (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart Star" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Meyer, George (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart Star" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Castellaneta, Dan (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart Star" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- Cartwright, Nancy (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart Star" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
- "Sports Figures on The Simpsons". Sports Illustrated (CNN). 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-16.
- Associated Press (November 13, 1997). "CBS soars to top on 'angel' wings". Sun-Sentinel. p. 4E.
- Plocek, Keith (2011-11-11). "Top 10 Simpsons Food Episodes: Tomacco Ribwich with a Side of Guatemalan Insanity Peppers + Skittlebrau". Squid Ink (LA Weekly). Retrieved 2011-11-12.
- Polcino, Dominic (2006). The Simpsons season 9 DVD commentary for the episode "Bart Star" (DVD). 20th Century Fox.
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- "Bart Star" at The Simpsons.com
- "Bart Star" episode capsule at The Simpsons Archive
- "Bart Star" at TV.com
- "Bart Star" at the Internet Movie Database