How the Test Was Won
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|"How the Test Was Won"|
|The Simpsons episode|
The episode's promotional image, featuring Principal Skinner, Superintendent Chalmers, Bart and Lisa.
|Directed by||Lance Kramer|
|Written by||Michael Price|
|Original air date||March 1, 2009|
|Chalkboard gag||"March Madness" is not an excuse for missing school.|
|Couch gag||The Simpsons travel through four iconic past sitcoms (The Honeymooners, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Brady Bunch, and Cheers) before finally returning to their show.|
"How the Test Was Won" is the eleventh episode of the twentieth season of The Simpsons. It aired on Fox in the United States on March 1, 2009. It was written by Michael Price and directed by Lance Kramer. The episode features cultural references to the television shows The Honeymooners, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Brady Bunch, and Cheers, and the film Footloose. Since airing, the episode received mostly mixed reviews from television critics.
The episode starts as Marge and Homer celebrate the start of the new year of school. Even though the start of the episode depicts the start of a new year of school, Bart's class remains the same.
Bart accidentally receives a perfect score on a practice test for the upcoming Vice President's Assessment Test, by writing "Slurp My Snot" across his page. This enables him to attend a special pizza party, with a helicopter as his escort. However, it turns out to be a clever plan to purge the school of all bad test takers. Bart actually failed the test and the helicopter is a disguised school bus. He, Nelson, Ralph, Kearney, Dolph, and Jimbo are driven to Capitol City by Otto, along with Principal Skinner, who was pushed onboard the bus by Superintendent Chalmers. On the way, Ralph stops for a bathroom break, and the bus is disassembled and stolen by vandals (while Otto is still sitting in it). The group attempts to walk the rest of the way, but they lose Ralph on a garbage barge. Skinner signals for a piano cargo ship to rescue Ralph with its crane, but he accidentally stuns the driver. Skinner rescues Ralph himself by jumping onboard the Shipping Container hoisted by the crane and using the law of conservation of angular momentum. He lands on the barge and the kids and Otto follow him. As it turns out, the garbage barge they have all landed on is headed towards Springfield Elementary School. The boys now believe that education is impressive due to Skinner's saving the day, and so Skinner reads Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to the boys until they arrive, which they enjoy.
Meanwhile, Homer is late making an insurance payment, and won't be insured until 3:00 PM, so he can't hurt himself until then. Images of injuries flood his mind when he gets home, envisioning Marge's book club being killed by a series of freak accidents (and Marge making out with Lindsey Naegle). He has to keep the entire book club safe while he is still uninsured, but ends up throwing a knife in Mr. Burns' head at 3:01 as he randomly walks onto the Simpsons' property. Marge, however, is pleased to know what Homer can and can't do. At school, Lisa is unable to focus on the test, as the thought of Bart being smarter torments her. When the test ends, she hasn't answered a single question, along with the fact that the test is nearly impossible (the choices to a question's answer all mean the same thing, and the test penalizes guessing). However, Skinner returns just in time to cancel the test and lift the school's "ban on dancing" (a reference to Footloose).
The title references the 1962 western film, How the West Was Won, or the triple live album with the same title of the famous band Led Zeppelin. The episode's couch gag includes the family running into scenes from sitcoms from different decades: The Honeymooners from the 50s, The Dick Van Dyke Show from the 60s, The Brady Bunch from the 70s and Cheers from the 80s. As an in-joke, Sideshow Bob walks in on the Cheers segment of the gag; Sideshow Bob is voiced by Kelsey Grammer, who also played Dr. Frasier Crane in the sitcom. This couch gag was later used in the season finale "Coming to Homerica". The dancing number at the end of the episode is the dancing and music from the 1984 film Footloose.  Additionally, when Homer realizes he is uninsured, he exclaims "Like a bad neighbor, no one is there", parodying the slogan of State Farm insurance.
Since airing, the episode received mixed reviews from television critics. Steve Heisler of The A.V. Club wrote: "I'm sorry, but 'How The Test Was Won' was about as low as things get these days—the worst of the season by far, and quite possibly one of the worst episodes I've watched in this brave 'new' era of yellow people." Erich Asperschlager of TV Verdict commented: "Despite three strong set-ups and a great first act, the episode barely got off the ground, crash landing long before its what-the-heck Footloose finale. There might have been enough time for Homer hilarity if they hadn’t dedicated so much time to the meandering and ultimately boring story of Skinner trying to keep his dull charges safe after they get stranded in Capital City." Robert Canning of IGN gave the episode an 8.8/10, calling it "a smart, very funny half hour" and praising the couch gag and Homer's sub-plot but adding that the ending "didn't quite live up to what preceded it."
- "The Simpsons 20.11: "How The Test Was Won" |". Tvverdict.com. Retrieved 2009-03-02.
- Canning, Robert (2009-03-02). "The Simpsons: "How The Test Was Won" Review". IGN. Retrieved 2009-03-03.
- Heisler, Steve. ""How The Test Was Won"/"Master Of Puppets"/"Live And Let Fry" | TV". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2009-03-02.